The Tenor Singer Tacchinardi.—An Exquisite Voice and Deformed Physique.—Early Talent shown by his Daughter Fanny.—His Aversion to her entering on the Stage Life.—Her Marriage to M. Persiani.—The Incident which launched Fanny Persiani on the Stage.—Rapid Success as a Singer.—Donizetti writes one of his Great Operas for her.—Personnel, Voice, and Artistic Style of Mme. Persiani.—One of the Greatest Executants who ever lived.—Anecdotes of her Italian Tours.— First Appearance in Paris and London.—A Tour through Belgium with Rubini.—Anecdote of Prince Metternich.—Further Studies of Persiani’s Characteristics as a Singer.—Donizetti composes Another Opera for her.—Her Prosperous Career and Retirement from the Stage.—Last Appearance in Paris for Mario’s Benefit.
Under the Napoleonic regime the Odeon was the leading lyric theatre, and the great star of that company was Nicholas Tacchinardi, a tenor in whom nature had combined the most opposing characteristics. The figure of a dwarf, a head sunk beneath the shoulders, hunchbacked, and repulsive, he was hardly a man fitted by nature for a stage hero. Yet his exquisite voice and irreproachable taste as a musician gave him a long reign in the very front rank of his profession. He was so morbidly conscious of his own stage defects that he would beg composers to write for him with a view to his singing at the side scenes before entering on the stage, that the public might form an impression of him by hearing before his grotesque ugliness could be seen. Another expedient for concealing some portion of his unfortunate figure was often practiced by this musical Caliban, that of coming on the stage standing in a triumphal car. But this only excited the further risibilities of his hearers, and he was forced to be content with the chance of making his vocal fascination condone the impression made by his ugliness.
At his first appearance on the boards of the Odeon, he was saluted with the most insulting outbursts of laughter and smothered ejaculations of “Why, he’s a hunchback!” Being accustomed to this kind of greeting, Tacchinardi tranquilly walked to the footlights and bowed. “Gentlemen,” he said, addressing the pit, “I am not here to exhibit my person, but to sing. Have the goodness to hear me.” They did hear him, and when he ceased the theatre rang with plaudits: there was no more laughter. His personal disadvantages were redeemed by one of the finest and purest tenor voices ever given by nature and refined by art, by his extraordinary intelligence, by an admirable method of singing, an exquisite taste in fioriture, and facility of execution.