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Lithograph by Graf & Soret after M. Negelen, London, 1835. John Watts Collection (see below).

Lithograph by Graf & Soret after M. Negelen, London, 1835. John Watts Collection (see below).

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GRISI, Giulia (b.Milan, 28 July 1811; d.Berlin, 29 November 1869)
Grisi, the bicentennary of whose birth falls on 28 July, was one of the most important operatic sopranos of the nineteenth century. The younger sister of the mezzo-soprano Giuditta Grisi, she was also a niece of the great contraltro Giuseppina Grassini and cousin to the celebrated ballerina Carlotta Grisi. To a rich, flexible and perfectly produced voice she added exceptional dramatic power and striking physical beauty and more than any other singer reigned over the operatic and concert stages of her time (particularly those of Paris and London) in a wide repertoire ranging from Handel and Mozart to Verdi and Meyerbeer.

From the early 1840s she was associated with the tenor Mario in what was to become one of the legendary partnerships (off-stage and on) of opera history. The pair had first sung together in Donizetti's Lucrezia Borgia at London's Her Majesty's Theatre in 1839. They were to open the present Royal Opera House with a performance of Meyerbeer's Les Huguenots on 15 May 1858.

(Please click the thumbnails below to view larger image)

Lithograph by Vassalli after Roberto Focosi, Milan, c.1831. Grisi as Semiramide. Lithograph by Rigo frères et Cie after A. Lacauchie, Paris, c.1832. Lithograph by Léon Noel, Paris, 1832.

Grisi and Lablache in I Puritani. Drawing by Princess [later Queen] Victoria. Signed and dated July 1835. John Watts Collection (see below).

Grisi as Desdemona in Rossini's Otello.  Lithograph by R. J. Lane after A. E. Chalon. Publ. J. Mitchell, London, 1 January 1836. Grisi and Luigi Lablache in I Puritani. Lithograph by R. J. Lane after A. E. Chalon. Publ. J. Mitchell, London, 1 January 1836. Grisi as Anna Bolena. Lithograph by R. J. Lane after A. E. Chalon. Publ. J. Mitchell, London, 1 January 1836.

Flyer for a performance at the Royal Italian Opera, Covent Garden, 28 June 1849. Flyer for the Grand Morning Concert at the Royal Italian Opera, Covent Garden, 14 July 1854. Flyer for Mrs. Anderson's Grand Morning Concert at the Royal Italian Opera, Covent Garden, 6 July 1855.  The conductor was Berlioz.  The performance of Rossini's Stabat Mater in Part II featured Grisi, Mario and Tamburini among the singers from the work's première in Paris in 1842.

Photograph by Fratelli Alinari, Florence, c.1860. Grisi and Mario in the garden of Mulgrave House, Fulham, their London home from the late 1850s to 1864. Lithograph by Henry Maguire after a photograph by Monteechi, Caldesi & Co, from the title page of J. L. Hatton's 'Come Live with Me and be my Love', London, [1857]. Mario is shown in costume as Manrico in Il Trovatore. Photograph, photographer unknown, London, c.1865.


JOHN WATTS COLLECTION
Four of the items displayed above, including the main image and the drawing by Princess Victoria are from the collection of John Watts (1929-2010). Mr Watts bequeathed his library and archive to the Museum of Music History. He was one of the leading instigators of the Donizetti Society, founded in 1973. Successively Vice-Chairman and Chairman, he also edited the first three issues of the Society's important scholarly Journal, himself contributing articles, chronologies and reviews.

John Watts. Photograph by Jennie Walton, 2003.

The Watts Collection is rich in first edition scores, libretti, sound recordings and prints (together with several original portraits), while the library provides extensive coverage of nineteenth-century opera, singers and theatres. The collection has further significance for its near-comprehensive archive of the bel canto revival of the last sixty years, with programmes, reviews and articles relating to countless productions world-wide of the operas of Rossini, Bellini, Donizetti and their contemporaries.

The collection is currently being catalogued and will be the subject of future displays on this site.