February 19, 2011

Mrs. Lamperti

We can thank Mathilde Marchesi for introducing Hedwig Werner to Francesco Lamperti. After all, it was Marchesi who made the future Mrs. Lamperti choose between an actress friend and her studies. Marchesi's account in her memoir Marchesi and Music (1897) shows that she, as Manuel Garcia's student, had standards to uphold, as well as her reputation to consider. After all, in the 19th century, to be an actress was to be considered no better than a prostitute. Opera singers were only a bit more respectable. If a young woman sang in the opera and then married, she, more often that not, was expected to give up her career for her husband. And how frustrating that must have been for a voice teacher after putting a great deal of time and effort into a career only to have it shelved because of matrimony.

Madam Edvige Lamperti (Hedwig Werner) 


Young Hedwig fared somewhat better in making her choice of leaving Marchesi's Paris studio for Francesco Lamperti's in Milan. He was 36 years her senior - a real May-December romance. One gossipy newspaper account has Hedwig jumping into La Como in order to get the maestro's attention. Another has her taking charge of Lamperti's studio after their marriage, raising his fee and bringing Teutonic order to the proceedings. Still another contrasts her kindness and gentle nature to his irascible and ill-tempered one. Opposites attract? 

Regardless of her motives and the precise nature of the relationship between Lamperti and his young wife (Lamperti's second marriage caused a rift between father and son), Hedwig was instrumental in carrying on his teachings during his twilight years. After his death, she opened a school in Paris with Guilia Valda (who I wrote about in a recent post). Both women relocated the school to New York for the duration of the WWI. Hedwig made her debut in 1865 as Oscar in Verdi's Un Ballo in Maschera in Italy, the same role in which Guilia Valda made hers. It seems that they studied with Lamperti at the same time.

After the Lamperti-Valda School of Singing returned to Paris after the war, Madam Lamperti made her way to Berlin, where she taught voice and coached singers. The last notice of her appeared in a theatrical magazine (Deusches Bünen-jarbuch, vol 49) in 1938 which took note of her 90th birthday. If readers know more about her, please do let me know. She must have been a fascinating woman. 


  1. Daniel, I'm pretty well-versed in opera and opera lore, but you're always coming up with wonderful details only very few people will be familiar with. Thanks for the background info here, and on putting things into perspective (i.e. that "prostitute" analogy fits quite well). :-)
    Take care,

  2. Michael- Sometimes I wish we could go back in time to get the real scoop on our teachers and mentors. But the tidbits are fascinating nonetheless. Thanks for your comment! All best regards, Daniel


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