As a singer of romances Mario has never been equaled. He could not execute those splendid songs of the Rossinian school, in which the feeling of the theme is expressed in a dazzling parade of roulades and fioriture, the songs in which Rubini was matchless. But in those songs where music tells the story of passion in broad, intelligible, ardent phrases, and presents itself primarily as the vehicle of vehement emotion, Mario stood ahead of all others of his age, it may be said, indeed, of all within the memory of his age. It was for this reason that he attained such a supremacy also on the concert stage. The choicest songs of Schubert, Mendelssohn, Gordigiano, and Meyerbeer were interpreted by his art with an intelligence and poetry which gave them a new and more vivid meaning. The refinements of his accent and pronunciation created the finest possible effects, and were perhaps partly due to the fact that before Mario became a public artist he was a gentleman and a noble, permeated by the best asthetic and social culture of his times.
Mario’s power illustrated the value of tastes and pursuits collateral to those of his profession. The painter’s eye for color, the sculptor’s sense of form, as well as the lover’s honeyed tenderness, entered into the success of this charming tenor. His stage pictures looked as if they had stepped out of the canvases of Titian, Tintoretto, and Paul Veronese. In no way was the artistic completeness of his temperament more happily shown than in the harmonious and beautiful figure he presented in his various characters; for there was a touch of poetry and proportion in them far beyond the possibilities of the stage costumer’s craft. Other singers had to sing for years, and overcome native defects by assiduous labor, before reaching the goal of public favor, but “Signor Mario was a Hyperian born, who had only to be seen and heard, and the enchantment was complete.” For a quarter of a century Mario remained before the public of Paris, London, and St. Petersburg, constantly associated with Mme. Grisi.
To return once more to the consideration of Grisi’s splendid career. The London season of 1839 was remarkable for the production of “Lucrezia Borgia.” The character of the “Borgia woman” afforded a sphere in which our prima donna’s talents shone with peculiar luster. The impassioned tenderness of her Desdemona, the soft sweetness of “love in its melancholy and in its regrets” of Anna Bolena, the fiery ardor and vehemence of Norma, had been powerfully expressed by her, but the mixture of savage cruelty and maternal intensity characteristic of Lucretia was embodied with a splendor of color and a subtilty of ideal which deservedly raised her estimate as a tragedienne higher than before. Without passing into unnecessary detail, it is enough to state that Mme. Grisi was constantly before the publics of London and Paris in her well-established