The Muse of Hariclea Darclée
The great fin de siècle soprano Hariclea Darclée was born of Royal blood, as Hariclea Haricli on June 10, 1860 in the Romanian city of Braila. During her teenage years her natural vocal gift was noted, among others by a certain teacher in the private Viennese boarding school where she was taught in matters of housekeeping and good conduct. This teacher soon became worldfamous as the greatest vocal teacher of her age: Mathilde Marchesi. But it was not Marchesi who would mould the voice of young Hariclea, as she was destined for a bourgeois marriage and there was little need to learn anything that went beyond that perspective.
Hariclea's reluctance to study voice seriously changed when her father took her to the Viennese Opera, where Adelina Patti was singing in Verdi's La Traviata. Hariclea was bewildered and adamant to step on the stage of an opera house herself one day. Unfortunately her father lost his capital due to war and plagues, which braught about Hariclea's return to Bucharest, where her parents had resided to a more modest habitat. Her life took a dramatic change when a handsome young officer asked her to dance at a soirée in her parents house. They fell in love, but her still relatively upperclass parents didn't agree to their bond. Hariclea married her love against their will and and followed him to the garrisons where he had to serve. In this context she revisited Braila, where her first appearances as a singer took place on local bourgeois gatherings.
Parigi, o cara
Aged 26 Hariclea got pregnant and decided to try to escape her unhappy marriage and deplorable financial condition by persuiing a career as a professional singer. She went to Paris and was accepted in the prestigious singing class of Duvernois, who prepared her for an eventual debut at the Opéra Comique. Fate stepped in, when Pierre Gailhard, member of the board of L'Opéra went to the school in order to see if the conservatoire had a suitable soprano who could sing on the occasion of the 200th performance of Gounods Roméo et Juliette. Yet Gailhard was not pleased with any of the singers that were presented to him. Suddenly, upon hearing a voice behind the door to the classroom he pushed Duvernois to the side:
"You stupid man! You know how desperately we are searching a Juliette, and yet you spoke with no word of this beautiful voice."
The very next day, Hariclea Haricli auditioned before Charles Gounod. The old maestro wept after hearing her voice in his music. Though she hardly had stage experience , she was hired on the spot for the most prestigious premiere of the decade, the new Roméo et Juliette production that was mounted to commemorate the World Expo of 1899. Yet jealous singers of L'Opéra conspired against her, and the management decided to engage Adelina Patti as a last minute replacement. On the evening of December 14, 1888, Hariclea debuted in Gounods Faust. The name on the affiches was not Haricli, but Darclée, an adpted stage name. When the management asked her to replace the ailing Patti as Juliette (Patti had been greeted by fierce opposition from the Parisian critics), she finally had her revenge. However, her relations with L'Opéra were seriously affected by the mechanisms that had stolen the Roméo premiere from her, and after her contractual obligations were fulfilled, she left the house and embarked on a world tour, that lasted a full 30 years, until her last performance in 1918. In between she created Glinka's La vie pour le Tsar outside Russia (1890), the Italian premiere of Massenet's Le Cid (1891), the world premiere Gomes Condor (1891), the second ever perfomance of Mascagni's L'Amico Fritz (1891), the world premiere of Mascagni's I Rantzau (1892), the world premiere of Catalani's La Wally (1892), the first performances in Spain of Massenet's Manon (1894) and Leoncavallo's Pagliacci (1895), the Argentine and Uruguayan premieres of Puccini's La Bohème (1896), the world premiere of De Lara's Amy Robsart (1897), the world premiere of the opera version of Mancinelli's Ero e Leandro (1897), the world premiere of Mascagni's Iris (1898), the world premiere of Puccini's Tosca (1900), the Argentine and Uruguayan premieres of Leoncavallo's Zaza (1902), the Spanish premiere of Massenet's Thaïs (1906), the world premiere of Catargi's Enoch Arden (1906), the important revival of Pacini's Saffo in Italy (1911), a historic Italian performance of Richard Strauss's Der Rosenkavalier (1911), and the Portugese premiere of Saint–Saëns's Prosperine (1914). Her final performance in 1918 was in the second act of the opera that should have marked her debut, almost 30 years earlier, in 1888: Gounod's Roméo et Juliette.
Sadly, the last years of Darclée seem to have been troubled by financial problems. She lost the greater part of her fortune in the First World War, and spent the remainder on her son Ion Hartulari's career as an operetta composer. Allegedly, she worked as a ticketer in a Bucharest cinema, during the last year of her life.
Darclée's earthly remains are buried in the family grave at Belu Cimetery, in Bucharest.