Queens of Song by Charles Neilson Gattey
This book brings back to life in entertaining and vivid fashion, a cavalcade of prime donne beginning when women singers gradually ousted the castrati and ending with the glories of opera's 'Golden Age'. The opening section, 'Dawn of the Divas', gives delightful accounts of the personalities and vocal techniques of, among others, Catherine Tofts - who played queens so often in opera she became mentally deranged and spent the rest of her days behaving like one; of Faustina and Cuzzoni involved in one of the fiercest of operatic feuds; of Gabrielli, called by a contemporary "the most dangerous siren of the 18th century", whom the French Ambassador in Vienna attempted to shoot in a fit of jealousy and who was saved only by the whalebones in her stays; of Josephina Grassini; Napoleon's mistress; of Mrs Billington, the same to the Prince Regent; and of Catalani who in one year, 1807, earned the equivalent of half a million dollars in today's values. The five following sections describe the spectacular careers and the accomplished art of Malibran, Jenny Lind, Patti, Melba and Tetrazzini, and examine their relationships with others in the world of opera. Mr. Ganey has succeeded in writing a book which will enthrall and inform devotees of this most appealing theatrical form, as well as attract the general reader interested in personalities who are 'larger than life'.