Pauline Viardot was a French composer, teacher, and mezzo-soprano. Born Michelle Ferdinande Pauline Garcia, her life was musical from the very beginning, and she belonged to a very musical family. Her father was the tenor Manuel Garcia, and her brother Manuel Garcia II became an acclaimed singing teacher and is credited with the development of the laryngoscope, and for his writing on bel canto singing technique. Viardot's sister was the celebrated mezzo-soprano Maria Malibran, who created many of the virtuoso roles in Rossini's operas.
Viardot was taught the piano by composer Franz List, and studied composition with Anton Reicha, while her mother taught her to sing. Her voice was prized for its flexibility and wide range, and she made her operatic debut at just 17, singing Desdemona in Rossini's Otello. As her voice developed, she moved into more dramatic roles, and her singing career took her across the world, including several seasons at St. Petersburg. Many song cycles were written for her, by composers such as Johannes Brahms, Robert Schumann, Gabriel Faure, and Camille Saint-Saens.
As well as her singing career, Viardot was a prized composer of her day, writing art songs, instrumental music and several operas and operettas, including her own version of the Cendrillon fairytale.
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