An overview of secret love affairs of composers of opera and classical music.

Love affairs that caused scandals or were not meant to be known.


Vincenzo Bellini I

Bellini spent eight years in Naples, where the Sicilian studied at the conservatory. From this time a story refers to Bellini’s relationship to Maddalena Fumaroli. This story of love for a piano student could have come from one of his operas (the veracity of which is disputed, however): as a student, he taught a piano student named Maddalena Fumaroli and the two fell head over heels in love.

Her parents caught wind of this and forbade further meetings with the mouse-poor student. Sighing, Bellini told Maddalena that he would come back and ask her to marry him when he had created ten operas. Soon he was allowed to write his first opera for the Conservatory Theater (“Adelson e Salvini”) and for San Carlo and his fame increased. Eight years and seven operas later, after the triumph of “Sonnambula”, he received a letter from Maddalena that her father had consented to the marriage. Bellini never returned to Maddalena.

Museo teatrale alla scala Painting Bellini Travel Reisen Culture Tourism (1)

Vincenzo Bellini II

Bellini lernte in Mailand die verheiratete Giuditta Turina kennen.  Sein Librettist und Freund Felice Romani warf ihm vor, sich durch seine Liebschaften zu sehr von der Kompositionsarbeit ablenken zu lassen. Dabei nannt er die  “drei Gs”, nämlich Giuditta Pasta, Giuditta Grisi und vor allem Giuditta Turina.

Der Ehemann der Turina kam dadurch Wind von der Sache und der verlangte von seiner Frau Giuditta die Trennung. Sie wandte sich an Bellini, doch der hatte durch die Schwierigkeiten das Interesse verloren und nahm sie nicht nach Paris mit. Giuditta war dadurch verbittert und fühlte sich mit der unehrenhaften Scheidung alleinegelassen.

Museo teatrale alla scala Painting Bellini Travel Reisen Culture Tourism (1)

Anton Bruckner

His strange relationship with women

The Viennese never really warmed up to Bruckner’s music and strange person. His friends (e.g. the conductors Hans Richter and Johann von Herbeck) always remained in the minority.

Bruckner suffered greatly from the many slights. When he was even unjustly publicly suspected of an indecent approach to a female student in the “St. Anna Affair”, it almost broke his heart, he who never came close to a woman.

Ida Buhz

But this did not prevent him from writing 9 marriage proposals in his lifetime. The recipients were all young ladies, who in his opinion were still chaste (in his language “clean”). His last proposal (when he was 70 years old) even became famous. He fell in love with Ida Buhz, a parlor maid at his hotel during a stay in Berlin. An engagement had already been arranged, but at the last moment the devout Catholic learned that the bride-to-be was a Protestant. When Ida refused to convert to Catholicism, Bruckner backed out.

Bruckner 1896 Bruckner Wien Vienna Wien Vienna Anton Bruckner Travel Reisen Culture Tourism Reiseführer Travel guide Classic Opera

Claude Debussy

Tragic love affairs

Debussy came to Paris at the age of 10 and attended the conservatory for 13 years. He was a difficult student, his personality was austere, but he had a great attraction for the female sex. Twice later relationships ended with suicide attempts (both times with revolvers) of his companions when they found out about Debussy’s love affairs. The second time, the victim was his first wife and it became a gigantic social scandal that temporarily drove Debussy and his later second wife, Emma Bardac (also married), out of Paris.

Portrait Claude Debussy Life Leben Places Orte Music Musik Travel Guide Reisen Reiseführer

Joseph Haydn I: Luigia Polzelli

Haydn was 29 years old when he was offered a vice-chapel position with Prince Esterhazy in Eisenstadt, the most important noble family in Hungary. Before taking up the post, he married Anna Keller. However, the marriage was unhappy and childless, and Haydn had several affairs during his life.

In 1766 he was appointed liveried (uniformed) Kapellmeister and the prince obliged him to buy a house in Eisenstadt so that he would have a representative home. He also had to accompany his prince to his other residences, so the busy Haydn spent part of the year with his wife in Eisenstadt and others in Vienna or Esterhazy. When the Esterhazy palace was expanded into a completely oversized absolutist magnificent building, it had a large theater hall that accommodated an entire orchestra.

So the Haydns moved to the new Esterhazy Palace, and there the 47-year-old met 19-year-old Luigia Polzelli, who was hired to sing at court with her husband. They had a son, Antonio, in 1883, who is believed to have been Haydn’s illegitimate child.

Luigia was not particularly gifted, for in order to keep her at court Haydn wrote many interludes for her when she could not sing the original aria in the opera. Many of Haydn’s concert arias from this period are due to this circumstance.

When Polzelli’s husband Antonio died in 1791, Haydn wrote to the singer, “Perhaps that time will come when we have so often wished for four eyes to close.” For marriage in the strict Catholic regime was unthinkable.

Joseph Haydn II: Rebecca Schroeter.

Haydn spent a total of nearly 2 years in London during his two visits to England. The first stay in 1791 was arranged by the impresario Solomon. His stays were accompanied by great appreciation and his concerts were the sensations of the season. He wrote 12 symphonies for the English capital, among other works, and also gave well-paid private lessons, especially to the 40-year-old widow Rebecca Schroeter, who became the 60-year-old’s mistress and near whom he lived during his second visit in 1794/95.

Amazingly, Haydn was able to keep the love affair a secret from the press; the two were obviously very discreet. Haydn freely admitted it 15 years later when his biographer came across Schroeter’s letters. The texts were full of warmth and affection, but they were letters that Haydn had copied, presumably because she wanted the letters back.

The two parted in friendship. After his last visit, they did not see each other again, but remained in correspondence for a few years.

Rebecca Schroeter and Joseph Haydn

Joseph Haydn II: Rebecca Schroeter.

Scandalous relationship

Franz Liszt came to Paris with his father in 1823 as a 12-year-old child prodigy. Liszt subsequently became an attraction in the salons and he made countless concert tours abroad with his father. Unprecedented failures as a composer and the death of his father on a concert tour plunged the 17-year-old into a severe crisis, during which he sought solace in faith and brought his compositional activities to a complete halt. At the age of 21, he met Marie d’Agoult, a married woman five years his senior. An affair developed in which Marie became pregnant and had a child. When the affair became public, it became a scandal and damaged the artist’s reputation.

The couple escaped to Italy for a long time, and the two returned after two years.

Franz Liszt 1843

Felix Mendelssohn and Jenny lind

Mendelsohn often visited London

Mendelssohn visited the British Isle ten times, and from the beginning it was mutual love that the British and Mendelssohn felt for each other. Only the smog and the size of London (“a monster”) bothered Mendelssohn.

Affair with Jenny Lind

Mendelssohn met many celebrities such as Charles Dickens and Queen Victoria, for whom he played music several times (see below). A secretive relationship with the famous opera singer Jenny Lind culminated in London in 1847. The two had met in Germany as early as 1844 and possibly fell in love. The married Mendelssohn is said to have written her hot-blooded letters, even threatening suicide. However it is not completely certain, the letters were destroyed. On his last London trip he saw her in Convent Garden and (one is not sure) also in Belgravia House. Mendelssohn’s death shortly thereafter put an end to the relationship. Bad luck stuck to the Lind’s feet, for a little later Jenny Lind sought solace with another famous composer, who also died shortly thereafter.


Jenny Lind:

Jenny Lind

Giacomo Puccini

Elvira cheats on her husband with Puccini

When Puccini returned to Lucca after his successes in Milan, Elvira, married to local grocer Narciso, became pregnant by Puccini and they set off with their daughter to Monza, where their son Antonio was born. However, they were unable to marry until 15 years later, when Elvira’s husband was killed by a cuckolded husband.

Puccini cheats on Elvira

However, Puccini did not remain idle on his part. Meanwhile, having arrived in Torre di lago, he fell for a neighboring woman. Because Elvira was pathologically jealous, he hired students to play the piano for him at night in order to lull Elvira into a sense of security, while Puccini rushed to the neighbor through the window. Because she in turn cheated on Puccini, Puccini changed his lover.

The catastrophe

Elvira suspected her housekeeper Doria and pursued her with slander and hateful tirades. The desperate Doria poisoned herself and suffered an agonizing death. But Elvira was wrong, Puccini was indeed having an affair, but with Doria’s sister. Puccini was deeply shocked by Doria’s death, which perhaps contributed to the compositional blockade that followed for many years. Possibly he processed this tragedy of Doria with Liù’s heartbreaking sacrificial death in the “opera “Turandot”, who sacrificed herself for the hero “Calaf” (Puccini?).

Liù’s farewell “Tu che di gel sei cinta” sung by Angela Gheorghiu

Elvira Bonturi (later Puccini) in 1885:

Elvira Bonturi Puccini Lucca Giacomo Puccini Biografie Biography Life Leben Places Orte Music Musik Travel Guide Reisen Reiseführer

Doria Manfredi (second from left):

Doria Manfredi Puccinis Women Frauen Giacomo Puccini Biografie Biography Life Leben Places Orte Music Musik Travel Guide Reisen Reiseführer e

Giuseppe Verdi and Teresa Stolz


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