Mara, Gertrude Elizabeth



Brilliant opera and concert-singer, whose rendition of Handel's music alone was enough to have made her famous. Was born at Hesse Cassel, Germany. Her father, whose name was Schmaling, was a musician of mediocre ability who eked out his scanty income by repairing musical instruments. One day he discovered his little daughter playing upon a violin he was repairing, and was so impressed with her ability that he began to give her lessons. Her progress was rapid, and Schmaling took her to the fair at Frankfort, where she received much applause. Father and daughter then toured Germany and Holland, giving concerts, and when Mara was ten years old went to London, where she attracted much attention and played before royalty. Here she turned her attention to singing, it is said, because violin-playing was then not considered a feminine accomplishment. Her first singingteacher was an Italian named Paradisi. Later she studied at Hiller's Academy at Leipsic for five years. In 1771 she made her debut at Berlin, singing in an opera by Hasse. Frederick the Great, after hearing her, engaged her as Court singer for life. While singing in Berlin she met the violoncellist, Mara, with whom she eloped, twice being refused the consent of her royal patron. Although Mara proved a dissolute and brutal husband, Madam Mara was devoted to him all her life. For seven years she sang at Berlin, going to Vienna for two years, then touring Germany, Holland and Belgium. In 1782 she went to Paris, where she received great ovations. In 1784 she went to London, where she sang at the Handel Festival in Westminster Abbey. Her performance on this occasion was of such brilliance that she was engaged for the Handel Festival of the following year, and she also sang in the Handel Festivals of 1787 and 1788. In 1789 and 1791 she was in Italy, but returned to London in 1792 for a tenyears' stay. In 1802 she went to Moscow. Here trouble came upon her, for her husband dissipated her earnings, and, in the burning of Moscow, in 1812, what little remained to her was swept away. In 1816 she retired to Revel, where she taught for some years. In 1819 she returned to London, but, on attempting to sing in concert there, found that her voice was quite gone. She returned to Revel, where she died in poverty in 1833, at the age of eighty-four. Upton says of her: " Insignificant in appearance, an indifferent actress, her sweet and powerful voice her unrivaled skill in bravura music more than atoned for other deficiencies."