Jenny Lind Sang Under This Tree|
By Patsy M. Boyette
Olde Kinston Gazette
Jenny Lind, North Carolina has only a sign, an abandoned country store and a couple of mobile
homes to mark its location.
According to local folklore, the little crossroad located three miles west of LaGrange in eastern North Carolina
was named after Swedish opera singer Jenny Lind
When she toured America in 1850, the terms "Jenny rage" and "Lindomania" were coined to describe the
craze over her. Her name was bestowed on hundreds of items and places - the Jenny Lind baby crib and the Jenny
Lind train are well known today. In addition, theaters, streets, schools and towns were named Jenny Lind.
The Jenny Lind Store at Jenny Lind Crossroads - according to locals sat diagonally at the intersection across the road from this abandoned store, the third one built there. Jenny Lind sang under a nearby oak tree in 1850
The North Carolina crossroad became Jenny Lind in 1850. While traveling through North Carolina, Jenny's
stagecoach experienced problems. She supposedly sang under an old oak tree in the area. The tree was near an old
abandoned store which sits in Jenny Lind today. The famous singer gave the little spot instant notoriety, and locals
dubbed the area Jenny Lind.
Born in 1820 in Stockholm, Sweden, to impoverished parents, Jenny was boarded in the country as a sort of
foster child. Her father was not a responsible man and spent his time away from his family. Her mother, Anne
Marie, ran a day school for girls out of her home. Anne Marie had another daughter named Amalia and also
supported her own mother who lived with her. Anne Marie had grown hard and bitter in her difficult life.
Jenny was only a few weeks old when she was sent to live with a family in Sollentuna, a small village in the
country about fifteen miles from Stockholm. The couple she lived with had no children of their own. They were
kind and did not charge much to board the baby, a necessity for Jenny's mother's limited means.
The atmosphere in which she spent her first years of life must have given her the love and understanding of
music. A church was near the house she lived in, and the organist practiced everyday.
She would often sit in the rear of the church listening to the practice and once even dared to correct the lead
soprano by demonstrating the proper note.
When Jenny was four years old, the lady whom she had known as a mother became ill. She had to be sent
home. The happy country life was replaced by the harshness of poverty in the city dwelling of her mother. The
home was dingy and small, and her mother was always ill tempered, especially towards Jenny. But Jenny was
loved immediately by her sister Amalia and her grandmother, Fru Tengmark. Through them she experienced the
only love in her new home.
Her natural ability for music began to show when she was four. Although she was not allowed to touch the
family's piano, one day as a band went by in the street, temptation got the best of her. She replayed the entire
fanfare by ear. Luckily, her grandmother heard it instead of her mother.
Her talent was discovered by the outside world in 1830 when she was nine old. Her grandmother had moved
into the Stockholm Widows Home by this time and Jenny loved to visit her. One day she was sitting on a window
sill singing to a cat she frequently played with. Another visitor that day happened to be the maid of the famous
dancer, Mademoiselle Lundberg. On hearing the child in the window sing, the maid told her employer of the
unbelievably lovely voice.
Mademoiselle Lundberg visited the Lind home and insisted on hearing the child sing. The star of stage was
enchanted and recognized Jenny's great potential. She sent Jenny to Herr Croelius, the singing master at the Royal
Theater. The best singing teacher in Sweden, Croelius accepted her without doubts after hearing her amazing
voice. She attended the Theater School as the youngest pupil and learned the art of song and also the grace of
movement which she maintained her entire life.
Her hard work in the school was put to the test when she debuted in March 1838 as prima donna in the Royal
Opera. She had acted in small parts, but this was the lead in "Der Freischutz." When she finished her aria, the
audience responded with deafening applause. She instantly became a Stockholm celebrity. Suddenly everyone in
social circles wanted her to attend their parties.
Jenny enjoyed this newfound fame and popularity, but she still possessed a shyness that would never leave
her. Large crowds made her nervous and she never overcame her stage fright. Just before going on stage for a first
concert in a new city, she would agonize in the wings.
Described as somewhat of a plain woman, Jenny's face would light when she sang, and the enraptured
audience saw only an angelic creature. Her beautiful voice prompted a newspaper to dub her "the nightingale,"
a name that would stay with her always.
Every seat was filled when she sang. Her career was growing and her reputation was spreading across Sweden.
Even with such tremendous success, those close to her knew she should pursue further training.
In 1840, Jenny was appointed the official singer of the Royal Swedish Court. It was during this time that
Giovanni Belletti, a baritone who sang with her, persuaded Jenny to study under Manuel Garcia in Paris. Garcia
was considered the best singing teacher in the world.
Throughout the world, opera was mainly sung in Italian and Jenny realized that she must learn it. With
trepidation and excitement, she made arrangements and left for France to study under Garcia.
Paris was exciting and fearsome to Jenny. The country girl so adored in Sweden had landed in a world of
sophistication. She nonetheless dedicated herself to this new venture with firm determination.
She spent the time with Garcia working hard on improving her voice and studying Italian and French. Under
Garcia's tutelage, she learned the technical aspects in the art of song and how to fully "produce" her voice.
When Jenny had completed her training with Garcia in 1842, she was a perfect soprano. She was also more
than ready to return to Sweden. Paris had enabled her to achieve musical perfection, but she was not happy in
France. She would always equate the country with personal misery and loneliness.
Upon her return to her own country, she bought her parents a house in the country. Her first concert as a well
trained singer was in Copenhagen, Denmark. When she left, Queen Desideria of Sweden gave her a beautiful
watch so that she would know "when it is time to come back."
Copenhagen was the stage from which Jenny would become known to the world. The King of Denmark was
so taken with her performance that he gave her a golden shoe on a necklace. In Denmark she also met Hans
Christian Anderson, the writer of children's tales. The two of them became good friends, and he fell deeply in love
with Jenny. Although he asked her on several occasions to marry him, she considered him as one might a brother.
They enjoyed many good times together, but there would never be the romance that Anderson hoped for. He based
three of his fairy tales on her - "The Ugly Duckling," "The Angel" and "The Nightingale."
After her concert in Copenhagen, all the major opera houses in Europe wanted her to sing. The Berlin Opera
in Germany was her next engagement. In Berlin she met the musician Felix Mendelssohn, whom she found
talented, handsome and enchanting.
Mendelssohn was a prominent figure in the musical world and had a shining career. Jenny stayed in Germany,
singing with Mendelssohn in Leipzig, considered the musical heart of the world. Jenny and Mendelssohn became
extremely close. They met throughout Germany, she singing whenever he conducted. They spent time together
publicly and privately. Mendelssohn had captured Jenny's heart, but he was a married man with a family and so
their relationship remained that of an intimate friendship.
After two years in Germany, Vienna beckoned to her. She triumphed in the country where so many brilliant
musicians resided. There she met composer Robert Schumann, whose music she admired.
She was to sing next in London, England. She had vowed not to sing in France where she had been so
miserable, nor in Italy. She considered Italy to be like France and never sang in either country.
England embraced her. Jenny Lind was a name people now knew. The "Jenny rage" that would soon take
place in America began in London with all sorts of things being named after her. A highlight of the trip was when
she met the composer and pianist Chopin.
Mendelssohn had been waiting in London to surprise her. He gave his last concert in London before his death
at the age of thirty-eight. Jenny was devastated and could not sing for some time. Mendelssohn had been a guiding
force for her and his memory stayed with her for the rest of her life.
In the year after Mendelssohn's death, Jenny returned to Sweden. Julius Gunther, a tenor who had sung with
Jenny in her early career, began courting her and they became engaged. On a trip away from Sweden, however,
Jenny broke the engagement.
Now at a point in her career that she could command her own price, Jenny had become wealthy. The simple
Swedish girl did not care too much for decadence, however. She donated large sums for education in Sweden and
sang for charities.
Shortly after her break from Gunther, she met Claudius Harris, an English captain. She soon became engaged
to him but again Jenny broke the engagement. Nursing a broken heart from Mendelssohn's death and two
subsequent broken engagements, Jenny's life was in a tumult. She decided to rest and did not sing for six months.
In 1850, toward the end of her six month rest, Jenny was contacted by Phineas Taylor Barnum (P.T. Barnum). He
wanted to bring her to America on tour. Barnum offered her such a good deal that Jenny could not refuse. She
wanted to fund new schools in Sweden and Barnum's terms would allow her to earn a great deal of money.
Tenor Julius Benedict was to accompany her and at Jenny's request, her old friend Giovanni Belletti would
perform as baritone on the tour. Thanks to Barnum's endeavors, Jenny Lind would make her mark on America.
Barnum was a showman in every sense of the word. Born in 1810 in Connecticut, he began his career at age
12, selling lottery tickets. His knack for promoting and providing strange entertainment would carry him into
history a wealthy and well known man.
Barnum specialized in oddities from around the world. Some of his most famous exhibits were Joice Heth,
a woman claiming to be 161 years old, a midget nicknamed General Tom Thumb, the Feejee Mermaid, the
Siamese twins Chang and Eng, the tattooed man and the bearded lady.
He opened Barnum's American Museum in New York City in 1841. It proved to be a phenomenal success.
In 1855, however, Barnum went bankrupt in a venture with a Connecticut clock company. He paid off his
enormous debt by traveling with his "freaks" throughout Europe.
In 1870, Barnum went into business with William Coup. Together they concocted the idea to travel with their
show via train cars. Barnum used advertising posters across the country to promote his travelling show. In 1881,
he joined the International Allied Shows and soon met James A. Bailey. Barnum and Bailey formed "The Barnum
and Bailey Circus" It was touted as the "Greatest Show on Earth."
When Barnum died in 1891, Bailey kept the circus growing and at the turn of the century had the largest
traveling menagerie in the world. Upon his death in 1906, the Ringling Brothers Circus negotiated for a year and
finally purchased the Barnum and Bailey Circus. The circus still draws crowds today and is likely the most famous
in the world.
Undoubtedly Barnum's greatest success was in Jenny Lind. He generated an enormous amount of publicity
about the tour, and it made him more money than any other venture.
Still nervous about crowds and not liking to draw undue attention to herself, Jenny was at odds with Barnum's
unabashed penchant for garnering publicity at every minute opportunity. When Jenny sailed into New York in
September 1850, he had subtly spread the word of her coming. The harbor was lined with thousands who wanted
to see the lady who sang like an angel.
New York started the "Jenny rage" in America and it spread as she went on to Boston and Philadelphia, then
After her tour through the south and North Carolina, Jenny traveled through America and circled back through
New York and Philadelphia. Just as in Europe, crowds flocked to hear her sing and America was captivated by
By the time they had again reached Philadelphia, Barnum realized that Jenny was tiring of the rigors of the
intense travel. Her mother had passed away during the tour, and she was homesick. She disliked the constant
crowds present wherever she went. Barnum and his notion for drawing such crowds to achieve success was a
money maker for them both, but Jenny had clearly had enough.
Barnum offered to release her from her contract and Jenny readily accepted. She had sung 95 concerts under
Other changes were taking place around her. Julius Benedict had returned to London in May 1851 and a new
tenor was found to replace him. Jenny chose German born Otto Goldschmidt, who had been a student of
Mendelssohn. She had last seen him before her American tour. Belletti, who had fallen in love with Jenny, realized
the impact that Goldschmidt was to have on her. Belletti soon left for Europe and continued his singing career, but
never married. Signor Salvi replaced him on the American tour.
Goldschmidt infatuated Jenny with his music. She considered him as second only to Mendelssohn. Although
seven years her junior, Goldschmidt won her heart. They married in Boston in February 1852. Jenny gave forty more
concerts in America, but with the prospect of a new life, she gave her last American concert in May 1852. The
newlyweds settled in England and had three children.
Although she made a fortune in America, the intense publicity had daunted her spirit. She sought a private life and
sang little publicly during the remainder of her life. She taught at the Royal Conservatory of Music until the year before
her death in 1887.
At the height of her career, she was know as the greatest musical performer in the world. Her name lives on in the
world's musical halls of fame, in schools and streets named after her, and in eastern North Carolina at a little crossroads
where Jenny Lind once sang.
Sources: The Swedish Nightingale: Jenny Lind by Elisabeth Kyle, Jenny Lind Sang Here by Bernadine Kielty and Heritage Place, Lenoir