Billington, Elizabeth

About 1768-1818

Celebrated singer and pianist. She came of a musical family, her father, Carl Weichsel, a native of Saxony, being an oboist and her mother a well-known singer. She also had a brother who became an excellent violinist. Her musical training, carried on under her father's supervision, was very thorough and severe. At six she played the piano at her mother's benefit, at eleven she had composed two sets of sonatas for the piano, and at fourteen she appeared in public as a singer. At about sixteen she married James Billington and went to Dublin, where she began her career as an opera singer. On returning to London, in 1786, she appeared at Covent Garden with great success and was engaged for the season there and at the Concert of Ancient Music. She sang in England until 1794, when she went with her husband and brother to Italy to travel. While there she sang at Naples and Venice with the greatest success. Her husband died on this trip and, in 1799, she married again. Upon returning to England, in 1801, she appeared constantly and most successfully at Drury Lane, Covent Garden and many other places until 1811, when she retired from public life. In 1817 she became reconciled to her husband, from whom she had separated, and went with him to her country-place near Venice, where she died within a year. It is said that her voice was marvelous and her range wonderful but that she was a poor actress.