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Marchesi, Mathilde (1821–1913)

Marchesi, Mathilde (1821–1913)

German mezzo-soprano and celebrated voice teacher whose students included Nellie Melba, Mary Garden and Emma Calvé . Name variations: Mathilde de Castrone Marchesi. Born Mathilde Graumann at Frankfort-Am-Main, Germany, on March 26 (also seen as March 20 and 24), 1826 (some sources cite 1821, but 1826 seems more probable); died in London, England, on November 17, 1913; studied in Vienna and Paris and was highly educated; married the Marchese della Rajata Castone, a political refugee who adopted the nom de théâtre Salvatore Marchesi (1822–1908, an Italian baritone and composer), in 1852; children: daughter Blanche Marchesi (1863–1940), who was also a concert and opera singer.

Mathilde Marchesi was born Mathilde Graumann at Frankfort-Am-Main, Germany, in 1826, into a family of some distinction; one of her relatives was Baron Haussmann, the famous prefect under Napoleon III. Mathilde, who was persuaded to take up music as a profession by Mendelssohn, studied in Paris under Manuel Garcia, the father of Pauline Viardot and Maria Malibran . She also took lessons in acting from Joseph-Isidore Samson, the teacher of Rachel , and had the opportunity to hear all the major singers of her age—Fanny Persiani, Giulia Grisi, Marietta Alboni , and Caroline Duprez . Mathilde's early aptitude for teaching was so apparent that when Garcia was temporarily incapacitated as the result of an accident, Marchesi took over the private lessons for every one of his students.

She first appeared as a mezzo-soprano concert singer in London in 1849 and then on the Continent. Though it was said her voice was pleasing, it was also said that it was not remarkable. As Mlle Graumann, she sang successfully in Germany, Belgium, Holland, Switzerland, France, and the United Kingdom.

In 1852, Mathilde met and married the Marchese della Rajata Castone, an Italian political refugee in London who was also a well-known baritone and composer; he adopted the nom de théâtre Salvatore Marchesi. Soon after, Mathilde became a teacher of singing, first as professor at the Vienna Conservatory (1854–61 and 1868–78), then Paris (1861–64) and Cologne (1865–68). One of her early pupils was Ilma di Murska . Eventually settling in Paris, Mathilde established École Marchesi around 1881, maintaining a salon that would become one of the most important circles of musical life in the city until 1908.

Marchesi, whose method stressed vocal longevity, published several books on vocalism, but is chiefly celebrated for the great opera singers who studied with her. Among her pupils were her daughter Blanche, Etelka Gerster, Mary Garden, Nellie Melba, Emma Eames, Emma Calvé, Sibyl Sanderson, Selma Kurz , and Frances Alda . In her lifetime, Marchesi was awarded the Golden Cross of Merit with the Crown from the emperor of Austria, and gold medals for Arts and Sciences from the royals of Italy, England, Saxony, Prussia, and Russia.

suggested reading:

Marchesi, Mathilde. Marchesi and Music: Passages from the Life of a Famous Singing Teacher. New York and London: Harper & Brothers, 1898.

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