St. Petersburg

Bottesini visited St. Petersburg only once, in 1866. While there, he performed before Tsar Alexander II, who was immensely pleased with his playing. Afterward, Bottesini was summoned to the Tsar's box:
     "Bravo, my lord,"  the Tsar said in fractured Italian.
     "Thank you, your majesty," Bottesini replied.
     "Tell me," the Tsar continued, "where were you born?"
     "In Crema, your majesty."
     The Tsar's face flushed and his eyes flashed.  Courtiers 
gasped.  "Where were you born?" he repeated.
     Bottesini looked around, terrified.  An aide standing 
behind the Tsar held up a hand-written sign -- unfortunately 
in Russian, which Bottesini could not read.
     The Tsar bellowed, "Tell me now where you were born!"
     "In Milan, your majesty," Bottesini blurted.
     The Tsar turned and walked away with no further words.
     A courtier sidled up to Bottesini and whispered, "His 
majesty hates creme caramel.  He thought you were ridiculing 
him by saying you were born in Creme."
     "But Crema is indeed where I was born," Bottesini said.  
"A beautiful town.  I too detest creme caramel -- there is no 
connection --"  He noticed two hussars moving toward him.
     "It is good you were born in Milan," the courtier said.  
"Siberia is very cold."

Extreme ill luck dogged Bottesini's travels through Middle Europe after this episode; in nearly every town, theaters or inns burned down, ruffians broke up performances, or peasant uprisings canceled plans.

It is a nearly inescapable conclusion that Umberto was somehow in league with the House of Romanov. To this day, the Bottesini (or French) Bow remains almost unknown in Russia and surrounding nations.

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