Since starting this blog in September of 2012, I have never missed a posting, until this week, when the Weekly Warbler temporarily became the Biweekly Warbler. It wasn’t for want of words to share, but rather because I spent the last two weeks traipsing around the cold, dreary streets of London (“to show you something that’ll make you change your mind…”). Actually, I was planning on pulling out my laptop and settling down in an internet café at some point, but then was seduced by the shelves of London’s many illustrious antiquarian bookshops. My favorite discovery, a gold and blue tome, was simply called “Great Singers”, written by Anna Comtesse de Bremont in 1892. Its purchase was made even more thrilling by the fact I had to climb and balance on a real old-fashioned library ladder to access it!
“Great Singers” records the high and low points of 18 colorful opera singers’ careers, ranging from 1770-1877, all of whom were stars in their time and legends after, inspiring roles and a whole host of questionable anecdotes. Some chapters read like hagiographies, others like columns of a gossip magazine. As the phonograph wasn’t invented until 1877, the mystery and glamor of their popularity is intensified by the absence of actual sound recordings.
So how to embalm in words the ethereal beauty of a great voice? Here are a few of Bremont’s more admirable attempts: Continue reading