Adelina Patti: queen of hearts
Jenny Lind's tribute to Adelina Patti, "There is only one Niagara; and there is only one Patti," is perhaps the most memorable of artists' tributes to the operatic diva Adelina Patti. She was a favorite among royalty and composers alike, especially Rossini, Auber, Meyerbeer, Berlioz, and Verdi, who declared her "an artist by nature, so perfect that perhaps there has never been her equal." Adelina Patti (1843-1919) was a vocal phenomenon, a glamorous celebrity, and a formidable legend renowned for both a nonpareil professional career and a deliciously intriguing private life. At the height of her career she was the world's singer of singers and the toast of three continents; to this day she remains, relatively speaking, one of the highest-paid performers in music history.
Adelina Patti gave her first public recital at the age of eight in New York City; she last performed in public at London's Albert Hall sixty-three years later. For decades in between, her singing and artistry enthralled millions throughout Europe, Russia, and North and South America. Among her admirers were Queen Victoria, Napoleon III and the Empress Eugenie, King Edward VII, and Czar Alexander II of Russia. Leo Tolstoy paid tribute to her in Anna Karenina, and George Bernard Shaw, as music critic, wrote eloquently of her glorious singing.
Patti's private life, rich in scandal and adventures, was the subject of much public scrutiny. The pet of the cultural elite, the possessor of enormous wealth, the chatelaine of a Welsh country estate, and a physically alluring woman, she was ever a fascinating personality. Perhaps the greatest sensation was her marriage in 1868 to a French aristocrat, the Marquis de Caux, followed in a few years by a separation and her living "in sin" with a celebrated French tenor, a married man and a father. The press called her affair with the singer and subsequent marriage to him the nineteenth century's greatest stage romance.
Patti made her only recordings when that industry was in its infancy - and she was in her early sixties. Though Patti could hardly be said to be in the ascendancy of her career, these records have nevertheless captured wonderful interpretations, flawless trills, and vocal graces rarely heard.
Dr. Cone's Adelina Patti: Queen of Hearts is the first full-length Patti biography in English since 1920, and it is the only work to provide a full account of Patti's early years and final decades. It includes much original material, including previously unpublished Patti letters, and more than 150 photographs that evoke the rich mosaic of the diva's life and career. A foreword by the Earl of Harewood and an introduction by Robert Tuggle open the book; a chronology by Thomas Kaufman and a discography by William Moran round out the historical record. Publication of the book in 1993 honors the 150th anniversary of Patti's birth.
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