t h e   r o s a   t r o u p e

Jenny van Zandt

Jenny van Zandt

Jenny van Zandt, born Jenny Blitz probably in Brooklyn in the 1830s, came from a theatrical background as her father, Antonio Blitz, was a famous illusionist. However, there was probably a musical element as she seems to have become an amateur church and concert singer. She had married into the van Zandt family probably in the 1850s and despite having a young family herself sought a career as a professional vocalist. A successful concert at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in November 1863 was followed a year later with an operatic debut in Rigoletto at the New York Academy. After a period of study with Lamperti in Milan she appeared at various European houses including La Scala using the stage name of Vanzini. She finally reached Covent Garden in 1868 and remained there for four seasons The Rosas heard her in London and recruited her for their second American opera season to share the leading soprano roles with Parepa.

Van Zandt made her debut with the Parepa Rosa company in Satanella at the Academy of Music on 9 October 1871 and remained with them until the season ended in April. She remained in America and sang with the Kellogg opera company for three seasons. Her next acquaintance with the Rosa was in November 1876 when she made a solitary appearance in a benefit performance in London. However she returned for sixty-eight performances in the 1878-79 season. All told, she made 151 Rosa appearances on both sides of the Atlantic singing in thirteen operas including the British premiere of Wagner’s Rienzi in January 1879. She repeated her role as Adriano in this opera in her final Rosa performance on 22 March 1879. However, there was one more appearance. Jenny was in Paris in April 1889 and together with Josephine, Carl’s second wife, nursed him during his final illness. Her last Rosa engagement was a sad one.

The later career is difficult to chart as Jenny gradually abandoned it to promote the operatic career of her daughter Marie van Zandt. She had been both mother and teacher to her and also arranged further study with Lamperti. Marie became a Parisian favourite and created the title role in Delibes’ opera Lakmé in 1883. She left the stage upon marriage to a Russian aristocrat in 1898, settled in France and died at Cannes in 1919. Details of Jenny’s final years are obscure but in view of the close relationship with her daughter it is likely that she also died in France.

© 2017 John Ward

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