Old School Singer of the Week: Giuditta Pasta

Giuditta Pasta (1797-1865) was a nineteenth century operatic diva that trained with Girolamo Crescentini, the famous castrato. His particular vocal methodology and exercises can be found here.

She created the roles of Donizetti’s Anna Bolena in 1830, and Bellin’s Amina in La sonnambula, and Norma. Maria Callas was often compared to Pasta in the 20th century for their similarities of vocal approach and color.

Her training was noted in Henry Charles Lahee’s book “Famous singers of to-day and yesterday”:

Her voice at first was limited, husky, and weak, without charm, without flexibility. Though her countenance spoke, its features were cast in a coarse mould. Her figure was ungraceful, her movements were awkward, and, at the end of her first season, she found herself a dire failure. She suddenly withdrew from the operatic world and betook herself to study, and when she reappeared she made a great impression. By sheer industry she had increased the range of her voice to two octaves and a half. Her tones had become rich and sweet, her shake was most beautiful, but her genius as a tragedienne surpassed her talent as a singer.

Poetical and enthusiastic by temperament, the crowning excellence of her art was a grand simplicity. There was a sublimity in her expression of vehement passion which was the result of measured force, energy which was never wasted, exalted pathos that never overshot the limits of art. Vigorous without violence, graceful without artifice, she was always greatest when the greatest emergency taxed her powers.

No one could ever sing “Tancredi” like Pasta; “Desdemona” furnished the theme for the most lavish praises of the critics ; “Medea” is said to have been the grandest lyric interpretation in the records of art. She had literally worked her way up to eminence, and, having attained the height, she stood on it firm and secure.

Madame Pasta was associated in many of her successes with the tenor Garcia, more celebrated as the father of Malibran and Viardot, and as one of the greatest vocal teachers of the century ; with the baritone Bordogni, and the basso Levasseur.

Honors were showered upon her in all parts of Europe, and it is said that her operatic salary of£14,000 was nearly doubled by her income from other sources ; but she lost nearly her entire fortune by the failure of a banker in Vienna, and, in the endeavor to retrieve her fortunes, she remained on the stage long after her vocal powers were on the wane.

Lahee, Henry Charles. Famous singers of to-day and yesterday. LC Page, 1898.

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