Irma di Karski

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Opera singer from the 1867 novel about the Italian revolutions of 1848, Vittoria, by George Meredith (1828–1909). She is singing the role of Michiella in Agostino Balderini's opera Camilla, which has a coded revolutionary message.

...the door opened and the maestro Rocco Ricci, bare-headed and in his black-silk dressing-gown, led out Irma di Karski, by some called rival to la Vittoria; a tall Slavic damsel, whose laughter was not soft and smooth, whose cheeks were bright, and whose eyes were deep in the head and dull. But she had vivacity both of lips and shoulders. The shoulders were bony; the lips were sharp and red, like winterberries in the morning-rime. Freshness was not absent from her aspect. The critical objection was that it seemed a plastered freshness and not true bloom; or rather it was a savage and a hard, not a sweet freshness. Hence perhaps the name which distinguished her — la Lazzeruola (crab-apple). It was a freshness that did not invite the bite; sour to Italian taste.

She was apparently in vast delight. "There will be a perfect inundation to-morrow night from Prague and Vienna to see me even in so miserable a part as Michiella," she said. "Here I am supposed to be a beginner; I am no debutante there."

"I can believe it, I can believe it," responded Rocco, bowing for her speedy departure.

"You are not satisfied with my singing of Michiella's score! Now, tell me, kind, good, harsh old master! you think that Miss Vittoria would sing it better. So do I. And I can sing another part better. You do not know my capacities."

"I am sure there is nothing you would not attempt,"said Rocco, bowing resignedly.

"There never was question of my courage."

"Yes, but courage, courage ! away with your courage!" Rocco was spurred by his personal grievances against her in a manner to make him forget his desire to be rid of her. "Your courage sets you flying at once at every fioritura and bravura passage, to subdue, not to learn; not to accomplish, but to conquer it. And the ability, let me say, is not in proportion to the courage, which is probably too great to be easily equalled: but you have the opportunity to make your part celebrated to-morrow night, if, as you tell me, the house is to be packed with Viennese, and, signorina, you let your hair down."

The hair of Irma di Karski was of singular beauty, and so dear to her that the allusion to the triumphant feature of her person passed off Rocco's irony in sugar.

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