Dolly and Minerva go to the opera to hear the famous soprano Angelina Catalani sing the part of Susanna in Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro. Cousin Geneviève was to accompany them, but bowed out at the last minute. What was so pressing, that she would miss this opportunity to hear the greatest opera singer of the era? Little do they know that she is in a nearby box!
Angelica Catalani's remarkable voice was discovered when she was a teenager in a convent school in Rome, and it was little time before she embarked on a sensational singing career. From the age of 16, when she had a leading role at La Fenice in Venice, she amazed audiences and critics for the next thirty years. While singing in Paris in 1805, she signed a contract to perform in London from 1806-1807. Napoleon, eager to keep her in France, refused her a passport to leave the country, but she managed to slip out, spending the next several years in London. It was her role as Susanna that helped popularize Mozart's operas. Although we have no idea what she sounded like, the critical reviews establish her as one of the greatest opera singers of all time. Combined with her lovely doe-like features, she was a total sensation.
Most likely unrelated to Angelica Catalani is the opera composer Alfredo Catalani (1854–1893), a largely overlooked figure, who wrote one of the most beautiful arias, "Ebben? Ne andrò lontana" in La Wally. Listen here to hear it sung by Maria Callas, who, like Angelica Catalani, combined beauty with the greatest singing voice of her age.