The Library of Nineteenth-Century Photography

Charlotte Dolby

Charlotte Dolby

The famous contralto Charlotte Dolby (1821-1885), esteemed by Mendelssohn, who in 1860 married the French musician Prosper Sainton. The latter seems to have been on friendly terms with everyone in the musical world, from Chopin to Berlioz.

Charlotte Helen Sainton-Dolby was born in London on 17 May 1821, and soon showed unusual musical ability. In 1832 she entered the Royal Academy of Music, where she studied under John Bennett, Elliott, and Crivelli. Crivelli, who examined her for voice on her entrance to the Royal Academy of Music, recommended her 'for the present not to make it a principal study'. Five years later she was elected to a king's scholarship. On 14 June 1841 she made her first appearance as a singer at a Philharmonic concert, and sang under Mendelssohns's auspices at the Gewandhaus in Leipzig on 25 October 1845 with such success as induced her to make a tour abroad. Mendelssohn dedicated to her his six songs (Op. 57) and wrote the contralto music in Elijah with a view to her voice. She appeared in the first performance of the revised version of that oratorio at Exeter Hall on 16 April 1847 under the composers direction, and from that date until her retirement from professional life in 1870 she occupied the foremost place among concert contralti in England. In 1872 she opened a vocal academy in London.

Photographed in London in the spring of 1860 by Camille Silvy.


Code: 123038
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