Grisi, Giulia

BORN 28 Jul 1811, Milano, Lombardia - DIED 29 Nov 1869, Berlin
GRAVE LOCATION Paris: Père Lachaise, Rue du Repos 16 (division 26)

Dramatic soprano Giulia Grisi was the daughter of an Italian officer in Napoleon's army. Opera singer Giuseppina Grassini was her aunt, her older sister Giuditta was a singer and her cousin Carlotta Grisi a ballet dancer. She was educated as a singer in Milan and by Giacomelli in Bologna. She debuted in Bologna in 1828 as Emma in "Zelmira" by Rossini. Rossini as well as Bellini noted her and she was Adalgia in the premiere of "Norma" by Bellini, appearing next to Giuditta Pasta as Norma.

She debuted in Paris in 1832 and in London in 1834. In 1835 in Paris she was the first Elvira in "I Puritani" by Bellini. In 1836 she married Count Gérard de Melcy. It was an unhappy union but the Count refused her a divorce for many years. In 1838 she had a son by her lover Lord Castlereagh. He was acknowledged by his father and named Frederick Ormsby.

Donizetti wrote the part of Norina in his "Don Pasquale" (1842) especially for her. She appeared together with the tenor G.M. de Candia, who was known as Mario and took the part of Ernesto. Giulia and Mario fell in love and lived together in their homes in London and Paris from 1841 onwards. After Giulia was granted a divorce by her first husband they married in 1856 and moved to Florence where they lived at Villa Salviati.

Sometimes it was stated that she mainly imitated and improved others. In 1850 Pauline Viardot stated that Grisi was little more than an imitator of Giuditta Pasta. Possibly Viardot was still angry at Grisi because her success in London had led to the replacement of Viardot's sister Malibran by Grisi at the King's Theatre in 1834.

In 1854 she travelled with Mario in the USA and in 1859 she appeared in Madrid. On her way to St. Petersburg in 1869 she was involved in a railway accident after crossing the German border. She was taken to Berlin where she was taken care of in a hotel by Dr. Isabell. There she died on 29 Nov 1869. Her husband returned her body to Paris where she was buried at Père Lachaise opposite Molière's tomb (Mario died in 1883 in Rome and was buried in his native Cagliari).

She had six children with Mario and her daughter Cecilia Maria de Candia married Godfrey Robarts, Lord Pearse in 1872 and became a well known writer. In 1910 she published "The Romance of a Great Singer: A Memoir of Mario".

Related persons
• cooperated with Balfe, Michael
• was painted by Bouchot, François
• is cousin of Grisi, Carlotta
• cooperated with Lablache, Frederick
• has a connection with Tietjens, Theresa
• was detested by Viardot-Garcia, Pauline

26/12/1831Premiere of Bellini's "Norma" at La Scala in Milan. Alessandro Rolla was the conductor. The performers included Giuditta Pasta, Giulia Grisi, Domenico Donzelli, Vincenzo Negrini, Marietta Sacchi and Lorenzo Lombardi. [Bellini, Vincenzo]
16/6/1838Duel between Lord Castlereagh and Gérard de Melcy. The duel was fought after De Melcy had discovered a letter written to his wife Giulia to Castlereagh. Castlereagh was wounded in the wrist and De Melcy was unharmed. After the duel Giulia left her husband and had an affair with Castlereagh. 


The grave of Giulia Grisi at Père Lachaise, Paris.
Picture by Androom (24 Oct 2014)


Winkler Prins Encyclopedie (editie 1909), 1909
Giulia Grisi - Wikipedia
Frederick Stewart - Wikipedia
Norma (opera) - Wikipedia

Grönig, Siegfried

Published: 26 Oct 2014
Last update: 05 Apr 2022