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Pauline Garcia Viardot, mezzo soprano Home
Pauline García Viardot (1821-1910) was born in Paris to an acclaimed Spanish opera family, the great Garcias.  Initially back-staged by her beautiful sister Maria Malibran the famous mezzo soprano / soprano, Pauline became eventually herself a celebrated mezzo soprano in Europe.  She took later an interest in composing.  In 1840, she married Louis Viardot, director of the Théatre Italien in Paris.

In act 4 of Chopin and The Nightingale, Pauline Viardot and Jenny Lind sing
(a) Viardot's arrangement “La Beauté”, duo inspired by Chopin’s Mazurka in G major, Op. 67, no. 1;  and (b) Meyerbeer's duo "La mère grand" which they performed for Queen Victoria at Buckingham Palace on 30 May 1856.¹

Pauline Viardot knew Chopin, George Sand and Jenny Lind

  • Paris 1836-1840.  Icons of Europe's research concludes that Chopin played a major role in the 15-year old Pauline Garcia's transformation from a budding concert pianist in 1836 to an international mezzo soprano in 1839.
  • Paris and Nohant 1841-1842.  Jenny Lind studied singing under Chopin, while Pauline Viardot made arrangements of some of his mazurkas.
  • Bonn 1845.  Like many other artists and musicians, Pauline Viardot and Jenny Lind were present at the unveiling of Beethoven's statue in Bonn.  Chopin had received an invitation, but did not come.  Jenny Lind was invited to sing at a private party organized by the Prussian king.
  • London 1847.  Jenny Lind wrote to Amalia Wickmann:  “Give my warm greetings to Viardot.  Tell her that I have never doubted that she is a splendid and magnificent woman, and that it never occurred to me to compare her with the vast majority of ordinary artists, that is, with most of the women singers today.  I am delighted that we shall see each other in London”. - Ware and Lochard, Lost Letters, London 1966 (p. 55).
  • London 1848.  Both Chopin and Jenny Lind wrote to their friends about Viardot's lack of success at the Italian opera in London.  In parallel, Viardot corresponded with George Sand about Chopin (who left Sand in 1847).
  • Paris 1849.  Chopin wrote to Solange Clésinger on 13 April:  “There is a great deal of talk … and about Mme Viardot, who, in the mother’s part, is to make everybody weep” [referring to Meyerbeer's opera Le prophète].
  • Paris 1849.  At Chopin's funeral at La Madeleine, Viardot sang to Mozart's Tuba Mirum.  She and the soprano were hidden behind a black curtain.
  • London 1856.  Jenny Lind and Pauline Viardot performed Meyerbeer's duo La mère grand for Queen Victoria at Buckingham Palace on 30 May.
  • Paris 1859.  Pauline Viardot sang the title role of Gluck's opera Orphée,  directed by Hector Berlioz at Théâtre Lyrique.  The idea to stage this opera a month after the 10-year anniversary of Chopin's death may well have originated from Jenny Lind, who had initiated a cult of commemorating Chopin through Orpheus symbolism (e.g. his tomb at Père-Lachaise).

Photo: Brussels premiere, 11 October 2003
Daniel Blumenthal, piano
Biljana Staffansson, soprano
Ljiljana Jovanovic, soprano
Cecilia Jorgensen, narrator

Brussels Warsaw Toronto NewYork

Research by Cecilia Jorgensen, Icons of Europe.
Copyright © 2007 Icons of Europe B-1380 Lasne.