Open main menu

STORACE, ANNA (or ANN) SELINA (1766–1817), vocalist and actress, born in London in 1766, was daughter of Stefano Storace. The father, whose name was originally Sorace, was a musician of Naples; he changed his name to Storace on removing to England, where he was engaged as a double-bass player at the Haymarket Opera-house. Anna's mother belonged to a Bath family named Trusler. Her elder brother, Stephen [q. v.], is noticed separately. The name was often spelt Storache, for the sake probably of indicating its pronunciation. Instructed in music by her father, she acquired early proficiency, and on 15 April 1774 sang at the Haymarket in a concert given by Evans, a harper. She then became a pupil of Rauzzini, and in 1777 sang in oratorios in Hereford and at Covent Garden, and had a benefit concert at the Tottenham Street Room (subsequently the Prince of Wales Theatre), 27 April 1778. With the money thus obtained she accompanied her father to Naples, where she is said to have sung in oratorios given during Lent at the San Carlo Theatre. She also went to Venice, where she studied under Sacchini, and to Florence. In 1780 she played at the Pergola Theatre, Florence, with much success. Michael Kelly [q. v.] gives a curious account of the circumstances that brought her into renown: ‘Bianchi had composed the celebrated cavatina, “Sembianza amabile del mio bel sole,” which Marchesi (an eminent tenor) sung with most ravishing taste; in one passage he ran up a voletta of semitone octaves, the last note of which he gave with such exquisite power and strength that it was ever after called “La bomba di Marchesi!” Immediately after … [Signora Storace] had to sing. She attempted [a bomba of her own], and executed it to the admiration and astonishment of the audience, but to the dismay of poor Marchesi’ (Reminiscences, i. 97). Menaced with the resignation of the tenor, and met with a blank refusal by Signora Storace to discontinue her exhibition, Campigli, the manager, dismissed his soprano, who then went to Lucca and Leghorn. In 1781 she sang in Parma, in 1782 at the Scala, Milan, and in 1784, at a salary equivalent to the then large sum of 500l. a year, was engaged in Vienna, where she was the original Susanna in Mozart's ‘Nozze di Figaro.’ Here she contracted her disastrous marriage with John Abraham Fisher [q. v.], from whom, after undergoing brutal treatment, she separated.

Returning to England, she made her appearance on 24 March 1787 at the King's Theatre as Gesinda in Paisiello's ‘Gli Schiavi per amore,’ and in other comic operas. Abandoning Italian opera for English, she was seen for the first time at Drury Lane on 24 Nov. 1789, as Signora Storache, playing Adela in the ‘Haunted Tower,’ by James Cobb. On 16 April 1790 she was the original Margaretta in Hoare's ‘No Song no Supper.’ In Cobb's ‘Siege of Belgrade,’ 1 Jan. 1791, she was Lilla, and in Hoare's ‘Cave of Trophonius,’ Daphne, both original parts. In 1791 she sang at the Handel festival in Westminster Abbey, and in 1792 at the Hereford festival. On 21 Nov. 1792, with the Drury Lane company in the King's Theatre, Haymarket, she was the first Fabulina in Cobb's ‘Pirates.’ For her benefit on 11 March 1793 she played with great success Caroline in Hoare's ‘Prize, or 2, 5, 3, 8,’ and on 16 Dec., also for her benefit, was Florella in Hoare's ‘My Grandmother.’ Back at Drury Lane, she played on 20 Dec. 1794 Elinor in Cobb's ‘Cherokee,’ took a part on 6 May 1795 in Hook's unprinted ‘Jack of Newbury,’ and played for her benefit Clara in the ‘Duenna.’ Rosina in the ‘Spanish Barber’ (‘Le Barbier de Seville’) she took for the first time on 16 Nov. 1795. In Cobb's ‘Shepherdess of Cheapside’ she had an original part on 20 Feb. 1796, was on 12 March the first Barbara in Colman's ‘Iron Chest,’ and on 30 April had an original part in ‘Mahmoud, or the Prince of Persia,’ an opera by Hoare. The music, by Stephen Storace, left unfinished at his death, was vamped up by her, and the receipts were, it is said, given to the widow, her sister-in-law. At Drury Lane ‘Nancy’ Storace (as she was called by her musical friends) met John Braham [q. v.], with whom she long acted, forming close and enduring relations with him, and having by him a son. The following year she accompanied him to Paris, where, under the patronage of Josephine Beauharnais, they gave a series of concerts, remaining in Paris eight months. They arrived in Italy in 1798. Refusing a joint engagement in Naples, they went to Leghorn and Venice, then by Trieste, Vienna, and Hamburg, home to England, where they arrived in the winter of 1801. On 9 Dec. 1801, in ‘Chains of the Heart, or the Slave by Choice,’ by Hoare, with music by Mazzinghi, apparently an adaptation of the ‘Gli Schiavi per amore’ previously mentioned, Braham and Signora Storace both appeared at Covent Garden, the latter as Zulima. In Cobb's ‘Siege of Belgrade,’ on 15 March 1802, she was Lilla to Braham's Seraskier. On 13 Dec. 1803 she was Katherine and Braham Valentine in T. Dibdin's ‘English Fleet in 1342,’ and on 10 Dec. 1804 was Rosanna to Braham's Foresail in T. Dibdin's ‘Thirty Thousand, or Who's the Richest?’ On 28 Feb. 1805, in ‘Out of Place, or the Lake of Lausanne,’ by Reynolds, she was Lauretta to Braham's Captain Valteline. In the summer she sang with Braham for six nights in Brighton. Back at Drury Lane, where she remained until her retirement, she played on 12 Nov. Floretta in the ‘Cabinet’ to Braham's Orlando. On 22 Jan. 1806, as the Marchioness Merida, she supported Braham as Koyan in Cherry's ‘Travellers, or Music's Fascination.’ On 12 Jan. 1807 she was the first Susan in ‘False Alarms, or My Cousin,’ by Kenney, music by Braham and King; on 13 April was, for her benefit, Wowski in ‘Inkle and Yarico;’ on 11 Feb. 1808 was the first Rozella in Brandon's ‘Kais, or Love in the Deserts,’ music by Braham; and on 3 May 1808 the first Mammora in Cumberland's ‘Jew of Mogadore.’ On 30 May she took a benefit, delivering to the audience a farewell address by Colman, and appearing as Floretta in the ‘Cabinet.’ She then retired to Herne Hill Cottage, Dulwich. Braham was married in 1816, and Signora Storache died on 24 Aug. 1817, it was hinted through disappointment, and was buried at St. Mary's, Lambeth. By her will, made shortly before her death, she left legacies amounting to 11,000l., including 1,000l. to the Old Musical Fund, Royal Society of Musicians, and 1,000l. to the New Musical Fund. Her personalty was sworn under 50,000l. In her later years the signora increased in bulk, and her features, always strong, became coarse. She persisted to the last in playing parts to which she was unsuited, and her final retirement was accepted with something more than resignation. At her best she was a finished singer and an admirable comic actress.

Her portrait, by Sharpe, is in the Mathews collection in the Garrick Club.

[Genest's Account of the English Stage; Monthly Mirror, various years; Kelly's Reminiscences; Grove's Dict. of Music; Georgian Era; Gilliland's Dramatic Mirror; Thespian Dict.; and see under Braham, John.]

J. K.