Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Hostname: page-component-6b989bf9dc-md2j5 Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-04-14T22:01:08.376Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

4 - Jenny Lind, Illustration, Song and the Relationship between Prima Donna and Public

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  27 May 2021

Christina Bashford
Affiliation:
Associate Professor of Musicology, School of Music, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Hilary J. Grainger
Affiliation:
Dean of Quality Assurance and Academic Development, London College of Fashion
Roberta Montemorra Marvin
Affiliation:
Director of the Opera Studies Forum in the Obermann Center for Advanced Studies at the University of Iowa and faculty member
Michela Ronzani
Affiliation:
Assistant Professor of Italian, Division of Liberal Arts
David C. H. Wright
Affiliation:
Formerly Reader in the Social History of Music at the Royal College of Music; retired in 2010
Get access

Summary

WHEN, in his 1888 book The Prima Donna, Henry Sutherland Edwards played on longstanding assumptions that prima donnas paid scant respect to the mores of the British public and pursued lifestyles marked by vast incomes and dubious morals, all compounded by their foreignness, he was accentuating a gulf between the singers’ world and that of the population at large. This characterization of the relationship between prima donnas and society should not be accepted unquestioningly, however, for it overlooks an important factor: the cultivation of a perception of major female singers as, on the contrary, espousing respectable social and cultural values. To explore this issue, the present chapter focuses on the case of the Swedish soprano Jenny Lind (1820–87) to investigate the role of imagery, as used by the sheet-music and print-producing industries, in promoting the notion of the archetypal prima donna as endowed with admirable personal qualities in addition to feminine attractiveness. It also considers Lind's choice of repertoire for performance beyond the opera house – a means by which famous singers engaged with society on a broad scale. Here the discussion will concentrate on the ballad, a major genre of English-language song, in relation to her performances in Britain and America.

Having begun her career in her native Stockholm, Lind established an international reputation in Berlin and Vienna before making her London debut at Her Majesty's Theatre on 4 May 1847. Two years later she withdrew from the stage – a decision attributed to anti-theatrical religious sentiment – and turned exclusively to concert and oratorio performances. She undertook a concert tour of the United States from 1850 to 1852, later settling in Britain.

Lind was of a generation able to benefit from a number of important developments that had occurred in the fields of image-making and marketing since 1806, when the etchings that marked the London debut of Angelica Catalani, the outstanding soprano of the early years of the nineteenth century, were created and disseminated. Particular advances dated from the 1820s to the 1840s. Print production increased greatly; indeed, Rodney K. Engen has referred to these decades as having seen a ‘boom in the print industry’. The same period saw crucial developments in music publishing, which has been described by Derek B. Scott as ‘[a]longside the promotion of public performances, […] the most important musical money-making enterprise of the new commercial age’.

Type
Chapter
Information
Publisher: Boydell & Brewer
Print publication year: 2016

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)

Save book to Kindle

To save this book to your Kindle, first ensure coreplatform@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Available formats
×

Save book to Dropbox

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

Available formats
×

Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

Available formats
×