Eugénie Vergin Colonne

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French singer and singing teacher (b. 21 March 1854 in Lille; d. 1910), born Eugénie Élise Vergin; sometimes also known as Elise Colonne or Alice Colonne.

She studied at the Paris Conservatoire, obtaining first prizes in singing and opéra comique in 1875. Subsequently she embarked on a successful career as a soloist in the concerts of the Association Artistique du Châtelet recently set up by Édouard Colonne, her performance as Marguerite in Berlioz's La Damnation de Faust being particularly acclaimed.

In September 1886, she married Colonne, who three months earlier had been divorced from his first wife, Irma Marié de l'Isle (1841–1891). She bore him a son, Daniel, in 1892.

Eugénie Vergin Colonne was noted for her excellent musicianship, and she was in much demand as a singing teacher in Paris. Tchaikovsky seems to have first met her on 12/24 February 1888, the same day that he arrived in Paris, where, as part of his first European concert tour, he was due to conduct three concerts with Colonne's orchestra. An entry in the composer's diary for that day reads: "Lunch at Colonne's. Madame. Colonne was alone. She was extremely pleasant" [1]. During his stay in Paris on that occasion and also in later years, Tchaikovsky often sat in Madame Colonne's box when attending the concerts conducted by her husband at the Théâtre du Châtelet. She also hosted the composer at their house a number of times. Tchaikovsky wrote a musical autograph consisting of six bars in her album with the following inscription: "Madame Eugénie Colonne le 16 mars 1888 [N.S.] à Paris", as well as drawing a crow in the left-hand margin of the page (It seems that the musical autograph was an improvisation, since when the album was auctioned in the 1960s various experts were unable to trace these bars of music to any of Tchaikovsky's known works) [2].

Correspondence with Tchaikovsky

One letter from Tchaikovsky to Eugénie Vergin Colonne has survived, dating from 1893, and has been translated into English on this website:

Notes and References

  1. Diary entry for 12/24 February 1888. Here quoted from The Diaries of Tchaikovsky (1973), p. 234.
  2. See the information provided by Vladimir Fédorov in a note accompanying the first publication of Letter 2965 to Édouard Colonne in Revue de musicologie, tome 64 (1968), no. 1, p. 85. Unfortunately, this musical album (which also contained autographs by Chabrier, Debussy, Fauré, Gounod, Grieg, d'Indy, Lalo, Massenet, Saint-Saëns, and other composers) has not been sighted again since it was auctioned by Pierre Berès in Paris in the 1960s.