Adelina Patti (1843 -- 1919) was a famous prima donna who took the
Western world by storm with her amazing vocal range, temperament
and colourful lifestyle. Born in Spain to a Sicilian father and mother, both opera singers in their own right, Adelina learnt to sing and trilled before learning to talk. At home, she often warbled songs to entertain her dolls.
She made her first stage debut at the age of eight in New York's Tripler Hall. She would play backstage with her dolls, come onstage to sing passionately and calmly go back to continue her play. Her fame grew rapidly with more world tours to as far afield as Leningrad and Buenos Aires but her Covent Garden debut in 'La Somnambula' made her most famous. Queues for tickets to her performances snaked around the block even though they were sold out. When a small quantity of standing room tickets were released, a riot broke out when the fans scrambled and broke several glass mirrors to secure a ticket
She performed 'Home Sweet Home' for Abraham Lincoln at the White House in 1862 and sang at Rossini's funeral in Paris. Such was her fame that honours were bestowed on her by heads of state and world leaders. Tolstoy wrote a description of Madame Patti's concert in his 'Anna Karenina' and the French named a rose coloured flower after her 'Camelia Japonica Adelina Patti'.
Her jewellery collection was legendary -- many were gifts from royalty and state institutions. Empress Eugenie gave her a golden bracelet with large emeralds and diamonds after one of her performances. She had her jewels sewn into her costumes, sometimes singing with the stage surrounded by security guards.
She married Marquis de Caux in 1868. Her second marriage was to tenor, Nicolini, whom she sang duets with in many succesful performances. She lived with Nicolini in her castle, Craig-y-Nos (Rock of the Night). The castle was the first private residence in Britain to have electricity , had a private road constructed to the small railway station at Penwyllt where Adelina had a luxurious private waiting room and specially commissioned railway carriage. The railway company also provided Adelina with her own train.
She was an astute business woman, often demanding payment in advance. In one performance, her fee was five thousand pounds in gold, making her the highest paid performer, a record unbroken for seventy-five years. For this performance, she refused to go to the theatre until four thousand pounds were delivered. Once at the theatre, she put on her make-up on receipt of another eight hundred pounds, put on one of her shoes at another hundred and refused to put on the other until the final hundred was delivered.
From reading Patti's biography, there are many mentions of dolls as gifts or even payments for performances. It is probable that a doll of this quality is far too complex to actually be commercially made and a rather romantic possibility is that it could be one of Patti's own.