|Giuditta Pasta by Karl Briullov|
As is only fitting on a day when I am off on a musical jaunt myself, we return to the stage today to learn more about the life of a famed leading lady of the operatic stage. I found the inspiration for my tale as I browsed my Pinterest boards recently over a cup of tea and a slice of something fruity and came across the very dramatic painting above, depicting opera diva Giuditta Pasta in costume as Anne Boleyn.
Giuditta was born in Italy to Charles Antonio Negri and Rachel Ferranti; she showed an early aptitude for music and song and initially studied music under the tutelage of her mother's brother, Philip. Giuditta had to work hard to harness her talent and find her voice; she struggled with pitch and breath as well as dramatic interpretation yet she was focussed and ambitious, determined to make a career in opera. After years of private study Giuditta enrolled at the Conservatory of Milan at the age of 16, making her debut as a contralto two years later in Scappa's Le Tre Eleonore.
When Giuditta married fellow singer Giuseppe Pasta in 1816, she found herself with not only a regular leading man but also a tireless champion. The couple had one child together and as his wife's career progressed, Giuseppe handled her business affairs and identified likely roles and composers who might wish to work with her. He even visited America to investigate what opportunities existed there, though Giuditta would never cross the Atlantic herself.
Giudetta's 1817 debut in London was not well received and the singer returned to Italy where she studied tirelessly to improve her dramatic and vocal skills, eventually resulting in a confident, skilful performer who would soon be winning the plaudits of critics and audiences alike. Following successful performances in Milan, Giuditta made her Venice debut to acclaim, going on to a sensational season in Paris in 1821. Once word spread of this remarkable new operatic talent Giuditta never looked back and was the toast of Europe for years to come. On her return visit to England, a passionately performed season of Rossini roles more than erased the memory of her disastrous London debut, earning her even wider acclaim.
As her career progressed, so too did her voice change and contralto became soprano; composers including Donizetti and Bellini wrote roles for her and she was invited to perform in prestigious theatres and European courts. However, her famed range eventually began to weaken and in 1835 she entered semi-retirement after her voice broke during a performance at La Scala, performing only sporadically in the years that followed. Following the death of Giuseppe in 1846, Giuditta devoted herself to a new life as a singing tutor, passing on her knowledge and technique to young performers to ensure a new generation of operatic sensations.