De Reszke, Jean

1852-

The De Reszkes are two eminent Polish brothers, belonging to a musical and artistic family, who have attained high honors on the operatic stage. They were born, according to some authorities, at Varsovie, Poland; according to others, at Warsaw. The elder, Jean, became the greatest tenor of his day, the younger, Edouard, the greatest basso perhaps ever heard. Jean began to sing when very young, and at thirteen was heard in the chapel of the college where he was a student. His parents intended him to become a lawyer, but his love for music early manifested itself and he was allowed to study with Ciaffei. The mother of the De Reszkes was the possessor of a fine soprano voice, which had been trained by Viardot and Garcia and a sister, Josephine, who died in 1892, had a soprano voice of great beauty and wonderful qual- ity. When Jean was nineteen, he went to Venice, where he heard Cotogini sing. This made so profound an impression upon him that he followed the celebrated barytone for some time. It was upon the advice of this singer that Jean made his debut as a barytone singer in Donizetti's La Favorita, singing the role of the King. After that, he sang many of the barytone roles before it was discovered by his teacher, M. Sbriglia, that his voice was a tenor. He pursued his vocal studies under Sbriglia for two years and, at the end of that time, appeared at the Real de Madrid with such success that ever afterwards the doors of every European opera house were open to him. Jean and his brother, Edouard, appeared in the revival of Italian Opera in London at Drury Lane, and shortly afterward Jean was appointed first tenor at the Opera. Paris. For him, Massenet composed Le Cid; and Gounod, from whom he had received instruction, revived his Romeo and Juliette. One of his finest performance was Don Jose in Carmen, critics all being agreed that it had never been sung with such dramatic power and intensity. He studied Tristan und Isolde two years before he essayed his memorable first performance of the part, which became one of his best roles. Other roles in which he was heard with great success are Le Prophete; the tenor part in Les Huguenots; Otello, in Verdi's opera of that name; and the duke in Rigoletto. From Paris, De Reszke came to the United States in 1889, and appeared at the Metropolitan Opera House, New York, making a marked impression upon the critical musical audiences in many of the Wagnerian roles, including Lohengrin, Tristan and Siegfried. He also appeared frequently at Covent Garden, London. During the season at the latter place, in 1892, a serious throat affection interrupted his career and he was compelled to retire for a time from the operatic stage. He reappeared at Covent Garden, in Faust, shortly afterward and broke down. In December, 1900, however, he returned to the United States with his voice unimpaired. For several years past Jean De Reszke has remained away from the operatic stage, living most of the time in Paris, where he accepts now and then a pupil who shows unusual ability as a vocalist and who is willing and able to pay the immense fee he asks for his services. At his home in the Rue de la Faisanderie he has built a little private theatre and there he receives his pupils from ten in the morning until six in the evening. In August of 1907, De Reszke was appointed director of singing at the Paris Opera, with the title " chef de chant." He intimated, upon his acceptance of the post that he would inaugurate a number of reforms, and it is said that he took the position more to assist some of his favorite pupils than for any other reason. De Reszke's earnings on the stage have made him a very rich man. Some years ago he acquired an immense estate in Poland, where he built a beautiful home and where he maintains a racing stable well-known on the Russian turf. This estate is at Borowno, Poland, and the land surrounding it is said to be twenty times the size of Central Park, in New York. His nearest neighbor is his brother, Edouard, who also has a handsome home, surrounded by many acres of valuable land. Here the brothers pass their time while away from Paris. Jean De Reszke was the first musician, after Sir Arthur Sullivan and Signor Tosti, to be honored with the insignia of the Royal Victoria order. He received the cross of the order after a performance of Lohengrin at Windsor Castle, on the Queen's eightieth birthday, May 24, 1899. This was the last time Her Majesty, Queen Victoria, ever attended an operatic performance.