This is the day that … Jenny Lind was born, out of wedlock, in Sweden, in 1821.
Billed as “the Swedish Nightingale”, her singing was praised across the world. Frankfurt, Copenhagen, Berlin, Leipzig, Vienna, London – the crowds came to hear this diva of the operatic stage (Cavalcade of History, by C. Golding, page 801).
It is said that at the age of three she was able to repeat a song that she had heard but once. At age ten she sang on the Stockholm stage. From 12 – 16 her voice lost its sweetness, then returned with full force.
For a year and a half she was the star of he Stockholm opera before attempting studies in Paris. At age 24 she sang for Queen Victoria opening the way for much success in Germany. In 1847 she went to London and was enthusiastically received. Here she sang for the first time in concert.
In 1850 P.T. Barnum, the American entrepreneur, signed her up to appear in 150 “concerts or oratorios” for $150,000 (The Fabulous Showman, by I. Wallace, page 134).
American audiences fell at her feet. The press spoke of her voice as “unrivalled” and so, too, was her popularity.
After two years Barnum released her from her contract – she had given 93 performances and he had made his fortune.
Jenny Lind married Otto Goldschmidt, her pianist, on 5 February, 1852. He was a famous German pianist who had been a pupil of Mendelssohn.
In the years that followed she rarely sang for personal gain.
Irving Wallace tells of one who found her sitting on the beach in the late afternoon – “a Bible on her lap. The friend wondered why she had abandoned her career at its height. Jenny replied, ‘When every day it made me think less of this’ – and she indicated her Bible – ‘and nothing of that’ – and she pointed to the setting sun – ‘what else could I do?’” (page 159).
Jenny Lind died in London on 2 November, 1887.
P.T. Barnum cabled her husband. “So dies away the last echo of the most glorious voice the world has ever heard.”
This post is based on the work of my late friend Donald Prout whose love for books and Christian history led him to collate a daily Christian calendar. I continue to work with Don’s wife, Barbara, to share his life work with the world. I have updated some of these historical posts and will hopefully draw from Don’s huge files of clippings to continue this series beyond Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at www.donaldprout.com. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History, which I previously considered to be a little stuffy and of little practical value. I find in the process of updating Don’s Christian Diary that I am being constantly refreshed, illuminated or challenged by the lives of those who have gone before.