The heroine of my Cowboy novella (For a Song) wants to be the next Jenny Lind, so I thought I'd share just who Jenny Lind was!
|Jenny Lind, 1850. Public domain.|
Barnum also promoted her proper, generous character, which made her all the more irresistible. Overall she created such an impression that to many, Lind became what Barnum biographer Bluford Adams called "the standard for measuring not just sopranos, or even women artists, but women" throughout the 1850s.
Lind (Oct. 1820-Nov. 1887) was born in Sweden, the illegitimate daughter of a bookkeeper and a divorced schoolteacher whose religious beliefs didn’t permit her to remarry until her first husband died (it eventually happened, and Jenny’s parents wed when she was 14). At age 9, Jenny was enrolled in Sweden’s Royal Opera Program. By 20, she was the prima donna at the Royal Opera in Stockholm and a court singer for the King of Sweden and Norway.
Within a few years, she was in great demand throughout Sweden and northern Europe. She auditioned at the Opera in Paris, but their rejection stung her so much that once she became an international celebrity, she refused all invitations to perform there.
|Lind as Amina in La Sonnambula. Public Domain|
In 1843, she toured Denmark and met author Hans Christian Andersen. He fell in love with her, but she didn’t return his affections. It’s thought three of his fairy tales were inspired by her: The Nightingale, The Angel, and Beneath the Pillar. Others suggest Lind also inspired the cold-hearted title character in The Snow Queen after she rejected him.
|Mendelssohn, by Childe. Public domain.|
She didn't give in. Nevertheless, they continued to work together and he began an opera, Lorelei, for her. Mendelssohn’s sudden death at age 38, in 1847, devastated her, and she founded the Mendelssohn Scholarship Foundation in his memory.
Lind retired from professional singing soon after, at age 29.
In 1849, P.T. Barnum approached her with the invitation to tour America. Deciding it would be a good way to earn money for her favorite charities, Lind agreed. Barnum got busy advertising, when she arrived in New York City's harbor in September of 1850, 40,000 people awaited her ship.
|A Jenny Lind souvenir token, 1850|
Lind earned $350,000, and Barnum’s wealth grew by $500,000 (in 2016 dollars, that’s around $10 million and $14.2 million).
By 1851, however, Lind had grown weary of Barnum's methods and severed ties with him. She continued to tour on her own for a year with conductor and pianist Otto Goldschmidt. Unlike her previous suitors, Goldschmidt won Lind’s heart, and they were married in Boston in 1852, at the end of her tour.
Lind and Goldschmidt returned to Europe in May 1852, settling first in Germany, then in England, where they lived out the rest of their lives. They had three children, and Lind continued to sing, teach and support numerous charities, including the children’s hospital in Norwich, England.
|Jenny Lind by Eduard Magnus, 1862, public domain|
Meanwhile, she made such a strong impression wherever she went that her name was given to a chapel, hotel, park, psychiatric ward, and pub in England. An Australian schooner named for her was wrecked on a creek on the Queensland cost…and the creek’s name was changed to Jenny Lind Creek.
|A Jenny Lind Crib, available on Amazon|
This blog originally appeared on Heroes, Heroines & History.