Marie Louise Cecile Lajeunesse Albani
ALBANI, the stage-name of Mlle.
, and is therefore an English subject. Her father was a professor of the harp, and she began life in a musical atmosphere. When she was five years of age the familyremoved to Montreal, and Mlle. Lajeunesse entered the school of the Convent of the Sacre Coeur. Here she remained several years, with such instruction in singing as the convent could afford, and she is said to have abandoned the idea of adopting a religious life on the representation of the Superior of the convent, who discovered the great qualities of her pupil.
In the year 1864 the family again removed, this time to Albany, the capital of the State of New York ; and while pursuing her studies there Mlle. Lajeunesse sang in the choir of the Catholic cathedral, and thus attracted the notice not only of the public but of the Catholic bishop, who strongly urged M. Lajeunesse to take his daughter to Europe and place her under proper masters for the development of so remarkable a talent. A concert was given in Albany to raise the necessary funds, after which Mlle. Lajeunesse proceeded to Paris with her father. From Paris, after studying with Duprez for eight months, she went to Lamperti at Milan, with whom she remained for a considerable time. The relation between the master and his gifted pupil may be gathered by the fact that his treatise on the Shake is dedicated to her. In 1870 she made her debut at lilessina in the Sonnambula, under the name of ALBANI, a name suggested by Lamperti. She then sang for a time at the Pergola, Florence. Her first appearance in London was in the same opera at the Royal Italian Opera, Covent Garden, on April 2, 18 7 2. The beautiful qualities of her voice and the charm of her appearance were at once appreciated, and she grew in favor during the whole of the season. Later in the year she made a very successful appearance at the Italian Opera of Paris. She then returned to Milan, and passed several months in hard study under her former master. 1873 saw her again at Covent Garden. Between that and her next London season, she visited Russia and America, and on August 6, 1878, she married Mr. Ernest Gye, who became lessee of Covent Garden on his father’s death in Dec. 1878.
From 1880 she sang at Covent Garden each season (except that of 1885) until 1896, when she appeared as Isolde and Donna Anna. Her large repertory includes the chief parts in such ‘ stock’ operas as ‘Lucia,’ `Faust,’ ` Huguenots,’ ‘ Traviata,’ ‘ Rigoletto’ and’ Mefistofele’ ; she was the first to sing Elizabeth, Elsa, and Eva in the Italian versions of the operas in which they appear ; [and the last and greatest triumph of her operatic career was as Isolde, which she sang for the first time to the Tristan of Jean de Reszke, in German, June 26, 1896]. Other new parts have been – Isabella (‘ Pre aux Clercs’), Tamara (Rubinstein’s ‘Demonio’) ; Brunhild (Reyer’s ‘ Sigurd’) ; Antonida (‘Vie pour le Czar’); Desdemona (Verdi’s IOtello’); and Edith (Cowen’s ‘ Harold’), the only operatic part she has created in the English language.
Since 1872 she has sung every autumn at one or more of our provincial festivals, where she has created, in important new works, parts mostly written for her, viz., at Birmingham, 1882, in the ‘ Redemption’ ; 1885, ‘ Mors et Vita’ and’Spectre’s Bride’; 1881, at Norwichin ‘St. Ursula’ (Coven): and at Leeds, 1880, Margarita in ` The Martyr of Antioch ‘ ; 1886, Elsie in ‘The Golden Legend,’ St. Ludmila (Dvorak), and Ilmas (‘ Story of Sayid ‘), Mackenzie. At Worcester, also, in 1881, she sang in Cherubini’s Mass in D minor, in 1882 (at Birmingham) in the same composer’s Mass in C ; and in 1884 in Bach’s cantata, ‘God so loved the world.’ In London and at Sydenham she has sung in the greater part of these works, also in ‘ The Rose of Sharon,’ Dvorak’s Stabat Mater, and in 1886 in Liszt’s ‘St. Elizabeth’ on the occasion of the composer’s farewell visit. Mme. Albani has sung in opera abroad with her usual success ; also in Gounod’s oratorios at the Trocadero, Paris. During a three weeks’ visit to Berlin in 1887 she sang both in German and Italian in ‘Lucia,’ ‘ Traviata,’ ‘Faust,’ ‘Fliegende Hollander’ and ‘ Lobengrin,’ and was appointed by the Emperor a court chamber singer. At the request of Sir Arthur Sullivan she returned to Berlin on April 2, 1887, and sang her original part of Elsie on the second performance there of ‘ The Golden Legend,’ under his direction, having traveled from Brussels for that express purpose.
Her voice is a rich soprano of remarkably sympathetic quality, and of great power. The higher registers are of exceptional beauty, and she possesses in perfection the art of singing mezza voce. She is also a good pianist.