Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
Grant Wilson, John Fiske and Stanley L. Klos. Six volumes, New York: D. Appleton
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FORMES, Charles John, singer, born in Miihlheim, Germany, 7 August 1810. He is popularly known as Karl Formes. He received his early musical education in Cologne and Vienna, and sang in Church choirs till 1841, when he attracted attention in Cologne as a concert singer. His appearance in opera soon followed, and in 1843 he became a member of the Mannheim theatre, and in 1844 joined the opera in Vienna. Incautious expressions of sympathy with revolutionary movements caused his sudden retirement, and after an engagement in Hamburg he was invited to join a German opera company in London, where, in 1849, he first performed at Drury Lane. In 1850, Formes became a member of the Italian opera of Covent Garden, and in the same year sang at the Philharmonic concerts. At this time it was the opinion of critics that for volume, compass, and sonor ous quality, Formes's deep bass was altogether unequalled. In "Robert le Diable," "Don Giovanni," and the "Huguenots," he dwarfed all competition. His stately presence and intuitively title dramatic action, both in comedy and tragedy, added to the completeness of his representations. Nor was he less imposing in rendering the dramatic songs of Robert Franz, Schubert, and other German composers, and in the oratorios of Handel, Haydn, and Mendelssohn.
In 1857 he came to the United States, making his first appearance in Meverbeer's "Robert le Diable," at the Academy of 3Iusic in New York City. He subsequently sang with much success in the principal cities of the Union. After a time his representations suffered from carelessness, and his business affairs seemed to lack proper management; his voice also was impaired by frequent hoarseness and habitual flatness of intonation. These conditions lost him preeminence, and his last years in New York City were spent as a teacher of vocal music. Of late years Formes has resided chiefly in this country, and is now (1887) an inhabitant of the far west.
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