Marietta Alboni was the most celebrated contralto of the 19th century.
She was born at Cesena, Romagna March 10, 1823 and died June 23, 1894 near Paris.
Her first instruction was received in her native place after which she was taught by Mme. Bertolotti at Bologna, who taught many other distinguished singers.
It was at Bologna that she met Rossini, and was so fortunate as to obtain lessons from him, she is said to have been his only pupil.
Charmed with her voice and facility, Rossini taught her the principal contralto parts in his operas, with the true traditions.
With this great advantage Alboni easily procured an engagement for several years from Merelli, an impresario for several theaters in Italy and Germany.
She made her first appearance at La Scala in Milan in 1843, in the part of Maffio Orsini. In spite of her inexperience, her voice and method were brilliant enough to captivate the public.
In the same year she sang at Bologna, Brescia, and again at Milan soon afterwards with equal success at Vienna.
In consequence of some misunderstanding about salary she broke her engagement with Merelli and went to St. Petersburg. She remained there only a short time an din 1845 she was singing concerts in Hamburg, Leipzig, Dresden, as well as in Bohemia and Hungary.
At the carnival of 1847 she sang at Rome in Pacini’s ‘Saffo,’ introducing an air from Rossini’s ‘Semiramide,’ which was enthusiastically applauded.
In the spring of the same she went to London and appeared at Covent Garden, in the height of the ‘Jenny Lind fever.’ She was indeed a trump card for that establishment against the strong hand of the rival house. The day after her debut the manager spontaneously raised her salary for the season from 500 pounds to 2000 pounds, and he reputation was established.
She sang in ‘Semiramide’ first on April 6, and afterwards in ‘Lucrezia Borgia’ and in the latter had to sing the ‘Brindisi’ over and over again, as often as the opera was performed.
As Pippo in the ‘Gazza Ladra’ she had to sing the whole first solo of the duet ‘Ebben per mia memoria’ three times over. Her appearance at that time was splendid.
Her features were regularly beautiful, though better fitted for comedy than tradedy and her figure was not so unwieldy as it afterwards became, was not unsuited to the parts she played.
Her voice had a rich, deep, true contralto quality of two octaves from g to g, was said to be as sweet as honey, and perfectly even throughout its range.
Here style gave an idea, a recollection, of what the great old school of Italian singing had been, so perfect was her command of her powers.
The only reproach to which it was open was a certain shade of indolence and insouciance, and a want of fire at times when more energy would have carried her hearers completely away.
Some singers have had the talent and knowledge to enable them to vary their fiorituri, Alboni never did this.
Her versatility was great and some critics of the time thought too great.
She sang in London in 1848 at Covent Garden, and in 1849, 1851, 1856, 1857, and 1858 at Her Majesty’s Theater.
She appeared in Brussels in 1848.
In 1849 she returned to Paris and sang in:
- L’Italiana in Algiere
- La Gazza Ladra
In the next year she visited Geneva and made a tour of France sing in French at Bordeaux in the operas:
- Charles VI
- La Favorite
- La Reine de Chypre
- La Fille du Regiment
On her return to Paris she surpassed the boldness of the this experiment by attempting the part of Fides in the ‘Prophete’ at the Grand Opera with brilliant success.
She next made a tour of Spain and in 1853 a triumphal progress through America.
After her marriage to Count A. Pepoli, a gentleman of an old Bolognese family, she lived in Paris, where she delighted her admirers with most of her old characters as well as some new, and notably in the part of Fidalma in Cimarosa’s ‘Matrimonio Segreto.’
She sang Rossini’s ‘Quis est homo’ with Mme. Patti at his funeral in 1868, and she sang in his ‘Petite Messe Solennelli,’ in London in 1871.