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Mr Charles Santley 'Student and Singer'

Spy (Sir Leslie Ward) (1851-1922)



Watercolour with bodycolour and pencil on tinted paper

11 ½ x 8 inches

A G Witherby;
Stanley Jackson;
The John Franks Collection

Vanity Fair, 27 February 1902, Men of The Day no 835, 'Student and Singer'

Chris Beetles & Alexander Beetles (eds.) Portraits of Vanity Fair: The Charles Sigety Collection, London: Chris Beetles Ltd, 2023, page 149

'Portraits of Vanity Fair: The Charles Sigety Collection', Chris Beetles Gallery, London, October-November 2023, no 72

Sir Charles Santley (1834-1922) was an opera singer who began his career with the Liverpool Philharmonic Society on his fifteenth birthday, before travelling to study in Milan. In 1857, having performed in Milan and Pavia, he returned to England. Until his final operatic performance in 1876, sang in operas across the country, rising to fame for his roles in productions of The Marriage of Figaro, Les Huguenots and Faust. From 1876 he only sang in concert, such as at the opening of the Albert Hall in 1871, the same year he was awarded the gold medal of the Royal Philharmonic Society. In 1907 he became the first singer ever to be knighted. He was referred to by George Bernard Shaw as ‘the best baritone singer with whom the London public is familiar’.

“Sixty eight years ago he was born in Liverpool with vocal chords that have since sung him into the front flight of baritones. He worked hard both in England and in Italy until his first public appearance in London in 1857; and he has worked hard ever since. After two years he made a success in the opera ‘Dinorah’ so great that it led him in triumph to Australia and to the Cape. Then ‘Lurline’ assured him of pre-eminence, and he has operatically kept himself pre-eminent in most of the capitals of Europe. He can raise his voice from the basso profundo to a pure tenore robusto, while its quality is unrivalled; and, apart from his art and his talent, he deserves all the success that he has achieved. For he is a kindly fellow, who has often gone out of his way to encourage young singers. He was once guilty of a book; but he has nothing of the shoddy school about him.

He can still give ‘To Anthea’ with a fervour that the heartiest of troubadours might envy.”

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