Jenny Lind, the Swedish Nightingale, died on November 2, 1887, after an illustrious singing career. Lind was one of the most famous singers of the 19th century in Europe and the United States, but her career was relatively short and didn’t always go smoothly.
Born on October 6, 1820, Jenny was the daughter of Anne-Marie Fellborg and Niclas Johas Lind. Although Anne-Marie was divorced at the time, she refused to remarry until her first husband died, so Jenny was 14 when her parents married. Her mother was a schoolteacher and ran a day school for girls in her home, and her father was a bookkeeper.
Jenny began her singing career at the age of 10, after being overheard by the maid of Mademoiselle Lundberg, a dancer for the Royal Swedish Opera. By the age of 20, she was a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Music and a singer at the court of Charles XIV John, King of Sweden and Norway. Unfortunately, although under the tutelage of the singing master at the theater, her voice had become damaged because of overuse and incorrect singing techniques. From 1841 to 1843, she took three months off to let her voice heal and then studied with Manuel Garcia in Paris to learn proper techniques.
After a year of working with Garcia, Giacomo Meyerbeer, a composer and admirer of Lind, arranged an audition at the Paria Opera. Lind always rejected invitations to perform at the Paris Opera after she became famous. Once her voice was healed and her training complete, she returned to the Royal Swedish Opera and toured Denmark in 1843 to great acclaim. All of Europe seemed open to her at this time. She spent successful seasons in Berlin, Vienna and London, charming notables such as composers Felix Mendelssohn and Frédéric Chopin, and Queen Victoria.
For reasons which remain unknown today, Jenny Lind retired from opera in May of 1849 at the age of 29. She didn’t stop singing, however, and the next year she began a tour of the United States arranged by P.T. Barnum. With Barnum’s advertising acumen the tour became wildly popular, prompting the press to coin the term “Lind mania.” After a time, she severed ties with Barnum amicably and continued the tour on her own. It was during this time that she met and married Otto Goldschmidt.
Lind and Goldschmidt returned to Europe in May of 1852 and chose to live at first in Germany and later in England. They had three children together. Lind still refused to perform opera, but she continued to perform in concert and began teaching other singers. In addition to her singing, Lind was also loved because of her contributions to charity. During her tour with Barnum in the US, she made roughly $350,000 and donated it all to charity. When she died on November 2, 1887, she also left much of her estate to charitable causes, specifically to help poor students in Sweden receive an education.
Find out what else happened on November 2 in Women’s History.