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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 170 pages of information about Great Singers, Second Series.
it completed that he might enter on the musical composition.  The opera of “Lucia di Lammermoor,” one of the most beautiful of the composer’s works, was finished in little more than five weeks.  The music of Edgardo was designed for the voice of M. Duprez, that of Lucia for Mme. Persiani, and the result was brilliantly successful, not only as suiting the styles of those singers, but in making a powerful impression on the public mind.  Mme. Persiani never entered into any rivalry with those singers who were celebrated for their dramatic power, for this talent did not peculiarly stamp her art-work.  But her impersonation of Lucia in Donizetti’s opera was sentimental, impassioned, and pathetic to a degree which saved her from the reproach which was sometimes directed against her other performances—­lack of unction and abandon.

II.

The personnel of Mme. Persiani could not be considered highly attractive.  She was small, thin, with a long, colorless face, and looked older than her years.  Her eyes were, however, soft and dreamy, her smile piquant, her hair like gold-colored silk, and exquisitely long.  Her manner and carriage both on and off the stage were so refined and charming, that of all the singers of the day she best expressed that thorough-bred look which is independent of all beauty and physical grace.  “Never was there woman less vulgar, in physiognomy or in manner, than she,” says Mr. Chorley, describing Mme. Persiani; “but never was there one whose appearance on the stage was less distinguished.  She was not precisely insignificant to see, so much as pale, plain, and anxious.  She gave the impression of one who had left sorrow or sickness at home, and who therefore (unlike those wonderful deluders, the French actresses, who, because they will not be ugly, rarely look so) had resigned every question of personal attraction as a hopeless one.  She was singularly tasteless in her dress.  Her one good point was her hair, which was splendidly profuse, and of an agreeable color.”

As a vocalist, it was agreed that her singing had the volubility, ease, and musical sweetness of a bird:  her execution was remarkable for velocity.  Her voice was rather thin, but its tones were clear as a silver bell, brilliant and sparkling as a diamond; it embraced a range of two octaves and a half (or about eighteen notes, from B to F in alt), the highest and lowest notes of which she touched with equal ease and sweetness.  She had thus an organ of the most extensive compass known in the register of the true soprano.  Her facility was extraordinary; her voice was implicitly under her command, and capable not only of executing the greatest difficulties, but also of obeying the most daring caprices—­scales, shakes, trills, divisions, fioriture the most dazzling and inconceivable.  She only acquired this command by indefatigable labor.  Study had enabled her

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