By any measure, Adelina Patti (1843–1919) must be considered the leading singer, if not the leading musician, of the later nineteenth century. Her sizable body of recordings (twenty-eight) makes her a key witness to late nineteenth-century performance style. Her great celebrity also ensured lavish written documentation of her life, including what she did, what people said about her, and sometimes what she said about herself. In this article I bring together these two types of material to consider a central aspect of Patti's life and artistry: her relationship to contemporary notions of femininity. Like all women who entertained before the public, Patti contended with the taint of immorality. I argue that her response to that taint shaped both her overall conduct and her particular vocalism. For while in truth her way of life fundamentally contradicted the reigning ideals of womanhood, Patti projected in her dress, her makeup, her public statements, her published imagery, and, most importantly, her stage characterizations and vocal styling the most perfect manifestation of femininity available: the virginal ingénue. The consistency of this self-performance encourages the identification of a similar persona in her singing, and indeed through close readings of several recordings I expose what I call her “maidenly mode,” a vocal strategy analogous to her other ingenuous representations. If many, like Verdi, found in Patti a “perfect equilibrium between singer and actress,” her example can begin to suggest to us what it meant to sound like an ingénue in late nineteenth-century Europe.

She had never heard her own voice, and when the little trumpet gave forth the beautiful tones, she went into ecstasies! She threw kisses into the trumpet and kept on saying, “Ah! mon Dieu! maintenant je comprends pourquoi je suis Patti! Oh, oui! Quelle voix! Quelle artiste! Je comprends tout!”

Landon Ronald, Variations on a Personal Theme, 19221 

It is not, as is often said, the condition of her voice that so often spoils these records, nor is it the primitive technique of recording. It is rather that certain features of Patti's style at this date simply were not musical.

J. B. Steane, The Grand Tradition, 19932 

In a recent book, Daniel Leech-Wilkinson asks some fundamental questions about the earliest sound recordings of art music: “Why did people sing and play the notes on the page in ways that to us seem so strange?” and, more basically, “How can [such performances] … ever have made sense to people?”3 These questions must surely resonate with anyone who for the first time encounters the discs of a Lilli Lehman, Joseph Joachim, or Vladimir de Pachmann. Such performers’ sounds and interpretations can so perplex modern listeners—even experienced ones like John Steane—as to seem eccentric distortions. Of course Leech-Wilkinson intends his questions as a prompt, a starting point for reassessing both the performance practices of the later nineteenth century and the meanings those practices could have carried. After all, listeners once cheered these musicians, and so if we accept that recordings capture at least the rudiments of their styles, then we must acknowledge the mutability of taste and perception over time, a transformation of our ears, so to speak. Sounds and expressive strategies that once touched hearers may now disconcert; a formerly potent interpretive language now fails to communicate.

In recent decades, as the venerable field of historical performance practice has advanced into the nineteenth century, scholars and performers have begun to recognize and investigate this rupture. Predictably, much of the initial work has concerned what might be called the vocabulary of the older performance style. A number of writers—including Will Crutchfield, José Bowen, Neal Peres da Costa, and especially Clive Brown, in his magisterial book—have documented the distinctive practices of the era, including the greater prominence of rubato, portamento, and ornamentation, and the lesser importance of vibrato and precise ensemble.4 Using instructional and theoretical treatises, contemporary scores, descriptions of performances, and early recordings themselves, these authors have illuminated what the techniques were, who employed them, and where and when they were applied. A question that has only more recently attracted attention, however, is the why. Such an inquiry gets at what I would call the syntax of this soundworld: how an artist might implement and shade various techniques to communicate particular impressions, or to put it another way, how the vocabulary could be deployed to create meaning. In this connection, the practice of portamento has so far received the most attention. In intriguing studies, both Leech-Wilkinson and John Potter have argued that the impressions created by portamento depended upon its cultural context and that this dependence explains much modern discomfort with the technique.5 In other words, they quite reasonably insist that understanding the syntax of nineteenth-century performance practice demands an understanding of the culture in which that practice signified.

Starting from this premise, I pursue in this article a case study not of a particular technique or period but of a single performer—the soprano Adelina Patti (1843–1919). Patti's behaviors, both vocal and social, invite such attention for a number of reasons. By any measure she must be considered the leading singer, if not the leading musician, of the later nineteenth century. Born into a household of professional vocalists (including both parents and six elder siblings), she emerged as a prodigy, performing arias such as “Casta diva” and “Ah, non giunge” in concerts as early as the age of eight.6 On the advice of her brother-in-law, the impresario Maurice Strakosch, Adelina's family delayed her operatic debut until the ripe old age of sixteen. But then in her first season (1859–60) she took leading roles in Lucia di Lammermoor, La sonnambula, Don Giovanni (Zerlina), Il barbiere di Siviglia, I puritani, Martha, Don Pasquale, and Mosè in Egitto.7 She was an immediate sensation, and although a few reviewers scoffed at the Patti mania, the critical consensus eulogized her balance of flash and refinement. In 1879 no less a figure than Eduard Hanslick lauded her “tone formation, portamento, scales, and interpretive art right down to the smallest mordent,” continuing, “there is no more perfect model.”8 Verdi too raved: “[Patti] is by nature an artist so complete that there has perhaps never been her equal!”9 Happily, she recorded a sizable body of work, all now available in modern transfers.10 Even if these twenty-eight tracks—made in her early sixties—reveal a voice in serious decline, no more expert a witness to the late nineteenth-century manner could be desired. And because Patti was born in 1843, her approach may well be relevant for music much older than her recordings: in addition to Hanslick and Verdi, she knew and was praised by Rossini, Berlioz, Meyerbeer, and Gounod, among others. Her great celebrity also ensured lavish documentation of her life, including what she did, what people said about her, and sometimes what she said about herself. Such materials make possible a study of context that goes beyond generalizations to consider the particular circumstances of the singer's music making. If, as Susan Rutherford argues, “the discourses around the singer were as powerful and influential (if not more so) in shaping experience as the actual behavior of the singers themselves,” Patti's case allows a rich comparison of such discourses and behaviors—that is, of words and sounds.11 

Here I will focus on one especially intriguing configuration of those elements: Patti's relationship to contemporary notions of femininity. Like all women who entertained before the public, Patti contended with the taint of immorality. I will argue that her response to that taint shaped both her overall conduct and her particular vocalism. For while in truth her way of life fundamentally contradicted the reigning ideals of womanhood, Patti projected in her dress, her makeup, her public statements, her published imagery, and, most importantly, her stage characterizations and vocal styling the most perfect manifestation of femininity available: the virginal ingénue. In stating this I claim no access to Patti's subjectivity, her interior sense of self; rather, I suggest that the consistency of her persona—which seems to have changed little between youth and old age—and her occasionally visible efforts to foster it imply some degree of self-fashioning. By considering her performance of herself, then, we can make better sense of Patti's songs and arias. Indeed, I will argue that Patti deployed the interpretive techniques of her day to project the quality of girlish innocence—an admired cultural stereotype—into nearly all her performances. If Patti's singing now seems strange, the strangeness results at least in part from its cultural entanglement, from its brilliant translation of nineteenth-century femininity into sound.

Woman vs. Actress

Patti lived in a world where feminine rectitude precluded stage performance. That bias and the nineteenth-century “feminine ideal” on which it was based have been much explored by scholars and so require but brief summary here. In her classic article, Barbara Welter boils down the nature of “True Womanhood,” as projected in the popular mid-nineteenth-century press, to four qualities: piety, purity, submissiveness, and domesticity.12 With these, women were to cultivate in their homes an ethical counterpoise to the greed, dishonesty, and general immorality faced—and often pursued—by their ambitious husbands. Indeed, women were charged with nothing less than safeguarding morality in society: their cardinal virtues were crucial. Piety was said to come naturally to a woman and to bolster her against corruption. Purity stood at the heart of her identity and was the “chief means of discharging her duty to save the world.”13 Submissiveness—“submerg[ing] her own talents to work for her husband”—was supposed to magnify her authority, especially within the home.14 And she was meant to embrace that domesticity: “the middle-class woman who aspired to work at something other than child-rearing or who was totally untalented in domestic skills was seen as abnormal and inferior.”15 While surely few real-world women fully inhabited this archetype, it shaped much contemporary discourse.16 

The woman of the theater transgressed the ideal in several ways. In one sense transgression was inevitable: exhibiting herself publicly for financial reward, the stage woman could not help but appear bold and worldly rather than submissive and domestic. As Lenard R. Berlanstein puts it, she “confronted the standard limitations imposed by sexual difference, presumed to be natural, which disqualified women from citizenship and render[ed] them creatures of the home.”17 But beyond this unavoidable nonconformity, stage women were notorious for extramarital liaisons, which sometimes led to illegitimate children. Henriette Sontag conducted a well-publicized “affair” in 1828 with Count Carlo Rossi of Sardinia that resulted in her pregnancy.18 Maria Malibran pursued a lasting affair with the violinist Charles de Bériot, whom she was finally able to marry only months before her death.19 And Giulia Grisi, whose titled French husband accused her of infidelity with Viscount Castlereagh (Frederick William Robert Stewart), indeed soon began an affair with Castlereagh that resulted in a baby son. Before long, Grisi's affections moved on to the tenor Giovanni Matteo Mario, her regular leading man, and they soon lived together as if married, Grisi eventually giving birth to six children.20 As Bonnie G. Smith writes, “so many prominent women of this time pursued some kind of sexual adventure that the breaking of norms in one's personal life seems almost a prerequisite of achievement in the public sphere.”21 

Some writers have indeed suggested that stage women were “not only permitted but expected to live unconventional lives” and were rewarded professionally for their improprieties.22 Part of the excitement of seeing a great beauty such as Mademoiselle Rachel or Grisi was the exotic danger she threatened, a thrill eventually written into such heroines as Violetta, Carmen, and Delilah.23 Art historian Anne Higonnet argues that, as long as the concept of “genius” was gendered masculine, a woman could aspire to preeminence only by adopting more mannish qualities, often including sexual freedom: “the attributes of femininity were diametrically opposed to those of genius; to the extent that a woman aspired to artistic greatness she was supposed to betray her domestic destiny.”24 In other words, the less a performer appeared a True Woman, the more plausible seemed her talent. Given these attitudes, it is perhaps not surprising that theatrical women indeed “enjoyed unusual freedoms and independence in contrast to the domestic ‘feminine ideal.’”25 

But the price for this apparent freedom was loss of social standing. The behavior of theatrical women seemed dangerous to “proper” ladies and indeed society in general. In Smith's words, “women in the public sphere, such as actresses, dancers, and obviously prostitutes, sought out pleasure and were therefore outcasts from respectable, domestic society.”26 They were especially unwelcome in the presence of other women, for “a ‘fallen woman’ was a ‘fallen angel,’ unworthy of the celestial company of her sex.”27 Grisi certainly experienced this ostracism, even after years of living monogamously with Mario and their children outside Florence. When in 1864 that city became the capital of Italy, she was pointedly not invited to official events, and even five years later was still complaining of isolation and loneliness when Mario was away.28 More typically, when young theatrical women married, especially into elite families, they were expected to retire from the stage in favor of more “proper” behavior. Sontag experienced precisely this fate when her secret marriage to Count Rossi was revealed in 1830.29 Likewise, when the highborn soprano Marietta Piccolomini married the marchese Francesco Caetani della Fargna in 1860 she ceased to appear in opera.30 Put succinctly, theatrical women found themselves trapped by incompatible obligations: success on the stage required failure as a woman.

To resolve this conundrum, female performers adopted a range of responses that reveal much about their attitudes and ambitions. Two contrasting examples help to contextualize Patti's own behavior.31 At what might be called the “conservative” end of the spectrum is Jenny Lind (1820–87). As Austin Caswell has shown, Lind resolved to embrace the feminine ideal as tightly as her circumstances would allow. She emphasized her religious devotion, eschewed all sexual scandal, adopted her husband's name (Goldschmidt) as a sign of submission, and worked hard to appear domestic, even as she performed publicly. Her boldest gesture came in 1848 when, at just twenty-eight years of age, she decided to retire from the stage and sing concerts devoted largely to sacred repertory.32 She took the step not for the usual reason of marriage: she did not wed until 1852. In fact historians have failed to identify a clear triggering event. But for a performer so concerned about her womanly reputation, the stigma associated with the stage doubtless played a role. By renouncing the activity that had made her a star, Lind pursued the most radical—and respectable—solution to her dilemma.33 

She also used the media to propagate her persona of “uncultivated innocence and natural goodness.”34 While that strategy has often been credited to P. T. Barnum, who created a storm of publicity in advance of Lind's US tour, Caswell has shown that Lind herself abetted the process. “She was a woman of canny awareness of her musical, managerial, and financial interests, allowing us to infer that she was also well aware of the public appeal of her piety, her purity, her domesticity.”35 Indeed, after Barnum managed the first year of the tour, Lind herself took over for the remaining year and continued the strategy. Her self-conscious image-making emerges especially clearly when she characterizes her vocal training:

It is from Garcia alone that I learned some few important things. To such a degree had God written within me what I had to study, my ideal was (and is) so high, that no human being existed who could in the least degree satisfy my demands. Therefore I sing after no one's méthode—only after that of the birds (so far as I am able); for their Teacher was the only one who responded to my requirements of truth, clearness and expression.36 

The singer paints herself as innocent of worldly practices (and even training), inspired only by God and his creation. Ultimately, this image prevailed: in Caswell's words, she “pulled off the difficult trick of presenting herself as a paragon of True Womanhood while occupying a place outside its boundaries.”37 

Not surprisingly, perceptions of her singing were shaped by her reputation. Notwithstanding the many roulades and trills that characterized her style, listeners most regularly heard naturalness and piety in her voice. As one writer expressed it, “the Nightingale … does not pour out its melody with more ease, its notes do not gush forth with more freedom and correctness according to Nature's pitch and scale, than do Jenny Lind's according to Art's strictest rules.”38 In other words, the art of singing was wholly natural for her: the virtuosity that in others might sound empty was hailed in her as sincere. Lowell Gallagher confirms that in newspaper after newspaper “her singing was construed as the natural effusion of her soul.”39 Many also felt that “Lind's liaison with the divine was audible as well as being visible in her deeds” and that her singing manifested “her unsophisticated spirituality.”40 Again according to Gallagher, Lind's audiences considered that “the relation of the exemplary voice and the woman was tautological,” or, in the simpler words of a Boston critic, “she sings herself.”41 More accurately, perhaps, listeners heard her image. By cloaking herself in the feminine ideal, Lind disposed her audiences to experience public and flamboyant song as an uplifting and even pious experience.

At the opposite pole from such traditionalism might be found the French actress Sarah Bernhardt (1844–1923). Where Lind almost apologized for her profession, Bernhardt—nearly an exact contemporary of Patti's—challenged social expectations. On the one hand, Bernhardt was said to exude “the feminine virtues of ‘purity and tenderness’ in ways that were rarely equaled either in ‘real life’ or ‘on the stage.’”42 Yet she was better known for transgressing those virtues. She bore an illegitimate son at the age of eighteen (in her first year at the Comédie-Française) and punctuated the remainder of her career with the sort of affairs—often involving well-known artists—considered typical of theatrical women. Further, Bernhardt sometimes took serious male roles (such as Hamlet) and occasionally continued her cross-dressing outside the theater. She highlighted her “exotic” Jewish heritage while also insisting on her Christian upbringing and overarching Frenchness. Most shockingly, she eschewed submissiveness and “embrace[d] the possibilities for self-magnification.”43 Her tuition in those possibilities came from Barnum himself, who arranged her own tour of the United States in 1880. To stoke interest, she published a colorfully inaccurate autobiography followed by publicity that painted her as “a high-strung, egotistical, and individualistic female rebel, ready to flout convention at every turn.”44 Mocked as “Sarah Barnum,” she nevertheless achieved a celebrity and influence unprecedented for an actress, her name becoming a household word. Whereas Lind had used conformity to mask—and ultimately curtail—her transgressive career, Bernhardt defied the very tenets of True Womanhood to engineer success beyond the normal limits of her sex.45 

The Patti Persona

Patti, I would argue, tried to have it both ways. Like Bernhardt, she lived the transgressive life of a nineteenth-century stage woman. Indeed, her “offenses” often recall those of Grisi, whom Patti knew in her youth. Like the older singer, Patti married a member of the French nobility—the marquis de Caux—but rather than retire, she became the couple's primary earner. The resultant tensions helped to sour Patti on de Caux, and in 1876 she, like Grisi, began a long-term and eventually open affair with a leading tenor, in her case Ernesto Nicolini. Since French law barred divorce, Patti and Nicolini simply lived together, for many years. During this period she was shunned by polite society, even if her audiences never waned. In the opinion of one wag, people came “not to hear a great artist, but to see a great wanton—a beautiful sensualist the fame of whose adulteries has overspread the globe.”46 When divorce was legalized in 1884, Patti obtained one and wedded Nicolini. The two enjoyed thirteen more years together as husband and wife until the tenor's death in 1898. After twelve months of mourning, the fifty-six-year-old Patti shocked society once again by marrying a Swedish nobleman exactly half her age.47 

In spite of—or perhaps because of—her nonconformity, Patti followed Lind in projecting a traditionalist façade: she consistently presented herself under the flag of True Womanhood even as she violated its principles. If she was always more vivacious than Lind, still the approach worked. Writers regularly ascribed the qualities of modesty, humility, and domesticity to Patti, despite much evidence to the contrary. Chronicling exactly how this image developed over the years is beyond my scope here, but put simply, it seems Patti's public words and actions—including her performances—evoked the ideal of girlish innocence with remarkable consistency.

Certainly, her statements to the press fit this pattern. She communicated piety, for example, by stating that her first memory was of prayer at bedtime and that “in all the years that have intervened … I have never missed saying my prayers before going to bed.”48 She likewise professed an unexpected domesticity for such an ambitious star: “I find as much pleasure in singing to a few friends in my Welsh home as I do at the largest public audiences”; and, “at present, when I am touring … I sit at home in my hotel and play the piano or do needlework.”49 Perhaps harder to believe are her stories of submissiveness and naivety. At age nineteen, after three years of international acclaim, she professed to have no input into her career: “My father does everything. I'm told to go, and I go; I'm told to sing, and I sing.”50 She also often related the story of a performance in Moscow at which her costume caught fire just before her entrance. According to Patti, she waited for assistants to douse the flames, sang her role for the evening as usual, returned to her dressing room, and then, finally, fainted.51 Similarly delayed was any expression of stage fright over her debut at Covent Garden in 1861, so that it was only after the performance that “I returned to our little hotel in Norfolk Street in the Strand and burst into tears.”52 Patti even tried to hint at personal purity: just before her third marriage she declared in an interview that “the human qualities I most admire are honesty in man, faith in woman.”53 Unfortunately, the article was accompanied by the numbered images of her three husbands. More subtly, when asked how she maintained her health and youthful looks (on which more below), she enumerated a diet of foods—white fowl meat, sweetbreads, sheep's brains, white wine, soda, champagne—all of which just happen to be pale or white.54 To be clear, I am not claiming that these statements (or any of the others quoted here) are demonstrably false. In the end it does not much matter whether Patti truly liked needlework, let others control her engagements, or fainted hours after a fright; some of it may well be true. But by consistently highlighting such feminine orthodoxies to the press, she strongly suggests an attempt to cultivate an image.

Indeed, beyond her own claims, two aspects of that image caught the imagination of many authors who wrote about her: Patti's eternal youth and her innate naturalness. As pointed out by Welter, being childlike was often considered a desirable quality of womanhood. The mid-century instructional literature suggests that a woman should “become as a little child” and that “true feminine genius is ever timid, doubtful, and clingingly dependent; a perpetual childhood.”55 While these writers surely meant youthfulness of behavior rather than appearance, much of the discourse surrounding Patti in fact involved her apparent failure to age. Even at the beginning of her career the petite girl was mistaken for being younger than she was. In 1863, just after her debut in Vienna, a report by Julius Wagner described her as a “child,” “small, dainty and delicate,” “a head of fourteen upon a bust of eighteen.”56 Patti was twenty at the time. When she was thirty-six, Hanslick found that “her eternal youth borders upon the miraculous.”57 At forty-three “she did not appear to be a day more than thirty, and her movements seemed still to retain the impulse and freedom of girlhood.” At forty-eight, playing Marguerite in Gounod's Faust, she “could cheat us into the belief that she was still the girl depicted by Goethe,” “looking and singing like a maid in her teens.” And nearing fifty-six she seemed “scarcely older than her [twenty-eight-year-old] Swedish spouse.”58 In a way that astonished her peers, she appeared to remain “ever fair and ever young.”59 

And that was evidently as Patti wished it. Indeed, the importance she attached to her youthfulness emerges from reports of her increasingly desperate attempts to sustain it. Already at age thirty-nine she chided an interviewer, “What a mistake the newspapers make who say I was born in 1843. Why, I'm only seventeen!”60 At forty-six the lifelong brunette arrived in New York with blond hair, claiming that it facilitated the portrayal of fair-haired characters.61 By her late fifties, less adoring observers had begun to note heavy makeup and an outdated style. She was “a tiny slip of a woman, her face enameled and painted and on her head an artificial chignon … that she always wore, regardless of fashion.”62 Another writer found her face “so well enamelled that it looked quite natural. Her dress was of the fashion of 1870, and she resembled nothing so much as a dainty piece of Dresden china.”63 At sixty-two she seemed “an animated wax figure lent by Madame Tussaud for the afternoon.”64 In the same way, some found Patti's behavior affectedly juvenile. A review from 1903 complained that “the lady's demeanor on the concert stage was extremely undignified. To see a woman of sixty in a blond wig trying to ogle an audience and play kittenish tricks is far from edifying.”65 Fifteen years earlier George Bernard Shaw had similarly objected, “Will not some sincere friend of Madame Patti's tell her frankly that she is growing too big a girl for this sort of thing[?] … The queens of song should leave the coquetry of the footlights to the soubrettes.”66 But publicly, at least, Patti never allowed herself to grow up, remaining, in Shaw's formulation, a “petted and delighted child” for as long as—or perhaps longer than—she could.67 

As important as youth was to Patti's persona, it was but a component of her overriding projection of naturalness. Indeed, this word dominates descriptions of her throughout her career. In 1862 Berlioz wrote of Patti's Parisian debut, “Do you wish to see charm united with naïveté, naturalness with grace? … If so, go to the Théâtre-Italien on the nights when Mlle Patti sings!”68 In 1877 Verdi agreed: “Marvelous voice, purest style of singing, stupendous actress with a charm and naturalness that no one else has.”69 And still in 1895 an anonymous essayist held that

one of Patti's most conspicuous charms is her absolute naturalness of manner. … Her first husband remarked to a friend of mine, not very long before his death [in 1889], “What I most admired in Adelina was her absence of all affectation. And, like herself, her singing is still the most unaffected thing in this world.” The Marquis spoke the truth. It would be impossible to find a more simple, childlike creature than Patti.70 

As these excerpts suggest, the tag of “naturalness” brought together concepts of innocence, simplicity, and youth in ways fully congruent with True Womanhood.

Patti's hand in shaping this discourse again reveals itself at several points. For example, some writers advanced the notion of naturalness so far as to suggest that Patti's skills were entirely inborn rather than acquired through training. A typical statement appears in the Journal de St.-Pétersbourg (1869): “[Her accomplishment] is not perhaps the result of any great application on her part; it is the result of a most happy and peculiar organisation—it is the natural singing of a bird created to sing.”71 In 1899 Patti herself virtually repeated the idea: “I don't say I ever ‘worked’ hard, in spite of impressions to the contrary. As I have said, I dislike the expression. My voice was natural, and so, I fancy, has been my use of it always, so there could be no question of labor. … I never went anywhere to study.”72 Similarly, she reported in 1906, “I never went to school, but was taught at home, nor can I say that I truly studied a part, so I have no tale to tell … of hard work and difficulties painfully surmounted.”73 One of her favorite anecdotes, as Herman Klein recounts it, involved her mastery of the trill. Hearing her elder sister Amalia laboring with the ornament one day, “the tiny Adelina stopped her and asked, ‘Why don't you do it like this?’ therewith executing a natural and absolutely irreproachable trill.”74 

Whether or not Patti's trill came so easily, the evidence actually reveals—as we might expect—that as gifted as she obviously was, “hard work and difficulties painfully surmounted” indeed played their part in Patti's success. Many of her earliest reviews describe a prodigious talent that still lacked polish: in 1861 The Times (of London) complained that “the management of the voice, the gradation of tone, the balance of cadence, the rounding off of phrase, are all occasionally more or less defective.”75 Henry Chorley added, “[Her] tones were frequently not agreeable—now and then out of tune. … In her concerted music want of body of voice was to be felt.”76 By the end of the decade, however, marked improvements were noted, as summed up by a writer for the Pall Mall Gazette in 1868: “Richly endowed, she has not the less perseveringly studied to attain the perfection of detail indispensable to true art, and the defects observable when she first appeared among us have, with laborious and resolute striving, been conquered one by one.”77 In other words, while Patti's early listeners certainly acknowledged her to be a wonder of nature, many could also perceive the efforts she made to perfect herself. Her later discounting of those efforts would therefore seem a conscious decision. As in Lind's case, a narrative of inborn, God-given facility served her better than one of hard-won triumph over obstacles. Naturalness was fundamental to the persona she wished to promote.

Acting the Ingénue

That objective also seems to have shaped her interpretation of operatic roles, both dramatically and vocally. Certainly her acting has attracted less attention from modern critics than her singing. The evidence is rich, however, and offers valuable perspective on her interpretations and their reception. Hilary Poriss has written insightfully about this material, rightly complicating the legends of thespian mastery. After highlighting some of the less favorable accounts, Poriss concludes, “What we can glean from these commentaries … is that throughout her life Patti's histrionic efforts did not always reach the highest level of achievement. … She was usually well received as an actress in lighter roles … but when she portrayed such parts as Carmen or as Margherita in Gounod's Faust, critics consistently took issue.”78 Drawing on Wayne Koestenbaum's ideas about divas, and about Patti specifically, Poriss attributes the numerous positive reviews of Patti's acting to writers who recognized her weaknesses but loved her all the more because of them. In Koestenbaum's formulation, “Our pleasure derives from her acting's insufficiency, its laxness, its willed remoteness from truth. Realism is beneath Patti.”79 Poriss concludes that “[i]n refusing to conform to accepted dramatic standards of realism … Patti managed simultaneously to thrill her fans and dismay her critics. … Patti's success might have stemmed from a willful rejection of accepted dramatic norms.”80 

To my mind, the variety of opinions about Patti's acting implies something more complex. Poriss's argument depends on the measuring stick of “realism” to gauge “the highest level of achievement.” But recent work by Susan Rutherford and others proposes that few actresses of the era aspired to such realism, whatever that might have meant at the time. Rutherford argues persuasively that already in the mid-nineteenth century female singers were expected to present an “ideal” rather than a “real” or “naturalistic” performance. Such idealism could be defined as “the performative adherence to the construct of femininity,” often calling for “a carefully cultivated quality of innocence,” however the character was written.81 In other words, the actress was to represent, first and foremost, True Womanhood. Although prima donnas were sometimes criticized for not fully engaging with the drama, “it is plain that in general a good review depended on the degree of ‘womanliness’ displayed.”82 As if to prove the point, Gallagher cites contemporary accounts of Jenny Lind that, while acknowledging the singer's dramatic shortcomings, praise her “accents of sublimely unconscious innocence” and “her fresher, chaster, more intellectual, and (as they only seem to some) her colder strains.”83 The strategy was widespread and especially useful when female characters transgressed propriety. As Rutherford puts it, “the further a libretto strayed from conventional notions of womanhood, the more idealised the singer's performance needed to be.”84 

Historian Sarah Bilston arrives at a similar opinion in her own work on stage women generally, as depicted in the literature and criticism of the 1870s. She concludes that, contrary to traditional notions, acting was often presented as ennobling for women, provided—crucially—it was done in a feminine way. The key lay in the quality of submissiveness, for good female acting was understood “as a form of supreme self-abnegation”; in this view, “labour and self-annihilation truly lie at the heart of great theatrical performance.”85 The outward sign of this modesty was a “natural” acting style, which meant a lack of apparent artifice or staginess and complete identity between actress and character. To this end, the actress was not to be taught the “techniques” of acting but was to let her own inclinations “guide [her] to achieve a performance that is disciplined, artless, sincere.”86 In other words, proper feminine acting came not from training but from deep introspection and renunciation of identity. In Matilda Betham-Edwards's novel Bridget (1877), the title character's performance is praised as “a glorious impersonation, and alike pose, attitude, and expression were of her own choosing. … [S]he had thought of everything herself.”87 Obviously, this kind of naturalism does not equate with modern “realism”: the goal is to seem spontaneous and untutored, not necessarily true to everyday life. Indeed, Bilston confirms Rutherford's point: to succeed as an actress—or at least a respectable one—a woman needed to project traditional femininity and its aura of artless naivety. Acting in an “idealized” or “natural” way carved out space for a lady on the stage.

In this light a close reading of Patti's reviews reveals not so much a limited actress or someone who rejected “accepted dramatic norms” as a traditional actress of the nineteenth century. Indeed, writers nearly always couch their praise of Patti in the language of artlessness. In a consideration of her acting, critic and librettist Henry Hersee emphasized her idealized characterization and reliance on instinct:

Whether she has to impersonate the coquettish Rosina or the unhappy Margherita, she is able to call up an ideal conception of either character, and to reproduce it visibly and audibly, by the aid of her acting and elocution. The marvel is that her imagination seems to be guided by so unerring a dramatic instinct that her impersonations always have a life-like reality, and she looks, moves, and speaks as if she were actually the ideal personage whom she represents.88 

Likewise her London Zerlina (1861) was held to be the model of intuitive innocence: she was “the rustic a little idealised, such as we could fancy, though we have never seen in actual life. Everything she did was so entirely the result of impulse, so artless and unpremeditated, the minutest details were so consistent and characteristic, as to leave the audience convinced that nothing less than an actress of nature's own making was before them.”89 For Hanslick too, ready insight was key: “For bizarre or profound ideas, for carefully studied nuances, one must seek as little in [Patti's portrayal of Meyerbeer's Dinorah] as in any other of her rôles. She achieves the right thing, not through reflection, but through her wonderful instinct.”90 Patti's acting comes from intuition rather than design and so surpasses more sensational portrayals.

Especially illuminating in this regard are reactions to Patti's impersonations of less virtuous characters. Gounod's Marguerite, for example, loses her innocence over the course of Faust, but Patti's consistent refinement satisfied her London audiences better than “the absurd ‘realism’ of Mlle. Pauline Lucca.”91 Similarly, Patti turned the dangerous Carmen into an innocent child, “little more than a heartless flirt,” “frolicksome, even kittenish at times. … [N]aughty, perhaps, but not downright wicked.”92 

But the case of the courtesan Violetta is perhaps starkest. Patti sang the role frequently and with great success and even claimed it as her favorite.93 But again she neatly sanitized it through an interpretation as absurd as it was customary, turning the grisette into an ingénue. According to historian Lynda Nead, two images of the prostitute coexisted in Victorian England: she was either “a figure of contagion, disease and death; a sign of social disorder and ruin to be feared and controlled” or “a suffering and tragic figure—the passive victim of a cruel and relentless society.”94 As Rutherford explains, when La traviata first came to London the two archetypes were embodied, more or less, in the portrayals of Marietta Piccolomini and Angiolina Bosio respectively. Chorley confirms that only Bosio had “that half-elegance, half-distraction of manner which alone could make such a heroine supportable for the purposes of musical art.”95 In Rutherford's view, this interpretation owed much to concerns about status:

Bosio belonged to a generation of artists from professional or lower-class backgrounds whose need to conform rigorously to onstage codes of femininity and thereby deny the traditional linkage between “prostitute” and “singer” was an important element in the rising gentrification of the stage artist: too realistic a representation of a courtesan was arguably simply too great a risk to a still precarious reputation for respectability.96 

Not surprisingly, then, Patti followed a “Bosian” tack. In his review of her first London Traviata (July 1861) the critic for The Times reported that “Mademoiselle Patti represents Violetta as one who, under other conditions, might have adorned a very different sphere from that in which she is unhappily destined to move. … Now and then a gesture, a movement, a mere look, shows plainly that, while striving to brave it out, she is ashamed of and really detests her position.”97 Hanslick concurred: “Patti's Violetta has one fault—a fault which I would rather praise than condemn. She is no Traviata, no Dame-aux-Camélias.”98 Hersee addresses the issue most broadly:

Imaginative power may ensure intensity of emotional expression, and the spontaneity which renders acting life-like and natural; but in order to secure the highest results, it must be combined with that refined faculty of judgment which is designated “good taste.” … By the aid of this faculty, [Patti] discriminates between logical realism and acceptable dramatic effects, and polishes her conceptions until they become beaux idéals.99 

Rather than lacking dramatic gifts, then, it seems that Patti adopted a time-honored and “honorable” approach to feminine acting in which all characters exhibit a “carefully cultivated quality of innocence” that converts them more or less into ingénues. No doubt tastes in acting shifted considerably over Patti's lifetime, as did those in singing. If Bernhardt was the progressive, cultivating dangerous grandiosity and “the hysteria, the caprices, and the tragic denouements of illicit love,” Patti was the conservative.100 Just as she continued the vocal traditions of the mid-century, so she stuck to an old-fashioned mode of acting. Patti indeed achieved the goal of complete identity between actress and character, or more accurately, she projected the same persona on stage as in other pursuits.101 George Bernard Shaw claimed that “she seldom even pretends to play any other part than that of Adelina, the spoiled child with the adorable voice”; and even Klein agrees that “the Patti of the stage and the Patti of real life were, in outward semblance and deportment, one and the same.”102 Understanding the nature and consistency of that persona is crucial to appreciating her recordings, to which I now turn.

The Recordings

Indeed, if Patti's contemporaries perceived an idealized femininity in both her person and her characters, I believe we can rightfully listen for that quality in her recorded performances. In the analyses that follow I explain in detail where I hear that girlish and playful innocence and how Patti exploits the effect to shape her characters. But before launching into such a study, we must confront several general aspects of the recordings that make their interpretation challenging and can contribute to a modern listener's unease. The first is Patti's very sound. Her fundamental approach to singing diverges markedly from modern operatic techniques, even as practiced by singers nominally aligned with the “bel canto tradition.” As I have argued elsewhere, Patti's methods correspond more closely to the teachings of Manuel Garcia II (1805–1906) and other pedagogues of the mid- to late nineteenth century, as well as to what can be heard on the recordings of other singers of her generation.103 In particular, her brighter and more varied tone, her scant vibrato, and her copious portamento can strike the modern ear as eccentric or even inappropriate. Coming to terms with this “otherness” may require a period of acclimation to the conventions of the period. Here, however, I will not dwell on such well-understood principles, although some will merit scrutiny in the analyses to follow.

Another challenge we face is technological. The original discs were recorded entirely acoustically, of course, without the amplification of the vocal signal by means of electricity. Patti sang into a horn (technicians sometimes moving her closer or further away), and the vibrations were recorded mechanically onto wax matrices. The recording sessions took place not in an established studio in London but in a pair of bedrooms at Patti's castle in Wales. Suspicious of the new technology, Patti required several days to get used to the equipment. But then in December 1905 she recorded twenty sides over four days, all accompanied by Landon Ronald, a respected young pianist and conductor. Patti eventually chose ten of the selections for release, which took place in February 1906. In view of their success, a second session was held that June, at which she made seven more sides. (See Table 1 for a full list of Patti's recordings.)104 The resulting shellac discs have a signal-to-noise ratio that is far worse than anything one hears today. To inexperienced ears, the music can recede into a fog of hiss and pop, an effect only worsened by the deterioration of the surviving exemplars. Further, hardly anyone listens to these rare discs as originally envisioned, on the gramophones of the era. Rather, we hear transfers to compact discs—if not compressed digital files—further mediated by noise filtering. In truth, we find ourselves at a considerable acoustic remove from the singer, and listeners may again need some practice to appreciate what these low-fidelity documents can still offer.

Table 1

Recordings made by Adelina Patti

ComposerTitleMatrix number
1905 (with Landon Ronald, piano)   
W. A. Mozart “Voi che sapete” (Le nozze di Figaro537f 
Antonio Lotti “Pur dicesti” (L'infedeltà punita538f 
Henry Bishop “Home! Sweet Home!” (Clari539f 
Stephen Foster “Old Folks at Home” 540f 
W. A. Mozart “Batti, batti” (Don Giovanni541f 
Charles Gounod “Ah! Je ris” (Faust542f 
Charles Gounod “Ah! Je ris” 543f 
Luigi Arditi “Il bacio” 544f 
Frederick Crouch “Kathleen Mavourneen” 545f 
Irish trad., arr. Friedrich von Flowtow “The Last Rose of Summer” 546f 
J. S. Bach–Charles Gounod “Ave Maria” 547f 
Paolo Tosti “La serenata” 548f 
Scottish trad. “Robin Adair” 549f 
Henry Bishop “Home! Sweet Home!” 550f 
Mathilde de Rothschild “Si vous n'avez rien à me dire” 551f 
Scottish trad. “Comin’ thro’ the Rye” 552f 
Irish trad., arr. Friedrich von Flowtow “The Last Rose of Summer” 553f 
Scottish trad., arr. Charles E. Horn “The Banks of Allan Water” 555f 
Adelina Patti “On Parting” 556f 
James Hook “'Twas within a Mile o' Edinboro' Town” 557f 
 “New Year's Greeting to Baron Cederström” (spoken)  
1906 (with Alfredo Barili, piano)   
Frederick Crouch “Kathleen Mavourneen” 676c 
Paolo Tosti “La serenata” 677c 
James Hook “'Twas within a Mile o' Edinboro' Town” 678c 
Vincenzo Bellini “Casta diva” (Norma681c 
Ambroise Thomas “Connais-tu le pays?” (Mignon682c 
Vincenzo Bellini “Ah! non credea mirarti” (La sonnambula683c 
Sebastián Yradier “La calesera” 684½c 
ComposerTitleMatrix number
1905 (with Landon Ronald, piano)   
W. A. Mozart “Voi che sapete” (Le nozze di Figaro537f 
Antonio Lotti “Pur dicesti” (L'infedeltà punita538f 
Henry Bishop “Home! Sweet Home!” (Clari539f 
Stephen Foster “Old Folks at Home” 540f 
W. A. Mozart “Batti, batti” (Don Giovanni541f 
Charles Gounod “Ah! Je ris” (Faust542f 
Charles Gounod “Ah! Je ris” 543f 
Luigi Arditi “Il bacio” 544f 
Frederick Crouch “Kathleen Mavourneen” 545f 
Irish trad., arr. Friedrich von Flowtow “The Last Rose of Summer” 546f 
J. S. Bach–Charles Gounod “Ave Maria” 547f 
Paolo Tosti “La serenata” 548f 
Scottish trad. “Robin Adair” 549f 
Henry Bishop “Home! Sweet Home!” 550f 
Mathilde de Rothschild “Si vous n'avez rien à me dire” 551f 
Scottish trad. “Comin’ thro’ the Rye” 552f 
Irish trad., arr. Friedrich von Flowtow “The Last Rose of Summer” 553f 
Scottish trad., arr. Charles E. Horn “The Banks of Allan Water” 555f 
Adelina Patti “On Parting” 556f 
James Hook “'Twas within a Mile o' Edinboro' Town” 557f 
 “New Year's Greeting to Baron Cederström” (spoken)  
1906 (with Alfredo Barili, piano)   
Frederick Crouch “Kathleen Mavourneen” 676c 
Paolo Tosti “La serenata” 677c 
James Hook “'Twas within a Mile o' Edinboro' Town” 678c 
Vincenzo Bellini “Casta diva” (Norma681c 
Ambroise Thomas “Connais-tu le pays?” (Mignon682c 
Vincenzo Bellini “Ah! non credea mirarti” (La sonnambula683c 
Sebastián Yradier “La calesera” 684½c 

For many, however, the biggest obstacle to appreciating Patti's artistry is the diminished state of her voice. By the time she finally consented to record, she had been singing professionally for forty-six years and had been retired from staged operas for eight (although she continued to concertize). Even if many reviewers chose to ignore the gradual changes in her voice, others chronicled the deterioration clearly enough. At her performance of Roméo et Juliette in Paris in the fall of 1888 some noticed “several labored runs, some veiled high notes, and the transposition of the waltz.”105 Five years later, Shaw declared Patti

now the most accomplished of mezzo-sopranos. … [She] hazarded none of her old exploits as a florid soprano with an exceptional range: her most arduous achievement was Ah, fors’ è lui, so liberally transposed that the highest notes in the rapid traits were almost all sharp, the artist having been accustomed for so many years to sing them at a higher pitch. Time has transposed Patti a minor third down.106 

And by the time of her final tour of the United States in 1903,

there was not much to admire or to arouse pleasure in the singing she did, as singing. The wonder was that it was the voice of a woman within a few months of sixty-one years. What beauty it preserved was the result of her life-long art. But she had to reach desperately for high notes, even though her arias were transposed as much as a minor third … her runs and arpeggios were dull and uncertain; her trills were subdued and promptly cut off; her phrasing was short and disjointed, showing failure of breath; the production of tone was not seldom perilously near to ugliness.107 

When two years later she made her recordings, Patti's technical shortcomings were undeniable, and they indeed mar key passages on the discs. Even with downward transposition the high notes are often strained; agility beyond the midrange can be suspect; and awkward breaths interrupt many phrases. Upon hearing the recordings, Louise Barili—the daughter of Patti's nephew and sometime accompanist Alfredo—pronounced herself “bitterly disappointed” with everything except “Voi che sapete.”108 Even Herman Klein—Patti's first biographer and one of her most ardent admirers—admitted that the recordings “convey but a faint notion of the pristine splendor of [Patti's] timbre.”109 Patti herself seems to have recognized her problems: the very year of her first recordings she asked the famous tenor Jean de Reszke—by then a prominent teacher—if he could help with her high notes, and Reszke sent an advanced student to work with her.110 Despite continued public adulation, then, the Patti on record is clearly not the Patti of legend.

And yet many who heard her in those later years still recognized an exceptional artist, the epitome of a tradition that was otherwise disappearing. A reviewer of her Violetta at Covent Garden in 1895, while acknowledging her “harsh and untameable” high notes, declared that “if you throw all [her shortcomings] into the scale, there still remains a wonderful beauty of tone, a magical and quite individual smoothness, roundness, sweetness of expression, a magnificent style.”111 Shaw too heard much to praise: “the middle of her voice is still even and beautiful; and this, with her unsurpassed phrasing and that delicate touch and expressive nuance which makes her cantabile singing so captivating, enables her to maintain what was, to my mind, always the best part of her old supremacy.”112 Even after her final Albert Hall concert on December 1, 1906—some six months after her second recording session—the reviewer for the Daily Telegraph continued to effuse:

[W]ill any deny her right to be described as historic? Certainly none who have heard her, year in, year out, for nearly two generations, during which the art that she has so long adorned has undergone something like a complete change. … To praise her singing is almost an impertinence, yet not a soul in that vast crowd on Saturday but must have asked himself where, as song after song was delivered, the equal of that singing, the rarest beauty of phrasing, the perfection of the technical command, and the grace and elegance of the style were again to be heard.113 

No doubt Patti agreed. Both publicly and privately in these later years she expressed a continued high opinion of herself. “I know that many of the critics have been very severe,” she wrote to the San Francisco Chronicle in 1904.

[T]hey contend that because I have been singing for fifty years the volume is closed. The people who say this do not understand me. Mark this—when you hear me to-morrow evening you will not hear a vibration in my voice; you will understand every word I say—a detail not observed by the later singers, and you will hear that the quality of my tones remains unchanged. I would like to know who else at 60 can do that.114 

When the following year she heard the results of her first recording session, she wrote to her nephew in delight, “it all has turned out satisfactorily—my voice & phrasing come easy & simply perfect out of the instrument & I think the company will make a fortune.”115 And three years later she confided to her nephew's wife with regard to the great Luisa Tetrazzini, “I enjoyed her singing in some things very much & her acting is charming but … I must frankly confess … I would not change my voice today for any of the voices I have heard at the present time.”116 Patti's recordings, imperfect as they are, cannot easily be dismissed as the dry relics of a lost voice. At the time of her recordings, both Patti and her harshest critics still recognized great skill and nuance. And above all, they continued to hear the Patti persona, the innocent feminine ideal she sought so consistently to project.

The “Maidenly Mode”: “Ah! non credea mirarti” and “Home! Sweet Home!”

Surely one of the purest embodiments of this feminine ideal may be found in the character of Amina in Bellini's La sonnambula, a figure with whom Patti claimed a lifelong bond. In her very first public performance—aged seven, at Niblo's Gardens in New York—she sang at least one of Amina's arias, standing on a table with her doll in her arms. By Patti's account, the audience went wild, “and so it came about that I regarded the rôle of Amina as my lucky rôle, and that is why years later I chose it for my first appearance when I had to face audiences in the great capitals of Europe.”117 Amina's chastity lies at the very center of her character. Doubted by her suspicious fiancé, she confirms her constancy in a fit of public sleepwalking and sorrowful song. As Emanuele Senici has written, Amina is an early example of the “alpine virgin,” a class of operatic heroine whose pristine, snow-covered mountain home underlines her personal purity.118 

Indeed, if Amina is the ideal ingénue, Patti's performance of her sleepwalking aria, “Ah! non credea mirarti,” positively radiates ingenuousness. It offers a nearly pure manifestation of what I will call Patti's “maidenly mode,” a constellation of interpretive features that she repeatedly adopts in such contexts.119 The singer herself hints at two of the more obvious aspects of the style—quiet dynamics and minimal vibrato—in a reminiscence of her Viennese premiere in the role (in 1863): “I even succeeded in the andante ‘A[h] non credea,’ where the least hoarseness would be detected, as it must be sung all through mezza-voce. I remember trembling a little when I got to the upper F—that is all.”120 In Example 1, I have transcribed Patti's performance in as much detail as possible above Bellini's melodic line.121 While the notation of her dynamics can only be approximate, the transcription confirms Patti's account: she sings in a generally narrow and quiet dynamic range. Such tranquility is of course appropriate for a sleepwalker, but I will show that she uses the effect consistently with the other elements of her “maidenly mode.”

Example 1
Example 1

Example 1

The issue of vibrato requires a few more words. Modern listeners are often struck by the lack of pronounced vibrato in Patti's voice, even though she recorded in her early sixties. In fact, continuous prominent vibrato seems not to have been valued by most musicians of her generation.122 Patti herself openly shunned the effect, which she called “trembling,” “tremolo,” or “vibration” and which she associated with straining and lack of skill. She recalled that around the age of eleven or twelve “my voice already began to tremble, and to avoid ruining it I passed two years without uttering a note.”123 Similarly, when asked to advise younger singers, she warned especially against “the tremolo, one of the most objectionable and unbearable of vocal faults [resulting from] the spreading of the vocal chords [sic] through straining.”124 And then late in her career she countered criticism of her singing—as noted above—by expounding something like her vocal creed: “you will not hear a vibration in my voice; you will understand every word I say … and you will hear that the quality of my tones remains unchanged.”125 Steady tone, clear words, youthful sound: for Patti, these were the markers of artistry.

The other features of her “maidenly mode” require closer scrutiny but readily identify themselves by their consistent clustering together. They are further unified by what I believe is their shared aim: to make lyrical singing approach as closely as possible the character of dramatic speech. Such a goal is hardly a novelty; one still hears it advocated among vocalists today. But in her use of extensive rubato, rhythmic alteration, and portamento, Patti pursues the imitation of speech in such varied and uncommon ways as to make the effect seem foreign. Indeed, she steers her performances away from notated orderliness—from regularity altogether—and toward the complexity of the spoken word. If today we master the notes and then project words through them, Patti starts with the words and alters the notes to fit her reading. To put it plainly, she aims to sound less like a soprano singing an aria and more like a simple girl uttering an intimate confession.

The first of her strategies is the avoidance of a consistent tempo. Just as actors modulate the rhythms of their speech—lingering over important syllables or words, passing more rapidly over the rest—Patti slows and hurries her lines with an elasticity now rarely heard. While she occasionally employs broad ritardandos and accelerandos, she more often exercises a subtler tempo rubato.126 Even the first few phrases of “Ah! non credea” demonstrate her approach. Figure 1 presents a tempo graph of measures 5–18 of Patti's performance, the vertical axis showing the number of beats per minute and the horizontal axis the measure numbers.127 I have added the words in their approximate locations, overlapping slightly when necessary to assure alignment on downbeats. To the modern eye Bellini's score appears to demand a rather constant tempo, with ubiquitous triplet arpeggios suggesting little room for small-scale give-and-take. But as the wavering line of Figure 1 suggests, Patti varies the beat constantly and never really establishes a basic tempo to which any deviations might return. For the sake of comparison, Figure 2 shows the tempo graph of a performance of the same phrases by a representative modern artist—in this case the great Joan Sutherland—the appearance of which is closer to what we would today expect.128 Although some of the basic shapes are similar, the fluctuations are much reduced and the effects far more understated. One's ear is drawn instead to the evenness of the accompaniment and Sutherland's general conformity to it.

Figure 1

Figure 2

From all appearances, the purpose of Patti's flexibility is to highlight key words, either those already emphasized by the composer or others that she herself finds important. In this well-known aria Amina complains that the love of her betrothed Elvino has faded as quickly as the flower he gave her:

In the first thirteen measures of the aria, three passages demonstrate how Patti's rubato often supports Bellini's score. After the introduction of undulating arpeggios (mm. 3–4), Patti enters in measure 5 at around 62 beats per minute (bpm) and then immediately begins to slow. She draws out the last beat of that measure (at 48 bpm) in a gesture she will often employ to stress succeeding syllables. Here, by stretching the weak beats she strengthens the arrival on “mirarti” (I would see you), reinforcing Bellini's own metrical, pitch, and melismatic emphasis on that syllable. She then rushes slightly into “sì presto” (61 bpm), almost painting the idea of “so soon,” before slowing mightily for “estinto” (44 bpm) and “fiore” (40 bpm). Again, she is merely underlining the key words that Bellini has already inflected, the first with a wide leap and the second with a long note and turn. The first climax of the aria arrives in the second half of measure 12, where to the words “sol durò” Amina rises to f″, her highest pitch thus far and a minor ninth over a lengthy dominant harmony.130 Patti amplifies the effect by radically slowing (to 35 bpm) and marking the beats with heavy accents (discussed further below). Elvino's love lasted only one day: Patti simply highlights Bellini's expressive setting of these words.

But in other places she imposes her own interpretation. In measures 9–10 Bellini writes two parallel subphrases, with similar harmonic and melodic characteristics. While the second slightly elaborates the first, nothing in the music calls for Patti's dramatic ritardando in the second half of measure 9, where she slows from 56 to 34 bpm. Here the prompt is entirely verbal: the phrase “[Passasti] al par d'amore” ([You perished] like his love) articulates the key simile of the poem and first reference to Elvino. By dragging out these words, and for once raising her voice a little, Patti's Amina exposes an emotional rawness not yet suggested musically and generally masked by somnolence. Even more striking is the start of the second stanza (mm. 17–18 of Patti's performance; mm. 25–26 of Bellini's score), where Amina imagines a “novel vigore” for her flower, watered by her tears. Most singers—encouraged by the words, as well as the turn to the relative major and higher range—adopt a quickened pulse at this point.131 Patti, however, ignores her accompanist's enlivened interlude (mm. 15–16, ca. 65 bpm) and reenters at a startlingly slow 44 bpm, draining away the accumulated energy with a tempo significantly slower than even that at the beginning of the aria.132 Indeed, she smothers the hint of “new life” that Bellini implies and instead deepens the dreamy sorrow.

In addition to modulating the tempo, Patti frequently rewrites note values to color words and generally suggest sincere speech. Her most prominent technique is what I call “rhythmic smoothing.” When faced with syncopations or sharp dotted figures, Patti often alters the values to produce gentler—and therefore more speech-like—rhythms. “Ah! non credea mirarti” offers especially interesting examples because the score itself raises questions of rhythmic interpretation, Bellini frequently writing the vocal melody in common time while giving consistent triplets to the accompaniment. The functional 12/8 meter thus appears to conflict with the dotted-eighth–sixteenth figures or equal eighths in the voice. The conflict can indeed produce a messy effect seemingly at odds with Amina's drowsiness. Consequently, even many modern performers smooth at least some of the dotted-eighth–sixteenths into triplets, or smudge over the problem with a vague rhythmic sprezzatura.133 

But I have heard no singer—modern or otherwise—smooth the rhythms as consistently as Patti. Her basic approach is apparent throughout the example but is well illustrated in measures 9–10. As elsewhere, Patti converts the sixteenths in each measure into triplet eighths, aligning the notes with the accompaniment. This exact agreement clearly distinguishes her performance from the vaguer approach frequently heard today. Further, while in both these measures Bellini calls for a two-against-three effect, in which the c″ on Amina's second beat splits the triplet accompaniment, Patti regularizes this rhythm too, making the c″ simply the last eighth of the triplet. And she practices yet another kind of smoothing in the preceding measure 8, where she slows the written thirty-second-note turn into three eighths, making the quick filigree more languorous.134 With all these departures from the notation, one might suspect the singer of simple negligence, of not troubling to learn the tricky rhythms or of neglecting them after decades of performance. But a few details argue for intentionality. In measure 27 Patti finally executes one of Bellini's dotted figures against the triplets—if not quite where he indicates it—for a flash of energized declamation.135 And in measure 7, beat 4 (as well as m. 11, beat 4), she clearly sings two against three, although again not where Bellini calls for it. It is hard to imagine that a singer would interpolate these particular rhythmic clashes without knowledge of Bellini's notation. Patti was more likely aware of the score but had her own ideas about how it should go. Indeed, taken together, the various small changes contribute to the remarkable placidity of her performance, a quality wholly appropriate to a naive and mournful sleepwalker. Patti has buffered the jolts that might have broken Amina's trance, smoothing away rhythmic fuss in favor of simplicity.

If Patti regularly smooths rhythms, she does something similar with melodies. Indeed, for many listeners today, the most striking and disconcerting characteristic of her recordings is her prominent use of portamento—of sliding between pitches.136 Singers still use the technique of course, as do string players, especially in certain traditional configurations. But modern portamento is generally so mild and standardized that the older, lusher practice is likelier to beget snickering than emotional involvement. Deciphering Patti's usage—how sliding might evoke innocence—requires a somewhat fuller exploration than the foregoing techniques but again ultimately depends on links to human speech.

In recent years, scholars have paid increasing attention to the technique of portamento. Studies have considered the various means of the effect—a technical issue—and its affective significance—a hermeneutic one.137 As regards technique, there are three basic ways for singers to slide between pitches. (See Example 2, where slides are indicated by dashed slurs.) The first and second methods both involve a change of syllable between the notes in question. In the first, the singer begins to slide from the first pitch before completing its notated value, reaches the second pitch just before indicated, and then pronounces the new syllable and pitch on time. In the second method, the singer slides “late,” starting the new syllable at its notated time but on the first pitch and then gliding—usually quickly—to the second. This latter method—as condemned by pedagogues as it was exploited by artists—typically occurs in ascent, and the slide often begins not on the actual preceding pitch but on an indeterminate lower note.138 For this reason the effect can be applied to the first notes of phrases or even repeated pitches. The third method is the simplest: when the two notes occur over the same syllable, the singer just slides between them. Following Domenico Corri, Clive Brown calls the first method the “anticipating grace” and the second the “leaping grace,” terminology that seems intuitive enough to adopt here. I will call the third method a “same-syllable slide.”139 

Example 2

Only very recently have writers attempted to account for the expressive significance of early portamento. Two especially thoughtful authors—Daniel Leech-Wilkinson and John Potter—have wrestled with the issue, together with the related question of why portamento fell out of favor in the early twentieth century. Both, in fact, link the technique to language. Leech-Wilkinson hears it as a stylization of infant-directed speech, with its characteristic sing-song quality. In his view, our deep-seated memories of this sound—called by psychologists “motherese”—account for the powerful emotional impact the technique once created. But after the miseries of World War II, this sense of innocent tenderness (and nostalgia for it) came to seem impossibly naive or mawkish.140 Potter links portamento not to “motherese” but to the natural glides and inflections common in all speech. In his view, sliding brings song closer to the immediacy of spoken communication: “by using portamento singers can incorporate elements of speech-like declamation while still exploiting the legato line.”141 Indeed, nineteenth-century writers often speak of the effect in these terms. Domenico Corri, for example, helpfully remarks that “the portamento di voce may justly be compared to the highest degree of refinement in elegant pronunciation in speaking.”142 

In an unpublished study, Quinn Patrick Ankrum has developed this idea further with two important observations.143 First, many nineteenth-century pedagogues recommend that singers initially learn to declaim their lyrics as speech and then transfer the results to song. Garcia himself advises that

to discover the appropriate tone for each affection, and the nuances it entails (the timbre, the tempo, the degree of force of the articulation, etc.), the student must carefully read the words and then surround himself with all the information that will thoroughly reveal the character to him; having thus prepared, he will recite his role by speaking it. … The true accent that is communicated to the voice when one speaks spontaneously is the foundation upon which sung expression is modeled.144 

Second, nineteenth-century treatises on declamation and acting regularly present vocal sliding as an expressive resource. In The Orator's Manual of 1879, for example, George L. Raymond describes the technique in detail and with an overtly musical approach. In one place, he observes the contrasting effects of “diatonic” slides—across major seconds and thirds—and “semitonic” slides—across minor seconds and thirds. The former “is used especially … when referring to occurrences and objects that are pleasing,” while the latter “gives us the tone popularly called plaintive.”145 (For a summary of Raymond's descriptions of these various effects, see Table 2.)146 Even if this level of specificity is not common, handbooks on oratory do regularly consider the power of vocal sliding.147 

Table 2

The effects of different vocal slides in oratory, as described in George L. Raymond's The Orator's Manual (1879)

IntervalEffect
Minor second up or down Plaintive tone, expressing melancholy, dejection, and subdued grief or pathos 
Major second up Logical continuation of a clause; no passion expressed 
Major second down Logical completion of a clause; no passion expressed 
Minor third up Strongly plaintive 
Minor third down An air of grief and lamentation 
Major third up Strong doubt, appeal, inquiry 
Major third down Strong assertion 
Fifth or octave up Earnest appeal, wonder, amazement, exclamation 
Fifth or octave down Strongest conviction, command, reprehension, hate, all sterner passions 
IntervalEffect
Minor second up or down Plaintive tone, expressing melancholy, dejection, and subdued grief or pathos 
Major second up Logical continuation of a clause; no passion expressed 
Major second down Logical completion of a clause; no passion expressed 
Minor third up Strongly plaintive 
Minor third down An air of grief and lamentation 
Major third up Strong doubt, appeal, inquiry 
Major third down Strong assertion 
Fifth or octave up Earnest appeal, wonder, amazement, exclamation 
Fifth or octave down Strongest conviction, command, reprehension, hate, all sterner passions 

On the one hand, this evidence supports Potter's contention that portamento was meant to bring singing closer to speech. But on the other, it suggests that the speech imitated was not everyday exchange but rather the histrionic style of nineteenth-century speech-making and acting. The character of that style—and the importance of sliding to it—can in fact be heard in several dramatic excerpts recorded by the aforementioned Sarah Bernhardt. (A recording of Bernhardt declaiming Phèdre's speech from act 2, scene 5, of Racine's Phèdre in 1903 may be heard in Audio Example 2; for the text of the speech, see Audio Text 2.)148 As Katherine Bergeron has noted, Bernhardt's contemporaries appreciated the musicality of the actress's delivery, critic Francis Sarcey calling it “music incarnate.” Bergeron indeed highlights “the close kinship between poetry and song during Bernhardt's era, when an actor's preference for ‘singing verse’ came strangely close to a singer's tendency to ‘speak song.’”149 This affinity seems crucial and extends beyond the pitched speech and clear rhythms that Bergeron generally considers. Indeed, Garcia may well have had something like Bernhardt's delivery in mind when he wrote that “the portamento will be appropriate whenever in impassioned language the voice would slide [se traînerait] under the influence of an energetic or tender feeling.”150 I believe this linkage of speech and song can change the way we perceive earlier portamento. While the specific sentiment communicated might depend on the nuances of the slide, portamento was generally intended to imbue melody with the sonic character of impassioned speech. If Patti's sliding now strikes us as affected, we should consider that it originally created the opposite impression: it lent a sense of emotional directness and sincerity to her melodies that exceeded the power of distinct pitches.

Audio Example 2

Sarah Bernhardt declaiming Phèdre's speech from act 2, scene 5, of Racine's Phèdre in 1903, from “Phèdre” (Racine) dit par Madame Sarah Bernhardt, Black Gramophone and Typewriter 31103, 1903, 70 rpm, reproduced on the album Sarah Bernhardt in Performance, Ben Ohmart / Bearmanor Music, 2016, track 9 (00:00–01:52).

Audio Example 2

Sarah Bernhardt declaiming Phèdre's speech from act 2, scene 5, of Racine's Phèdre in 1903, from “Phèdre” (Racine) dit par Madame Sarah Bernhardt, Black Gramophone and Typewriter 31103, 1903, 70 rpm, reproduced on the album Sarah Bernhardt in Performance, Ben Ohmart / Bearmanor Music, 2016, track 9 (00:00–01:52).

Audio Text 2

Phèdre's speech from act 2, scene 5, of Racine's Phèdre. French text from Jean Racine, Phèdre, ABU: La Bibliothèque Universelle, 1999, http://abu.cnam.fr/cgi-bin/donner_html?phedre2; translation from Jean Racine, Phaedra, trans. Robert Bruce Boswell, Project Gutenberg, 2008, last updated February 7, 2013, http://www.gutenberg.org/files/1977/1977-h/1977-h.htm#2H_4_0003.

Oui, Prince, je languis, je brûle pour Thésée. Ah, yes for Theseus I languish and I long, 
Je l'aime, non point tel que l'ont vu les enfers, not as the Shades have seen him, 
Volage adorateur de mille objets divers, of a thousand different forms the fickle lover, 
Qui va du Dieu des morts déshonorer la couche; and of Pluto's bride the would-be ravisher, 
Mais fidèle, mais fier, et même un peu farouche, but faithful, proud e'en to a slight disdain, 
Charmant, jeune, traînant tous les cœurs après soi, with youthful charms attracting every heart, 
Tel qu'on dépeint nos Dieux, ou tel que je vous voi. as gods are painted, or like yourself. 
Il avait votre port, vos yeux, votre langage, He had your mien, your eyes, spoke 
Cette noble pudeur colorait son visage, and could blush like you, 
Lorsque de notre Crète il traversa les flots, when to the isle of Crete, he cross'd the waves, 
Digne sujet des vœux des filles de Minos. worthy to win the love of Minos’ daughters. 
Que faisiez-vous alors? Pourquoi sans Hyppolyte What were you doing then? Why did he gather 
Des héros de la Grèce assembla-t-il l’élite? the flow'r of Greece, and leave Hippolytus? 
Pourquoi, trop jeune encor, ne pûtes-vous alors Oh, why were you too young to have embark'd 
Entrer dans le vaisseau qui le mit sur nos bords? on board the ship that brought thy sire to Crete? 
Par vous aurait péri le monstre de la Crète, At your hands would the monster then have perish'd, 
Malgré tous les détours de sa vaste retraite. despite the windings of his vast retreat. 
Pour en développer l'embarras incertain, To guide your doubtful steps within the maze 
Ma sœur du fil fatal eût armé votre main. my sister would have arm'd you with the clue. 
Mais non, dans ce dessein je l'aurais devancée: But no, therein would Phaedra have forestall'd her, 
L'amour m'en eût d'abord inspiré la pensée. Love would have first inspired me with the thought; 
C'est moi, Prince, c'est moi dont l'utile secours And I it would have been whose timely aid 
Vous eût du Labyrinthe enseigné les détours. had taught you all the labyrinth's crooked ways. 
Que de soins m'eût coûté cette tête charmante! What anxious care a life so dear had cost me! 
Un fil n'eût point assez rassuré votre amante. No thread had satisfied your lover's fears: 
Compagne du péril qu'il vous fallait chercher, I would myself have wish'd to lead the way, 
Moi-même devant vous j'aurais voulu marcher; and share the peril you were bound to face; 
Et Phèdre, au Labyrinthe avec vous descendue, Phaedra with you would have explored the maze, 
Se serait avec vous retrouvée ou perdue. With you emerged in safety, or have perish'd. 
Oui, Prince, je languis, je brûle pour Thésée. Ah, yes for Theseus I languish and I long, 
Je l'aime, non point tel que l'ont vu les enfers, not as the Shades have seen him, 
Volage adorateur de mille objets divers, of a thousand different forms the fickle lover, 
Qui va du Dieu des morts déshonorer la couche; and of Pluto's bride the would-be ravisher, 
Mais fidèle, mais fier, et même un peu farouche, but faithful, proud e'en to a slight disdain, 
Charmant, jeune, traînant tous les cœurs après soi, with youthful charms attracting every heart, 
Tel qu'on dépeint nos Dieux, ou tel que je vous voi. as gods are painted, or like yourself. 
Il avait votre port, vos yeux, votre langage, He had your mien, your eyes, spoke 
Cette noble pudeur colorait son visage, and could blush like you, 
Lorsque de notre Crète il traversa les flots, when to the isle of Crete, he cross'd the waves, 
Digne sujet des vœux des filles de Minos. worthy to win the love of Minos’ daughters. 
Que faisiez-vous alors? Pourquoi sans Hyppolyte What were you doing then? Why did he gather 
Des héros de la Grèce assembla-t-il l’élite? the flow'r of Greece, and leave Hippolytus? 
Pourquoi, trop jeune encor, ne pûtes-vous alors Oh, why were you too young to have embark'd 
Entrer dans le vaisseau qui le mit sur nos bords? on board the ship that brought thy sire to Crete? 
Par vous aurait péri le monstre de la Crète, At your hands would the monster then have perish'd, 
Malgré tous les détours de sa vaste retraite. despite the windings of his vast retreat. 
Pour en développer l'embarras incertain, To guide your doubtful steps within the maze 
Ma sœur du fil fatal eût armé votre main. my sister would have arm'd you with the clue. 
Mais non, dans ce dessein je l'aurais devancée: But no, therein would Phaedra have forestall'd her, 
L'amour m'en eût d'abord inspiré la pensée. Love would have first inspired me with the thought; 
C'est moi, Prince, c'est moi dont l'utile secours And I it would have been whose timely aid 
Vous eût du Labyrinthe enseigné les détours. had taught you all the labyrinth's crooked ways. 
Que de soins m'eût coûté cette tête charmante! What anxious care a life so dear had cost me! 
Un fil n'eût point assez rassuré votre amante. No thread had satisfied your lover's fears: 
Compagne du péril qu'il vous fallait chercher, I would myself have wish'd to lead the way, 
Moi-même devant vous j'aurais voulu marcher; and share the peril you were bound to face; 
Et Phèdre, au Labyrinthe avec vous descendue, Phaedra with you would have explored the maze, 
Se serait avec vous retrouvée ou perdue. With you emerged in safety, or have perish'd. 

To make sense of Patti's specific practice in “Ah! non credea,” I find most helpful Garcia's reference to “energetic” and “tender” qualities. The two properties seem to have dominated his understanding of the portamento, for he also cites them in his opening sentence on the subject: “The portamento is a method, by turns energetic or graceful, for coloring a melody.”151 Suggestively, the bulk of Patti's slides (in “Ah! non credea” and her recordings generally) likewise fall into two categories: the descending “anticipation grace”—what I will call her “sighs”—and the ascending “leaping grace”—her “scoops.” I have tried to notate all of her slides in Example 1 by means of dashed slurs: those for anticipation graces bend between the two notes involved, while those for the leaping graces curve upward from an indeterminate lower pitch, as she generally sings them.152 To my ear, Garcia's and Patti's dichotomies largely correspond. That is, Patti uses frequent “sighs” to convey tenderness or grace and occasional “scoops” to enliven or energize a passage.

Not surprisingly, perhaps, this aria is dominated by sighs. In measures 9–10 Bellini's appoggiaturas—decorated with an escape tone—keep bringing the melody back down to tonic. By sliding across the c″–a′ minor third each time, Patti strengthens the impression of heaviness, of a melody lacking the energy to sustain its rise and instead drooping back to tonic. In measure 11 the effect is even more arresting. Patti's slide from e″ to d″ is exquisitely measured, taking over half a beat to cover the narrow interval and making Bellini's setting of “solo”—“only a day”—really moan. In measure 17/25 Patti slides across the same e″–d″ interval, performing repeated sighs on beats 3 and 4. The effect deftly complements her slowed tempo and smoothed rhythms here (described above), overriding Bellini's “novel vigore” in favor of pained languor. Further examples of sighs—mostly over wide intervals—come later on “recarti” (mm. 27–28), “pianto mio” (mm. 30–31), “credea” (mm. 32 and 33), and “d'amor” (mm. 37–38). Throughout, the nuances of Patti's descending slides—their relatively slow speed and general diminuendo—bear out their character as tender and sorrowful. This Amina is not only sleepy but also emotionally drained.

Interestingly, even the small number of rising portamenti in this performance—the scoops—contribute to the portrayal of exhaustion. First, most of Patti's scoops lead to high notes, reinforcing the impression that ascent requires effort. Amina has to heave herself upward with a scoop before sagging back down with sighs.153 Second, many of the scoops carry a diminuendo, as if Amina's energy immediately fails. An example of both characteristics appears in measure 7 on the telling word “estinto.” Bellini would seem to have set this word strangely, placing the final unaccented syllable after a leap up a minor sixth to a peak f″. In fact, composers of this period regularly misplace word accents to suggest emotional strain.154 Patti seems to understand. Her quick but quiet scoop to the f″ accentuates the agitated diction, while the even quieter descent—to the slow turn around e″—returns Amina to her torpor. A similar effect can be heard in measure 12. Slowing for the climactic “sol durò,” Patti scoops forcefully to the first notes of both words (f″ and d″), turning Bellini's pair of triplets into a paroxysm of anguish, before descending and softening again through the succeeding phrases. Even though the singer introduces a syllabic cadenza in measure 14, the mood remains subdued: the pitches lie low and the final words are almost mumbled.

These, then, are the basic elements of Patti's maidenly mode: soft dynamics, minimal vibrato, widespread rubato, smoothed rhythms, and frequent portamento, especially the descending “sighs.” These features appear together not only in the sleepy “Ah! non credea” but throughout the soprano's recordings—a recognizable nexus of techniques. Some performances draw on the nexus more than others. But in each case the function seems clear: to evoke the innocence and simplicity of idealized femininity. Close readings of several recordings demonstrate the imaginative ways in which Patti deploys this personal “topos,” aligning her characterizations with her own ingenuous persona.

Before moving on to these cases, however, I must briefly mention a work that was Patti's signature throughout her career and that I have discussed in detail elsewhere: the song “Home! Sweet Home!”155 In Henry Bishop's opera Clari, or The Maid of Milan (1823) the title character, “an innocent, trusting, country girl,” sings a paean to domesticity as she longs for home:156 

'Mid pleasures and palaces though we may roam
Be it ever so humble there's no place like home!
A charm from the skies seems to hallow us there,
Which seek through the world, is ne'er met with elsewhere!157 

As we have seen, the globe-trotting Patti regularly asserted such domesticity. By performing the song at every concert of her career, she wrapped herself tightly in its imagery.158 Further, by means of the musical techniques described above, Patti turned what looks on the page like a straightforward, even airy number—an andante in 2/4 with simple harmonies, dotted rhythms, and Alberti accompaniment—into a halting exploration of melancholy nostalgia. Klein's account—replete with images of tenderness and intuition—confirms the effect:

A thousand pens have attempted to describe her way of singing Bishop's unpretending melody; but it was always indescribable. Words have never conveyed the full sense of its unique charm and exquisite pathos, or solved the riddle of its touching appeal. The miracle was first recorded in her childhood, and she never altered the manner of its performance. Least of all did she herself realize the exact manner in which it was done. It belonged to those classic examples of executive art that are unforgettable because they are spontaneous, inspired, effortless, and at the same time replete with the purest beauty.159 

The power lay less in the song than in Patti's special way of singing it, what I am calling her maidenly mode. Because we can hear what Klein heard, his description confirms for us the link between sound and culture, between these specific musical effects and the established feminine virtues.

Da Capo Eloquence: “Pur dicesti, o bocca bella”

While in “Ah! non credea” and “Home! Sweet Home!” Patti employs the maidenly style almost continuously—showing us its essential meaning—she more commonly uses it alongside other more varied approaches.160 Such variety can reveal even more about her purposes for the style and ultimately how she used it to portray women of greater complexity. Antonio Lotti's “Pur dicesti, o bocca bella” is a straightforward, if melodically repetitious, da capo aria to the following text:

Originally a part of Lotti's opera L'infedeltà punita of 1712 (Venice), the aria would surely have come to Patti by means of sheet music or a contemporary anthology. While it has been impossible to determine precisely which source she used, the most likely candidate—and the best match to her performance—is found in Gevaert's Les gloires de l'Italie (1868).162,Example 3 presents a transcription of Patti's performances of the A section of the aria above Lotti's notation of the melody as found in Gevaert's anthology.163 Her rendition of the opening surprises by its unusual (for her) obedience to the score. She adopts and generally maintains the lively Allegretto grazioso suggested in most of the early editions, at roughly 75 bpm. She holds back only slightly in measure 22 for the repetition of “bocca” and adds a fermata in measure 33 before the cadence. She renders Lotti's many dotted rhythms precisely and even double-dots the downbeat of measure 24 (“Quel soave”). And she adds only a few slides: a quick scoop to the last syllable of “soave” (m. 25), a rising anticipation grace in measure 30, and a sigh from the c♯″ to f♯′ into measure 33. She slides just a bit more over the wide leaps of measures 44–46 and 61–63, but given that such intervals often inspired contemporaries to do more, the effect is restrained. Perhaps Patti is following Garcia's advice to treat repertory from earlier centuries more strictly.164 

Example 3
Example 3

Example 3

In any case, she changes tack at the da capo, not so much adding ornaments (beyond Gevaert's suggestions) as applying the techniques of her maidenly mode. Instead of returning to the forthright mezzo-forte of her first statement, she starts with a gentle, bell-like piano. Instead of her earlier neatness, portamenti now proliferate, with new ones in the repeat of measures 22 (“bocca”) and 24–25 (“soave”), and especially in that of the passage of leaps at measures 44–46 (and later 61–63), where again she slides both up and down over most of the wide intervals. Her treatment turns this angular phrase into a soothing murmur of “that gentle and beloved ‘yes.’” And while Patti never entirely abandons the dotted writing of the score, she begins smoothing many of the figures into something closer to triplets (at the repeat of mm. 20, 22) or even equal eighths (mm. 19, 21). The opening phrase thus acquires a much gentler overall effect. Indeed, Patti sings the two A sections of this aria in wholly distinct styles. The first time, she demonstrates an awareness of the score and willingness to follow it, showing that her “maidenly mode” is not her only way of singing. The second time, she exposes the purpose of that mode as expressive intensification, a way to heighten a passage by making it sound more tender and feminine. It is almost as if Patti initially maintains the decorum of the eighteenth-century lady while in the repeat she releases the eloquence of the artless girl.

Languishing and Burning: “Voi che sapete”

She does something similar in “Voi che sapete.” Again contrasting the maidenly mode with another style, she turns Cherubino's diegetic song about love into an unguarded expression of his passions.

Here, however, the maidenly style might seem especially incongruous, for even if the role is performed by a woman, Cherubino is male. Portraying him in the “vocal attire” of an ingénue could seem out of place. Of course the gender status of such “trouser” roles has always been complex: Heather Hadlock rightly describes Cherubino and his operatic brethren as “liminal.” But while Hadlock focuses on a “clash between the page's visual and vocal incarnations,” I would more simply link him to the European tradition of the beautiful boy.166 Elsewhere I have followed Thomas Laqueur in noting that since at least as early as the Renaissance, boys were regularly positioned in an erotic middle ground between the sexes, a locus of desire.167 Cherubino is simply a latter-day member of this tribe. He sings in the treble range because his voice has not changed: in this sense, his voice and body match perfectly. He is played by a woman because by 1786 castratos were restricted to opera seria and were in any case becoming rare. Cherubino's intermediate gender evidently added to his allure: both Susanna and the Countess are most aroused when they dress him as a girl.168 So even if Beaumarchais (followed by Da Ponte and Mozart) ultimately mocks the “beautiful boy” tradition by dispatching Cherubino to march through the mud, Patti's use of her “feminine” style is thoroughly appropriate to a boy in love.

Even so, the score—if not the entire modern approach to Mozart—would seem to resist her methods. Notated in 2/4 and marked “Andante,” “Voi che sapete” has a continuous sixteenth-note accompaniment, meant to be understood as Susanna plucking her guitar. Today, virtually all singers (and their conductors) keep a steady tempo, relaxing at just a few structural points.169 In other words, modern Cherubinos submit themselves to Susanna's plucking and obediently sing their song.

But such an approach is out of step with both Patti's conception and nineteenth-century performance style in general.170 (See Example 4.)171 In the first place, she modulates the tempo of this aria to a degree greater than in any of her other recordings. Figures 3 and 4 present overall tempo graphs of “Ah! non credea mirarti” (itself quite free) and this aria respectively. By way of comparison, Figure 5 shows the graph for a recording of “Voi che sapete” made by Joyce DiDonato in 2011.172 The images corroborate Patti's great elasticity. To her contemporaries, this suppleness sounded not eccentric or willful but, as I have been arguing, natural and sincere. It is perhaps worth recalling that an anonymous newspaper critic writing in 1895 described Patti's Mozart singing as “the most admirably restrained, the purest, the most delightful warbling you ever heard,” while, more to the point, Albert Spalding described her singing of this very aria—just a month before she recorded it—as “simpl[e] and unaffected … deeply moving.”173 

Example 4
Example 4

Example 4

Figure 3

Figure 4

Figure 5

The key of course lies not in the global degree of tempo change but in its specific placement, and again Patti's guide often appears to be language. At many points she simply slows down for an important word or phrase. For example, she starts measure 9 at a moderate speed (ca. 95 bpm), pushes ahead slightly through “che sapete / Che” (reaching 107 bpm) toward the downbeat of measure 11, and then prolongs the essential words—“cosa è amor”—leading to the downbeat of measure 12 (80 bpm).174 Roaming a full 27 bpm in four measures, she stylishly neglects the less important syllables in the middle of the line in favor of the chief words at the end. She follows a similar pattern for “[S'io] l'ho nel cor,” first in measures 15–16 (87 bpm) and then more strikingly at the repetition (and cadence) in measures 19–20 (59 bpm). She continues in this way for several phrases (mm. 21–22, 26–27, 31–32), but just when it seems she might simply be slackening for the end of every phrase, she reverses the shape. In measures 33–36 she slows dramatically to luxuriate in the “diletto” at the beginning of the phrase (62 bpm) before finishing with a more animated “martir” (95 bpm).

Beyond underlining key words, however, Patti manipulates tempo to convey Cherubino's erratic emotional and even physical state. For example, as he complains, “I freeze and then feel my soul ablaze” (mm. 37–40), Patti focuses on his growing ardor by rushing ahead, reaching “l'alma” (soul) at 138 bpm before prolonging “avvampar” (ablaze). Then, as he “go[es] back to freezing” (mm. 41–44), she slows by something like one-third, to the range of 87–100 bpm. While the tempo is hardly “frozen,” the big change not only illustrates the words but musically enacts the boy's volatility, the split in his temperament. Such changeability also characterizes the climax of the aria in measures 52–61. As Cherubino describes his “sighing,” “moaning,” “throbbing,” and “trembling,” Patti begins a long accelerando—already hinted at in the preceding phrase—that reaches a vertiginous 180 bpm in measures 54 and 56. Cherubino's pulse is racing. The pace slackens a bit as he searches in vain for peace (mm. 56–57, ca. 125 bpm). But his mania only truly abates at the punchline of the aria, when he finally admits that this suffering brings him pleasure (mm. 58–61). Here, spent in an almost sexual way, he wallows on “piace” (56 bpm) and all but swoons on “[Languir] così” (46 bpm). Patti's Cherubino does not sing a song: he loses himself in waves of passion.

Of course Patti draws on more than tempo to create this impression. In fact, tempo is just one component that distinguishes two very different interpretive styles here. The maidenly mode is the default and becomes especially prominent when the tempo slows. The other—marked by dotted rhythms, strong accents, clear articulation, and a forte sound—communicates greater agitation and often supports the passages that rush ahead.

This dichotomy certainly manifests itself in the treatment of rhythm, where Patti in some places applies her typical smoothing but in others sharpens the effect. For example, although the accompanist plays the dotted notes of the introduction as written, Patti blithely turns the same pattern into equal sixteenths when she first has it in measure 11 and indeed whenever that figure recurs (mm. 19, 64, 76). She also smooths out the dots in measure 14 (“[Donne] vedete”) and the corresponding measures 26, 27, and 67. Together, these changes drain some of the jauntiness from the tune, creating a gentler and more lyrical effect. But she also occasionally adds dots. At times these serve merely to break up a long series of equal note values. In fact, on many of her recordings—including “Ah! Je ris,” discussed below—the introduction of such mild irregularity seems aimed at greater naturalness of declamation, since normal speech does not move in perfectly equal rhythms for any length of time. Here, in measures 17–18, she dots the second pair of a string of eight eighth notes, slightly articulating “Donne” from “vedete” and giving the second word a more normal rhythm (also at mm. 41–42, 70–71, 74–75). To similar ends she thoroughly reworks the garrulous passage from “Sospiro e gemo” (mm. 52–58), making the sixteenth-note declamation feel less sung than impetuously exclaimed. In other places, however, Patti adds dots that really do bolster a more excited style, as in measures 27–28 (“[Capir] nol so,” not shown), where in the midst of a smoother passage the sudden sharpness of articulation betrays frustration. She creates much the same effect in measures 51–52 (“[Non] so cos’è”), when again Cherubino complains of his ignorance.

Patti's slides only reinforce these effects. Again, she starts gently: as early as her third measure (m. 11) she sighs over the descending major third of “Che cosa”; three measures later she does the same over both descending thirds of “vedete”; and in measure 22 she even slides over a rest, connecting “provo” and “Vi [ridirò].”175 These particular slides—mostly on bland words and over wide intervals—seem aimed simply at creating an “over-legato” effect, a kind of melodic smoothing similar in purpose to the rhythmic smoothing that often appears with them. In other places, however, the slides—especially the narrower ones—seem to be responses to specific words. Patti creates a longing sigh over the whole step of “desir” (m. 32), adds more spice to the augmented fourth (and plunge into chest voice) on “avvampar” (m. 39), and savors the climactic rising second on “piace” (m. 59). The case of measures 17–18—the pleading “Donne vedete”—is especially interesting, both because its portamenti are among the most startling to modern ears and because Garcia cites these very measures as ideal for the effect. “Used in tender and graceful movements,” he writes, such portamenti “will be slower and more gentle.”176 (Figure 6 shows the example from his treatise, in which he mistakenly identifies the character singing as the Countess.) In fact, Patti slides up and down over the series of thirds almost exactly as Garcia recommends, giving Cherubino's repeated entreaties the sing-song quality of youthful supplication.

Figure 6

As the aria continues, however, the character catches fire. In measures 21–22, at the reference to “What I feel,” Patti attacks the word “Quello” at a stronger dynamic than before and then suddenly breaks off, shortening the second syllable. The clipped treatment is clearly intentional: she cannot yet need a breath after only two notes, and in any case the heavy accents and slow tempo on “provo” in the following measure confirm that she is aiming for force. Here the moment is fleeting: she slides off the last syllable of “provo” (as mentioned above) and returns to the smoother style for “Vi ridirò.” Cherubino erupts even more passionately in measures 33–34, singing again about his sporadic pleasure (“Ch'ora è diletto”). As before, the passage is drawn out and loud, this time with a scoop added for the accented syllable. The sharper style then continues in the following measures, with an accent on “martir” (mm. 35–36), a clipped treatment of “Gelo” (m. 37), and continued accents in measures 37–38. Only at measure 41, as Cherubino “go[es] back to freezing,” does the maidenly mode return. Unsurprisingly, the sharp style reappears at the accelerating “Sospiro e gemo” passage also discussed above (mm. 52–58) before Patti melts into “Ma pur mi piace.” These opposing approaches to articulation, like those to tempo and rhythm, allow Patti to portray the conflicts within her character—freezing and burning, euphoric and anguished, even feminine and masculine. To represent this boy, on the edge of puberty and at the peak of his charms, Patti seems to take her cue from Susanna and the Countess, dressing Cherubino in the vocal attire of an ingénue, but one whose gentle world is being disrupted (hilariously) by hormones.

Innocence Unmasked: “Batti, batti, o bel Masetto”

While Patti never performed Cherubino on the stage (she added his aria to concerts only late in her career), Don Giovanni's Zerlina was a lifelong signature role.177 From July 1861, when she first sang it at the Royal Opera House in London aged eighteen, she was praised as the best Zerlina since Malibran, and the role became something of a star vehicle for her, as unlikely as that may now seem.178 The literature surrounding her Zerlina is accordingly large, and it reveals much about her approach to the character. All reviewers—from whatever city and at whatever point in her career—agree that her impersonation was rooted in the ingénue. For one reviewer, in 1861, she was the “rustic a little idealised”; for another, six years later, she displayed “rustic simplicity and artlessness”; and for Hanslick, she remained “a cheerful young girl,” a “peasant girl.”179 But most writers added that

while preserving all the reality of the village girl she is at the same time an ideal coquette; that is to say, that while she never forgets the rustic naïveté which is one of the characteristics of Zerlina, the coquettishness which she displays is of the most refined type—she is half-angel, half-demon, or half-dove, half-serpent. Such a bride would, no doubt, drive her affianced husband to distraction in a very short time.180 

A French reviewer went further than most: although “charming [and] adorable,” Patti's Zerlina “could not be more mischievous, more coquettish, more seductive.”181 

The reports also confirm that Patti's characterization came across especially clearly in the arias, and particularly in the one she eventually recorded, “Batti, batti.” One writer even suggested that this aria and “Vedrai carino” “become little operettas in Mdlle. Patti's hands, and might be cut out of the score, and made into especial and isolated entertainments.”182 James Davison's detailed review of 1861 develops the idea at some length:

Still more striking [than “Giovinette che fate” and “Là ci darem”], however, was “Batti batti”—a little drama in itself. Besides being exquisitely sung, the by-play by which Mademoiselle Patti accompanied this was inimitable. When she says, “Batti batti, O bel Masetto,” it is with an evident conviction that, were Masetto a thousand times as jealous, he would not (could not) do it on any account. When she adds she will stand like a lamb to await his blows—

Starò qui come agnellina
Le tue botte ad aspettar,

and simply take his hands in hers, to kiss them, in return, the consciousness that she had gained her point and softened her sullen swain, while at the same time playfully taunting him with having no heart (“Ah! lo vedo, non hai cor”), is conveyed with indescribable piquancy. Receding a few steps away from Masetto, as if better to satisfy herself of her victory, and then, seeing the complete metamorphosis her endearments have achieved, running back to embrace him, like a wayward child—with the words, “Pace, pace, o vita mia!”—the whole picture is filled up, the sentiment of the duet expressed to the life, and just as complete a conquest made of the audience as of Masetto.183 

That Davison mistakenly calls the number a “duet” is a tantalizing slip, hinting perhaps at the joint nature of the performance.

But how might this performance in 1861 relate to her recording close to forty-five years later? In fact, numerous reviews stress Patti's consistency over the decades. In 1873, “[Her Zerlina] was, as we have already for a good many years known it to be, perfection. … [Zerlina's duet and arias], sung by Madame Patti as she is accustomed to sing them, were, as is invariably the case, encored and repeated.”184 And in 1884, “Mdme Patti's Zerlina could hardly have been bettered, since it differed in no respect from the dramatic and musical creation which for many years has attracted regard and applause. Indeed there was nothing to distinguish the performance in this respect from a train of others stretching back through twenty years.”185 This fixedness—cited with regard to many of her performances—parallels Patti's image of endless youth: the years may pass, but Patti does not change. Indeed, writers made much of the rare occasions on which she did do something different, as when in 1895 she introduced new ornaments into Rossini's “Bel raggio lusinghier.”186 For these reasons I believe we may reasonably interpret her recorded performance in the context of writers’ earlier impressions.

To grasp Patti's aims in this aria, it can be helpful to reflect on Mozart's own interpretation of the text. And to that end, Wye Allanbrook's sophisticated reading offers a good starting point. She highlights especially the gavotte rhythms that characterize the opening and the constant sixteenth notes of the violoncello obbligato. (See Example 5.)187 For her, the gavotte—a French courtly rendering of a more rustic dance—is here “faux-naif” and “coy,” “mim[ing] an arch parody of submission,” while the flowing obbligato undermines these associations and “brings substance to the teasing erotic artifice” of the dance.188 The gavotte broadcasts false modesty; the obbligato, real sensuality.

Example 5

I would interpret the music somewhat differently, and in ways that I believe bear on Patti's approach. In the first place, the opening gavotte is terribly compromised. Between the tempo indication “Andante grazioso” and the running sixteenth notes, the tempo cannot avoid being a little slow for the dance, masking the characteristic 3 4 | 1 2 phrasing.189 Likewise, where the main stresses of Zerlina's melody ought to fall on the downbeats (and harmonic changes) of each two-measure subphrase—something like,

—Mozart repeatedly places the longest note on the third beat of each pair of measures, creating accents unsuited to both dance and lyrics:

Further, the accompanying solo cello—far from elegant or enticing—lumbers along with what amounts to an Alberti figure an octave too low. Soon the melody too forgets its refinement, abandoning stepwise motion and filled-in leaps for extreme disjunction. The triadic sprawl of “Starò qui come agnellina” could hardly portray the placid text less well, and the ungainliness climaxes in measures 14–16 when over four beats the melody stumbles down an eleventh into the basement of the soprano's range. “Batti, batti” is indeed built upon the gavotte, but it lacks all the grace of that dance. And that is the point. As Allanbrook herself suggests, the country girl is aping the courtly fashions she has admired in the Don, but I would add that she is doing it badly.191 However charming her tune, she remains a rustic out of her depth, at home, finally, only when her more native pastorale style—heard first in “Giovinette che fate”—returns at the Allegro “Pace, pace.”192 

In my view, Patti employs her tender style, mixed with moments of surprising force, to transform Mozart's vision of a gauche peasant into the innocent coquette her audiences perceived. The full text of the aria reads as follows:

The first stanza finds Patti in full maidenly mode, smoothing out the awkwardness of Zerlina's gavotte and inviting violence with self-possessed sweetness. (See Example 6.)194 Lacking a prelude, the aria is marked “attacca subito” following the recitative. But by starting well under tempo and only gradually accelerating over the opening phrase (ca. 62 to 98 bpm), Patti moderates any abruptness and launches the aria as gently as possible. To sound pitiable, she then sings “povera” (m. 3) with an ascending slide between the first two syllables and a sigh down from the last one. She mollifies the angularity of “Starò qui come agnellina” (mm. 4–6) with a series of slides, smooths out the dotted rhythm of “agnellina,” and milks that vivid word with a diminuendo and ritard. While Mozart may have intended the isolated “Batti, batti” of measures 9–10 to suggest the sharpness of blows—with dotted rhythms and a leap up to f″—Patti again tempers any severity by sliding quietly to the high note. She concludes the period with more slides, short ritards, and quiet dynamics that together manage to wring charm even out of the jagged cadence. By asking for a beating with the voice of pathetic innocence, Patti both establishes Zerlina's purity and suggests her confidence. Secure in the power of her charms, she knows that her Masetto “would not (could not)” ever strike her.

Example 6
Example 6

Example 6

Her mischievousness becomes more apparent, however, in the second stanza. In the first two phrases she simply continues as before, demurely offering her hair for pulling and eyes for plucking out.195 But when she imagines how she will then “kiss your dear little hands,” both Mozart's music and Patti's approach transform (mm. 24–27). The composer now writes a new, more spirited figure of rising thirds in loose imitation with the cello, a setting that breaks up some of the words with rests. Modern Zerlinas tend to sing this passage as legato as possible, papering over the interruptions, but Patti adopts the more detached “long–short” articulation typical for slurred pairs of notes in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.196 The result is more playful and marks a real change in style. As Patti and the cello chase each other (like Zerlina and Masetto?), her jerky delivery and fragmented words almost evoke giggling, as if Zerlina is now struggling to keep a straight face.

Her amorous tyranny peaks at the last line of the stanza (mm. 26–34). Here, Mozart sets “baciar” identically three times in succession, Zerlina repeatedly leaping up to the top of her range for a g″–f″ appoggiatura on a dotted quarter note. Actually, the f″ “resolution” is the dissonant note (against the bass G), so that while each downbeat receives a metrical and pitch accent, each second beat gets a dissonant jolt. The passage is clearly the climax of the aria. But surprisingly, Mozart's accents and threefold repetition conjure not so much Zerlina's promised kisses as the physical blows she earlier requested. Indeed, whereas previously she commanded “Batti, batti” with an elegant melody, she now pronounces “baciar” to three hammer strokes. For her part, Patti supports Mozart's implications by really pounding “baciar” at her loudest dynamic and—unusually for her—exactly the same way each time. Here is Zerlina as aggressor, even if it is her lips rather than her fists that threaten. When for the fourth and final statement of “saprò baciar” (mm. 31–34) Mozart moves from diatonic force to chromatic teasing (a peek-a-boo vii to ii6), Patti too changes and resumes her innocent style—softening, slowing, sliding. On the whole, then, the singer's approach in this aria reveals how for certain characters she could employ her maidenly style—with its implication of naive and direct expression—in order to dissemble. That style becomes a conscious posture, a mask, to be worn or discarded as necessary for the portrayal of the “half-angel, half-demon” at the center of the little drama.

Fall of the Virgin: “Ah! Je ris”

If Patti's Zerlina earned universal acclaim, her Marguerite received more mixed reviews. Certainly her characterization was adored in London. At her debut in the role there in 1864, writers struggled to outdo each other. For the Morning Star, “the ideal Gretchen of Goethe has at last found a living embodiment. Mdlle. Adelina Patti … has given proof at once of the perfection of her taste and of the brilliance of her genius.”197 For Davison in The Times, “poetical conception and finished execution were never more happily united. … Goethe must have had the picture of such a Margarete—such a ‘Gretchen’—in his mind's eye.”198 Even Chorley—never Patti's fan—found that “obviously, every note of the music, every word of the text, every change of the situation, had been thought over, and been felt by the artist.”199 But elsewhere critics sometimes detected shortcomings in the portrayal. Hanslick judged her too lively, too “southern,” to communicate Teutonic depth of feeling.200 Of like mind was a writer for the San Francisco Argonaut: “Vocally, of course, [Patti's Marguerite] is perfection,” while histrionically, “It is assuredly a pretty, youthful, dainty personation, but it is decidedly piquant and coquettish. … Her Marguerite is charming, innocently gay, and French. … She is the kind who enjoys ‘a good time’ and rarely feels a deep affection.”201 

Not surprisingly, this last review singles out the Jewel Scene as a particular site of superficiality; even the more enthusiastic writers praise chiefly Patti's rendering of the more tragic episodes. Of “Ah! Je ris” we hear little more than that the number was always encored and that “her lovely voice and superb execution shine with a lustre which would cast that of any jewels into the shade.”202 But in this case I would argue that the reviewers missed the mark, for the recorded performance does more than glitter. Patti's approach shows not only that she understood the dramatic implications of Gounod's music but that she conceived of the aria as a turning point in the story. It too becomes a little drama, highlighting the exact moment at which the “âme innocente et divine” is ensnared by love, beauty, and wealth.

In truth, Gounod's unsettled music already implies Marguerite's contradictions. (See Example 7.)204 The aria begins in the style of a quick waltz, which together with the singer's opening trill and fioritura immediately evokes sensuality.205 But before long the regularity of the dance is undermined by rhythmic hesitation. For example, in measures 67–73 (and 106–12 in the modified “da capo,” not shown) the formerly propulsive orchestra finds itself reduced to simple chords accompanying a string of declamatory eighth notes. Gesturing toward recitative, the passage implies a loosening of tempo, which Gounod eventually counsels with a “colla voce” marking toward the end.206 How much should be made of these passages—and similar ones at measures 51–59 and 95–98 (not shown)—is open to interpretation, of course, but Gounod further encourages time-taking by writing several orchestral “lead-in” measures, unison rising stepwise lines that then (as now) implied slowing.207 In measures 55 and 57 these passages prepare remote diminished seventh chords, while in measure 59— explicitly marked “rit.” in the accompaniment—we are returned to the dominant seventh of the tonic. Taken together, these various breaks of tempo (not to mention harmonic digressions) destabilize the underlying waltz and hint that Marguerite's burgeoning desire is still hesitant and unsure.

Example 7
Example 7

Example 7

But all this changes in the coda. As the orchestra swells, Marguerite's rising line is doubled by the violins in octaves, and the now straightforward harmony repeatedly moves toward cadence. The top note of each phrase climbs purposefully from e″ to f♯″ to a″ and finally to b″. While some of the orchestral writing again suggests a colla voce style (especially in mm. 149–59), such passages now accompany the singer's highest notes, allowing for sumptuous vocalism. And of course the initial trill returns, but a fifth higher and leading not to musical laughter but to feverish climax. Marguerite has chosen: the once-innocent girl fully embraces the passions that Faust represents.

In her performance Patti only intensifies Gounod's staging of metamorphosis, starting as an especially hesitant innocent before finally succumbing to temptation.208 In fact, Patti makes the character's virtue so central to her impersonation that her Marguerite becomes less a fallen woman than a “passive victim.” That is certainly how most English critics viewed her. In Patti's performance, “we have … the innocent and diffident being, to whom purity is life itself, and who, beguiled of it by a fascination which she can as little account for as resist, wakes to a sense of her abasement with an agony that measures the worth of the peace which she has forfeited.”209 Patti expresses Marguerite's “innate delicacy which shows her spotless even while erring,—sinning, not knowing what sin means.”210 In other words, Patti played Marguerite more like an Amina, as too naive to grasp what she is doing, and so finds—at least for many listeners—“the true view of the character.”211 

One can hear that innocence from the very outset in Patti's typically smoothed and more speech-like rhythms. Immediately in measures 11–12 she begins the ascending scale early so that she can turn the written sixteenths into more melodic eighths. She also draws out the question “Est-ce toi, Marguerite?” (mm. 21–24) by smoothing the dotted figure into even quarters and extending the quarter-note appoggiatura by a beat. The change increases the plaintiveness of the question and further distinguishes this first, slower statement from Marguerite's successively faster repetitions (mm. 25–29). Patti also gives a more conversational quality to several of the declamatory passages by applying slight inequality to equally written notes (as described above).

But perhaps the maidenly mode reveals itself most clearly in Patti's quiet dynamics. Right from the beginning, the trill and upthrusting scale (mm. 9–13) would suggest mounting excitement if not virtuosic show, but Patti sings both elements with diminuendo, lending them unexpected modesty. And while she produces a forte “Ah!” on the top a″ in measure 17 (perhaps her only option), she quickly returns to mezzo-piano, regaining self-control. Throughout the aria, she maintains these tendencies to diminuendo with rising scales (mm. 39, 43, 77–78)—even if it causes her to miss some notes—and to follow strong outbursts with quieter episodes (mm. 27–28, 92–93). An obvious exception comes at the climactic “Ah!” of measures 64–67 (repeated at 103–6), a scale that crescendos and concludes with a long and powerful g♯″. But rather than luxuriating in the high note, as most singers do today, Patti rushes her accompanist through it and cuts off prematurely. This gentle Marguerite seems to be trying to suppress the surges of new emotion.

That narrative of doomed struggle can be heard particularly clearly in Patti's handling of tempo. Not surprisingly, she heeds all the composer's cues for hesitation, but she gives a psychological edge to the effect by rushing slightly in advance. For instance, right before the slowing of measures 46–60 she accelerates from her prevailing 65–69 bpm to 76 bpm by the end of measure 45; she then plunges to 40 bpm by measure 48 (see Figure 7). In this way she suggests intemperate excitement barely reined in. She does much the same thing in measures 60–68, where the thought that “Comme une demoiselle / Il me trouverait belle” results not in the indicated a tempo but in a slow accelerando, from 31 bpm at the beginning to 81 bpm for the ecstatic “Ah!” She then cuts the moment short (as noted) and with effortful self-control virtually brings the tempo to a halt on the last syllable of “demoiselle.” The more excited this Marguerite becomes, the more time she needs to regain her composure.

Figure 7

But when this passage returns later in the aria she loses the battle. She still manages to slow after the climactic “Ah!” (mm. 104–6, not shown), but at the onset of the coda (m. 141) she finally gives in. Now Patti returns to the fast waltz (ca. 55 bpm), and in place of her former reticence of dynamics and tempo, she delivers pure operatics. Indeed, almost nowhere else in her recordings does Patti sing for so long with such unmodulated loudness. She even takes a breath in the middle of measure 151 so that she can blast out the a″ on “d'un” with maximum power. While this spectacularly poor word accentuation is today de rigueur, it contrasts with Patti's habitual care. Indeed, the coda reveals a vocal personality now entirely unrestrained by the maidenly impulse.212 This is the moment when the enticements of love and luxury finally defeat Marguerite's conscience, and so Patti exhibits her vocal wares like a cocotte. But by underlining the tenacity of that conscience through much of the aria, she makes the sparkling showpiece into a struggle between virtue and temptation. If virtue ultimately loses, Patti's attention to it helped to make her Marguerite enormously popular, as well as consistent with her wonted self-image.

I have considered in this article only a fraction of Patti's recordings; much more could be said. What I have called her “maidenly mode”—the mix of quiet dynamics, limited vibrato, widespread rubato, smoothed rhythms, and copious portamento—can in fact be found on nearly all Patti's discs, often contrasted (as we have seen) with stronger and more marked styles for complexity of characterization. Only in some folksy and/or up-tempo songs— “La calesera,” “Comin' thro' the Rye,” “'Twas within a Mile o' Edinboro' Town,” “Il bacio”—does the marked style prevail throughout. On the other hand, for the lively “La serenata” Patti gives a masterclass in how to soften such liveliness, thereby complementing the dreamy poetry of that song. Another of the singer's recurrent techniques is the aforementioned effect of notes inégales, where Patti dots, tripletizes, or just “swings” syllabic, equal-note passages in order to declaim the words more naturally. I have mentioned this small-scale rubato—recommended by Garcia and typical of Patti's generation—in her performances of “Voi che sapete” and the Jewel Song, but it may also be heard especially clearly in the eighth-note passages of “Connais-tu le pays?,” “La serenata,” and “Kathleen Mavourneen.”213 Finally, and somewhat surprisingly, Patti employs a technique not usually associated with her era: the vocal fry. I know of no treatise nor any other early reference to this rasping effect, caused by a loose closure of the vocal folds. But Patti produces it a number of times to suggest emotional collapse, an apparent failing of the voice: the final two notes of “The Last Rose of Summer” (“Who would inhabit this bleak world alone”), toward the end of “Kathleen Mavourneen” (“it may be forever,” 1905 recording), and again at the close of “Connais-tu le pays?” (“C'est là que je voudrais vivre”).214 That the fry can be heard in the same spot on both her takes of “Last Rose” further argues for its intentionality. Surely significant in this connection is Sarah Bernhardt's own frequent use of the vocal fry, again at moments of overwhelming sentiment.215 It would seem that the practices of acting and oratory—so central to Patti's methods in other respects—inspired her use of this effect as well.

Further study of Patti's recordings would surely yield additional insights. Here I have tried to focus on the way the singer employed a particular style of singing in support of a particular persona. Of course I have labeled that particular style her “maidenly mode,” in which the delivery of text with flexible pace, natural cadence, and gliding contours suggested the unaffected genuineness of speech. By modern standards, such a construction of girlish sincerity must seem artificial, even mannered, the performer “falsifying” the composer's pitches and rhythms. But a hundred fifty years ago sincerity just sounded different. If today we more likely hear it in extroverted emotionalism and “faithfulness” to the composer, Patti sought it in nuanced delivery of words, with the score as point of departure. More often tender than melodramatic, she focused on what Hersey called her “acting and elocution” to produce idealized—that is, “properly” feminine—characters.

Indeed, Patti's singing participated in a closed circuit of image construction. Off the stage, she projected a persona—to some degree constructed—of simplicity and virtue, which encouraged her audiences to hear her in those terms; in performance, her particular techniques and characterizations implied an artlessness that in turn contributed to the image. Even more than Lind, Patti sang herself. Or rather, she incanted a more perfect self into existence. By doing so, she not only cultivated an artistic and commercial success but also minimized the consequences of her real-life infractions. From one perspective, Patti was even a covert feminist: rather than being constrained by cultural imperatives, she used them to her advantage, treating True Womanhood as a mask behind which she could do as she pleased. She would seem to belong to what Susan Glenn has called a “proto-feminist vanguard” of performers who sought “women's right to sexual expressiveness and personality or self-development.”216 Historian Mary Louise Roberts takes the point further: “when Bernhardt, a notoriously unvirtuous actress, played ‘true’ women on stage, she called into question ‘natural’ female virtue itself, exposing it as merely performative.”217 But if Patti's life was as transgressive as Bernhardt's, she eschewed the latter's iconoclasm in favor of dissimulation, an artifice whose sonic component can still be heard.

In 1919, Richard Aldrich, longtime music critic of the New York Times, warned his readers that “the efforts of a younger generation to believe that the methods and results of various modern singers, all more or less raw and in different degrees unfinished and imperfect, really represent the artistic line and traditions of a Patti, are pathetic; and what corroboration the younger gets from an older generation denotes either a failure of memory or a lack of knowledge.”218 At the very least, I hope to have shown how differently Patti sang from the way her descendants do today—indeed, how differently she approached both vocalism and characterization. Modern vocal technique shares remarkably little with the hallowed “bel canto tradition,” and the expression of even basic affects—naturalness, simplicity, sincerity—has thoroughly changed. If we today care what the composers of our operatic canon expected to hear from their leading ladies, we might well turn to the performer in whom Verdi found “perfect equilibrium between singer and actress.”219 Patti's example can help us to understand what it meant to play (and be) an ingénue. While the femininity she performed is far from any modern ideal, she at least lets us glimpse—or rather, overhear—that other more distant reality.

 

Notes

Notes
1.
Ronald, Variations on a Personal Theme, 103–4.
2.
Steane, Grand Tradition, 15.
3.
Leech-Wilkinson, Changing Sound of Music, ch. 4, para. 1, http://www.charm.kcl.ac.uk/studies/chapters/chap4.html.
4.
Crutchfield, “Vocal Ornamentation in Verdi” and “Vocal Performance”; Bowen, “Performance Practice versus Performance Analysis” and “Tempo, Duration, and Flexibility”; Peres da Costa, Off the Record; Brown, Classical and Romantic Performing Practice. Of course I am overgeneralizing the conclusions of scholars who have been painstaking in their research, but I believe my characterization to be generally correct.
5.
Leech-Wilkinson, “Portamento and Musical Meaning”; Potter, “Beggar at the Door.”
6.
On Patti's early life, see Cone, Adelina Patti, 7–38, and Klein, Reign of Patti, 3–51, 384–88. Patti had four stepsiblings from her mother's first marriage to Francisco Barili (voice teacher and composer)—Antonio (bass), Nicolò (bass), Ettore (baritone), and Clotilda (soprano)—and three siblings from the marriage to Salvatore Patti (tenor)—Amalia and Carlotta (sopranos) and Carlo (violinist).
7.
See Cone, Adelina Patti, 324–26.
8.
Hanslick, “Adelina Patti (1879),” 182. Throughout this study, the biographies of Klein and Cone, rich in quotations from contemporary newspapers and other publications, have pointed me to important sources, such as this one. I have not succeeded in seeing all of them myself, as many are not easily accessible. When I am forced to depend on the biographies rather than the original sources, I acknowledge that fact in the citations. I have found that both Klein and Cone treat their sources with fidelity.
9.
Letter to Opprandino Arrivabene of December 1877, in Abbiati, Giuseppe Verdi, 4:38: “[Patti] è natura d'artista così completa che forse non vi è stata mai eguale!” All translations are mine unless otherwise attributed.
10.
The best reproductions may be found on Patti and Maurel, Complete Adelina Patti, and I have used these versions throughout this study. Most of the tracks are also available on other compilations or on YouTube.
11.
Rutherford, Prima Donna and Opera, 161.
12.
Welter, “Cult of True Womanhood,” 21.
13.
Ibid., 26. See also Senici, Landscape and Gender, 93: “this ‘ideology of chastity,’ to use Luigi Baldacci's expression, is among the most characteristic traits of nineteenth-century society and culture.”
14.
Welter, “Cult of True Womanhood,” 29 (quotation), 40.
15.
Smith, Changing Lives, 183. Welter, “Cult of True Womanhood,” 40, makes a similar point.
16.
This paragraph is based generally on Welter, “Cult of True Womanhood”; Smith, Changing Lives, 181–83; and Berlanstein, “Historicizing and Gendering Celebrity Culture,” 67. Welter's assessment has of course been critiqued extensively since its publication. A helpful overview of that work appears in a dedicated series of articles in the Journal of Women's History: see “Women's History in the New Millennium.” Mary Louise Roberts's article “True Womanhood Revisited” (150–55) points out some of the theoretical gaps in Welter's work and concludes by suggesting how stage women in particular undermined the norms: “Both journalism and theater, then, gave women access to worlds where they were not subject to the limits imposed on the self by true womanhood” (153).
17.
Berlanstein, “Historicizing and Gendering Celebrity Culture,” 67.
18.
Sontag and Rossi had actually married in 1827 but kept the relationship secret because of their difference in status. When Sontag became pregnant in 1828, she suffered the predictable scandal, which ended only when the marriage was at last revealed in January 1830. See Russell, Queen of Song, 107, 126, and Bushnell, Maria Malibran, 103–4, 107–8.
19.
Only then was her first marriage finally annulled; see Bushnell, Maria Malibran, 107–21 passim.
20.
See Forbes, Mario and Grisi, passim, esp. 31–32, 37–39, 42, 58.
21.
Smith, Changing Lives, 200, describing cases also outside the field of the theater.
22.
Glenn, Female Spectacle, 6. Berlanstein comes to much the same conclusion: “Illicit sensuality was part and parcel of the fame that the public expected famous women to perform for most of the nineteenth century”: Berlanstein, “Historicizing and Gendering Celebrity Culture,” 72.
23.
Glenn, Female Spectacle, 6. See also Smith, Changing Lives, 204. Mlle Rachel was Éliza Félix (1820/21–58), the dominant figure of the Comédie-Française ca. 1840–55 and one of the most famous actors in Europe.
24.
Higonnet, “Images,” 249.
25.
Rutherford, Prima Donna and Opera, 162. More than one scholar has argued that this freedom ultimately helped to loosen and modernize the very construction of femininity: “female performers became agents and metaphors of changing gender relations” (Glenn, Female Spectacle, 3); “there is ample evidence … that the singers themselves had perceptible influence in inspiring social change” (Rutherford, Prima Donna and Opera, 16).
26.
Smith, Changing Lives, 194. I believe Smith's intent here is not to suggest that prostitutes were really seeking their own pleasure but rather that they were viewed as doing so by a culture that saw legitimate female sexuality as more or less limited to pleasureless wifely duty (ibid., 192–93).
27.
Welter, “Cult of True Womanhood,” 23.
28.
See Forbes, Mario and Grisi, 167, 194–95.
29.
See Bushnell, Maria Malibran, 107–8.
30.
See Rutherford, “La traviata,” 599.
31.
Joy Calico offers three other case studies of precisely this phenomenon in her study of the German sopranos who sang Richard Strauss's “scandalous” operas in the early twentieth century: Calico, “Staging Scandal.” Their individual decisions either to embrace the shocking characters or to cordon off such representations from their own personas resonates with the strategies of the performers described here.
32.
Although no complete record of Lind's performance repertory has been compiled, the available studies and documents suggest that she mostly sang oratorios, sacred songs and arias, and some lieder. She also included a few opera arias, such as “Casta diva.” Further, many of Lind's concerts—both on her US tour and elsewhere—were advertised as benefits for charities; see Caswell, “Jenny Lind's Tour of America,” 326–27.
33.
This paragraph is based on Caswell, “Jenny Lind's Tour of America,” esp. 329–31, and Shultz, Jenny Lind, 131–45.
34.
Caswell, “Jenny Lind's Tour of America,” 324.
35.
Ibid., 334.
36.
Bulman, Jenny Lind, 54. Bulman says only that Lind wrote this in 1865. (I was led to this quotation by Gallagher, “Jenny Lind,” 195.) Of course, the Garcia mentioned here is Manuel Garcia II (1805–1906), brother of Maria Malibran and Pauline Viardot, and the most prominent voice teacher of the nineteenth century.
37.
Caswell, “Jenny Lind's Tour of America,” 335. This paragraph also draws on Caswell's 324–27, and Rogers, “Jenny Lind,” 446.
38.
New York Daily Tribune, September 10, 1850, quoted in Gallagher, “Jenny Lind,” 195.
39.
Gallagher, “Jenny Lind,” 194.
40.
Caswell, “Jenny Lind's Tour of America,” 329.
41.
Gallagher, “Jenny Lind,” 199; Nathaniel Parker Willis, Memoranda of the Life of Jenny Lind (1851), quoted in Gallagher, “Jenny Lind,” 199. (Willis is quoting from a series of articles (without dates) by a “Mr. Dwight” in the Boston Tribune.)
42.
Glenn, Female Spectacle, 20, with quoted text from Richard Grant White, “Sara Bernhardt,” Atlantic Monthly, January 1881.
43.
Glenn, Female Spectacle, 29.
44.
Ibid., 28
45.
The information on Bernhardt in this paragraph is based on Glenn, Female Spectacle, 10–30, and Berlanstein, “Historicizing and Gendering Celebrity Culture,” 75–77.
46.
The Wasp, March 14, 1885, quoted in Cone, Adelina Patti, 121. This comment comes two months after Patti and Nicolini had married, showing the lasting effect of her bad reputation. The whole affair is treated in Cone, 119–48 passim, including a nasty comment from rival soprano Clara Louise Kellogg that Patti played the role of Violetta much more convincingly once she began the affair.
47.
This paragraph is based on Cone, Adelina Patti, and Perrot and Martin-Fugier, “Actors,” 162–64. The nobleman was Baron Rolf Cederström (1870–1947).
48.
“Adelina Patti, on the Eve of Her Third Wedding, Writes the Story of Her Early Life,” The World, January 15, 1899, 32.
49.
J. Douglas Hoare, “A Chat with Madame Patti,” The Graphic: An Illustrated Weekly Newspaper, November 24, 1906, 680–81, here 680. One should note that her “Welsh home” was actually a large castle (with its own small theater), in which she lived from 1878 until her death.
50.
“Adelina Patti,” Musical World, January 17, 1863, 43: “C'est mon père qui fait tout. Moi, on me fait partir, je pars; on me dit de chanter, je chante.” The article is credited to Le Figaro (without date), but I have been unable to locate it in that source.
51.
Adelina Patti, “My Reminiscences,” Strand Magazine, December 1908, 706–15, here 710.
52.
Adelina Patti, “My Operatic Heroines,” Strand Magazine, December 1906, 657–62, here 661.
53.
“Adelina Patti, on the Eve of Her Third Wedding,” 32.
54.
“Patti Interviewed,” Musical America, July 6, 1907, 8. She does also admit to eating vegetables. Regarding her interviews generally, Glenn's recognition of the “canned interview” tradition common among stage women at this time may help to explain the consistency of many of Patti's statements. The performer “learned by heart predigested scripts of her life story in order to narrate them to reporters who would in turn present them as an intimate behind-the-scenes glimpse of her private life”: Glenn, Female Spectacle, 36.
55.
Newcomb, Young Lady's Guide, 34; Greenwood, Greenwood Leaves, 310. (I was led to both these passages by Welter, “Cult of True Womanhood,” 30, 29.)
56.
Julius Wagner, “Adelina Patti, &c.,” Musical World, March 28, 1863, 196–97, here 196.
57.
Hanslick, “Adelina Patti (1879),” 182.
58.
Klein, Reign of Patti, 224, 288, 347.
59.
The line is from John Dryden's Alexander's Feast and is quoted in connection with Patti in “Patti Comes Again,” New York Times, December 6, 1889, 4.
60.
“Adelina Patti's Departure,” New York Herald, April 5, 1882, 4.
61.
“Patti Comes Again.” She mentions Juliette as one of the blond roles.
62.
Helen Farewell Hutter, “On Tour with Patti,” Ladies’ Home Journal, March 1920, quoted in Cone, Adelina Patti, 226.
63.
Anatole Marie Bariatinsky, My Russian Life (1923), quoted in Cone, Adelina Patti, 238.
64.
Spalding, Rise to Follow, 47. Interestingly, in 1901, long after critics began to talk of her “enameling,” Patti dared the following exchange with an interviewer: “‘Here I am, you see—no paint, no dye, no gold in the teeth—sound throughout, am I not?’ ‘Beautifully sound!’ said I”: Henri Dumay, “Patti's Secret of Youth,” New York World Sunday Magazine, June 9, 1901, 1–2, here 2.
65.
W. J. Henderson, “In the World of Music,” The Theatre, December 1903, quoted in Cone, Adelina Patti, 233.
66.
[Shaw], London Music in 1888–89, 55.
67.
Ibid., 54.
68.
Berlioz, “Feuilleton du Journal des débats,” Journal des débats, November 19, 1862, quoted in Klein, Reign of Patti, 112–13.
69.
Letter to Opprandino Arrivabene of December 1877, in Abbiati, Giuseppe Verdi, 4:38: “Voce meravigliosa, stile di canto purissimo; attrice stupenda con uno charme ed un naturale che nissuna ha!”
70.
“The Return of Madame Patti,” The Sketch (London), June 5, 1895, 294–96, here 295.
71.
Quoted in Klein, Reign of Patti, 176–77 (no further citation). Similar comments may be found in Klein, Reign of Patti, 22, and in Eduard Hanslick, Die moderne Oper: Kritiken und Studien (1875), quoted in Klein, Reign of Patti, 424.
72.
“Adelina Patti, on the Eve of Her Third Wedding,” 32. In this same article she states, “The true singer is the natural singer, and nature is an excellent guide as to mentor and method.”
73.
Patti, “My Operatic Heroines,” 657.
74.
Klein, Thirty Years of Musical Life, 321.
75.
[James W. Davison], The Times (London), May 15, 1861, quoted in Klein, Reign of Patti, 395.
76.
[Henry F. Chorley], The Athenaeum, June 1, 1861, quoted in Klein, Reign of Patti, 404.
77.
Quoted in Klein, Reign of Patti, 169 (no further citation). On Patti's work with Maurice Strakosch, see ibid., 69.
78.
Poriss, “She Came, She Sang,” 222.
79.
Wayne Koestenbaum, The Queen's Throat (1993), quoted in Poriss, “She Came, She Sang,” 222.
80.
Poriss, “She Came, She Sang,” 222–23.
81.
Rutherford, “La traviata,” 590.
82.
Rutherford, Prima Donna and Opera, 261.
83.
Willis, Memoranda, quoted in Gallagher, “Jenny Lind,” 198.
84.
Rutherford, Prima Donna and Opera, 262.
85.
Bilston, “Authentic Performance,” 39–42, here 40, 42; Bilston also cites here the work of Lynn M. Voskuil, “Acting Naturally: Brontë, Lewes and the Problem of Gender Performance,” ELH 62 (1995).
86.
Bilston, “Authentic Performance,” 47.
87.
Quoted in Bilston, “Authentic Performance,” 46. This paragraph is based on Bilston's article generally.
88.
Henry Hersee, “Madame Patti as an Actress,” The Theatre (London), August 1, 1878, 26–29, here 27. “Margherita” is of course Marguerite from Gounod's Faust, a role that Patti often performed in Italian.
89.
“Royal Italian Opera,” Musical World, July 13, 1861, 442.
90.
Hanslick, Die moderne Oper, quoted in Klein, Reign of Patti, 424.
91.
Weekly Dispatch (early June 1864?), quoted in Klein, Reign of Patti, 151.
92.
“Royal Italian Opera,” The Times (London), July 16, 1885, 8; “Mme. Patti as Carmen,” New York Times, April 19, 1887, 5. As Ralph P. Locke notes, Carmen represented the exact opposite of Patti's standard persona: “the dangerous woman who holds no allegiances and thus disturbs the placid world of good bourgeois wives and husbands”: Locke, “What Are These Women Doing,” 62. Patti first performed the role in London in summer 1885, played it again in Lisbon in 1886, and finished with it in New York in 1887; see Kaufman, “Chronology of Patti's Appearances,” 367–69. Unlike that of Marguerite, the role was not a great success for her: perhaps not even Patti could make such a portrayal work in this opera, or perhaps the vocal part simply lay too low for her.
93.
See Hoare, “Chat with Madame Patti,” 680, and Patti, “My Operatic Heroines,” 660.
94.
Nead, Myths of Sexuality, 106. (I was led to this source by Rutherford, “La traviata,” 589.)
95.
Chorley, Thirty Years’ Musical Recollections, 368.
96.
Rutherford, “La traviata,” 596.
97.
[James W. Davison], “Royal Italian Opera,” The Times (London), July 5, 1861, 12.
98.
Hanslick, “Adelina Patti (1879),” 178.
99.
Hersee, “Madame Patti as an Actress,” 28.
100.
New York Dramatic Mirror, April 16, 1892, quoted in Glenn, Female Spectacle, 19.
101.
Interestingly, the same was said of Sarah Bernhardt, though the image was nearly the opposite. Chekov wrote of her in 1881 that she “remakes her heroine into exactly the same sort of unusual woman she is herself”: quoted in Glenn, Female Spectacle, 23, from Laurence Senelick, “Chekov's Response to Bernhardt,” in Bernhardt and the Theatre of Her Time, ed. Eric Salmon (1984).
102.
[Shaw], London Music in 1888–89, 371; Klein, Reign of Patti, 224.
103.
Freitas, “Towards a Verdian Ideal,” 231–51 passim. While pedagogues today often quote Garcia approvingly as historical confirmation of their approach, they generally ignore the radical differences between Garcia's methods and their own.
104.
The information on Patti's recording sessions is based on Moran, “Recorded Legacy of Adelina Patti.” Table 1 is derived from Moran, “Recorded Legacy of Adelina Patti,” and Miller and Marston, liner notes to Patti and Maurel, Complete Adelina Patti.
105.
Cone, Adelina Patti, 181, summarizing unidentified reviews.
106.
Shaw, Shaw's Music, 2:906.
107.
Aldrich, Musical Discourse, 261–62. The text is adapted from his review of the opening concert of Patti's 1903 tour (“Of Music and Musicians,” New York Times, November 8, 1903).
108.
Letter to the Barili family of April 8, 1906, quoted in Cone, Adelina Patti, 245.
109.
Klein, Reign of Patti, 382.
110.
See Cone, Adelina Patti, 239.
111.
Pall Mall Gazette, June 12, 1895, quoted in Cone, Adelina Patti, 212.
112.
Shaw, Shaw's Music, 2:906.
113.
[Joseph Bennett], Daily Telegraph, December 3, 1906, quoted in Klein, Reign of Patti, 368.
114.
“Patti Here on Concert Tour,” San Francisco Chronicle, January 7, 1904. (I was led to this quotation by Cone, Adelina Patti, 235.)
115.
Letter to Alfredo Barili of December 8, 1905, quoted in Cone, Adelina Patti, 244.
116.
Letter to Emily Barili of June 29, 1908, quoted in Cone, Adelina Patti, 258.
117.
Patti, “My Operatic Heroines,” 657–58. Indeed, her debuts in London, Manchester, Liverpool, Dublin, Brussels, Amsterdam, Paris, Vienna, Hamburg, Madrid, Cologne, Florence, Turin, and St. Petersburg (between 1861 and 1869) were all in this role. Patti goes on in this article to claim that in other childhood concerts “[I] learn[ed] to identify myself with Leonora, Ninetta, Adina, Zerlina, Rosina, and Violetta, as I had already done in public with Amina” (658). Such statements thus link the majority of Patti's repertory back to her childhood, making her girlish innocence a vestige of precocious youth.
118.
Senici, Landscape and Gender, passim, but initially articulated at 1–3. Rutherford notes that the innocence so desirable in female portrayals was most complete when “allied to distraction or even stupefaction,” “a dream-like performance,” making a sleepwalker something like an ideal case: Rutherford, Prima Donna and Opera, 263.
119.
All the techniques discussed below have of course been shown to be common among late nineteenth-century performers. But I know of no one, male or female—including Charles Santley (1834–1922), Victor Maurel (1848–1923), Lilli Lehmann (1848–1929), Francesco Tamagno (1850–1905), and Pol Plançon (1851–1914)—who regularly deploys what I am calling Patti's “maidenly mode” in any consistent way. Such younger singers as Marcella Sembrich (1858–1935), Emma Calvé (1858–1942), Fernando De Lucia (1860–1925), and Nellie Melba (1861–1931) sing even more differently.
120.
Patti, “My Reminiscences,” 712.
121.
Bellini's melodic line and the piano accompaniment are adapted from Bellini, La sonnambula, 187–89.
122.
On this point, see Brown, Classical and Romantic Performing Practice, 517–57 passim: “During the period from 1750 to about 1900 the various types of vibrato then in use were regarded almost exclusively as ornamental. … [T]here seems to have been a broad consensus among the great majority of musical authorities that the basic sound should be a steady one and that vibrato, along with other ornamental techniques, should occur as an incidental colouring or embellishment on particular notes” (521). See also Philip, Early Recordings and Musical Style, 97–139 passim, and Freitas, “Towards a Verdian Ideal,” 235–38. One has to mention, however, that a small number of early recorded singers contradict the broader evidence, including Garcia pupil Charles Santley with his almost juddering vibrato. Still, such sounds seem exceptional.
123.
Patti, “My Operatic Heroines,” 658; see also Cone, Adelina Patti, 31. Hilary Poriss characterizes this incident as a “vocal breakdown,” likely resulting from “short-term uncertainty and a lack of confidence”: Poriss, “She Came, She Sang,” 223–24.
124.
[William Armstrong], “Mme. Patti's Advice to Singers: Her Own Rules for Preserving the Voice,” Saturday Evening Post, August 8, 1903, 3.
125.
See above. Reviewers approvingly noted this aspect of her singing throughout her career. In the review of her Covent Garden debut in 1861, the Musical World described her voice as “without the slightest tendency to tremulousness”: “Royal Italian Opera,” Musical World, May 18, 1861, 310–11, here 310. Hanslick's general assessment in 1879 notes that “she does not indulge in tremolo”: Hanslick, “Adelina Patti (1879),” 183.
126.
The various meanings of this term in the nineteenth century have been much explored, just as the prominence of the technique—in all its guises—has been documented. Essentially, the term can refer today to two different effects: the fluid speeding up or slowing down of the full musical texture and the speeding and slowing of a melody against a more or less steady accompaniment, the latter resulting in misalignments of the written notes. See Brown, Classical and Romantic Performing Practice, 375–414; Philip, Early Recordings and Musical Style, 7–69; Hudson, Stolen Time; and Freitas, “Towards a Verdian Ideal.”
127.
In preparing this article I have made use of the Sonic Visualiser software; see Cannam, Landone, and Sandler, “Sonic Visualiser.” The software is freely available at the Sonic Visualiser website: http://sonicvisualiser.org/. As shown in Example 1, Patti cuts measures 15–22 of Bellini's score in her performance, moving directly from measure 14 to measure 23; thus, measures 15–18 of her performance, included in the tempo graph, correspond to measures 23–26 of Bellini's score.
128.
The performance in question is from a collection of arias appended to Sutherland's compact disc of Bellini's opera Beatrice di Tenda; “Ah! non credea mirarti” was originally recorded in 1962. In this article I compare a number of modern interpretations with Patti's. The artists I choose are all prominent and influential, and I judge their performances sufficiently representative to be able to stand for many others.
129.
Bellini, La sonnambula, 314–16.
130.
Throughout this article I refer to the composers’ written pitches. Patti in fact recorded many of her songs and arias transposed down. The degree of transposition is not always certain, however, because playback speeds were not standardized; indeed, experts have not entirely agreed about those speeds. See Moran, “Recorded Legacy of Adelina Patti,” 313–15; Williams and Moran, “Adelina Patti,” 188–90; Aspinall, “Adelina Patti: Speeds and Keys,” 273; and Miller and Marston, “Note from the Producers,” 18. I refer to pitch octave using the system whereby middle C is designated c′.
131.
Sutherland, for example, moves from around 45 to around 60 bpm.
132.
While fast interludes are commonplace in early recordings, Patti's sudden braking here seems so contrary to Bellini's implications as to suggest expressive intent.
133.
These observations are based on a cursory YouTube survey of performances by Maria Callas (Paris, 1965), Renée Fleming (Omaha, 1988), Natalie Dessay (New York, 2006), Anna Netrebko (London, 2007), and Cecilia Bartoli (Zurich, 2007–8). Interestingly, Fleming and Bartoli seem more determined to honor the notation.
134.
She does something similar, though less obvious, in measure 31, where Bellini's thirty-second notes are again lengthened.
135.
Melina Esse reads Bellini's four equal eighth notes in this measure (and in an earlier cadence cut by Patti) as particularly significant for Amina's character: “These four repeated notes call for a kind of emotional expression entirely different from the weeping, sighing appoggiatura—instead they suggest choked sobs forcing their way through a normally controlled speaking voice”: Esse, “Speaking and Sighing,” 29–34, here 32. Patti would seem to agree, even if she does not sing the notes evenly. Her approach also hints that the responsibility for such fine rhythmic distinctions often lay as much with the performer as with the composer.
136.
John Steane writes, “How maddening then to turn … to ‘The Last Rose of Summer’ and find what might have been a likeable record marred by the singer's scooping approach to the note on ‘rose’”: Steane, Grand Tradition, 15. The comment by Steane quoted as an epigraph to this article refers to the same performance.
137.
Such studies include Brown, “Bowing Styles, Vibrato and Portamento”; Brown, Classical and Romantic Performing Practice, 558–87; Philip, Early Recordings and Musical Style, 141–204; Kauffman, “Portamento in Romantic Opera”; and the articles by Daniel Leech-Wilkinson and John Potter specifically discussed below.
138.
On objections to this method, see, for example, Garcia, École de Garcia, 1:29, 2:28.
139.
In laying out these methods, I generally follow Brown's approach, itself based on nineteenth-century treatises: Brown, Classical and Romantic Performing Practice, 566–73. The relevant treatise of Domenico Corri's is The Singers [sic] Preceptor (1810). Philip, following the writings of Carl Flesch, posits these same basic categories for string instruments, calling them (respectively) the B-slide (beginning-finger), the L-slide (last-finger), and the single-finger slide: Philip, Early Recordings and Musical Style, 144.
140.
Leech-Wilkinson, “Portamento and Musical Meaning.”
141.
Potter, “Beggar at the Door,” 549.
142.
Corri, Singers Preceptor, quoted in Potter, “Beggar at the Door,” 526.
143.
Ankrum, “Theatrical Declamation and Expressive Singing.” I am grateful to the author for allowing me to cite this unpublished paper.
144.
Garcia, École de Garcia, 2:50: “Pour découvrir le ton propre à chaque affection, et les nuances qu'elle comporte (le timbre, le mouvement, le degré de force dans l'articulation, etc.), l’élève doit lire attentivement les paroles, puis s'entourer de toutes les données qui lui feront connaître à fond le personnage; ces précautions prises, il récitera son rôle en le parlant. … L'accent vrai qui se communique à la voix alors qu'on parle sans apprêt, est la base sur laquelle se règle l'expression chantante.”
145.
Raymond, Orator's Manual, 67.
146.
The effects listed in Table 2 are drawn from Raymond, Orator's Manual, 49.
147.
See, for example, Swett, School Elocution, 239, and Russell, Orthophony, or Vocal Culture, 145–65.
148.
For two recordings of this speech that are currently available online, see the Works Cited list. Other monologues by Bernhardt can be found on YouTube (for example, from Edmond Rostand's La Samaritaine, Gramophone and Typewriter 31171, 1903, 78 rpm, YouTube video, 2:35, posted July 24, 2009, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FjyB18FVGNc) and by searching under Bernhardt's name at the UCSB Cylinder Audio Archive, http://cylinders.library.ucsb.edu. Other, less prominent actors and orators can also be heard on the latter site demonstrating a similar affinity for vocal sliding, including Harry E. Humphrey, reciting (among other things) “Finch's ‘The Blue and Gray’” and “Patrick Henry's Speech.”
149.
Bergeron, Voice Lessons, 211; the full discussion of Bernhardt appears at 207–12. Bergeron borrows the terms in quotation marks in this passage from Léon Brémont, L'art de dire les vers, suivi d'une étude et d'une conférence sur l'adaptation musicale (1903).
150.
Garcia, École de Garcia, 2:28: “le port de voix sera bien placé toutes les fois que, dans le langage passionné, la voix se traînerait sous l'impression d'un sentiment énergique ou tendre.” Literally, of course, “se traînerait” means “would drag itself,” but throughout this discussion of the port de voix Garcia uses “traînée inférieure” to indicate Corri's “leaping grace” from below. In this context, then, “dragging” would seem to denote sliding of some kind. Also, as I have suggested, Garcia regularly looks to speech as a model for singing, so in his recommendations to singers here, his reference to “langage passionné” must refer to spoken words; otherwise, he would be saying little more than “slide where you find yourself sliding.”
151.
Ibid., 2:27: “La port de voix est un moyen, tour à tour énergique ou gracieux, de colorer la mélodie” (emphasis in translation mine).
152.
I have also tried very roughly to suggest the length of the slides by the starting point of the slurs: the later the slide begins, the later the slur begins.
153.
One should note in this connection that Patti repeatedly shows that such scoops are not obligatory for her: one may cite the clean attacks on e″ in measure 9 (“al par”), on the e″ and f″ of measure 17/25 (“Potria novel”), on the g″ of measure 30 (“pianto”), and so on.
154.
Another example from Bellini's works is Norma's “Qual cor tradisti,” part of her “Scena ultima e aria finale.” Julian Budden notes that Verdi often uses incongruous accents in a melody “to express ‘negative’ emotions”: Budden, Operas of Verdi, 1:498.
155.
Freitas, “Art of Artlessness.”
156.
The quotation is from Duncan, “Home, Sweet Home.”
157.
The text is taken from the composer's manuscript: Bishop, “Clari; or The Maid of Milan.”
158.
In “My Operatic Heroines,” 662, Patti even mentions inserting the song into the lesson scene of Rossini's Barbiere. Smith alludes to this song in her very definition of domesticity: the “tranquility and restfulness [of the home as haven] was expressed in the idea of ‘home sweet home’ in England”: Smith, Changing Lives, 183.
159.
Klein, Reign of Patti, 162–63.
160.
Another performance dominated by the maidenly mode is her “Connais-tu le pays?” from Ambroise Thomas's Mignon.
161.
Gevaert, Les gloires de l'Italie, 1:49–53.
162.
Ibid. Versions of the Gevaert score were reproduced by other printers, including, for example, Oliver Ditson in Boston (1878), who added an English translation, and so the edition would clearly have been widely available.
163.
Probably because of time limitations on the disc, Patti cuts a thirteen-measure passage in the middle of both A sections (mm. 48–60) as well as the entire B section. In representing the excerpts from the Gevaert score, I have included all the optional “variant” readings.
164.
Garcia, École de Garcia, 2:22: “The compositions of Haydn, Mozart, Cimarosa, Rossini, etc. demand complete accuracy of rhythmic movement. Any change introduced into the note values must arise—without altering the tempo—from the use of tempo rubato” (“Les compositions de Haydn, Mozart, Cimarosa, Rossini, etc., exigent une exactitude complète dans le mouvement rhythmique. Tout changement introduit dans les valeurs doit, sans altérer le mouvement de la mesure, ressortir de l'emploi du tempo rubato”).
165.
Mozart, Le nozze di Figaro, pt. 1, 175–82.
166.
Hadlock, “Career of Cherubino,” 68–69.
167.
Freitas, “Eroticism of Emasculation,” 203–14; Laqueur, Making Sex, passim, esp. 1–148.
168.
As literary historian Chloe Chard generalizes, “grace and beauty are … qualities that are regularly identified in the eighteenth century as attributes of the female or effeminate body. They are also, however, defined as qualities to which women are particularly attracted”: Chard, “Effeminacy, Pleasure,” 157. Karen Henson shows the long life of this tradition in her discussion of Victor Capoul, a popular tenor of the late nineteenth century, particularly beloved (it seems) for the effeminate beauty of his face and voice: Henson, “Victor Capoul.”
169.
See, for example, the performance of Joyce DiDonato cited in the next paragraph and represented in Figure 5.
170.
Tim Carter also hints that the poetry and music actually suggest a less docile approach. He points out that the score is largely through-composed, save for Mozart's return to the opening at the end, and that it traverses a range of key areas wider than in any known contemporary aria: Carter, W. A. Mozart, 27. Cherubino is hardly poised here.
171.
Mozart's melodic line in Example 4 is adapted from Mozart, Le nozze di Figaro, pt. 1, 175–82.
172.
DiDonato, Diva, Divo.
173.
“Return of Madame Patti,” 296; Spalding, Rise to Follow, 48. Spalding performed in the same concert with her at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris, November 14, 1905.
174.
Although this aria is in 2/4, I have considered the beat to fall on the eighth notes. The result tracks the tempo changes more closely and in any case does not affect the overall shape of the graph. Because Patti constantly pushes and pulls within measures, the tempo lines waver, but the overall effects described here are nevertheless apparent.
175.
One should note that here Patti alters the words slightly, singing “dirò” instead of “ridirò.” Later, in measure 39, “l'alma” becomes “l'alma mia.”
176.
Garcia, École de Garcia, 2:27: “Employé dans les mouvements tendres et gracieux, il sera plus lent et plus doux.”
177.
On her inclusion of “Voi che sapete”—first on November 28, 1894, at the Royal Albert Hall—see Cone, Adelina Patti, 207.
178.
See, for example, “Royal Italian Opera,” Musical World, July 12, 1884, 430: “The postponed performance of Don Giovanni … attracted a full house—not, we fear, because Mozart wrote the music so much as because Madame Patti played Zerlina.”
179.
“Royal Italian Opera,” Musical World, July 13, 1861, 442; “Adelina (Zerlina) Patti (from the Daily News),” Musical World, June 8, 1867, 372; Hanslick, “Adelina Patti (1879),” 174. One might add here that reviewers also emphasized what they perceived as Patti's obedience to Mozart's score, hinting at links to her purity overall. See, for example, Gustave Bertrand, “Semaine théatrale,” Le Ménestrel, [March 4, 1866], 106–7, here 107: “Never had the score been more religiously respected. … Mlle Patti sings it exactly as written” (“Jamais le texte n'avait été plus religieusement respecté. … Mlle Patti le chant purement comme il est écrit”); and “Berlin: Revue,” Neue Berliner Musikzeitung, [November 4, 1863], 354–56, here 355: “In particular, how Adelina Patti sings the aria ‘Batti, batti’ is indescribable. … This fine understanding, this flow of musical phrases, this cleanness, correctness, this weighting of the accent, this measuring out of the breath: all are characteristics of [her] great artistry” (“Wie Adelina Patti namentlich die Arie ‘Batti, batti’ singt, das ist unbeschreiblich. … [D]ieses feine Verständniss, dieser Fluss der musikalischen Phrasen, diese Sauberkeit, Correctheit, diese Abgewogenheit in den Accenten, diese Vertheilung des Athems, alles dies sind Kennzeichen der grossen Künstlerschaft”).
180.
“Adelina (Zerlina) Patti,” 372. A reviewer from 1862 says much the same thing: “Never, we imagine, has the struggle between the village maiden's passive affection for her boorish bridegroom, and the coquette's admiration for the gallant suitor who has fascinated her with his easy and condescending grace, been so truthfully or so charmingly portrayed”: quoted in Klein, Reign of Patti, 107–8. (Klein credits the lines to the Daily Telegraph (no date), but I have been unable to locate the review in that source.)
181.
J. Lovy, “Semaine théatrale,” Le Ménestrel, February 1, 1863, 67–68, here 68: “Reste Mlle Patti … une charmante, une adorable Zerline! On n'est pas plus mutine, plus coquette, plus séduisante.”
182.
“Adelina (Zerlina) Patti,” 372.
183.
[James W. Davison], “Royal Italian Opera,” The Times (London), July 8, 1861, 12.
184.
“Royal Italian Opera,” Musical World, May 24, 1873, 340.
185.
“Royal Italian Opera,” Musical World, July 12, 1884, 430. And still in 1895, “It was a new triumph for Patti, who portrayed the character of Zerlina with the distinction with which she played it twenty years ago” (“è stato un nuovo trionfo per la Patti, che ha riprodotto il personaggio di Zerlina collo stesso prestigio col quale lo riprodusse venti anni fa”): “Londra, 30 Giugno: Al Covent-Garden—Notizie artistiche,” Gazzetta musicale di Milano, July 7, 1895, 466, reporting on her performance at Covent Garden of June 30.
186.
She sang the aria in the music lesson scene of Il barbiere in 1895 at Covent Garden; see Klein, Reign of Patti, 330. The complex history of additions and substitutions in this scene is explored in Poriss, Changing the Score, 135–68.
187.
Example 5 is adapted from Mozart, Il dissoluto punito, 164–65.
188.
Allanbrook, Rhythmic Gesture in Mozart, 269; Allanbrook, “Zerlina's ‘Batti, batti,’” 63.
189.
A number of examples of slow gavottes from Mozart's work are given in Ratner, Classic Music, 14; they are a recognizable feature of his oeuvre. But surely music that truly sounds like—and registers as—a particular dance differs qualitatively from music that puts the rhythmic patterns in the background, concealing the dance character with tempo or other style anomalies. Presumably the more recognizable a dance, the stronger its expressive connotations.
190.
Allanbrook carefully charts the rhythmic and word accents here, but she conforms them to the norms of the gavotte, which is not, I think, how anyone sings or hears them: Allanbrook, Rhythmic Gesture in Mozart, 269.
191.
Ibid., 271: “her seductive sophisticate's gavotte may suggest that she has picked up some polish from her brief association with the Don.” This idea builds on Ratner's similar interpretation: Ratner, Classic Music, 406.
192.
The idea of the pastorale as Zerlina's native style comes from Allanbrook, Rhythmic Gesture in Mozart, 270–71.
193.
Mozart, Il dissoluto punito, 164–70.
194.
Mozart's melodic line in Example 6 is adapted from Mozart, Il dissoluto punito, 164–70.
195.
Her prominent appoggiatura on “crine” was at the time still de rigueur for Mozart. Compare Charles Santley's practice in his recording of “Non più andrai,” available (among other places) on YouTube: “100 Greatest Singers: Charles Santley,” 3:42, posted December 18, 2008, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R-xxtFEkKP0.
196.
On this tradition, see Brown, Classical and Romantic Performing Practice, 155–58, 228–40 (and elsewhere).
197.
“Adelina Patti's Margaret,” Morning Star, June 9, 1864, as reproduced in “Royal Italian Opera,” Musical World, June 11, 1864, 373.
198.
[James W. Davison], “Royal Italian Opera,” The Times (London), June 13, 1864, 12.
199.
[Henry F. Chorley], The Athenaeum, June 11, 1864, quoted in Cone, Adelina Patti, 70.
200.
Hanslick, “Adelina Patti (1879),” 181.
201.
“Stage Marguerites,” San Francisco Argonaut, October 8, 1888, 6.
202.
“Adelina Patti's Margaret,” 373.
203.
Gounod, Faust, 127–34. (Patti's recording omits lines 13–17.)
204.
Gounod's melodic line in Example 7 is adapted from Gounod, Faust, 127–34.
205.
Evidence for the erotic associations of the waltz at this time is widespread but well summarized by McKee, Decorum of the Minuet, 95–97, 231–32n.
206.
Perhaps worth noting are the interruptive recitative passages of the immediately preceding “Il était un roi de Thulé,” which functions as the “cantabile” to the Jewel Song's cabaletta; see Huebner, Operas of Charles Gounod, 115. Gounod seems to be implying that some of the introspection of the slower air carries over into the fast one.
207.
See Brown, Classical and Romantic Performing Practice, 379, 386.
208.
Patti recorded two very similar takes of this aria in 1905, likely one right after the other, given their consecutive matrix numbers (see Table 1). In the discussion that follows, I refer to the second, which is the version she chose to publish.
209.
“Adelina Patti's Margaret,” Musical World, June 18, 1864, 389.
210.
“Royal Italian Opera,” Musical World, June 18, 1864, 387.
211.
“Adelina Patti's Margaret,” Musical World, June 18, 1864, 389.
212.
In her youth she apparently trilled not only on the f♯″ but also on the high b″ (up to c♯‴). In a review in the Musical World in 1877, the anonymous author mentions that “the long shake at the commencement, the ascending scale passage which follows, and the concluding shake on B and C sharp in alt. were specimens of faultless vocalisation”: “The Italian Operas: Reminiscences of 1877, from the Scrap-Book of a Dilettante, no. 6: Adelina Patti's Margherita,” Musical World, September 8, 1877, 608.
213.
Garcia discusses this effect—with several notated examples—under “Temps dérobé (Tempo rubato)”: Garcia, École de Garcia, 2:24–25. Citing these examples, Brown traces similar practices in instrumental music: Brown, Classical and Romantic Performing Practice, 391–411.
214.
The effect is a little less prominent in the second take of “Last Rose” (in E instead of F) and passes quickly in “Kathleen Mavourneen.”
215.
It occurs on the last word of her Phèdre monologue in both of the recordings listed in the Works Cited list, but also in other recordings. She seems to use the effect for moments of unbearable passion, creating almost a cri de cœur. Patti's use, like her acting in general, tends to be gentler.
216.
Glenn, Female Spectacle, 6. Glenn primarily focuses on Sarah Bernhardt's more obvious transgressions of norms.
217.
Roberts, “True Womanhood Revisited,” 153.
218.
Aldrich, Musical Discourse, 265, originally published (with slightly different wording) in the New York Times, October 5, 1919.
219.
Letter to Giulio Ricordi of October 6, 1877, in Verdi, Letters of Giuseppe Verdi, 202.

Works Cited

Works Cited
Texts and Scores
Abbiati, Franco.
Giuseppe Verdi
.
4
vols.
Milan
:
Ricordi
,
1959
.
Aldrich, Richard.
Musical Discourse: From the “New York Times.”
Oxford
:
Oxford University Press
,
1928
.
Allanbrook, Wye Jamison.
Rhythmic Gesture in Mozart: “Le nozze di Figaro” and “Don Giovanni.”
Chicago
:
University of Chicago Press
,
1984
.
Allanbrook, Wye Jamison. “Zerlina's ‘Batti, batti’: A Case Study?” In
Siren Songs: Representations of Gender and Sexuality in Opera
, edited by Mary Ann Smart,
62
66
. Princeton Studies in Opera.
Princeton and Oxford
:
Princeton University Press
,
2000
.
Ankrum, Quinn Patrick.
“Theatrical Declamation and Expressive Singing in the Mid to Late Nineteenth Century.”
Paper presented at the doctoral seminar “Nineteenth-Century Performance Practice,” Eastman School of Music
, University of Rochester,
Rochester, NY
,
May 2009
.
Aspinall, Michael.
“Adelina Patti: Speeds and Keys.”
Record Collector
37
, no.
4
(
October–December
,
1992
):
268
73
.
Bellini, Vincenzo.
La sonnambula
. Vocal score. Edited by Alessandro Roccatagliati and Luca Zoppelli from the
Edizione critica delle opere di Vincenzo Bellini
, vol.
7
. Ricordi Opera Vocal Score Series.
Milan
:
Ricordi
,
2010
.
Bergeron, Katherine.
Voice Lessons: French Mélodie in the Belle Epoque
. The New Cultural History of Music.
Oxford
:
Oxford University Press
,
2010
.
Berlanstein, Lenard R.
“Historicizing and Gendering Celebrity Culture: Famous Women in Nineteenth-Century France.”
Journal of Women's History
16
, no.
4
(
2004
):
65
91
.
Bilston, Sarah.
“Authentic Performance in Theatrical Women's Fiction of the 1870s.”
Women's Writing
11
(
2004
):
39
53
.
Bishop, Henry R.
“Clari; or The Maid of Milan.”
Score. 1823. Ruth T. Watanabe Special Collections, Sibley Music Library, Eastman School of Music, University of Rochester. ML96 .B622C.
Bowen, José Antonio.
“Performance Practice versus Performance Analysis: Why Should Performers Study Performance?”
Performance Practice Review
9
(
1996
):
16
35
.
Bowen, José Antonio.
“Tempo, Duration, and Flexibility: Techniques in the Analysis of Performance.”
Journal of Musicological Research
16
(
1996
):
111
56
.
Brown, Clive.
“Bowing Styles, Vibrato and Portamento in Nineteenth-Century Violin Playing.”
Journal of the Royal Musical Association
113
(
1988
):
97
128
.
Brown, Clive.
Classical and Romantic Performing Practice, 1750–1900
.
Oxford
:
Oxford University Press
,
1999
.
Budden, Julian.
The Operas of Verdi
.
3
vols. Rev. ed.
Oxford
:
Clarendon Press
,
1992
.
Bulman, Joan.
Jenny Lind: A Biography
.
London
:
James Barrie
,
1956
.
Bushnell, Howard.
Maria Malibran: A Biography of the Singer
.
University Park, PA, and London
:
Pennsylvania State University Press
,
1979
.
Calico, Joy H. “Staging Scandal with Salome and Elektra.” In
The Arts of the Prima Donna in the Long Nineteenth Century
, edited by Rachel Cowgill and Hilary Poriss,
61
82
.
Oxford
:
Oxford University Press
,
2012
.
Cannam, Chris, Christian Landone, and Mark Sandler.
“Sonic Visualiser: An Open Source Application for Viewing, Analysing, and Annotating Music Audio Files.”
In
MM ’10: Proceedings of the 18th ACM International Conference on Multimedia
, edited by Alberto del Bimbo, Shih-Fu Chang, and Arnold Smeulders,
1467
68
.
New York
:
ACM
,
2010
. http://doi.acm.org/10.1145/1873951.1874248.
Carter, Tim.
W. A. Mozart: “Le nozze di Figaro.”
Cambridge Opera Handbooks.
Cambridge
:
Cambridge University Press
,
1987
.
Caswell, Austin. “Jenny Lind's Tour of America: A Discourse of Gender and Class.” In
Festa musicologica: Essays in Honor of George J. Buelow
, edited by Thomas J. Mathiesen and Benito V. Rivera,
319
37
. Festschrift Series 14.
Stuyvesant, NY
:
Pendragon Press
,
1995
.
Chard, Chloe. “Effeminacy, Pleasure and the Classical Body.” In
Femininity and Masculinity in Eighteenth-Century Art and Culture
, edited by Gill Perry and Michael Rossington,
142
61
.
Manchester
:
Manchester University Press
,
1994
.
Chorley, Henry F.
Thirty Years’ Musical Recollections
. Edited and with an introduction by Ernest Newman.
New York and London
:
Alfred A. Knopf
,
1926
.
Cone, John Frederick.
Adelina Patti: Queen of Hearts
. With a chronology by Thomas G. Kaufman and a discography by William R. Moran. Opera Biography Series 4.
Portland, OR
:
Amadeus Press
,
1993
.
Crutchfield, Will.
“Vocal Ornamentation in Verdi: The Phonographic Evidence.”
19th-Century Music
7
(
1983
):
3
54
.
Crutchfield, Will. “Vocal Performance in the Nineteenth Century.” In
The Cambridge History of Musical Performance
, edited by Colin Lawson and Robin Stowell,
611
42
.
Cambridge
:
Cambridge University Press
,
2012
.
Duncan, Barbara.
“Home, Sweet Home.”
University of Rochester Library Bulletin: Howard Hanson's Manuscript Scores
4
, no.
2
(
Winter
1949
). http://www.lib.rochester.edu/index.cfm?page=1307.
Esse, Melina.
“Speaking and Sighing: Bellini's canto declamato and the Poetics of Restraint.”
Current Musicology
87
(
2009
):
7
45
.
Forbes, Elizabeth.
Mario and Grisi: A Biography
.
London
:
Victor Gollancz
,
1985
.
Freitas, Roger. “The Art of Artlessness, or, Adelina Patti Teaches Us How to Be Natural.” In
Word, Image, and Song
, vol. 2,
Essays on Musical Voices
, edited by Rebecca Cypess, Beth L. Glixon, and Nathan Link,
213
42
. Eastman Studies in Music.
Rochester, NY
:
University of Rochester Press
,
2013
.
Freitas, Roger.
“The Eroticism of Emasculation: Confronting the Baroque Body of the Castrato.”
Journal of Musicology
20
(
2003
):
196
249
.
Freitas, Roger.
“Towards a Verdian Ideal of Singing: Emancipation from Modern Orthodoxy.”
Journal of the Royal Musical Association
127
(
2002
):
226
57
.
Gallagher, Lowell. “Jenny Lind and the Voice of America.” In
“En travesti”: Women, Gender Subversion, Opera
, edited by Corinne E. Blackmer and Patricia Juliana Smith,
190
215
. Between Men—Between Women: Lesbian and Gay Studies.
New York
:
Columbia University Press
,
1995
.
Garcia, Manuel.
École de Garcia: Traité complet de l'art du chant
.
2
vols. Paris, 1847. Facsimile reprint,
Geneva
:
Minkoff
,
1985
.
Gevaert, F[rançois]-A[uguste].
Les gloires de l'Italie: Chefs-d’œuvre anciens et inédits de la musique vocale italienne aux XVIIe et XVIIIe siècles
.
2
vols.
Paris
:
Heugel
, [
1868
].
Glenn, Susan A.
Female Spectacle: The Theatrical Roots of Modern Feminism
.
Cambridge, MA, and London
:
Harvard University Press
,
2000
.
Gounod, Charles-François.
Faust
.
New York and London
:
G. Schirmer
,
1966
.
Greenwood, Grace [Sara Jane Clark].
Greenwood Leaves
. 4th ed.
Boston
:
Ticknor, Reed, and Fields
,
1853
.
Hadlock, Heather. “The Career of Cherubino, or the Trouser Role Grows Up.” In
Siren Songs: Representations of Gender and Sexuality in Opera
, edited by Mary Ann Smart,
67
92
. Princeton Studies in Opera.
Princeton and Oxford
:
Princeton University Press
,
2000
.
Hanslick, Eduard. “Adelina Patti (1879).” In
Music Criticisms, 1846–99
, edited and translated by Henry Pleasants,
167
83
. Rev. ed. Peregrine Books Y32.
Baltimore
:
Penguin Books
,
1963
.
Henson, Karen.
“Victor Capoul, Marguerite Olagnier's ‘Le Saïs,’ and the Arousing of Female Desire.”
This Journal
52
(
1999
):
419
63
.
Higonnet, Anne. “Images—Appearances, Leisure, and Subsistence.” In
A History of Women in the West
, vol. 4,
Emerging Feminism from Revolution to World War
, edited by Geneviève Fraisse and Michelle Perrot,
246
61
.
Cambridge, MA, and London
:
Belknap Press of Harvard University Press
,
1993
. Originally published as Storia delle donne in Occidente, vol. 4, L'Ottocento (Rome and Bari: Laterza, 1991).
Hudson, Richard.
Stolen Time: The History of Tempo Rubato
.
Oxford
:
Clarendon Press
,
1994
.
Huebner, Steven.
The Operas of Charles Gounod
.
Oxford
:
Clarendon Press
;
New York
:
Oxford University Press
,
1990
.
Kauffman, Deborah.
“Portamento in Romantic Opera.”
Performance Practice Review
5
(
1992
):
139
58
.
Kaufman, Thomas G.
“A Chronology of Patti's Appearances.”
In Cone,
Adelina Patti
,
317
81
.
Klein, Herman.
The Reign of Patti
.
New York
:
Century
,
1920
.
Klein, Herman.
Thirty Years of Musical Life in London, 1870–1900
.
New York
:
Century
,
1903
.
Laqueur, Thomas.
Making Sex: Body and Gender from the Greeks to Freud
.
Cambridge, MA, and London
:
Harvard University Press
,
1990
.
Leech-Wilkinson, Daniel.
The Changing Sound of Music: Approaches to Studying Recorded Musical Performance
.
London
:
CHARM
,
2009
. http://www.charm.kcl.ac.uk/studies/chapters/intro.html.
Leech-Wilkinson, Daniel.
“Portamento and Musical Meaning.”
Journal of Musicological Research
25
(
2006
):
233
61
.
Locke, Ralph P. “What Are These Women Doing in Opera?” In
“En travesti”: Women, Gender Subversion, Opera
, edited by Corinne E. Blackmer and Patricia Juliana Smith,
59
98
. Between Men—Between Women: Lesbian and Gay Studies.
New York
:
Columbia University Press
,
1995
.
McKee, Eric.
Decorum of the Minuet, Delirum of the Waltz: A Study of Dance-Music Relations in 3/4 Time
. Musical Meaning and Interpretation.
Bloomington and Indianapolis
:
Indiana University Press
,
2012
.
Miller, Jeffrey, and Ward Marston.
Liner notes to Patti and Maurel
,
Complete Adelina Patti
.
Miller, Jeffrey, and Ward Marston.
“A Note from the Producers.”
In liner notes to Patti and Maurel,
Complete Adelina Patti
,
17
19
.
Moran, William R.
“The Recorded Legacy of Adelina Patti.”
In Cone,
Adelina Patti
,
305
16
.
Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus. Il dissoluto punito, ossia Il Don Giovanni. Edited by Wolfgang Plath and Wolfgang Rehm. Ser. 2, Werkgruppe 5, vol. 17, of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart,
Neue Ausgabe sämtlicher Werke
.
Kassel
:
Bärenreiter
,
1968
.
Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus. Le nozze di Figaro. Edited by Ludwig Finscher. Ser. 2, Werkgruppe 5, vol. 16, of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart,
Neue Ausgabe sämtlicher Werke
. 2 pts.
Kassel
:
Bärenreiter
,
1973
.
Nead, Lynda.
Myths of Sexuality: Representations of Women in Victorian Britain
.
Oxford and New York
:
Basil Blackwell
,
1988
.
Newcomb, Harvey.
The Young Lady's Guide to the Harmonious Development of Christian Character
. 3rd ed.
Boston
:
James B. Dow
,
1841
.
Peres da Costa, Neal.
Off the Record: Performing Practices in Romantic Piano Playing
.
New York
:
Oxford University Press
,
2012
.
Philip, Robert.
Early Recordings and Musical Style: Changing Tastes in Instrumental Performance, 1900–1950
.
Cambridge
:
Cambridge University Press
,
1992
.
Perrot, Michelle, and Anne Martin-Fugier. “The Actors.” In
A History of Private Life
, vol. 4,
From the Fires of Revolution to the Great War
, edited by Michelle Perrot, translated by Arthur Goldhammer,
97
338
.
Cambridge, MA, and London
:
Belknap Press of Harvard University Press
,
1990
. Originally published as Histoire de la vie privée, vol. 4, De la Révolution à la Grande Guerre (Paris: Seuil, 1987).
Poriss, Hilary.
Changing the Score: Arias, Prima Donnas, and the Authority of Performance
. AMS Studies in Music.
Oxford and New York
:
Oxford University Press
,
2009
.
Poriss, Hilary. “She Came, She Sang … She Conquered? Adelina Patti in New York.” In
European Music and Musicians in New York City, 1840–1900
, edited by John Graziano,
218
34
. Eastman Studies in Music.
Rochester, NY
:
University of Rochester Press
,
2006
.
Potter, John.
“Beggar at the Door: The Rise and Fall of Portamento in Singing.”
Music and Letters
87
(
2006
):
523
50
.
Ratner, Leonard G.
Classic Music: Expression, Form, and Style
.
New York
:
Schirmer
,
1980
.
Raymond, George L.
The Orator's Manual: A Practical and Philosophical Treatise on Vocal Culture, Emphasis and Gesture, together with Selections for Declamation and Reading
. 4th ed.
Chicago
:
S. C. Griggs
,
1883
. First published 1879.
Roberts, Mary Louise.
“True Womanhood Revisited.”
Journal of Women's History
14
, no.
1
(
2002
):
150
55
.
Rogers, Francis.
“Jenny Lind.”
Musical Quarterly
32
(
1946
):
437
48
.
Ronald, Landon.
Variations on a Personal Theme
.
London
:
Hodder and Stoughton
,
1922
.
Russell, Frank.
Queen of Song: The Life of Henrietta Sontag
.
New York
:
Exposition Press
,
1964
.
Russell, William.
Orthophony, or Vocal Culture: A Manual of Elementary Exercises for the Cultivation of the Voice in Elocution
. Reedited by Francis T. Russell.
Boston and New York
:
Houghton, Mifflin
;
Cambridge, MA
:
Riverside
,
1882
.
Rutherford, Susan.
The Prima Donna and Opera, 1815–1930
. Cambridge Studies in Opera.
Cambridge
:
Cambridge University Press
,
2006
.
Rutherford, Susan. “La traviata or the ‘Willing grisette’: Male Critics and Female Performance in the 1850s.” In
Verdi 2001: Atti del Convegno internazionale
, edited by Fabrizio Della Seta, Roberta Montemorra Marvin, and Marco Marica,
2
:
585
600
. Historiae musicae cultores 94.
Florence
:
Leo S. Olschki
,
2003
.
Senici, Emanuele.
Landscape and Gender in Italian Opera: The Alpine Virgin from Bellini to Puccini
. Cambridge Studies in Opera.
Cambridge
:
Cambridge University Press
,
2005
.
[Shaw, George Bernard].
London Music in 1888–89 as Heard by Corno di Bassetto (Later Known as Bernard Shaw) with Some Further Autobiographical Particulars
.
New York
:
Dodd, Mead
,
1937
.
Shaw, [George] Bernard.
Shaw's Music: The Complete Musical Criticism
. Edited by Dan H. Laurence.
3
vols. 2nd rev. ed.
London
:
Bodley Head
,
1981
.
Shultz, Gladys Denny.
Jenny Lind: The Swedish Nightingale
.
Philadelphia and New York
:
J. B. Lippincott
,
1962
.
Smith, Bonnie G.
Changing Lives: Women in European History since 1700
.
Lexington, MA, and Toronto
:
D. C. Heath
,
1989
.
Spalding, Albert.
Rise to Follow: An Autobiography
.
New York
:
Henry Holt
,
1943
.
Steane, J. B.
The Grand Tradition: Seventy Years of Singing on Record
. 2nd ed.
Portland, OR
:
Amadeus Press
,
1993
. First published 1974.
Swett, John.
School Elocution: A Manual of Vocal Training in High Schools, Normal Schools, and Academies
.
New York
:
American Book Company / A. L. Bancroft
,
1884
.
Verdi, Giuseppe.
Letters of Giuseppe Verdi
. Edited and translated by Charles Osborne.
London
:
Victor Gollancz
,
1971
.
Welter, Barbara. “The Cult of True Womanhood: 1820–1860.” In her
Dimity Convictions: The American Woman in the Nineteenth Century
,
21
41
.
Athens, OH
:
Ohio University Press
,
1976
. Originally published in American Quarterly 18 (1966): 151–74.
Williams, Clifford, and W[illiam] R. Moran.
“Adelina Patti.”
Record Collector
10
, nos.
8–9
(
July–August
1956
):
169
95
.
“Women's History in the New Millennium: A Retrospective Analysis of Barbara Welter's ‘The Cult of True Womanhood, 1820–1860.’”
Journal of Women's History
14
, no.
1
(
2002
):
149
73
.
Recordings
Bernhardt, Sarah.
Sarah Bernhardt in Performance
. Ben Ohmart / Bearmanor Music 190394569839, 2016, online album. Phèdre excerpt recorded 1903.
Bernhardt, Sarah.
[“Phèdre, act 2, scene 5.”] Edison Amberol 35008, 1910, cylinder. UCSB Cylinder Audio Archive
. http://www.library.ucsb.edu/OBJID/Cylinder2303.
DiDonato, Joyce.
Diva, Divo
. Orchestre et Chœur de l'Opéra National de Lyon. Kazushi Ono. Virgin Classics, 50999 64 1986 0 6, 2011, compact disc.
Patti, Adelina, and Victor Maurel.
The Complete Adelina Patti and Victor Maurel
. Marston 52011-2, 1998, 2 compact discs. Recorded 1905–6.
Sutherland, Joan.
Beatrice di Tenda
[and Joan Sutherland Sings Bellini Arias]. London Symphony Orchestra. Richard Bonynge. Decca 433 706-2, 1992, compact disc. Recorded 1962–66.