Friday, April 10, 2009

Tart of the Week: Anna Nancy Storace

The opera beauty Anna Nancy Storace was born in 1765 in London to an Italian father and English mother. Like many of our past musical tarts with musical fathers, Nancy's dad wanted his children to follow in his musical footsteps and began training Nancy in singing from a young age. Nancy's talent shone and she began performing all over and even had some royal audiences. By the age of 13 she was studying opera in Italy.

By the time Nancy was eighteen she was an opera star on the Vienna stage. The Viennese loved her and Nancy loved the celebrity. Unfortunately Nancy's good fortunes took a turn when her mother encouraged her to marry some old English musician by the name of John Abraham Fisher. The marriage was a disaster. John was cruel and would beat his poor little wife. The abuse was so bad that Nancy would be forced to cake on makeup to hide her bruises. Eventually the gossipers caught wind of the abuse and the news reached the musical Emperor Joseph II, Marie Antoinette's brother. Well, Joe couldn't have his prized opera singer performing Salieri's masterpieces all black and blue! He booted Fisher out of Vienna. If only emperors always stepped in to save our tarts from awful husbands!

Nancy's husband may have been gone but she was now pregnant. Another disaster befell her when she collapsed and lost her voice for a few months. A daughter was born not long afterward but given to a foundling hospital where she later died. After the dramatic hiatus Nancy returned to the stage and back to her celebrity lifestyle. This time her celebrity lifestyle included men...a lot of men. Nancy got around, dating many of the musicians in Vienna. It is even rumoured she dated Vienna's most famous musician, the first ever rock star, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Another supposed love of the loose lady was Emperor Joe. What would his mother say! Tsk tsk.

Beside her romantic involvement with Mozart, Nancy also made a great effort in bringing the rocker to England to compose an opera. However, when Mozart received his royal invitation (from the Prince of Wales, can you imagine the mischief they would have got in? Mozart would never have finished an opera) Mozart was dying and would not be able to make the journey.

Nancy returned back to her homeland to continue her career. It was here she began her longest and most successful relationship with fellow British opera hunk, John Braham. The two would have a son together, Spencer. The rest of Nancy's life continued to be pretty happy. She even struck up a friendship with fellow tart, Emma Hamilton. Sadly though, her last remaining years would not be as blissful. She had a painful breakup (after eighteen years) with Braham which resulted in legal battles. Jerk. A few years afterward, in 1817, Nancy suffered from two strokes and died.

For more information regarding this mistress of music you can visit her biographer's site.


  1. Have the Tart of the Week posts been deliberately following a "performance" theme lately, or is it just a coincidence that most tarts were performers?

    What a life she lived! It must have been interesting to travel around Europe like that and have emperors looking out for her.

  2. Wow, she had enough time for men but abandons her baby daughter. What a class act.

  3. Oh my gosh--thank you for this! I love opera history, and would enjoy hearing about more leading ladies :D !

    She's said to have been very talented, did you know she was the original Susanna in Mozart's 'The Marriage of Figaro'?

    A pity she led such a foolish and tragic life though!

  4. I think she has been judged a bit harshly by your readers.

    Nancy didn't "abandon" her baby daughter. She had what is now known as a nervous breakdown on stage in June of 1785, when she was 8 1/2 months pregnant. She gave birth two weeks later while she was still in a catatonic state and unable to speak. It was her mother, believing that Nancy had gone mad, who gave the child to a foundling home. Elizabeth Storace didn't believe that Nancy would recover and she didn't want to be saddled with the care and raising of Nancy's child. (She was a widow and Nancy was the primary breadwinner in the family.)
    However, Nancy did make a miraculous recovery, four months later and went on to become one of the most celebrated performers in all of Europe.

    And yes, she was Mozart's original Susanna in Le Nozze di Figaro and most likely had quite a heated love affair going with him.

  5. Miss Storace is a faithful and loyal friend, a devoted sister and daughter, and a great patron of the arts. Never once have I heard a bad report from those who have known her. In fact, I have heard nothing but glowing praise for her character.

    Like myself, she has always been ahead of her time. After the mess with that brute, Fisher (a marriage that her mother, Elizabeth arranged), she determined to "be her own woman" as it were, turning herself into an astute businesswoman and owner of property.

    Thank you for posting this entry about my dear friend!

    Wolfg. Am. Mozart

    P.S. The top painting is of Elizabeth. Although there is a strong resemblance, Nancy's looks are more Italian due to her father, and she possesses a complexion that is more amber in coloring.

  6. Mozart, thank you for your kind suggestion!

    I like the top painting because it is so different from the other portrayals of her. It is in the National Portrait Gallery and confirmed by their curators to be Anna.

  7. Herr Mozart may very well be correct about the portrait, for although the curators at the National Portrait Gallery have "confirmed" it, there is still much controversy over it. I don't happen to believe that it is of her because this woman's skin is too fair, and she is too thin. Anna had a dark olive cast to her skin and she was described by most as "voluptuous".

    It has been suggested by many experts that this portrait may very well be of her mother, Elizabeth.

  8. His Majesty Emperor Josef II, "looked after" me because he was my employer. He paid me an exorbitant salary as the prima buffa of his Italian opera company. Sometimes Fisher's beatings were so bad that I would be off stage for weeks at a time. The last time he beat me, it was so severe that I was out of commission for nearly a month. This prompted His Majesty to banish Fisher, most probably due to the demands of the theater patrons. Whenever I was out of commission, His Majesty was forced to pay another actress to replace me, all the while still paying me my regular salary. It would behoove him to look after me the way he did, for he had much invested in me as the highest paid musician in all of Europe.

    His Majesty was a fair and honest employer who was pleased by my performances, but personally I was little more than an investment to him.

  9. Hello all,

    Would anyone happen to know the definite and or supposed reason for Anna and John Braham's seperation?

    Love the blog.

    -Marlie B.

  10. John Braham was 10 years younger than Nancy. He ran off with another woman and then married a blueblood. Nancy was devastated and embarassed, especially after he tried to take half her estate, even though they were never formally married. He was a creep!