Konstancja Gładkowska (1810–1889)
Unknown artist, first half of 19th c., photograph, 175 x 125.
Collection: Photographic collection of the Fryderyk Chopin Institute, Warsaw [F.2729].
Konstancja Gładkowska, an opera singer (soprano) with the Teatr Narodowy and the youthful ‘ideal’ of Fryderyk Chopin. In the years 1824–1830, she was taught singing at the Institute of Music and Declamation under the guidance of Evasio Carlo Soliva. She made her debut on 24 July 1830 at the Teatr Narodowy in the title role of Ferdinando Paer’s Agnese. Chopin described her performance in a letter to Tytus Woyciechowski, written in Warsaw on 21 August: ‘Agnese occupied me first and foremost in Warsaw. I was at the performance. Gładkowska is lacking little. She is better on the stage than in the concert hall. I do not refer to her tragic acting, which is excellent, as there is nothing to say, but as regards her singing, were it not for those f sharps and gs at times on high one could want nothing better of the sort. You would delight in how she phrases, she shades expression splendidly, and although at first on her entrance her voice trembled, later she sang very boldly. […] The romance which she sings in the second act to the harp […], the last time she sang very nicely. I was content. At the end Agnes was summoned forth and showered in tumultuous applause’ [Sydow, i, 130].
Konstancja was the object of Fryderyk Chopin’s youthful love—his inspiration, as is attested by his letters to Tytus from the years 1829–1830:
‘[…] I already have, perhaps unfortunately, my ideal, whom I faithfully serve, without having spoken to her for half a year already, of whom I dream, in remembrance of whom was created the adagio of my concerto, who inspired me to write that little waltz this morning.’ That is what he wrote to Tytus on 3 October 1829 [Sydow, i, 107]. Under the sway of his feelings for Konstancja, Chopin wrote the middle movement of his F minor Concerto, Op. 21 (Larghetto) and the Waltz in D flat major, Op. 70 No. 3.
Gładkowska performed in Chopin’s farewell concert on 11 October 1830, as Fryderyk wrote to Tytus in a letter of 12 October: ‘Soliva conducted […] the aria of Miss Gładkowska, in white, with roses in her hair, divinely dressed to suit her complexion, who sang the cavatina from La donna del lago with recitative like she has sung nothing before, apart from the aria in Agnese. […] You should know that this aria was transposed for her voice, which benefited from it greatly’ [Sydow, i, 147]. Before Chopin’s departure, Konstancja wrote into his album two poems, one of which ends with the words: ‘Mog± Cię obcy lepiej nagrodzić, ocenić, lecz od nas kochać mocniej pewnie Cię nie mog±’ [‘Yet while others may better appraise and reward you, they certainly cannot love you more strongly than we’] (Chopin later added the word ‘mog±’—‘they can’). [Smoter, sheet 12].
In 1831, Konstancja wed Józef Grabowski. Apparently, before her death she burned all Chopin’s letters.