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Jenny Lind: The Swedish Nightingale
by [?]

Herr Berg was supervising a grand concert to be given at the Court Theatre, and was in a dilemma. The fourth act of Robert le Diable was to be given, but all his singers refused to take the part of Alice, because it included only one solo. The Herr Direktor was distracted, but finally thought of his unlucky pupil, Jenny Lind, whose voice could be trusted in such a minor part, and calling her to his room, he offered her the part. Without demur she accepted it, and practised feverishly, but on the night of the performance she was so nervous for fear her voice would fail, that those near the stage could see her slender form tremble with fright and excitement. Perhaps the tension and the passion with which she was labouring wrought the miracle. At all events, she sang the aria of her part with such wonderful beauty and richness of tone that the audience were beside themselves with admiration. Jenny’s voice had come out fuller, finer than ever! The recently despised young singer became instantly the heroine of the hour, while Herr Berg, watching behind the scenes, was spell-bound with surprise and joy.

The next day he called her to his room and offered her the role of Agatha in Weber’s Der Freischutz.

Ever since Jenny first began to study and to hear operatic music, this role had been in secret her highest ambition, and one can picture her standing before the Direktor, her blue eyes flashing with excitement, her mobile face expressing a dozen varying degrees of joy while her slender girlish figure looked almost too slight for the task, as she joyfully accepted the responsibility.

At once she began rehearsing, and one day when she put forth every effort to express emotion in the way her dramatic teacher wished, the effort was met with silence.

“Am I then so incapable,” she thought. Then glancing at her teacher she saw tears in the eyes of the older woman, who exclaimed:

“My child, I have nothing to teach you–do as nature tells you,”–and Jenny knew that her supreme effort had not been wasted.

It is said that she studied the part of Agatha with all the intensity of her enthusiastic nature and at the last rehearsal sang with such intense feeling and fire that the orchestra, to a man, laid down their instruments and applauded loudly. The next day, before the performance, she was very nervous and worried, but the moment she appeared on the stage every bit of apprehension vanished, and as Fredrika Bremer said, “She was fresh, bright and serene as a morning in May, peculiarly graceful and lovely in her whole appearance. She seemed to move, speak and sing without effort or art. Her singing was distinguished especially by its purity and the power of soul which seemed to swell in her tones.” Jenny herself said afterwards, “I got up that morning one creature. I went to bed another creature. I had found my power.”

During her entire after life she kept that anniversary, the seventh of March, in grateful remembrance of her triumph, as a sort of second birthday.

For the next year and a half she worked indefatigably, and her success as an operatic singer seemed assured; she became the star of the Stockholm opera, as well as the most popular singer in Sweden, and was called the “Swedish Nightingale.”

After singing without rest for months, she was able to take a short holiday in the summer of 1839, and Fru Lind, who accompanied her, wrote back to her husband, “Our Jenny recruits herself daily, now in the hay-stacks, now on the sea, or in the swing, in perfect tranquillity, while the town people are said to be longing for her concert, and greatly wondering when it will come off. Once or twice she has been singing the divine air of Isabella from
Robert le Diable. Nearly everybody was crying. One lady actually went into hysterics from sheer rapture. Yes, she captivates all, all! It is a great happiness to be a mother under such conditions!”