“The world has finally found a woman composer of genius”Franz Liszt
Pauline García was born July 18 1821 in Paris to the famous singer family. Her father, the spanish tenor, opera composer and singing teacher, Manuel García is still very well known for the book „School of singing“. Her sister was diva Maria Malibran.
As a small girl, she travelled with her family to London and New York (where her father, mother, brother and sister gave the first performance of Mozart’s Don Giovanni in the United States). By the age of six she was fluent in Spanish, French, English and Italian, to which she later added German and Russian.
She had wanted to become a professional concert pianist, even taking piano lessons with Franz Liszt. After Malibran’s death in 1836, Pauline became a professional singer instead. She nevertheless remained an outstanding pianist all her life.
At the age of 17, she met and was courted by Alfred de Musset (the poet of the song Madrid above). Her friend George Sand discouraged her from accepting de Musset’s proposal. She married instead Louis Viardot, an author and the director of the Théâtre Italien. He was 39, she 18.
The list of her close friends include Frédéric Chopin and George Sand, Jenny Lind, Charles Gounod, Hector Berlioz, Clara Schumann, and Gabriel Fauré, to name a few.
In 1863, Pauline Viardot retired from the stage. She and her family left France due to her husband’s public opposition to Emperor Napoleon III and settled in Baden-Baden, Germany. In 1870 Johannes Brahms persuaded her to sing in the first public performance of his Alto Rhapsody.
After the fall of Napoleon III later in 1870, they returned to France, where she taught at the Paris Conservatory and presided over a music salon in the Boulevard Saint-Germain. She died May 18, 1910 in Paris.
Viardot began composing when she was young. Her compositions were written mainly as private pieces for her students. Franz Liszt declared that, with Pauline Viardot, the world had finally found a woman composer of genius. After her retirement from the stage she wrote five salon operas – some to her own libretti and over fifty art songs.