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 Barilli (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. Her 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 she retired from the stage. A marvellous teacher of singing, Strakosch devoted himself to teaching Adelina the "be! 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 heay 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 Strakoseh'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 havo protly 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 lo ajjpear before the pub lic -without adeqiiate,'tralning. How many too eager aspirants' to vocal. fame will be singing like Santley at seventy-six, or like Patti at slxty-soven ? As she ma do hor first public appearance when she was seven, Madamo Patti has had a record breaking singirigvearoer of sixty years. When 'the 'final' retirement of Madamo Patti was announced. the New Yor.k 'Musi- cal Courier' had the following.: r'Not enough is said about -the1 late Mauiico Strakosch, who was the one man who took Adellna Patt 1 in hand and faugh t her how to sing, according to what we. now call the Garcia,, or the -her canto, method, and who also Initiated 'her s in muski outside- of song. . Her sister, Amalia Strakosch, widow .of Maurice, arid mother of manager Robert Strakosch, .Is living \Vlth her 'bachelor soo, in Paris, very much as if in voluntary .'retirement, seldom hearing from her sister Adelina. ;_ This musician, Mau rice Strakosplv who was an artist of superb .'gifts, a pianist with an exquisite touch; Thaiberglan in. style, a composer of merit for his period, was one of the elenients In the I attainments of the Patti glory. -Another/was; Slgnor Nlcollnl, who in his days was by far.'thn finest' Intellect among the tenors and a man from- whom- Adellna Patti acquired many musical Ideas and histrionic points of vasti.valuo.VNIco-. llnl was Pa.ttl's second husband.' The claim of JMaurlco -- Strakosch as Pattl'R teacher was formally-set out lri the 'Strakosch: Diary,' wJiich was' pub lished a while back.1 ; The great singer then wrote1 a letter, In which she-made 'this. Interesting statement : 'My father was my first musical; instructor^ , Next to my father r owe'; everything to riiy half irother, Ettoro Barlll.' Over and over again it has been stated that 'StrakoscJi, was my teacher. ? He taught, me a low operas and a few ballads, that ' waB :all. My first teacher, my.only teacher, was the late Ettoro Barlll. ' It was ho Av.horsayed my voice. He never; he' lieyer; ?permitted mo to ;IIe taught me all that -could bo learned In the Italian method of singing. Ettoro .'Barlll, it*ls said, taught Madame Pattlvfrbin her 13th ?to her ,17th year, or at thd',tlmewhen sho' had temiiorarlly retired from public life before making her debut In opera. Car lotta Patti ,her sister, who'was a gradu nisn 1°,^ ,5 M'an Conservatory in piano;

a singer, Iho brilliant Carlotla Patti loured Australln well nigh thirty years ago, under the management ot Do, Vivo, ?who brought lima 111 .Murska to this country. The stout sister of 'la diva' sang at our Thentre Royal In concerts. Her lameness made It impossible for Car lotta Patti to iippear In opera. The teaching of Adellna Palti may be a matter for argument, nut it. cannot bo made a question that tho, wonderful singer has 'been sustained In a wonderful career lliy -her natural gift ot 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 excrciso of groat care and tenderness. There was no abundance of temperament, There was no superabundance of tem perament, and hence no appetite for the dissipations of the overwrought singer who subjects the -voice to strains which aro brought about, by nil' kinds of ex posures and ill-differences to tlie hygiene of tho artist's life. Sho sang what was adapted to her style. When Patti sang Aldii and Leonora she knew that she was out of her element, and rarely essayed those roles. In the high soprano parts sho was the brightest example to tho vocal world, and as she combined agility with an even compass of exceptional smoothness, -together with warmth and a naive 'style of delivery, sho soon became thi) choice of the public, who recognised her superb control of the vocal t'eclinlque. She laid great stress upon tho study ot recitative, for that gave her her oppor tunity for ?temperamental delivery. Wag ner she wisely, evaded, us Madame Melba did after a few experiments. . Her voice would havo succumbed to Wagner's vocal demands. It may bo safely set down that*. Adclina Patti will not retire even this year, for should she live Into very old age, 'which ever.vtbody wishes, she will still coiuliiuu lo farewell and sihg 'Home, Sweet Home.' until the very last red or whito rose ot Summer has faded forever. The diva need not fenr. As long ns the pre sent, system, or lack of system, of vocal training continues, there will always bo thousands ready to listen to hej;, for her style alone. Chiefly, however, It may bo 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 atitudc. With her great art, Adellna Patti has also shown herself to -be the possessor of that rare quality known as common-sense.


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 Patt!, an Italian singer, by his marriage with Caterina Barilli, 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 Ade- lina, 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 Flor- ence in 1840, who became famous as a con- cert 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 In- troduced Adelina as a prodigy-vocalist. The little girl sang the final rondo of "La Som- námbula," and tho "Echo Song" popularised by Jenny Lind. Her success was startling. From that time for three years until ano was 11 tho little girl starred 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 remunera- tive, 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 thom 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 Syd- ney named Alexander), became director of Italian opera in New York, "and there, at the age of IG," he records, "Adelina Patt! 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 volco at all of them In the home-circle as a child. After that astounding success Strakosch generously toro up the girl's full year's agreement, and gavo 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 be- came the rage at a salary twice that of her last American contract. The now light so- prano then visited Brussels, Berlin (where she shared the honours of the season with Pau- line Lucca, another youthful celebrity), Am- sterdam, The Hague, and Paris. Her Balary ln^ Paris, and for some years In Lon- don, 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! Pattl sang at Covent Garden every year from 1861 to 1884, at Her Majesty's under Maple son In 1886 and 1887, and at six special per- formances 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 América. John Lemmono. the Australian flautist, toured with her many times In the middle 'Nineties, when 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 bene- fit of Mr. Percy Harrison, her concert-man- ager. Adelina Patt!, who was exceedingly pretty, dark, and petite, with an abundance of na- tural 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 lu 1885; secondly, lirMSSG, 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 Cederstrom, a Swede. During the great war Mme. Pattl occasion- ally emerged from her retirement to sing for patriotic purposes.