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J.B. Steane

(b La Valetta, Malta, Jan 18, 1873; d Munich, Sept 13, 1926). German tenor . He trained first for the medical profession, specializing in neurology at Leipzig University, and it was not until he was nearly 30 that his ability as a singer was discovered by Arthur Nikisch and he began to study singing with Richard Müller. He made his stage début in ...

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Christopher Raeburn

(b Pesaro, Sept 4, 1766; d ?Dresden, 1825). Italian baritone. He studied in Senigallia with Pietro Morandi and appeared on the stage at the age of 13. He completed his studies with Laschi in Florence, where he appeared at the Pergola Theatre. In 1784 he joined Bondini’s company in Prague and in 1786 sang Count Almaviva in the first Prague performance of Le nozze di Figaro; the next year he created the name part in Don Giovanni (1787). He is said to have asked Mozart to write him another air in place of ‘Fin ch’han dal vino’ and to have induced Mozart to rewrite ‘Là ci darem’ five times. In later years he stressed that no two performances were the same and that Mozart had specifically wished that he should improvise as long as he paid attention to the orchestra.

Bassi was praised in the Gothaer Taschenkalendar...

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Dominique-René de Lerma

(b Washington, DC, April 16, 1864; d Philadelphia, PA, Dec 1, 1906). American soprano. She grew up in Providence, singing in public there and in Boston while still quite young. She first appeared in New York (at Steinway Hall) and Philadelphia in 1885, at which time she became a member of James Bergen’s Star Concert Company, replacing Nellie Brown. She married Bergen in 1887. During the years 1887–96 she toured internationally, singing before Pope Leo XIII and the royal families of Hawaii and Great Britain, and in New Zealand and Africa; her later tours with the bass Gerard Millar included a visit to Australia in 1899. She also sang in opera excerpts with the South Before the War Company, as well as at Boston’s Music Hall. Her repertory was much like that of other traveling singers of her time, and included both ballads and arias, mostly from operas by Bellini, Donizetti, and Rossini....

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Philip E.J. Robinson

revised by Cormac Newark

(Amable)

(b Nantes, Sept 30, 1822; d Paris, May 2, 1872). French bass. At first he was trained as a doctor, like his father, and subsequently practised as such in Caen, but he moved to Paris and from 1845 to 1847 studied at the Conservatoire with the younger Garcia. He made his début at the Opéra-Comique as Sulpice in La fille du régiment (22 June 1848). A versatile actor, capable of florid singing and possessing an extensive range, he was soon entrusted with principal roles in new operas by Halévy, Adam, Thomas and others, one of his best being that of Peter the Great in Meyerbeer’s L’étoile du nord (16 February 1854). His career was interrupted by a serious throat ailment in 1857, but in 1860 he appeared at the Théâtre Lyrique as Jacques Sincère in Halévy’s Val d’Andorre (a role he had created 12 years earlier) and in the première of Gounod’s ...

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Elizabeth Forbes

(b Paris, 1838; d Paris, 1888). French soprano. After appearing as a child in Offenbach’s Pépito at the Théâtre des Variétés, Paris, she made her début in 1860 at the Théâtre Italien as Amina (La sonnambula). She sang Oscar in the first Paris performance of Un ballo in maschera...

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Elizabeth Forbes

(b Hamburg, 1849; d Herne Bay, Kent, Oct 15, 1926). German, later British, mezzo-soprano. She studied in London at the RAM and made her début in Dublin in 1866. She first sang at Covent Garden in 1868, as Siébel in Faust, and returned there every year until 1905...

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Elizabeth Forbes

(b Aub, nr Ochsenfurt, Nov 15, 1838; d Munich, Nov 18, 1903). German bass. He studied in Munich, making his début there in 1854 at the Hofoper, where he was engaged for 46 years. A fine actor, equally gifted for comic and serious opera, he had a wide repertory ranging from Mozart’s Figaro and Leporello and Rossini’s Don Basilio to Caspar (...

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Elizabeth Forbes

(b Budapest, May 5, 1827; d Bratislava, April 9, 1904). Hungarian baritone. He studied in Vienna and made his début in 1851 as the Speaker (Die Zauberflöte) at the Hofoper, where he was engaged from 1853 for over 30 years. He sang Don Giovanni at the opening of the new Opera (...

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Richard Wigmore

(b Vienna, 1814; d Vienna, March 4, 1879). Austrian tenor. After studying with Joseph Staudigl, he began his career in Prague in 1838. He subsequently had great success in St Petersburg, where he was dubbed ‘the king of tenors’. In 1848 Beck was engaged at the Hoftheater in Weimar, where he created the title role in Wagner’s ...

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J.B. Steane

(b Aberaman, Wales, March 16, 1863; d New York, NY, Dec 26, 1937). Welsh tenor. Though he won an Eisteddfod gold medal when only 19, his career as a singer made little headway until 1903. He had immigrated to the United States, living in Pittsburgh and Cleveland, where he worked in a steel factory and sang with choirs and in oratorio. He had a remarkable voice, however, and attracted the attention of Walter Damrosch in New York. He was engaged first to sing the solo part in Berlioz’s Requiem as part of the centenary celebrations of 1903, and was then heard in a concert performance of Parsifal. Many important occasions followed, such as the New York premiere of Strauss’s Taillefer, some of the first performances in the United States of Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde, and a performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony with Mahler himself conducting. The Cincinnati Festival heard him first in ...

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Elizabeth Forbes

(b Lugo, 1793; d New York, Aug 1849). Italian bass. He made his début at Modena in 1813 in Pavesi’s Ser Marcantonio, and soon became a leading exponent of buffo roles in Italy. In 1816 he married the soprano Giuseppina Ronzi and the same year sang at La Scala, as the King of Scotland in Mayr’s Ginevra di Scozia. He created the role of Dandini in Rossini’s La Cenerentola at the Teatro Valle, Rome, in 1817. Two years later he and his wife appeared in Paris as Don Basilio and Rosina in Il barbiere di Siviglia, and as Geronio and Fiorilla in Il turco in Italia. They repeated the latter roles at their début in London at the King’s Theatre in 1821. De Begnis took part in a concert performance of Mosè in Egitto at Covent Garden in 1822, three months before Rossini’s opera was staged, as Pietro l’eremita...

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Elizabeth Forbes

(Ignace)

(b Namur, Dec 23, 1787; d London, Dec 19, 1863). French tenor. He made his début at the Paris Opéra in 1815, but much of his career was spent in England. He was first heard in London at the King’s Theatre on 13 January 1816 (billed as Signor Begri) in Paer’s Griselda; that season he also sang Guglielmo in Così fan tutte (with Braham as Ferrando), and the following year appeared in Paisiello’s La molinara and Mozart’s La clemenza di Tito (as Annius). In 1819 he sang Ottavio in Don Giovanni and Monostatos in Die Zauberflöte; and in 1824 he appeared in two Rossini operas, as Roderigo in Otello and as Narciso in Il turco in Italia. His career is discussed in W.C. Smith: The Italian Opera and Contemporary Ballet in London 1789–1820 (London, 1955). After giving up the stage, he continued to sing in concert for many years, and also taught singing in London. In an age famous for its fine tenors he had neither the remarkable voice nor the virtuoso technique of a Davide or a Garcia, but his musicality and his dependability made him a valuable member of the Italian opera company in London at a time when artistic, as opposed to purely vocal, standards were not high....

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J.B. Steane

(b Paris, Dec 1, 1854; d Nice, Jan 16, 1923). French bass. He studied at the Paris Conservatoire and made his début as Baskir in Félicien David’s Lalla-Roukh for the Opéra-Comique in 1879. He remained with the company until 1916, taking a wide variety of roles, some of them comic and comprimario such as the Sacristan in ...

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W.H. Husk

(Ludford)

(b Westminster, London, 1770; d London, Jan 3, 1843). English bass, son of Richard Bellamy. He was educated in the choir of Westminster Abbey under Benjamin Cooke, and sang in the Handel Commemoration of 1784. He studied with Tasca, and sang in London in cathedral choirs and at concerts until 1794, when he went to Ireland. He became stage manager at the Dublin Theatre Royal in 1797 and made his début there on 9 February 1798. In 1800 he became part proprietor of the Manchester, Chester, Shrewsbury and Lichfield theatres. In 1803 he sold his share and became sole proprietor of the Belfast, Londonderry and Newry theatres. This speculation proving unsuccessful, he returned to London and sang at the Covent Garden theatre for five years; in 1812 he was engaged for five years at Drury Lane theatre. From 1819 to 1838 he was choirmaster at the chapel of the Spanish Embassy; in ...

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Elizabeth Forbes

(b Sarzana, Feb 17, 1813; d Sarzana, Dec 27, 1890). Italian baritone. He studied with Pilotti in Bologna and made his début in Stockholm in 1838 as Figaro (Il barbiere di Siviglia); he then appeared there with Jenny Lind in Robert le diable (1839) and ...

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Elizabeth Forbes

(b La Fère, Aisne, June 2, 1819; d Paris, Sept 13, 1876). French bass. He studied at the Paris Conservatoire and made his début in 1846 at Antwerp. After singing in Toulouse, Lyons, the Hague, Ghent and Brussels, he was engaged at the Paris Opéra, making his début in 1855 as Marcel in Les Huguenots. His roles included Bertram (Robert le diable), Balthazar (La favorite), Walter Furst (Guillaume Tell) and Zaccharie (Le prophéte). He took part in many premiéres and created Gargantua in Labarre’s Pantagruel (1855), the Count of Poitou in Halévy’s La magicienne (1858), Soloman in Gounod’s La reine de Saba (1862), Archbishop Turpin in Mermet’s Roland à Roncevaux (1864), Don Pédro in L’Africaine (1865) and King Claudius in Thomas’ Hamlet (1868). His voice was a deep bass, ample in size and dark in tone. He made his last appearance at the Opéra in ...

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John Rosselli

(b Ravenna, 1827/8; d Nice, March 5, 1901). Italian soprano. The child of illiterate parents, she studied in Milan with Antonio Piacenti and in 1850 was apprenticed to the Bolognese composer Federico Dallara; with him (and his wife) she lived for nine years in what seems to have been at first a relationship of total, possibly sexual, dependence. She made her début in 1850 at Venice as Elvira in Ernani; after scoring a notable success at the San Carlo, Naples, in 1851, she sang in all the major Italian houses. Verdi objected to her in 1853 as a possible Violetta because she was too much the powerful dramatic soprano, but he exploited her resources in 1857 when she created Amelia in Simon Boccanegra; she was also successful as Amelia (Un ballo in maschera), Lady Macbeth, and Valentine in Les Huguenots. After appearances at the Liceo in Barcelona in ...

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Elizabeth Forbes

(b Loreto, Oct 17, 1778; d after 1828). Italian bass. He made his début in 1805 and, after singing at Venice, Reggio Emilia and other cities, appeared in 1811 in Spontini’s La vestale at S Carlo. There he created the following roles in operas by Rossini: Elmiro in Otello (1816); Idraote in Armida (1817); the title role in Mosè in Egitto and Ircano in Ricciardo e Zoraide (1818), Phoenicius in Ermione and Douglas in La donna del lago (1819); and Leucippo in Zelmira (1822). He also sang Atkins in the first performance of Donizetti’s Alfredo il grande (1823), Clemente in the première of Bellini’s Bianca e Gernando (1826) and the King in the first performance of Donizetti’s Gianni di Calais (1828), the last named at the Teatro del Fondo. He visited London in ...

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J.B. Steane

(b Brünn [now Brno], April 17, 1874; d New York, Feb 27, 1915). German baritone, later tenor . He was a pupil of Adolf Robinson, who also taught Leo Slezak and Joseph Schwarz. His début as Telramund in his native city in 1896 was followed by engagements at Olmütz (now Olomouc) and Berlin, where he remained as principal baritone for the next ten years. At Bayreuth where he sang first in 1901, his roles were Gunther, Amfortas and Klingsor. As his early recordings show, he had a sturdy high baritone voice, useful in Verdi as well as Wagner, and when in 1909 he made the change to tenor he encompassed heroic roles such as Radames, Otello and Samson, though still specializing in Wagnerian heroes. It was for these that he was engaged in 1913 by the Metropolitan, where his début as Siegmund early in 1914 was described as ‘manly, interesting and commendable’ (W. J. Henderson). He went on to sing Walther, Tristan, Lohengrin, Parsifal and Siegfried, but contracted pleurisy and died at the height of his career....