Catalani, Angelica


Talented singer, who was born in Sinigaglia, Italy, about forty miles from Rome. Her father was a local magistrate. When twelve years of age she was sent to the convent of Santa Lucia at Gubbio to become a nun. She soon showed such talent for music, that the abbess gave her every opportunity to cultivate her gift, had her instructed in the rudiments and allowed her to sing short solos in the chapel on Sundays. The villagers flocked to the church, and the fame of her wonderful voice soon spread. Later she studied at Florence, under Marchesi, a master of singing, and at sixteen secured her first engagement, singing the title role of Lodoiska by Mayr at Venice. In 1798 she sang at Leghorn, a year later at La Pergola in Florence and, in 1801, in Milan. Crescentini took an interest in her and gave her much valuable advice. In 1899, the Prince Regent of Portugal invited her to Lisbon to sing at the Chapel Royal. She received an offer from the director of the opera, shortly after, which the Prince permitted her to accept and immediately she became the idol of the music lovers of the city. Here she married Valabregue, a captain of hussars, who was connected with the French embassy, the wedding taking place in the Chapel Royal at Lisbon in the presence of the Prince Regent and the French ambassador. Accepting an offer from the London Italian Opera, Catalani sang there, in 1806, at a salary of 200 guineas. She also gave concerts in Paris, where Napoleon made her many costly gifts in recognition of her talents, gave her a pension and allowed her the use of the opera house free. For many years she reigned in London, where her generosity and good humor made her greatly beloved. One writer in speaking of her voice says it had a prodigious volume and an exquisite quality and that she bewildered the ear with the power and richness of it, but the feelings remained untouched. Catalani introduced The Marriage of Figaro to the English stage, singing the role of Suzanna. She made large sums of money and retired in 1831 from the operatic stage, residing on a beautiful estate she had purchased near Florence. She died in Paris of cholera. One of her sons became an equerry to Napoleon III. Prior to her retirement Catalani founded a school of singing for young girls near Florence.