Jenny Lind (1820–1887)
W.C. Wrankmoore, steel engraving after P. O. Werner, 19th c., 160 x 125.
Collection: Muzeum Fryderyka Chopina, Warsaw [M/726].
The Swedish soprano Jenny Lind made her debut in 1838 in Stockholm as Agathe in Weber’s Der Freischütz; she was initially a soloist with the Berlin Opera and other German theatres, then from 1846 with the Vienna Opera. She began her career by singing dramatic parts, but achieved her greatest triumphs in lyric and coloratura roles (Bellini’s La sonnambula, Donizetti’s La fille du régiment). She had excellent vocal technique; her contemporaries dubbed her the ‘Swedish nightingale’, and Fryderyk Chopin admired her voice during his stay in London, as is reflected in his correspondence with his family and Wojciech Grzymała: ‘Miss Lind is all the rage in London’ [Sydow, ii, 207]. ‘I met Miss Lind. She is a charming person and a brilliant singer’ [Sydow, ii, 247]. ‘Yesterday I saw Miss Lind again in Lucia di Lammermoor. Very good; she enthuses everyone’ [Sydow, ii, 249]. ‘I’ve just come back from the Italian theatre. J. Lind sang it for the first time […]. I had a good seat, and so heard it well. She is quite an original Swede, not in the usual light – but in some aurora borealis. She makes a huge effect in Sonnambula. – She sings cleanly and with exceptional assurance, and her piano is so constant – and straight as a hair’ [Sydow, ii, 244]. ‘[Edinburgh] 19  August 1848 […] Miss Lind was at my concert!!! which apparently means a great deal to the fools, as she cannot show herself anywhere without everyone gazing at her; and were it not for the fact that she never sings even in grand society, only at the Opera, she would have sung for me, so Mrs Grote told me. But I would not have dreamed of asking her, although she is a pleasant girl and we get on perfectly well. There is that something different from others. One might call it a Scandinavian chord, a completely different nature from the southern, e.g. Pauline Viardot. Not pretty, but pleasant in herself, I’m not always impressed on the stage, but in Sonnambula from the middle of the second act she is the most utterly beautiful in all, I mean all, respects, as an actress and a singer’ [Sydow, ii, 267].
In 1849, Jenny Lind retired from the operatic stage, subsequently appearing only in concerts.