NEW ORLEANS-- In the 18th century, the artist George Alexander Healy, painted many portraits of prominent Americans. One portrait hanging in the Historic New Orleans Collection is of a vocalist known as the "Swedish Nightingale," Jenny Lind.
Lind was a premiere vocalist of her day and at age 29, she retired from the opera and continued on with soloed performance.
In 1850, P.T. Barnum approaches her to tour the United States in concert.
Sarah Duggan is the Classical Institute of the South Coordinator at the Historic New Orleans Collection.
Duggan says Lind, "was a smash hit. Her first concert was in New York City and then she worked her way down the east coast made a stop in Cuba and then made her way here in February of 1851. When she got to New Orleans, she was mobbed by crowds at the riverfront. She was so crowded, she couldn't even get off the boat. She was so startled by the mob of people she couldn't even get off board. They sent a few decoys ahead to her apartment. There was one carriage and everyone thought, it's her! It was Barnum's daughter."
At the time, a venue known as the St. Charles theatre was the place for large crowds. Jenny Lind performed to standing ovation.
Jenny Lind was recently featured in 2017's hit music film, The Greatest Showman. While the film impressed critics for its music, acting and styling, it was not historically accurate in the least.
"I am a big Hugh Jackman fan. He is a wonderful singer and dancer. I think, the fictionalization of her, I was a bit unhappy with. She is presented as a very glamorous high society woman. It is true that Barnum approached her. They did partner together. It was a smash success of traveling around the country but there was no romantic relationship between the two," said Duggan.
On the contrary, Lind was not a showy diva. She was known for wearing simple white dresses with mousy brown hair who sang concerts for charity. As for her love life, she eventually marries one of her accompanying pianists.