Wednesday, April 27, 2011

May 4, 1847 --- Miss Jenny Lind

The "Swedish Nightingale," Miss Jenny Lind makes her London debut at Her Majesty's Theatre. The excitement is unprecedented. The Queen and Prince Albert are among those drawn to see the continental sensation. In fact, the published list of opera-goers from the "high life" runs some five inches of fine print and includes Dukes, Earls, Viscounts, and Prime Ministers, past and future. Carriages clog Haymarket for hours.

Miss Lind is to sing the role of Alice in Meyerbeer's Roberto il Diavolo. A tremendous roar greets her very appearance on stage. Before she even sings a note, the audience rises as one, men waving their hats, women their handkerchiefs. If the critics are to be believed, the performance did not disappoint. The Times auditor writes, "If expectations were great, we must say that they were more than realized." In The Illustrated London News, the praise is even higher, "It is as though we now learned for the first time what singing really is." Even the usually japing journal Punch falls in line, "To call Jenny Lind, the Swedish nightingale is a compliment to the bird." Miss Lind makes no fewer than three curtain calls to satisfy the cheering, whistling, stamping throng.

She is truly the sensation of London. Soon, her portrait appears in every fashionable shop's window. Purveyors of "articles of taste and luxury" are quick to add her name, e.g. Jenny Lind soap, Jenny Lind combs, etc. Staffordshire pottery mills turn out, in all, 18 different statuettes. Her performances continue to sell-out, even at what were called "enormous prices." The Duke of Wellington is said to be among her many assiduous admirers. 

The 24-year old beauty remained free of the scandals which had so often tainted the musical stage. As The Annual Register put it, "It may be added, as much for the credit of the public as in just tribute to the lady, that the warmth with which she was received derived part of its glow from the admirable private character of Mademoiselle Lind."  Not surprisingly, therefore, Jenny rapidly became a favorite of Prince Albert's. In 1863, she sang a chorale composed by the late Prince at the wedding of the Prince of Wales.

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