Henriette Sontag (1806–1854)
Unknown artist, lithograph, first half of 19th c., 230 x 220.
Collection: Biblioteka Narodowa, Warsaw [T.II–65, inv. no. G.25.656].
The license is accorded by the owner.
From 1825, the German dramatic soprano Henriette Sontag, an outstanding interpreter of the works of Gioachino Rossini, performed in opera houses in Leipzig, Berlin and other German cities, as well as in Paris and London. In 1830, she retired from the stage and performed only on concert platforms. She came to Warsaw on 28 May 1830 and stayed until the end of June, giving eleven concerts. Fryderyk attended each one, except for her official performance at the castle (a sitting of the Sejm of the Kingdom of Poland was marked with performances by famous artists). Here is what he wrote about her performances in a letter to Tytus Woyciechowski of 5 June 1830: ‘Miss Sontag is not beautiful, but pretty to the highest degree. She enchants everybody with her voice, which is not large […] but exceedingly well-trained; her diminuendo is non plus ultra, her portamento exquisite and the scales, especially chromatic, rise splendidly. She sang us a Mercadante aria very, very, very beautifully, Variations by Rode, particularly the last, the roulade, exceedingly well […] She sang that aria from Freischütz, which you know, most exquisitely. […] One has the impression that she breathes on the parterre some aroma from the freshest blooms and caresses, deliciously strokes, but rarely moves one to tears. […] Her concerts are short, she usually sings four times and no one plays in between save the orchestra, and one certainly needs to rest after her singing, so engrossing is it’ [Sydow, i, 127–129]. Chopin met the singer in person, through Antoni Radziwi³³, who composed for her Variations on the theme of a Ukrainian dumka and asked Fryderyk to ‘write it out’, as he mentioned in that same letter to Tytus of 5 June.
The Kurier Warszawski (no. 171, 28 June 1830) wrote: ‘Although there was so much entertainment yesterday in various parts of Warsaw, some 850 listeners attended the concert of Miss Zontag [sic]. As usual, the artist delighted those present with her talent, was showered with applause and hailed. Today she can be heard for the last time in the capital, giving the receipts of this concert to charitable institutes’ [Chopin w kraju], p. 211].