Adelina Patti of Craig-y-Nos
Adelina Patti, the greatest soprano of her day, will always be associated with her castle in the Upper Swansea Valley. She gave it the romantic name of Craig-y-Nos, the Rock of Night.
"Adelina Patti had a rare mixture of talents", H Klein wrote in his book, The Reign of Patti (1920). "Nature taught her nearly everything that the average student has to strive to acquire."
Born in Spain on 10 February 1843 to Italian, opera-singing parents, she spent many years living in America and first performed in front of an audience at the age of seven. Her voice was remarkable for its incredible purity, for which Verdi declared her the greatest singer he had heard.
She was a beautiful woman with a tempestuous artistic temperament, and was adored and acclaimed throughout Europe. She was already a singer of considerable acclaim by the time she chose to take up residence in the Upper Swansea Valley in Breconshire, performing regularly for royalty from all over Europe and commanding large fees for her performances.
Her first marriage to the Marquis of Caux had not been a success; in 1878, she bought Craig-y-Nos Castle in Breconshire to live in with her lover, Ernest Nicolini, another opera singer who had partnered her in many duets and who enjoyed the country life. She lived at Craig-y-Nos with Nicolini until his death in 1898, having married him in Ystradgynlais in 1886 following her divorce.
Adelina immersed herself in local community life after her marriage to Nicolini and was a generous benefactor, giving charity concerts even after she had largely retired. She particularly favoured the towns of Brecon, Swansea and Neath, and had sung in Welsh at the Eisteddfod in Brecon in 1889.
She undertook many building projects at the Castle over the years where in 1891 she opened a theatre. Many musical productions were held there over the following years until Nicolini's death. She remarried in 1899, her new husband being the rather austere Baron Cederstrom. Adelina performed and entertained less and less after this and spent more time at home at Craig-y-Nos with her husband and devoted household staff.
She also funded the substantial station building at Craig-y-Nos/Penwyllt on the Neath and Brecon Railway. In 1918, she presented the Winter Garden building from her Craig-y-Nos estate to the city of Swansea. It was re-erected and renamed the Patti Pavilion. She died at Craig-y-Nos on 27 September 1919 and eight months later was buried near her father at the Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris.