Article on emerging American female vocal talent

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Last Updated:
30 December 2018

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02 Oct 1868

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Article: New York Herald, 02 October 1868.

“Italy has had the honor for a long time of supplying the world with operatic artists. The tenors, sopranos, baritones, contraltos and bassos of that country have monopolized the opera houses and concert halls of all countires. They have spread as far and have been almost as numerous as that other class of Italian aritsts, the itinerant and ubiquitous organ grinders. Occasionally there has been a Swedish nightingale, a German linnet, an English lark, or a French canary, but these are rare exceptions; almost all the sweet warblers come from sunny Italy. Under its bright skies and in its transparent atmosphere the sweetest and richest voices have been produced. The people of all civilized nations have been greatly indebted to that country for the refined and exquisite pleasure of hearing the finest singers in opera. This great gift to the Italians has led also to the highest cultivation of music in Italy, and, as a consequence, that country has produced the best composers and teachers.


But Italy must now look jealously to her laurels, for America threatens to eclipse her in supplying the operatic world with singers. Within the last few years our prime donne have not only held the first position in opera here, but have become the favorites in Europe as well. We may mention the great success and popularity of Miss Kellogg abroad, Mrs. Van Zandt (Madame Vanzani), who was offered an engagement by Mapleson in his proposed grand operatic campaign in this country; Miss Harris, who created a sensation in London, and whom the London Times praised highly; Miss McCulloch, who, with her rich, fresh voice and personal beauty, was the star at the Academy one season; Minnie Hauck, who has been engaged by Strakosch to take the place of Patti for a general European campaign, and the Queen of Song, Patti herself, who is also an American and who acquired her voice and education here, though born of Italian parents. Many others might be named who are coming into favorable notice, but these have already acquired fame. In fact, we have any number of the finest singers in this city and throughout the country, nightingales, canaries and all sorts of warblers. It is not uncommon to hear in private life ladies with the richest voices and best musical education who are not inferior to the first professional artists.


It is only lately that operatic managers and music masters have turned their attention to the fine voices and musical wealth found in this country, and the discovery seems to be as surprising as the finding of gold in California. There is, too, in several cases, something quite romantic in the development of our American prime donne. For example, Minnie Hauck, who seems destined to take the place of Patti, was a year or two ago a poor little girl living in a garret in Stanton street, unknown and little dreaming of the future before her. Her parents were poor and her father a mechanic. Her parents were residing in New Orleans during the war, when a lady of wealth and musical taste there, hearing Minnie sing, was so struck with her voice that she kindly undertook to give the child lessons. After the family returned to New York and while living in Stanton street some one passing the house heard the young girl singing and mentioned the circumstance to Mr. Jackson, a music teacher and organist at Christ church, in this city. It so happened that the congregation of Christ church wanted at that time a soprano voice for the choir. Miss Hauck was requested to go to the church to let the congregation judge of her vocal ability. The result was she was engaged immediately, and the poor girl, in her delight at such unexpected good fortune and at the prospect of being able to help her parents in their struggle for a living, exclaimed fondly, ‘Now, father, we shall be able to get along!’ The organist was delighted with her and did all he could to. [sic] improve her musical education. Subsequently she took lessons from Italian singing masters, and then, step by step, from the church choir to the concert room, and from there to the opera, she acquired the reputation which has placed her in the front position as a prima donna. Miss Hauck, like Miss McCulloch and Miss Harris, is very young and possesses the charm of youth, beauty and freshness. Indeed, it may be said that in all our American singers known to the public there is, besides a sweet and silvery tone of voice, a remarkable freshness, naturalness of manner and bearing, refinement and beauty of a charming and delicate order.


With such qualities as these and a universal love of music we are forming a new school of artists—a school that is already rivaling and promising to eclipse the Italian. For this we are indebted to nature more than to art, for in art we are yet behind Italy and some other countries in Europe. The climate and transparent atmosphere of American, particularly of the Southern and Middle States, are similar to those of Italy, and undoubtedly produce a similar effect upon the vocal organs. If American voices do not have quite the fulness [sic], strength or robustness of the Italian they make up for that in sweetness, clearness, delicacy and rich silvery tones. We speak now especially of female voices, for we have yet but few male public singers. The men of American turn their attention to business more than to the cultivation of the voice or music, though there are, no doubt, as many fine male as female voices. In all probability this country will be looked to hereafter by music masters and opera managers for leading artists. Italian, German and French composers, teachers and managers should emigrate to America, for they will find abundance of materials and employment here and will be better rewarded than in the Old World. New York, the wealthy, beautiful, great and rapidly growing metropolis of this Continent, must become the home of art as well as the centre of commerce. It will rival Paris and the other capitals of Europe in this respect, and at no distant period will surpass them all. [Final sentences -- there are perhaps one or two -- are illegible.]