Salvini-Donatelli, Fanny (c. 1815–1891)

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Salvini-Donatelli, Fanny (c. 1815–1891)

Italian soprano who was the first Violetta. Name variations: Francesca Lucchi. Born around 1815 in Florence; died in June 1891 in Milan.

Fanny Salvini-Donatelli is best remembered as the soprano who created the role of Violetta in the disastrous first performance in March 1853 of the Verdi opera La Traviata. Violetta, based on Alphonsine Plessis , is a young woman dying of consumption. When the healthy, very plump Salvini-Donatelli made her appearance on stage, the audience burst into laughter at the thought that she was supposed to have a terminal illness. She had been given the role for her vocal ability, over Verdi's objections that she was miscast. However, her reputation and her voice managed to salvage the opera, and certainly it did not end her career. By the time of La Traviata, Salvini-Donatelli was a soprano well known across her native Italy. She debuted in Venice in 1839, and was acclaimed for her flexible and expressive technique. In addition to her performance as Violetta, she sang opera across Italy regularly. In 1842, she went abroad to perform in Vienna, moved on to Paris, and closed her career singing in London in the late 1850s. Salvini-Donatelli retired in 1859 about age 44, but performed again in 1865. She returned to Italy and retired again in Milan, where she died in 1891.

Laura York , M.A. in History, University of California, Riverside, California

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