An eBay acetate disc recording of Adelina Patti is mentioned in Episode 1, and Patti is again referred to in Episode 2. Who was she?
Adelina Maria Clorinda Patti was born in Madrid to Italian parents in 1843. She was raised in New York City and made her singing debut at the age of seven. She made her opera debut at Covent Garden in 1861. Her sister, Carlotta, was a concert singer rather than an opera performer.
Adelina was extremely successful and very popular; Sir Arthur Sullivan, in conversation with Jenny Lind, the famous soprano, found that she preferred Patti to any other singer. “There is only one Niagara Falls; and there is only one Patti.”
Patti married three times, firstly to Henri de Roger de Cahusac, Marquess of Caux, a marriage that ended in separation and then divorce. Her second marriage, to French tenor Ernest Nicolini, had begun as a relationship when they were already married to other people. It resulted in Patti buying a house in the Brecon Beacons in Wales, which she improved over 40 years, and named Craig-y-Nos: Rock of Night. It started as somewhere she and Nicolini could get away; it became a shrine to her, complete with a 150-seat theatre. When she was recorded at Craig-y-Nos, she replied after hearing the recording, “Ah! My God! Now I understand why I am Patti! Yes, what a voice! What an artist! I understand all!” The greenhouse from Craig-y-Nos was moved to Swansea, Wales, near the Brangwyn Hall. She gave annual charity concerts for the poor of Swansea, Bridgend, Ystradgynlais and Ystalyfera.
Her third marriage was to the much younger Swedish Baron Rolf Cederstrom. Patti also occasionally returned to her NYC roots: in 1902, she moved into a house on Matilda Avenue in Wakefield in the Bronx. She inspired two neighbors, Harry Armstrong and Richard Gerard, to write the song, “Sweet Adeline.” It’s become a standard for barber shop quartets and other close harmony groups.
A portrait of Patti in the National Gallery of Wales
“Adelina Patti.” (2009). BBC Wales Music.
Betts, Leatha Ann, with Carrie Hernandez. (2000). “Was the Phantom Real? Historical Documentation for Possible Phantom Sources.” POTO: The Phantom of the Opera Magazine. Ed. Carrie Hernandez, pp. 83-86.
“Notable Bronxite Biographies.” (n.d.) Bronx County Clerks Office.
Patti, Adelina. (1904). Excerpts from The Art of Song, Yesterday and To-day, reprinted in The Independent, 17 March, Vol. 56, p. 606.