Pauline García-Viardot


Pauline García-Viardot

Pauline García-Viardot (July 18, 1821 – May 18, 1910) was a nineteenth century Spanish mezzo-soprano and composer.

Early life

Pauline García was born in Paris to a glamorous Spanish opera family, the great Garcias. As a young woman, she was overshadowed by her beautiful older sister, Maria Malibran, the "Enchantress of Nations" but her father, Manuel del Pópulo Vicente García, made Pauline his favorite and trained her on the piano and also gave her singing lessons. After his death in 1832, her mother took over her lessons, and after her sister's death, Pauline was assigned to take over as a professional singer. Her vocal range was from F3 to C6.

Singing career

In 1837, 16-year-old Pauline García gave her first concert performance in Brussels and in 1839, made her opera debut as Desdemona in Rossini’s "Otello" in London. This proved to be the surprise of the season. Despite her flaws, she had an exquisite technique combined with an astonishing degree of passion.

In 1840, she married Louis Viardot, an author and the director of the Théatre Italien in Paris, who would eventually manage her career. Twenty-one years her senior, her marriage did not stop the steady stream of infatuated men. Russian novelist Ivan Turgenev in particular was a gifted aristocrat who fell passionately in love with her after hearing her rendition of "The Barber of Seville" in Russia in 1843. In 1845, he left Russia to follow Pauline and eventually installed himself into the Viardot household, treated her four children as his own and adored her until he died. She, in turn, critiqued his work and through her connections and social abilities, presented him in the best light whenever they were in public. The exact status of their relationship is a matter of debate. Other men closely linked to her included composers Charles Gounod and Hector Berlioz.

Renowned for her wide range and her dramatic roles on stage, Viardot's performances inspired composers such as Frédéric Chopin, Hector Berlioz, Camille Saint-Saëns, and Giacomo Meyerbeer, for whom she created Fidès in "Le prophète". While she never considered herself a composer, she in fact composed three music collections and also assisted with the writing of music for the roles that were created specifically for her. Later in life, after retiring from the stage, she wrote an opera titled "Le dernier sorcier".

She spoke fluent Spanish, French, Italian, English, German and Russian, and composed songs in a variety of national techniques. Her career took her to the best music halls across Europe, and from 1843 to 1846 she was permanently attached to the Opera in Saint Petersburg, Russia. Such was her popularity that writer George Sand made her into the heroine of her 1843 novel Consuelo.

She was the mezzo-soprano in the Tuba mirum movement of Mozart's Requiem at Chopin's funeral at Église de la Madeleine in Paris on 30 October 1849, which she performed together with the soprano incognito behind a black curtain. [Frederick Niecks, "The Life of Chopin", Novello, Ewers & Co., London and New York, 1888, vol. II, p. 325).] She sang the title role of Gluck's opera "Orphée et Eurydice" at Théâtre Lyrique in Paris in November 1859, directed by Hector Berlioz. She was well acquainted with Jenny Lind, the Swedish soprano and philanthropist, as well as with George Sand, the French novelist. [Pauline Viardot knew well [http://www.iconsofeurope.com/paulineviardot.htm Jenny Lind and George Sand] .]

A notable remark of hers was made to the English soprano Adelaide Kemble when they attended the late concert in London by the great Italian soprano Giuditta Pasta, who was clearly past her prime. Asked by Kemble what she thought of the voice she replied 'Ah! It is a ruin, but then so is Leonardo's Last Supper'.

In 1863, Pauline Viardot-García retired from the stage. She and her family left France due to her husband’s public opposition to Emperor Napoleon III and settled in Baden-Baden, Germany. After the fall of Napoleon III, they returned to France, where she taught at the Paris Conservatory and, until the time of her husband’s passing in 1883, also presided over a music salon in the Boulevard Saint-Germain.

In 1904, her opera "Cendrillon" premiered in Paris. [ [http://opera.stanford.edu/composers/V.html Opera Glass] ]

In 1910, Pauline Viardot died at age eighty-nine surrounded by a loving family. Her body is interred in the Cimetière de Montmartre, Paris, France.

The Villa Viardot in Bougival, near Paris, a gift to the Viardots by Ivan Turgenev in 1874, where so many musicians, painters and poets came, has been restored since 2001, thanks to the actions of the Georges Bizet Association and Patrimoine et Urbanisme. The famous baritone Jorge Chaminé frequently gives master classes there.

Further reading

*FitzLyon, April, "The Price of Genius" (1964), a biography of García-Viardot

References

External links

* [http://www-chucol.mml.cam.ac.uk/users/las36/public_html/intro_en.html#pauline Turgenev and Russian Music: the influence of Pauline Viardot]


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