Lovisa Augusti was an opera singer, actress and member of the Royal Academy of Music.
Lovisa Augusti was born as Ester Salomoni, probably in 1751 in Germany. Her father was Israël Salomon, a musician. In 1766, she arrived in Sweden with her father and fourteen-year-old brother Carl Friedrich Wilhelm Salomoni. They called themselves a “comedy band” and performed in Varberg that year together with the city musicians. They gave two concerts. Lovisa Augusti sang Italian arias, her brother played the violin and their father displayed “all kinds of accomplishments on various instruments”. It is said that Varberg’s mayor, Johan Pyhlson, was of Jewish origin and that he had given permission for the performances. After that, the family travelled on to Gothenburg where Lovisa Augusti participated as a singer at a concert arranged by the chamber musician Antoine Uriot, as well as at a concert with the court musician Francesco Antonio Uttini. The same year, she converted to christianity in Gothenburg Cathedral, and received the name Lovisa Sofia at her christening. Her brother also converted, uncertain when. After her stay in Gothenburg, Lovisa Augusti and her brother seem to have moved to Kristianstad.
Lovisa Augusti married Friedrich Benedict Augusti, a violinist and director of music, possibly from Hildesheim in Germany. He came to Sweden on two occasions, in 1769 and 1772, in connection with the establishment of the orchestra at the Royal Theatre. Gustav III planned on founding a Swedish opera, and the need for skilful musicians was great. It is possible that the marriage between Lovisa Augusti and Friedrich Benedict Augusti took place in 1772. There is information that Gustav III discovered Lovisa Augusti on his royal tour (Eriksgata) of southern Sweden in 1773, because she sang so beautifully when she performed in his honour. Other information states however that it may have been the case that she was already living in Stockholm with her husband and that she accompanied the king on his Eriksgata. Whichever the case, the Augusti couple were in Stockholm during the late autumn of 1773. Lovisa Augusti made her debut as a singer at Bollhuset on 25 November 1773, when she sang the Prologue to Christoph Willibald Gluck’s opera Orpheus and Eurydice. The audience was charmed and it was reported that she “met with an outstandingly favourable reception on account of her beauty and her delightful voice”. In the daily newspaper Dagligt Allehanda she was honoured with a tribute in verse.
Friedrich Benedict Augusti received a contract as chamber musician at the court on 1 April 1776, but was probably already employed there earlier. For Lovisa Augusti there also exists a contract from 1 April 1776, stating that she was appointed as a singer at the court “and the Swedish Theatre Thereof”. According to other information, she had already been employed in 1773, so there may have been an earlier contract, perhaps also for her husband. Her salary was six thousand dalers in copper coins, the same as her husband’s, and she was to keep her salary for as long as she was able to perform. After that she was to receive a pension of three thousand dalers in copper coins per year. She also had the right to use the court’s coaches and to dictate her own conditions, for example that her performances should be held under the direction of the Royal Academy of Music. It was a very advantageous contract. Lovisa Augusti’s brother Carl was employed as a violinist in the Court Orchestra (Hovkapellet). Lovisa Augusti performed in various opera roles directly after her debut in November 1773. In 1774 she sang the leading role of Astrild in Silvie, an opera in three acts with “French music” that was performed at the wedding between Duke Karl and Duchess Hedvig Elisabet Charlotta.
Lovisa Augusti has been described as small, dainty and pretty, with a lovely voice that appealed to audiences. Her most famous roles were as Apollo in Orpheus and Eurydice and also as Eurydice in the same opera, as Anna Eriksdotter Bielke in Gustaf Wasa by Johann Gottlieb Naumann, and as Märta Banér in Gustaf Adolf och Ebba Brahe by Georg Joseph Vogler. She performed with success in Athalie by Racine with music by Jean-Baptiste Moureau and sang the title role in Lucile with music by André Grétry. Lovisa Augusti was also the understudy for the prima donna Elisabeth Olin when she was ill or took time off to give birth to her children. From 1774 until 1786, Lovisa Augusti participated in more than thirty advertised concerts. Her husband’s name only appears in two concerts from 1782. They seem never to have performed together.
The marriage with Friedrich Benedict Augusti does not seem to have been happy. According to the 1775 tax register for western Stockholm, they shared the same household with Lovisa’s brother Carl and a housekeeper, a maid servant and a serving boy. However, in 1780 they had moved apart. Her husband lived on one side of the great church Storkyrkan, while Lovisa Augusti lived on the other side. Lovisa Augusti only had one maid servant living with her, Caisa Gynter. No children were registered in either household.
In September 1787, a remarkable thing happened: Friedrich Benedict Augusti absconded from his appointment. In the court accounts that year is the statement: “Mr Musician F.B. Augusti fled the Kingdom in the month of September 1787.” With him also fled the violoncellist Bror Carl Höke from the Royal Court Orchestra (Kungliga Hovkapellet). Absconding from one’s appointment was a serious crime. The punishment was two months’ imprisonment and the loss of six months’ salary. Augusti and Höke escaped from justice however. Friedrich Benedict Augusti was already giving concerts in Christiania in Norway (now Oslo) in September 1787 where he had taken refuge, and he was also successful as a much appreciated teacher.
On 12 February 1788, Lovisa Augusti was elected to be a member of the Royal Academy of Music, at the same time as the opera singers Caroline Müller and Franziska Stading. Six years earlier, in 1782, the first woman ever had been elected, the opera singer Elisabeth Olin. Lovisa Augusti remained in Stockholm but moved to Regeringsgatan. She continued her concert activities and appeared for the last time as a soloist at a charity concert for the benefit of the Serafimer Hospital on 7 March 1790, just over three months before she died on 25 June 1790, when she was probably 39 years of age.