Personalities | Giulia Grisi | Early Romantic | Opera
The Italian soprano Giulia Grisi made her debut at age 17 in Bologna, singing in Rossini’s Zelmira. Three years later, in Milan in 1831, Grisi created the role of the priestess Adalgisa in Bellini’s Norma – a part he wrote especially for her. Her Paris debut followed in 1832, when she sang the title role in Rossini’s Semiramide at the Théâtre Italien. Grisi remained in Paris for the next 14 years. In the role of Elvira in Bellini’s I puritani, which she created, the composer remarked that ‘she sang like an angel’. Her subsequent career was peripatetic. Grisi sang at Covent Garden, London (1847–51), toured the United States (1854–55) and made a series of ‘final’ performances (1854–66). These constant shifts meant that she had a far-flung – and adoring – public, who appreciated her beauty as much as her rich, flexible voice and acting ability. Queen Victoria was among her many admirers.
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