- Historic Sites
Selling The Swedish Nightingale
Jenny Lind and P.T. Barnum
October 1977 | Volume 28, Issue 6
Jenny’s complete satisfaction with her spouse was not universally shared by her public. The image of her as a matron was somehow jarring, and many listeners recalled what one commentator had said: “Maidenhood is in her voice!” “Why is Madame Goldschmidt so much less than Jenny Lind?” Harper’s Monthly asked itself. Because, it replied, “she who has conquered the world by song and goodness, has herself been conquered,” and by one “no better, no worthier, no stronger than the average of men.” Jenny did not help her cause by billing herself as “Madame Otto Goldschmidt (late Jenny Lind).”
Then there was the thorny question of Otto’s solo work. Failing box-office receipts had caused Jenny to dismiss her orchestra and sing with piano alone. But the public had paid its money to hear Jenny sing, not to listen to Otto’s long German piano works. The problem of spirited audience participation during Otto’s offerings became so great that loyal Jenny took to seating herself conspicuously on the side of the stage and staring the audience down while her devoted consort played.
At last, Jenny decided wisely to end the tour and return to Europe. Her farewell American concert was sung at Castle Garden on May 24,1852. This time the house was half empty. Barnum was out front and later went backstage to say good-by. He was too sportsmanlike to gloat. But as the Swedish Nightingale and her Otto finally sailed away, he must have thought of what a gala, historic, unforgettable farewell concert he could have staged for her.