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André Adolphe-Eugène Disdéri
Giovanni Mateo Mario (1810-1883), Tenor
Carte de visite
Private collection of T. Max Hochstetler
Giovanni Mateo Mario "Cavaliere di Candia" (1810-1883), Italian opera tenor
Born into an aristocratic family the son of General di Candia on 18 October 1810. His career as a singer was the result of accidental circumstances. Mario gained officer rank in the Sardinian army until he was imprisoned at Cagliari for a trifling offence. When his sentence ended he attempted to resign his commission but was denied leading him to desert the army and flee to Paris.
There he gained some success as amateur vocalist which led to an opera engagement. He studied two years in Paris with Bordogni and Ponchard, and had debut at the Paris Opera in 1838, in the title role of Meyerbeer's "Robert le Diable." During his career he appeared to great acclaim at all the major opera houses of the world, including St. Petersburg, New York, and Madrid. Elegantly handsome, with a winning stage presence, he had an extraordinarily sweet-toned tenor voice. Mario made his London debut at Her Majesty's Theatre as Gennaro in Donizetti's "Lucrezia Borgia" on 6 June 1839 and was seen in that role by Queen Victoria two days later. The Queen found his voice "very fine and full of feeling" and noted in her Journal that he was "tall, quite young and very handsome." During the next 28 years the Royal family heard Mario on many occasions, sometimes he sang at Covent Garden where he sang from 1847, and sometimes in concerts performed at Buckingham Palace. The last time the Queen heard him sing was at the ceremony to mark the laying of the foundation stone of the Royal Albert Hall on 20 May 1867, when he "sang his solo beautifully."
His stage partnership with the soprano, Giulia Grisi, from 1839 was one of the most successful in operatic history. They were married in London. Their daughter, Mrs. Godfrey Pearce, later wrote her father's biography, "The Romance of A Great Singer: A Memoir of Mario," published 1910. Mario retired from the stage in 1871, although he returned to tour the U.S. with Adelina Patti 1872-1873. From then until his death he lived in dire poverty, having spent all the earnings of a long career. Mario died in Rome 11 December 1883. Queen Victoria was much grieved to hear of Mario's death, and wrote, "he was the greatest tenor that ever existed and had a most heavenly voice ... with such feeling."
(Kindly contributed by T. Max Hochstetler, June 2007)