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Jenny Lind

The opera singer Jenny Lind, born in Sweden in 1820, became famous in her own right before becoming the muse for composer Felix Mendelssohn, Lind’s singing was overheard by a maid to the Royal Swedish Ballet’s principal dancer, who was impressed and helped the young girl enter the Royal Dramatic Theater’s acting school. By the age of twenty, Lind had performed with the Royal Swedish Opera and was a regular court performer for the king. Having suffered vocal problems at twelve, by 1841, Lind’s vocal cords had become damaged and, through 1843, she studied more responsible vocal techniques with Manuel Garcia in Paris. In 1844, Lind performed in Berlin in the lead role in Norma and attracted the attention of the city’s composing elite, including Mendelssohn. Her 1847 performance in Verdi’s I masnadieri in London started a two-year period of regular shows in the city. She retired from opera in 1849 and the following year began traveling around the United States with P. T. Barnum’s circus, as the Swedish Nightingale. She left Barnum in 1851 and continued touring through 1852 under her own management. During this period, proceeds from her performances were donated to schools and charities in Sweden. She returned to Europe in 1852 and by 1855 had permanently resettled in England. She performed sporadically and completely retired from singing in 1883, after which she became a professor at the Royal College of Music and, upon her death in 1887, donated the majority of her estate to schools for Swedish Protestant children.