Eng. Jenny Lind - career and life

Jenny Lind

Jenny Lind was the first megastar the world has known. She was born October 6 1820 in Stockholm and died 1887 at the age of 67 in her summer home in Little Malvern, Worchester, England, where she also is buried.

At the very young age of nine she was accepted as a pupil at The Royal Theatre in Stockholm, and already at the age of ten she appeared in her first part as Angela in a play called The Polish Mine.

The Swedish King Carl XIV Johan appointed her Court Singer at the age of 19 in 1840 and the same year she became a member of The Royal Academy of Music.

1844 her extraordinary career outside of Sweden began, starting in Germany and Austria and followed by England and Scotland.

During her extensive concert tour of the USA 1850 – 1852 she was launched as “The Swedish Nightingale”. She made a substantial fortune and donated most of it to education and different charity institutions.

In 1852, at the age of 31, she married her accompanist, pupil of Felix Mendelsohn, Otto Goldschmidt, nine years her junior. They first settled down in Germany but later moved to England. The couple had two sons and one daughter whose descendants still live in England.


© Inga Lewenhaupt

Translation to English: Viveka Åkerhielm

The earliest years 1820 – 1829

Jenny (baptized Johanna Maria) was born on 6 October 1820 in S:a Clara parish in Stockholm at a midwife’s residence on Mäster Samuels gränd 32, later Mäster Samuelsgatan 40, a house that was demolished in 1954. Her divorced, and at the time unmarried, mother, Anna Maria Fellborg, lived in the Old Town of Stockholm with her eight-year-old daughter, first at Österlånggatan 39, then briefly at Drakens gränd 2, and from 1824 for a time at Västerlånggatan 39 where she ran a girls’ school. The new born Jenny was reported to have unknown parents and was left for her first three years with the church organ player Ferndal´s family in Ed, Sollentuna, north of Stockholm.

Her mother then sent her to a couple living in Borgerskapets änkehus (a house for bourgeois widows) on Hamngatan (where the department store NK now is located) with her maternal grandmother in the same house. Famous is the story of how the six-year-old was heard singing to her cat in such a remarkable voice that she already in 1829 was asked to audition for the singing master at The Royal Theatre, Craelius, who became her first singing teacher.

The student years at The Royal Theatre in Stockholm 1830—1837

On 1 September 1830, Jenny aged 9, was accepted as a pupil at The Royal Theatre (with both opera and drama) in Stockholm, which paid for her tuition, schooling and lodging with “accommodation ladies”. The mother then gave her the name Lind, her biological fathers original surname. As early as 29 November 1830, Jenny appeared in her first role as Angela in The Polish Mine and immediately attracted attention.

During her first years as a pupil, Jenny lived under difficult circumstanses with her mother, her half-sister and a lodger at several different addresses in Stockholm: Jakobsbergsgatan 4, Nybrogatan 1, Humlegårdsgatan 7 and at the corner of Snickarbacken and Regeringsgatan.

Her mother received a payment from the theatre to teach Jenny and some fellow students to play the piano, religion, French, history, geography, writing, arithmetic and drawing. The theatre’s teachers were Isac Berg in singing, Carolina Bock in declamation and mime, Charlotta Eriksson in acting and a French lady, former Didelot pupil, Sophie Daguin, in ballet.

In 1834, the year of the cholera, 14-year-old Jenny ran away from her mother and was accommodated at Mlle Bayard in the opera house. The mother went to court to get custody of her daughter – and renewed payment from the theatre. She was granted both in June 1836 after having married Jenny’s father Nils Jonas Lindh, then mostly known as Niclas with his foster fathers surname Fredricsson. At this time Jenny’s half-sister Amalia died of cholera and the family settled at Mynttorget 1.

During her student days, Jenny performed in many dance numbers and in more than thirty (30!) speaking roles, all in foreign plays. At the age of 15, she sang the lead role of Georgette in Adolf Lindblad’s only opera, Frondörerna.

Stage career in Sweden and Denmark and studies in Paris 1837-1844


From 1 July 1837, Jenny Lind was engaged as an actress, i.e. both as an actress and a singer, at The Royal Theatre in Stockholm. After five new speaking roles, she made her formal operatic debut at the age of 17 on 7 March 1838 as Agathe in Weber’s Der Freischütz, which became an outstanding success.


In December 1838 she sang, among other roles, Pamina in Mozart’s The Magic Flute, and on 10 May 1839 she celebrated her triumph as Alice in Meyerbeer’s Robert le Diable, her most performed role in Stockholm.


As she could not come to terms with her newly married parents, she took up lodgings with the Swedish composer Adolf Lindblad and his wife in Bondeska Palatset by Strömmen. Lindblad’s infatuation with Lind caused great complication in the family, though.

On 21 November 1839, Jenny Lind played the role of a famous European opera singer called a flying nightingale in the play Rosenbuketten. This was picked up in reviews and the epithet was cemented. After a concert in Uppsala on 10 June 1840, the newspaper Correspondenten newspaper refers to her as “the nightingale that flew all the way to Uppsala”.

In January 1840, the 19-year-old Jenny Lind was appointed Court Singer by King Carl XIV Johan and became a member of The Royal Academy of Music.

On Good Friday, 17 April, she sang in Haydn’s oratorio Die Schöpfung at a concert in the House of Nobility for the Freemason’s orphanage, and in May she sang Lucia in Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor and Donna Anna in Mozart’s Don Giovanni. All operas were sung in Swedish.

In the summer of 1840, she made a concert tour to southern Sweden: Norrköping, Linköping, Jönköping, Eksjö, Vaxjö, Kristianstad, Malmö and Helsingborg to raise money for her travels.


In December, the opera management is worried about losing its “golden calf” and offers her the highest possible salary.

On 1 May she makes her debut in the lead role in Bellini’s Norma. June 21 she gives a farewell concert in Ladugårdslands Church, nowadays Hedvig Eleonora Church, singing among other songs Lindblad’s Farväl (Farewell) till Jenny Lind.


One year of vocal training for Manuel García in Paris followed. García, however, was more fond of his other Swedish pupil, Henriette Nissen. At an audition for the Berlin Opera’s director Meyerbeer (which took place at the Paris Operal) she had already been persuaded to sign a further two-year contract with the Stockholm Opera.


In the spring of 1843, she made a great impression as Märta, the girl from Småland in En majdag i Wärend by the Uppsala Professor Böttiger at King Carl XIV Johan’s 25th anniversary as Swedish Regent. The music was by Johan F. Berwald.

In the summer of 1843 she visited Turku and Helsinki, and toured Sweden with her colleague Julius Günther in Linköping, Jönköping, Kristianstad and Malmö. The same year she went to Copenhagen, where she performed as Alice in Robert le Diable, sang Swedish folk songs and was courted by the Danish author, H C Andersen.


This season Jenny rented a large apartment and office at Norra Smedjegatan 19 in Stockholm. As a curiosity she used her correct name, Johanna Maria Lindh for the first and only time, when signing the contract! During the season she studied five new roles (see cast list). In the comic role of Fiorilla in Rossini’s the Il Turko in Italia, she aroused great enthusiasm, but as the tragedienne in Gluck’s Armide she was not suitable. She sang at Carl XIV Johan’s funeral in March at Riddarholmskyrkan and in May at a concert in Uppsala.

The contract with The Royal Theatre expired on 1 July 1844, when Jenny Lind was 23 years old.

International career begins in Germany and Austria 1844 – 1847


The opera director in Berlin, Giacomo Meyerbeer, invited Jenny Lind to sing the lead role Vielka in his new opera, Ein Feldlager in Schlesien at the opening of the new opera house with a contract for 24 performances over three months. Obstacles arose as she was a Swedish court singer and had to sing at three gala performances at the coronation of King Oscar I in Stockholm and a further seven performances and visit her ailing mother. She also felt insecure about the German language and had low self-esteem at the time.

The Stockholm Opera tried to keep her with tempting lifetime contracts.

At the end of October, Jenny Lind left for Berlin. However, Leopoldine Tuczek was cast as Vielka for the first two performances of Ein Feldlager, so Jenny Lind made her debut as Norma, in Bellini’s Norma, on 15 December and took over as Vielka 5 January 1845. The playwright Charlotte Birch-Pfeiffer improved her German.

She socialized with Jakob Axel Josephson and met Felix Mendelssohn. During an opera break, she was persuaded to sign a six-week contract at Drury Lane in London in 1845. She later had difficulties in cancelling this, especially as she had been offered better terms from Her Majesty’s Theatre (the Italian opera house) in London, and she had already signed a new contract with Berlin when se received a coveted offer from Théâtre Italien in Paris.

The 1845 spring season in Berlin ended on 13 March. She continued to give performances in Hanover and Hamburg before returning home to rest.

In May/June she visited the Stockholm Opera with three performances a week including a much-publicised outburst resulting in the cancellation of a performance of Der Freischütz. The new role of Marie in La fille du Régiment was a success.


Back in Germany, she sang in August at the unveiling of Beethoven’s statue in Bonn, as well as concerts for Prussia’s royals Friedrich Wilhelm IV and Elisabeth and Britain’s Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. In November she performed again in Berlin, including Weber’s Der Freischütz and Mozart’s Don Giovanni.

In April Jenny Lind ended her stay in Berlin, performed together with Mendelssohn and Clara Schumann at a concert in Leipzig and made her debut in Vienna as Norma at Theater an der Wien.

In the beginning of June she sang at the music festival in Aachen including oratories conducted by Mendelssohn. That festival was named The Jenny Lind Festival after her.


The autumn was taken up with performances in Frankfurt, Darmstadt, Copenhagen, Weimar, Hanover, Hamburg, Munich, Stuttgart, Karlsruhe, Heidelberg, Mannheim, Nuremberg and Augsburg. By New Year’s 1846 -1847 she was back at the Vienna Opera for a new season, and in March was appointed Austrian Kammersängerin by Emperor Ferdinand I. In January she gave an acclaimed concert in Vienna with Robert and Clara Schumann.

Jenny Lind fever in England and Scotland 1847-1849


Jenny Lind had outstanding success at guest performances at Her Majesty’s in London (April-August), where she received the highest fee ever paid. A real “Jenny Lind-mania” broke out. A triumphant two-month tour of Britain was made to Brighton, Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, Hull, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Perth, Norwich, Bristol, Bath and Exeter.

Farewell roles and concerts in Berlin followed, and she was also appointed Prussian Kammersängerin.

In 1847 she spent her last Christmas with her parents in Sollentuna and was awarded the title of “first” Court Singer by King Oscar I.

At The Royal Theatre in Stockholm she appeared as Norma on 12 April 1848 for the last time in a performance in Sweden at the age of 27. After her close friend Mendelsson’s death she was briefly engaged to the Swedish tenor, Julius Günther.

In the spring of 1848 she was back in London celebrating new triumphs. Chopin heard her there and was impressed.


In the spring of 1849 she broke off a planned marriage in England to the deeply religious Captain Claudius Harris. The main reason seems to have been that she would have completely lost control of her assets. That season she made her last performance in London and on 10 May 1849 she finally said good bye to the operatic scene as Alice in Robert le Diable (in Italian!).

After a short visit to Paris she returned to Germany and in December she started negotiations with the impresario P.T. Barnum about a tour with 150 concerts in the United States, this despite the fact that Barnum had never heard her sing!

US tour as concert singer and donor 1850 - 1851

In the summer of 1850, Jenny Lind visited Stockholm again before arriving via the steamship Atlantic from Liverpool to New York on the first of September, where she was received by 30,000 people and lodged at Irving House on Broadway. Extensive concert tours of the United States now began, the first six months lead by P.T. Barnum. She was introduced as “The Swedish Nightingale”; 7,000 people heard her first concert in New York at the Castle Garden on September 11, for a long time known as “The Jenny Lind Day”.

After 93 concerts in New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington DC, Richmond, Charleston, Havana, New Orleans, several Midwestern cities with a river boat trip along the Mississippi with stops at Natchez, Memphis, and St. Louis, and further at Nashville, Louisville, Madison, Cincinnati, Wheeling, Pittsburg and ending in New York in May 1851, she had earned the equivalent of about USD 3 million and made extensive charitable donations. She continued touring on her own, with some forty concerts in New England and Canada with pianist Otto Goldschmidt.

Family life and concerts in Germany 1852 - 1858

In February 1852 Jenny Lind married her nine year younger accompanist, Otto Goldschmidt, from Hamburg, a former pupil of Mendelssohn’s, whom she had known since he studied in Leipzig in 1845 and had then danced with in Hamburg. Jenny Lind said good bye to the United States with a concert in New York on 27 May 1852 also with sell-out croud of 7,000 people in Castle Garden.

The couple settled in Dresden. In Germany, their son Walter was born in 1853 and their daughter Jenny in 1857. Between childbirths, Jenny performed at numerous concerts in her hometown of Dresden, but also in Vienna, Berlin, Holland and the Düsseldorf Music Festival, as well as touring England, Scotland and Wales.

Concert and teaching years in England 1858 - 1887


The family moved to England and settled in 1859 at Argyle Lodge in Wimbledon outside of London.


The family spent the summer of 1860 at Stora Nyckelviken outside Stockholm.

Their son Ernst was born in January 1861.

Continued concerts in England and Scotland.


The Jenny Lind Scholarship was awarded for the first time by The Swedish Royal Academy of Music and The Royal Academy of the Fine Arts. A visit to Stockholm.


The family lives in the house Oak Lea in Wimbledon Park.

1865 Another family trip to Sweden and Lilla Nyckelviken for the summer.

1866 Jenny Lind gives her first and only concert in France in Cannes. She takes part in the music festivals in Düsseldorf in 1866 and 1870.


1874 moves to No. 1 Moreton Gardens in South Kensington (now 189 Old Brompton Rd). Jenny Lind teaches there.


Last visit alone to Sweden at the age of 55. Arranged her scholarship funds for musicians, painters, sculptors and architects, visited the Lindblads in Linköping and stayed with the family of the Judge of Appeal, Munthe. Became honorary member of the Academy of the Fine Arts.


In London, Jenny Lind was awarded from the hand of the visiting King Oscar II the Royal Medal “In Sui Memoriam” in the 10th (the then largest) size with brilliants and seraphim ribbon.


Jenny Lind became the first professor of singing at the Royal College of Music and bought the summer home of Wynds Point at Little Malvern, where she performed in public for the last time at the annual Railwaymen’s Benefit Concert, at the request of the public.


Winter and spring was spent in Cannes for health reasons. Jenny Lind died on 2 November at the age of 67 at her summer home In Malvern, England, and was buried there.