BADIA, Carlotta [b Italy, c 1857; d unknown]
BADIA, Antonietta Francesca M [b ?Milan, ?13 June 1859; d Cernobbio after 1936]
A photograph of two youthfully-pretty teenaged girls, dark-eyed, dark-haired, taken in Paris in the year 1875, survives to this day. There’s a copy in the Bibliothèque Française. And a very scruffy one on an Italian website. The French one is wrongly labelled. The cataloguer has marked it as being Spanish soprano, Conchita Badia, decades before her birth. The Italian one is stuck on to a bit of semi-fictional writing which half-heartedly passes for truth. But the photo was featured on the cover of Paris-Théâtre, and blow me down, a copy has turned up on e-bay this week chez the esteemed dealer 'blaurent' and another, amid his usual trove of delights, chez the even more esteemed 'photodiscovery'.
Well, the photograph is of the two daughters of songwriter-cum-singing teacher Luigi Badia (b Ternano, 16 February 1819; d 17 via di Monte Pietà, Milan 30 October, 1899) ‘pupil of Rossini’ (and Zingarelli and Donizetti and...), and his wife, singer Teresa née Martinetti. And the season of 1874-5 – when the girls were about eighteen and sixteen – was just about the peak of their career, and their popularity. Which is why the mass-produced picture.
Badia has been written about a lot, and found his way into all sorts of reference books. He even has a street named after him in Ternano. I’m a bit surprised, but his achievement in the music world was and remains his production of hundreds of ‘Neapolitan’ songs, some of which were sung by the great and the grand and some of which proved quite durable. He started off, like most Italian musicians of the period, writing operas. Four of them got produced between 1846 and 1854, without success. The prima donna for the last, Il Cavaliere Nero (Teatro Comunale, Bologna 28 October 1854), was the young soprano Teresina Martinetti, who, soon after, became Mrs Badia.
The Badias left Italy, allegedly, because of the political situation, in 1856. Which is odd, because both the daughters are supposed to have been born there. But it must be at least kind of right, because Teresa is singing in Brescia and Firenze in 1855, and by October 1856 they’re in Paris. And in 1857 she is engaged in Brussels. In 1857, too, they visited England for the first time and Teresa sang alongside Belletti, Nantier-Didiée and Graziani, at Mrs Petre’s soiree (28 May), giving a duet from her husband’s 1853 opera Flavio Rachis with Neri-Baraldi, the Rigoletto quartet with Nantier-Didiée and Ronconi, the Lucia septet, a Donizetti romanza, and one of Luigi's Neapolitan songs ('Stornello'), and again at Madame Puzzi’s concert (8 June).
Some time after, they went back to Brussels (I spot her giving a concert there in April 1859), and to wherever the girls were born, but they ultimately settled in Britain, where Luigi pursued a career as a modest singing teacher and conductor and a successful songwriter. Teresa sang. I spot them at a do, staged by Giacinto Marras, for ‘Neapolitan exiles’ in May 1859, and on, 27 August, she is billed as making her first appearance in England at the Crystal Palace. She sang ‘O luce di quest’ anima’ and ‘Ah! non giunge’ and two of Luigi’s songs, ‘Viva la patria terra’ and ‘Nennelle’. Her songs were liked better than her arias: ‘Her voice is not of the finest quality but it is powerful, of considerable extent and extremely sweet and pure in the upper register. Her style is energetic and fearless…’, ‘some merit and numerous faults’, ‘a tolerable voice’.
In 1860, she went on tour with Amalia Corbari and Claudina Fiorentini (‘a young Neapolitan whose songs ‘font furore’ in London’) in a Willert Beale concert party. Her songs went down well: ‘petite in figure with a remarkably expressive face she introduces us to a new character of song, full of life, and poured. with a clear ringing voice and naïve manner ... she will become a popular singer in this country’. The other two prime donne outdid her in the arias.
For the next seven years, Teresa was seen episodically in concert, still making her best success with her husband’s lively songs, visiting Brighton and Lymington, and each year giving a concert in a fashionable London private house. And then she vanishes. He doesn’t, but she does. She isn’t listed in the UK death records, but in the 1871 census he lists himself as ‘widower’. And the girls as 14 and 11. Born Italy.
The next year, he would bring the girls out. But for Carlotta – named Carlottina – it wouldn’t be a veritable debut. In December of 1860, ‘aged four’, she had made an appearance at Brighton. She sang ‘La donna è mobile’ and ‘Di quell’ amor’ ‘correctly and even somewhat artistically’, and, as the local press related at length, caused quite a hit. But she doesn’t seem to have made another childish appearance. Not in public. Later, it would be said that she had sung ‘Qui la voce’ before Queen Victoria. Well, maybe she did. And it was recounted that Rossini had told Badia that she shouldn’t be doing it, and to wait till she was twelve. So he did.
Carlottina and Antonietta, presumably 15 and 12, appeared at the Pavilion in March 1872 at Wilhelm Kuhe’s 12-day Brighton Festival. The press hadn’t forgotten (‘it is some years since that one of the girls when scarce emerged from infanthood was heard singing at a matinee in Brunswick Square…’), and their duet singing, alongside the adult work of Jose Sherrington, Alice Fairman and Monari Rocca, was judged charming. Kuhe brought them out at his London concert, on 10 June, in extremely lofty company – from Titiens and Marimon to Trebelli and Mme Conneau – but then they were withdrawn from the public eye again. Though I suspect that invitations to sing privately before the aristocratic and wealthy were accepted, and, indeed, I spot the pair with their father giving ‘their annual private matinée’ chez the Butlers of Connaught Place in 1873 (30 June).
In February 1875, a scathingly funny piece of occasional journalism in the Daily News, taking an open-eyed look at the Parisian Lenten ‘fashionable concert’ scene, cast an eye over the best of the new performers: ‘two Neapolitan girls named Badia have had the luck to be taken up by the Baroness Nathan de Rothschild. They are exquisite drawing room singers and, in warbling duets together, make a tableau vivant pretty enough to carry off a prize at the ‘Salon’. But, not being gifted with dramatic power, they would have met with less favour elsewhere…’. A reporter who heard them at a private soirée devoted a full column to them. The story about the Queen and Rossini surfaced. They were photographed. They sang the Mercadante Guiramento duet (‘avait l’inconvenient de sortir du cadre qui convient si bien a ces deux voix enfantines ..’) at the Opéra for Mons Delannoy’s Benefit (28 March), Il Flauto magico and La Vestale at the Salle Herz for Mons Ferrari (‘deux bien jolies voix’) and mounted their own concert at the same rooms, with Lefort and delle Sedie as guests. They sang ‘Giorno d’orrore’ and ‘I pescatori’ and were voted ‘cristallines, vibrantes, sympathétiques, merveilleuses de justesse et expresssion’. They varied their duets by, each, singing in tandem with Lefort.
They sang at Alphonse Rendano’s concert, and then they were taken to sing at the President’s home (‘Per valli per boschi’, ‘Giorno d’orrore’, ‘Biondina’), before the Queen of Spain and Marshall MacMahon. Madame de Rothschild had done her job well. Her protégées were the darlings of the day.
|Baroness de Rothschild|
Paris having been taken, the Badias headed back to London and their annual ’private matinée’ chez Selina, Countess Milton, and another ’debut’ at the Crystal Palace (23 October). They gave their Blangini and a Maria Padilla duet and won splendid notices for their ‘pure expressive style’, their sound technique and their sisterly togetherness. And the critic did not forget to mention that they had been singing at private parties for some years.
In November they took part in the Covent Garden proms, made a first appearance at the Monday pops (‘Dolce conforto’, ‘Nel giardino’), and returned to the Crystal Palace. In January 1876 they visited Dublin and began a series of performances at the Boosey Ballad Concerts where their ‘chaste unaffected duet singing’ in pieces such as Balfe’s ‘I know a maiden fair to see’ and ‘Trust her not’, Mendelssohn’s ‘Greeting’, ‘Kelvin Grove’ and some of father Badia’s works won great favour.
The Monday pops, the Alexandra Palace, concerts for Campana, Alice Fairman, Arditi ... and then the London season was over, and the family headed for Enghien (‘Giorno d’orrore’, Traventi waltz) where they teamed up with the baritone Faure, pianist Ketten and violinist Ovide Musin for a two- month Henry Jarrett tour from Nancy (23 September) and Reims round France, Belgium and Holland. And then winter in Paris.
Of course, there could never be another season like that famous first one, but the girls shared their year between the London season and the Paris one, appearing in their own concerts and in a variety of other often high society events. In 1877 they sang alongside Christine Nilsson and Sims Reeves (‘Un gentile e vago fior’) and at the French Embassy for variegated royalty. Carlotta sang solo on this occasion, and it was increasingly evident that the younger sister had not the ambition of the elder. Over the next few years, Antonietta would adopt an increasingly supportive role.
In 1879, they visited the Casino at Monte Carlo where it was averred that they ‘have won all hearts by their exquisite singing’, and although it was paragraphed that they were to 'debut' operatically in Linda di Chamonix in Boulogne, they seemingly visited the Ostend Kursaal, Enghien and Aix-les-Bains, Milan, Brussels, Paris, without a theatre performance, before they headed back London again. In 1881, it was stated in the press that they were now performing individually, and Carlotta ‘aspires to the more elaborate form of vocalism’. She did indeed, for her cheval de bataille was now ‘Bel raggio’ which one critic felt ‘she has hardly the physical power’ to perform. But she did, for many years, to mostly more satisfied notices.
|Carlotta? I notice the photo is labelled 'Mlles'|
In 1882, Antonietta married. Her husband was Angelo [Maria] Alberto Carminati (b Brignano Gera d’Adda, Bergamo 17 August 1856; d Milan 16 November 1934), who was to become a senator in Italy and make it to the Italian Dictionary of Biography. She retired from performing, returned to Italy, bore a daughter, Luigia (Signora Vizzardelli), and seemingly lived out much of her life in Cernobbio. She survived her husband.
Carlotta carried on, as she had already begun to, as a solo artist, through the 1800s and into the 1890s. She centred her activity, now, on England where her father had become a staff member at Henry Wylde’s London Academy of Music. She appeared at the Crystal Palace, the Covent Garden proms, the Albert Hall, the Saturday Pops, at Liverpool’s Halle concerts, the Glasgow Saturday Evenings, giving the eternal ’Bel raggio’, ‘Deh vieni’, ‘Home Sweet Home’, ‘Une nuit sur le lac’, ‘Qui la voce’ or Gounod’s ‘Printemps’. The critic of the Saturday concerts found that she was ‘more at home in Gounod than in ‘Dove sono’.’ When she ventured to Paris in 1880, she was reported to have 'enlevé la salle' at Urio's concert in the confines of the Grand Hotel ('Le nid d'amour', 'Bel raggio'), and in 1887 she was well-plugged by a journo who didn't know his 'Bel Raggio' from his 'Bel reggia', However, the Princess B[u]onaparte was not as adept as Madame de Rothschild, Carlotta was no longer a pretty teenager (in duplicate), and ..
By 1888 the response was altogether more negative: ‘Carlotta Badia may be acceptable in a drawing-room, but she is not fit to sing in a large concert-room like that at the Crystal Palace ..’ Carlotta, who had been for many years a feature of Mrs Wylde’s frequent charity concerts, became, therefter, less seen as a performer and joined her father on the staff of the LAM.
In 1893 (27 May) the Badias took part in a Crystal Palace concert devoted wholly to Luigi’s work. Ben Davies, Eugene Oudin and Delphine Le Brun joined Carlotta to perform the vocal music, which the press averred was by far Badia’s best. Soon after, Luigi Badia returned to Italy, where he was to die in 1899. I assume Carlotta went too. But I don’t know. The father actually made it into the Italian Dictionary of National Biography. But there’s no mention of what happened to the daughters. So their precise details are, for the moment, lost. A French publication named Le Grand Encyclopédie muddles its Carlotta with its Antonietta
But they had had that one wonderful season, when they were the hottest thing in town, on both sides of the English Channel, and had their photograph taken …
Carlotta Badia wrote and translated the lyrics for a number of songs, including one composed by Gilda Ruta, grand-daughter to one of the (if not the) very earliest American prime donne…