Adelina Patti and Her Teacup Puppy

Together with Jenny Lind and Thérèse Tietjens, Adelina Patti (1843-1919) was one of the most famous sopranos in history. According to Verdi and others, her voice possessed an unmatched bird-like purity, beauty, and remarkable flexibility.

Adelina Patti, 1863

Adelina Patti, 1863

In addition, Patti had the finest bel canto technique at her disposal. She led a colorful personal life and enjoyed the trappings of fame and wealth. In her prime, she demanded to be paid $5000 a night, in gold, before the performance. Her contracts stipulated that her name be top-billed and printed larger than any other name in the cast. Her contracts also insisted that while she was “free to attend all rehearsals, she was not obligated to attend any.” Patti reportedly also had a parrot whom she trained to shriek, “Cash! Cash!” whenever her promoter Colonel Mapleson walked in the room. Unlike some of her former extravagant colleagues, Patti wisely invested her money and lived in luxurious surroundings for her entire life.

Gaetano Donizetti: Lucia Di Lammermoor, “Mad Scene”

Like a good many other people then and now, Patti had a decided weakness for pets. On the occasion of one of her concerts, the President of Mexico presented her with a Chihuahua puppy. As expected, the little puppy led an incredible life of great luxury. He was fed caviar and veal liver, and Patti personally carried the little creature to wherever she went. He even accompanied her on concert tours to the far reaches of the globe.

Chihuahua puppy

During one of her American tours the little dog got sick and died. Patti was inconsolable with grief, and it was said that her performances of the “Mad Scene” from Donizetti’s Lucia Di Lammermoor were hauntingly realistic. After a particularly riveting performance, when the Diva came before the curtain to receive the applause of the audience and the floral tributes, a tiny casket of roses was handed to her. Inside, and bedded on a tiny silk pillow, was yet another Chihuahua teacup puppy. Everybody was overawed and overcome by emotions, and Patti was obliged to appear before the curtain again and again fondling her new lapdog.

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Adelina Patti ~ Ah Non Credea Mirarti ~ ( La Sonnambula )

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