October 18, 1810– December 11, 1883) was an Italian operasinger, considered to be the most famous tenorof the 19th century. His real name and hereditary title was Cavaliere Giovanni Matteo de Candia, Marquis of Candia. Born in Cagliari, Sardinia, Mario came from the House of Candia, a Piedmontnoble family which belonged to Italy's social elite. His family formed part of the Royal Court of Turinand his father was an army general.
In order to free himself from the burdensome ancestral traditions which he had inherited, and mitigate his father's opposition to a member of the high-born Candia family pursuing a 'lowly' musical career, the young singer disguised his aristocratic origins by adopting the stage name of "Mario", when aged in his 20s.
Mario's decision to become a professional singer was the result of accidental circumstances, however. While serving as an officer of the King of
Sardinia's Guards, he had been imprisoned at Cagliarifor a trifling offence. When his period of confinement was over, he resigned his commission and went to Parisin the company of a ballerina, with whom he had eloped. He took singing lessons from two teachers, Ponchard and Marco Bordogni, and his success as an amateur vocalist led to the offer of an engagement with the Opéra. He made his debut there in 1838, as the hero of Meyerbeer's " Robert le Diable".
Mario's success was immediate and complete but he did not stay long at the Paris Opéra. In 1839, he joined the Théâtre Italien, which included on its roster of artists such celebrated singers as
Maria Malibran, Henriette Sontag, Fanny Persiani, Giulia Grisi, Giovanni Battista Rubini, Antonio Tamburiniand Luigi Lablache. His initial appearance with this company was in the role of Nemorino in Donizetti's " L'Elisir d'Amore". Londonheard him for the first time during the course of that same year.
The acclaim that Mario achieved in
Italian operasurpassed even that which he had won in French opera, and he soon acquired a Europe-wide reputation. He had a handsome face and a graceful figure, and his lyrical voice, though less powerful than that of his virtuoso tenor rival Rubini, or the baritone Tamburini, possessed a beguiling velvety softness that made it unique. Experience gave him ease as an actor, even though he never would excel in tragic parts. He was, nevertheless, an ideal stage lover, and he retained the grace and charm of youth long after his voice had begun to show signs of decay.
Mario was not a particularly adventurous singer. He created few operatic parts, that of Ernesto in "
Don Pasquale" (1843) being perhaps the only one deserving of mention. Among the most successful of his other parts were Otelloin Rossini's opera of that name, Gennaro in " Lucrezia Borgia", Alamviva in "Il Barbiere di Siviglia", Fernando in " La favorite", the Duke in " Rigoletto" and Manrico in " Il trovatore". The Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, was the scene of many of his stage triumphs. He sang there in 1847–1867 and again during 1871, which would prove to be his last operatic season in London.
He also made occasional appearances in England in
oratorio, singing for example at the BirminghamFestival of 1849 and at the HerefordFestival of 1855. He also undertook various concert tours in the United Kingdom, but his name is principally associated with triumphs in the theatre. Around 1849 he acquired the "Villa Salviati" in Florenceand made it his home in Italy. Here he played host to many "grandi" art figures and, of course, members the European nobility. In 1854, he toured America. Two years later he married, in London, Giulia Grisi, the famous soprano, who had links to the patrician Colonna family and the Royal Houses of Greece and Russia. He and Grisi had five daughters and a son.
Mario bade farewell on the stage in 1871. His decision to retire followed the loss of his wife, who had died in
Berlina few years earlier while returning from engagements in Russia. Mario ended his singing career at the imperial Russian opera house in St Petersburg. During this time, his daughters were put under the care of tutors assigned by their Godmother, the Grand Duchess Maria Nikolaievna, Duchess of Leuchtenbergand president of the Imperial Academy of Artsin St Petersburg.
Mario returned to Italy and spent his last years composing music and writing; but he never fully recovered from the death of his spouse. A benefit concert was mounted for him in London in 1880. He died in
Romethree years later in difficult financial circumstances.
One of his daughters was the writer
Cecilia Maria de Candia, who married Godfrey Pearce (also spelt "Pearse").
*" [http://www.archive.org/details/romanceofgreatsi00peariala The romance of a great singer; a memoir of Mario] " by Cecilia Maria de Candia Pearse and Frank Hird, 1910, from the
Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.
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