Angelica Catalani (1780–1849)
Marie François Claude Dien after a painting by Jean-Baptiste Singry, stippled copperplate, beginning of 19th c., 298 x 234.
Collection: Muzeum Fryderyka Chopina, Warsaw [M/1125].
The Italian singer Angelica Catalani, a dramatic coloratura soprano, gave concerts all over Europe as an operatic prima donna, being lauded wherever she went. In 1818, she retired from the stage, but continued to perform with great success on concert platforms in Denmark, Sweden, Germany and Russia. During a concert tour in 1819–1820, she visited Warsaw, Lviv, Kremenets, Vilnius and Cracow. On 21 November 1819, she arrived in Warsaw, where she gave four highly successful concerts. In one Warsaw salon, probably in the home of the wife of Konstanty Wolicki, Margrave de Kermancon, a relative of Angelica Catalani, she heard the playing of the nine-year-old Fryderyk, who was already renowned as the ‘foremost pianist in the city’; bewitched by his playing and improvising, as a token of her appreciation of his talent, she offered him a gold watch with dedication, from which he would never be parted. The famous singer’s performances made a lasting impression on Chopin. In his Kurier Szafarski of 31 August 1824, he wrote to his family: ‘Day 29 c. m. & y. His Lordship Mr Pichon, riding through Nieszawa, heard a Catalani seated on a fence singing something at the top of her lungs. He was mightily taken, and listened with pleasure to both air and voice, yet not content with that alone sought to hear the verse. He twice passed by the fence, though to no avail, for he understood nothing; until, overcome by curiosity, he took out thruppence and promised it to the singer if she would sing the song again.’ [Sydow, i, 44].