Viardot-Garcia, Pauline

SINGER, COMPOSER, PIANIST (FRANCE)
BORN 18 Jul 1821, Paris - DIED 18 May 1910, Paris
REAL NAME Garcia, Michelle Ferdinande Pauline
GRAVE LOCATION Paris: Montmartre Cimetière, 20 Avenue Rachel (division 28)

Mezzosoprano Pauline Garcia was the daughter of tenor Manuel del Pópulo Vicente García and the younger sister of the singer Maria Malibran. She was taught the piano by the young Franz Liszt. She had feelings for Liszt and when she would have a lesson with him her hands trembled so much that she could hardly tie her shoes. In 1832 she studied counterpoint and composition under Anton Reicha. She accompanied her older sister Maria on the piano in Belgium an Germany when she was fourteen years old. But her mother wanted her to concetrate on singing and reluctantly she gave up the piano.

Maria died in 1836 at the time Pauline was prepared for the stage as a singer. In 1837 she gave her first performance in Brussels and in 1839 she joined the Italian opera in London where she impressed her public immediately. In 1840 she married the French author Louis Viardot who was twenty-one years older than she was. She had been courted by Alfred de Musset, but Viardot offered a more stable financial perspective. Even if it was a marriage of convenience, Viardot was devoted to her and her children.

Pauline spoke French, Italian, Spanish, English, German and Russian and wrote many songs. She also authored several operettas, among them "L'Ogre" (1868). George Sand turned her into the hero of her novel "Consuelo" (1843).

In 1863 she left the stage and left France for Baden-Baden in Germany because of her husband's public opposition to Napoleon III. In 1870 she sang at the first public performance of the Alto Rhapsody by Johannes Brahms on his specific request. After the fall of Napoleon III she settled as a vocal teacher in Paris in 1871. She was very close with Ivan Turgenjev, who often lived near the Viardots. It is unclear if they were ever lovers but Pauline certainly was his muse.

Family
• Daughter: Viardot, Marianne
• Husband: Viardot, Louis (1840-1883)

Related persons
• was teacher to Brandt, Marianne
• was a friend of Chopin, Frédéric François
• was a friend of Delacroix, Eugène
• was visited by Fauré, Gabriel Urbain
• was a friend of Gounod, Charles François
• detested Grisi, Giulia
• knew Kemble, Adelaide
• knew Lind, Jenny
• was pupil to Liszt, Franz
• was teacher to Litvinne, Félia
• is brother/sister of Malibran-Garcia, Maria Felicità
• was pupil to Reicha, Anton
• was teacher to Salvatini, Mafalda
• was painted by Scheffer, Ary
• was a friend of Scheffer, Ary
• was teacher to Suttner, Bertha von
• was visited by Wagner, Richard
• was teacher to Wilhelmj, Maria

Events
15/12/1838First public concert in Paris by Pauline Garcia at the Théâtre de la Renaissance. Heinrich Heine was there and he was impressed. [Heine, Heinrich]
9/5/1839Pauline Viardot appears in Rossini's "Othello" at Her Majesty's Theatre in London. It was her operatic debut and she performed the part of Desdemona. Fourteen years earlier her sister Maria had also debuted at the theatre. 
12/8/1845Beethoven statue in Bonn unveiled. It was created by Ernst Hähnel and unveiled in honour of the 75th anniversary of Beethoven's birth. Franz Liszt was actively involved in the project and donated over 10,000 francs. Schlegel had been the head of the organising committee but he died in May, 1845. Professor Heinrich Breidenstein, who had first expressed the idea, took over his position. The ceremony was attended by King Friedrich Wilhelm IV of Prussia, Queen Victoria, Prince Albert, Hector Berlioz, Giacomo Meyerbeer, Ignaz Moscheles, Charles Hallé, Jenny Lind, Pauline Viardot, Lola Montez, Robert Schumann, Felix Mendelssohn and Maria Kalergis. [Berlioz, Hector][Hallé, Charles][Lind, Jenny][Liszt, Franz][Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, Felix][Meyerbeer, Giacomo][Montez, Lola][Schumann, Robert]
16/4/1849Premiere of Meyerbeer's "Le prophète" with Pauline Viardot as Fidès. It was performed by the Opera of Paris at the Salle Le Peletier. Jeanne-Anaïs Castellan was Berthe and Gustave-Hippolyte Roger was Jean. Narcisse Girard was the conductor. In the audience were Chopin, Verdi, Théophile Gautier, Delacroix, Ivan Turgenev and Berlioz. It was a great succes and in July it was performed at Covent Garden in London. [Berlioz, Hector][Chopin, Frédéric François][Delacroix, Eugène][Gautier, Théophile][Girard, Narcisse][Meyerbeer, Giacomo][Verdi, Giuseppe]
30/10/1849Funeral service for Chopin at the Église de la Madeleine in Paris. According to his last wishes, Mozart's "Requiem" was performed by Jeanne-Anaïs Castellan (soprano) and Pauline Viardot-Garcia (mazzo-soprano). Viardot's voice was reported to be soaring above the chorus and orchestra. They were singing incognito behind a black curtain, because women were forbidden to sing in churches and special permission had to be obtained for this performance. The male singers were Alexis Dupont and Luigi Lablache. The conductor was Narcisse Girard. [Chopin, Frédéric François][Girard, Narcisse]
5/5/1860Pauline Viardot-Garcia sings in Beethoven's "Fidelio" in Paris. It was staged by Carvalho, who had changed the story. She sang the part of Leonore but she had difficulties with the high notes and was criticised for her performance. After eleven performances the opera was cancelled. [Carvalho, Léon]
0/7/1860Act Two of Wagner's Tristan und Isolde is performed at the house of Pauline Viardot. It was performed by Pauline Viardot, Richard Wagner himself and Karl Klindworth. Hector Berlioz and Marie Kalergis, in whose honour the event was organised, were present. [Berlioz, Hector][Klindworth, Karl][Wagner, Richard]
21/10/1861Gluck's "Alceste" is staged at the Opera in Paris with Pauline Viardot-Garcia singing. Berlioz had made adjustments to the opera and it was her last big success on the stage. In 1866 this version was produced again with Marie Battu singing. [Berlioz, Hector][Gluck, Christoph Willibald von]
3/3/1870First public performance of Johannes Brahms' "Alto Rhapsody". The soloist was Pauline Viardot-Garcia. Although she had retired from singing, Brahms had persuaded her to sing the part. Ernst Naumann was the conductor. [Brahms, Johannes]
2/12/1877Premiere of "Samson et Dalila" by Saint-Saens in Weimar. The opera was performed at the Grossherzogliches Theater in a German translation. The part of Dalila was written for Pauline Viardot but she was no long able to sing it and it went to Auguste von Müller. The conductor was Eduard Lassen. [Saint-Saens, Charles Camille]

Images

The grave of Pauline Viardot-Garcia and Louis Viardot at Montmartre Cimetière, Paris.
Picture by Androom (18 May 2005)

 

Sources
• Steen, Michael, Enchantress of Nations, Pauline Viardot: Soprano, Muse and Lover, Allen & Unwin Pry, Crows Nest, 2007
Pauline Viardot - Wikipedia
The Hector Berlioz Website: Berlioz and Wagner


Victoria Adelaide Mary Louise, Princess Royal

Published: 20 Dec 2008
Last update: 1 Aug 2020