Adelina Juana Maria Patti

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Adelina Juana Maria Patti

Birthplace: Madrid, Comunidad de Madrid, España
Death: Died
Immediate Family:

Daughter of Salvatore Patti and Caterina Patti
Wife of Ernesto Nicolas Nicolini; Rolf Cederström, Baron and Henri de Roger de Cahusac, Marquis de Caux
Sister of Amalia Strakosch; Carlotta Patti; Carlo Patti and Giuseppe Patti
Half sister of Ettore Barili; Cothilde Barili; Nicola Barili and Antonio Barili

Managed by: Michael Lawrence Rhodes
Last Updated:

About Adelina Juana Maria Patti

Adelina Patti (19 February 1843-27 September 1919) was a highly acclaimed 19th-century opera singer, earning huge fees at the height of her career in the music capitals of Europe and America. She first sang in public as a child in 1851 and gave her last performance before an audience in 1914. Along with her near contemporaries Jenny Lind and Thérèse Tietjens, Patti remains one of the most famous sopranos in history, owing to the purity and beauty of her lyrical voice and the unmatched quality of her bel canto technique.

The composer Giuseppe Verdi, writing in 1877, described her as being perhaps the finest singer who had ever lived and a "stupendous artist". (See J.F. Cone's biography Adelina Patti: Queen of Hearts; Amadeus Press, Portland, US, 1993.) Verdi's admiration for Patti's talent was shared by numerous music critics and social commentators of her era.


She was born Adela Juana Maria Patti, in Madrid, the last child of tenor Salvatore Patti (1800–1869) and soprano Caterina Barili (died 1870). Her Italian parents were working in Madrid, Spain, at the time of her birth. Because her father came from Sicily, Patti was born a subject of the King of the Two Sicilies. She later carried a French passport, as her first two husbands were French.

Adelina's sisters Amalia and Carlotta Patti were also singers. Her brother Carlo Patti was a violinist who married actress Effie Germon. In her childhood, the family moved to New York City. Patti grew up in the Wakefield section of the Bronx, where her family's home is still standing. Patti sang professionally from childhood, and developed into a coloratura soprano with perfectly equalized vocal registers and a surprisingly warm, satiny tone. It is believed that Patti learned much of her singing technique from her brother-in-law Maurice Strakosch, who was a musician and impresario. Later in life Patti, like many famous singers with sizable egos, claimed that she was entirely self-taught.

Vocal development

Adelina Patti made her operatic debut at age 16 on 24 November 1859 in the title role of Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor at the Academy of Music, New York. On 24 August 1860, she and Emma Albani were soloists in the world premiere of Charles Wugk Sabatier's Cantata in Montreal which was performed in honour of the visit of the Prince of Wales. In 1861, at the age of 18, she was invited to Covent Garden, to execute the role of Amina in Bellini's La sonnambula. She had such remarkable success at Covent Garden that season, she bought a house in Clapham and, using London as a base, went on to conquer the European continent, performing Amina in Paris and Vienna in subsequent years with equal success.

Then, in 1862, during an American tour, she sang John Howard Payne's Home, Sweet Home at the White House for the President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, and his wife, Mary Lincoln. The Lincolns were mourning their son Willie, who had died of typhoid. Moved to tears, the Lincolns requested an encore of the song. Henceforth, it would become associated with Adelina Patti, and she performed it many times as a bonus item at the end of recitals and concerts.


From The Australasian (Melbourne), Saturday, 4 October 1919, page 36.


In the late "eighties" I had the distinction of meeting Adelina Patti at her sister's home in Pans. Before then I had, through relatives, become intimately acquainted with other members of the family. Adelina, or La Patti, as she was popularly called, was then about 45, but she looked a girl. Bright, sparkling, vivacious, and even then perhaps the prettiest woman in Europe, she was the life and soul of the Sunday night gatherings at the flat of her sister, Madame Strakosch, and never required pressing to sit at the piano and sing simple airs to her own accompaniment. Madame Strakosch (Amalia Patti) and the other sister, Carlotta, also often sang. Evenings such as those live in one's memory. Maurice Strakosch, one of the three brothers then celebrated as impresarios throughout the whole musical world, often told me of Patti's early days. Strakosch was then director of the New York Opera House. The father of Adelina played in the orchestra, and Amalia was one of the leading singers. Strakosch always maintained that Amalia had the best voice of the family. After marrying Strakosch Amalia retired from the stage. A marvelous teacher of singing, Strakosch devoted himself to teaching Adelina the "bel canto" and under his care she developed the gift which kept the world at her feet for so many years. There was no question of payment. The Patti family had no money. The arrangement was that for a certain number of years he was to receive a certain portion (and a large one) of her earnings. This resulted in Strakosch receiving about. £100,000, and he established Italian opera in Paris in a theatre in the Passage des Panoramas. At that time Gye and Mapleson were competing against each other in London, paying enormous sums for the services of their artists, and Strakosch, without either Government or private financial support, had to carry such a heavy burden that most of his capital was lost. His theatre was also burned down.

Strakosch had another celebrated pupil, Christine Nilsson, whose fame was nearly as great as that of Patti. Another who became famous --.Anna de Belocca -- was also a pupil of his, as also was an American soprano, Emma Thursby, who, however, sang only in concert and oratorio. With never more than one pupil at a time, Strakosch was closely associated with the success of the most celebrated artists of his day. His method was described as wonderful. He was a martinet, and the condition of his pupil was almost that of slavery. Without Strakosch's permission she could hardly stir from her'apartment. '"Work, work all the time," said Miss Thursby one day in describing her experiences. "Strakosch kept me busy every minute of the time I spent under his tuition." He possessed a charming personality, was a wonderful musician, and a thorough man of the world.


[ADELINA] PATTI AND VOICE PRESERVATION, in the Sunday Times (Sydney, New South Wales), Sunday, 1 May 1910, pae 18:

Without 'selling her secret' of voice preservation, Madame Adellna Patti chatted the other day about the modern methods of singing. This is what she said : "Whenever I go to hear one of the new school with, the acrobatic and vocal fireworks, I feel tempted to say, 'My dear, you have beautiful furniture, you have pretty curtains for the windows and charming pictures, but, ma foi, you have no house to put them all in. The great bane of modern singing is wlthout doubt the undue haste to appear before the public without adequate training. How many too- eager aspirants to vocal fame will be singing like Santley at seventy-six, or like Patti at slxty-seven? As she made her first public appearance when she was seven, Madame Patti has had a record-breaking singing career of sixty years. When 'the 'final' retirement of Madame Patti was announced, the New York Musical Courier said the following: "Not enough is said about the late Maurice Strakosch, who was the one man who took Adelina Patti in hand and taught her how to sing, according to what we now call the Garcia, or the bel canto, method, and who also Initiated her in music outside of song. Her sister, Amalia Strakosch, widow of Maurice, and mother of manager Robert Strakosch, is living wlth her bachelor son, in Paris, very much as if in voluntary retirement, seldom hearing from her sister Adelina. This musician, Maurice Strakosch, who was an artist of superb gifts, a pianist with an exquisite touch; Thalberglan in style, a composer of merit for his period, was one of the elements In the attainments of the Patti glory. Another/was; Slgnor Nlcollnl, who in his days was by far the finest intellect among the tenors and a man from whom Adellna Patti acquired many musical Ideas and histrionic points of vast value. Nicolini was Pattl's second husband. The claim of Maurlce Strakosch as Patti's teacher was formally set out in the Strakosch Diary, which was published a while back. The great singer then wrote a letter in which she made this interesting statement : 'My father was my first musical instructor. Next to my father I owe everything to my half-brother, Ettoro Barili. Over and over again it has been stated that 'Strakosch, was my teacher. He taught me a few operas and a few ballads, that was all. My first teacher, my only teacher, was the late Ettoro Barili. It was he who saved my voice. He never forced it; he never permitted me to strain it. He taught me all that could be learned In the Italian method of singing. Ettoro Barili, it is said, taught Madame Patti from her 13th to her 17th year, or at the tlme when she had temporarily retired from public life before making her debut In opera. Carlotta Patti, her sister, was a graduate of Milan Conservatory in piano; a singer, the brilliant Carlotta Patti toured Australia well nigh thirty years ago, under the management Otto Vivo, who brought Murska to this country. The stout sister of 'la diva' sang at our Thentre Royal In concerts. Her lameness made It impossible for Carlotta Patti to appear In opera. The teaching of Adelina Palti may be a matter for argument, but it cannot be made a question that the wonderful singer has been sustained In a wonderful career by her natural gift of singing naturally. Endowed with a voice of great beauty, Patti obtained complete control over.. It by her plan of never forcing and always keeping it In a normal condition by tho excrcise of great care and tenderness. There was no abundance of temperament, there was no superabundance of temperament, and hence no appetite for the dissipations of the overwrought singer who subjects the voice to strains which are brought about by all kinds of exposures and ill-differences to the hygiene of the artist's life. She sang what was adapted to her style. When Patti sang Alda and Leonora she knew that she was out of her element, and rarely essayed those roles. In the high soprano parts she was the brightest example to the vocal world, and as she combined agility with an even compass of exceptional smoothness, together with warmth and a naive 'style of delivery, she soon became the choice of the public, who recognized her superb control of the vocal technlque. She laid great stress upon tho study of recitative, for that gave her her opportunity for temperamental delivery. Wagner she wisely evaded, as Madame Melba did after a few experiments. Her voice would have succumbed to Wagner's vocal demands. It may be safely set down that Adelina Patti will not retire even this year, for should she live into very old age, which everybody wishes, she will still continue to farewell and sing 'Home, Sweet Home.' until the very last red or white rose of Summer has faded forever. The diva need not fear. As long as the present system, or lack of system, of vocal training continues, there will always be thousands ready to listen to her, for her style alone. Chiefly, however, It may be recommended to all singers and vocalists to follow her example of attending to the voice with delicacy of treatment by living a healthy, normal life, keeping regular hours for tho duties of the body and mind, cultivating abstemiousness, and preserving a refined mental atitude. With her great art, Adelina Patti has also shown herself to be the possessor of that rare quality known as common-sense.


Separation from Adelina Patti reported in the Wagga Wagga Advertiser, New South Wales, Australia, page 1S:

The Marquise de Caux, apcompanied by her advocate, M. Devormandie, appeared a day or two ago before the Civil Tribunal of the Seine to sue for authorisation of separation from her husband. The Marquis de Caux was also present, with his counsel, M. Maza. The husband and wife were ushered into the private chamber of the President, in order that the usual statutory attempt at reconciliation should be made, but all representations failing, the Judge issued an order authorising the lady to present her demand, and allowing her in the meantime to reside with her sister, Madame Strakosch, The same decree gives Madame Patti leave, during the suit, to sing at Paris, Vienna, London, and other cities where she has engagements.


Obituary in The Sydney Morning Herald (New South Wales, Australia, Monday, 29 September 1919, page 8:


The death of Adelina Pattl, announced by cable, removes from the great world of celebrities a woman whose name has become a household word for sweetness and brilliancy In song, for charm of person, and for widely acknowledged popularity. This great singer was taken seriously ill at her castle in Wales late In February of this year. She then removed to Brighton for change of air, and returned to her estate to Cralg-y-nos, Brecon, South Wales.

Maurice Strakosch, who married Adellna Pattl's elder sister, Amalia (contralto), when the celebrity of the future was only six years of age, was tho author of Souvenirs d'un Impresarlo, and in those memoirs he states that in 1850 the little genius was eight (no month named) Grove's Dictionary authoritatively pronounced, however, that she was born at Madrid on February 10, 1843, the youngest daughter of Salvatore Patti, an Italian singer, by his marriage with Caterina Barili, also an operatic artist. The Patti family emigrated from Spain to New York City in 1846, and they occupied a square, red-brick house In tho rural town of Wakefield, now absorbed as a northern suburb of the metropolis. The house still stands, as also the old Mount Vernon Hotel, where little Adelina, the most precocious vocalist who ever lived, used to sing as a child to audiences in the big parlour. The parents also brought with them Carlotta, their child born at Florence in 1840, who became famous as a concert singer, and Carlo, a violinist, who was afterwards a leader of operatic orchestras. Salvatore Pattl managed Italian opera in New York for a time, but was replaced in 1850 by Max Marotzek, who In that year Introduced Adelina as a prodigy-vocalist. The little girl sang the final rondo of "La Somnámbula," and the "Echo Song" popularised by Jenny Lind. Her success was startling. From that time for three years until she was 11 the little girl toured the United States with her elder sister and Maurice Strakosch. The latter was a pianist, tenor singer, teacher of singing, and talented man of affairs, and he formed a party for his fledgling in which Ole Bull, the famous Norwegian violinist, also starred. The enterprise was highly remunerative, but Strakosch returned his tiny singing bird to her parents, advising them to rest the voice until she was at least 15-which did not prevent them taking her to India with Gottschalk, pianist-composer. However, In 1859 Strakosch (who, by the way, Is the uncle of a well-known musical family In Sydney named Alexander), became director of Italian opera in New York, "and there, at the age of 16," he records, "Adelina Patti made her first appearance (as Lucia) on any stage (November 24). Adelina appeared that New York season In 12 different operas to crowded houses. Study was no trouble to her, and she had tried her volce at all of them In the home-circle as a child. After that astounding success Strakosch generously tore up the girl's full year's agreement, and gave her a fresh con-tract for the same term, rising annually from two to three, four, and five thousand francs (£200) a month. About a year later he took her to London, where she made her debut on May 14, 1861 (as Amina), and at once became the rage at a salary twice that of her last American contract. The now light soprano then visited Brussels, Berlin (where she shared the honours of the season with Pauline Lucca, another youthful celebrity), Amsterdam, The Hague, and Paris. Her salary ln Paris, and for some years In London, was £120 a night. Long years after that Colonel Mapleson was paying this prima donna £1000 a night during her tour of the United States, but such fees were generally ruinous to the manager. Patti sang at Covent Garden every year from 1861 to 1884, at Her Majesty's under Mapleson In 1886 and 1887, and at six special performances at Covent Garden in 1895. When It was no longer possible to persist In the arduous art of an operatic career, Pattl made mints of money as a concert singer both in Great Britain and in America.

In the middle 1890s, she declined to visit Australia on the ground that "her voice was not what It was." In 1906 her first farewell at the Royal Albert Hall drew 8000 people. She then toured the provinces In a prolonged farewell, and made her supposedly final appearance at the Royal Albert Hall at the end of 1907 for the benefit of Mr. Percy Harrison, her concert-manager. Adelina Patt!, who was exceedingly pretty, dark, and petite, with an abundance of natural vivacity and a silvery laugh, married Henri, Marquis do Caux, equerry to Napoleon III, in 1868, and was separated from him in 1877, a divorce being granted in 1885; secondly, in 1886, she was married to the Italian tenor Nicolinl (Ernesto Nicholas), who sang with her for years, and died In 1898; and thirdly, in 1899, to Baron Sederstrom, a Swede. During the great war Mme. Pattl occasionally emerged from her retirement to sing for patriotic purposes.