PAULINE VIARDOT-GARCIA (1821 - 1910)
Pauline Viardot was a member of one of the most famous musical families in 19th-century Europe, the García family. The clan traced its origin to Manuel del Pópulo Vicente Rodriguez. Born in 1775 in Seville, Spain, Manuel was a famous tenor, composer, operatic impresario, and teacher.
Pauline studied piano and began vocal lessons with her father, but Manuel died when Pauline was eleven years old. As a teenager, Pauline sought to perfect her art and began appearing in concerts, making her operatic début in London as Desdemona in Rossini’s Otello in May 1839. There she met Louis Viardot, director of the Italian Theatre in Paris, and he engaged her services, also for Rossini’s Otello. They were married in 1840. During her career, Pauline sang works by Mozart, Rossini, Bellini, Donizetti, but also sang contemporary mid-19th-century works by Saint-Saëns, Massenet, Tchaikovsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, Meyerbeer (Le Prophète), Gounod (Sapho), and Brahms (Alto Rhapsody, premièred by Pauline in 1870). Among her admirers were Alfred de Musset, Gounod, Berlioz, and, most extraordinary of all, Ivan Turgenev, who lived in close proximity to Pauline and her family for 40 years. Berlioz stated that ‘her talent is so complete, so varied, she touches so many aspects of the art, she combines so much spontaneity with so much skill, that she produces at once astonishment and emotion…’
Pauline’s compositions include operettas, several with librettos by Turgenev, most notably Le Dernier Sorcier; choral works; various vocal works; and several instrumental works, almost always featuring piano. Pauline Viardot died in Paris on 18 May 1910.