Adelina Patti (1843-1919)
Produced at Covent Garden (London), 14th June, 1884.
On the 14th of the past month the unconscionable dullness of the operatic season at Covent Garden was enlivened by the rentree of Madame Adelina Patti in the part of Violetta, at once her favourite and the public's. The Queen of Song was enthusiastically greeted by such an audience' as she alone, of all living prime donne, can draw to the largest of London theatres. She was looking lovelier than ever, having acquired a becoming embonpoint during her sojourn in the States. Her singing and acting were in every respect as inimitable as they have been for many a past year. The fatigues and worries of her long American tour have not in the least affected her good looks, high spirits, or incomparable voice, the middle and lower registers of which, to my mind, have gained in power, and if possible, improved in quality. As she was executing the fioriture in the second act with the mellow finish that distinguishes her coloratur from that of all the other eminent vocalists of the day - with the solitary exception, perhaps, of Madame Scalchi - a skilled Transatlantic songstress in my immediate neighbourhood exclaimed audibly, "What rich, gorgeous velvet! and how she rolls it out, without effort and by yards innumerable, don't she!" The epithet struck me as a peculiarly happy one, most graphically descriptive of Madame Patti's mellifluent production. What a pity that such superlative talent as hers should be associated with mediocrity, not to say incompetence, at Covent Garden! On the occasion of her reappearance, Alfredo was impersonated by a tenor who sang his notes with uninteresting correctness, but could neither act nor look his part; whilst Giorgio, although an artist of such long experience that he ought to be able to sing all Verdi's baritone parts backwards, actually missed his cues in more than one important musical "situation," and was only saved from breaking down by the conductor's presence of mind. Few operas, even at the Garden - where seediness is the rule rather than the exception - are so dismally mounted and shabbily dressed as the "Traviata," with respect to which the management's indifference to accessories, though by no means praiseworthy, is easily explicable. An impresario disposing of a paramount attraction such as Adelina Patti may possibly deem himself exonerated from the obligation to set and cast an opera up to that attraction's level. To me, I confess, it seems his duty to make the setting worthy of the jewel. In all probability, however, circumstances over which he has no control prevent Mr. Gye from gratifying public expectation in this particular regard.
'The Theatre' - 1st July, 1884