In 1806 Angelica Catalani (1780–1849) appeared at the King’s Theatre London in Portagallo’s opera ‘Semiramide’, and she is depicted here in the title role, dressed in royal robes trimmed with ermine and wearing a diadem on her head, also to denote her status. She stands in a theatrical pose next to an iron gate – a graveyard or a tomb – and small dots of flamingo-coloured paint on the right show that she is sprinkling something. A dark character stands in the rear shadows behind her. Catalani made her debut in 1797 at La Fenice, Venice and sang in the first performance in London of Mozart’s ‘Le nozze di Figaro’ (Susanna), and the second run of performances of the composer’s ‘La clemenza di Tito’ (as Vitellia). She demanded £7,000 for her 1807 appearances, and settled for £5,000 guineas and benefit performances. She also sung ‘Rule Britannia’ for her London audiences. Lord Byron wrote a poem about her famous appearance wearing pantaloons as the King of Egypt in Nasolini’s ‘Le Feste di Iside’. The painting was once in the collection of the Garrick Club.
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Royal Academy of Music
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