Paris, Théâtre-Italien

Paris, Théâtre-Italien, coloured steel engraving by J. Tingle after a drawing by T. T. Bury, produced in the atelier of A. Pugin, signed, 1829. Collection: Muzeum Fryderyka Chopina, Warsaw [M/2179].


Although Chopin preferred the bel canto style operas staged at the Théâtre-Italien, he remained deeply impressed by Meyerbeer, writing with unconstrained enthusiasm to a friend from his youth during his first few months in Paris: ‘I doubt that anyone has ever achieved such magnificence as was seen in Robert le Diable, the latest opera in five acts by Meyerbeer… It is a masterpiece of the modern school. In it enormous choruses of devils sing through megaphones and spirits arise from their graves… as many as fifty or sixty at a time… What is most impressive, though, is the sound of the organ on stage which thrills and amazes you as it all but drowns out the orchestra in the pit below. Meyerbeer has raised himself to the ranks of the immortals’ [Atwood, The Parisian Worlds of Frédéric Chopin].


‘Chopin becomes a regular opera-goer and an idolatrous admirer of beautiful song (“only here can one discover what singing really is”). He hears and admires many singers: Laura Damoreau-Cinti (“she sings in a way that cannot be surpassed […] she seems to puff on the audiences”), Giulia Grisi, Giuditta Pasta (“I have never seen anything more sublime”), Maria Felicia Malibran-Garcia (“wonderful! wonderful!”), Wilhelmine Schröder-Devrient (“she does not cause such a furore as in Germany”), Luigi Lablache (“You could not imagine what it is!”), Nicolas-Prosper Levasseur, Adolphe Nourrit (“astounding in his feeling”) and Giovanni Battista Rubini (“his mezza voce is beyond compare”). Among the first operatic productions he admired were three works by Rossini: Il barbiere di Siviglia, Otello and L’Italiana in Algeri [Tomaszewski, Chopin…].


In April 1835, Chopin took part in a concert at the Théâtre-Italien. It was a charity concert, with the receipts going to Polish refugees. As we know from a review of this event: ‘Chopin helped to put together the programme for the evening […] Nourrit and Mrs Falcon filled the vocal part by themselves […] As for Chopin’s “concerto”, so original, of such dazzling style, so full of inspired details, so fresh in its melodiousness, it immediately achieved a very great success’ [Mirska, Hordyński, Chopin…].