Braham (real name, Abraham), John

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Braham (real name, Abraham), John

Braham (real name, Abraham), John, renowned English tenor; b. London, March 20, 1774; d. there, Feb. 17, 1856. He studied with Leoni in London, with Rauzzini in Bath, and with Isola in Genoa. He made his debut at Covent Garden (April 21, 1787); then appeared at Drury Lane in 1796, in the opera Mahmoud by Storace. He was subsequently engaged to sing at the Italian Opera House in London. In 1798 he undertook an extensive tour in Italy, and also appeared in Hamburg. Returning to England in 1801, he was increasingly successful. Endowed with a powerful voice of 3 octaves in compass, he knew no difficulties in operatic roles. He was the original Huon in Weber’s Oberon (1826). As a ballad writer, he was very popular; he wrote much of the music for the operatic roles which he sang; often he added portions to operas by other composers, as in The Americans (1811), with its famous song The Death of Nelson; contributed incidental music to 12 productions. In 1831 he entered upon a theatrical business venture; he acquired the Colosseum in Regent’s Park; in 1836 he had the St. James’s Theatre built, but failed to recoup his investment and lost much of his considerable fortune. He made an American tour from 1840 to 1842 despite the weakening of his voice with age; however, his dramatic appeal remained undiminished and he was able to impress the American public in concert appearances. He then returned to London, making made his final appearance in 1852.


J. Mewburn Levien, The Singing of J. B..(London, 1945).

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire