B1764. SUZANNE DESTERNES & HENRIETTE CHANDET. La Malibran et Pauline Viardot. Paris, Fayard, 1969. 271pp. Bibliography; Photos; Illus. (French Text) (Pictorial thick paper covers) - 35-5065-4
"Born in 1808, Maria Malibran was one of the most beautiful and accomplished opera singers of her day. Those who attended her performances were enraptured, ecstatic; she was mobbed by screaming fans like any twentieth century pop star. Yet her influence went further for, more than any of her contemporaries on the stage, she personified the moods and aspirations of the Romantic Age, and she became the muse of poets, novelists and painters. From the moment of her death in 1836 - at the age of 28 - she was deified; she became an idealised figure, with no apparent human failings. Existing biographies of La Malibran tend to perpetuate the myths that have surrounded her. April Fitzlyon has sought instead to explore the reality behind the cult of the superstar: the sad catalogue of incest, bigamy, hysteria and unwanted pregnancies that shadowed her career. She was, in the context of the time, a doubly disadvantaged person: an actress, and a woman; a goddess on the stage, fêted by her public, an outcast from it, received as little more than a servant into the salons of Paris. The continual struggle to placate her audiences and balance her public and private lives made her a victim of her very success. Like many modern superstars, she cracked under the strain and her death, although apparently the result of an accident was the only possible solution to her problems. Using much unpublished material, this readable and carefully researched biography exposes La Malibran's personal life for the first time, described her impact on French literature and explores the phenomenon of her cult. It also provides an absorbing study of the period: an age of revolution, emotion and free expression with, nonetheless, its underlying code of rigid morality. Seen as the tragic figure she was, La Malibran's brilliance as singer and actress remains untarnished, but her very human vulnerability highlights the heavy price that must be paid for meteoric success."
“Maria Malibran was a mezzo-soprano who commonly sang both contralto and soprano parts and was one of the most famous opera singers of the 19th century. Malibran was known for her stormy personality and dramatic intensity, becoming a legendary figure after her death at age 28. Contemporary accounts of her voice describe its range, power and flexibility as extraordinary.
Malibran sang the title rôle at the première of Donizetti's MARIA STUARDA. Malibran became romantically involved with the Belgian violinist, Charles Auguste de Bériot. The pair lived together as a common-law couple for six years and a child was born to them in 1833 (the piano pedagogue Charles-Wilfrid de Bériot), before Maria obtained an annulment of her earlier marriage to Malibran. Felix Mendelssohn wrote an aria accompanied by a solo violin especially for the couple. Malibran sang at the Paris Opéra among other major opera houses. In Paris, she met and performed with Michael Balfe.
Malibran is most closely associated with the operas of Rossini – she sang, among others, TANCREDI (title rôle), OTELLO (both Desdemona and title rôle), IL TURCO IN ITALIA, LA CENERENTOLA and SEMIRAMIDE (both Arsace and title rôle) but also sang in Meyerbeer's IL CROCIATO IN EGITTO and enjoyed great success in Bellini's operas NORMA, LA SONNAMBULA and I CAPULETI E I MONTECCHI (Romeo). Besides Bellini's Romeo, she also performed the same character in two other then-famous operas: GIULIETTA E ROMEO by Zingarelli and GIULIETTA E ROMEO by Vaccai. Bellini wrote a new version of his I PURITANI to adapt it to her mezzo-soprano voice and even promised to write a new opera especially for her, but he died before he was able to do so.”
- Zillah Dorset Akron