Cover

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From the Publisher

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Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. iii-vi

Contents

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pp. vii-viii

List of Illustrations and Musical Examples

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pp. ix-x

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Acknowledgments

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pp. xi-xiv

This book belongs to many hands and many voices. It emerged in the aftermath of a dissertation, the study of a single year—1829—which took me three times as long to complete. No doubt the roots of my interest in performance extend back to my pianistic training in Johannesburg and a life-changing encounter with Pauline Nossel...

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Introduction

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pp. 1-12

In an article for the Revue de Paris, the critic Castil-Blaze told the story of how Giovanni Battista Rubini acquired his gift for unmediated expression. The incident occurred in 1831, as the singer forced the sustained B♭ toward the end of “Luna, conforto al cor de’ naviganti,” the then-famous romance from Giovanni...

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1. “Veluti in Speculum”: The Twilight of the Castrato

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pp. 13-40

On the night of 15 May 1829, Felix Mendelssohn had a nightmare about Giovanni Battista Velluti, the last great operatic castrato. Velluti’s voice had been in the German’s head since that afternoon, when they crossed paths at a concert at the Argyll Rooms on Regent Street in London. There he had heard the “poor wretched creature...

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2. Reflecting on Reflex: A Touching New Fact about Chopin

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pp. 41-65

These words formed part of an argument made by Jan Matuszyński behind the great gated colonnades of the École de médecine in Paris on 16 August 1837. The school was a celebrated institution, the foremost of its kind in Europe. The occasion was the oral exam of a doctoral thesis entitled “The Influence of the Sympathetic...

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3. The Sontag-Malibran Stereotype

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pp. 66-92

Just before two o’clock on the afternoon of 30 May 1829 there was a rush at the doors of the Argyll Rooms, a suite of four spacious apartments on Regent Street, in central London. Carriages drew up along the arcade (John Nash’s recent design); attendants hustled up and down making way for their employers. Most of the fashionables...

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4. Boneless Hands / Thalberg’s Ready-Made Soul / Velvet Fingers

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pp. 93-122

Dressed in severe black with a white cravat, Sigismund Thalberg made his London debut on 9 May 1836. The Swiss-born pianist played at the Hanover Square Concert Rooms, only a block to the west of the 1829 triumphs of Sontag and Malibran. He entered just before 9 p.m., flanked by immense reflective mirrors, glass chandeliers...

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5. In Search of Voice: Nourrit’s Voix Mixte, Donzelli’s Bari-Tenor

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pp. 123-151

Historians still remember the year of Gilbert-Louis Duprez’s return from Italy as the year when the Paris Opéra fell into “triste décadence.”1 A dark veil descended in 1837, when a long-favored artist-citizen was forced into exile: Adolphe Nourrit, legendary singer, idol of the Salle Le Peletier, and former inspiration for a host of...

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6. Franz Liszt, Metapianism, and the Cultural History of the Hand

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pp. 152-179

On 30 August 1832, Nicolas Th eodore Frédéric Benoît became the first convicted parricide in Paris to be spared the poing coupé: amputation of the right hand immediately before execution by guillotine. Nineteen years of age, this son of a respected magistrate in the Ardennes had his toilette performed at the central asylum...

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Epilogue

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pp. 180-184

The opening of this book described two iconic moments in which “pure voice” came into its own: at the literal shattering of Rubini’s clavicle and the more figurative breaking of Paganini’s hands. A later chapter pictured García fils with his laryngoscope, an instance mythologized as the historical juncture at which vocal...

Notes

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pp. 185-238

Works Cited

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pp. 239-256

Index

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pp. 257-265