Alboni, Marietta (1823–1894)

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Alboni, Marietta (1823–1894)

Italian contralto. Name variations: Contessa Pepoli. Born Maria Anna Marzia on March 6, 1823, in Città di Castello, Italy; died on June 23, 1894, in Ville d'Avray, France; married Count Pepoli (died 1867), in 1853; married Charles Ziéger, in 1877; studied with Mombelli in Bologna and with Rossini (1841).

Debuted in Bologna (1842) and at the Teatro alla Scala; performed in Russia, Germany, Great Britain, France, and the United States.

Marietta Alboni was born in Cittá di Castello, Italy, on March 6, 1823. At age 19, she appeared in performances of Rossini's Stabat Mater in Parma after studying with the composer that same year. Rossini regarded Alboni as his protégé and helped arrange her debut at the Teatro Communale in Bologna in 1842 as well as her first appearance at the Teatro alla Scala, where she appeared in his Siege of Corinth. Starting her career at the top, she remained one of the 19th century's outstanding contralto voices and appeared widely in Italy until her performance in Turin in 1851, which proved to be her last in Italy.

In 1844–45, Alboni sang in St. Petersburg and then went to Vienna, Prague, Paris, and London. Covent Garden became a permanent opera house after she made her first appearance there in 1847 and was a first-night sensation. "A greater sensation," wrote Hogarth, "probably was never produced by a debutante." She sang in 10 of 17 operas performed in Covent Garden's first season. During 1852–53, Alboni appeared in North America.

The great music critic Henry Chorley described her sound as a rich, deep contralto "as sweet as honey … and with that tremulous quality which reminds fanciful speculators of the quiver in the air of the calm, blazing summer's noon." She sang soprano roles such as Amina in La sonnambula and Zerlina in Don Giovanni and was constantly developing new repertory, which she felt eventually damaged her voice. Still, those who heard her in concert after she left the opera stage thought her voice as "fresh, rich, and powerful as that of a woman half her age"; she did not, however, return to the international opera houses in which she had become so well-known.

suggested reading:

Pougin, A. Marietta Alboni. Paris, 1912.

John Haag , Associate Professor of History, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia

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