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Title: The Operatic Problem
Author: Galloway, William Johnson
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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 THE OPERATIC PROBLEM



 By

 W. JOHNSON GALLOWAY, M.P.



 [Illustration]



 London
 John Long
 6 Chandos Street, Strand
 1902



Preface


Last autumn, having to speak at an organ recital given by my friend Mr
Clegg, I took the opportunity of giving what encouragement lay in my
power, to the Corporation of my native town, in an endeavour they had
made during the summer months to provide suitable music in the various
parks throughout the city. To my great surprise that speech was quoted
in journals, of all shades of opinion, in the country, and brought me
also a vast correspondence.

A copy of the speech will be found at the end of this book.

As I have long desired that Opera should be placed within the reach of
those, whose purses are not able to bear the strain of the high prices
charged in England, and having some leisure before Parliament met this
year, I made inquiries regarding the various systems of running Opera on
the Continent of Europe. I obtained a vast mass of most interesting
information. How to make the best use of that information was my
difficulty. It was much too bulky to compress into the narrow limits of
a magazine article, and besides, much of it had no peculiar interest for
us in this country.

My chief desire was to put it before the public in a form that would
arouse interest in the subject. Also, I realised that this information,
however valuable, was like the desert, in its unwieldy form, and without
any attempt to outline the conclusion to which it led. So after much
trepidation of thought I determined to run the gauntlet and march right
up to the cannon's mouth with a scheme of my own for the establishment
of a system for National Opera in this country.

This little book is the result of my efforts, and though I do not
pretend that it offers a complete solution of the question, still less
that it gives a _coup de grâce_ to the schemes of those who have trodden
the same path before me, I do hope it may help to call into existence
some plan for the foundation of Opera upon a popular basis.

To my critics--and many I shall have--I venture to say that, however
much they disagree, they should remember I lay no claim to completeness,
and I will gladly welcome any suggestions thrown out with a real desire
to perfect my very imperfect ideas.

But there are two forms of criticism I wish to meet in advance.

The first is the criticism of those, who will say it is useless hoping
to get public money for a luxury, whilst the nation is engaged in a
costly war. I frankly and freely admit the force of such criticism, but
I would urge in reply that a proposal like mine has far to travel,
before it takes its final shape, and one cannot hope to get Parliament
to take the matter up until the subject has been fully ventilated in the
country. And although at such a time our first thoughts should be given
to those who are fighting our battles in the field, surely no harm, and
possibly much good, may come from considering how we can deal with the
social problems which confront us.

The second form of criticism is perhaps more easily met, namely, the
criticism of those who look upon all theatres and opera houses as
vicious and _contra bonos mores_. This battle was fought by Molière in
the seventeenth century. Prescott, in his delightful essay on Molière,
tells us what difficulties that author had to face at the beginning of
his career on these very grounds. The clergy, alarmed at the then
rapidly-increasing taste for dramatic exhibitions, openly denounced the
theatre as an insult to the Deity, and Molière's father anticipated in
the calling his son had chosen no less his spiritual than his temporal
perdition. Yet who is there to-day who will deny that Molière helped to
correct the follies of his age, by exposing them to ridicule? And if in
providing National Opera for the people, we can assist in the higher
education of the community, we may well ask those who object on the
grounds I have named, to remember that "there is no felicity upon earth
which carries not its counterpoise of misfortunes," and that the evils
they fear are not inherent only to the stage, but also exist in almost
every other walk of life.



[Illustration]

The Operatic Problem


Opera has, since its origin, been considered the highest form of
theatrical pastime. The very appellation "opera" indicates that in the
land of its birth it was looked upon as the "work" _par excellence_, and
to this day it is the form of Art which is invariably honoured by
exalted patronage, and one that people pay the most to enjoy. It is
hardly necessary to advance documentary evidence in support of this
assertion; moreover, it is beyond the scope of this book to marshal all
the historical facts. My chief consideration will be to deal with the
prospect of National Opera in England, and to take the existing state of
things as the basis for future action. But some retrospect showing that
the originators of opera understood its importance, and knew admirably
how to define its scope, may prove interesting.

The following extract from the preface to Vitali's _Aretusa_, the score
of which is in the Barberini Library, performed in Rome on the 8th of
February 1620, is worth quoting in corroboration of the statement:--

"This style of work (opera) is a new style, born a few years ago at
Florence, of the noble intelligence of Messer Ottavio Rinuccini, who,
dearly beloved by the Muses and gifted with especial talent for the
expression of passions, would have it that the power of music allied to
poetry, tended rather to gather fresh strength from the combination,
than to suffer diminution in consequence. He spoke of it to Signor
Jacopo Corsi, Mæcenas of every merit and most enlightened amateur of
music, proving that the mission of music united to poetry should be not
to smother words with noises, but to help those words to a more eloquent
expression of passion. Signor Corsi sent for Signor Jacopo Perri and
Signor Giulio Caccini, eminent professors of singing and counterpoint,
and after having discussed the subject, they came to the conclusion that
they had found the means for reaching the desired goal. Nor were they
mistaken. It is in this new musical style, the fable of Dafne to the
poem of Signor Ottavio Rinuccini, was composed and performed in Florence
at Signor Jacopo Corsi's, in the presence of the illustrious Cardinal
del Monte, a Montalto, and their most serene Highnesses the Grand Duke
and Grand Duchess of Tuscany. The work pleased them so much that they
were absolutely bewildered (_attonitidi stupore_). This style of music
acquired a still greater number of fresh beauties in _Euridice_, a work
by the same authors, and then in _Ariadne_, by Signor Claudio
Monteverdi, to-day _Maestro di Capella at Venice_."

Your modern theorist could hardly express his operatic creed with
greater felicity than the Florentine noble, Ottavio Rinuccini, and the
whole quotation breathes in its quaint phraseology, the spirit of love
for all that is new and beautiful in Art, which gave Italy her hegemony
amongst other nations.

The operatic spectacle, when first imported into France, was a Court
entertainment for the privileged few, but it soon tempted private
enterprise, and here, again, its importance, as an attraction, was not
underrated, for the first _impressario_, one Pierre Perrin, took good
care to obtain a monopoly for the new style of performances, whilst the
royal _privilège_ (letters-patent), granted to him, sets out their
advantages in unmistakable terms.[A]

Therein "Louis par la grace de Dieu," etc., concedes to his "ame et feal
Pierre Perrin" the exclusive rights of operatic performances throughout
France, not only that they should contribute to his own recreation, or
that of the public in general, but chiefly in the hope that his
subjects, "getting accustomed to the taste of music, would be led all
but unconsciously to perfect themselves in this the most noble of
liberal arts." (Que nos sujets s'accoustumant au goust de la musique, se
porteroient insensiblement a se perfectionner en cet art, l'un des plus
nobles de liberaux.) These Royal letters-patent were dated 1669,
demonstrating that two hundred and thirty-two years ago France
recognised the educational mission of the art of music, and its
accessibility by the means of opera.

The taste for this new entertainment grew and spread throughout Europe,
and it is a matter of common knowledge that everywhere the encouragement
and support came from the highest quarters, always having for its object
the benefit of the masses.

Thus Italy, France, Germany, Austria, Spain, Russia, Sweden, Norway,
Denmark, Greece have their endowed or subsidised theatres; they can
boast of an artistic musical past and operatic tradition, and make a
proud show of creative and interpreting talent for over two centuries.
It is equally well known that the patronage thus accorded, always took
the form of a monetary subsidy granted either by a Sovereign or by a
municipality--at times for a period of years, at others for a specified
occasion, sometimes unconditionally, sometimes under certain
restrictions, now limited to a given figure, then giving the manager
_carte blanche_. The solicitude and favour shown by the State went at
times the length of taking a direct interest in the management of an
opera house, as was the case for a certain period in France.

England alone in civilised Europe remained indifferent, and took no
active part either in fostering or patronising the new form of art; and
whilst the spirit of emulation was animating other states and nations
towards helping native production, England was satisfied to import
spectacles and performers from abroad, just as she would have imported
any other commodity. True enough, only the best article was brought
over, and the best price paid in the highest market. If one could reckon
up the money thus spent on foreign operatic performances within the last
hundred years, the figures would prove instructive--instructive, that
is, of England's foolhardiness in alienating so much national cash,
without any benefit to the nation, and to the direct detriment of native
talent. For over a century this country has been the happy
dumping-ground of Italian opera and Italian singers and dancers; for
there was a time when a ballet and a _prima ballerina_ were of paramount
importance in an operatic season. Within late years French, Belgian,
German, American, Polish and even Dutch singers have found their
El-Dorado in England. Composers of all nations have found hospitality
and profit. Foreign conductors, _virtuosi_, teachers and chorus-singers
have taken up a permanent abode here, and things have come to such a
pass that one may well wonder whether there is any room at all for an
Englishman, and whether the time has not arrived for a voice to be
raised on behalf of native artists and native art.

It is not as though native opera had failed to show signs of life. Our
failure to create a body of art comparable with that of Germany, Italy
and France has sometimes been attributed to inherent lack of the
dramatic instinct in music, but that view is contradicted by the
historical facts. From the time of Purcell, whose operatic genius is
beyond question, neither the impulse to write on the part of musicians
nor the capacity to appreciate on the part of the public has been
lacking. We find throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries,
breaking through the stifling influence of exotic art, an irrepressible
tendency towards the creation of a purely native form of opera. Again
and again English or British composers returned to the task with
significant, if temporary, success. The list is surprisingly large and
almost continuous down to the present day. It includes many forms of
art, some of which have no pretension to a high standard, but the one
thing common to them all is the yearning towards some sort of musical
drama which they exhibit. This is seen in nothing more plainly than in
the "ballad operas" of the eighteenth century, which were inaugurated by
the immensely popular _Beggar's Opera_ in 1728, only some thirty years
after Purcell's flourishing period. A string of ballads took the public
by storm when thrown into a dramatic setting. Arne's ambitious project
of building up in the middle of the century an English operatic school
to rival the Italians in their own domain indicates an instructive
confidence in the forces of his day. It failed not so much from lack of
support as from active opposition on the part of those undying enemies
of the unaccustomed, who play the game of follow-my-leader like a flock
of sheep. They did it then. They do it now.

This failure did not deter Arne's successors from freely following their
own operatic bent, in the earlier and less ambitious style. The
agreeable and distinctive national talent of Dibdin, Arnold, Linley,
Shield, Horace, Hook, Braham and many others found expression in a host
of musically set plays, which hugely delighted the public. English
musicians received encouragement and responded to it. The 1809 English
Opera House produced a quantity of works, and at the same time Drury
Lane and Covent Garden offered a field of activity to Bishop, who was a
born operatic composer of charming and original gifts. To this period
belongs Balfe, who may be said to mark its culmination. The _Siege of
Rochelle_, his first opera, was brought out at Drury Lane in 1835, and
the _Bohemian Girl_, his most successful one, in 1843 at the same
theatre. This opera has been before the public for nearly sixty years,
and is still enjoying the undiminished favour of popular audiences.
Wallace's _Maritana_, which belongs to the same period, is also very
much alive to this day. Barnett's _Mountain Sylph_ (1834) and Loder's
_Night Dancers_ (1846) met with as much success and lasted as long as
four out of five contemporary Italian works, and they were only amongst
the most prominent of a number of native operas, called forth in this
period of sunshine and received with appreciation.

This period passed away, and has not been renewed. The promise held out
by Carl Rosa, an _impressario_ of enlightenment and enterprise, almost
amounting to genius, was baulked by his premature death, and the
patriotic effort embodied, in the theatre which is now the Palace Music
Hall ended in worse than failure. That well-meant but disastrous venture
was the heaviest blow that English opera has ever received, for it cast
the shadow of hopelessness over the whole enterprise in the eyes of the
public in general and the theatrical and musical world in particular.
Naturally perhaps, but most unjustly.

For the general disappointment and disillusion attending the failure of
_Ivanhoe_ the critics were largely to blame in holding out expectations
which could not be realised; the thing was doomed to eventual collapse
from the outset. It started, it is true, with an unparalleled
advertisement and amid universal good wishes; it commanded popular and
fashionable patronage alike, and every adventitious attraction was
provided with a lavish hand. But it lacked the essential elements of
real success, and had to fight against insuperable difficulties. In the
first place, the stage was far too small for grand opera, which moves in
a large way, requiring large spaces. The principal characters must stand
out clear, with abundant room for movement and gesture on a heroic
scale. If they are huddled or crowded up against the chorus--which also
requires ample space--the action is confused and leaves an impression of
futility. The effect is gone. This might not altogether prevent
enjoyment of a familiar work by audiences accustomed to small theatres,
but it ruins the chances of a new piece conceived on a larger scale, and
presented in London to playgoers accustomed to more adequate boards. The
stage at the ambitious New Opera House was so small, and the
foreshortening so excessive in consequence, that in the opening scene of
_Ivanhoe_ Cedric and his guests actually sat at meat in Rotherwood Hall
with their knees above the table, producing a ludicrous effect. And yet
the piece was projected on the most pompous scale, with tournament,
siege, fire, solemn trial, battle, murder and sudden death--in short,
all the details that require the most ample spaces. The reporters were
told, of course, that the stage was the largest in Europe, and they may
possibly have believed it. At any rate, they told the public so. They
ought to have known that _Ivanhoe_ had no chance so cramped and huddled
together.

The second obstacle was the counterpart of an inadequate stage--to wit,
an overloaded book. There were too many principal characters. They
cluttered up the stage, got in each other's way and distracted attention
from the main action. A skilful novelist can dispose of a great many
characters in one story; a skilful dramatist can put fewer but still a
good many into one play, because they are able to explain themselves
quickly and by-play is admissible. In grand opera it is otherwise. The
characters move on a higher emotional plane; they express themselves in
prolonged phrases and accents enlarged beyond the manner of speech,
consequently they require more time and space. It must all be simple,
large and clear. There must be no distraction of interest; to have
several persons of equal importance is fatal. No musician could have
made a successful opera of such a book as _Ivanhoe_. The talent, skill
and experience of Sullivan did not fail to produce some agreeable
numbers, but they failed most egregiously to make grand opera. A
perpetual sense of disappointment pervaded the piece; it never rose to
the height demanded by the situation, save when that was comic, and
occasionally the failure was absolutely painful. The music kept trying
to soar, but was all the time chained by the leg. The reason is obvious.
You cannot serve two masters, nor can a man who has devoted a life to
light musical composition, suddenly command the powers which can only be
won by toil, and tribulation, and faithful devotion to a high ideal. To
crown this fabric of shortcomings, the management committed the folly of
running _Ivanhoe_ every night. No masterpiece could have stood a test of
this kind. And it was thus, with this single unfortunate specimen, that
English opera was to be established. Let no one be cast down by this
failure. We may rather point to the attempt, to the widespread interest,
and to the eager if ill-founded hopes that accompanied it, as signs of
vitality. They indicate the existence of a demand, while the recurrent
efforts of recent, and of still living composers--of Goring, Thomas,
Corder, Stanford, Cowen, Mackenzie, M'Cunn and De Lara--prove that the
dramatic instinct has not departed from British composers, and that it
is not hopeless to look for a supply in answer to the demand. The seed
only needs systematic encouragement, and intelligent cultivation to bear
fruit. I firmly believe that the time is ripe for such encouragement to
come from an official sphere; in other words, I advocate State
intervention in the matter, and the establishment of a subsidised
national opera house on the lines successfully adopted in other
countries. And that we may profit by the experience of others, let us
examine how continental nations fare under the ægis of State-aided Art.

Italy, Germany and France present the most characteristic instances, and
I will take a bird's-eye view of the operatic machinery in them,
beginning with Italy.

FOOTNOTES:

[A] Here is an extract of this _privilège_:--"Nous avons au dit
Perrin, accordé et octroyé, accordans et octroyons par les présentes
signées de notre main la permission d'etablir en notre bonne ville de
Paris et autres de nostrec Royaume, des Académies composées de tel
nombre et qualité de personnes qu'il avisera, pour y représenter et
chanter en public des opéra et représentations en musique et en vers
français, pareilles et semblables à celles d'Italie. Et pour
dédommager l'Exposant, des grands frais du'il conviendra faire pour
les dites Représentations, tant pour les Théatres, Machines,
Décorations, Habits qu'autres choses nécessaires; nous luy permettons
de prendre du public telles sommes qu'il avisera et à cette fin
d'etablir des gardes et autres gens nécessaires à la porte des lieux
où se feront les dites Représentations; Faisant très expresses
inhibitions et défences à toutes personnes de quelque qualité et
condition qu'elles soient, _mesme aux officiers de nostre Maison d'y
entrer sans payer, et de faire chanter de pareils opéra ou
Représentations en musique et en vers français_ dans toute l'entendue
de nostre Royaume pendant douze années sans le consentement et
permission du dit exposant, à peine de dix huit mil livres d'amende,"
etc., etc.



Italy


There are about five hundred theatres in Italy, and quite one half of
these have seasons of opera at various times of the year. The
traditional Italian operatic season begins on the 26th December of each
year at San Stefano Day, and is called the Carnival Season; then follows
Quaresima or Lent Season and Primavera or Spring Season--altogether some
five months of opera. Besides these there exist (_stagioni di fiere_)
short seasons of one or two weeks' duration, at the time of certain
famous fairs. There are autumn seasons, and sporadic performances at
fashionable summer and bathing resorts. I am quite within strict
probability in asserting that in Italy two hundred odd theatres are
devoted to opera the whole year round. These theatres may be briefly
divided into two classes--municipal and private ones. The latter are run
very much on the same lines as private theatres anywhere else, and do
not come within the scope of my consideration.

The State does not interfere in any way with Italian theatres, and such
help as these receive comes either from municipalities, or especially
formed associations of institutions linked by common interest with the
working of a theatre. But the principle of such help is always that of
an act performed for the public good, or, as it is officially termed,
_per ragioni di pubblica utilita_, and it naturally takes the form of a
monetary subsidy. This suésidy varies according to the importance of the
theatre, the rank of the city, the prospects of the season, and its
grant is altogether opportunistic and at times arbitrary. In the
majority of Italian theatres boxes are proprietary, and the
_palchettisti_ (box-holders) have a direct interest and a vote of some
weight in the prospective arrangements of a season. The _impressario_
desirous of running an operatic theatre must submit his prospectus to
the box-holders at the same time he submits it to the municipality from
which he wishes to obtain his contract, and of course, his subsidy. A
theatrical board (_Commissione Teatrale_), composed of local
authorities, and box-holders examines the prospectus, and if the
decision is unfavourable another plan has to be submitted by the same
man, or another aspirant, or perhaps the _Commissione_ has a scheme of
its own. As a rule, stipulations comprise either a novelty or a
favourite opera, called in this case "obligatory" (_opera d'obbligo_), a
ballet, or simply a specified number of performances. The length of the
season varies from eight days (_stagione di fiera_) to two months, the
repertory may consist of one opera or twenty, whilst the figure of the
subsidy is anything between £20 and £8000. The average, however, is
three operas for a medium season of one month--one obligatory, one _di
repiego_ (for a change) and another, _da de Stinarsi_ (to be selected),
at the choice of the _impressario_ or in accord with the _Commissione_.
Five performances weekly are the orthodox number, Mondays and Fridays
being recognised as days of rest.

If an agreement is arrived at, the _impressario_ is put in possession of
the theatre for the period stipulated, and sets about running his
season. He is given but the bare building and seats; he has to provide
scenery, costumes, orchestra and chorus in addition to his company of
artists. Sometimes orchestra and chorus are local institutions, and
there are small places in which the conductor is an _employé_ of the
municipality engaged for a period of years to play the organ in church,
teach music at schools, conduct open-air concerts and also the operatic
season. In such a case a part of the subsidy, equivalent to all the
salaries, is retained to guard against accidents, or else a sum is set
apart for that purpose out of a deposit lodged by the _impressario_ with
the _Commissione_ or the municipality.

The budget of the manager depends on the subsidy and the subscription,
in which box-holders must perforce participate owing to the system of
_ingresso_ or entrance ticket--a system which consists in charging so
much (a uniform price, as a rule) for entrance in addition to the price
of your ticket. _Ingresso_ simply gives you the right to standing room,
or you may join some friends in a box of theirs; and this method has
been devised in view of the _palchettisti_, whose boxes would otherwise
prove a profitless asset. The _palchettisti_ subscribe to the
_ingresso_, and the general public to seats and _ingresso_ combined. But
the _impressario_ does not get his subscription until he has given
one-half of the stipulated performances. There is a further perquisite,
called _adobbo_, in some southern Italian theatres--the Naples San
Carlo, for instance--which brings in a goodish sum of money, and
consists in charging two francs for attendance in every box. Judging
from the name _adobbo_, it must be a relic of a time when attendance
comprised some kind of "fixing" you up in your box. It is nothing of the
sort to-day, and I am unable to explain why, after having paid for your
box and _ingresso_, you are charged for the _adobbo_, which seems to me
first cousin to the obnoxious _petit banc_ in French theatres. Besides
these two elements, subvention and subscription, the _impressario_ has
also the resource of raising the prices of seats, and entrance tickets
how, and when, he pleases during the season, the fluctuation affecting,
however, non-subscribers only. As a rule, the opening night of the
season, and the production of a novelty are generally singled out for
the adoption of this device; but, naturally enough, your manager has
recourse to the measure, whenever an opera of his proves a sure draw,
and results, just as much as customs, are there to justify the
expedient. Should, however, the public fail to respond, the prices are
lowered with the same alacrity with which they were raised. Thus you may
have to pay £4 for your stall, say, at La Scala, day after day, or you
may see on Wednesday for 5 francs (4s.) a performance you would have had
to pay 100 francs (£4) for had you bought your ticket on Monday.

This principle pervades the uses and customs of the Italian theatrical
world, and is applicable to the letting of scores by publishers, who,
untrammelled by such institutions as the Société des Auteurs in France,
or special laws as in Spain, can charge what they please for the hire of
band parts and scores. There is nothing to prevent the publisher of
_Lucia di Lammermoor_ from letting the music of the opera for 50 francs
(£2) to an _impressario_ at Vigevano and charging 20,000 francs (£800)
to another who produces it, say, at the Argentina of Rome, with Melba in
the title-rôle.

The music publisher in Italy has a unique position amongst publishers,
but quite apart from this, he enjoys so many prerogatives as to be
almost master of the operatic situation in that country. He can put what
value he pleases on the letting of the score he owns, and has the
absolute right over the heads of the Theatrical Board to reject artists
already engaged, including the conductor. He can take exception to
costumes and scenery and withdraw his score as late as the dress
rehearsal.

This is called the right of _protesta_. It does not follow that such
right is exercised indiscriminately, spitefully or frequently, but it is
sufficient that it exists, and what between the _Commissione Teatrale_,
the _palchettisti_ and the publisher, the _impressario_ in Italy is not
precisely on a bed of roses. Still, in spite of such impedimenta,
Italian opera flourished for well-nigh two centuries, and Italian
singers, repertory and language were considered all but synonymous with
every operatic enterprise, during that period. This ascendency lasted as
long as proper incentives for development of the art were steadily
provided by responsible bodies; in other words, so long as the great
theatres of Italy--La Scala at Milan, San Carlo at Naples, Communale at
Bologna, Apollo at Rome, Fenice at Venice, Carlo Felice at Genoa, Raggio
[transcriber: Regio?] at Turin, Pergola at Florence, etc.--were in
receipt of regular subventions. But political and economical changes in
the country turned the attention of public bodies towards other
channels, and the radical tendencies of most municipalities went dead
against the artistic interests of the country. In spite of warnings
from most authoritative quarters, the opposition, towards subsidising
what was wrongly considered the plaything of the aristocracy grew apace,
and the cry became common that if dukes and counts, and other nobles
wanted their opera, they should pay for it. Subsidies were withdrawn
here, suspended there, cut short in another place, and altogether
municipal administration of theatres entered upon a period the activity
of which I have already qualified, as opportunistic and arbitrary. In
vain did a great statesman, Camillo Cavour, argue the necessity of
maintaining at all costs, the time-honoured encouragement, and help to
pioneers of the Italian opera, bringing the discussion to an absolutely
practical, if not downright commercial, level. "I do not understand a
note of music," said he, "and could not distinguish between a drum and a
violin, but I understand very well that for the Italian nation, the art
of music is not only a source of glory, but also the primary cause of an
enormous commerce, which has ramifications in the whole world. I believe
therefore that it is the duty of the Government to help so important an
industry." The municipalities remained obdurate, and the start of their
short-sighted policy coincided with the gradual decadence of Italian
opera, until this form of entertainment lost prestige, and custom with
the best of its former clients, England, Russia and France. We know how
things on this count stand with us. In Russia, Italian opera, formerly
subsidised from the Imperial purse, was left to private enterprise, and
all available funds and encouragement transferred to national opera
houses; whilst in France the reaction is such, that even the rare
production of an Italian opera in one of the French theatres is
tolerated and nothing more.



Germany


The organisation of theatres in the German Empire is quite different and
widely different the results! Let us take only the Court theatres
(Hoftheater), such as the opera houses of Berlin, Munich, Dresden,
Wiesbaden, Stuttgart, Carlsruhe and Darmstadt in Germany, those of
Vienna and Prague in Austria, and the municipal theatre of Frankfort.

These theatres are under the general direction of Court dignitaries,
such as H.E. Count Hochberg in Berlin and H.S.H. Prince von Lichtenstein
in Vienna, and under the effective management of Imperial "Intendants"
in Vienna and Berlin, a Royal "Intendant" at Munich, Dresden, Wiesbaden,
Stuttgart and Prague, Grand-Ducal at Carlsruhe and Darmstadt, and
municipal at Frankfort.

The "Intendants" do not participate either in the risks or profits of
the theatre, but receive a fixed yearly salary varying between 20,000
and 30,000 marks (£1000 to £1500). They have absolute freedom in the
reception of works, the engagements of artists, the selection of
programmes and repertory, and are answerable only to the Sovereign,
whose Civil List provides the subsidy, balances accounts, and
contributes to the settling of retiring pensions of the _personnel_.

The Berlin Opera House receives a yearly subvention of 900,000 marks, or
£45,000.

The Vienna Opera House has 300,000 florins (about £25,000) for a season
of ten months. The deficit, however, if any, is made good from the
Emperor's Privy Purse.

The King of Saxony puts 480,000 marks (£24,000) at the disposal of Count
Intendant Seebach. It is interesting to note that in 1897 only 437,000
marks were actually spent. The orchestra of the Dresden Opera House does
not figure in the budget, its members being Royal "servants" engaged for
life and paid by the Crown.

At Munich it is the same, the orchestra being charged to the Civil List
of the Regent of Bavaria. The cost is 250,000 marks (£12,500), and a
similar sum is granted to Intendant Possart for the two theatres he
manages (Hof and Residenz). The season lasts eleven months.

Wiesbaden comes next with a subvention of 400,000 marks, (£20,000)
granted by the Emperor of Germany as King of Prussia. The season is of
ten months' duration.

The Court Theatre at Stuttgart is open for ten months, and the Royal
subvention to Baron von Putlitz, the Intendant, is 300,000 marks
(£15,000).

The same sum is granted by the Grand Duke of Baden to the Carlsruhe
theatre for a season of ten months.

The subvention of Darmstadt is only 250,000 marks (£12,500), the season
lasting but nine months.

The States of Bohemia grant a sum of 180,000 florins (£15,000 odd) to
the theatres of Prague for a season of eleven months. 100,000 florins
(£8000 odd) of this sum are destined for the National Tcheque Theatre.

Frankfort, as an ancient free city, does not enjoy the privileges of
princely liberality, and has to put up with municipal help, which
amounts to a yearly donation of 200,000 marks (£10,000) for a season of
eleven months, and then the Conscript Fathers contrive to get one-half
of their money back by exacting a duty of 30 pfennigs on every ticket
sold. A syndicate, with a capital of £12,500, has been formed to help
the municipal institution.--Mr Claar.

The chief advantages of Court theatres consist in a guarantee against
possible deficit, and freedom from taxes; and this enables the
Intendants to price the seats in their theatres, in a manner which makes
the best opera accessible to the most modest purse. The prices of stalls
in German theatres vary between 3 and 6 marks or 3 to 4 florins. (3s. to
6s. or 7s). Other seats are priced in proportion, and a considerable
reduction is made in favour of subscribers. These are simply legion, and
at Wiesbaden the management have been compelled to limit their number.

The table below, shows at a glance the price of stalls in some of the
chief German theatres. I give the average figure, the price varying
according to the order of the row.

  Vienna                   4 fls. (about 7s.)
  Berlin                   6 mks. (6s.)
  Munich    }
  Wiesbaden }              5 mks. (5s.)
  Frankfort }
  Prague (Nat. Th.)        3 fls. (about 5s.)
    "    (German Th.)      2.50 (about 4s.)
  Dresden   }              4 mks. (4s.)
  Stuttgart }
  Darmstadt                3.50 (3s. 6d.)
  Carlsruhe                3 mks. (3s.)

The subscriptions are divided into four series, giving each the right to
two performances weekly, but of course anyone can subscribe for more
than one series. A yearly subscription comprises--at Berlin and Prague,
280 performances; at Vienna, 260; at Munich, 228; at Wiesbaden, 200;
and at Frankfort, 188. To subscribers the prices of stalls are as
follows:--

  Vienna            3 fls. 7 kr. (6s.)
  Wiesbaden         5 mks. (5s.)
  Berlin            4.50 (4s. 6d.)
  Frankfort         3.51 (3s. 6d.)
  Munich            3.47 (3s. 6d.)
  Darmstadt         2 mks. (2s.)
  Prague            1 florin (1s. 9d.)

These figures suffice to prove the colossal benefit princely patronage
and subvention bestow on the theatre-goer, in putting a favourite
entertainment within the reach of the masses. Moreover, the German
opera-goer is catered for both in quality and quantity.

As regards quality, he has the pick of the masterpieces of every school,
nation and repertory. Gluck, Spontini, Cherubini, Auber, Hérold,
Boieldieu, Mozart, Beethoven and Weber hobnob on the yearly programmes
with Wagner, Verdi, Mascagni, Puccini, Giordano and Leoncavallo, to cite
a few names only. As regards quantity, the following details speak for
themselves--I take the theatrical statistics for the year 1895-1896:--

The Berlin Opera House produces 60 various works--52 operas and 8
ballets.

The Vienna Opera House 74 works--53 operas and 21 ballets.

The New German Theatre at Prague--45 operas, 11 light operas and two
ballets.

The Frankfort Theatre--60 operas, 11 operettes, 4 ballets and 13 great
spectacular pieces.

At Carlsruhe--47 operas and 1 ballet.

At Wiesbaden--43 operas and 6 ballets.

At Darmstadt--48 operas, 2 operettes and 5 ballets.

At Hanover--37 operas.

At the National Theatre, Prague--48 operas and 6 ballets.

At Stuttgart--53 operas and 5 ballets.

At Munich--53 operas and 2 ballets.

At Dresden--56 operas, 5 ballets and 4 oratorios.

These are splendid results of enterprise properly encouraged, and I am
giving only a fraction of the information in my possession, for there
are no less than ninety-four theatres in Europe, where opera is
performed in German, and of these seventy-nine are sufficiently well
equipped to mount any great work of Wagner's, Meyerbeer's, etc.

Most of these theatres produce every year one new work at least, and
thus the repertory is constantly renewed and augmented.

Every German theatre has attached to it a "choir school," where girls
are admitted from their fifteenth year and boys from their seventeenth.
They are taught _solfeggio_ and the principal works of the repertory.
The classes are held in the early morning, so as not to interfere with
the pursuit of the other avocations of the pupils; but each receives,
nevertheless, a small yearly salary of 600 marks (£30). These studies
last two years, and during that time the pupils have often to take part
in performances, receiving special remuneration for their services. When
they are considered sufficiently well prepared, they pass an
examination, and are appointed chorus-singers at a salary of 1000 to
1800 marks (£50 to £90) a year, and are entitled besides to a special
fee (_Spielgeld_) of 1s. 6d. to 2s. 6d. per performance for an ordinary
chorus-singer, and 2s. to 5s. for a soloist. If we reckon that a
chorus-singer, can take part on an average in some 250 performances in a
year, at an average fee of, say, 2s. each, we find that his income is
increased by a sum of £25, a very decent competence. Nor is this all. In
the smallest German towns, in the most modest theatres, there exist
"pension funds" for all theatrical artists and _employés_. These funds
are fed:--

      (1.) By a yearly donation from the Sovereign's Privy Purse.

      (2.) By retaining from 1 per cent. to 5 per cent. on the
      salaries of members.

      (3.) From benefit concerts and performances.

      (4.) From all kinds of donations, legacies, fines, etc.

At Stuttgart the King takes charge of all the pensions, except of those
of widows and orphans, who are provided for from another fund.

At Munich the King furnishes the original capital with a sum of 200,000
marks (£10,000), and to-day the fund has over 1,000,000 marks at its
disposal. Eight years' service entitles a member to a full pension.

At Prague six years' service gains a pension, but the average period
throughout Germany is ten years.

There are scores of additional points of great interest, in connection
with the working of German subsidised theatres. The above suffices,
however, for the purpose of showing the immense advantage of a system of
State-aided Art, a system that might serve as a model to a country about
to embark on similar enterprises. I will add one detail more. There
being no author's society in Germany, as in France, the theatrical
managers treat with music publishers direct for the performing rights of
scores which they own. The old repertory costs, as a rule, very little,
and the rights of new works are charged generally from 5 per cent. to 7
per cent. on the gross receipts. Moreover, band parts and scores are not
hired, as in Italy, but bought outright, and remain in the library of
the theatre.



France


In France the State intervenes directly in theatrical matters in Paris
only, subsidising the four chief theatres of the capital--to wit, the
Opéra, the Opéra Comique, the Comédie Française and the Odéon.

In the provinces theatres are subsidised by municipal councils, who vote
each year a certain sum for the purpose. The manager is appointed for
one year only, subject to his acceptance of the _cahier des charges_, a
contract embodying a scheme of stipulations devised by the council, and
imposed in return for the subsidy granted. The least infraction of the
conditions laid therein brings its penalty either in the way of a fine
or the forfeit of the contract. The subsidies vary according to the
importance of the town, the theatres of Lyons, Bordeaux and Marseilles
being the three best endowed. Less favoured are places like Rouen,
Lille, Nantes, Dijon, Nancy, Angers, Reims, Toulouse, etc., and, though
the Chamber of Deputies votes every year in the Budget of Fine Arts a
considerable sum for the provinces, the subsidy is not allotted to
theatres, but to conservatoires, symphonic concerts and orpheonic
societies. Two years ago a Deputy, M. Goujon, obtained in the Chamber
the vote of a special grant for such provincial theatres as had
distinguished themselves by producing novelties. But the Senate threw
out the proposal.

It is not, however, as if the Government of the Republic were
indifferent to the fate of the provincial theatres or their progress in
the field of operatic art. But worship of Paris on one side, and a
dislike to decentralisation on the other, are responsible for the fact
that all efforts are directed towards one channel, namely, the four
before-named Parisian theatres. Of these, naturally enough only the
opera house will engage my attention, or more precisely one alone, the
Grand Opera House, _La Théâtre National de l'Opéra_, there being little
practical difference between the working of that and of the younger
house, the _Théâtre de l'Opéra Comique_.

A few words, following chronologically the various stages through which
the Paris Opera House has passed since its origin, may prove of
interest, and serve to indicate how untiring has been the care of
successive Governments over the fortunes and the evolution of the
operatic problem in France.

It will be remembered that Pierre Perrin was the possessor of the first
operatic privilege granted by Louis XIV. in 1669. Hardly had he been
installed when Lulli began to intrigue against his management, and
having learnt that the profits of the first year amounted to over
120,000 livres, he had no rest until he obtained, through the influence
of Mme. de Montespan, the dismissal of Perrin and obtained the post for
himself. In fifteen years his net profits amounted to 800,000 livres!

He was succeeded by his son-in-law, Francine, who held the privilege
with various fortunes until 1714, the King intervening more than once in
the administration. In 1715 the Duc d'Antin was appointed _Regisseur
Royal de l'Académie_ by letters-patent of the King, who up till then
considered himself supreme chief of his Academy.

In 1728 the management passed into the hands of Guyenet, the composer,
who in turn made over the enterprise, for a sum of 300,000 livres, to a
syndicate of three--Comte de Saint-Gilles, President Lebeuf and one
Gruer. Though their privilege had been renewed for thirty years, the
King, Louis XV., was obliged to cancel it owing to the scandal of a
_fête galante_ the syndicate had organised at the Académie Royale, and
Prince de Carignan was appointed in 1731 _inspecteur-general_. A captain
of the Picardy regiment, Eugene de Thuret, followed in 1733, was
succeeded in 1744 by Berger, and then came Trefontainé, whose management
lasted sixteen months--until the 27th of August 1794. All this was a
period of mismanagement and deficits, and the King, tired of constant
mishaps and calls upon his exchequer, ordered the city of Paris to take
over the administration of his Academy. At the end of twenty-seven years
the city had had enough of it, and the King devised a fresh scheme by
appointing six "Commissaires du Roi pres la Académie" (Papillon de la
Ferte, Mareschel des Entelles, De la Touche, Bourboulon, Hébert and
Buffault), who had under their orders a director, two inspectors, an
agent and a cashier. But the combination was short-lived, lasting barely
a year. In 1778 the city of Paris made one more try by granting a
subvention of 80,000 livres by a Sieur de Vismos.

In 1780 the King took back from the city the operatic concession--we
must bear in mind it was a monopoly all this time--appointing a
"Commissaire de sa Majeste" (La Ferte) and a director (Berton).

In 1790 the opera came once more under the administration of the city,
and during the troublous times of the Revolution changed its name of
Académie Royale to that of _Théâtre de la République et des Arts_.

By an Imperial decree of the 29th of July 1807 the opera came under the
jurisdiction of the first Chamberlain of the Emperor, whilst under the
Restoration the Minister of the King's Household took the
responsibilities of general supervision. One Picard was appointed
director under both _régimes_, and was succeeded by Papillon de la Ferte
and Persius. Then followed the short management of Viotti, and in 1821
F. Habeneck was called to the managerial chair.

The Comte de Blacas, Minister of the King's Household, became
superintendent of Royal theatres, and after him the post was occupied by
the Marquis de Lauriston, the Duc de Doudeauville and the Vicomte
Sosthenes de la Rochefoucauld. Habeneck was replaced by Duplantis, who
took the title of Administrator of the Opera. The administration of M.
de la Rochefoucauld cost King Louis Philippe 966,000 francs in addition
to the State subvention, and an extra subsidy of 300,000 francs derived
from a toll levied in favour of the opera on side shows and fancy
spectacles. This was in 1828, and in 1830 the King, finding the
patronage of the opera too onerous for his Civil List, resolved to
abandon the theatre to private enterprise. Dr Veron offered to take the
direction of the opera house, at his own risk, for a period of six years
with a subsidy of 800,000 francs, and, with the exception of a period of
twelve years (1854-1866), the administration of the opera was included
in the duties of the Master of the Emperor's Household. Both the subsidy
and the principle of private enterprise have remained to this day as
settled in 1830. Before then, for 151 years, French opera had enjoyed
the patronage and effective help of the Sovereign, or the chief of the
State, very much on the same system as obtains at the present day in
Germany.[B]

Dr Veron had as successors, MM. Duponchel, Leon Pillet, Nestor
Roqueplan, Perrin, Halanzier, Vaucorbeil, Ritt and Gailhard, Bertrand
and Gailhard, and finally Pierre Gailhard, the present director of the
Théâtre National de l'Opéra.

The present relations in France between the State and the director of
the opera are as follows:--

The Paris Opera House, like all other theatres in France, and for the
matter of that all institutions in the domain of Art in that country, is
under the direct control and dependence of the Minister of Fine Arts,
who has absolute power in appointing a director, in drawing up the
_cahier des charges_, in imposing certain conditions and even in
interfering with the administration of the theatre. The appointment,
called also the granting of the _privilège_, is for a number of years,
generally seven, and can be renewed or not at the wish or whim of the
Minister. The _cahier des charges_, as already stated, is a contract
embodying the conditions under which the _privilège_ is granted. Some of
these are at times very casuistic. As regards interference, one can
easily understand how a chief can lord it over his subordinate if so
minded. It is sufficient to point out the anomaly of the director's
position who is considered at the same time a Government official and a
tradesman--a dualism that compels him to conciliate the attitude of a
disinterested standard-bearer of national art with the natural desire of
an administrator to run his enterprise for profit. Let me cite a typical
instance. Of all the works in the repertory of the opera, Gounod's
_Faust_ still holds the first place in the favour of the public, and is
invariably played to full or, at least, very excellent houses, so that
whenever business is getting slack _Faust_ is trotted out as a trump
card.[C] Another sure attraction is Wagner's _Walküre_. On the other
hand, a good many operas by native composers have failed to take the
public fancy, and have had to be abandoned before they reached a minimum
of, say, twenty performances in one year. Now, when the director sees
that his novelty is played to empty houses he hastens to put on _Faust_
or the _Walküre_, but the moment he does it up goes a cry of complaint,
and a reproof follows--"You are not subsidised to play _Faust_ or operas
by foreign composers, but to produce and uphold the works of native
musicians; you are not a tradesman, but a high dignitary in the Ministry
of Fine Arts," and so on.

At other times, when in a case of litigation, the director wishes to
avail himself of the prerogatives of this dignity, he is simply referred
to the Tribunal de Commerce, as any tradesman. Ministerial interference
is exercised, however, only in cases of flagrant maladministration, and
then there are, of course, directors and directors, just the same as
there are Ministers and Ministers.

It is needless to go over the whole ground of the _cahier des charges_,
the various paragraphs of which would form a good-sized pamphlet. The
cardinal points of the stipulations between the contracting parties are,
that the director of the Paris Opera House receives on his appointment
possession of the theatre rent free, with all the stock of scenery,
costumes and properties, with all the administrative and artistic
_personnel_, the repertory, and a yearly subsidy of 800,000 francs
(£32,000).

In return for this he binds himself to produce every year a number of
works by native composers, and to mount these in a manner capable of
upholding the highest standard of art, and worthy of the great
traditions of the house. This implies, among others, that every new work
must be mounted with newly-invented scenery and freshly-devised
costumes, and that in general, no one set of scenery, or equipment of
wardrobe, can serve for two different operas, even were there an
identity of situations or historical period or any other points of
similarity. Thus, if there are in the opera repertory fifty works,
necessitating, say, a cathedral, a public square, a landscape or an
interior, the direction must provide fifty different cathedrals, fifty
different public squares, fifty varying landscapes, etc. The same
principle applies to costumes, not only, of the principal artists, but
of the chorus and the ballet. Only the clothes and costumes of
definitely abandoned works can be used again by special permission of
the Minister of Fine Arts.

As regards the new works that a director is bound to produce every year,
not only is their number stipulated, but the number of acts they are to
contain, and their character is specified as well. This is in order to
avoid the possible occurrence of a production, say, of two works each in
one act, after which exertion a director might consider himself quit of
the obligation. It is plainly set out that the director must produce in
the course of the year _un grand ouvrage_, _un petit ouvrage_, and a
ballet of so many acts each--total, eight, nine or ten acts, according
to the stipulations. Moreover, he is bound to produce the work of a
_prix de Rome_--that is to say, of a pupil of the Conservatoire, who has
received a first prize for composition, and has been sent at the expense
of the Government to spend three years at the Villa Medicis of the
Académie de France in Rome. Owing to circumstances, the Minister himself
designates the candidates for this _ex-officio_ distinction, guided by
priority of prizes. The director had recourse to this measure through
the fault of the _prix de Rome_ themselves, who, over and over again,
either had nothing ready for him or else submitted works entirely
unsuitable for the house. The Minister's nomination relieves the
director of responsibility in such cases.

Works of foreign composers produced at the opera, do not count in the
number of acts stipulated by the _cahier de charges_, the respective
paragraphs being drawn up in favour of native composers; nor can any
excess in the number of acts produced in one year be carried over to the
next year.

Amongst the prerogatives of the Paris opera director, is the absolute
monopoly of his repertory in the capital--works in the public domain
excepted--and the right to claim for his theatre the services of those
who gain the first prizes at the final examinations of the operatic
classes at the Conservatoire.

Towards the working expenses of his theatre the director has, firstly,
the subvention and the subscription, and, secondly, the _alea_ of the
box-office sales. The subvention of 800,000 francs divided by the number
of obligatory performances gives close upon £170 towards each, and the
subscription averages £400 a night, or £570 as a minimum with which the
curtain is raised, and it is the manager's business to see that his
expenses do not exceed the sum. The "house full" receipts being very
little over £800 at usual prices, the margin is not very suggestive of
huge profits. Indeed, with the constantly rising pretensions of star
artists, spoilt by the English, and American markets, and the fastidious
tastes of his patrons, the Paris opera director has some difficulty in
making both ends meet. Within the last fifteen years the two Exhibition
seasons have saved the management from financial disaster, and this only
by performing every day, Sundays sometimes included. Some fifty new
works by native composers have been produced at the opera since the
opening of the new house in 1876, and six by foreign composers--_Aida_,
_Otello_, _Lohengrin_, _Tannhäuser_, _Walküre_, and _Meistersinger_. The
maximum of performances falls to _Romeo et Juliette_, this opera heading
also the figure of average receipts with 17,674 francs (about £507).
Eleven works have had the misfortune to figure only between three and
nine times on the bill.

Independently of the supervision exercised by the Minister of Fine Arts,
the strictest watch is kept over managerial doings by the Société des
Auteurs, a legally constituted body which represents the authors'
rights, and is alone empowered to treat in their names with theatrical
managers, to collect the fees, to guard the execution of contracts and
even to impose fines.

Thus is national art in France not only subsidised and patronised, but
safeguarded and protected.

FOOTNOTES:

[B] It may be of interest to note that during this period no less than
543 different works, mostly by native composers, had been produced.
The last opera produced under the old _régime_ on the 3rd of August
1829 was Rossini's _Guillaume Tell_.

[C] During 1900 _Faust_ was played thirty-nine times to an average
house of 18,397 francs (about £730) in a repertory of twenty-five
operas, and the _Walküre_ eleven times to an average of 19,417 francs
(about £777).



The English National Opera House


Three factors determine the existence of any given theatre and have to
be considered with reference to my proposed National Opera House,
namely, tradition, custom, and enterprise.

I have proved we possess an operatic tradition, and as regards custom no
one will dispute the prevalence of a taste for opera. Indeed, from
personal experience, extending over a number of years, I can vouch for a
feeling akin to yearning in the great masses of the music-loving public
after operatic music, even when stripped of theatrical paraphernalia,
such, for example, as one gets at purely orchestral concerts. It is
sufficient to follow the Queen's Hall Wagner concerts to be convinced
that the flattering patronage they command is as much a tribute to the
remarkably artistic performance of Mr Henry Wood, as it is due to the
economy of his programmes. Again, in the provinces, I have observed,
times out of number, crowded audiences listening with evident delight,
not only to popular operas excellently done by the Moody-Manners'
Company, but to performances of _Tristan_ and _Siegfried_, which, for
obvious reasons, could not give the listeners an adequate idea of the
real grandeur of these works. But the love of opera is there, and so
deeply rooted, that, rather than be without it, people are willing to
accept what they can get.

This much, then, for tradition and custom.

As regards enterprise in the operatic field, it can be twofold--either
the result of private initiative, working its own ends independently, or
else it is organised, guided, and helped, officially.

It is under the former aspect that we have known it, so far, in this
country, and as we are acquainted with it, especially in London, we find
it wanting, from the point of view of our special purpose. Not that it
should be so, for the Covent Garden management, as at present organised,
could prove an ideal combination for the furtherance of national art,
were its aims in accordance with universal, and, oft-expressed, desire.
What better can be imagined than a theatre conducted by a gathering
representative of, nobility, fashion, and wealth?

It is under such auspices that opera originated, and that native art
sprang to life and prospered everywhere; and it is to these one has the
right to turn, with hope and trust, in England. But when wealth and
fashion stoop from the pedestal assigned to them by tradition, and
barter the honoured part of Mæcenas for that of a dealer, they lose the
right to be considered as factors in an art problem, and their
enterprise may be dismissed from our attention. For the aim of an opera
house, worthy of a great country like England, should not be to make
most money with any agglomeration of performers, and makeshift
_mise-en-scène_, but to uphold a high standard of Art.

But the elimination of private enterprise from my scheme is but one more
argument in favour of official intervention, and the experience of
others will stand us in good stead.

Of the three systems of State subsidised theatres, as set out in my
_exposé_ of operatic systems in Italy, Germany, and France, the ideal
one is, of course, the German, where the Sovereign's Privy Purse
guarantees the working of Court theatres, and secures the future of
respective _personnels_. But the adoption of this plan, or the wholesale
appropriation of any one other, cannot be advocated, if only because the
inherent trait of all our institutions is that they are not imported,
but the natural outcome of historical, or social, circumstances. My
purpose will be served as well, if I select the salient features of each
system.

Thus, in the first instance, admitting the principle of State control in
operatic matters, I will make the furtherance of national art a
condition _sine qua non_ of the very existence of a subsidised theatre,
and performances in the English language obligatory.

Secondly, I will adopt the German system of _prevoyance_, in organising
old age pensions for theatrical _personnels_.

Thirdly, I will borrow from Italy the idea of municipal intervention,
all the more as the municipal element has become, of late, an
all-important factor in the economy of our civic life, and seems all but
indicated to take active part in a fresh phase of that life.

I do not see how any objection can be raised to the principle of these
three points, though I am fully aware of the difficulties in the way of
each; difficulties mostly born of the diffidence in comparing the status
of operatic art abroad, with its actual state in this country. It must
be borne in mind, however, that I am endeavouring to give help to the
creation of a national art, and not promoting a plan of competition with
the operatic inheritance of countries which have had such help for over
two centuries.

We are making a beginning, and we must perforce begin _ab ovo_, doing
everything that has been left undone, and undoing, at times, some things
that have been, and are being, done. Let me say, at once, to avoid
misapprehension, that I refer here to the majority of the Anglicised
versions of foreign _libretti_. They are unsatisfactory, to put it very
mildly, and, will have to be re-written again before, these operas can
be sung with artistic decency in English. The classes of our great
musical institutions will have to be reorganised entirely, from the
curriculum of education to examinations. This is a crude statement of
the case, the details can always be elaborated on the model of that fine
nursery of artists, the Paris Conservatoire. We must not be deterred by
the possible scarcity of native professors, able to impart the
indispensable knowledge. Do not let us forget that the initial
instructors of operatic art came from Italy to France, together with the
introduction of their new art; but, far from monopolising tuition, they
formed pupils of native elements, and these in turn became instructors,
interpreters, or creators. The same thing will happen again, if
necessary, let us by all means import ballet masters, professors of
deportment, singing teachers, and whoever can teach us what we do not
know, and cannot be taught by our own men. Pupils will be formed soon
enough, and the foreign element gradually eliminated. Do not let us
forget, either, that stalest of commonplaces that "Rome was not built in
a day."

We are not trying to improvise genii, or make a complete art, by wishing
for the thing, but we are laying foundations for a future architecture,
every detail of which will be due to native enterprise, and the whole a
national pride. To look for immediate results would be as idle as to
expect Wagners, and Verdis, or Jean de Reszkes, and Terninas, turned
out every year from our schools, simply because we have a subsidised
opera house, and reorganised musical classes.

We are bound to arrive at results, and no one can say how great they may
be, or how soon they may be arrived at. The unexpected so often happens.
Not so many years ago, for example, operatic creative genius seemed
extinct in the land of its birth, and the all-pervading wave of
Wagnerism threatened the very existence of musical Italy, when, lo!
there came the surprise of _Cavalleria Rusticana_, and the still greater
surprise of the enthusiasm with which the work was received in Germany,
and the no less astonishing rise of a new operatic school in Italy, and
its triumphant progress throughout the musical world. Who can say what
impulse native creative talent will receive in this country, when it is
cared for as it certainly deserves?

The question arises now of the most practical manner in which this care
can be exercised?

Plans have been put forward more than once,--discussed, and discarded.
This means little. Any child can pick a plan to pieces, and prove its
unworthiness. Goodwill means everything, and a firm conviction that in
the performance of certain acts the community does its duty for reasons
of public welfare. I put more trust in these than in the actual merit of
my scheme, but, such as it is, I submit it for consideration, which, I
hope, will be as seriously sincere, as the spirit in which it is
courted.

I would suggest that the interests of the National Opera House in
London, should be looked after by a Board under the supervision of the
Education Department, the members of the Board being selected from among
the County Councillors, the Department itself, and some musicians of
acknowledged authority.

The enlisting of the interest of the Educational Department would
sanction the theory of the educational mission of the venture; the
County Council comes into the scheme, for financial and administrative
purposes; the selection of musicians needs no explanation, but a proviso
should be made that the gentlemen chosen, have no personal interest at
stake.

As I said before, we have to begin at the beginning, and so the duties
of the Board would be:--

      1. The building of a National Opera House in London.

      2. The drawing up of a schedule of stipulations on the lines
      of the French _cahier des charges_ regulating the work of
      the theatre.

      3. The appointment of a manager.

      4. The supervision of the execution of the stipulations
      embodied in the schedule.

      5. The provision of funds for the subsidy.

As to the first of these points, I do not at all agree with those who
wish every new opera house constructed in servile imitation of the
Bayreuth model. Such a theatre would only be available for operatic
performances of a special kind, but the structure of the auditorium
would result in the uniformity of prices which goes dead against the
principle of a theatre meant for the masses as well as for the classes.

All that I need say here is, that our National Opera House should be
built in London, and according to the newest inventions, appliances and
most modern requirements.

As regards the second point, enough has been said about describing
foreign systems to show how a schedule of stipulations should be drawn
up, when the time comes.

Concerning the appointment of a manager, it goes without saying that the
director of our National Opera House must be an Englishman born and
bred, and a man of unimpeachable commercial integrity and acknowledged
theatrical experience. Such a selection will make the task of the Board
in supervising the work an extremely easy one.

The provision of funds is the crucial point of the scheme. Before going
into details, let me appeal to the memory of the British public once
more, praying that it will remember that every year some £50,000 or
£60,000 of national cash is spent in ten or twelve weeks to subsidise
French, German and Italian artistes in London. It is but reasonable to
suppose that if an authoritative appeal for funds on behalf of National
Opera were made, at least half of this money would be forthcoming for
the purpose. And so I would advocate such an appeal as the first step
towards solving the financial problem of my scheme. Secondly, there
would have to be a _first_ Parliamentary grant and an _initial_
disbursement of the County Council funds, all towards the building of
the opera house. It is impossible to name the necessary sum; but one can
either proceed with what one will eventually have, or regulate
expenditure according to estimates.

The house once built and the manager appointed, both Parliamentary and
County Council grants will have to be renewed every year, the sum-total
being apportioned to the probable expenses of every performance, the
number of performances and the length of the operatic season. The best
plan to follow here would be to have a season of, say nine or ten
months, with four performances a week.

The manager would receive the house rent free, but should on his side
show a working capital representing at least half the figure of the
annual subsidy, and, further, lodge with the Board a deposit against
emergencies. Considering the initial expenses of the first management,
when everything, from insignificant "props" to great sets of scenery
will have to be furnished in considerable quantities, there should be no
charges on the manager's profits in the beginning, for a year or two.
But later on, 10 per cent. off the gross receipts of every performance
might be collected, one part of the proceeds going towards a sinking
fund to defray the cost of the construction of the house, and the other
towards the establishment of a fund for old age pensions for the
_personnel_ of the opera house.

A further source of income that would go towards indemnifying the
official outlay might be found in a toll levied on the purchaser of 2d.
in every 10s. on all tickets from 10s. upwards, of 1d. on tickets
between 5s. and 10s., and of ½d. on all tickets below 5s. I would make
also compulsory a uniform charge of 6d. for every complimentary ticket
given away.

It is well-nigh impossible in the present state of my scheme to go into
details of figures, especially concerning the official expenditure. But,
as figures have their eloquence, we may venture on a forecast of such
returns as might be reasonably expected to meet the outlay. I take it
for granted that our opera house will be built of sufficient dimensions
to accommodate an audience of 3000, and arranged to make an average of
£700 gross receipts (subvention included) per performance possible.
Taking the number of performances in an operatic season at 160 to 180,
four performances a week in a season of nine or ten months, we get a
total of receipts from £112,000 to £126,000, or, £11,200 to £12,600,
repaid yearly for the initial expenses of the subsidising bodies, as per
my suggestion of 10 per cent. taken off the gross receipts. The toll
levied on tickets sold should average from £1446, 13s. 4d. to £1650
annually, with an average audience of 750 in each class of toll for each
performance: altogether between £12,646 and £14,250 of grand total of
returns. From a purely financial point of view, these might be
considered poor returns for an expenditure in which items easily figure
by tens of thousands. But, in the first instance, I am not advocating a
speculation, and secondly, there are other returns inherent to my
venture, one and all affecting the well-being of the community more
surely than a lucrative investment of public funds. The existence of a
National Opera House gives, first of all, permanent employment to a
number of people engaged therein, and which may be put down roughly at
800 between the performing and non-performing _personnel_. Such is, at
least, the figure at all great continental opera houses.

In Vienna, the performing _personnel_, including chorus, orchestra,
band, ballet, supers and the principal singers, numbers close upon 400.
Then follows the body of various instructors, regisseurs, stage
managers, repetiteurs, accompanists, etc., then come all the stage
hands, carpenters, scene-shifters, machinists, electricians,
scenographers, modellers, wig-makers, costumiers, property men,
dressers, etc., etc., etc., and on the other side of the footlights
there are ushers, ticket collectors, and the whole of the
administration. Thus one single institution provides 800 people not only
with permanent employment but with old age pensions. Nor is this all.
The proper working of a large opera house necessitates a great deal of
extraneous aid and calls to life a whole microcosm of workers, trader
manufacturers and industries of all kinds.

Let us take here the statistics for the city of Milan to better grasp my
meaning. The figures are official, and are taken from a report presented
to the municipality some time ago, and prove there is a business side of
vital importance attached to the proper working of the local subsidised
theatre, La Scala. The following are the items of what they call _giro
d'affari_, or, in paraphrase, of "the operatic turn-over," and all are
official figures.

 The receipts of La Scala represent
 during the season the
 sum of                                     1,300,000 fr.    (£52,000)

 Out of which a _personnel_ of
 816, exclusive of principal artistes,
 receive salaries.

 There are in Milan eleven
 operatic agencies transacting
 every year an average of 300,000
 francs' (£12,000) worth of
 business, or altogether                    3,300,000 fr.   (£132,000)

 There are nine theatrical newspapers
 with an average income
 of 15,000 francs (£600) each, or
 altogether                                   135,000 fr.     (£5,400)

 Taking only the nineteen
 principal singing and ballet
 masters, and putting down their
 earnings at the modest sum of 6000
 francs (£240) each, we get a total of        114,000 fr.     (£4,560)

 The chief theatrical costumiers
 alone, four in number, return an
 average business of 80,000 francs
 (£3200) each, or                             320,000 fr.    (£12,800)

 Theatrical jewellers, property
 makers, hose manufacturers,
 armourers, scene-painters, may
 be put down for                              250,000 fr.    (£10,000)

 The theatrical and artistic
 population in Milan, year in,
 year out, averages 3000 persons,
 and may be divided into three
 classes of 1000 persons each,
 according to their expenditure.

 Say 1000 persons spending
 4000 francs (£160) each,
 which makes 4,000,000 francs
 (£160,000); 1000 persons spending
 1000 francs (£40,000);
 1000 persons spending 800 francs
 (£32), which makes 800,000
 francs (£32,000), a total of               5,800,000 fr.   (£232,000)

 The pianoforte dealers let
 about 400 instruments every
 year at 12 francs a month                     57,800 fr.     (£2,312)

 Taking into account only
 eight of the opera companies
 (Monte Video, New York,
 Caracas, Santiago, Madrid,
 Buenos Ayres, Rio and Lisbon)
 engaged in Milan, and selected
 exclusively from Italian artistes,
 we get a total of                         25,525,000 fr. (£1,021,000)

 Adding all these together, we
 get a grand total of                      36,801,800 fr. (£1,472,072)


Very nearly a million and a half sterling turned over in operatic,
business in one city. And there are scores of minor items, all sources
of profit, that have to be neglected. But I must point out that no
less than 1745 families derive employment and a regular income from
the theatrical industry of Milan. It is quite true that the capital of
Lombardy enjoys a position which is unique not only in Italy but in
the whole world, as the chief operatic market, and there is nothing
that indicates this artistic centre is likely to be shifted, much less
to London than anywhere else. But it would be interesting to know how
much English money goes towards the fine total of the Milanese
operatic turn-over. There is no reason why we should not have our
twenty odd trades, as in Milan, and at least 1745 households whose
material existence would be definitely secured through their
association with a National Opera House. If I am not writing in vain,
our results should be infinitely greater, differing from continental
ones as a franc or a mark differs from a pound sterling. And should
the great provincial towns follow the lead of London, entrusting their
municipalities with the creation and organisation of opera houses, if
Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham, Leeds, Glasgow, Sheffield,
Bradford, Dublin, Hull, Southampton, Plymouth, Wolverhampton, etc.,
will turn a part of their wealth towards promoting a scheme of the
greatest importance to the art of the nation; if all that goes to
foreign pockets for foreign art is used for patriotic purposes--then
England will be able to show an operatic turn-over worthy of her
supremacy in other spheres. For every Italian household living on
opera we will have ten, and prosperity will reign where, so far, art
and an artistic education have brought only bitter disappointment. I
am writing of "Music as a profession" in England. The multiplication
of our music schools seems to be accepted as a great matter of
congratulation, and we are perpetually hearing the big drum beaten
over the increasing number of students to whom a thorough musical
education has been given; but who asks what becomes of them all?
Oft-met advertisements offering music lessons at 6d. an hour are
perhaps an answer. It would be profitless to pursue this topic, but
all will agree that it is far better to sing in an operatic chorus at
30s. or £2 per week than be one of the items in a panorama of vanished
illusions and struggling poverty, the true spectacle of the singing
world in London.

The establishment of National Opera in England, putting artistic
considerations aside, presents the following material and commercial
advantages, viz., provision of permanent employment for artisans,
mechanics, workmen and manual labourers; an impulse to various special
industries, some developed, some improved, others created; an
honourable occupation to hundreds kept out, so far, from an exclusive
and over-crowded profession, and a provision for old age. In other
words, the solution of the operatic problem in England might prove a
step towards the solution of a part of the social problem.

That my scheme for the establishment of an English National Opera
House is perfect, I do not claim for a moment. That my plans might be
qualified as visionary and my hope of seeing a national art called to
life through the means I advocate considered an idle dream is not
unlikely.

But my conviction in the matter is sincere, and I can meet the
sceptics with the words of the old heraldic motto which apologises for
the fiction of a fabulous origin of a princely house: _etiamsi fabula,
nobilis est_.



 OPERA FOR THE PEOPLE



 Opera for the People


 _The ceremony of opening a new organ, the gift of
 Mrs Galloway, was performed by Mr W. Johnson
 Galloway, M.P., in the City Road Mission Hall, Manchester,
 on Friday evening, September 6, in the presence
 of a crowded gathering. A Recital was given by Mr
 David Clegg._

 _Mr Galloway, M.P., who took the chair, in opening
 the proceedings, said_:--On an occasion such as this, it
 will not, I am sure, be deemed superfluous if I take a
 brief bird's-eye view of the history of music, and in a--comparatively
 speaking--few sentences trace its progress
 towards the position it now holds among the arts of
 modern life. Music, in one form at least, has been with
 us since the creation of man, for we may reasonably
 believe that in his most elementary stage, he discovered
 some vocal phrases which gave him a certain rude
 pleasure to repeat, or chant, in association with his
 fellows. Travellers, who have penetrated the confines of
 remote and savage countries, have told us of the curious
 chanting of their inhabitants when engaged in what, to
 them, were their religious and festal celebrations; and as
 we cannot conceive man in a more primitive condition, we
 may take it, that in prehistoric times there was a limited
 melodic form, which afforded that peculiar delight to the
 savage mind, that the glorious polyphonic combination of
 to-day, give to the cultured races of Eastern and Western
 civilisation.

 Our slight knowledge of the art, in its early state we
 owe to such records, as have been handed down to us
 from that which may be termed the golden era of civilisation
 in Egypt. Long before the sway of the Ptolemies--ages
 before Cleopatra took captive her Roman Conqueror--music
 formed not only an indispensable part in
 religious and State functions, but entered largely into the
 social life of the people, and of this there is indisputable
 evidence in the hieroglyphics and carvings, to be found
 on the seemingly imperishable monuments, which the researches
 of archæologists have revealed to the knowledge
 of man.

 Of ancient Hebrew music we do not know much, but
 we may assume, that during the Captivity they learned not
 a little from their Egyptian masters, although it does not
 appear--judging from the harsher and more blatant
 character of their instruments--that they attained the
 degree of refinement achieved by the Egyptians. It
 would seem, from the many allusions contained in the
 Bible, that the Jews were more particularly attracted
 towards the vocal, rather than the instrumental, side of
 the art. Many a familiar biblical phrase will probably
 crop up in our mind. The psalms that are sung during
 Divine Service teem with such references. "O sing unto
 the Lord a new song," "How shall we sing the Lord's
 song in a strange land?" are sufficient to illustrate my
 meaning, and among the daughters of Judea such names
 as Miriam, Deborah, and Judith, are especially known to
 us for their accomplishment in the vocal art, and as
 examples of the manner, in which it was cultivated by
 the women of Israel.

 Among the ancients, however, the Greeks most assuredly
 had the keenest perception and appreciation of the beauties
 and value of music. In the Heroic age it played a
 significant part in their sacred games, and for a man to
 acknowledge an ignorance of the principles of musical
 art, was to confess himself, an untutored boor. In the
 great tragedies of Sophocles and Euripides it figured
 largely both vocally and instrumentally, and, even as the
 Welsh have their Eisteddfod, so the classic Greeks had
 their competitions, in which choirs from various cities
 strove for vocal supremacy and the honours of prize-winners.

 That other great race of ancient times which fattened
 on the spoils of Europe and Asia--I refer to the Romans--treated
 the art with less concern, and employed it in
 a cruder form at the celebration of their victories and
 Bacchanalian revels. They did little or nothing to foster
 or develop it, although it is said that one of their most
 famous--or perhaps it would be better to say infamous--rulers
 was so devoted to music, that he fiddled while
 his capital was burning. But we may reasonably have
 our doubts as to Nero's claim to rank as the Sarasate of
 his time, for although he made public appearances as a
 virtuoso in his chief cities, and challenged all comers to
 trials of skill, the importance of his recorded victories is
 somewhat diminished, by the fact, that his judges were
 sufficiently wise in their generation, to invariably award
 him the honour of pre-eminence. It is a prudent judge
 who recognises a despotic Emperor's artistic--and other--powers.

 With the dawn of Christianity came a new era in
 the art, and in the 4th century, we find that a School
 of Singing was established at Rome, for the express
 purpose of practising and studying Church music. It
 was not, however, until another couple of centuries had
 elapsed, that the sound of music based on definite laws
 was heard beneath an English sky. You have to travel
 back in mind to that memorable procession of devoted
 monks, which, under the leadership of the saintly
 Augustine, wended its way into the little city of Canterbury,
 singing its Litany of the Church, and startling
 Pagan Britain with its joyful alleluia. Slowly, very
 slowly, the art progressed, but four more centuries were
 to pass before it was established on anything like a true
 scientific basis, and it is such men as Hucbald, a Flemish
 monk, Guido D'Arezzo and Franco of Cologne who
 laid the foundation of our whole system of polyphonic
 music.

 Before, however, I touch on that broader expanse, the
 era of the Flemish School, which began to attain noteworthy
 prominence in the early years of the 15th century,
 it would be as well, perhaps, to dwell for a few moments
 on the history of the noble instrument which is the cause
 of our foregathering here to-day. In a very early chapter
 in the Book of Genesis we are told that Jubal was "the
 father of all such as handle the harp and the organ," and
 therefore he ranks in history as the first teacher of
 music. It is commonly asserted, that the emoluments
 of the modern organist do not come well within the
 designation of "princely," and, judging from the limited
 population in those Adamite days, we may well assume
 that Jubal's living was almost as precarious as those worthy
 Shetland Islanders who depended for their subsistence
 on washing one another's clothes. With wise forethought,
 however, Jubal's brother had devoted himself to engineering.
 "He was the instructor of every artificer in brass and
 iron," and therefore, we may conclude there was money
 in the family, and that the man of commerce was generous
 to the man of music, even as we of to-day are ever
 ready to respond to the demands for assistance, on behalf
 of our local choral societies, and musical organisations.
 But it must not be supposed, that the organ presided over
 by Jubal bore any resemblance whatever, to the stately
 instrument, which will now voice its glorious tone within
 these walls, for the first time in public. The primitive
 organ of mankind has its present-day affinity in the
 charming instrument, which, in the hands and mouth of a
 precocious juvenile, has such a powerful and stimulating
 effect on the cultivated ears and sensitive nerves of the
 modern amateur.

 It is not possible for me to go into any detail, with
 regard to the slow and marvellous development of that
 triumph of human skill, which is truly known as the king
 of instruments. From those simple pieces of reed, cut
 off just below the knot, which formed the pipes of the
 syrinx, to the complicated, elaborate and perfect machinery
 which is hidden beneath the organ case there, is the same
 degree of difference, as there is between the rough-hewn
 canoe of the savage, and the wonderful perfection of the
 liners, which run their weekly race across the broad
 Atlantic. It was not until the end of the 11th century,
 that the first rude steps were taken towards the formation
 of the modern keyboard; then it was that huge keys or
 levers began to be used, and these keys were from 3
 to 5 inches wide, 1-½ inches thick, and from a foot and
 a half to a yard in length. Nevertheless, even the
 organ of the 4th century had its impressive powers, if
 we may place reliance on words attributed to the
 Emperor Julian, the Apostate, who wrote: "I see a
 strange sort of reeds; they must, methinks, have sprung
 from no earthly, but a brazen soil. Wild are they, nor
 does the breath of man stir them, but a blast leaping
 forth from a cavern of ox-hide, passes within, beneath
 the roots of the polished reeds; while a lordly man, the
 fingers of whose hands are nimble, stands and touches
 here and there, the concordant stops of the pipes; and
 the stops, as they lightly rise and fall, force out the
 melody."

 And in its growth, as in the growth of young children,
 the organ has had its share of infantile vicissitudes. Even
 as late as the 13th century it lay under the ban of
 the ecclesiastics, and was deemed too profane and scandalous
 for Church use. Again, in 1644, Parliament issued an
 ordinance which commanded "that all organs and the
 frames and cases wherein they stand in all Churches and
 Chappells aforesaid shall be taken away and utterly defaced,
 and none other hereafter set up in their places." "At
 Westminster Abbey," we are told, "the Soldiers broke
 down the organs and pawned the pipes at several Ale
 Houses for pots of Ale." It is difficult to understand this
 opposition to the organ, more especially as David in the
 last of his psalms enjoined the people "to praise God
 with stringed instruments and organs." True, indeed, Job,
 in one of his most pessimistic moods, placed it on record
 that "the wicked rejoice at the sound of the organ," but
 evidently Job had no soul for music--was so unmusical,
 in fact, that he is worthy to be associated with a certain
 eminent divine of the English Church, whose musical
 instinct was so deficient that he only knew "God Save the
 Queen" was being sung by the people rising and doffing
 their hats.

 Before touching upon that scientific development of
 the art, which, broadly speaking, began with the advent
 of the Flemish School and reached its culminating point
 within the rounded walls of Bayreuth, we may well give
 a moment's consideration to those melodies, which travelled
 their unwritten way through the early Middle Ages, and
 which we know, by the few examples that have come down
 to us, to have been racy of the soil that gave them birth;
 the folk song of the country is more characteristic of its
 people, of their temperament and psychology, than any
 other attribute of their national existence. We, in England,
 have little enough to point to in this way; in a sense
 there is nothing peculiarly individual in our music as a
 whole. But with the old melodies of Ireland, that ever
 seem to tremble between a tear and a smile, and in the
 quaint pathos of Scotland's airs, and the well-defined
 beauty of typical Welsh songs, we recognise the true
 speech of the heart and the outpouring of the natural man.
 Germany is still richer in its folk music, and the Pole
 and the Russian, the Hungarian and the Gaul, can each
 point to a mine of original melody which has provided
 latter-day composers with the basis of their most beautiful
 works. Nor must the importance of the Troubadours
 and Minnesingers be overlooked in reference to this
 interesting phase of musical art. They it was who kept
 alive and spread abroad the traditional songs of the people,
 and by their accomplishment actually worked as an
 educational force on the people themselves. Readers of
 Chaucer will bear in mind many an allusion to the minstrel's
 art of his period, and well through the Norman and
 Plantaganet epochs.

 "With minstrelsy the rafters sung,
 Of harps, that from reflected light
 From the proud gallery glittered bright
 To crown the banquet's solemn close,
 Themes of British glory rose;
 And to the strings of various chimes
 Attemper'd the heroic rhymes."

To the Flemish, or Netherland School of music we owe an art system, that
exercised a potent influence on every form of composition, and
counterpoint was the especial study of its followers, until, as
invariably happens, technical skill was regarded with a greater degree
of favour than genuine inspiration. But the School unquestionably
produced a vast number of very fine masses, motets, and much fine
service music. Then from Belgium the musical spirit travelled to Italy,
and before the 16th century had fulfilled half its appointed course, the
powers of Palestrina had indelibly stamped Italian art, and his genius
had elevated the ecclesiastical music of the age, to the lofty standard
of its associations. Then such musicians came to mind as Monteverdi and
Carissimi, the latter of whom made clear the path, for those great
writers of oratorio, whose names we hold in such reverence, and whose
works we love with such unwavering devotion.

German art was late in the field, and correspondingly slow in the
earlier stages of its development; thus we owe it little as a pioneer
in the art. But when the Teuton burst upon the world in all his
greatness, he first came in the colossal personality of John Sebastian
Bach, and then followed Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven, to be succeeded by
others, who were well qualified to take unto themselves the mantles of
their predecessors. Perhaps, however, I have done early German art some
injustice, for it must not be forgotten, that to the era of the great
Reformation, we owe those Lutheran chorales, such as the famous _Ein'
feste Burg_, which were as effective in stirring and encouraging the
rank and file of the reformers, as were the thrilling words of Luther,
and his earnest and enthusiastic fellow-workers. And it was due to the
custom of accompanying these chorales, that Germany owned, before the
end of the 17th century, the finest school of organists in Europe.

English music has always leaned more towards the sacred, than the
secular side of the art. The names of Marbecke, Thomas Tallis, Byrd,
Farrant, Gibbons, Lawes, Blow and Purcell are known to every choir-boy
and village chorister. Their anthems and chants are part and parcel of
the musical programme of every parish church, and the fine example, set
by these Elizabethan and Stuart writers has been well followed, by
Croft, Weldon, Boyce, and nearer, and belonging to our own times,
Wesley, Goss and Sullivan. And it is the sacred in music, which to-day
makes the strongest appeal to the heart of the English nation. In the
congregational singing in churches, in the overwhelming attention which
an English audience will bestow on such an oratorio as the _Messiah_, we
realise that a chord is struck, which vibrates through the whole of our
being, which lifts us into a state of semi-exultation, and moves us like
the words of some great statesman. I will not discuss the question, of
whether a drama or an opera has most power over its audience, but I will
fearlessly affirm, that apart from the drama there is no art that has
the same soul-stirring influence, as the art of music. The simple
harmonies of our Anglican hymns suffice for the untaught peasant, and
the broad sweep of a Handelian chorus holds captive musical amateurism.
But there is a music that reaches to higher heights, embraces within its
sphere a wider domain, and goes deep down into the mysteries of
nature--into the abysses of the soul; but such music is an open book
only for the musical student. It lives. It exists. It swells through the
length and breadth of the land; and year by year its influence
increases, its power becomes more dominant, and its glowing beauties
more vividly appreciated. People are beginning to comprehend the
wondrous message, sent to us by such composers as Ludwig Beethoven, and
Richard Wagner. They are beginning to understand the voice of that most
marvellous of all instruments--more marvellous than the organ itself,
for its keyboard is human brains, and its stops are human hands. I mean
the modern orchestra. The world's finest music has been written for that
instrument; the divinest melodies have been given it to interpret, and
the most significant factor in the English art life of the present is
the growing enthusiasm with which music, in its highest and most
abstract form and beauty, is listened to, by those who, in political
phraseology, are summed up in that terse and comprehensive expression
"The Masses."

I look with much greater confidence to music, than I do to Parliament,
for the means of preventing crime and intemperance--indeed, as one of
the most permanent cures of all vice and discontent. Much has been done
in later years by local authorities, towards enabling the public to have
within easy and reasonable reach such music as can be provided by bands
and local orchestra. But this is only the beginning. I trust the day may
not be far distant, when local authorities will see their way to
providing at cheap prices the best of operas, as is done so largely on
the Continent of Europe. We rightly and wisely provide libraries,
technical schools, and many other forms of instructive recreation, but
why are we in England to lag behind other countries in providing that
most instructive form of entertainment--namely, opera. I have never
known a true lover of music who was not a good citizen. And what a
preventive against idleness, the cause of so much crime. Once produce
opera at a price which all can afford to pay to hear, and can anyone
doubt, that many a man and woman will choose it, in preference to an
evening in a public-house or a music-hall. I never remember listening to
an opera, however poor or badly performed, that I have not gained some
strength with which to continue the desperate struggle of the battle of
life--which is very much more than I can say, for instance, for speeches
in the House of Commons. He who loves music has a servant at his command
which will ever render him willing and delightful service; he who loves
music brings himself into subjection, to one of the most elevating and
purifying influences of civilisation, and he who loves music and will
practise it, becomes a valuable and agreeable factor in the social life
of the community. There are no selfish restrictions in music. The
painter must keep himself to his canvas, and the actor to his stage, but
singers and instrumentalists have a standing in the humble parlours of
the poor, and in the luxuriously-upholstered drawing-rooms of the rich;
they have a coign of vantage in the choir stalls of churches and on the
platforms of concert halls. Music offers her favours alike to the modest
reader of the Tonic Sol-fa Notation, and to the pianist who can master
the difficulties of the Beethoven Sonatas. The chorus singer enjoys the
same measure of gratification as the leading soloist, and the student
with his score in his hand is just as great a king as the conductor.

In speaking briefly on such a vast and interesting subject, one must
necessarily leave volumes unsaid that ought to be said. I have but
casually touched on the beginnings of musical art, and the utmost I can
hope for is that I have succeeded in arousing some degree of curiosity
in the minds of those, who have shown but little regard for musical
literature, and which will have the effect of ultimately leading them to
devote more of their time and attention to good musical performances.


_Colston & Coy. Limited, Printers, Edinburgh._



    +-----------------------------------------------+
    |             Transcriber's Note:               |
    |                                               |
    | Typographical errors corrected in the text:   |
    |                                               |
    | Page  9  Manteverde changed to Monteverdi     |
    | Page 14  snnshine changed to sunshine         |
    | Page 31  threatre changed to theatre          |
    | Page 45  Othello ochanged to Otello           |
    | Page 75  genuis changed to genius             |
    | Page 75  Monteverde changed to Monteverdi     |
    +-----------------------------------------------+





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