3 March 1802, Montpellier; d
8 March 1839, Naples
Considered the "first great
dramatic tenor" (Walker 2008, 411), Adolphe Nourrit was the son of
another great French tenor, Louis Nourrit (1780-1831). He studied
with Manuel del Pópulo
Vicente García for
18 months (Walker 1992) and sang the role of Noradin (created for
him) in the premiere of García's Florestan, ou Le conseil des dix on 26 June 1822. When his father
retired from the Paris Opéra in 1826, Adolphe Nourrit reigned as
principal tenor until he resigned in 1836. He created roles in
various Rossini operas, including that of Arnold in Guillaume Tell (1829), as well as important roles
in Meyerbeer operas: Robert in Robert le diable (1831)—a favorite of Chopin's—and
Raoul in Les Huguenots
In 1837 Nourrit travelled to
Italy where he studied with Donizetti in Naples. His debut in
Mercadeante's Il giuramento
on 14 November 1838 was a success but Nourrit's voice and health
(both mental and physical) began to decline seriously. After a
concert on 7 March 1839 he thought the audience's warm reception
was intended to mock him. In despair, he committed suicide the
following morning by jumping from his window in the Hotel Barbaia
in Naples. Back in Paris, his friend, the guitarist Trinidad Huerta, honored him in a musical elegy for
voice and piano:
à la Mémoire
Nourrit is no more.
Versez, versez des
Let tears flow,
Aux souvenir d'un talent si
To the memory of such a precious
Car il avait dans la voix tant
de charmes, For he
had so much charm in his voice,
Qu'en l'écoutant on se croyait
aux cieux. That upon
hearing it, one felt as if in heaven.
Pleurez, pleurez filles de
Weep, oh weep, daughters of
Ils ont cessé les chants
The melodious songs
Nourrit n'est plus: l'artiste
Nourrit is no more: the artist of
Quitte la terre et regagne les
has left earth and entered into heaven.
Listen to Huerta's "Mélodie à la
Mémoire d'Adolphe Nourrit," sung by Teresa Radomski.
Henry Pleasants, The Great Tenor
Tragedy: The last Days of Adolphe Nourrit as told (mostly) by
Oregon: Amadeus Press, 1995). A valuable collection of letters in
Evan Walker, Adolphe
dissertation, Peabody Institute, 1989).
Evan Walker, "Adolphe Nourrit," in The New Grove Dictionary of Opera (London:
Macmillan, 1992) vol. 3, pp. 625-626.
Evan Walker, "The Fable
of Adolphe Nourrit," Journal of Singing, (March/April 2008) vol. 64, No. 4,
pp. 411-416. Explores the nature of Nourrit's voice.