Claudine Florentine Williams

usually referred to as "Madame Fiorentini"

Soprano, Bottesini's English-born wife, though there is no record of any marriage.

Bottesini met Claudine during his London premier. She later claimed she was the prima donna in the company he was appearing with. However, records show that she was a stage hand, dressed as a boy and using the name "Clod Williams."

Madame Fiorentini was, in fact, a detestable singer. Yet Bottesini always managed to find work for her that would satisfy her need to sing but not expose or embarrass her. Several of his own operas feature leading female roles in which her singing is never actually audible. This is a moving testament to the power of Love.

Her suspicious death

As with so many close to Bottesini, the shadowy Hand of Umberto is implicated in Madame Fiorentini's death. She died when a horse she was riding near Milan galloped into a bonfire. Witnesses reported seeing a mysterious figure in Genovese hunting garb lurking in the area.

After the death, a lawsuit was brought against a grieving Bottesini for mistreatment of the animal -- exactly the type of vicious finishing touch typical of Umberto. An elaborate Taj Mahal-like memorial erected by Bottesini in her honor near London was destroyed soon after it was built.

(Umberto is also connected with the deaths of Carlo Arpesani and Luigi Rossi.)

"We all must learn where to place our fingers."
© 1997, Jeff Brooks (