The Works of Edgar Allan Poe — Volume 3

By Edgar Allan Poe

Page 204

rooms of the suite,
and in which the company chiefly assembled, remained, during the whole
evening, in a very agreeable shadow. This is a well-conceived custom,
giving the party at least a choice of light or shade, and one which our
friends over the water could not do better than immediately adopt.

The evening thus spent was unquestionably the most delicious of my life.
Madame Lalande had not overrated the musical abilities of her friends;
and the singing I here heard I had never heard excelled in any private
circle out of Vienna. The instrumental performers were many and of
superior talents. The vocalists were chiefly ladies, and no individual
sang less than well. At length, upon a peremptory call for “Madame
Lalande,” she arose at once, without affectation or demur, from the
chaise longue upon which she had sat by my side, and, accompanied by
one or two gentlemen and her female friend of the opera, repaired to the
piano in the main drawing-room. I would have escorted her myself, but
felt that, under the circumstances of my introduction to the house, I
had better remain unobserved where I was. I was thus deprived of the
pleasure of seeing, although not of hearing, her sing.

The impression she produced upon the company seemed electrical but the
effect upon myself was something even more. I know not how adequately to
describe it. It arose in part, no doubt, from the sentiment of love
with which I was imbued; but chiefly from my conviction of the extreme
sensibility of the singer. It is beyond the reach of art to endow either
air or recitative with more impassioned expression than was hers. Her
utterance of the romance in Otello--the tone with which she gave the
words “Sul mio sasso,” in the Capuletti--is ringing in my memory yet.
Her lower tones were absolutely miraculous. Her voice embraced three
complete octaves, extending from the contralto D to the D upper soprano,
and, though sufficiently powerful to have filled the San Carlos,
executed, with the minutest precision, every difficulty of vocal
composition--ascending and descending scales, cadences, or fiorituri. In
the final of the Somnambula, she brought about a most remarkable effect
at the words:

Ah! non guinge uman pensiero

Al contento ond ‘io son piena.

Here, in imitation of Malibran, she modified the original phrase of
Bellini, so as to let her voice descend to the tenor G, when, by a rapid
transition, she struck the G above the treble stave, springing over an
interval of two octaves.

Upon rising from the piano after

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15.