Alette (Alethe) Due (1812−1887)

Alette (Alethe) Wilhelmine Georgine Due (neé Sibbern) was born in the monastery in Værne, Norway on 28 February 1812 and died in Kristiania (now Oslo) on 7 May 1887. As the wife of Frederik Due, stationed in Stockholm first as the Norwegian secretary of state (1822−41), and later as the Norwegian prime minister (1841−58), she stood at the centre of the capital city’s Norwegian-Swedish social life. She performed within these circles as a singer and also composed piano works and songs. In 1850 she became an honorary member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Music.

Life

From the monastery in Værne to the Ministerhotellet

Like a Norwegian version of the wives of Swedish governmental officials such as Mathilda Gyllenhaal, Bettina von Arnim or Rahel Värnhagen, Alette Due saw to it that her home, Ministerhotellet on the peninsula of Blasieholmen in Stockholm, was surrounded by a glimmering aura. At this meeting place for Norwegian visitors to Stockholm that encompassed all that the city had to offer in terms of ancestry and talent, she sang duets with King Oscar II and helped to create ties of friendship between Norway and Sweden that survived the dramatic separation of the two countries in 1905. She was a member of the Harmoniska sällskapet (the Harmonic Society) and in 1850 became an honorary member of the Kungliga Musicaliska Akademien (the Royal Swedish Academy of Music).

Alette Due was born in the monastery at Værne in southeastern Norway on 28 February 1812. She was the daughter of Anne Cathrine Stockfleth (1785−1865) and Valentin Sibbern (1779−1853). While still young, she contributed to entertainment at the palace in Kristiania (now Oslo), with her music making and participation in tableaux vivantes, as well as smaller French dramatic works in the palace’s great hall. With a harpist behind the curtains she performed as Saint Cecilia with her harp. At the age of 15 she became engaged to the future Norwegian prime minister, Frederik Gottschalk Haxthausen Due (1796−1873), who was twice her age, and at age 16 she married him.

With her beauty and her talent for conversation, her lovely singing voice and her charming personality, Alette Due became an attraction at the Ministerhotellet in Stockholm as the wife of the Norwegian prime minister. In 1840 she was already becoming a central royal personage as the head lady-in-waiting – with the title Lady of the Bedchamber – to Queen Desirée. Despite this, she had time to compose and it was said of her singing voice that if she had chosen to educate herself and perform in public, she would have become world famous. Her alto voice had a timbre like silver and she is described as a fantastic interpreter who also accompanied herself on the harp.

During the winter’s two to three musical soirées, when Due herself performed, she combined, according to Fredrika Bremer’s short story, ‘Fru Dues Hus’, an inner seriousness with her glad effervescence. Led by the stern royal court singer, Isak Berg, a musical community met regularly at her home to perform solo songs and works for choir. During rehearsals for the soirées (which were frequented by the royal court) they focused on expressing the most inner meanings of the works in order that everything – from the smallest part to the greater whole – could be best performed in perfect harmony. In the summer, these meetings moved out to the country to Villa Fjeldstuen on the nearby island of Djurgården, where Due’s friend, the singer Jenny Lind was often a guest.

To Vienna and back again to Norway

In 1858 Alette Due’s brother Georg Christian Sibbern took over as Norwegian prime minister and the Due couple were stationed in Vienna from 1858 to 1871. Their Viennese home also attracted a circle of intellectuals.

When they moved back to Kristiania in July of 1873, Alette Due spoke ‘svorsk’, a blend of Swedish and Norwegian, but soon made the city her home, becoming a driving force in charitable activities as well as giving financial aid for public concerts. As the mistress of the robes at the palace in Kristiania, which included various duties at state ceremonies, she also gathered a music circle in which the Swedish royal household participated during visits to the city and she continued to sing duets with King Oscar II. After her husband’s death several members of the royal household were guests at parties she hosted at the little country place she had built on the grounds of the Værne monastery. In 1877 she had a visit from no less than ‘Prince Imperial’ Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte. Alette Due died in Kristiania on 7 May 1887.

Compositions

Of all of Alette Due’s compositions, only two piano waltzes were published, La Rose and Reseda (signed ‘A.D.’) as well as a solo song ‘L’Exilé’, ‘Romance’ with a text by Xavier Marmier and Romancer med piano componerede og Hendes Kongelige Höghet Prindsesse Eugenie underdanigst tilegnede (Romances with piano accompaniment, humbly dedicated to Her Royal Highness Princess Eugenie). As a composer Due was highly critical of ‘modern’ and ‘formless’ music. She felt that much contemporary music had vague melodies and were characterized by disharmony. She was also critical of the extrovert character of concerto and solo numbers common at the time.

Camilla Hambro  © 2016
Trans. Jill Ann Johnson

Bibliography

Duncer, Conradine B: Nogle breve fra Fru Conradine Dunker, f. Hansteen, Trondhjem: Trondhjemske Samlinger, 1903.
Hagen, Ellen: Prinsessan Eugénie: Konstnärinna och filantrop, Stockholm: Bonnier, 1929.
Huitfeldt-Kaas, H.J.: Efterretninger om familien Sibbern, Christiania: Gundersen, 1890.
Kraft, Kathinka: Et og andet fra min tid: erindringer, Oslo: Tanum, 1938.
Skjevesland, Odd Inge: ‘100 norske statsråders spøkelseshus’, in: Aftenposten, 27 March 2016.
Vogt, Adler: Personalia fra det gamle Moss, Oslo: Cammermeyer, 1949.
Wolf, LucieSkuespillerinden Lucie Wolfs livserindringer, Kristiania: Cammermeyer, 1898.

Obituaries
Borås Tidning, 14 May 1887.
Dagens Nyheter, 14 May 1887.
Göteborgs Handels- och Sjöfarts-Tidning, 14 May 1887.
Kalmar, 14 May 1887.
Svensk Musiktidning, 16 May 1887.
Svenska Dagbladet, 14 May 1887.

Sources

Riksarkivet Stockholm, Musik- och teaterbiblioteket Stockholm, Stockholms stadsarkiv, Riksarkivet Oslo.

Summary list of works

Works for piano, songs.

Collected works

Songs
L’Exilé (X. Marmier).
Romances with piano composed for and humbly dedicated to Her Royal Highness Princess Eugénie.
Till den frånvarande, in: Förgät mig ej! Album för sång vid piano, vol. 1, Stockholm: Svanberg, 1855.
Three songs: 1. O, klarögda källa, 2. Dväljen er, suckar svalkande vinden!, 3. Beskows dröm (‘Jag drömde du en blomma var’). Dedicated to Princess Eugénie.

Piano
La Rose et le Réséda, deux valses composées pour le pianoforte, valser.


Works by Alette (Alethe) Due

This is not a complete list of works. The following works are those that have been inventoried so far.

Number of works: 1