Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Nancy (Anna) Storace (1765 – 1817)

Anna Storace

Nancy (Anna) Storace was a gifted child, and born into a beautiful world filled with music and nature. She was the daughter of an Italian musician, Stefano Storace, who immigrated to Ireland. Her mother was Elizabeth Trusler, the daughter of the proprietor of Marylebone Gardens, the pleasure garden of an old manor house near London.

Venanzio Rauzzini

She received voice lessons from Venanzio Rauzzini, a a renowned castrato, composer, pianist, singing teacher, and concert impresario. Under his talented tutelage, she made her first singing appearance when she was eight-years-old at the London Haymarket Theatre. But she needed to be near the best, so to further develop her, Anna’s parents too her to Venice Italy. She studied under the famous Antonio Sacchini. It was the start of a magnificent career.

Antonio Sacchini

She was so talented, composers wrote operas specifically for her and her voice, which were met with resounding success. Anna made many friends, including the Irish tenor Michael Kelly, castrato Marchesi, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and Joseph Haydn.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Storace worked so closely with Mozart, that it was rumored they had an affair, although this has never been proven. He even played the piano while she sang concerts. Anna performed for the highest nobility including princes and emperors. She could sing a voletta of semitone octaves which forced her voice to the highest and lowest of notes, but was warned that this might injure her vocal cords. She ignored the advice and performed in numerous operas that played to full houses in Vienna, Milano, and Venice.

Then one day, disaster struck. While she was singing in an aopera, in the middle of the first act, Storace suddenly and completely lost her voice. For five long months, she was unable to utter a sound. Mozart tried to come to her aid and wrote a short cantata for her return to the stage, but her voice was not yet fully recovered. Mozart stepped in again and rewrote passages of The Marriage of Figaro at a lower pitch just for her.

In March 1784, with great pomp and elaborate display, she married John Abraham Fisher, a violinist. Not long into their marriage, Fisher began to treat her badly, bullying her and striking her. The abuse soon became public and Fisher suffered much loathing by the public at large. Anna had friends in high places, and the emperor stepped in and banished Fisher from his lands. Fisher fled to Ireland and the couple were soon separated. Anna gave birth to his child, a daughter who lived less than 6 months.

Her career continued to flourish. In 1794 Storace had a romantic affair with tenor, John Braham. 

John Braham

They never married, but had a son together. Years later, their marriage soured and they had a very bitter break-up. It is believed all the acrimony contributed to her death a year later. 

Anna's story and her romance with the famous Mozart have been immortalized in the novel, Vienna Nocturne by Vivien shotwell. 

Back Cover Blurb

Vienna Nocturne tells the story of the turbulent life and brilliantly successful career of young British opera singer Anna Storace, a child prodigy who is taken by her parents to Italy at age thirteen to advance her career. In love with life and wildly ambitious, Anna wants everything--to be famous, to be loved--and this leads her to make some fatal choices. We watch her turn from a carefree young girl to a passionate young woman, and it is during this transformation that her affair with Mozart blossoms. The story of their love, no less powerful for being forbidden, is reminiscent of the passionate thwarted romances described in Loving Frank and Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet. Written in melodious prose by a young author studying opera at Yale, Vienna Nocturne is dramatic story of a woman's battle to find love and fame in an 18th-century world that controls and limits her at every turn.

Book Review

I truly enjoyed this biographical novel about a very gifted young woman who could sing like an angel. Anna Storace was young, impressionable, and passionate about her singing. Her career is burgeoning, perfect, and she is much beloved. Her private life however, is filled with heartache and misfortune. Left carrying a lover’s child, she marries a violinist to save her reputation. He is a brutal man and she suffers much abuse at his hands. Her health suffers and this affects her voice.

It is the brilliant composer, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, who befriends her and comes to her rescue. Even though he is happily married, a bond grows between him and Anna. His loyalty to her lasts for the rest of her life. He is always in the background as a protector, a supporter, a faithful colleague, a lover.

The novel is beautifully written, its presentation tender, romantic, and beautifully evocative. The fashion, music, and society of the times is elegantly captured. There is depth to all the relationships between the characters, but the relationship with Mozart was beautifully rendered. What a gallant – my heart could not help but melt at his wonderful appearances. VIENNA NOCTURNE is a true treasure!

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