Alboni, Marietta, the great contralto, was born at Citta’ di Castello , in 1826, of very honorable parents, and received an excellent education. At the age of eleven she took lessons in music of the celebrated Maestro Antonio Bagioli at Cesena. Eight years after she entered the Lyceum of Bologna, when Rossini was its director. Her first debut was at Milan, in the great theatre of La Scala, where she continued to sing during four seasons. She then sang three engagements at Vienna, and made her mark, like all the first class Italian artists, in St. Petersburg. She left that city in 1845 for Germany, after which time she made no engagements with managers, but sang, as her mood prompted, in the principal cities, sharing in London the triumphs of Grisi, Mario, and Tamburini, until she went to Paris, where the rapture of her admirers had no precedent, both at the Italian and Grand Opera Houses.
A year ago she was exciting great enthusiasm to Belgium. And her last public appearance was in Paris, on the 13th of May, 1852, at a grand solemnity in the theatre of the Palace of Versailles, at which Louis Napoleon assist( d. She was the great star of the occasion, and astonished and de-lighted every body by her singing. The director of the Grand Opera made propositions, to her to sing in Halevy’s new opera, “Le Juif Errant,” and offered to produce expressly for her a piece of Balfe’s : “Manon l’Escaut,” the “Metal de bataille,” as it has been called, of Malibran. But she had concluded all the preliminary arrangements for a trip to America.
Here she arrived in June, 1852, and her brilliant career in New York, Philadelphia, Boston, Cuba , Mexico, &c., both in concerts and in opera, is too well known to need especial notice. A Parisian critic describes Alboni’s voice as “a veritable contralto, of the most sweet and most sonorous. It goes down to F in the bass clef and up to the C in alt of the soprano ; that is to say, it traverses a compass of two octaves and a half. The first register commences with the F in the bass, and reaches to the same note in the medium ; here lies the real body of Alboni’s voice, and the admirable timbre of this register colors and characterizes all the rest. The second register extends from the G of the medium to the F above ; and the remaining compass of a fourth above that, forming the third portion, is but an elegant sumptuosity of nature. One must hear, to conceive with what incredible skill the artist uses this magnificent instrument ! It is the pearly, light, and fluid vocalization of Persiani, joined to the brilliancy and pomp of style of Pisaroni. Nothing can give an idea of this voice always united, always equal, which vibrates without effort, and of which each note opens like a rosebud. No cry, no pretended dramatic contortion, to bruise and wound your tympanum under the pretext of moving you to tears ! No doubt the admirable voice of Alboni is not without some imperfections ; it counts several notes that are feeble and slightly dull, as sol, la, si, do, notes which serve as the transition between the chest voice, of an unparalleled beauty, and the register of sounds formed above the larynx, commonly called the head tones. When the singer is not careful, this little heath enlarges, and these notes appear a little stifled. It is quite evident that the virtuosa glides over this little bridge of sighs with all sorts of precautions, and that she evinces a satisfaction when she arrives at a real tone of her contralto voice, which she snakes leap out and vibrate with so much the more sonorousness. Frequently she contrasts these two registers with an exquisite taste, balancing herself lightly on the mixed note before bounding upon the terra firma of her cheat voice, which she governs with a supreme authority. We have heard her make a gamut from the C in alt down to F in the bass ; this gamut flew before the ear with the rapidity of lightning, without your losing a single note, and all this was done with an unconcern entirely hopeless for mediocrity.”
Of her personal appearance, her favorite r?les, &c., at the time of her arrival in America, a writer in the Tribune thus speaks : “Marietta Alboni is about twenty-six years of age, -has great embonpoint, – used to keep her hair clipped short and hanging in her neck, when we heard her two or three years since in Europe-has remarkable self-possession and almost indifference of manner pon the stage, of which Steffanone constantly reminded us, and achieves her glowing triumphs more by the splendor of her voice, and her exquisite management of it, than by any dramatic genius, in which she is deficient. Her voice is the purest, richest, fullest, and sweetest contralto. The limited repertoire fin: such a voice has induced Alboni, who is singularly restless, with all her languor of temperament, to undertake many parts not strictly within her range ; but so remarkable is her voice, so delicious to hear under any circumstances, that we believe she has achieved a success in every part she has undertaken. In Rossini’s music, in his brilliant finales and scenas, like the Non più mesta, Alboni is wonderful. Her voice pours out of her mouth without the slightest effort, and with irresistible effect, and gushes through the glittering fioriture of that style with a sparkling facility which is most fascinating. The Brindisi, from ‘ Lucrezia Borgia,’ known as the drinking song, is another of her exquisite bits of vocalization. She used often to sing it between the acts at the Italian Opera in Paris, and it always excited unmingled enthusiasm.”
Complete Encyclopaedia of Music by John Weeks Moore