Adelina Patti: “sweetest singer of the age”

Adelina Patti was destined to become a star on the opera stage. Both of her parents were talented singers.

Adelina was born in the bustling city of Madrid, Spain, on February 19, 1843. But the family moved to New York City when Adelina was just a child. And it was there, amid a burgeoning cultural scene, that her artistic journey truly began.

New York years for Adelina were filled with singing lessons, vocal exercises, and the constant hum of her parents’ and siblings’ performances. Her talent was unmistakable. She performed for the time at the age of seven. “She was so tiny that she had to stand on a table in order that the audience might see her.”

By the age of 16, she had made her debut at the Academy of Music, performing the role of Lucia in Donizetti’s “Lucia di Lammermoor.” The audience was left breathless, and her fame spread like wildfire.

The young soprano’s career soared to new heights. Adelina began touring the United States and Europe, her name becoming synonymous with the most enchanting operatic performances. Adelina’s voice was a thing of legend – rich, powerful, and with an uncanny ability to touch the hearts of all who heard her sing. People said she “was the sweetest singer of the age.”

Vintage sepia-toned cabinet card photograph of Adelina Patti, a 19th-century opera singer. She is posed with her right elbow resting on a pedestal, hand gently touching her temple, and looking thoughtfully to the side. Patti is dressed in an elegant Victorian gown with a fitted bodice, adorned with dark trimmings and decorative buttons, and a full skirt. Her hair is styled in a period-appropriate updo. The bottom of the card has the photographer's name, 'Ch. Reutlinger. Phot.', and the words 'Déposé' and 'Garanti d'après nature', indicating a trademark and a guarantee of the photograph's likeness to the subject.
Adelina Patti, circa 1867

As her fame grew, so too did the list of her admirers. Royals, dignitaries, and fellow artists sought her company, captivated by her magnetic presence on and off the stage. Adelina’s performances were a testament to her unparalleled vocal prowess, charisma, and ability to connect with her audience. A true diva in every sense of the word, she captivated all lucky enough to witness her on stage.

Despite her busy schedule, Adelina found love not once but thrice. Her marriages to Marquis de Caux, tenor Ernesto Nicolini, and Swedish baron Rolf Cederström became a source of public fascination, fueling the day’s gossip columns. Yet despite the drama surrounding her personal life, she remained steadfast in her dedication to her art.

Yet, as the years went by, the demands of her career took a toll on Adelina’s voice. In 1906, she retired to her beloved estate, Craig-y-Nos Castle, in the picturesque Welsh countryside. There, Adelina found solace and peace, surrounding herself with her precious collection of pets and the rolling hills of her adopted homeland. Her retirement years were filled with leisurely walks, gardening, and the occasional private performance for friends and family. Though the world could no longer hear the enchanting melodies of her voice, the memories of her performances would continue to inspire generations to come.

As she grew older, Adelina’s health began to decline. On September 27, 1919, at the age of 76, the great diva took her final bow. The world mourned the loss of a true artist, but her legacy lived on in the hearts and minds of those her extraordinary talent touched.

Notes

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Sources

Adelina Patti portrait – National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, NPG.80.187

HATCH, GLADYS F. “ADELINA (ADELE JUANA MARIA) PATTI.” The Journal of Education, vol. 90, no. 19 (2255), 1919, pp. 512–512. JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/42767489. Accessed 6 Mar. 2023.

Herman Klein. “Adelina Patti, 1843-1919.” The Musical Times, vol. 60, no. 921, 1919, pp. 603–05. JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/3701582. Accessed 6 Mar. 2023.