By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon

We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: History of the Opera from its Origin in Italy to the present Time - With Anecdotes of the Most Celebrated Composers and Vocalists of Europe
Author: Edwards, Henry Sutherland, 1828-1906
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
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.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "History of the Opera from its Origin in Italy to the present Time - With Anecdotes of the Most Celebrated Composers and Vocalists of Europe" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.

produced from scanned images of public domain material




from its Origin in Italy to the present Time.







VOL. I. & VOL. II.



[_The right of translation and reproduction is reserved._]





Preface, Prelude, Prologue, Introduction, Overture, &c.--The
Origin of the Opera in Italy, and its introduction into Germany.--Its
History in Europe; Division of the subject                             1


Introduction of the Opera into France and England                     12


On the Nature of the Opera, and its Merits as compared with
other forms of the Drama                                              36


Introduction and progress of the Ballet                               70


Introduction of the Italian Opera into England                       104


The Italian Opera under Handel                                       140


General view of the Opera in Europe in the Eighteenth Century,
until the appearance of Gluck                                        172


French Opera from Lulli to the Death of Rameau                       217


Rousseau as a Critic and as a Composer of Music                      238


Gluck and Piccinni in Paris                                          267




It has often been said, and notably, by J. J. Rousseau, and after him,
with characteristic exaggeration, by R. Wagner, that "Opera" does not
mean so much a musical work, as a musical, poetical, and spectacular
work all at once; that "Opera" in fact, is "the work," _par excellence_,
to the production of which all the arts are necessary.[1] The very
titles of the earliest operas prove this notion to be incorrect. The
earliest Italian plays of a mixed character, not being constructed
according to the ancient rules of tragedy and comedy, were called by the
general name of "Opera," the nature of the "work" being more
particularly indicated by some such epithet or epithets as _regia_,
_comica_, _tragica_, _scenica_, _sacra_, _esemplare_, _regia ed
esemplare_, _&c._; and in the case of a lyrical drama, the words _per
musica_, _scenica per musica_, _regia ed esemplare per musica_, were
added, or the production was styled _opera musicale_ alone. In time the
mixed plays (which were imitated from the Spanish) fell into disrepute
in Italy, while the title of "Opera" was still applied to lyrical
dramas, but not without "musicale," or "in musica" after it. This was
sufficiently vague, but people soon found it troublesome, or thought it
useless, to say _opera musicale_, when opera by itself conveyed, if it
did not express, their meaning, and thus dramatic works in music came to
be called "Operas." Algarotte's work on the Opera (translated into
French, and entitled _Essai sur l'Opéra_) is called in the original
_Saggio sopra l'Opera in musica_. "Opera in music" would in the present
day sound like a pleonasm, but it is as well to consider the true
meaning of words, when we find them not merely perverted, but in their
perverted sense made the foundation of ridiculous theories.


The Opera proceeds from the sacred musical plays of the 15th century as
the modern drama proceeds from the mediæval mysteries. Ménestrier,
however, the Jesuit father, assigns to it a far greater antiquity, and
considers the Song of Solomon to be the earliest Opera on record,
founding his opinion on these words of St. Jérôme, translated from
Origen:--_Epithalamium, libellus, id est nuptiale carmen, in modum mihi
videtur dramatis a Solomone conscriptus quem cecinit instar nubentis

Others see the first specimens of opera in the Greek plays; but the
earliest musical dramas of modern Italy, from which the Opera of the
present day is descended directly, and in an unbroken line, are
"mysteries" differing only from the dramatic mysteries in so far that
the dialogue in them was sung instead of being spoken. "The Conversion
of St. Paul" was played in music, at Rome, in 1440. The first profane
subject treated operatically, was the descent of Orpheus into hell; the
music of this _Orfeo_, which was produced also at Rome, in 1480, was by
Angelo Poliziano, the libretto by Cardinal Riario, nephew of Sixtus IV.
The popes kept up an excellent theatre, and Clement IX. was himself the
author of seven _libretti_.

At this time the great attraction in operatic representations was the
scenery--a sign of infancy then, as it is a sign of decadence now. At
the very beginning of the sixteenth century, Balthazar Peruzzi, the
decorator of the papal theatre, had carried his art to such perfection,
that the greatest painters of the day were astonished at his
performances. His representations of architecture and the illusions of
height and distance which his knowledge of perspective enabled him to
produce, were especially admired. Vasari has told us how Titian, at the
Palace of la Farnesina, was so struck by the appearance of solidity
given by Peruzzi to his designs in profile, that he was not satisfied,
until he had ascended a ladder and touched them, that they were not
actually in relief. "One can scarcely conceive," says the historian of
the painters, in speaking of Peruzzi's scenic decorations, "with what
ability, in so limited a space, he represented such a number of houses,
palaces, porticoes, entablatures, profiles, and all with such an aspect
of reality that the spectator fancied himself transported into the
middle of a public square, to such a point was the illusion carried.
Moreover, Balthazar, the better to produce these results, understood, in
an admirable manner the disposition of light as well as all the
machinery connected with theatrical changes and effects."

[Sidenote: DAFNE.]

In 1574, Claudio Merulo, organist at St. Mark's, of Venice, composed the
music of a drama by Cornelio Frangipani, which was performed in the
Venetian Council Chamber in presence of Henry III. of France. The music
of the operatic works of this period appears to have possessed but
little if any dramatic character, and to have consisted almost
exclusively of choruses in the madrigal style, which was so
successfully cultivated about the same time in England. Emilio del
Cavaliere, a celebrated musician of Rome, made an attempt to introduce
appropriateness of expression into these choruses, and his reform,
however incomplete, attracted the attention of Giovanni Bardi, Count of
Vernio. This nobleman used to assemble in his palace all the most
distinguished musicians of Florence, among whom were Mei, Caccini, and
Vincent Galileo, the father of the astronomer. Vincent Galileo was
himself a discoverer, and helped, at the Count of Vernio's musical
meetings, to invent recitative--an invention of comparative
insignificance, but which in the system of modern opera plays as
important a part, perhaps, as the rotation of the earth does in that of
the celestial spheres.

Two other Florentine noblemen, Pietro Strozzi and Giacomo Corsi,
encouraged by the example of Bardi, and determined to give the musical
drama its fullest development in the new form that it had assumed,
engaged Ottavio Rinuccini, one of the first poets of the period, with
Peri and Caccini, two of the best musicians, to compose an opera which
was entitled _Dafne_, and was performed for the first time in the Corsi
Palace, at Florence, in 1597.

_Dafne_ appears to have been the first complete opera. It was considered
a masterpiece both from the beauty of the music and from the interest of
the drama; and on its model the same authors composed their opera of
_Euridice_, which was represented publicly at Florence on the occasion
of the marriage of Henry IV. of France, with Marie de Medicis, in 1600.
Each of the five acts of _Euridice_ concludes with a chorus, the
dialogue is in recitative, and one of the characters, "Tircis," sings an
air which is introduced by an instrumental prelude.

New music was composed to the libretto of _Dafne_ by Gagliano in 1608,
when the opera thus rearranged was performed at Mantua; and in 1627 the
same piece was translated by Opitz, "the father of the lyric stage in
Germany," as he is called, set to music by Schutz, and represented at
Dresden on the occasion of the marriage of the Landgrave of Hesse with
the sister of John-George I., Elector of Saxony. It was not, however,
until 1692 that Keiser appeared and perfected the forms of the German
Opera. Keiser was scarcely nineteen years of age when he produced at the
Court of Wolfenbüttel, _Ismene_ and _Basilius_, the former styled a
Pastoral, the latter an opera. It is said reproachfully, and as if
facetiously, of a common-place German musician in the present day, that
he is "of the Wolfenbüttel school," just as it is considered comic in
France to taunt a singer or player with having come from Carpentras. It
is curious that Wolfenbüttel in Germany, and Carpentras in France (as I
shall show in the next chapter), were the cradles of Opera in their
respective countries.


To return to the Opera in Italy. The earliest musical drama, then, with
choruses, recitatives, airs, and instrumental preludes was _Dafne_, by
Rinuccini as librettist, and Caccini and Peri as composers; but the
orchestra which accompanied this work consisted only of a harpsichord, a
species of guitar called a chitarone, a lyre, and a lute. When
Monteverde appeared, he introduced the modern scale, and changed the
whole harmonic system of his predecessors. He at the same time gave far
greater importance in his operas to the accompaniments, and increased to
a remarkable extent the number of musicians in the orchestra, which
under his arrangement included every kind of instrument known at the
time. Many of Monteverde's instruments are now obsolete. This composer,
the unacknowledged prototype of our modern cultivators of orchestral
effects, made use of a separate combination of instruments to announce
the entry and return of each personage in his operas; a dramatic means
employed afterwards by Hoffmann in his _Undine_,[3] and in the present
day with pretended novelty by Richard Wagner. This newest orchestral
device is also the oldest. The score of Monteverde's _Orfeo_, produced
in 1608, contains parts for two harpsichords, two lyres or violas with
thirteen strings, ten violas, three bass violas, two double basses, a
double harp (with two rows of strings), two French violins, besides
guitars, organs, a flute, clarions, and even trombones. The bass violas
accompanied Orpheus, the violas Eurydice, the trombones Pluto, the small
organ Apollo; Charon, strangely enough, sang to the music of the

Monteverde, having become chapel master at the church of St. Mark,
produced at Venice _Arianna_, of which _Rinuccini_ had written the
libretto. This was followed by other works of the same kind, which were
produced with great magnificence, until the fame of the Venetian operas
spread throughout Italy, and by the middle of the seventeenth century
the new entertainment was established at Venice, Bologna, Rome, Turin,
Naples, and Messina. Popes, cardinals and the most illustrious nobles
took the Opera under their protection, and the dukes of Mantua and
Modena distinguished themselves by the munificence of their patronage.

Among the most celebrated of the female singers of this period were
Catarina Martinella of Rome, Archilei, Francesca Caccini (daughter of
the composer of that name and herself the author of an operatic score),
Adriana Baroni, of Mantua, and her daughter Leonora Baroni, whose
praises have been sung by Milton in his three Latin poems "Ad Leonoram
Romæ canentem."


The Italian opera, as we shall afterwards see, was introduced into
France under the auspices of Cardinal Mazarin, who as the Abbé Mazarini,
had visited all the principal theatres of Italy by the express command
of Richelieu, and had studied their system with a view to the more
perfect representation of the cardinal-minister's tragedies. The
Italian Opera he introduced on his own account, and it was, on the
whole, very inhospitably received. Indeed, from the establishment of the
French Opera under Cambert and his successor Lulli, in the latter half
of the seventeenth century, until the end of the eighteenth, the French
were unable to understand or unwilling to acknowledge the immense
superiority of the Italians in everything pertaining to music. In 1752
Pergolese's _Serva Padrona_ was the cause of the celebrated dispute
between the partisans of French and Italian Opera, and the end of it was
that _La Serva Padrona_ was hissed, and the two singers who appeared in
it driven from Paris.

In England the Italian Opera was introduced in the first years of the
eighteenth century, and under Handel, who arrived in London in 1710,
attained the greatest perfection. Since the production of Handel's last
dramatic work, in 1740, the Italian Opera has continued to be
represented in London with scarcely noticeable intervals until the
present day, and, on the whole, with remarkable excellence.

Of English Opera a far less satisfactory account can be given. Its
traditions exist by no means in an unbroken line. Purcell wrote English
operas, and was far in advance of all the composers of his time, except,
no doubt, those of Italy, who, we must remember were his masters, though
he did not slavishly copy them. Since then, we have had composers (for
the stage, I mean) who have utterly failed; composers, like Dr. Arne,
who have written Anglo-Italian operas; composers of "ballad operas,"
which are not operas at all; composers of imitation-operas of all kinds;
and lastly, the composers of the present day, by whom the long
wished-for English Opera will perhaps at last be established.

In Germany, which, since the time of Handel and Hasse, has produced an
abundance of great composers for the stage, the national opera until
Gluck (including Gluck's earlier works), was imitated almost entirely
from that of Italy; and the Italian method of singing being the true and
only method has always prevailed.

Throughout the eighteenth century, we find the great Italian singers
travelling to all parts of Europe and carrying with them the operas of
the best Italian masters. In each of the countries where the opera has
been cultivated, it has had a different history, but from the beginning
until the end of the eighteenth century, the Italian Opera flourished in
Italy, and also in Germany and in England; whereas France persisted in
rejecting the musical teaching of a foreign land until the utter
insufficiency of her own operatic system became too evident to be any
longer denied. She remained separated from the rest of Europe in a
musical sense until the time of the Revolution, as she has since and
from very different reasons been separated from it politically.

[Sidenote: OPERA IN FRANCE.]

Nevertheless, the history of the Opera in France is of great interest,
like the history of every other art in that country which has engaged
the attention of its ingenious amateurs and critics. Only, for a
considerable period it must be treated apart.

In the course of this narrative sketch, which does not claim to be a
scientific history, I shall pursue, as far as possible, the
chronological method; but it is one which the necessities of the subject
will often cause me to depart from.



     French Opera not founded by Lulli.--Lulli's elevation from the
     kitchen to the orchestra.--Lulli, M. de Pourceaugnac, and Louis
     XIV.--Buffoonery rewarded.--A disreputable tenor.--Virtuous
     precaution of a _prima donna_.--Orthography of a stage Queen.--A
     cure for love.--Mademoiselle de Maupin.--A composer of sacred
     music.--Food for cattle.--Cambert in England.--The first English
     Opera.--Music under Cromwell.--Music under Charles II.--Grabut and


In a general view of the history of the Opera, the central figures would
be Gluck and Mozart. Before Gluck's time the operatic art was in its
infancy, and since the death of Mozart, no operas have been produced
equal to that composer's masterpieces. Mozart must have commenced his
_Idomeneo_, the first of his celebrated works, the very year that Gluck
retired to Vienna, after giving to the Parisians his _Iphigénie en
Tauride_; but, though contemporaries in the strict sense of the word,
Gluck and Mozart can scarcely be looked upon as belonging to the same
musical epoch. The compositions of the former, however immortal, have at
least an antique cast. Those of the latter have quite a modern air; and
it must appear to the audiences of the present day that far more than
twenty-three years separate _Orfeo_ from _Don Giovanni_, though that is
the precise interval which elapsed between the production of the opera
by which Gluck, and of the one by which Mozart, is best known in this
country. Gluck, after a century and a half of opera, so far surpassed
all his predecessors that no work by a composer anterior to him is ever
performed. Lulli wrote an _Armide_, which was followed by Rameau's
_Armide_, which was followed by Gluck's _Armide_; and Monteverde wrote
an _Orfeo_ a hundred and fifty years before Gluck produced the _Orfeo_
which was played only the other night at the Royal Italian Opera. The
_Orfeo_, then, of our existing operatic repertory takes us back through
its subject to the earliest of regular Italian operas, and similarly
Gluck, through his _Armide_ appears as the successor of Rameau, who was
the successor of Lulli, who usually passes for the founder of the Opera
in France, a country where it is particularly interesting to trace the
progress of that entertainment, inasmuch as it can be observed at one
establishment, which has existed continuously for two hundred years, and
which, under the title of Académie Royale, Académie Nationale, and
Académie Impériale (it has now gone by each of those names twice), has
witnessed the production of more operatic masterpieces than any other
theatre in any city in the world. To convince the reader of the truth of
this latter assertion I need only remind him of the works produced at
the Académie Royale by Gluck and Piccinni immediately before the
Revolution; and of the _Masaniello_ of Auber, the _William Tell_ of
Rossini, and the _Robert the Devil_ of Meyerbeer,--all written for the
said Académie within sixteen years of the termination of the Napoleonic
wars. Neither Naples, nor Milan, nor Prague, nor Vienna, nor Munich, nor
Dresden, nor Berlin, has individually seen the birth of so many great
operatic works by different masters, though, of course, if judged by the
number of great composers to whom they have given birth, both Germany
and Italy must be ranked infinitely higher than France. Indeed, if we
compare France with our own country, we find, it is true, that an opera
in the national language was established there earlier than here, though
in the first instance only as a private entertainment; but, on the other
hand, the French, until Gluck's time, had never any composers, native or
adopted, at all comparable to our Purcell, who produced his _King
Arthur_ as far back as 1691.

Lulli is generally said to have introduced Opera into France, and,
indeed, is represented in a picture, well known to Parisian opera-goers,
receiving a privilege from the hands of Louis XIV. as a reward and
encouragement for his services in that respect. This privilege, however,
was neither deserved nor obtained in the manner supposed. Cardinal
Mazarin introduced Italian Opera into Paris in 1645, when Lulli was only
twelve years of age; and the first French Opera, entitled Akébar, Roi de
Mogol, words and music by the Abbé Mailly, was brought out the year
following in the Episcopal Palace of Carpentras, under the direction of
Cardinal Bichi, Urban the Eighth's legate. Clement VII. had already
appeared as a librettist, and it has been said that Urban VIII. himself
recommended the importation of the Opera into France; so that the real
father of the lyric stage in that country was certainly not a scullion,
and may have been a Pope.


The second French Opera was _La Pastorale en musique_, words by Perrin,
music by Cambert, which was privately represented at Issy; and the third
_Pomone_, also by Perrin and Cambert, which was publicly performed in
Paris in 1671--the year in which was produced, at the same theatre,
_Psyché_, a _tragédie-ballet_, by the two greatest dramatic poets France
has ever produced, Molière and Corneille. _Pomone_ was the first French
Opera heard by the Parisian public, and it was to the Abbé Perrin, its
author, and not to Lulli, that the patent of the Royal Academy of Music
was granted. A privilege for establishing an Academy of Music had been
conceded a hundred years before by Charles IX. to Antoine de Baif,--the
word "_Académie_" being used as an equivalent for "_Accademia_," the
Italian for concert. Perrin's license appears to have been a renewal, as
to form, of de Baif's, and thus originated the eminently absurd title
which the chief operatic theatre of Paris has retained ever since. The
Academy of Music is of course an academy in the sense in which the
Théâtre Français is a college of declamation, and the Palais Royal
Theatre a school of morality; but no one need seek to justify its title
because it is known to owe its existence to a confusion of terms.

Six French operas had been performed before Lulli, supported by Madame
de Montespan, succeeded in depriving Perrin of his "privilege," and
securing it for himself--at the very moment when Perrin and Cambert were
about to bring out their _Ariane_, of which the representation was
stopped. The success of Lulli's intrigue drove Cambert to London, where
he was received with much favour by Charles II., and appointed director
of the Court music, an office which he retained until his death. Lulli's
first opera, written in conjunction with Quinault, being the seventh
produced on the French stage, was _Cadmus and Hermione_ (1673).


The life of the fortunate, unscrupulous, but really talented scullion,
to whom is falsely attributed the honour of having founded the Opera in
France, has often been narrated, and for the most part very
inaccurately. Every one knows that he arrived from Italy to enter the
service of Mademoiselle de Montpensier as page, and that he was degraded
by that lady to the back kitchen: but it is not so generally known that
he was only saved through the influence of Madame de Montespan from a
shameful and horrible death on the Place de Grève, where his accomplice
was actually burned and his ashes thrown to the winds. Mademoiselle de
Montpensier, in one of her letters, speaks of Lulli asking for his
congé; but it is quite certain that he was dismissed, though it would be
as impossible to give a complete account of the causes of his dismissal
as to publish the original of the needlessly elaborate reply attributed
to a certain French general at Waterloo.[4] We may mention, however,
that Lulli had composed a song which was a good deal sung at the court,
and at which the Princess had every right to be offended. A French
dramatist has made this affair of the song the subject of a very
ingenious little piece, which was represented in English some years
since at the Adelphi Theatre, but in which the exact nature of the
objectionable composition is of course not indicated. Suffice it to say,
that Lulli was discharged, and that Louis XIV., hearing the libellous
air, and finding it to his taste, showed so little regard for
Mademoiselle de Montpensier's feelings, as to take the young musician
into his own service. There were no vacancies in the king's band, and it
was, moreover, a point of etiquette that the court-fiddlers should buy
their places; so to save trouble, and, perhaps, from a suspicion that
his ordinary players were a set of impostors, his majesty commissioned
Lulli to form a band of his own, to which the name of "_Les petits
violons du roi_" was given. The little fiddles soon became more expert
musicians than the big ones, and Louis was so pleased with the little
fiddle-in-chief, that he entrusted him with the superintendence of the
music of his ballets. These ballets, which corresponded closely enough
to our English masques, were entertainments not of dancing only, but
also of vocal and instrumental music; the name was apparently derived
from the Italian _ballata_, the parent of our own "ballad."

Lulli also composed music for the interludes and songs in Molière's
comedies, in which he sometimes appeared himself as a singer, and even
as a burlesque actor. Once, when the musical arrangements were not quite
ready for a ballet, in which the king was to play four parts--the House
of France, Pluto, Mars and the Sun--he replied, on receiving a command
to proceed with the piece--"_Le roi est le maitre; il peut attendre tant
qu'il lui plaira._" His majesty did not, as I have seen it stated, laugh
at the facetious impertinence of his musician. On the contrary, he was
seriously offended; and great was Lulli's alarm when he found that
neither the House of France, nor Pluto, nor Mars, nor the Sun, would
smile at the pleasantries with which, as the performance went on, he
endeavoured to atone for his unbecoming speech. The wrath of the Great
Monarch was not to be appeased, and Lulli's enemies already began to
rejoice at his threatened downfall.

[Sidenote: LULLI A BUFFOON.]

Fortunately, Molière was at Versailles. Lulli asked him at the
conclusion of the ballet to announce a performance of _M. de
Pourceaugnac_, a piece which never failed to divert Louis; and it was
arranged that just before the rise of the curtain Molière should excuse
himself, on the score of a sudden indisposition, from appearing in the
principal character. When there seemed to be no chance of _M. de
Pourceaugnac_ being played, Lulli, that the king might not be
disappointed, nobly volunteered to undertake the part of the hero, and
exerted himself in an unprecedented manner to do it justice. But his
majesty, who generally found the troubles of the Limousin gentleman so
amusing, on this occasion did not even smile. The great scene was about
to begin; the scene in which the apothecaries, armed with their terrible
weapons, attack M. de Pourceaugnac and chase him round the stage. Louis
looked graver than ever. Then the comedian, as a last hope, rushed from
the back of the stage to the foot lights, sprang into the orchestra,
alighted on the harpsichord, and smashed it into a thousand pieces. "By
this fall he rose." Probably he hurt himself, but no matter; on looking
round he saw the Great Monarch in convulsions of laughter. Encouraged by
his success, he climbed back through the prompter's box on to the stage;
the royal mirth increased, and Lulli was now once more reinstated in the
good graces of his sovereign.

Molière had a high opinion of Lulli's facetious powers. "_Fais nous
rire, Baptiste_," he would say, and it cannot have been any sort of joke
that would have excited the laughter of the greatest of comic writers.
Nevertheless, he fell out with Lulli when the latter attained the
"privilege" of the Opera, and, profiting by the monopoly which it
secured to him, forbade the author of _Tartuffe_ to introduce more than
two singers in his interludes, or to employ more than six violins in his
orchestra. Accordingly, Molière entrusted the composition of the music
for the _Malade Imaginaire_, to Charpentier. The songs and symphonies of
all his other pieces, with the exception of _Mélicerte_, were composed
by Lulli.

The story of Lulli's obtaining letters of nobility through the
excellence of his buffoonery in the part of the Muphti, in the
_Bourgeois Gentilhomme_ has often been told. This was in 1670, but once
a noble, and director of the Royal Academy of Music, he showed but
little disposition to contribute to the diversion of others, even by the
exercise of his legitimate art. Not only did he refuse to play the
violin, but he would not even have one in his house. To overcome Lulli's
repugnance in this respect, Marshal de Gramont hit upon a very ingenious
plan. He used to make one of his servants who possessed the gift of
converting music into noise, play the violin in Lulli's presence. Upon
this, the highly susceptible musician would snatch the instrument from
the valet's hands, and restore the murdered melody to life and beauty;
then, excited by the pleasure of producing music, he forgot all around
him, and continued to play to the great delight of the marshal.

Many curious stories are told of Lafontaine's want of success as a
librettist; Lulli refused three of his operas, one after the other,
_Daphné_, _Astrée_, and _Acis et Galathée_--the _Acis et Galathée_ set
to music by Lulli being the work of Campistron. At the first
representation of _Astrée_, of which the music had been written by
Colasse (a composer who imitated and often plagiarised from Lulli),
Lafontaine was present in a box behind some ladies who did not know him.
He kept exclaiming every moment, "Detestable! detestable!"


Tired of hearing the same thing repeated so many times, the ladies at
last turned round and said, "It is really not so bad. The author is a
man of considerable wit; it is written by M. de la Fontaine."

"_Cela ne vaut pas le diable_," replied the _librettist_, "and this
Lafontaine of whom you speak is an ass. I am Lafontaine, and ought to

After the first act he left the theatre and went into the Café Marion,
where he fell asleep. One of his friends came in, and surprised to see
him, said--"M. de la Fontaine! How is this? Ought you not to be at the
first performance of your opera?"

The author awoke, and said, with a yawn--"I've been; and the first act
was so dull that I had not the courage to wait for the other. I admire
the patience of these Parisians!"

       *       *       *       *       *

Compare this with the similar conduct of an English humourist, Charles
Lamb, who, meeting with no greater success as a dramatist than
Lafontaine, was equally astonished at the patience of the public, and
remained in the pit to hiss his own farce.

       *       *       *       *       *

Colasse, Lafontaine's composer, and Campistron, one of Lulli's
librettists--when Quinault was not in the way--occasionally worked
together, and with no very favourable result. Hence, mutual reproaches,
each attributing the failure of the opera to the stupidity of the other.
This suggested the following epigram, which, under similar
circumstances, has been often imitated:--

        "Entre Campistron et Colasse,
        Grand débat s'émeut au Parnasse,
    Sur ce que l'opéra n'a pas un sort heureux.
    De son mauvais succès nul ne se croit coupable.
    L'un dit que la musique est plate et misérable,
    L'autre que la conduite et les vers sont affreux;
    Et le grand Apollon, toujours juge équitable,
        Trouve qu'ils ont raison tous deux."

Quinault was by far the most successful of Lulli's librettists, in spite
of the contempt with which his verses were always treated by Boileau.
Boileau liked Lulli's music, but when he entered the Opera, and was
asked where he would sit, he used to reply, "Put me in some place where
I shall not be able to hear the words."


Lulli must have had sad trouble with his orchestra, for in his time a
violinist was looked upon as merely an adjunct to a dancing-master.
There was a king of the fiddles, without whose permission no cat-gut
could be scraped; and in selling his licenses to dancing-masters and the
musicians of ball-rooms, the ruler of the bows does not appear to have
required any proof of capacity from his clients. Even the simple
expedient of shifting was unknown to Lulli's violinists, and for years
after his death, to reach the C above the line was a notable feat. The
pit quite understood the difficulty, and when the dreaded _démanchement_
had to be accomplished, would indulge in sarcastic shouts of "_gare
l'ut! gare l'ut!_"

The violin was not in much repute in the 17th, and still less in the
16th, century. The lute was a classical instrument; the harp was the
instrument of the Troubadours; but the fiddle was fit only for servants,
and fiddlers and servants were classed together.

"Such a one," says Malherbe, "who seeks for his ancestors among heroes
is the son of a lacquey or a fiddler."

Brantôme, relating the death of Mademoiselle de Limeuil, one of the
Queen's maids of honour, who expired, poor girl, to a violin
accompaniment, expresses himself as follows:--

"When the hour of her death had arrived, she sent for her valet, such as
all the maids of honour have; and he was called Julien, and played very
well on the violin. 'Julien,' said she, 'take your violin and play to me
continually, until you see me dead, the _Defeat of the Swiss_,[5] as
well as you are able; and when you are at the passage _All is lost_,
sound it four or five times as piteously as you can; which the other
did, while she herself assisted him with her voice. She recited it
twice, and then turning on the other side of her pillow said to her
companions, 'All is lost this time, as well I know,' and thus died."

These musical valets were as much slaves as the ancient flute players of
the Roman nobles, and were bought, sold, and exchanged like horses and
dogs. When their services were not required at home, masters and
mistresses who were generously inclined would allow their fiddlers to go
out and play in the streets on their own account.

       *       *       *       *       *

Strange tales are told of the members of Lulli's company. Duménil, the
tenor, used to steal jewellery from the soprano and contralto of the
troop, and get intoxicated with the baritone. This eccentric virtuoso is
said to have drunk six bottles of champagne every night he performed,
and to have improved gradually until about the fifth. Duménil, after one
of his voyages to England, which he visited several times, lost his
voice. Then, seeing no reason why he should moderate his intemperance at
all, he gave himself up unrestrainedly to drinking, and died.


Mdlle. Desmâtins, the original representative of _Armide_ was chiefly
celebrated for her beauty, her love of good living, her corpulence, and
her bad grammar. She it was who wrote the celebrated letter
communicating to a friend the death of her child, "_Notre anfan ai
maure, vien de boneure, le mien ai de te voire._" Mlle. Desmâtins took
so much pleasure in representing royal personages that she assumed the
(theatrical) costume and demeanour of a queen in her own household, sat
on a throne, and made her attendants serve her on their knees. Another
vocalist, Marthe le Rochois, accused of grave flirtation with a bassoon,
justified herself by showing a promise of marriage, which the gallant
instrumentalist had written on the back of an ace of spades.

The Opera singers of this period were not particularly well paid, and
history relates that Mlles. Aubry and Verdier, being engaged for the
same line of business, had to live in the same room and sleep in the
same bed.

Marthe Le Rochois was fond of giving advice to her companions. "Inspire
yourself with the situation," she said to Desmâtins, who had to
represent Medea abandoned by Jason; "fancy yourself in the poor woman's
place. If you were deserted by a lover, whom you adored," added Marthe,
thinking, no doubt, of the bassoon, "what should you do?" "I should look
out for another," replied the ingenuous girl.

But by far the most distinguished operatic actress of this period was
Mlle. de Maupin, now better known through Théophile Gauthier's
scandalous, but brilliant and vigorously written romance, than by her
actual adventures and exploits, which, however, were sufficiently
remarkable. Among the most amusing of her escapades, were her assaults
upon Duménil and Thévenard, the before-mentioned tenor and baritone of
the Academie. Dressed in male attire she went up to the former one night
in the Place des Victoires, caned him, deprived him of his watch and
snuff-box, and the next day produced the trophies at the theatre just as
the plundered vocalist was boasting that he had been attacked by three
robbers, and had put them all to flight. She is said to have terrified
the latter to such a degree that he remained three weeks hiding from her
in the Palais Royal.

Mlle. de Maupin was in many respects the Lola Montes of her day, but
with more beauty, more talent, more power, and more daring. When she
appeared as Minerva, in Lulli's _Cadmus_, and taking off her helmet to
the public, showed all her beautiful light brown hair, which hung in
luxuriant tresses over her shoulders, the audience were in ecstacies of
delight. With less talent, and less powers of fascination, she would
infallibly have been executed for the numerous fatal duels in which she
was engaged, and might even have been burnt alive for invading the
sanctity of a convent at Avignon, to say nothing of her attempting to
set fire to it. Perhaps it would be more correct to say that Lola Montes
was the Mlle. Maupin of _her_ day; a Maupin of a century which is
moderate in its passions and its vices as in other things.


Moreau, the successor of Lulli, is chiefly known as having written the
music for the choruses of Racine's _Esther_, (1689). These choruses,
re-arranged by Perne, were performed in 1821, at the Conservatoire of
Paris, and were much applauded. Racine, in his preface to _Esther_,
says, "I cannot finish this preface without rendering justice to the
author of the music, and confessing frankly that his (choral) songs
formed one of the greatest attractions of the piece. All connoisseurs
are agreed that for a long time no airs have been heard more touching,
or more suitable to the words." Nevertheless, Madame de Maintenon's
special composer was not eminently religious in his habits. The musician
whose hymns were sung by the daughters of Sion and of St. Cyr sought his
inspiration at a tavern in the Rue St. Jacques, in company with the poet
Lainez and with most of the singers and dancers of the period. No member
of the Opera rode past the Cabaret de la Barre Royale without tying his
horse up in the yard and going in for a moment to have a word and a
glass with Moreau. Sometimes the moment became an hour, sometimes
several. The horses of Létang and Favier, dancers at the Académie, after
being left eight hours in the court-yard without food, gnawed through
their bridles, and, looking no doubt for the stable, found their way
into a bed-room, where they devoured the contents of a dilapidated straw
mattrass. "We must all live," said Lainez, when he saw a mattrass
charged for among the items of the repast, and he hastened to offer the
unfortunate animals a ration of wine.

       *       *       *       *       *


When Cambert arrived in London he found Charles II. and his Court fully
disposed to patronise any sort of importation from France. Naturally,
then, the founder of French Opera was well received. Even Lock, in many
of his pieces, had imitated the French style; and though he had been
employed to compose the music for the public entry of Charles II., at
the Restoration, and was afterwards appointed composer in ordinary to
His Majesty, Cambert, immediately on his arrival, was made master of the
king's band; and two years afterwards an English version of his
_Ariadne_ was produced. "You knew Cambert," says de Vizé, in _Le Mercure
Galant_; "he has just died in London (1677), where he received many
favours from the King of England and from the greatest noblemen of his
Court, who had a high opinion of his genius. What they have seen of his
works has not belied the reputation he had acquired in France. It is to
him we owe the establishment of the operas that are now represented. The
music of those of _Pomona_, and of the _Pains and Pleasures of Love_, is
by him, and since that time we have had no recitative in France that has
appeared new." In several English books, Grabut, who accompanied
Cambert to England, is said to have arranged the music of _Ariadne_, and
even to have composed it; but this is manifestly an error. This same
Grabut wrote the music to Dryden's celebrated political opera _Albion
and Albanius_, which was performed at the Duke's Theatre in 1685, and of
which the representations were stopped by the news of Monmouth's
invasion. Purcell, who was only fifteen years of age when _Ariadne_ was
produced, was now twenty-six, and had written a great deal of admirable
dramatic music. Probably the public thought that to him, and not to the
Frenchman, might have been confided the task of setting _Albion and
Albanius_, for in the preface to that work Dryden says, as if
apologetically, that "during the rehearsal the king had publicly
declared more than once, that the composition and choruses were more
just and more beautiful than any he had heard in England." Then after a
warm commendation of Grabut Dryden adds, "This I say, not to flatter
him, but to do him right; because among some English musicians, and
their scholars, who are sure to judge after them, the imputation of
being a Frenchman is enough to make a party who maliciously endeavour to
decry him. But the knowledge of Latin and Italian poets, both of which
he possesses, besides his skill in music, and his being acquainted with
all the performances of the French operas, adding to these the good
sense to which he is born, have raised him to a degree above any man who
shall pretend to be his rival on our stage. When any of our countrymen
excel him, I shall be glad, for the sake of Old England, to be shown my
error: in the meantime, let virtue be commended, though in the person of
a stranger."

Neither Grabut nor Cambert was the first composer who produced a
complete opera in England. During the Commonwealth, in 1656, Sir William
Davenant had obtained permission to open a theatre for the performance
of operas, in a large room, at the back of Rutland House, in the upper
end of Aldersgate Street; and, long before, the splendid court masques
of James I. and Charles I. had given opportunities for the development
of recitative, which was first composed in England by an Italian, named
Laniere, an eminent musician, painter and engraver. The Opera had been
established in Italy since the beginning of the century, and we have
seen that in 1607, Monteverde wrote his _Orfeo_ for the court of Mantua.
But it was still known in England and France only through the accounts,
respectively, of Evelyn and of St. Evrémond.


The first English opera produced at Sir William Davenant's theatre, the
year of its opening, was _The Siege of Rhodes_, "made a representation
by the art of perspective in scenes, and the story sung in recitative
music." There were five changes of scene, according to the ancient
dramatic distinctions made for time, and there were seven performers.
The part of "Solyman" was taken by Captain Henry Cook, that of "Ianthe"
by Mrs. Coleman, who appears to have been the first actress on the
English stage--in the sense in which Heine was the first poet of his
century (having been born on the 1st of January, 1800)[6] and
Beaumarchais the first poet in Paris (to a person entering the city from
the Porte St. Antoine).[7] The remaining five parts were "doubled." That
of the "Admiral" was taken by Mr. Peter Rymon, and Matthew Lock, the
future composer of the music to _Macbeth_; that of "Mustapha," by Mr.
Thomas Blagrave, and Henry Purcell, the father of the composer of _King
Arthur_, and himself an accomplished musician. The vocal music of the
first and fifth "entries" or acts, was composed by Henry Lawes; that of
the second and third, by Captain Henry Cook, afterwards master of the
children of the Chapel Royal; that of the fourth, by Lock. The
instrumental music was by Dr. Charles Coleman and George Hudson, and was
performed by an orchestra of six musicians.

The first English opera then was produced, ten years later than the
first French opera; but the _Siege of Rhodes_ was performed publicly,
whereas, it was not until fifteen years afterwards (1671) that the first
public performance of a French opera (Cambert's _Pomone_) took place.
Ordinances for the suppression of stage plays had been in force in
England since 1642, and in 1643, a tract was printed under the title of
_The Actor's Remonstrance_, showing to what distress the musicians of
the theatre had been already reduced. The writer says, "But musike that
was held so delectable and precious that they scorned to come to a
tavern under twenty shillings salary for two hours, now wander with
their instruments under their cloaks (I mean such as have any) to all
houses of good fellowship, saluting every room where there is company
with 'will you have any musike, gentlemen.'" In 1648, moreover, a
provost-marshal was appointed with power to seize upon all ballad
singers, and to suppress stage plays.

Nevertheless, Oliver Cromwell was a great lover of music. He is said to
have "entertained the most skilful in that science in his pay and
family;" and it is known that he engaged Hingston, a celebrated
musician, formerly in the service of Charles, at a salary of one hundred
a-year--the Hingston, at whose house Sir Roger l'Estrange was playing,
and continued to play when Oliver entered the room, which gained for
this _virtuoso_ the title of "Oliver's fiddler." Antony à Wood, also
tells a story of Cromwell's love of music. James Quin, one of the senior
students of Christ Church, with a bass voice, "very strong and exceeding
trouling," had been turned out of his place by the visitors, but, "being
well acquainted with some great men of those times that loved music,
they introduced him into the company of Oliver Cromwell, the Protector,
who loved a good voice and instrumental music well. He heard him sing
with great delight, liquored him with sack, and in conclusion, said,
'Mr. Quin, you have done well, what shall I do for you?' To which Quin
made answer, 'That your highness would be pleased to restore me to my
student's place,' which he did accordingly." But the best proof that can
be given of Oliver Cromwell's love for music is the simple fact that,
under his government, and with his special permission, the Opera was
founded in this country.


We have seen that in Charles II's reign, the court reserved its
patronage almost exclusively for French music, or music in the French
style. When Cambert arrived in London, our Great Purcell (born, 1659)
was still a child. He produced his first opera, _Dido and Æneas_, the
year of Cambert's death (1677); but, although, in the meanwhile, he
wrote a quantity of vocal and instrumental music of all kinds, and
especially for the stage, it was not until after the death of Charles
that he associated himself with Dryden in the production of those
musical dramas (not operas in the proper sense of the word) by which he
is chiefly known.

In 1690, Purcell composed music for _The Tempest_, altered and
shamefully disfigured by Dryden and Davenant.

[Sidenote: PURCELL.]

In 1691, _King Arthur_, which contains Purcell's finest music, was
produced with immense success. The war-song of the Britons, _Come if you
Dare_, and the concluding duet and chorus, _Britons strike Home_, have
survived the rest of the work. The former piece in particular is well
known to concert-goers of the present day, from the excellent singing
of Mr. Sims Reeves. Purcell died at the age of thirty-six, the age at
which Mozart and Raphael were lost to the world, and has not yet found a
successor. He was not only the most original, and the most dramatic, but
also the most thoroughly English of our native composers. In the
dedication of the music of the _Prophetess_ to the Duke of Somerset,
Purcell himself says, "Music is yet but in its nonage, a forward child,
which gives hope of what it may be hereafter in England, when the
masters of it shall find more encouragement. 'Tis now learning Italian,
which is its best master, and studying a little of the French air to
give it somewhat more of gaiety and fashion." Here Purcell spoke in all
modesty, for though his style may have been formed in some measure on
French models, "there is," says Dr. Burney, "a latent power and force in
his expression of English words, whatever be the subject, that will make
an unprejudiced native of this island feel more than all the elegance,
grace and refinement of modern music, less happily applied, can do; and
this pleasure is communicated to us, not by the symmetry or rhythm of
modern melody, but by his having tuned to the true accents of our mother
tongue, those notes of passion which an inhabitant of this island would
breathe in such situations as the words describe. And these indigenous
expressions of passion Purcell had the power to enforce by the energy of
modulation, which, on some occasions, was bold, affecting and sublime.
Handel," he adds, "who flourished in a less barbarous age for his art,
has been acknowledged Purcell's superior in many particulars; but in
none more than the art and grandeur of his choruses, the harmony and
texture of his organ fugues, as well as his great style of concertos;
the ingenuity of his accompaniments to his songs and choruses; and even
in the general melody of the airs themselves; yet, in the accent,
passion and expression of _English words_, the vocal music of Purcell
is, sometimes, to my feelings, as superior to Handel's as an original
poem to a translation."



     Opera admired for its unintelligibility.--The use of words in
     opera.--An inquisitive amateur.--New version of a chorus in Robert
     le Diable.--Strange readings of the _Credo_ by two chapel
     masters.--Dramatic situations and effects peculiar to the
     Opera.--Pleasantries directed against the Opera; their antiquity
     and harmlessness.--_Les Opéras_ by St. Evrémond.--Beaumarchais's
     _mot_.--Addison on the Italian Opera in England.--Swift's
     epigram.--Béranger on the decline of the drama.--What may be seen
     at the Opera.


When Sir William Davenant obtained permission from Cromwell to open his
theatre for the performance of operas, Antony à Wood wrote that, "Though
Oliver Cromwell had now prohibited all other theatrical representations,
he allowed of this because being in an unknown language it could not
corrupt the morals of the people." Thereupon it has been imagined that
Antony à Wood must have supposed Sir William Davenant's performances to
have been in the Italian tongue, as if he could not have regarded music
as an unknown language, and have concluded that a drama conducted in
music would for that reason be unintelligible. Nevertheless, in the
present day we have a censor who refuses to permit the representation
of _La Dame aux Camélias_ in English, or even in French,[8] but who
tolerates the performance of _La Traviata_, (which, I need hardly say,
is the _Dame aux Camélias_ set to music) in Italian, and, I believe,
even in English; thinking, no doubt, like Antony à Wood, that in an
operatic form it cannot be understood, and therefore cannot corrupt the
morals of the people. Since Antony à Wood's time a good deal of stupid,
unmeaning verse has been written in operas, and sometimes when the words
have not been of themselves unintelligible, they have been rendered
nearly so by the manner in which they have been set to music, to say
nothing of the final obscurity given to them by the imperfect
enunciation of the singers. The mere fact, however, of a dramatic piece
being performed in music does not make it unintelligible, but, on the
contrary, increases the sphere of its intelligibility, giving it a more
universal interest and rendering it an entertainment appreciable by
persons of all countries. This in itself is not much to boast of, for
the entertainment of the _ballet_ is independent of language to a still
greater extent; and _La Gitana_ or _Esmeralda_ can be as well understood
by an Englishman at the Opera House of Berlin or of Moscow as at Her
Majesty's Theatre in London; while perhaps the most universally
intelligible drama ever performed is that of Punch, even when the brief
dialogue which adorns its pantomime is inaudible.

Opera is _music in a dramatic form_; and people go to the theatre and
listen to it as if it were so much prose. They have even been known to
complain during or after the performance that they could not hear the
words, as if it were through the mere logical meaning of the words that
the composer proposed to excite the emotion of the audience. The only
pity is that it is necessary in an opera to have words at all, but it is
evident that a singer could not enter into the spirit of a dramatic
situation if he had a mere string of meaningless syllables or any sort
of inappropriate nonsense to utter. He must first produce an illusion on
himself, or he will produce none on the audience, and he must,
therefore, fully inspire himself with the sentiment, logical as well as
musical, of what he has to sing. Otherwise, all we want to know about
the words of _Casta diva_ (to take examples from the most popular, as
also one of the very finest of Italian operas) is that it is a prayer to
a goddess; of the Druids' chorus, that it is chorus of Druids; of the
trio, that "Norma" having confronted "Pollio" with "Adalgisa," is
reproaching him indignantly and passionately with his perfidy; of the
duet that "Norma" is confiding her children to "Adalgisa's" care; of the
scene with "Pollio," that "Norma" is again reproaching him, but in a
different spirit, with sadness and bitterness, and with the compressed
sorrow of a woman who is wounded to the heart and must soon die. I may
be in error, however, for though I have seen _Norma_ fifty times, I have
never examined the _libretto_, and of the whole piece know scarcely more
than the two words which I have already paraded before the
public--"_Casta Diva._"


One night, at the Royal Italian Opera, when Mario was playing the part
of the "Duke of Mantua" in _Rigoletto_, and was singing the commencement
of the duet with "Gilda," a man dressed in black and white like every
one else, said to me gravely, "I do not understand Italian. Can you tell
me what he is saying to her?"

"He is telling her that he loves her," I answered briefly.

"What is he saying now?" asked this inquisitive amateur two minutes

"He is telling her that he loves her," I repeated.

"Why, he said that before!" objected this person who had apparently come
to the opera with the view of gaining some kind of valuable information
from the performers. Poor Bosio was the "Gilda," but my horny-eared
neighbour wondered none the less that the Duke could not say "I love
you," in three words.

"He will say it again," I answered, "and then she will say it, and then
they will say it together; indeed, they will say nothing else for the
next five minutes, and when you hear them exclaim 'addio' with one
voice, and go on repeating it, it will still mean the same thing."

What benighted amateur was this who wanted to know the words of a
beautiful duet; and is there much difference between such a one and the
man who would look at the texture of a canvas to see what the painting
on it was worth?

Let it be admitted that as a rule no opera is intelligible without a
libretto; but is a drama always intelligible without a play-bill? A
libretto, for general use, need really be no larger than an ordinary
programme; and it would be a positive advantage if it contained merely a
sketch of the plot with the subject, and perhaps the first line of all
the principal songs.


Then the foolish amateur would not run the risk of having his attention
diverted from the music by the words, and would be more likely to give
himself up to the enjoyment of the opera in a rational and legitimate
manner. Another advantage of keeping the words from the public would be,
that composers, full of the grossest prose, but priding themselves on
their fancy, would at last see the inutility as well as the pettiness of
picking out one particular word in a line, and "illustrating" it: thus
imitating a sound when their aim should be to depict a sentiment. Even
the illustrious Purcell has sinned in this respect, and Meyerbeer,
innumerable times, though always displaying remarkable ingenuity, and as
much good taste as is compatible with an error against both taste and
reason. It is a pity that great musicians should descend to such
anti-poetical, and, indeed, nonsensical trivialities; but when inferior
ones are unable to let a singer wish she were a bird, without imitating
a bird's chirruping on the piccolo, or allude in the most distant manner
to the trumpet's sound, without taking it as a hint to introduce a short
flourish on that instrument, I cannot help thinking of those
literal-minded pictorial illustrators who follow a precisely analogous
process, and who, for example, in picturing the scene in which "Macbeth"
exclaims--"Throw physic to the dogs," would represent a man throwing
bottles of medicine to a pack of hounds. What a treat, by the way, it
would be to hear a setting of Othello's farewell to war by a determined
composer of imitative picturesque music! How "ear-piercing" would be his
fifes! How "spirit-stirring" his drums.

The words of an opera ought to be good, and yet need not of necessity be
heard. They should be poetical that they may inspire first the composer
and afterwards the singer; and they should be ryhthmical and sonorous in
order that the latter may be able to sing them with due effect. Above
all they ought not to be ridiculous, lest the public should hear them
and laugh at the music, just where it was intended that it should affect
them to tears. Everything ought to be good at the opera down to the
rosin of the fiddlers, and including the words of the libretto. Even the
chorus should have tolerable verses to sing, though no one would be
likely ever to hear them. Indeed, it is said that at the Grand Opera of
Paris, by a tradition now thirty years old, the opening chorus in
_Robert le Diable_ is always sung to those touching lines--which I
confess I never heard on the other side of the orchestra:--

    La sou-| pe aux choux | se fait dans la mar |-mite
    Dans la | marmi-|-te on fait la soupe aux | choux.

I have said nothing about the duty of the composer in selecting his
libretto and setting it to music, but of course if he be a man of taste
he will not willingly accept a collection of nonsense verses. English
composers, however, have not much choice in this respect, and all we can
ask of them is that they will do their best with what they have been
able to obtain; not indulging in too many repetitions, and not tiring
the singer and provoking such of the audience as may wish to "catch" the
words by setting more than half a dozen notes to the same monosyllable
especially if the monosyllable occurs in the middle of a line, and the
vowel e, or worse still, i, in the middle of the monosyllable. One of
our most eminent composers, Mr. Vincent Wallace, has given us a striking
example of the fault I am speaking of in his well-known trio--"Turn on
old Time thy hour-glass" (_Maritana_) in which, according to the music,
the scanning of the first half line is as follows:--

    Tŭrn ōn | ŏld Tī | ĭ-ī || ĭ-ĭ-ĭ--ime | &c.

[Sidenote: WORDS FOR MUSIC.]

To be sure Time is infinite, but seven sounds do not convey the notion
of infinity; and even if they did, it would not be any the more pleasant
for a singer to have to take a five note leap, and then execute five
other notes on a vowel which cannot be uttered without closing the
throat. If I had been in Mr. Vincent Wallace's place, I should, at all
events, have insisted on Mr. Fitzball making one change. Instead of "Old
Time," he should have inserted "Old Parr."

    Tŭrn ōn | ŏld Pā-| ă-ā || ă-ă-ă-arr | &c.,

would not have been more intelligible to the audience than--"Turn on old
Ti-i-i-i-i-i-ime, &c., and it would have been a thousand times easier to
sing. Nor in spite of the little importance I attach to the phraseology
of the libretto when listening to "music in a dramatic form," would I,
if I were a composer, accept such a line as--

    "When the proud land of Poland was ploughed by the hoof,"

with a suspension of sense after the word hoof. No; the librettist might
take his hoof elsewhere. It should not appear in _my_ Opera; at least,
not in lieu of a plough. Mr. Balfe should tell such poets to keep such
ploughs for themselves.

    Sic vos _pro_ vobis fertis aratra boves,

he might say to them.

The singer ought certainly to understand what he is singing, and still
more certainly should the composer understand what he is composing; but
the sight of Latin reminds me that both have sometimes failed to do so,
and from no one's fault but their own. Jomelli used to tell a story of
an Italian chapel-master, who gave to one of his solo singers the phrase
_Genitum non factum_, to which the chorus had to reply _Factum non
genitum_. This transposition seemed ingenious and picturesque to the
composer, and suited a contrast of rhythm which he had taken great pains
to produce. It was probably due only to the bad enunciation of the
choristers that he was not burned alive.

Porpora, too, narrowly escaped the terrors of the inquisition; and but
for his avowed and clearly-proved ignorance of Latin would have made a
bad end of it, for a similar, though not quite so ludicrous a blunder as
the one perpetrated by Jomelli's friend. He had been accustomed to add
_non_ and _si_ to the verses of his libretto when the music required it,
and in setting the creed found it convenient to introduce a _non_. This
novel version of the Belief commenced--_Credo, non credo, non credo in
Deum_, and it was well for Porpora that he was able to convince the
inquisitors of his inability to understand it.


Another chapel-master of more recent times is said, in composing a mass,
to have given a delightfully pastoral character to his "Agnus Dei." To
him "a little learning" had indeed proved "a dangerous thing." He had,
somehow, ascertained that "agnus" meant "lamb," and had forthwith gone
to work with pipe and cornemuse to give appropriate "picturesqueness" to
his accompaniments.

Besides accusations of unintelligibility and of _contra-sense_ (as for
instance when a girl sentenced to death sings in a lively strain), the
Opera has been attacked as essentially absurd, and it is satisfactory to
know that these attacks date from its first introduction into England
and France. To some it appears monstrous that men and women should be
represented on the stage singing, when it is notorious that in actual
life they communicate in the speaking voice. Opera was declared to be
unnatural as compared with drama. In other words, it was thought natural
that Desdemona should express her grief in melodious verse, but
unnatural that she should do so in pure melody. (For the sake of the
comparison I must suppose Rossini's _Otello_ to have been written long
before its time). Persons, with any pretence to reason, have long ceased
to urge such futile objections against a delightful entertainment which,
as I shall endeavour to show, is in some respects the finest form the
drama has assumed. Gresset answered these music-haters well in his
_Discours sur l'harmonie_.--"After all," he says, "if we study nature do
we not find more fidelity to appropriateness at the Opera than on the
tragic stage where the hero speaks the language of declamatory poetry?
Has not harmony always been much better able than simple declamation to
imitate the true tones of the passions, deep sighs, sobs, bursts of
grief, languishing tenderness, interjections of despair, the inflexions
of pathos, and all the energy of the heart?"

For the sake of enjoying the pleasures of music and of the drama in
combination, we must adopt certain conventions, and must assume that
song is the natural language of the men and women that we propose to
show in our operas; as we assume in tragedy that they all talk in verse,
in comedy that they are all witty and yet are perpetually giving one
another opportunities for repartee; in the ballet that they all dance
and are unable to speak at all. The form is nothing. Give us the true
expression of natural emotion and all the rest will seem natural enough.
Only it would be as well to introduce as many dancing characters and
dancing situations as possible in the _ballet_--and to remember in
particular that Roman soldiers could not with propriety figure in one;
for a ballet on the subject of "Les Horaces" was once actually produced
in France, in which the Horatii and the Curiatii danced a double _pas de
trois_; and so in the tragedy the chief passages ought not to be London
coal-heavers or Parisian water-carriers; and similarly in the Opera,
scenes and situations should be avoided which in no way suggest singing.


And let me now inform the ignorant opponents of the Opera, that there
are certain grand dramatic effects attainable on the lyric stage, which,
without the aid of music, could not possibly be produced. Music has
often been defined; here is a new definition of it. It is _the language
of masses_--the only language that masses can speak and be understood.
On the old stage a crowd could not cry "Down with the tyrant!" or "We
will!" or even "Yes," and "No," with any intelligibility. There is some
distance between this state of things and the "Blessing of the daggers"
in the _Huguenots_, or the prayer of the Israelites in _Moses_. On the
old stage we could neither have had the prayer (unless it were recited
by a single voice, which would be worse than nothing) before the
passage, nor the thanksgiving, which, in the Opera, is sung immediately
after the Red Sea has been crossed; but above all we could not obtain
the sublime effect produced by the contrast between the two songs; the
same song, and yet how different! the difference between minor and
major, between a psalm of humble supplication and a hymn of jubilant
gratitude. This is the change of key at which, according to Stendhal,
the women of Rome fainted in such numbers. It cannot be heard without
emotion, even in England, and we do not think any one, even a professed
enemy of Opera, would ask himself during the performance of the prayer
in _Mosé_, whether it was natural or not that the Israelites should sing
either before or after crossing the Red Sea.

Again, how could the animation of the market scene in _Masaniello_ be
rendered so well as by means of music? In concerted pieces, moreover,
the Opera possesses a means of dramatic effect quite as powerful and as
peculiar to itself as its choruses. The finest situation in _Rigoletto_
(to take an example from one of the best known operas of the day) is
that in which the quartet occurs. Here, three persons express
simultaneously the different feelings which are excited in the breast of
each by the presence of a fourth in the house of an assassin, while the
cause of all this emotion is gracefully making love to one of the three,
who is the assassin's sister. The amorous fervour of the "Duke," the
careless gaiety of "Maddalena," the despair of "Gilda," the vengeful
rage of "Rigoletto," are all told most dramatically in the combined
songs of the four personages named, while the spectator derives an
additional pleasure from the art by which these four different songs are
blended into harmony. A magnificent quartet, of which, however, the
model existed long before in _Don Giovanni_.

All this is, of course, very unnatural. It would be so much more natural
that the "Duke of Mantua" should first make a long speech to
"Maddalena;" that "Maddalena" should then answer him; that afterwards
both should remain silent while "Gilda," of whose presence outside the
tavern they are unaware, sobs forth her lamentations at the perfidy of
her betrayer; and that finally the "Duke," "Maddalena," and "Gilda," by
some inexplicable agreement, should not say a word while "Rigoletto" is
congratulating himself on the prospect of being speedily revenged on the
libertine who has robbed him of his daughter. In the old drama, perfect
sympathy between two lovers can scarcely be expressed (or rather
symbolized) so vividly as through the "_ensemble_" of the duet, where
the two voices are joined so as to form but one harmony. We are
sometimes inclined to think that even the balcony duet between "Romeo"
and "Juliet" ought to be in music; and certainly no living dramatist
could render the duet in music between "Valentine and Raoul" adequately
into either prose or verse. Talk of music destroying the drama,--why it
is from love of the drama that so many persons go to the opera every


But is it not absurd to hear a man say, "Good morning," "How do you do?"
in music? Most decidedly; and therefore ordinary, common-place, and
trivial remarks should be excluded from operas, as from poetical dramas
and from poetry of all kinds except comic and burlesque verse. It was
not reserved for the unmusical critics of the present day to discover
that it would be grotesque to utter such a phrase as "Give me my boots,"
in recitative, and that such a line as "Waiter, a cutlet nicely
browned," could not be advantageously set to music. All this sort of
humour was exhausted long ago by Hauteroche, in his _Crispin Musicien_,
which was brought out in Paris three years after the establishment of
the Académie Royale de Musique, and revived in the time of Rameau (1735)
by Palaprat, in his _Concert Ridicule_ and _Ballet Extravagant_
(1689-90), of which the author afterwards said that they were "the
source of all the badinage that had since been applauded in more than
twenty comedies; that is to say, the interminable pleasantries on the
subject of the Opera;" and by St. Evrémond, in his comedy entitled _Les
Opéras_, which he wrote during his residence in London.

In St. Evrémond's piece, which was published but not played,
"Chrisotine" is, so to speak, opera-struck. She thinks of nothing but
Lulli, or "Baptiste," as she affectionately calls him, after the manner
of Louis XVI. and his Court; sings all day long, and in fact has
altogether abandoned speech for song. "Perrette," the servant, tells
"Chrisotine" that her father wishes to see her. "Why disturb me at my
songs," replies the young lady, singing all the time. The attendant
complains to the father, that "Chrisotine" will not answer her in
ordinary spoken language, and that she sings about the house all day
long. "Chrisotine" corroborates "Perrette's" statement, by addressing a
little _cavatina_ to her parent, in which she protests against the
harshness of those who would hinder her from singing the tender loves of
"Hermione" and "Cadmus."

"Speak like other people, Chrisotine," exclaims old "Chrisard," or I
will issue such an edict against operas that they shall never be spoken
of again where I have any authority."

"My father, Baptiste; opera, my duty to my parents; how am I to decide
between you?" exclaims the young girl, with a tragic indecision as
painful as that of Arnold, the son of Tell, hesitating between his
Matilda and his native land.


"You hesitate between Baptiste and your father," cries the old
gentleman. "_O tempora! O mores!_" (only in French).

"Tender mother! Cruel father! and you, O Cadmus! Unhappy Cadmus! I shall
see you no more," sings "Chrisotine;" and soon afterwards she adds,
still singing, that she "would rather die than speak like the vulgar. It
is a new fashion at the court (she continues), and since the last opera
no one speaks otherwise than in song. When one gentleman meets another
in the morning, it would be grossly impolite not to sing to
him:--'_Monsieur comment vous portez vous?_' to which the other would
reply--'_Je me porte à votre service._'

"FIRST GENTLEMAN.--'_Après diner, que ferons nous?_'

"SECOND GENTLEMAN.--'_Allons voir la belle Clarisse._'

"The most ordinary things are sung in this manner, and in polite society
people don't know what it means to speak otherwise than in music."

_Chrisard._--"Do people of quality sing when they are with ladies?"

_Chrisotine._--"Sing! sing! I should like to see a man of the world
endeavour to entertain company with mere talk in the old style. He would
be looked upon as one of a by-gone period. The servants would laugh at

_Chrisard._--"And in the town?"

_Chrisotine._--"All persons of any importance imitate the court. It is
only in the Rue St. Denis and St. Honoré and on the Bridge of Notre
Dame that the old custom is still kept up. There people buy and sell
without singing. But at Gauthier's, at the Orangery; at all the shops
where the ladies of the court buy dresses, ornaments and jewels, all
business is carried on in music, and if the dealers did not sing their
goods would be confiscated. People say that a severe edict has been
issued to that effect. They appoint no Provost of Trade now unless he is
a musician, and until M. Lulli has examined him to see whether he is
capable of understanding and enforcing the rules of harmony."

       *       *       *       *       *

The above scene, be it observed, is not the work of an ignorant
detractor of opera, of a brute insensible to the charms of music, but is
the production of St. Evrémond, one of the very first men, on our side
of the Alps, who called attention to the beauties of the new musical
drama, just established in Italy, and which, when he first wrote on the
subject, had not yet been introduced into France. St. Evrémond had too
much sense to decry the Opera on account of such improbabilities as must
inevitably belong to every form of the drama--which is the expression of
life, but which need not for that reason be restricted exclusively to
the language of speech, any more than tragedy need be confined to the
diction of prose, or comedy to the inane platitudes of ordinary
conversation. At all events, there is no novelty, and above all no wit,
in repeating seriously the pleasantries of St. Evrémond, which, we
repeat, were those of a man who really loved the object of his
good-natured and agreeable raillery.


Indeed, most of the men who have written things against the Opera that
are still remembered have liked the Opera, and have even been the
authors of operas themselves. "_Aujourd'hui ce qui ne vaut pas la peine
d'être dit on le chante_," is said by the Figaro of Beaumarchais--of
Beaumarchais, who gave lessons in singing and on the harpsichord to
Louis XV.'s daughters, who was an enthusiastic admirer of Gluck's
operas, and who wrote specially for that composer the libretto of
_Tarare_, which, however, was not set to music by him, but by Salieri,
Gluck's favourite pupil. Beaumarchais knew well enough--and _Tarare_ in
a negative manner proves it--that not only "what is not worth the
trouble of saying" cannot be sung, but that very often such trivialities
as can with propriety be spoken in a drama would, set to music, produce
a ludicrous effect. Witness the lines in St. Evrémond's _Les Opéras_--

    "_Monsieur comment vous portez vous?_"
    "_Je me porte à votre service_"--

which might form part of a comedy, but which in an opera would be
absurd, and would therefore not be introduced into one, except by a
foolish librettist, (who would for a certainty get hissed), or by a wit
like St. Evrémond, wishing to amuse himself by exaggerating to a
ridiculous point the latest fashionable mania of the day.

Addison's admirably humorous articles on Italian Opera in the
_Spectator_ are often spoken of by musicians as ill-natured and unjust,
and are ascribed--unjustly and even meanly, as it seems to me--to the
author's annoyance at the failure of his _Rosamond_, which had been set
to music by an incapable person named Clayton. Addison could afford to
laugh at the ill-success of his _Rosamond_, as La Fontaine laughed at
that of _Astrée_; and to assert that his excellent pleasantries on the
subject of Italian Opera, then newly established in London, had for
their origin the base motives usually imputed to him by musicians, is to
give any one the right to say of _them_ that this one abuses modern
Italian music, which the public applaud, because his own English music
has never been tolerated or that that one expresses the highest opinion
of English composers because he himself composes and is an Englishman.
To impute such motives would be to assume, as is assumed in the case of
Addison, that no one blames except in revenge for some personal loss, or
praises except in the hope of some personal gain. And after all, what
_has_ Addison said against the Opera, an entertainment which he
certainly enjoyed, or he would not have attended it so often or have
devoted so many excellent papers to it? Let us turn to the _Spectator_
and see.


Italian Opera was introduced into England at the beginning of the 18th
century, the first work performed entirely in the Italian language being
_Almahide_, of which the music is attributed to Buononcini, and which
was produced in 1710, with Valentini, Nicolini, Margarita de l'Epine,
Cassani and "Signora Isabella," in the principal parts. Previously, for
about three years, it had been the custom for Italian and English
vocalists to sing each in their own language. "The king,[9] or hero of
the play," says Addison, "generally spoke in Italian, and his slaves
answered him in English; the lover frequently made his court, and gained
the heart of his princess in a language which she did not understand.
One would have thought it very difficult to have carried on dialogues in
this manner without an interpreter between the persons that conversed
together; but this was the state of the English stage for about three

"At length, the audience got tired of understanding half the opera, and,
therefore, to ease themselves entirely of the fatigue of thinking, have
so ordered it at present, that the whole opera is performed in an
unknown tongue. We no longer understand the language of our own stage,
insomuch, that I have often been afraid, when I have seen our Italian
performers chattering in the vehemence of action, that they have been
calling us names and abusing us among themselves; but I hope, since we
do put such entire confidence in them, they will not talk against us
before our faces, though they may do it with the same safety as if it
were behind our backs. In the meantime, I cannot forbear thinking how
naturally an historian who writes two or three hundred years hence, and
does not know the taste of his wise forefathers, will make the following
reflection:--In the beginning of the 18th century, the Italian tongue
was so well understood in England, that operas were acted on the public
stage in that language.

"One scarce knows how to be serious in the confutation of an absurdity
that shows itself at the first sight. It does not want any great measure
of sense to see the ridicule of this monstrous practice; but what makes
it the more astonishing, it is not the taste of the rabble, but of
persons of the greatest politeness, which has established it.

"If the Italians have a genius for music above the English, the English
have a genius for other performances of a much higher nature, and
capable of giving the mind a much nobler entertainment. Would one think
it was possible (at a time when an author lived that was able to write
the _Phedra and Hippolitus_) for a people to be so stupidly fond of the
Italian opera as scarce to give a third day's hearing to that admirable
tragedy? Music is, certainly, a very agreeable entertainment; but if it
would take entire possession of our ears, if it would make us incapable
of hearing sense, if it would exclude arts that have much greater
tendency to the refinement of human nature, I must confess I would allow
it no better quarter than Plato has done, who banishes it out of his


"At present, our notions of music are so very uncertain, that we do not
know what it is we like; only, in general, we are transported with
anything that is not English; so it be of foreign growth, let it be
Italian, French, or High Dutch, it is the same thing. In short, our
English music is quite rooted out, and nothing yet planted in its

The _Spectator_ was written from day to day, and was certainly not
intended for _our_ entertainment; yet, who can fail to be amused at the
description of the stage king "who spoke in Italian and his slaves
answered him in English;" and of the lover who "frequently made his
court and gained the heart of his princess in a language which she did
not understand?" What, too, in this style of humour, can be better than
the notion of the audience getting tired of understanding half the
opera, and, to ease themselves of the trouble of thinking, so ordering
it that the whole opera is performed in an unknown tongue; or of the
performers who, for all the audience knew to the contrary, might be
calling them names and abusing them among themselves; or of the probable
reflection of the future historian, that "in the beginning of the 18th
century the Italian tongue was so well understood in England that operas
were acted on the public stage in that language?" On the other hand, we
have not, it is true, heard yet of any historian publishing the remark
suggested by Addison; probably, because those historians who go to the
opera--and who does not?--are quite aware that to understand an Italian
opera, it is not at all necessary to have a knowledge of the Italian
language. The Italian singers might abuse us at their ease, especially
in concerted pieces, and in grand finales; but they might in the same
way, and equally, without fear of detection, abuse their own countrymen.
Our English vocalists, too, might indulge in the same gratification in
England, and have I not mentioned that at the Grand Opera of Paris--

    '_La soupe aux choux se fait dans la marmite._'

has been sung in place of Scribe's words in the opening chorus of
_Robert le Diable_; and if _La soupe_, &c., why not anything else? But
it is a great mistake to inquire too closely into the foundation on
which a joke stands, when the joke itself is good; and I am almost
ashamed, as it is, of having said so much on the subject of Addison's
pleasantries, when the pleasantries spoke so well for themselves. One
might almost as well write an essay to prove seriously that language was
_not_ given to man "to conceal his thoughts."

[Sidenote: MUSIC AS AN ART.]

The only portion of the paper from which I have extracted the above
observations that can be treated in perfect seriousness, is that which
begins--"If the Italians have a genius for music, &c.," and ends--"I
would allow it no better quarter than Plato has done," &c. Now the
recent political condition of Italy sufficiently proves that music could
not save a country from national degradation; but neither could painting
nor an admirable poetic literature. It is also better, no doubt, that a
man should learn his duty to God and to his neighbour, than that he
should cultivate a taste for harmony, but why not do both; and above
all, why compare like with unlike? The "performances of a much higher
nature" than music undeniably exist, but they do not answer the same
end. The more general science on which that of astronomy rests may be a
nobler study than music, but there is nothing consoling or _per se_
elevating in mathematics. Poetry, again, would by most persons be
classed higher than music, though the effect of half poetry, and of
imaginative literature generally, is to place the reader in a state of
reverie such as music induces more immediately and more perfectly. The
enjoyment of art--by which we do not mean its production, or its
critical examination, but the pure enjoyment of the artistic result--has
nothing strictly intellectual in it; no man could grow wise by looking
at Raphael or listening to Mozart. Nor does he derive any important
intellectual ideas from many of our most beautiful poems, but simply
emotion, of an elevated kind, such as is given by fine music. Music is
evidently not didactic, and painting can only teach, in the ordinary
sense of the word, what every one already knows; though, of course, a
painter may depict certain aspects of nature and of the human face,
previously unobserved and unimagined, just as the composer, in giving a
musical expression to certain sentiments and passions, can rouse in us
emotions previously dormant, or never experienced before with so much
intensity. But the fine arts cannot communicate abstract truths--from
which it chiefly follows that no right-minded artist ever uses them with
such an aim; though there is no saying what some wild enthusiasts will
not endeavour to express, and other enthusiasts equally wild pretend to
see, in symphonies and in big symbolical pictures. If Addison meant to
insinuate that _Phædra and Hippolytus_ was a much higher performance
than any possible opera, he was decidedly in error. But he had not heard
_Don Juan_, _William Tell_, and _Der Freischütz_; to which no one in the
present day, unless musically deaf, could prefer an English translation
of _Phèdre_. It would be unfair to lay too much stress on the fact that
the music of Handel still lives, and with no declining life, whereas the
tragedies of Racine, resuscitated by Mademoiselle Rachel, have not been
heard of since the death of that admirable actress; Addison was only
acquainted with the earliest of Handel's operas, and these _are_
forgotten, as indeed are most of his others, with the exception, here
and there, of a few detached airs.

[Sidenote: OPERA AND DRAMA.]

In the sentence commencing "Music is certainly a very agreeable
entertainment, but," &c., Addison says what every one, who would care to
see one of Shakespeare's plays properly acted (not much cared for,
however, in Addison's time), must feel now. Let us have perfect
representations of Opera by all means; but it is a sad and a disgraceful
thing, that in his own native country the works of the greatest
dramatist who ever lived should be utterly neglected as far as their
stage representation is concerned. It is absurd to pretend that the
Opera is the sole cause of this. Operas, magnificently put upon the
stage, are played in England, at least at one theatre, with remarkable
_completeness_ of excellence, and, at more than one, with admirable
singers in the principal and even in the minor parts. Shakespeare's
dramas, when they are played at all, are thrown on to the stage anyhow.
This would not matter so much, but our players, even in _Hamlet_, where
they are especially cautioned against it, have neither the sense nor the
good taste to avoid exaggeration and rant, to which, they maintain, the
public are now so accustomed, that a tragedian acting naturally would
make no impression. Their conventionality, moreover, makes them keep to
certain stage "traditions," which are frequently absurd, while their
vanity is so egregious that one who imagines himself a first-rate actor
(in a day when there are no first-rate actors) will not take what he is
pleased to consider a second-rate part. Our stage has no tragedian who
could embody the jealousy of "Otello," as Ronconi embodies that of
"Chevreuse" in _Maria di Rohan_, nor could half a dozen actors of equal
reputation be persuaded in any piece to appear in half a dozen parts of
various degrees of prominence, though this is what constantly takes
place at the Opera.

In Addison's time, Nicolini was a far greater actor than any who was in
the habit of appearing on the English stage; indeed, this alone can
account for the success of the ridiculous opera of _Hydaspes_, in which
Nicolini played the principal part, and of which I shall give some
account in the proper place. Doubtless also, it had much to do with the
success of Italian Opera generally, which, when Addison commenced
writing about it in the _Spectator_, was supported by no great composer,
and was constructed on such frameworks as one would imagine could only
have been imagined by a lunatic or by a pantomime writer struck serious.
If Addison had not been fond of music, and moreover a very just critic,
he would have dismissed the Italian Opera, such as it existed during the
first days of the _Spectator_, as a hopeless mass of absurdity.


Every one must in particular admit the justness of Addison's views
respecting the incongruity of operatic scenery; indeed, his observations
on that subject might with advantage be republished now and then in the
present day. "What a field of raillery," he says, "would they [the wits
of King Charles's time] have been let into had they been entertained
with painted dragons spitting wildfire, enchanted chariots drawn by
Flanders mares, and real cascades in artificial landscapes! A little
skill in criticism would inform us, that shadows and realities ought not
to be mixed together in the same piece; and that the scenes which are
designed as the representations of nature should be filled with
resemblances, and not with the things themselves. If one would represent
a wide champaign country, filled with herds and flocks, it would be
ridiculous to draw the country only upon the scenes, and to crowd
several parts of the stage with sheep and oxen. This is joining together
inconsistencies, and making the decoration partly real and partly
imaginary. I would recommend what I have here said to the directors as
well as the admirers, of our modern opera."

In the matter of stage decoration we have "learned nothing and forgotten
nothing" since the beginning of the 18th century. Servandoni, at the
theatre of the Tuileries, which contained some seven thousand persons,
introduced as elaborate and successful mechanical devices as any that
have been known since his time; but then as now the real and artificial
were mixed together, by which the general picture is necessarily
rendered absurd, or rather no general picture is produced. Independently
of the fact that the reality of the natural objects makes the
artificiality of the manufactured ones unnecessarily evident as when the
branches of real trees are agitated by a gust of wind, while those of
pasteboard trees remain fixed--it is difficult in making use of natural
objects on the stage to observe with any accuracy the laws of proportion
and perspective, so that to the eye the realities of which the manager
is so proud, are, after all, strikingly unreal. The peculiar conditions
too, under which theatrical scenery is viewed, should always be taken
into account. Thus, "real water," which used at one time to be announced
as such a great attraction at some of our minor playhouses, does not
look like water on the stage, but has a dull, black, inky, appearance,
quite sufficient to render it improbable that any despondent heroine,
whatever her misfortune, would consent to drown herself in it.

The most contemptuous thing ever written against the Opera, or rather
against music in general, is Swift's celebrated epigram on the Handel
and Buononcini disputes:--

    "Some say that Signor Buononcini
     Compared to Handel is a ninny;
     While others say that to him, Handel
     Is hardly fit to hold a candle.
     Strange that such difference should be,
     'Twixt Tweedledum and Tweedledee."

Capital, telling lines, no doubt, though is it not equally strange that
there should be such a difference between one piece of painted canvas
and another, or between a statue by Michael Angelo and the figure of a
Scotchman outside a tobacconist's shop? These differences exist, and it
proves nothing against art that savages and certain exceptional natures
among civilized men are unable to perceive them. We wonder how the Dean
of St. Patrick's would have got on with the Abbé Arnauld, who was so
impressed with the sublimity of one of the pieces in Gluck's
_Iphigénie_, that he exclaimed, "With that air one might found a new


One of the wittiest poems written against our modern love of music
(cultivated, it must be admitted, to a painful extent by many incapable
amateurs) is the lament by Béranger, in which the poet, after
complaining that the convivial song is despised as not sufficiently
artistic, and that in the presence of the opera the drama itself is fast
disappearing, exclaims:

    Si nous t'enterrons
      Bel art dramatique,
    Pour toi nous dirons
      La messe en musique.

Without falling into the same error as those who have accused Addison of
a selfish and interested animosity towards the Opera, I may remark that
song-writers have often very little sympathy for any kind of music
except that which can be easily subjected to words, as in narrative
ballads, and to a certain extent ballads of all kinds. When a man says
"I don't care much for music, but I like a good song," we may generally
infer that he does not care for music at all. So play-wrights have a
liking for music when it can be introduced as an ornament into their
pieces, but not when it is made the most important element in the
drama--indeed, the drama itself.

Favart, the author of numerous opera-books, has left a good satirical
description in verse of French opera. It ends as follows:--

      Quiconque voudra
      Faire un opéra,
      Emprunte à Pluton,
      Son peuple démon;
      Qu'il tire des cieux
      Un couple de dieux,
      Qu'il y joigne un héros
      Tendre jusqu' aux os.
      Lardez votre sujet,
      D'un éternel ballet.
    Amenez au milieu d'une fête
        La tempête,
        Une bête,
      Que quelqu'un tûra
      Dès qu'il la verra.
      Quiconque voudra faire un opéra
      Fuira de la raison
      Le triste poison.
      Il fera chanter
      Concerter et sauter
      Et puis le reste ira,
      Tout comme il pourra.


This, from a man whose operas did not fail, but on the contrary, were
highly successful, is rather too bad. But the author of the ill-fated
"Rosamond" himself visited the French Opera, and has left an account of
it, which corresponds closely enough to Favart's poetical description.
"I have seen a couple of rivers," he says, (No. 29 of the _Spectator_)
"appear in red stockings, and Alpheus, instead of having his head
covered with sedge and bulrushes, making love in a fair, full-bottomed,
periwig, and a plume of feathers, but with a voice so full of shakes and
quavers that I should have thought the murmurs of a country brook the
much more agreeable music. I remember the last opera I saw in that merry
nation was the "Rape of Proserpine," where Pluto, to make the more
tempting figure, puts himself in a French equipage, and brings
Ascalaphus along with him as his _valet de chambre_." This is what we
call folly and impertinence, but what the French look upon as gay and

Addison's account agrees with Favart's song and also with one by Panard,
which contains this stanza:--

    "J'ai vu le soleil et la lune
     Qui faissient des discours en l'air
     _J'ai vu le terrible Neptune_
     _Sortir tout frisé de la mer_."

Panard's song, which occurs at the end of a vaudeville produced in 1733,
entitled _Le départ de l'Opéra_, refers to scenes behind as well as
before the curtain. It could not be translated with any effect, but I
may offer the reader the following modernized imitation of it, and so
conclude the present chapter.


    I've seen Semiramis, the queen;
      I've seen the Mysteries of Isis;
    A lady full of health I've seen
      Die in her dressing-gown, of phthisis.

    I've seen a wretched lover sigh,
      "_Fra poco_" he a corpse would be,
    Transfix himself, and then--not die,
      But coolly sing an air in D.

    I've seen a father lose his child,
      Nor seek the robbers' flight to stay;
    But, in a voice extremely mild,
      Kneel down upon the stage and pray.

    I've seen "Otello" stab his wife;
      The "Count di Luna" fight his brother;
    "Lucrezia" take her own son's life;
      And "John of Leyden" cut his mother.

    I've seen a churchyard yield its dead,
      And lifeless nuns in life rejoice;
    I've seen a statue bow its head,
      And listened to its trombone voice.

    I've seen a herald sound alarms,
      Without evincing any fright:
    Have seen an army cry "To arms"
      For half an hour, and never fight.

    I've seen a naiad drinking beer;
      I've seen a goddess fined a crown;
    And pirate bands, who knew no fear,
      By the stage manager put down;

    Seen angels in an awful rage,
      And slaves receive more court than queens,
    And huntresses upon the stage
      Themselves pursued behind the scenes.

    I've seen a maid despond in A,
      Fly the perfidious one in B,
    Come back to see her wedding day,
      And perish in a minor key.

    I've seen the realm of bliss eternal,
      (The songs accompanied by harps);
    I've seen the land of pains infernal,
      With demons shouting in six sharps!




     The Ballets of Versailles.--Louis XIV. astonished at his own
     importance.--Louis retires from the stage; congratulations
     addressed to him on the subject; he re-appears.--Privileges of
     Opera dancers and singers.--Manners and customs of the Parisian
     public.--The Opera under the regency.--Four ways of presenting a
     petition.--Law and the financial scheme.--Charon and paper
     money.--The Duke of Orleans as a composer.--An orchestra in a court
     of justice.--Handel in Paris.--Madame Sallé; her reform in the
     Ballet, and her first appearance in London.

[Sidenote: A CORPS OF NOBLES.]

After the Opera comes the Ballet. Indeed, the two are so intimately
mixed together that it would be impossible in giving the history of the
one to omit all mention of the other. The Ballet, as the name
sufficiently denotes, comes to us from the French, and in the sense of
an entertainment exclusively in dancing, dates from the foundation of
the Académie Royale de Musique, or soon afterwards. During the first
half of the 17th century, and even earlier, ballets were performed at
the French court, under the direction of an Italian, who, abandoning his
real name of Baltasarini, had adopted that of Beaujoyeux. He it was who
in 1581 produced the "_Ballet Comique de la Royne_," to celebrate the
marriage of the Duc de Joyeuse. This piece, which was magnificently
appointed, and of which the representation is said to have cost
3,600,000 francs, was an entertainment consisting of songs, dances, and
spoken dialogue, and appears to have been the model of the masques which
were afterwards until the middle of the 17th century represented in
England, and of most of the ballets performed in France until about the
same period. There were dancers engaged at the French Opera from its
very commencement, but it was difficult to obtain them in any numbers,
and, worst of all, there were no female dancers to be found. The company
of vocalists could easily be recruited from the numerous cathedral
choirs; for the Ballet there were only the dancing-masters of the
capital to select from, the profession of dancing-mistress not having
yet been invented. Nymphs, dryads, and shepherdesses were for some time
represented by young boys, who, like the fauns, satyrs, and all the rest
of the dancing troop wore masks. At last, however, in 1681, Terpsichore
was worthily represented by dancers of her own sex, and an aristocratic
corps de ballet was formed, with Madame la Dauphine, the Princess de
Conti, and Mdlle. de Nantes as principal dancers, supported by the
Dauphin, the Prince de Conti and the Duke de Vermandois. They appeared
in the _Triomphe de l'Amour_, and the astounding exhibition was fully
appreciated. Previously, the ladies of the court, when they appeared in
ballets, had confined themselves to reciting verses, which sometimes,
moreover, were said for them by an orator engaged for the purpose. To
see a court lady dancing on the stage was quite a novelty; hence, no
doubt, the success of that spectacle.


The first celebrated _ballerina_ at the French Opera was Mademoiselle La
Fontaine, styled _la reine de la danse_--a title of which the value was
somewhat diminished by the fact that there were only three other
professional danseuses in Paris. Lulli, however, paid great attention to
the ballet, and under his direction it soon gained importance. To Lulli,
who occasionally officiated as ballet-master, is due the introduction of
rapid style of dancing, which must have contrasted strongly with the
stately solemn steps that were alone in favour at the Court during the
early days of Louis XIV's reign. The minuet-loving Louis had notoriously
an aversion for gay brilliant music. Thus he failed altogether to
appreciate the talent of "little Baptiste" not Lulli, but Anet, a pupil
of Corelli, who is said to have played the sonatas of his master very
gracefully, and with an "agility" which at that time was considered
prodigious. The Great Monarch preferred the heavy monotonous strains of
his own Baptiste, the director of the Opera. It may here be not out of
place to mention that Lulli's introduction of a lively mode of dancing
into France (it was only in his purely operatic music that he was so
lugubriously serious) took place simultaneously with the importation
from England of the country-dance--and corrupted into _contre-danse_,
which is now the French for quadrille. Moreover, when the French took
our country-dance, a name which some etymologists would curiously enough
derive from its meaningless corruption--we adopted their minuet which
was first executed in England by the Marquis de Flamarens, at the Court
of Charles II. The passion of our English noblemen for country-dances is
recorded as follows in the memoirs of the Count de Grammont:--"Russel
was one of the most vigorous dancers in England, I mean for
country-dances (_contre-danses_). He had a collection of two or three
hundred arranged in tables, which he danced from the book; and to prove
that he was not old, he sometimes danced till he was exhausted. His
dancing was a good deal like his clothes; it had been out of fashion
twenty years."

Every one knows that Louis XIV. was a great actor; and even his mother,
Anne of Austria, appeared on the stage at the Court of Madrid to the
astonishment and indignation of the Spaniards, who said that she was
lost for them, and that it was not as Infanta of Spain, but as Queen of
France, that she had performed.

On the occasion of Louis XIV.'s marriage with Marie Therèse, the
celebrated expression _Il n'y plus de Pyrenées_ was illustrated by a
ballet, in which a French nymph and a Spanish nymph sang a duet while
half the dancers were dressed in the French and half in the Spanish

Like other illustrious stars, Louis XIV. took his farewell of the stage
more than once before he finally left it. His Histrionic Majesty was in
the habit both of singing and dancing in the court ballets, and took
great pleasure in reciting such graceful compliments to himself as the

    "Plus brilliant et mieux fait que tous les dieux ensemble
     La terre ni le ciel n'ont rien qui me ressemble."
                          (_Thétis et Pélée._--Benserade. 1654),

       "Il n'est rien de si grand dans toute la nature
        Selon l'âme et le cœur au point où je me vois;
        De la terre et de moi qui prendra la mesure
        Trouvera que la terre est moins grande que moi."
                     (_L'Impatience._--Benserade. 1661).

On the 15th February, 1669, Louis XIV. sustained his favourite character
of the Sun, in _Flora_, the eighteenth ballet in which he had played a
part--and the next day solemnly announced that his dancing days were
over, and that he would exhibit himself no more. The king had not only
given his royal word, but for nine months had kept it, when Racine
produced his _Britannicus_, in which the following lines are spoken by
"Narcisse" in reference to Nero's performances in the amphitheatre.

    Pour toute ambition pour vertu singulière
    Il excelle à conduire un char dans la carrière;
    A disputer des prix indignes des ses mains,
    A se donner lui-même en spectacle aux Romains,
    A venir prodiguer sa voix sur un théâtre
    A réciter des chants qu'il veut qu'on idolâtre;
    Tandis que des soldats, de moments en moments,
    Vont arracher pour lui des applaudissements.


The above lines have often been quoted as an example of virtuous
audacity on the part of Racine, who, however, did not write them until
the monarch who at one time did not hesitate to "_se donner lui même en
spectacle_, &c.," had confessed his fault and vowed never to repeat it;
so that instead of a lofty rebuke, the verses were in fact an indirect
compliment neatly and skilfully conveyed. So far from profiting by
Racine's condemnation of Nero's frivolity and shamelessness, and
retiring conscience-stricken from the stage (of which he had already
taken a theatrical farewell) Louis XIV. reappeared the year afterwards,
in _Les amants magnifiques_, a _Comédie-ballet_, composed by Molière and
himself, in which the king figured and was applauded as author,
ballet-master, dancer, mime, singer, and performer on the flute and
guitar. He had taken lessons on the latter instrument from the
celebrated Francisco Corbetta, who afterwards made a great sensation in
England at the Court of Charles II.

If Louis XIV. did not scruple to assume the part of an actor himself,
neither did he think it unbecoming that his nobles should do the same,
even in presence of the general public and on the stage of the Grand
Opera. "We wish, and it pleases us," he says in the letters patent
granted to the Abbé Perrin, the first director of the Académie Royale de
Musique (1669) "that all gentlemen (_gentilshommes_) and ladies may sing
in the said pieces and representations of our Royal Academy without
being considered for that reason to derogate from their titles of
nobility, or from their privileges, rights and immunities." Among the
nobles who profited by this permission and appeared either as singers,
or as dancers at the Opera, were the Seigneur du Porceau, and Messieurs
de Chasré and Borel de Miracle; and Mesdemoiselles de Castilly, de Saint
Christophe, and de Camargo. Another privilege accorded to the Opera was
of such an infamous nature that were it not for positive proof we could
scarcely believe it to have existed. It had full control, then, over all
persons whose names were once inscribed on its books; and if a young
girl went of her own accord, or was persuaded into presenting herself at
the Opera, or was led away from her parents and her name entered on the
lists by her seducer--then in neither case had her family any further
power over her. _Lettres de cachet_ even were issued, commanding the
persons named therein to join the Opera; and thus the Count de Melun got
possession of both the Camargos. The Duke de Fronsac was enabled to
perpetrate a similar act of villany. He it is who is alluded to in the
following lines by Gilbert:--

    "Qu'on la séduise! Il dit: ses eunuques discrets,
     Philosophes abbés, philosophes valets,
     Intriguent, sèment l'or, trompent les yeux d'un père,
     Elle cède, on l'enlève; en vain gémit sa mère.
    _Echue à l'Opéra par un rapt solennel,_
    _Sa honte la dérobe au pouvoir paternel._"


As for men they were sent to the Opera as they were sent to the
Bastille. Several amateurs, abbés and others, the beauty of whose voices
had been remarked, were arrested by virtue of _lettres de cachet_, and
forced to appear at the Académie Royale de Musique, which had its
conscription like the army and navy. On the other hand, we have seen
that the pupils and associates of the Académie enjoyed certain
privileges, such as freedom from parental restraint and the right of
being immoral; to which was afterwards added that of setting creditors
at defiance. The pensions of singers, dancers, and musicians belonging
to the Opera were exempted from all liability to seizure for debt.

The dramatic ballet, or _ballet d'action_, was invented by the Duchess
du Maine. We soon afterwards imported it into England as, in Opera, we
imported the chorus, which was also a French invention, and one for
which the musical drama can scarcely be too grateful. The dramatic
_ballet_, however, has never been naturalized in this country. It still
crosses over to us occasionally, and when we are tired of it goes back
again to its native land; but even as an exotic, it has never fairly
taken root in English soil.

The Duchess du Maine was celebrated for her _Nuits de Sceaux_, or _Nuits
Blanches_, as they were called, which the nobles of Louis XIV.'s Court
found as delightful as they found Versailles dull. The Duchess used to
get up lotteries among her most favoured guests, in which the prizes
were so many permissions to give a magnificent entertainment. The
letters of the alphabet were placed in a box, and the one who drew O had
to get up an opera; C stood for a comedy; B for a ballet; and so on. The
hostess of Sceaux had not only a passion for theatrical performances,
but also a great love of literature, and the idea occurred to her of
realising on the stage of her own theatre something like one of those
pantomimes of antiquity of which she had read the descriptions with so
much pleasure. Accordingly, she took the fourth act of _Les Horaces_,
had it set to music by Mouret, just as if it were to be sung, and caused
this music to be executed by the orchestra alone, while Balon and
Mademoiselle Prévost, who were celebrated as dancers, but had never
attempted pantomime before, played in dumb show the part of the last
Horatius, and of Camilla, the sister of the Curiatii. The actor and
actress entered completely into the spirit of the new drama, and
performed with such truthfulness and warmth of emotion as to affect the
spectators to tears.

Mouret, the musical director of _Les Nuits Blanches_, composed several
operas and _ballets_ for the Académie; but when the establishment at
Sceaux was broken up, after the discovery of the Spanish conspiracy, in
which the Duchess du Maine was implicated, he considered himself ruined,
went mad and died at Charenton in the lunatic asylum.

       *       *       *       *       *

[Sidenote: THE FREE LIST.]

"Long live the Regent, who would rather go to the Opera than to the
Mass," was the cry when on the death of Louis XIV., the reins of
government were assumed by the Duke of Orleans. At this time the whole
expenses of the Opera, including chorus, ballet, musicians, scene
painters, decorators, &c.--from the prima donna to the
bill-sticker--amounted only to 67,000 francs a year, being considerably
less than half what is given now to a first-rate soprano alone. The
first act of the Regent in connexion with the Opera was to take its
direction out of the hands of musicians, and appoint the Duc d'Antin
manager. The new _impresario_, wishing to reward Thévanard, who was at
that time the best singer in France, offered him the sum of 600 francs.
Thévanard indignantly refused it, saying "that it was a suitable
present, at most, for his valet," upon which d'Antin proposed to
imprison the singer for his insolence, but abstained from doing so, for
fear of irritating the public with whom Thévanard was a prodigious
favourite. He, however, resigned the direction of the Opera, saying that
he "wished to have nothing more to do with such _canaille_."

The next operatic edict of the Regent had reference to the admission of
authors, who hitherto had enjoyed the privilege of free entry to the
pit. In 1718 the Regent raised them to the amphitheatre--not as a mark
of respect, but in order that they might be the more readily detected
and expelled in case of their forming cabals to hiss the productions of
their rivals, which, standing up in the pit in the midst of a dense
crowd, they had been able to do with impunity. Even to the present day,
when authors exchange applause much more freely than hisses, the
regulations of the French theatre do not admit them to the pit, though
they have free access to every other part of the house.

At the commencement of the 18th century, the Opera was the scene of
frequent disturbances. The Count de Talleyrand, MM. de Montmorency,
Gineste, and others, endeavouring to force their way into the theatre
during a rehearsal, were repulsed by the guard, and Gineste killed. The
Abbés Hourlier and Barentin insulted M. Fieubet; they were about to come
to blows when the guard separated them and carried off the obstreperous
ecclesiastics to For l'Evèque, where they were confined for a fortnight.
On their release Hourlier and Barentin, accompanied by a third abbé,
took their places in the balcony over the stage, and began to sing,
louder even than the actors, maintaining, when called to order, that the
Opera was established for no other purpose, and that if they had a right
to sing anywhere, it was at the Académie de Musique.


A balustrade separated the stage balconies from the stage, but continual
attempts were made to get over it, and even to break into the actresses'
dressing rooms, which were guarded by sentinels. At this period about a
third of the _habitués_ used to make their appearance in a state of
intoxication, the example being set by the Regent himself, who could
proceed direct from his residence in the Palais Royal to the Opera,
which adjoined it. To the first of the Regent's masked balls the
Councillor of State, Rouillé, is said to have gone drunk from personal
inclination, and the Duke de Noailles in the same condition, out of
compliment to the administrator of the kingdom.

When Peter the Great visited the French Opera, in 1717, he does not
appear to have been intoxicated, but he went to sleep. When he was asked
whether the performance had wearied him, he is said to have replied,
that on the contrary he liked it to excess, and had gone to sleep from
motives of prudence. This story, however, does not quite accord with the
fact that Peter introduced public theatrical performances into Russia,
and encouraged his nobles to attend them.

Nothing illustrates better the heartless selfishness of Louis XV. than
his conduct, not at the Opera, but at his own theatre in the Louvre,
immediately after the occurrence of a terrible and fatal accident. The
Chevalier de Fénélon, an ensign in the palace guard, in endeavouring to
climb from one box to another, lost his fooling, and fell headlong on to
a spiked balustrade, where he remained transfixed through the neck. The
theatre was stained with blood in a horrible manner, and the unfortunate
chevalier was removed from the balustrade a dead man. Just then, the
Very Christian king made his appearance. He gave the signal for the
performance to commence, and the orchestra struck up as if nothing had

Some idea of the morality of the French stage during the regency and
the reign of Louis XV., may be formed from the fact that, in spite of
the great license accorded to the members of the Académie, or at least,
tolerated and encouraged by the law, it was found absolutely necessary
in 1734 to expel the _prima donna_ Mademoiselle Pélissier, who had
shocked even the management of the Opera. She was, however, received
with open arms in London. Let us not be too hard on our neighbours.

Soon afterwards, Mademoiselle Petit, a dancer, was exiled for negligence
of attire and indiscretion behind the scenes. I must add that this
negligence was extreme. The most curious part of the affair, was that
the Abbé de la Marre, author of several _libretti_, undertook the young
lady's defence, and published a pamphlet in justification of her
conduct, which is to be found among his _Œuvres diverses_.

Another _danseuse_, however, named Mariette, ruled at the Opera like a
little autocrat. "The Princess," as she was named, from the regard the
Prince de Carignan, titular director of the academy, was known to
entertain for her, applied to the actual managers, Lecomte and
Lebœuf, for a payment of salary which she had already received, and
which they naturally refused to give twice. Upon this they were not only
dismissed from their places (which they had purchased) but were exiled
by _lettres de cachet_.


The prodigality of favourite and favoured actresses under the regency
was extreme. The before-mentioned Mademoiselle Pélissier and her friend
Mademoiselle Deschamps, both gluttonous to excess, were noted for their
contempt of all ordinary food, and of everything that happened to be
nearly in season, or at all accessible, not merely to vulgar citizens,
but to the generality of opulent sensualists. It is not said that they
aspired to the dissolution of pearls in their sauces, but if green peas
were served to them when the price of the dish was less than sixty
francs, they sent them away in disdain. Mademoiselle Pélissier was in
the receipt of 4,000 francs (£160) a year from the Opera. Mademoiselle
Deschamps, who was only a figurante, contrived to get on with a salary
of only sixteen pounds. And yet we have seen that they were neither of
them economical.

One of the most facetious members of the Académie under the regency, was
Tribou, a performer, who seems to have been qualified for every branch
of the histrionic profession, and to have possessed a certain literary
talent besides. This humourist had some favour to ask of the Duke of
Orleans. He presented a petition to him, and after the regent had read
it, said gravely--

"If your Highness would like to read it again, here is the same thing in

"Let me see it," said the Duke.

Tribou presented his petition in verse, and afterwards expressed his
readiness to sing it. He sang, and no sooner had he finished, than he

"If _mon Seigneur_ will permit me, I shall be happy to dance it."

"Dance it?" exclaimed the regent; "by all means!"

When Tribou had concluded his _pas_, the duke confessed that he had
never before heard of a petition being either danced or sung, and for
the love of novelty, granted the actor his request.

During the regency, wax was substituted for tallow in the candelabra of
the Opera. This improvement was due to Law, who gave a large sum of
money to the Académie for that special purpose. On the other hand,
Mademoiselle Mazé, one of the prettiest dancers at the Opera, was ruined
three years afterwards by the failure of this operatic benefactor's
financial scheme. The poor girl put on her rouge, her mouches, and her
silk stockings, and in her gayest attire, drowned herself publicly in
the middle of the day at La Grenouillière.


After the break up of Law's system, the regent, terrified by the murmurs
and imprecations of the Parisians, endeavoured to turn the whole current
of popular hatred against the minister, by dismissing him from the
administration of the finances. When Law presented himself at the Palais
Royal, the regent refused to receive him; but the same evening, he
admitted him by a private door, apologized to him, and tried to console
him. Two days afterwards, he accompanied Law to the Opera; but to
preserve him from the fury of the people, he was obliged to have him
conducted home by a party of the Swiss guard.

In the fourth act of Lulli's _Alceste_, Charon admits into his bark
those shades who are able to pay their passage across the Styx, and
sends back those who have no money.

"Give him some bank notes," exclaimed a man in the pit to one of these
penniless shades. The audience took up the cry, and the scene between
Charon and the shades was, at subsequent representations, the cause of
so much tumult, that it was found necessary to withdraw the piece.

The Duke of Orleans appears to have had a sincere love of music, for he
composed an opera himself, entitled _Panthée_, of which the words were
written by the Marquis de La Fare. _Panthée_ was produced at the Duke's
private theatre. After the performance, the musician, Campra, said to
the composer,

"The music, your Highness, is excellent, but the poem is detestable."

The regent called La Fare.

"Ask Campra," he said, "what he thinks of the Opera; I am sure he will
tell you that the poem is admirable, and the music worthless. We must
conclude that the whole affair is as bad as it can be."

The Duke of Orleans had written a motet for five voices, which he wished
to send to the Emperor Leopold, but before doing so, entrusted it for
revision to Bernier, the composer. Bernier handed the manuscript to the
Abbé de la Croix, whom the regent found examining it while Bernier
himself was in the next room regaling himself with his friends. The
immediate consequences of this discovery were a box on the ear for
Bernier, and ten louis for de La Croix.

The Regent also devoted some attention to the study of antiquity. He
occupied himself in particular with inquiries into the nature of the
music of the Greeks, and with the construction of an instrument which
was to resemble their lyre.

[Sidenote: MUSIC IN COURT.]

To the same prince was due the excellent idea of engaging the celebrated
Italian Opera Company of London, at that time under the direction of
Handel, to give a series of performances at the Académie. A treaty was
actually signed in presence of M. de Maurepas, the minister, by which
Buononcini the conductor, Francesca Cuzzoni, Margarita Durastanti,
Francesco Bernardi, surnamed _Senesino_, Gaetano Bernesta, and Guiseppe
Boschi were to come to Paris in 1723, and give twelve representations of
one or two Italian Operas, as they thought fit. Francine, the director
of the Académie, engaged to pay them 35,000 francs, and to furnish new
dresses to the principal performers. This treaty was not executed,
probably through some obstacle interposed by Francine; for the manager
signed it against his will, and on the 2nd of December following, the
regent, with whom it had originated, died. The absurd privileges secured
to the Académie Royale, and the consequent impossibility of giving
satisfactory performances of Italian Opera elsewhere than at the chief
lyrical theatre must have done much to check the progress of dramatic
music in France. From time to time Italian singers were suffered to make
their appearance at the Grand Opera; but at the regular Italian Theatre
established in Paris, as at the Comédie Française, singing was only
permitted under prescribed conditions, and the orchestra was strictly
limited, by severe penalties, rigidly enforced, to a certain number of
instruments, of which not more than six could be violins, or of the
violin family.

At the Comédie Italienne an ass appeared on the stage, and began to

"Silence," exclaimed Arlechinno, "music is forbidden here."

       *       *       *       *       *

Among the distinguished amateurs of the period of the regency was M. de
Saint Montant, who played admirably on the viola, and had taught his
sons and daughters to do the same. Being concerned in a law suit, which
had to be tried at Nimes, he went with his family of musicians to visit
the judges, laid his case before them, one after the other, and by way
of peroration, gave them each a concert, with which they were so
delighted that they decided unanimously in favour of M. de Saint

A law suit had previously been decided somewhat in the same manner, but
much more logically, in favour of Joseph Campra, brother of the composer
of that name, who was the conductor of the orchestra at the Opera of
Marseilles. The manager refused to pay the musicians on the ground that
they did not play well enough. In consequence, he was summoned by the
entire band, who, when they appeared in court, begged through Campra
that they might be allowed to plead their own cause. The judges granted
the desired permission, upon which the instrumentalists drew themselves
up in orchestral order and under the direction of Campra commenced an
overture of Lulli's. The execution of this piece so delighted the
tribunal that with one voice it condemned the director to pay the sum
demanded of him.

A still more curious dispute between a violinist and a dancer was
settled in a satisfactory way for both parties. The dancer was on the
stage rehearsing a new step. The violinist was in the orchestra
performing the necessary musical accompaniment.

"Your scraping is enough to drive a man mad," said the dancer.

"Very likely," said the musician, "and your jumping is only worthy of a
clown. Perhaps as you have such a very delicate ear," he added, "and
nature has refused you the slightest grace, you would like to take my
place in the orchestra?"

[Sidenote: LA CAMARGO.]

"Your awkwardness with the bow makes me doubt whether your most useful
limbs may not be your legs," replied the dancer. "You will never do any
good where you are. Why do you not try your fortune in the ballet? Give
me your violin," he continued, "and come up on to the stage. I know the
scale already. You can teach me to play minuets, and I will show you how
to dance them."

The proposed interchange of good offices took place, and with the
happiest results. The unmusical fiddler, whose name was Dupré, acquired
great celebrity in the ballet, and Léclair, the awkward dancer, became
the chief of the French school of violin playing.

Marie-Anne Cupis de Camargo did not lose so much time in discovering her
true vocation. She gave evidence of her genius for the ballet while she
was still in the cradle, and was scarcely six months old when the
variety of her gestures, the grace of her movements, and the precision
with which she marked the rhythm of the tunes her father played on the
violin led all who saw her to believe that she would one day be a great
dancer. The young Camargo, who belonged to a noble family of Spanish
origin, made her _début_ at the Académie in 1726, and at once achieved a
decided success. People used to fight at the doors to obtain admittance
the nights she performed; all the new fashions were introduced under her
name, and in a very short space of time her shoemaker made his fortune.
All the ladies of the court insisted on wearing shoes _à la Camargo_.
But the triumph of one dancer is the despair of another. Mademoiselle
Prévost, who was the queen of the ballet until Mademoiselle de Camargo
appeared was not prepared to be dethroned by a _débutante_. She was so
alarmed by the young girl's success that she did her utmost to keep her
in the background, and contrived before long to get her placed among
the _figurantes_. But in spite of this loss of rank, Mademoiselle de
Camargo soon found an opportunity of distinguishing herself. In a
certain ballet, she formed one of a group of demons, and was standing on
the stage waiting for Dumoulin, who had to dance a _pas seul_, when the
orchestra began the soloist's air and continued to play it, though still
no Dumoulin appeared. Mademoiselle de Camargo was seized with a sudden
inspiration. She left the demoniac ranks, improvised a step in the place
of the one that should have been danced by Dumoulin and executed it with
so much grace and spirit that the audience were in raptures.
Mademoiselle Prévost, who had previously given lessons to young Camargo,
now refused to have anything to do with her, and the two _danseuses_
were understood to be rivals both by the public and by one another. The
chief characteristics of Camargo's dancing were grace, gaiety, and above
all prodigious lightness, which was the more remarkable at this period
from the fact that the mode chiefly cultivated at the Opera was one of
solemn dignity. However, she had not been long on the stage before she
learned to adopt from her masters and from the other dancers whatever
good points their particular styles presented, and thus formed a style
of her own which was pronounced perfection.

[Sidenote: STAGE COSTUME.]

Mademoiselle de Camargo, in spite of her charming vivacity when dancing,
was of a melancholy mood off the stage. She was not remarkably pretty,
but her face was highly expressive, her figure exquisite, her hands and
feet of the most delicate proportions, and she possessed considerable
wit. Dupré, the ex-violinist, who had leaped at a bound from the
orchestra to the stage, was in the habit of dancing with Camargo, and
also with Mademoiselle Sallé, another celebrity of this epoch, who
afterwards visited London, where she produced the first complete _ballet
d'action_ ever represented, and at the same time introduced an important
reform in theatrical costume.

The art of stage decoration had made considerable progress, even before
the Opera was founded, but it was not until long after Mademoiselle
Sallé had given the example in London that any reasonable principles
were observed in the selection and design of theatrical dresses. In
1730, warriors of all kinds, Greek, Roman, and Assyrian, used to appear
on the French stage in tunics belaced and beribboned, in cuirasses, and
in powdered wigs bearing tails a yard long, surmounted by helmets with
plumes of prodigious height. The tails, of which there were four, two in
front and two behind, were neatly plaited and richly pomatumed, and when
the warrior became animated, and waved his arm or shook his head, a
cloud of hair powder escaped from his wig. It appeared to Mademoiselle
Sallé, who, besides being an admirable dancer, was a woman of taste in
all matters of art, that this sort of thing was absurd; but the reforms
she suggested were looked upon as ridiculous innovations, and nearly
half a century elapsed before they were adopted in France.

This ingenious _ballerina_ enjoyed the friendship and regard of many of
the most distinguished writers of her time. Voltaire celebrated her in
verse, and when she went to London she took with her a letter of
introduction from Fontenelle to Montesquieu, who was then ambassador at
the English Court. Another danseuse, Mademoiselle Subligny came to
England with letters of introduction from Thiriot and the Abbé Dubois to
Locke. The illustrious metaphysician had no great appreciation of
Mademoiselle de Subligny's talent, but he was civil and attentive to her
out of regard to his friends, who were also hers, and, in the words of
Fontenelle, constituted himself her "_homme d'affaires_."


Mademoiselle Sallé was not only esteemed by literature, she was adored
by finance, and Samuel Bernard, the Court banker and money lender, gave
her a hundred golden louis for dancing before the guests at the marriage
of his daughter with the President Molé. The same opulent amateur sent a
thousand francs to Mademoiselle Lemaure, by way of thanking her for
resuming the part of "Délie," in the "Les Fêtes Grecques et Romaines,"
on the occasion of the Duchess de Mirepoix's marriage. I must mention
that at this period it was not the custom in good society for young
ladies to appear at the Opera before their marriage. Their mothers were
determined either to keep their daughters out of harm's way, or to
escape a dangerous rivalry as long as possible; but once attached to a
husband the newly-married girl could show herself at the Opera as often
as she pleased, and it was a point of etiquette that through the Opera
she should make her entrance into fashionable life. These _débutantes_
of the audience department presented themselves to the public in their
richest attire, in their most brilliant diamonds; and if the effect was
good the gentlemen in the pit testified their approbation by clapping
their hands.

But to return to Mademoiselle Sallé. What she proposed to introduce
then, and did introduce into London, in addition to her own admirable
dancing, were complete dramatic ballets, with the personages attired in
the costumes of the country and time to which the subject belonged. To
give some notion of the absurdity of stage costumes at this period we
may mention that forty-two years afterwards, when Mademoiselle Sallé's
reform had still had no effect in France, the "Galathea," in Rousseau's
_Pygmalion_, wore a damask dress, made in the Polish style, over a
basket hoop, and on her head on enormous _pouf_, surmounted by three
ostrich feathers!

In her own _Pygmalion_, Mademoiselle Sallé carried out her new principle
by appearing, not in a Polish costume, nor in a Louis Quinze dress, but
in drapery imitated as closely as possible from the statues of
antiquity. Of her performance, and of _Pygmalion_ generally, a good
account is given in the following letter, written by a correspondent in
London, under the date of March 15th, 1734, to the "Mercure de France."
In the style we do not recognise the author of the "Essay on the
Decadence of the Romans," and of the "Spirit of Laws," but it is just
possible that M. de Montesquieu may have responded to M. de Fontenelle's
letter of introduction, by writing a favourable criticism of the
bearer's performance, for the "influential journal" in which the notice
actually appeared.

"Mdlle. Sallé," says the London correspondent, "without considering the
embarrassing position in which she places me, desires me to give you an
account of her success. I have to tell you in what manner she has
rendered the fable of Pygmalion, and that of Ariadne and Bacchus; and of
the applause with which these two ballets of her composition have been
received by the Court of England.

"Pygmalion has now been represented for nearly two months, and the
public is never tired of it. The subject is developed in the following


"Pygmalion comes into his studio with his pupils, who perform a
characteristic dance, chisel and mallet in hand. Pygmalion tells them to
draw aside a curtain at the back of the studio, which, like the front is
adorned with statues. The one in the middle above all the others
attracts the looks and admiration of every one. Pygmalion gazes at it
and sighs; he touches its feet, presses its waist, adorns its arms with
precious bracelets, and covers its neck with diamonds, and, kissing the
hands of his dear statue, shows that he is passionately in love with it.
The amorous sculptor expresses his distress in pantomime, falls into a
state of reverie, and then throwing himself at the feet of a statue of
Venus, prays to the goddess to animate his beloved figure.

"The goddess answers his prayer. Three flashes of light are seen, and to
an appropriate symphony the marble beauty emerges by degrees from her
state of insensibility. To the surprise of Pygmalion and his pupils she
becomes animated, and evinces her astonishment at her new existence, and
at the objects by which she is surrounded. The delighted Pygmalion
extends his hand to her; she feels, so to speak, the ground beneath her
with her feet, and takes some timid steps in the most elegant attitudes
that sculpture could suggest. Pygmalion dances before her, as if to
instruct her; she repeats her master's steps, from the easiest to the
most difficult. He endeavours to inspire her with the tenderness he
feels himself, and succeeds in making her share that sentiment. You can
understand, sir, what all the passages of this action become, executed
and danced with the fine and delicate grace of Mdlle. Sallé. She
ventured to appear without basket, without skirt, without a dress, in
her natural hair, and with no ornament on her head. She wore nothing, in
addition to her boddice and under-petticoat, but a simple robe of
muslin, arranged in drapery after the model of a Greek statue.

"You cannot doubt, sir, of the prodigious success this ingenious ballet,
so well executed, obtained. At the request of the king, the queen, the
royal family, and all the court, it will be performed on the occasion
of Mademoiselle Sallé's benefit, for which all the boxes and places in
the theatre and amphitheatre have been taken for a month past. The
benefit takes place on the first of April.

"Do not expect that I can describe to you Ariadne like Pygmalion: its
beauties are more noble and more difficult to relate; the expressions
and sentiments are those of the profoundest grief, despair, rage and
utter dejection; in a word all the great passions perfectly declaimed by
means of dances, attitudes and gestures suggested by the position of a
woman who is abandoned by the man she loves. You may announce, sir, that
Mademoiselle Sallé becomes in this piece the rival of the Journets, the
Duclos, and the Lecouvreurs. The English, who preserve so tender a
recollection of their famous Oldfield, whom they have just laid in
Westminster Abbey among their great statesmen (!) look upon her as
resuscitated in Mademoiselle Sallé when she represents Ariadne.

"P. S. The first of this month the Prince of Orange, accompanied by the
Prince of Wales, the Duke of Cumberland and the Princesses, went to
Covent Garden Theatre [Théâtre du _Commun Jardin_ the French newspaper
has it] to see the tragedy of King Henry IV., when there was a numerous
assembly; and all the receipts of the representation were for the
benefit of Mademoiselle Sallé."



M. Castil Blaze, who publishes the whole of the above letter, with the
exception of the postscript, in his history of the Académie Royale, is
wrong in concluding from Mademoiselle Sallé having appeared at Covent
Garden, that she was engaged to dance there by Handel, who was at that
time director of the Queen's Theatre (reign of Anne) in the Haymarket.
M. Victor Schœlcher may also be in error when, in speaking of the
absurd fable that Handel being in Paris heard a canticle by Lulli,[10]
and coming back to England gave it to the English, as God Save the King,
he assures us that Handel never set foot in Paris at all. It is certain
that Handel went to Italy to engage new singers in 1733, and it is by no
means improbable that he passed through Paris on his way. At all events,
M. Castil Blaze assures us that in that year he visited the Académie
Royale de Musique, and that "while lavishing sarcasms and raillery on
our French Opera," he appreciated the talent of Mademoiselle Sallé. "A
thousand crowns (three thousand francs) was the sum," he continues,
"that the _virtuose_ asked for composing two ballets and dancing in them
at London _during the carnival_ of 1734. The director of a rival
enterprise watched for her arrival in that city, and offered her three
thousand guineas instead of the three thousand crowns which she had
agreed to accept from Handel; adding that nothing prevented her from
making this change, inasmuch as she had signed no engagement. 'And my
word,' answered the amiable dancer; 'is my word to count for nothing?'
This reply, applauded and circulated from mouth to mouth, prepared
Mademoiselle Sallé's success, and had the most fortunate influence on
the representation given for her benefit. All the London journals gave
magnificent accounts of the triumphs of Marie Taglioni, and of the marks
of admiration and gratitude that she received. Equally flattering
descriptions reached us from the icy banks of the Neva. Mere trifles,
_niaiseries, debolleze_! This _furore_, this enthusiasm, this
fanaticism, this royal, imperial liberality was very little, or rather
was nothing, in comparison with the homage which the sons of Albion
offered to and lavished upon the divine Sallé. History tells us that at
the representation given for her benefit people fought at the doors of
the theatre; that an infinity of amateurs were obliged to conquer at the
point of the sword, or at least with their fists, the places which had
been sold to them by auction, and at exorbitant prices. As Mademoiselle
Sallé made her last curtsey and smiled upon the pit with the most
charming grace, furious applause burst forth from all parts and seemed
to shake the theatre to its foundation. While the whirlwind howled,
while the thunder roared, a hailstorm of purses, full of gold, fell upon
the stage, and a shower of bonbons followed in the same direction. These
bonbons, manufactured at London, were of a singular kind; guineas--not
like the doubloons, the louis d'or in paste, that are exhibited in the
shop-windows of our confectioners, but good, genuine guineas in metal
of Peru, well and solidly bound together--formed the sweetmeat; the
_papillote_ was a bank-note. Projectiles a thousand times, and again a
thousand times precious. Arguments which sounded still when the fugitive
tempest of applause was at an end. Our favourite _virtuoses_ place now
on their heads, after pressing them for a moment to their hearts, the
wreaths thrown to them by an electrified public. Mademoiselle Sallé put
the proofs of gratitude offered by her host of admirers into her pockets
or rather into bags. The light and playful troop of little Loves who
hovered around the new dancer, picked up the precious sugar-plums as
they fell, and eight dancing satyrs carried away in cadence the
improvised treasures. This performance brought Mademoiselle Sallé more
than two hundred thousand francs."

What M. Castil Blaze tells us about the bonbons of guineas and
bank-notes may or may not be true--I have no means of judging--but it is
not very likely that eight dancing satyrs appeared on the stage at
Mademoiselle Sallé's benefit, inasmuch as the ballet given on that
occasion was not _Bacchus and Ariadne_, as M. Castil Blaze evidently
supposes, but _Pygmalion_. The London correspondent of the _Mercure de
France_ has mentioned that _Pygmalion_ was to be performed by desire of
"the king and the queen, the royal family, and all the court," and
naturally that was the piece selected. According to the letter in the
_Mercure_ the benefit was fixed for the first of April; indeed, the
writer in his postscript speaks of it as having taken place on that day,
but he says nothing about purses of gold, nor does he speak of guineas
wrapped up in bank-notes.

It appears from the _Daily Journal_ that Mademoiselle Sallé took her
benefit on the 21st of March (which would be April 1, New Style), when
the first piece was _Henry IV., with the humours of Sir John Falstaff_,
and the second _Pigmalion_ (with a _Pig_). It was announced that on this
occasion "servants would be permitted to keep places on the stage,"
whereas in most of the Covent Garden play bills of the period the
following paragraph appears:--"It is desired that no person will take it
ill their not being admitted behind the scenes, it being impossible to
perform the entertainment unless these passages are kept clear."


At this time Handel was at the Queen's Theatre, and it was not until the
next year, long after Mademoiselle Sallé had left England, that he moved
to Covent Garden. The rival who is represented as having offered such
magnificent terms to Mademoiselle Sallé with the view of tempting her
from her allegiance to Handel, must have been, if any one, Porpora;
though if M. Castil Blaze could have identified him as that celebrated
composer he would certainly have mentioned the name. Porpora, who
arrived in England in 1733, was in 1734 director of the "Nobility's
Theatre" in Lincoln's-Inn Fields.

The following is the announcement of Mademoiselle Sallé's first
appearance in England:--

     "AT THE THEATRE ROYAL COVENT GARDEN, On Monday, 11th March, will be
     performed a Comedy, called "_The_ WAY _of the_ WORLD, by the late
     Mr. Congreve, with entertainments of dancing, particularly the
     Scottish dance by Mr. Glover and Mrs. Laguerre, Mr. le Sac, and
     Miss Boston, M. de la Garde and Mrs. Ogden.

     "The French Sailor and his Lass, by Mademoiselle Sallé and Mr.

     "The Nassau, by Mr. Glover and Miss Rogers, Mr. Pelling and Miss
     Nona, Mr. Le Sac and Mrs. Ogden, Mr. de la Garde and Miss Batson.

     "With a new dance, called _Pigmalion_, performed by Mr. Malter and
     Mademoiselle Sallé, M. Dupré, Mr. Pelling, Mr. Duke, Mr. le Sac,
     Mr. Newhouse, and M. de la Garde.

     "No servants will be permitted to keep places on the stage."

It appears that at the King's Theatre on the night of Mademoiselle
Sallé's benefit, at Covent Garden, there was "an assembly." "Two
tickets," says the advertisement, "will be delivered to every
subscriber, this day, at White's Chocholate House, in St. James's
Street, paying the subscription-money; and if any tickets remain more
than are subscribed for, they will be delivered the same day at the
Opera office in the Haymarket, at six and twenty shillings each.

"Every ticket will admit either one gentleman or two ladies.

"N. B.--Five different doors will be opened at twelve for the company to
go out, where chairs will easily be had.

N. B.--To prevent a crowd there will be but 700 tickets printed."

I find from the collection of old newspapers before me, that Handel,
whose _Ariadne_ was first produced and whose _Pastor Fido_ was revived
in 1734, is called in the playbills of the King's Theatre "Mr. Handell."
The following is the announcement of the performance given at that
establishment on the 4th June, 1734, "being the last time of performing
till after the holidays."

"AT the KING'S THEATRE in the HAYMARKET, on Tuesday next, being the 4th
day of June will be performed an Opera called


Composed by Mr. Handell, intermixed with Choruses.

The Scenery after a particular manner.

Pit and Boxes will be put together, and no persons to be admitted
without tickets, which will be delivered that day at the Office of the
Haymarket, at half a guinea each.


[Sidenote: MR. HANDELL.]


No persons whatever to be admitted behind the scenes.

To begin at half an hour after six o'clock."

Handel had now been twenty-four years in London where he had raised the
Italian Opera to a pitch of excellence unequalled elsewhere in Europe,
except perhaps at Dresden, which during the first half of the 18th
century was universally celebrated for the perfection of its operatic
performances at the Court Theatre directed by Hasse. But of the
introduction of Italian Opera into England, and especially of the
arrival of Handel, his operatic enterprises, his successes and his
failures, I must speak in another chapter.



     Operatic Feuds.--Objections to Nose-pulling.--Arsinoe.--Camilla and
     the Boar.--Steele on insanity.--Handel and Clayton.--Nicolini and
     the lion.--Rinaldo and the sparrows.--Hamlet set to music.--Three
     enraged musicians.--Three charming singers.

It was not until the close of the 17th century that England was visited
by any Italian singers of note, among the first of whom was the
well-known Margarita de l'Epine. This vocalist's name frequently occurs
in the current literature of the period, and Swift in his "Journal to
Stella" speaks in his own graceful way of having heard "Margarita and
her sister and another drab, and a parcel of fiddlers at Windsor." This
was in 1711, nineteen years after her arrival in England--a proof that
even then Italian singers, who had once obtained the favour of the
English public, were determined to profit by it as long as possible.
Margarita was an excellent musician, and a virtuous and amiable woman;
but she was ugly and was called Hecate by her husband, who had married
her for her money.


The history of the Opera in England is, more than in any other country,
the history of feuds and rivalries between theatres and singers. The
rival of Margarita de l'Epine was Mrs. Tofts, who in 1703 was singing
English and Italian songs at the theatre in Lincoln's Inn Fields.
Instead of enjoying the talent of both, the London public began to
dispute as to which was the best; and what was still more absurd, to
create disturbances at the very theatres where they sang, so that the
English party prevented Margarita de l'Epine from being heard, while the
Italians drowned the voice of Mrs. Tofts.[11] Once, when the amiable
Margarita was singing at Drury Lane, she was not only hissed and hooted,
but an orange was thrown at her by a woman who was recognised as being
or having been in the service of the English vocalist. Hence
considerable scandal and the following public statement which appeared
in the _Daily Courant_ of February 8th, 1704.

"Ann Barwick having occasioned a disturbance at the Theatre Royal on
Saturday last, the 5th of February, and being thereupon taken into
custody, Mrs. Tofts, in vindication of her innocencey, sent a letter to
Mr. Rich, master of the said Theatre, which is as followeth:--'Sir, I
was very much surprised when I was informed that Ann Barwick, who was
lately my servant, had committed a rudeness last night at the playhouse
by throwing of oranges and hissing when Mrs. L'Epine, the Italian
gentlewoman, sang. I hope no one will think it was in the least with my
privity, as I assure you it was not. I abhor such practices, and I hope
you will cause her to be prosecuted that she may be punished as she
deserves. I am, sir, your humble servant, KATHARINE TOFTS.'"

[Sidenote: ARSINOE.]

At this period the unruly critics of the pit behaved with as little
ceremony to those who differed from them among the audience as to those
performers whom they disliked on the stage. In proof of this, we may
quote a portion of the very amusing letter written by a linen-draper
named Heywood (under the signature of James Easy), to the
_Spectator_,[12] on the subject of nose-pulling. "A friend of mine, the
other night, applauding what a graceful exit Mr. Wilkes made," says Mr.
Easy, "one of these nose-wringers overhearing him, pulled him by the
nose. I was in the pit the other night," he adds, "when it was very
crowded. A gentleman leaning upon me, and very heavily, I civilly
requested him to remove his hand; for which he pulled me by the nose. I
would not resent it in so public a place, because I was unwilling to
create a disturbance; but have since reflected upon it as a thing that
is unmanly and disingenuous, renders the nose-puller odious, and makes
the person pulled by the nose look little and contemptible. This
grievance I humbly request you will endeavour to redress."

Fifty years later, at the Grand Opera of Paris, a gentleman in the pit
applauded the dancing of Mademoiselle Asselin. "_Il faut être bien bête
pour applaudir une telle sauteuse_," said his neighbour, upon which a
challenge was given and received, the two amateurs went out and fought,
when the aggressor fell mortally wounded.

In the letters of Frenchmen and Englishmen from Italy, describing the
Italian theatres of the eighteenth century, we read neither of pelting
with oranges, nor of nose-pulling, nor of duelling. One of the most
remarkable things in the demeanour of the audience appears to have been
the unceremonious manner in which the aristocratic occupants of the
boxes behaved towards the people in the pit. The nobles, who were
somewhat given to expectoration, thought nothing of spitting down into
the parterre, and "what is still more extraordinary," says Baretti, who
notices this curious habit, "those who received it on their faces and
heads, did not seem to resent it much." We are told, however, that "they
made the most curious grimaces in the world."

But to return to the rival singers of London. In 1705, then, Mrs. Tofts
and Margarita were both engaged at Drury Lane; the former taking the
principal part in _Arsinoe_, which was performed in English, the latter
singing Italian songs before and after the Opera. _Arsinoe_ ("the first
Opera," says the _Spectator_, "that gave us a taste for Italian music")
was the composition of Clayton, the _maestro_ who afterwards wrote music
for Addison's unfortunate _Rosamond_, and who described the purpose and
character of his first work in the following words:--"The design of this
entertainment being to introduce the Italian manner of singing to the
English stage, which has not been before attempted, I was obliged to
have an Italian Opera translated, in which the words, however mean in
several places, suited much better with that manner of music than others
more poetical would do. The style of this music is to express the
passions, which is the soul of music, and though the voices are not
equal to the Italian, yet I have engaged the best that were to be found
in England; and I have not been wanting, to the utmost of my diligence,
in the instructing of them. The music, being recitative, may not at
first meet with that general acceptation, as is to be hoped for, from
the audience's being better acquainted with it; but if this attempt
shall be a means of bringing this manner of music to be used in my
native country, I shall think my study and pains very well employed."


Mr. Hogarth, in his interesting "Memoirs of the Opera," remarks that
"though _Arsinoe_ is utterly unworthy of criticism, yet there is
something amusing in the folly of the composer. The very first song may
be taken as a specimen. The words are--

    Queen of Darkness, sable night,
    Ease a wandering lover's pain;
      Guide me, lead me
    Where the nymph whom I adore,
      Sleeping, dreaming,
    Thinks of love and me no more.

The first two lines are spoken in a meagre sort of recitative. Then
there is a miserable air, the first part of which consists of the next
two lines, and concludes with a perfect close. The second part of the
air is on the last two lines; after which, there is, as usual, a _da
capo_, and the first part is repeated; the song finishing in the middle
of a sentence,--

    "Guide me, lead me
     Where the nymph whom I adore"--

which, I venture to say, has not been beaten by Bunn, or Fitzball, or
any of our worst librettists at their worst moments.

The music of _Camilla_, the second opera in the Italian style, performed
in England, was by Marco Antonio Buononcini, the brother of Handel's
future rival. The work was produced at the original Opera House, erected
by Sir John Vanburgh, on the site of the present building, in 1705.[13]
It was sung half in English and half in Italian. Mrs. Tofts played the
part of "Camilla," and kept to _her_ mother tongue. Valentini played
that of the hero, and kept to his. Both the Buononcinis were composers
of high ability and the music of _Camilla_ is said to have been very
beautiful. The melodies given to the two principal singers were
original, expressive, and well harmonized. Mrs. Tofts' impersonation of
the Amazonian lady was much admired by persons of taste, and there was a
part for a pig which threw the vulgar into ecstacies.

"Mr. Spectator," wrote a correspondent, "your having been so humble as
to take notice of the epistles of the animal, embolden me, who am the
wild boar that was killed by Mrs. Tofts, to represent to you that I
think I was hardly used in not having the part of the lion in Hydaspes
given to me. It would have been but a natural step for me to have
personated that noble creature, after having behaved myself to
satisfaction in the part above mentioned; but that of a lion is too
great a character for one that never trode the stage before but upon two
legs. As for the little resistance I made, I hope it may be excused when
it is considered that the dart was thrown at me by so fair a hand. I
must confess I had but just put on my brutality; and Camilla's charms
were such, that beholding her erect mien, hearing her charming voice,
and astonished with her graceful motion, I could not keep up to my
assumed fierceness, but died like a man."


Mrs. Tofts quitted the stage in 1709, in consequence of mental
derangement. We have seen Mademoiselle Desmâtins, half fancying in her
excessive, vanity that she was really the queen or princess she had been
representing the same night on the stage, and ordering the servants, on
her return home, to prepare her throne and serve her on their bended
knees. Poor Mrs. Tofts laboured under a similar delusion; only, in her
case, it was not a moral malady, but the hallucination of a diseased
intellect. "In the meridian of her beauty," says Hawkins, in his History
of Music, "and possessed of a large sum of money, which she had acquired
by singing, Mrs. Tofts quitted the stage, and was married to Mr. Joseph
Smith, a gentleman, who being appointed consul for the English nation,
at Venice, she went thither with him. Mr. Smith was a great collector of
books, and patron of the arts. He lived in great state and magnificence;
but the disorder of his wife returning, she dwelt sequestered from the
world, in a remote part of the house, and had a large garden to range
in, in which she would frequently walk, singing and giving way to that
innocent frenzy which had seized her in the early part of her life."

The terrible affliction, which had fallen upon the favourite operatic
vocalist, is touched upon by Steele, with singular want of feeling, of
taste, and even of common decency, in No. 20 of the _Tatler_. "The
theatre," he says, "is breaking, and there is a great desolation among
the gentlemen and ladies who were the ornaments of the town, and used to
shine in plumes and diadems, the heroes being most of them pressed, and
the queens beating hemp." Then with more brutality than humour he adds,
"The great revolutions of this nature bring to my mind the distress of
the unfortunate 'Camilla,' who has had the ill luck to break before her
voice, and to disappear at a time when her beauty was in the height of
its bloom. This lady entered so thoroughly into the great characters she
acted, that when she had finished her part she could not think of
retrenching her equipage, but would appear in her own lodgings with the
same magnificence as she did upon the stage. This greatness of soul has
reduced that unhappy princess to a voluntary retirement, where she now
passes her time among the woods and forests, thinking on the crowns and
sceptres she has lost, and often humming over in her solitude:--

    'I was born of royal race,
     Yet must wander in disgrace, &c.'

"But for fear of being overheard, and her quality known, she usually
sings it in Italian:--

    'Nacqui al regno, nacqui al trono,
     E pur sono,
     Sventatura pastorella.'"


It is "the Christian soldier" who wrote this; who rejoiced in this
anti-christian and cowardly spirit at the dark calamity which had
befallen an amiable and charming vocalist, whose only fault was that
she had aided the fortunes of a theatre abhorred by Steele. And what
cause had Steele for detesting the Italian Opera with the unreasonable
and really stupid hatred which he displayed towards it? Addison, as it
seems to me, has been most unfairly attacked for his strictures on the
operatic performances of his day. They were often just, they were never
ill-natured, and they were always enveloped in such a delightful garb of
humour, that there is not a sentence, certainly not a whole paper, and
scarcely even a phrase,[14] in all he has published about the Opera,
that a musician, unless already "enraged," would wish unwritten. It is
unreasonable and unworthy to connect Addison's pleasantries on the
subject of _Arsinoe_, _Camilla_, _Hydaspes_, and _Rinaldo_, with the
failure of his _Rosamond_, which, as the reader is aware, was set to
music by the ignorant impostor called Clayton. Addison, it is true, did
not write any of his admirably humorous papers about the Italian Opera
until after the production of _Rosamond_, but it was not until some time
afterwards that the _Spectator_ first appeared. St. Evrémond, who was a
great lover of the Opera, wrote much more against it than Addison. In
fact, the new entertainment was the subject of the day. It was full of
incongruities, and naturally recommended itself to the attention of
wits; and we all know that, as a rule, wits do not deal in praise. All
that _Rosamond_ proves is, that Addison liked the Opera or he would
never have written it.

But about this Christian Soldier who endeavours to convince his readers
that music is a thing to be despised because it does not appeal to the
understanding, and who laughs at the misfortunes of a poor lunatic
because she is no longer able to attract the public by her singing from
the dramatic theatre in which he took so deep an interest, and of which
he afterwards became patentee?[15]


Of course, if music appealed only to the understanding, mad Saul would
have found no solace in the tones of David's harp, and it would be
hideously irreverent to imagine the angels of heaven singing hymns to
their Creator. Steele, of course, knew this, and also that the pleasure
given by music is not a mere physical sensation, to be enjoyed as an
Angora cat enjoys the smell of flowers, but he seems to have thought it
was his duty (as it afterwards became his interest) to write up the
drama and write down the Opera at all hazards. Powerful penmanship it
must have been, however, that would have put down Handel, or that would
have kept up Mr. Ambrose Phillips. It would have been easier, at least
it would have been more successful, to have gone upon the other tack. We
all know Handel, and (if the expression be permitted) he becomes more
immortal every day. Steele, it is true, did not hold his music in any
esteem, but Mozart, a competent judge in such matters, _did_, and
reckoned it an honour to write additional accompaniments to the elder
master's greatest work. And who was this Ambrose Phillips? some reader,
not necessarily ignorant of his country's literature, may ask. He was
Racine's thief. He stole _Andromaque_, and gave it to the English as his
own, calling it prosaically and stupidly "The Distrest Mother," which is
as if we should call "Abel" "The Uncivil Brother," or "Philoctetes" "The
Man with the Bad Foot," or "Prometheus," "The Gentleman with the Liver
Complaint." Steele wrote a paper[16] on the reading of this new tragedy,
in which he declares that "the style of the play is such as becomes
those of the first education, and the sentiments worthy of those of the
highest figure." He also says, "I congratulate the age that they are at
last to see truth and human life represented in the incidents which
concern heroes and heroines."

Translated Racine was very popular just then with writers who regarded
Shakespeare as a dealer in the false sublime. "Would one think it was
possible," asks Addison, "at a time when an author lived that was able
to write the _Phedra and Hippolytus_ (translate _Phèdre_, that is to
say), for a people to be so stupidly fond of the Italian Opera as scarce
to give a third day's hearing to that admirable tragedy."

Sensible people! It seems quite possible to us in the present day that
they should have preferred Handel's music to Racine's rhymed prose,
rendered into English rhymes by a man who had nothing of the poetical
spirit which Racine, though writing in an unpoetical language, certainly

The triumphant success of Handel's _Rinaldo_ was felt deeply by Steele
and by the _Spectator's_ favourite composer Clayton, a bad musician, and
apart from the practice of his art, as base a scoundrel as ever libelled
a great man. But of course critics who besides expatiating on the
blemishes of Shakespeare dwelt on the beauties of Racine as improved by
Phillips, would be sure to enjoy the cacophony of Clayton;

    "Qui Bavium non odit amet tua carmina Mævi."


However we must leave the chivalrous Steele and his faithful minstrel
for the present. We have done with the writer's triumphant gloating over
the insanity of the poor _prima donna_. We shall presently see the
musician publishing impudent falsehoods, under the auspices of his
literary patron, concerning Handel and his genius, and endeavouring,
always with the same protection, to form a cabal for the avowed purpose
of driving him from the country which he was so greatly benefiting.

Before Handel's arrival in England Steele had not only insulted operatic
singers, but in recording the success of Scarlatti's _Pyrrhus and
Demetrius_, had openly proclaimed his chagrin thereat. "This
intelligence," he says, "is not very agreeable to our friends of the

       *       *       *       *       *

_Pyrrhus and Demetrius_, in which the celebrated Nicolini made his first
appearance, was the last opera performed partly in English and partly in

In 1710, _Almahide_, of which the music is attributed to Buononcini, was
played entirely in the Italian language, with Valentine, Nicolini,
Margarita de l'Epine, Cassani, and "Signora Isabella" (Isabella
Girardean), in the principal parts. The same year _Hydaspes_ was
produced. This marvellous work, which is not likely to be forgotten by
readers of the _Spectator_, was brought out under the direction of
Nicolini, the sopranist, who performed the part of the hero. The other
singers were those included in the cast of _Almahide_, with the addition
of Lawrence, an English tenor, who was in the habit of singing in
Italian operas, and of whom it was humourously said by Addison, in his
proposition for an opera in Greek, that he "could learn to speak the
language as well as he does Italian in a fortnight's time." "Hydaspes"
is a sort of profane Daniel, who being thrown into an amphitheatre to be
devoured by a lion, is saved not by faith, but by love; the presence of
his mistress among the spectators inspiring him with such courage, that
after appealing to the monster in a minor key, and telling him that he
may tear his bosom but cannot touch his heart, he attacks him in the
relative major, and strangles him.


"There is nothing of late years," says Addison, in one of the most
amusing of his papers on the Opera, "that has afforded matter of greater
amusement to the town than Signior Nicolini's combat with a lion in the
Haymarket, which has been very often exhibited to the general
satisfaction of most of the nobility and gentry in the kingdom of Great
Britain." Upon the first rumour of this intended combat, it was
confidently affirmed, and is still believed by many in both galleries,
that there would be a tame lion sent from the tower every Opera night,
in order to be killed by Hydaspes; this report, though altogether so
universally prevalent in the upper regions of the play-house, that some
of the most refined politicians in those parts of the audience gave it
out in whisper, that the lion was a cousin-german of the tiger who made
his appearance in King William's days, and that the stage would be
supplied with lions at the public expense, during the whole session.
Many likewise were the conjectures of the treatment which this lion was
to meet with from the hands of Signior Nicolini; some supposed that he
was to subdue him in recitative, as Orpheus used to serve the wild
beasts in his time, and afterwards to knock him on the head; some
fancied that the lion would not pretend to lay his paws upon the hero,
by reason of the received opinion, that a lion will not hurt a virgin.
Several who pretended to have seen the Opera in Italy, had informed
their friends, that the lion was to act a part in high Dutch, and roar
twice or thrice to a thorough bass, before he fell at the feet of
Hydaspes. To clear up a matter that was so variously reported, I have
made it my business to examine whether this pretended lion is really the
savage he appears to be, or only a counterfeit.

"But before I communicate my discoveries, I must acquaint the reader
that upon my walking behind the scenes last winter, as I was thinking on
something else, I accidentally justled against a monstrous animal that
extremely startled me, and upon my nearer survey much surprised, told me
in a gentle voice that I might come by him if I pleased, 'for,' says he,
'I do not intend to hurt any body.' I thanked him very kindly, and
passed by him; and in a little time after saw him leap upon the stage,
and act his part with very great applause. It has been observed by
several, that the lion has changed his manner of acting twice or thrice
since his first appearance; which will not seem strange, when I acquaint
my reader that the lion has been changed upon the audience three several
times. The first lion was a candle-snuffer, who being a fellow of a
testy choleric temper, overdid his part, and would not suffer himself to
be killed so easily as he ought to have done; besides, it was observed
of him, that he grew more surly every time he came out of the lion; and
having dropped some words in ordinary conversation, as if he had not
fought his best, and that he suffered himself to be thrown upon his back
in the scuffle, and that he would wrestle with Mr. Nicolini for what he
pleased, out of his lion's skin, it was thought proper to discard him;
and it is verily believed to this day, that had he been brought upon the
stage another time, he would certainly have done mischief. Besides, it
was objected against the first lion, that he reared himself so high upon
his hinder paws, and walked in so erect a posture, that he looked more
like an old man than a lion.


"The second lion was a tailor by trade, who belonged to the play-house,
and had the character of a mild and peaceable man in his profession. If
the former was too furious, this was too sheepish for his part; insomuch
that after a short modest walk upon the stage, he would fall at the
first touch of Hydaspes, without grappling with him, and giving him an
opportunity of showing his variety of Italian trips. It is said, indeed,
that he once gave him a rip in his flesh colour doublet; but this was
only to make work for himself, in his private character of a tailor. I
must not omit that it was this second lion who treated me with so much
humanity behind the scenes. The acting lion at present is, as I am
informed, a country gentleman who does it for his diversion, but desires
his name may be concealed. He says, very handsomely, in his own excuse,
that he does not act for gain; that he indulges an innocent pleasure in
it; and that it is better to pass away an evening in this manner, than
in gaming and drinking; but at the same time says, with a very agreeable
raillery upon himself, and that if his name should be known, the
ill-natured world might call him 'the ass in the lion's skin.' This
gentleman's temper is made out of such a happy mixture of the mild and
the choleric, that he outdoes both his predecessors, and has drawn
together greater audiences than have been known in the memory of man.

"I must not conclude my narrative without taking notice of a groundless
report that has been raised to a gentleman's disadvantage, of whom I
must declare myself an admirer; namely, that Signior Nicolini and the
lion have been sitting peaceably by one another, and smoking a pipe
together, behind the scenes; by which their enemies would insinuate, it
is but a sham combat which they represent upon the stage; but upon
enquiry I find, that if any such correspondence has passed between them,
it was not till the combat was over, when the lion was to be looked upon
as dead, according to the received rules of the drama. Besides, this is
what is practised every day in Westminster Hall, where nothing is more
usual than to see a couple of lawyers, who have been tearing each other
to pieces in the court, embracing one another.

"I would not be thought, in any part of this relation, to reflect upon
Signior Nicolini, who, in acting this part, only complies with the
wretched taste of his audience; he knows very well that the lion has
many more admirers than himself; as they say of the famous equestrian
statue on the Pont Neuf at Paris, that more people go to see the horse
than the king who sits upon it. On the contrary, it gives me a just
indignation to see a person whose action gives new majesty to kings,
resolution to heroes, and softness to lovers, thus sinking from the
greatness of his behaviour, and degraded into the character of a London
'prentice. I have often wished that our tragedians would copy after this
great master in action. Could they make the same use of their arms and
legs, and inform their faces with as significant looks and passions, how
glorious would an English tragedy appear with that action which is
capable of giving dignity to the forced thoughts, cold conceits, and
unnatural expressions of an Italian Opera! In the meantime, I have
related this combat of the lion, to show what are at present the
reigning entertainments of the politer part of Great Britain."


But the operatic year of 1710 is remarkable for something more than the
production of Almahide and Hydaspes; for in 1710 Handel arrived in
England, and the year after brought out his Rinaldo, the first of the
thirty-five operas which he gave to the English stage. For Handel we are
indebted to Hanover. It was at Hanover that the English noblemen who
invited him to London first met the great composer; and it was the
Elector of Hanover, afterwards George I., who granted him permission to
come, and who when he in his turn arrived in England to assume the
crown, added considerably to the pension which Queen Anne had already
granted to the former chapel-master of the Hanoverian court. In 1710 the
director of the theatre in the Haymarket was Aaron Hill, who no sooner
heard of Handel's arrival in London than he went to him, and requested
him to compose an opera for his establishment. Handel consented, and
Hill furnished him with a plan, sketched out by himself, on the subject
of _Rinaldo and Armida_ in Tasso's _Jerusalem Delivered_, the writing of
the _libretto_ being entrusted to an Italian poet of some note named
Rossi. In the advertisements of this opera Handel's name does not
appear; not at least in that which calls attention to its first
representation and which simply sets forth that "at the Queen's Theatre
in the Haymarket will be performed a new opera called _Rinaldo_."

It was in _Rinaldo_ that the celebrated operatic sparrows made their
first appearance on the stage--with what success may be gathered from
the following notice of their performance, which I extract from No. 5 of
the _Spectator_.

"As I was walking in the streets about a fortnight ago," says Addison,
"I saw an ordinary fellow carrying a cage full of little birds upon his
shoulder; and as I was wondering with myself what use he would put them
to, he was met very luckily by an acquaintance, who had the same
curiosity. Upon his asking him what he had upon his shoulder, he told
him that he had been buying sparrows for the opera. 'Sparrows, for the
opera,' says his friend, licking his lips, 'What! are they to be
roasted?' 'No, no,' says the other, 'they are to enter towards the end
of the first act, and to fly about the stage.'


"This strange dialogue wakened my curiosity so far that I immediately
bought the opera, by which means I perceived the sparrows were to act
the part of singing birds in a delightful grove, though upon a nearer
inquiry I found the sparrows put the same trick upon the audience that
Sir Martin Mar-all practised upon his mistress; for though they flew in
sight, the music proceeded from a concert of flageolets and bird-calls,
which were planted behind the scenes. At the same time I made this
discovery, I found by the discourse of the actors, that there were great
designs on foot for the improvement of the Opera; that it had been
proposed to break down a part of the wall, and to surprise the audience
with a party of a hundred horse; and that there was actually a project
of bringing the New River into the house, to be employed in jetteaus and
waterworks. This project, as I have since heard, is postponed till the
summer season, when it is thought that the coolness which proceeds from
fountains and cascades will be more acceptable and refreshing to people
of quality. In the meantime, to find out a more agreeable entertainment
for the winter season, the opera of _Rinaldo_ is filled with thunder and
lightning, illuminations, and fireworks; which the audience may look
upon without catching cold, and indeed without much danger of being
burnt; for there are several engines filled with water, and ready to
play at a minute's warning, in case any such accident should happen.
However, as I have a very great friendship for the owner of this
theatre, I hope that he has been wise enough to insure his house before
he would let this opera be acted in it.

"But to return to the sparrows. There have been so many flights of them
let loose in this opera, that it is feared the house will never get rid
of them; and that in other plays they may make their entrance in very
wrong and improper scenes, so as to be seen flying in a lady's
bedchamber, or perching upon a king's throne; besides the inconveniences
which the heads of the audience may sometimes suffer from them. I am
credibly informed, that there was once a design of casting into an opera
the story of 'Whittington and his Cat,' and that in order to it there
had been set together a great quantity of mice, but Mr. Rich, the
proprietor of the playhouse, very prudently considered that it would be
impossible for the cat to kill them all, and that consequently the
princes of the stage might be as much infested with mice as the prince
of the island was before the cat's arrival upon it, for which reason he
would not permit it to be acted in his house. And, indeed, I cannot
blame him; for as he said very well upon that occasion, 'I do not hear
that any of the performers in our opera pretend to equal the famous pied
piper who made all the mice of a great town in Germany follow his music,
and by that means cleared the place of those noxious little animals.'

"Before I dismiss this paper, I must inform my reader that I hear that
there is a treaty on foot between London and Wise,[17] (who will be
appointed gardeners of the playhouse) to furnish the opera of _Rinaldo
and Armida_ with an orange grove; and that the next time it is acted the
singing birds will be impersonated by tom tits: the undertakers being
resolved to spare neither pains nor money for the gratification of their


Steele, in No. 14 of the _Spectator_, tells us that--"The sparrows and
chaffinches at the Haymarket fly, as yet, very irregularly over the
stage; and instead of perching on the trees and performing their parts,
these young actors either get into the galleries or put out the
candles," for which and other reasons equally good, he decides that Mr.
Powell's Puppet-show is preferable as a place of entertainment to the
Opera, and that Handel's _Rinaldo_ is inferior as a production of art to
a puppet-show drama. Indeed, though Steele, in the _Tatler_, and Addison
in the _Spectator_, have said very civil things about Nicolini, neither
of them appears to have been impressed in the slightest degree by
Handel's music, nor does it even seem to have occurred to them that the
composer's share in producing an opera was by any means considerable.
Steele, thought the Opera a decidedly "unintellectual" entertainment
(how much purely intellectual enjoyment is there, we wonder, in the
pleasure derived from the contemplation of a virgin, by Raphael, and
what is the meaning in criticising art of looking at it merely in its
intellectual aspect?); but he at the same time bears testimony to the
high (æsthetic) gratification he derived from the performance of
Nicolini, who "by the grace and propriety of his action and gesture,
does honour to the human figure," and who "sets off the character he
bears in an opera by his action as much as he does the words of it by
his voice."[18]

In 1711, in addition to Handel's _Rinaldo_, _Antiochus_, an opera, by
Apostolo Zeno and Gasparini, was performed, and about the same time, or
soon afterwards, _Ambleto_, by the same author and composer, was brought
out. If we smile at Signor Verdi for attempting to turn _Macbeth_ into
an opera, what are we to say to Zeno's and Gasparini's experiment with
the far more unsuitable tragedy of _Hamlet_? In _Macbeth_, the songs and
choruses of witches, the banquet with the apparition of the murdered
Banquo, and above all, the sleep-walking scene might well inspire a
composer of genius; but a "Hamlet" without philosophy, or, worse still,
a "Hamlet" who searches his own soul to orchestral accompaniments--this
must indeed be absurd. I learn from Dr. Burney, that _Ambleto_ was
written for Venice, that it was represented at the Queen's Theatre, in
London, and that "the overture had four movements ending with a jig!" An
overture to _Hamlet_ "ending with a jig!" To think that this was
tolerated, and that we are shocked in the present day by burlesques put
forth as such! The _Spectator_, while apparently keeping a sharp look
out for all that is ridiculous, or that can be represented as ridiculous
in the operatic performances of the day, has not a word to say against
_Ambleto_. But it must be remembered that since Milton's time, "Nature's
sweetest child" had ceased to be appreciated in England even by the most
esteemed writers--who, however, for the most part, if they were not good
critics, could claim no literary merit beyond that of style. In a paper
on Milton, one of whose noblest sonnets is in praise of Shakespeare,
Addison, after showing how, by certain verbal expedients, bathos may be
avoided and sublimity attained, calmly points to the works of Lee and
Shakespeare as affording instances of the false sublime[19], adding
coolly that, "_in these authors_ the affectation of greatness often
hurts the perspicuity of the style."


I have spoken of Steele's and Clayton's consternation, at the success of
_Rinaldo_. Some months after the production of that work, the despicable
Clayton, supported by two musicians named Nicolino Haym, and Charles
Dieupart, (who were becomingly indignant at a foreigner like Handel
presuming to entertain a British audience), wrote a letter to the
_Spectator_, which Steele published in No. 258 of that journal,
introducing it by a preface, full of wisdom, in which it is set forth
that "pleasure and recreation of one kind or other are absolutely
necessary to relieve our minds and bodies from too constant attention
and labour," and that, "where public diversions are tolerated, it
behoves persons of distinction, with their power and example, to preside
over them in such a manner as to check anything that tends to the
corruption of manners, or which is too mean or trivial for the
entertainment of reasonable creatures." The letter from the "enraged
musicians" is described as coming "from three persons who, as soon as
named, will be thought capable of advancing the present state of
music"--that is to say, of superseding Handel. But the same perverse
public, which in spite of the _Spectator's_ remonstrances, preferred
_Rinaldo_ to translated Racine, persisted in admiring Handel's music,
and in paying no heed whatever to the cacophony of Clayton. Here is the
letter from the three miserable musicasters to their patron and

"We, whose names are subscribed, think you the properest person to
signify what we have to offer the town in behalf of ourselves, and the
art which we profess,--music. We conceive hopes of your favour from the
speculations on the mistakes which the town run into with regard to
their pleasure of this kind; and believing your method of judging is,
that you consider music only valuable, as it is agreeable to and
heightens the purpose of poetry, we consent that it is not only the true
way of relishing that pleasure, but also that without it a composure of
music is the same thing as a poem, where all the rules of poetical
numbers are observed, though the words have no sense or meaning; to say
it shorter, mere musical sounds in our art are no other than
nonsense-verses are in poetry." [A beautiful melody then, apart from
words, said no more to these musicians, and to the patron whose idiotic
theory they are so proud to have adopted than a set of nonsense-verses!]
"Music, therefore, is to aggravate what is intended by poetry; it must
always have some passion or sentiment to express, or else violins,
voices, or any other organs of sound, afford an entertainment very
little above the rattles of children. It was from this opinion of the
matter, that when Mr. Clayton had finished his studies in Italy, and
brought over the Opera of _Arsinoe_, that Mr. Haym and Mr. Dieupart, who
had the honour to be well-known and received among the nobility and
gentry, were zealously inclined to assist, by their solicitations, in
introducing so elegant an entertainment, as the Italian music grafted
upon English poetry." [Such poetry, for instance, as


    "Guide me, lead me,
     Where the nymph whom I adore

which occurred in Clayton's _Arsinoe_--Haym, it may be remembered, was
the ingenious musician who arranged _Pyrrhus and Demetrius_ for the
Anglo-Italian stage, when half of the music was sung in one language,
and half in the other.] "For this end," continue the precious trio, "Mr.
Dieupart and Mr. Haym, according to their several opportunities,
promoted the introduction of _Arsinoe_, and did it to the best advantage
so great a novelty would allow. It is not proper to trouble you with
particulars of the just complaints we all of us have to make; but so it
is that without regard to our obliging pains, we are all equally set
aside in the present opera. Our application, therefore, to you is only
to insert this letter in your paper, that the town may know we have all
three joined together to make entertainments of music for the future at
Mr. Clayton's house, in York Buildings. What we promise ourselves is, to
make a subscription of two guineas, for eight times, and that the
entertainment, with the names of the authors of the poetry, may be
printed, to be sold in the house, with an account of the several authors
of the vocal as well as the instrumental music for each night; the money
to be paid at the receipt of the tickets, at Mr. Charles Lulli's. It
will, we hope, sir, be easily allowed that we are capable of undertaking
to exhibit, by our joint force and different qualifications, all that
can be done in music" [how charmingly modest!] "but lest you should
think so dry a thing as an account of our proposal should be a matter
unworthy of your paper, which generally contains something of public
use, give us leave to say, that favouring our design is no less than
reviving an art, which runs to ruin by the utmost barbarism under an
affectation of knowledge. We aim at establishing some settled notion of
what is music, at recovering from neglect and want very many families
who depend upon it, at making all foreigners who pretend to succeed in
England to learn the language of it as we ourselves have done, and not
be so insolent as to expect a whole nation, a refined and learned
nation, should submit to learn theirs. In a word, Mr. Spectator, with
all deference and humility, we hope to behave ourselves in this
undertaking in such a manner, that all Englishmen who have any skill in
music may be furthered in it for their profit or diversion by what new
things we shall produce; never pretending to surpass others, or
asserting that anything which is a science is not attainable by all men
of all nations who have proper genius for it. We say, sir, what we hope
for, it is not expected will arrive to us by contemning others, but
through the utmost diligence recommending ourselves."

Poor Clayton seems, here and there, to have really fancied that it was
his mission to put down Handel, and stuck to him for some time in most
pertinacious style. One is reminded of the writer who endeavoured to
turn Wilhelm Meister into ridicule, and of the epigram which that
attempt suggested to Goethe, ending:--

    "Hat doch die Wallfisch seine Laus."


But Clayton was really a creator, and proposed nothing less than "to
revive an art which was running to ruin by the utmost barbarism under an
affectation of knowledge." One would have thought that this was going a
little too far. Handel affecting knowledge--Handel a barbarian? Surely
Steele in giving the sanction of his name to such assertions as these,
puts himself in a lower position even than Voltaire uttering his
celebrated dictum about the genius of Shakespeare; for after all,
Voltaire was the first Frenchman to discover any beauties in Shakespeare
at all, and it was in defending him against the stupid prejudices of
Laharpe that he made use of the unfortunate expression with which he has
so often been reproached, and which he put forward in the form of a
concession to his adversary.

Clayton and his second fiddles returned to the attack a few weeks
afterwards (January 18th, 1712). "It is industriously insinuated," they
complained, "that our intention is to destroy operas in general, but we
beg of you (that is to say, the _Spectator_, as represented by Steele,
who signs the number with his T) to insert this explanation of ourselves
in your paper. Our purpose is only to improve our circumstances by
improving the art which we profess" [the knaves are getting candid]. "We
see it utterly destroyed at present, and as we were the persons who
introduced operas, we think it a groundless imputation that we should
set up against the Opera itself," &c., &c.

What became of Clayton, Haym, and Dieupart, and their speculation, I do
not know, nor do I think that any one can care. At all events, even with
the assistance of Steele and the _Spectator_ they did not extinguish

The most celebrated vocalist at the theatre in the Haymarket, from the
arrival of Handel in England until after the formation of the Royal
Academy of Music, in 1720, was Anastasia Robinson, a _contralto_, who
was remarkable as much for her graceful acting as for her expressive
singing. She made her first appearance in a _pasticcio_ called _Creso_,
in 1714, and continued singing in the operas of Handel and other
composers until 1724, when she contracted a private marriage with the
Earl of Peterborough and retired from the stage. Lady Delany, an
intimate friend of Lady Peterborough, communicated the following account
of her marriage and the circumstances under which it was made, to Dr.
Burney, who publishes it in his "History of Music."


"Mrs. Anastasia Robinson was of middling stature, not handsome, but of a
pleasing, modest countenance, with large blue eyes. Her deportment was
easy, unaffected, and graceful. Her manner and address very engaging,
and her behaviour on all occasions that of a gentlewoman, with perfect
propriety. She was not only liked by all her acquaintance, but loved and
caressed by persons of the highest rank, with whom she appeared always
equal, without assuming. Her father's house, in Golden Square was
frequented by all the men of genius and refined taste of the times.
Among the number of persons of distinction who frequented Mr. Robinson's
house, and seemed to distinguish his daughter in a particular manner,
were the Earl of Peterborough and General H--. The latter had shown a
long attachment to her, and his attentions were so remarkable that they
seemed more than the effects of common politeness; and as he was a very
agreeable man, and in good circumstances, he was favourably received,
not doubting but that his intentions were honourable. A declaration of a
very contrary nature was treated with the contempt it deserved, though
Mrs. Robinson was very much prepossessed in his favour.

"Soon after this, Lord Peterborough endeavoured to convince her of his
partial regard for her; but, agreeable and artful as he was, she
remained very much upon her guard, which rather increased than
diminished his admiration and passion for her. Yet still his pride
struggled with his inclination, for all this time she was engaged to
sing in public, a circumstance very grievous to her; but, urged by the
best of motives, she submitted to it, in order to assist her parents,
whose fortune was much reduced by Mr. Robinson's loss of sight, which
deprived him of the benefit of his profession as a painter.

"At length Lord Peterborough made his declaration to her on honourable
terms. He found it would be in vain to make proposals on any other, and
as he omitted no circumstance that could engage her esteem and
gratitude, she accepted them. He earnestly requested her keeping it a
secret till a more convenient time for him to make it known, to which
she readily consented, having a perfect confidence in his honour.

"Mrs. A. Robinson had a sister, a very pretty accomplished woman, who
married D'Arbuthnot's brother. After the death of Mr. Robinson, Lord
Peterborough took a house near Fulham, in the neighbourhood of his own
villa at Parson's-green, where he settled Mrs. Robinson and her mother.
They never lived under the same roof, till the earl, being seized with a
violent fit of illness, solicited her to attend him at Mount Bevis, near
Southampton, which she refused with firmness, but upon condition that,
though still denied to take his name, she might be permitted to wear her
wedding-ring; to which, finding her inexorable, he at length consented.


"His haughty spirit was still reluctant to the making a declaration that
would have done justice to so worthy a character as the person to whom
he was now united; and indeed his uncontrollable temper and high opinion
of his own actions made him a very awful husband, ill suited to Lady
Peterborough's good sense, amiable temper, and delicate sentiments. She
was a Roman Catholic, but never gave offence to those of a contrary
opinion, though very strict in what she thought her duty. Her excellent
principles and fortitude of mind supported her through many severe
trials in her conjugal state. But at last he prevailed on himself to do
her justice, instigated, it is supposed by his bad state of health,
which obliged him to seek another climate, and she absolutely refused to
go with him unless he declared his marriage. Her attendance on him in
this illness nearly cost her her life.

"He appointed a day for all his nearest relations to meet him at the
apartment over the gateway of St. James's palace, belonging to Mr.
Poyntz, who was married to Lord Peterborough's niece, and at that time
preceptor of Prince William, afterwards Duke of Cumberland. He also
appointed Lady Peterborough to be there at the same time. When they were
all assembled, he began a most eloquent oration, enumerating all the
virtues and perfections of Mrs. A. Robinson, and the rectitude of her
conduct during his long acquaintance with her, for which he acknowledged
his great obligation and sincere attachment, declaring he was determined
to do her that justice which he ought to have done long ago, which was
presenting her to all his family as his wife. He spoke this harangue
with so much energy, and in parts so pathetically, that Lady
Peterborough, not being apprised of his intentions, was so affected that
she fainted away in the midst of the company.

"After Lord Peterborough's death, she lived a very retired life, chiefly
at Mount Bevis, and was seldom prevailed on to leave that habitation but
by the Duchess of Portland, who was always happy to have her company at
Bulstrode, when she could obtain it, and often visited her at her own

"Among Lord Peterborough's papers, she found his memoirs, written by
himself, in which he declared he had been guilty of such actions as
would have reflected very much upon his character, for which reason she
burnt them. This, however, contributed to complete the excellency of her
principles, though it did not fail giving offence to the curious
inquirers after anecdotes of so remarkable a character as that of the
Earl of Peterborough."


The deserved good fortune of Anastasia Robinson reminds me of the
careers of two other vocalists of this period, one of them owed her
elevation to a fortunate accident; while the third, though she entered
upon the same possible road to the peerage as the second, yet never
attained it. "The Duke of Bolton," says Swift, in one of his letters,
"has run away with Polly Peachum, having settled four hundred a year on
her during pleasure, and upon disagreement, two hundred more." This was
the charming Lavinia Fenton, the original Polly of the Beggars' Opera,
between whom and the Duke the disagreement anticipated by the amiable
Swift never took place. Twenty-three years after the elopement, the
Duke's wife died, and Lavinia then became the Duchess of Bolton. She
was, according to the account given of her by Dr. Joseph Warton, "a very
accomplished and most agreeable companion; had much wit, good strong
sense, and a just taste in polite literature.

Her person was agreeable and well made," continues Dr. Warton, "though I
think she never could be called a beauty. I have had the pleasure of
being at table with her, when her conversation was much admired by the
first character of the age, particularly by old Lord Bathurst and Lord

The beautiful Miss Campion, who was singing about the same time as Mrs.
Tofts, and who died in 1706, when she was only eighteen, did _not_
become the Duchess of Devonshire; but the heart-broken old Duke, who
appears to have been most fervently attached to her, buried her in his
family vault in the church of Latimers, Buckinghamshire, and placed a
Latin inscription on her monument, testifying that she was wise beyond
her years, and bountiful to the poor even beyond her abilities; and at
the theatre, where she had some times acted, modest and pure; but being
seized with a hectic fever, she had submitted to her fate with a firm
confidence and Christian piety; and that William, Duke of Devonshire,
had, upon her beloved remains, erected this tomb as sacred to her



     Handel at Hamburgh.--Handel in London.--The Queen's Theatre.--The
     Royal Academy of Music.--Operatic Feuds.--Porpora and the
     Nobility's Opera.

The great dates of Handel's career as an operatic composer and director

1711, when he produced _Rinaldo_, his first opera, at the Queen's
Theatre, in the Haymarket;

1720, when the Royal Academy of Music was established under his
management at the same theatre, (which, with the accession of George I.,
had become "the King's");

1734, when in commencing the season at the King's Theatre with a new
company, he had to contend against the "Nobility's Opera" just opened at
the Theatre in Lincoln's Inn Fields, under the direction of Porpora;

1735, when he moved to Covent Garden, Porpora and "la nobilita
Britannica" going at the same time to the King's Theatre.


Both operas failed in 1737, and Handel then went back to the King's
Theatre, for which he wrote his last opera _Deidamia_ in 1740.

Of Handel's arrival in England, and of the manner in which his first
opera was received, I have spoken in the preceding chapter. Of his
previous life in Germany but little is recorded; indeed, he left that
country at the age of twenty-five. It is known, however, that he was for
some time engaged at the Hamburgh theatre, where operas had been
performed in the German language since 1678. Rinuccini's _Dafne_, set to
music by Schutz, was represented, as has been already mentioned, at
Dresden in 1627, (or according to other accounts 1630); but this was a
private affair in honour of a court marriage, and the first opera
produced in Germany in public, and in the German language, was Thiele's
_Adam and Eve_, which was given at Hamburgh in 1678. The reputation of
Keiser at the court of Wolfenbüttel caused the directors of the Hamburgh
Theatre, towards the close of the century, to send and offer him an
engagement; he accepted it, and in the course of twenty-seven years
produced as many as one hundred and sixty operas. Mattheson states that
both Handel and Hasse (who was afterwards director of the celebrated
Dresden Opera) formed their styles on that of Keiser.[20] Mattheson,
himself a composer, succeeded Keiser as conductor of the orchestra at
the Hamburgh Theatre, holding that post, however, conjointly with
Handel, whose quarrel and duel with Mattheson have often been related.
Handel was presiding in the orchestra while Mattheson was on the stage
performing in an opera of his own composition. The opera being
concluded, Mattheson proposed to take Handel's place at the harpsichord,
which the latter refused to give up. The rival conductors quarrelled as
they were leaving the theatre. The quarrel led to a blow and the blow to
a fight with swords in the market place, which was terminated by
Mattheson breaking the point of his sword on one of his antagonist's
buttons, or as others have it, on the score of his own opera, which
Handel carried beneath his coat.

Handel went from Hamburgh to Hanover, where, as we have seen, he
received an invitation from some English noblemen to visit London, and,
with the permission and encouragement of the Elector, accepted it.


Handel's _Rinaldo_ was followed at the King's Theatre by his _Il Pastor
Fido_ (1712), his _Teseo_ (1713), and his _Amadigi_ (1715). Soon after
the production of _Amadigi_, the performances at the King's Theatre seem
to have ceased until 1720, when the "Royal Academy of Music" was formed.
This so-called "Academy" was the result of a project to establish a
permanent Italian opera in London. It was supported by a number of the
nobility, with George I. at their head, and a fund of £50,000 was
raised among the subscribers, to which the king contributed £1,000. The
management of the "Academy" was entrusted to a governor, a deputy
governor, and twenty directors, (why not to a head master and
assistants?) and for the first year the Duke of Newcastle was appointed
governor; Lord Bingley, deputy governor; while among the directors were
the Dukes of Portland and Queensberry, the Earls of Burlington, Stair
and Waldegrave, Lords Chetwynd and Stanhope, Sir John Vanburgh,
(architect of the theatre), Generals Dormer, Wade, and Hunter, &c. The
worse than unmeaning title given to the new opera was of course imitated
from the French; the governor, deputy governor, and directors being
doubtless unacquainted with the circumstances under which the French
Opera received the misnomer which it still retains.[21] They might have
known, however, that the "Académie Royale" of Paris, at that time under
the direction of Rameau, was held in very little esteem, except by the
French themselves, as an operatic theatre, and moreover, that Italian
music was never performed there at all. Indeed, for half a century
afterwards, the French execrated Italian music and would not listen to
Italian singers--which gives us some notion of what musical taste in
France must have been at the time of our Royal Academy being founded.
The title would have been absurd even if the French Opera had been the
finest in Europe; as it was nothing of the kind, and as it was,
moreover, sworn to its own native psalmody, to give such a title to an
Italian theatre, supported by musicians and singers of the greatest
excellence, was a triple absurdity. Strangely enough, even in the
present day, the Americans, as ingenious as the English of George I.'s
reign, call their magnificent Italian Opera House at New York the
Academy of Music. As a matter of association, it would be far more
reasonable to call it the "St. Charles's Theatre," or the "Scale

The musical direction of our Royal Academy of Music was confided to
Handel, who, besides composing for the theatre himself, engaged
Buononcini and Ariosti to write for it. He also proceeded to Dresden,
already celebrated throughout Europe for the excellence of its Italian
Opera, and engaged Senesino, Berenstadt, Boschi, and Signora Durastanti.

Handel's first opera at the Royal Academy of Music was _Radamisto_,
which was hailed on its production as its composer's masterpiece. "It
seems," says Dr. Burney, "as if he was not insensible of its worth, as
he dedicated a book of the words to the king, George I., subscribing
himself his Majesty's 'most faithful subject,' which, as he was neither
a Hanoverian by birth, nor a native of England, seems to imply his
having been naturalised here by a bill in Parliament."


Buononcini, (who, compared with Handel, was a ninny, though others said
that to him Handel was scarcely fit to hold a candle, &c.) produced his
first opera also in 1720. It was received with much favour, and by the
Buononcinists with enthusiasm.

The next opera was _Muzio Scevola_, composed by Handel, Buononcini, and
Ariosti together. It is said that the task of joint production was
imposed upon the three musicians by the masters of the Academy, by way
of competitive examination, and with a view to test the abilities of
each in a decisive manner. If there were any grounds for believing the
story, it might be asked, who among the directors were thought, or
thought themselves qualified to act as judges in so difficult and
delicate a matter.

In the meanwhile the opera of the three composers did but little good to
the theatre, which, in spite of its admirable company, was found a
losing speculation, after a little more than a year, to the extent of
£15,000. Thirty-five thousand pounds remained to be paid up, but the
rest of the subscription money was not forthcoming, and the directors
were unable to obtain it until after they had advertised in the
newspapers that defaulters would be proceeded against "with the utmost
rigour of the law."

A new mode of subscription was then devised, by which tickets were
granted for the season of fifty performances on receipt of ten guineas
down, and an engagement to pay five guineas more on the 1st of February,
and a second five guineas on the 1st of May. Thus originated the
operatic subscription list which has been continued with certain
modifications, and with a few short intervals, up to the present day.

Buononcini's _Griselda_, which passes for his best opera, was produced
in 1722, with Anastasia Robinson in the part of the heroine. Handel's
_Ottone_ and _Flavio_ were brought out in 1723; his _Giulio Cesare_ and
_Tamerlano_ in 1724; his _Rodelinda_ in 1725; his _Scipione_ and
_Alessandro_ in 1726; his _Admeto_ and _Ricardo_ in 1727; his _Siroe_
and _Tolomeo_ in 1728--when the Royal Academy of Music, which had been
carried on with varying success, and on the whole with considerable ill
success, finally closed.


Buononcini's last opera, _Astyanax_, was produced in 1727, after which
the Duchess of Marlborough, his constant patroness, gave the composer a
pension of five hundred a year. A few years afterwards, however, he
stole a madrigal, the invention of a Venetian named Lotti, and the theft
having been discovered and clearly proved, Buononcini left the country
in disgrace. Similar thefts are practised in the present day, but with
discretion and with ingeniously worded title pages. Buononcini should
have simply called his plagiarism a "Venetian Madrigal, dedicated to the
Duchess of Marlborough by G. Buononcini." This unfortunate composer,
whom Swift had certainly described in a prophetic spirit as "a ninny,"
left England in 1733, with an Italian Count whose title appears to have
been about as authentic as Buononcini's madrigal, and who pretended to
possess the art of making gold, but abstained from practising it
otherwise than by swindling. Buononcini was for a time the dupe of this
impostor. In the meanwhile he continued the exercise of his profession,
at Paris, where we lose sight of him. In 1748, however, he went to
Vienna, and by command of the Emperor composed the music for the
festivities given in celebration of the peace of Aix-la-Chapelle. Thence
he proceeded with Montecelli, the composer, to Venice, where the affair
of the madrigal was probably by this time forgotten. At all events, no
importance was attached to it, and Buononcini was engaged to write an
opera for the Carnival. He was at this time nearly ninety years of age.
The date of his death is not recorded, but Dr. Burney tells us that he
is supposed to have lived till nearly a hundred.


Besides the annual subscriptions, to the Royal Academy of Music the
whole of the original capital of £50,000 was spent in seven years. In
spite, then, of the admirable works produced by Handel, the unrivalled
company by which they were executed, and the immense sums of money
lavished upon the entertainment generally, the Italian Opera in London
proved in 1728 what it had proved twelve years before, a positive and
unmistakable failure. This could scarcely have been owing, as has been
surmised, to the violence of the disputes concerning the merits of
Handel and Buononcini, the composers, or of Faustina and Cuzzoni, the
singers, for the natural effect of such contests would have been to keep
up an interest in the performances. Probably few at that time had any
real love for Italian music. A certain number, no doubt, attended the
Italian Opera for the sake of fashion, but the greater majority of the
theatre-going public were quite indifferent to its charms. Dr.
Arbuthnot, one of the few literary men of the day who seems to have
really cared for music, writes as follows, in the _London Journal_,
under the date of March 23rd, 1728:--"As there is nothing which
surprises all true lovers of music more than the neglect into which the
Italian operas are at present fallen, so I cannot but think it a very
extraordinary instance of the fickle and inconstant temper of the
English nation, a failing which they have always been endeavouring to
cast upon their neighbours in France, but to which they themselves have
just as good a title, as will appear to any one who will take the
trouble to consult our historians." He points out that after adopting
the Italian Opera with eagerness, we began, as soon as we had obtained
it in perfection, to make it a pretext for disputes instead of enjoying
it, and concludes that it was supported among us for a time, not from
genuine taste, but simply from fashion. He observes that _The Beggars'
Opera_, then just produced, was "a touchstone to try British taste on,"
and that it has "proved effectual in discovering our true inclinations,
which, however artfully they may have been disguised for a while, will
one time or another, start up and disclose themselves. Æsop's story of
the cat, who, at the petition of her lover, was changed into a fine
woman, is pretty well known, notwithstanding which alteration, we find
that upon the appearance of a mouse, she could not resist the temptation
of springing out of her husband's arms to pursue it, though it was on
the very wedding night. Our English audience have been for some time
returning to their cattish nature, of which some particular sounds from
the gallery have given us sufficient warning. And since they have so
openly declared themselves, I must only desire that they will not think
they can put on the fine woman again just when they please, but content
themselves with their skill in caterwauling. For my own part, I cannot
think it would be any loss to real lovers of music, if all those false
friends who have made pretensions to it only in compliance with the
fashion, would separate themselves from them; provided our Italian Opera
could be brought under such regulations as to go on without them. We
might then be able to sit and enjoy an entertainment of this sort, free
from those disturbances which are frequent in English theatres, without
any regard, not only to performers, but even to the presence of Majesty
itself. In short, my comfort is, that though so great a desertion may
force us so to contract the expenses of our operas, as would put an end
to our having them in as great perfection as at present, yet we shall be
able at least to hear them without interruption."

The Faustina and Cuzzoni disputes, to which Arbuthnot alludes, where he
speaks of "those disturbances which are frequent in English theatres,"
appear to have been quite as violent as those with which the names of
Handel and Buononcini are associated. Most of this musical party-warfare
(of which the most notorious examples are those just mentioned, the
Gluck and Piccinni contests in Paris, and the quarrels between the
admirers of Madame Mara and Madame Todi in the same city) has been
confined to England and France, though a very pretty quarrel was once
got up at the Dresden Theatre, between the followers of Faustina, at
that time the wife of Hasse the composer, and Mingotti. The Italians
have shown themselves changeable and capricious, and have often hissed
one night those whom they have applauded the night afterwards; but, in
the Italian Theatres, we find no instances of systematic partisanship
maintained obstinately and stolidly for years, and I fancy that it is
only among unmusical nations, or in an unmusical age, that anything of
the kind takes place. The ardour and duration of such disputes are
naturally in proportion to the ignorance and folly of the disputants. In
science, or even in art, where the principles of art are well
understood, they are next to impossible. Self-styled connoisseurs,
however, with neither taste nor knowledge can go on squabbling about
composers and singers, especially if they never listen to them, to all


Faustina and Cuzzoni were both admirable vocalists, and in entirely
different styles, so that there was not even the shadow of a pretext
for praising one at the expense of the other. Tosi, their contemporary,
in his _Osservazzioni sopra il Canto Figurato_,[22] thus compares them:
"The one," he says (meaning Faustina), "is inimitable for a privileged
gift of singing and enchanting the world with an astonishing felicity in
executing difficulties with a brilliancy I know not whether derived from
nature or art, which pleases to excess. The delightful soothing
cantabile of the other, joined to the sweetness of a fine voice, a
perfect intonation, strictness of time, and the rarest productions of
genius in her embellishments, are qualifications as peculiar and
uncommon as they are difficult to be imitated. The pathos of the one and
the rapidity of the other are distinctly characteristic. What a
beautiful mixture it would be, if the excellences of these two angelic
beings could be united in a single individual!"

Quantz, the celebrated flute-player, and teacher of that instrument to
Frederic the Great, came to London in 1727, and heard Handel's _Admeto_
executed to perfection at the Royal Academy of Music. The principal
parts were filled by Senesino, Cuzzoni and Faustina, and Quantz's
account of the two latter agrees, with that given by Signor Tosi.
Cuzzoni had a soft limpid voice, a pure intonation, a perfect shake. Her
style was simple, noble and touching. In allegro movements, her rapidity
of execution was not remarkable, &c., &c. Her acting was cold, and
though she was very beautiful, her beauty produced no effect on the
stage. Faustina, on the other hand, was passionate and full of
expression, as an actress, while as a vocalist she was remarkable for
the fluency and brilliancy of her articulation, and could sing with ease
what would have been considered difficult passages for the violin. Her
rapid repetition of the same note--(the violin "_tremolo_") was one of
her most surprising feats. This artifice was afterwards imitated with
the greatest success by Farinelli, Monticelli, Visconti, and the
charming Mingotti, and at a later period, Madame Catalani produced some
of her greatest effects in the same style.

Faustina and Cuzzoni made their first appearance together at Venice in
1719. In 1725, Faustina went to Vienna, and met with an enthusiastic
reception from the habitués of the Court Theatre. She left Vienna the
same year for London, where she arrived when Cuzzoni's reputation was at
its height.


Cuzzoni made her first appearance in London in 1723, and was a member of
Handel's company when the singers were engaged, at the suggestion of the
regent, to give a series of performances in Paris; this engagement,
which was due in the first instance to the solicitations of the
Marchioness de Prie, was, as I have already mentioned, never carried
out. Whether the Faustina and Cuzzoni disputes originated with a cabal
against the singer in possession of the public favour, or whether the
admirers of the accepted favorite felt it their duty to support her by
attacking all new comers, is not by any means clear; but Faustina had
scarcely arrived when the feud commenced. Quanta tells us that as soon
as one began to sing, the partisans of the other began to hiss. The
Cuzzoni party, which was headed by the Countess of Pembroke, made a
point of hissing whenever Faustina appeared. Faustina, who if not
better-looking, was more agreeable than Cuzzoni, had most of the men on
her side. Her patronesses were the Countess of Burlington and Lady

The most remarkable of the many disturbances caused by the rivalry
between these two singers (forced upon them as it was) took place in
June 1727. The _London Journal_ of June 10th in that year, tells us in
its description of the affair, that "the contention at first was only
carried on by hissing on one side and clapping on the other, but
proceeded at length to the melodious use of cat-calls and other
accompaniments which manifested the zeal and politeness of that
illustrious assembly." We are further informed that the Princess
Catherine was there, but neither her Royal Highness's presence, nor the
laws of decorum could restrain the glorious ardour of the combatants.
The appearance of Faustina appears to have been the signal for the
commencement of this disgraceful riot, to judge from the following
epigram on the proceedings of the night.

    "Old poets sing that beasts did dance,
       Whenever Orpheus played;
     So to Faustina's charming voice
       Wise Pembroke's asses brayed."

Cuzzoni had also her poet, and her departure from England was the
occasion of the following pretty but silly lines, addressed to her by
Ambrose Phillips:--

    "Little Syren of the stage,
       Charmer of an idle age,
     Empty warbler, breathing lyre,
       Wanton gale of fond desire;
     Bane of every manly art,
       Sweet enfeebler of the heart,
     O, too pleasing is thy strain,
       Hence to Southern climes again!
     Tuneful mischief, vocal spell,
       To this island bid farewell;
     Leave us as we ought to be,
       Leave the Britons rough and free."

The Britons had shown themselves sufficiently "rough and free," while
Cuzzoni was singing to them. The circumstances of this vocalist's
leaving London were rather curious, and show to what an extent the
Faustina and Cuzzoni disputes must have disgusted the directors of the
Academy; the caprice of one of them must also have irritated Handel
considerably, for it is related that once when Cuzzoni, at a rehearsal,
positively refused to sing an air that Handel had written for her, she
could only be convinced of the necessity of doing so by the composer
threatening to throw her out of the window. It was known that each was
about to sign a new contract, and Cuzzoni's patronesses made her take an
oath not to accept lower terms than Faustina. The directors ingeniously
and politely took advantage of this, and offered her exactly one guinea


Cuzzoni made her retreat, and Faustina remained in possession of the
field of battle.

However, Faustina, after the failure of the Academy in the following
year, herself returned to Italy, and met her rival at Venice in 1729,
and again, in 1730. Cuzzoni returned to London in 1734, and sang at the
Opera in Lincoln's-Inn Fields, established under the direction of
Porpora, in opposition to Handel. She visited London a third time in
1750, when a concert was given for her benefit; but the poor little
syren was now old and infirm; she had lost her voice, and even the
enemies of Faustina would not come to applaud her. This stage queen had
a most melancholy end. From England she went to Holland, where she was
imprisoned for debt, being allowed, however, to go out in the evenings
(doubtless under the guardianship of a jailer) and sing at the theatres,
by which means she gained enough money to obtain her liberation. Having
quite lost her voice, she is said to have maintained herself for some
time at Bologna by button-making. The manner of her death is not known;
but probably she had the same end as those stage-queens mentioned by the
dramatic critic in _Candide_: "_On les adore quand elles sont belles, on
les jette a la voirie quand elles sont mortes_."

The career of Faustina on the other hand did not belie her auspicious
name. In 1727, at Venice, she met Hasse, whose music owed much of its
success to her admirable singing. The composer fell in love with this
charming vocalist, married her, and in 1730 accepted an offer from
Augustus, King of Poland, and Elector of Saxony, to direct the Opera of
Dresden. Here Faustina renewed her successes, and for fifteen years
reigned with undisputed supremacy at the Court Theatre. Then, however, a
new Cuzzoni appeared in the person of Signora Mingotti.

[Sidenote: MINGOTTI.]

Regina Valentini, a pupil and domestic at the Convent of the Ursulines,
possessed a beautiful voice, but so little taste for household work,
that to avoid its drudgery and the ridicule to which her inability to go
through it exposed her, she resolved to make what profit she could out
of her singing. Old Mingotti, the manager, was willing enough to aid her
in this laudable enterprise; and accordingly married her and put her
under the tuition of Porpora, the future opponent of Handel, and actual
rival of Hasse. In due time Mingotti made her first appearance at the
Dresden Opera, when her singing called forth almost unanimous applause;
we say "almost," because Hasse and some of his personal friends
persisted in denying her talent. The successful _débutante_ was offered
a lucrative engagement at Naples, where she created the greatest
enthusiasm by her performance of the part of _Aristea_ in the
_Olimpiade_, with music by Galuppi. Mingotti was now the great singer of
the day; she received propositions from managers in all parts of Europe,
but decided to return to the scene of her earnest triumphs at Dresden.
This was in 1748.

Haase was then composing his _Demofonte_. He knew well enough the
strong, and thought he had remarked the weak, points in Mingotti's
voice; and, in order to show the latter to the greatest possible
disadvantage, provided the unsuspecting singer with an adagio which rose
and fell upon the very notes which he considered the most doubtful in
her unusually perfect organ. To render the vocalist's deficiencies as
apparent as possible, he did the next thing to making her sing the
insidious _adagio_ without accompaniment; for the only accompaniment he
wrote for it was a _pizzicato_ of violins. Regina at the very first
rehearsal, understood the snare, said nothing about it, but studied her
_adagio_ till she sang it with such perfection that what had been
intended to discover her weakness only served in the most striking
manner to exhibit her strength. The air which was to have ruined
Mingotti's reputation brought her the greatest success she had ever
obtained. Her execution was so faultless that Faustina herself could
find nothing to say against it. A story is told of Sir Charles Williams,
the English Minister at the Court of Dresden, who had taken a prominent
part in the Hasse and Faustina cabal, and had been in the habit of
saying that Mingotti was doubtless a brilliant singer, but that in the
expressive style and in passages of sustained notes she was heard to
disadvantage--a story is told of this candid and gentlemanly critic
going to Mingotti after she had sung her treacherous solo, and
apologizing to her publicly for ever having entertained a doubt as to
the completeness of her talent.

Hasse remained thirty-three years in the service of the Elector and made
the Dresden Opera the first in Europe; but in 1763 the troubles of
unhappy Poland having begun, he retired with Faustina on a small pension
to Vienna and thence to Venice, where they both died in the year 1783,
Hasse being then eighty-four years of age and his wife ninety.

       *       *       *       *       *

The most celebrated of the other singers at the Royal Academy of Music
were Durastanti and Senesino, both of whom were engaged by Handel at
Dresden, and appeared in London at the opening of the new establishment.
In 1723, however, Cuzzoni arrived, and Durastanti, acknowledging the
superior merit of that singer, took her departure. At least the
acknowledgment was made for her in a song written by Pope, which she
addressed to the audience at her farewell performance, and which ended
with this couplet:--

    "But let old charmers yield to new;
     Happy soil, adieu, adieu!"

[Sidenote: SENESINO.]

Either singers were very different then from what they are now, or
Durastanti could not have understood these lines, which, strangely
enough, are said to have been written by Pope at the desire of her
patron, the Earl of Peterborough. Surely Anastasia Robinson, the future
Countess, would not have thanked the earl for such a compliment, in
however perfect a style it might have been expressed. Madame Durastanti
appears to have been much esteemed in England, and I read in the
_Evening Post_ of March 7th, 1721, that "Last Thursday, His Majesty was
pleased to stand godfather, and the Princess and the Lady Bruce
godmothers, to a daughter of Mrs. Durastanti, chief singer in the opera
house. The Marquis Visconti for the king, and the Lady Lichfield for the

Senesino, successor to Nicolini, and the second of the noble order of
sopranists who appeared in England, was the principal contralto singer
("_modo vir, modo fœmina_") in Handel's operas, until 1726, when the
state of his health compelled him to return to Italy. He came back to
England in 1730, and resumed his position at the King's Theatre, under
Handel. In 1733, when the rival company was formed at the Lincoln's Inn
Theatre, Senesino joined it, but retired after the appearance of
Farinelli, who at once eclipsed all other singers.

Steele's journal, _The Theatre_, entertains us with a brief account of
the vanity of one Signor Beneditti, who appears to have performed
principal parts, at least for a time, at the Opera in 1720. The paper,
which is written by Sir Richard Steele's coadjutor, Sir John Edgar,
commences with a furious onslaught on a company of French actors, who
were at that time performing in London, and of whose opening
representation we are told that "if we are any longer to march on two
legs, and not be quite prone, and on all four like the other animals"
we must "assume manhood and humane indignation against so barbarous an
affront. But I foresee," continues Sir John,[23] "that the theatre is to
be utterly destroyed, and sensation is to banish reflection as sound is
to beat down sense. The head and the heart are to be moved no more, but
the basest parts of the body to be hereafter the sole instruments of
human delight. A regular, orderly, and well-governed company of actors,
that lived in reputation and credit and under decent settlement are to
be torn to pieces and made vagabond, to make room for even foreign
vagrants, who deserved no reception but in Bridewell, even before they
affronted the assembly, composed of British nobility and gentry, with
representations that could introduce nothing of even French except, &c.
....Though the French are so boisterous and void of all moderation or
temper in their conduct, the Italians are a more tractable and elegant
nation. If the French players have laid aside all shame, the Italian
singers are as eminently nice and delicate, which the reader will
observe from the following account I have received from the Haymarket.



     "'It happened in casting parts for the new opera, Signor Beneditti
     conceived he had been greatly injured, and applied to the board of
     directors for redress. He set forth in the recitative tone, the
     nearest approaching to ordinary speech, that he had never acted
     anything in any other opera below the character of a sovereign, and
     now he was to be appointed to be captain of a guard. On these
     representations, we directed that he should make love to Zenobia,
     with proper limitations. The chairman signified to him that the
     board had made him a lover, but he must be content to be an
     unfortunate one, and be rejected by his mistress. He expressed
     himself very easy under this, and seemed to rejoice that,
     considering the inconstancy of women, he could only feign, not
     pursue the passion to extremity. He muttered very much against
     making him only the guard to the character he had formerly appeared
     in,'" &c.

A small and not uninteresting volume might be written about the caprices
of singers and their behaviour under real or imaginary slights. One of
the best stories of the kind is told of Crescentini, who, three-quarters
of a century later, at the first representation of _Gli Orazi e
Curiazi_, observed immediately before the commencement of the
performance, that the costume of _Orazio_ was more magnificent than his
own. He sent for the stage manager, and burning with rage, addressed him
as follows:--

"_Perche_," he commenced, "avez vous donné _oun_ habit blanc à ce
_mossiou_; et _che_ vous m'en avez gratifié _d'oun_ vert?"

It was explained to the singer that there was a tradition at the
Comédie Francaise by which the costume of the principal Horatius was
white and that of the chief of the Curiatii, green.

"_Perché_ la _bordoure rouze_ à un _primo tenore_, el la _bordoure_
noire à _oun primo virtuoso_?" continued the incensed sopranist.

"No one was thinking," replied the stage manager, "of your positions as
singers; our only object was to make the costumes as correct as

"Votre _ousaze_ et votre _ezatitoude_ sont des imbéciles," exclaimed
Crescentini; "_zé mé lagnérai_ de votre condouite envers moi. Quant à
vous, _mossiou_ Brizzi _fate-mi il piacere_ dé vous déshabiller _subito_
et dé mé fairé passer _questo vestito in baratto dou_ mien qué zé vais
vous envoyer. _Per Bacco!_ non _si dirà qu'oun tenore_ aura _parou miou
vétou qu'oun primo oumo, surtout_ quand ce _primo virtuoso_ est Girolamo
Crescentini d'Urbino."

An exchange took place on the spot, and throughout the evening a
Curiatius, six feet high, was seen wearing a little Roman costume, which
looked as if it would burst with each movement of the singer, while a
diminutive Horatius was attired in a long Alban tunic, of which the
skirt trailed along the ground.

       *       *       *       *       *


But the singers are taking us away from the Opera. Let us return to
Handel, all of whose vocalists together, admirable as they were, could
not save the Royal Academy of Music from ruin. After the final failure
of that enterprise in 1728, the directors entered into an arrangement
with Heidegger for opening the King's Theatre under their joint
management. Handel went to Italy to engage new singers, but did not make
a very brilliant selection. Heidegger, nevertheless, did his duty as a
manager, and introduced the principal members of the new company to
public notice in the following "puff direct," which, for cool unadorned
impudence, has not been surpassed even in the present day. "Mr. Handel,
who is just returned from Italy, has contracted with the following
persons to perform in the Italian Operas, Signor Bernacchi, who is
esteemed the best singer in Italy; Signora Merighi, a woman of a very
fine presence, an excellent actress, and a very good singer, with a
counter-tenor voice; Signora Strada, who hath a very fine treble voice,
a person of singular merit; Signor Annibale Pio Fabri, a most excellent
tenor, and a fine voice; his wife, who performs a man's part well;
Signora Bertoldi, who has a very fine treble voice, she is also a very
genteel actress, both in men and women's parts; a bass voice, from
Hamburgh, there being none worth engaging in Italy."

I fancy this was an attempt to carry on Italian Opera at a reduced
expenditure, for as soon as the speculation began to fail, the popular
Senesino was again engaged. Handel had had a serious quarrel with this
singer, but when a manager is in want of a star, and a star is tempted
with a lucrative engagement, personal feelings are not taken into
account. They ought to have been, however, in this particular case, at
least by Handel, for the breach between the composer and the singer was
renewed, and Senesino left the King's Theatre to join the company which
was being formed at the Lincoln's Inn Theatre, under the direction of

Handel now set out once more for Italy, but again failed to engage any
singers of celebrity, with the exception of Carestini, whom he heard at
Bologna at the same time as Farinelli. That he should have preferred the
former to the latter seems unaccountable, for by the common consent of
musicians, critics, and the public, Farinelli, wherever he sang, was
pronounced the greatest singer of his time, and it appears certain that
no singer ever affected an audience in so powerful a manner. The
passionate (and slightly blasphemous) exclamation of the entranced
Englishwoman, "One God and one Farinelli," together with the almost
magical effect of Farinelli's voice in tranquilising the half demented
Ferdinand VI., seems to show that his singing must have been something
like the music of patriarchal times; which charmed serpents, and which
in a later age throws highly impressionable women into convulsions.


I have already mentioned that in going or returning to Italy this last
time, Handel appears to have passed through Paris, and to have paid a
contemptuous sort of attention to French music. It is then, if ever,
that he should be accused of having stolen for our national anthem, an
air left by Lulli--which _he_ did not, and which Lulli _could_ not have
composed. The ridiculous story which would make our English patriotic
hymn an adaptation from the French, is told for the first time I believe
in the Duchess of Perth's letters. But instead of "_God save the Queen_"
being translated from a canticle sung by the Ladies of St. Cyr, the
pretended canticle is a translation of "God save the Queen." Here is the
French version--

    "Grand Dieu, sauvez le Roi!
    Grand Dieu, vengez le Roi!
            Vive le Roi!
    Que toujours glorieux
    Louis victorieux
    Voie ses ennemis
            Toujours soumis.

If it could be proved that this "canticle" was sung by the Ladies of St.
Cyr, England could no longer claim the authorship of "_God save the
Queen_," as far, at least, as the words are concerned; and it is evident
that the words, which are scarcely readable as poetry, though excellent
for singing, were written either for or with the music. M. Castil Blaze,
however (in _Molière Musicien_, Vol. I., page 501), points out that "_si
l'on ignorait que la musique de cet air est, non pas de Handel, comme
plusieurs l'ont assuré mais de Henri Carey la version Française
prouverait du moins que cette melódie, scandée en sdruccioli ne peut
appartenir au siècle de Louis XIV.; nos vers à glissades etaient
parfaitement inconnus de Quinault et de Lulli, de Bernard et de


Mr. Schœlcher, like many other writers, attributes "_God save the
King_" to Dr. John Bull, but Mr. W. Chappell, in his "Popular Music of
the Olden Time," has shown that Dr. John Bull did not compose it in its
present form, and that in all probability Henry Carey did, and that
words and music together, as we know it in the present day, our national
anthem dates only from 1740. Lulli did not compose it, but it was not
composed before his time, nor before Handel's either. The air has been
so altered, or rather, developed, by the various composers who have
handled it since a simple chant on the four words "God save the King"
was harmonised by Dr. John Bull, and afterwards converted from an
indifferent tune into an admirable one (through the fortunate blundering
of a copyist, as it has been surmised), that it may almost be said to
have grown. What an interesting thing to be able to establish the fact
of its gradual formation, like the political system of that nation to
whose triumphs it has long been an indispensable accompaniment! But how
humiliating to find that somebody marked in Dr. Bull's manuscript a
sharp where there should have been no sharp, and that our glorious
anthem owes its existence to a mistake! Mr. Chappell prints three or
four ballads and part songs in his work, beginning at the reign of James
I., either or all of which may have been the foundation of "_God save
the King_," but it appears certain that our national hymn in its present
form was first sung, and almost note for note as it is sung now, by H.
Carey, in 1740, in celebration of the taking of Portobello by Admiral

Handel did not compose "_God save the King_;" but he had good reason for
singing it, considering the steady and liberal patronage he received
from our three first Georges. When, after the expiration of his contract
with Heidegger, he removed to Covent Garden, in 1735, still carrying on
the war against Porpora (who removed at the same time to the King's
Theatre), George II. subscribed £1,000 towards the expenses of Handel's
management, and it was the support of the King and the Royal Family that
enabled him to combat the influence that was brought to bear against him
by the aristocracy. Handel, according to Arbuthnot, owed his failure, in
a great measure, the first time, to the _Beggars' Opera_. The second
time, on the other hand, it was the _Nobility's_ Opera that ruined him.
Handel, as we have seen, had only Carestini to depend upon. Porpora, his
rival, had secured two established favourites, Cuzzoni and Senesino
(both members of Handel's old company at the Academy), and had,
moreover, engaged Farinelli, by far the greatest singer of the epoch.
Nevertheless, Porpora failed almost at the same time as Handel, and at
the end of the year 1737, there was no Italian Opera at all in London.

Handel joined Heidegger once more in 1738, at the King's Theatre. In two
years he wrote four operas, of which the fourth, _Deidamia_, was the
last he ever produced. After this he abandoned dramatic music, and, as a
composer of Oratorios, entered upon what was to him a far higher career.
Handel was at this time fifty-six years of age, and since his arrival in
England, in 1711, he had written no less than thirty-five Italian


Handel's Italian operas, as such, are now quite obsolete. The air from
_Admeto_ is occasionally heard at a concert, and Handel is known to have
introduced some of his operatic melodies into his Oratorios, but there
is no chance of any one of his operas ever being reproduced in a
complete form. They were never known out of England, and in this country
were soon laid aside after their composer had fairly retired from
theatrical management. I think Mr. Hogarth[25] is only speaking with his
usual judiciousness, when he observes, that "whatever pleasure they must
have given to the audiences of that age, they would fail to do so
now.... The music of the principal parts," he continues, "were written
for a class of voices which no longer exists,[26] and for these parts no
performers could now be found. A series of recitatives and airs, with
only an occasional duet, and a concluding chorus of the slightest kind,
would appear meagre and dull to ears accustomed to the brilliant
concerted pieces and finales of the modern stage; and Handel's
accompaniments would appear thin and poor amidst the richness and
variety of the modern orchestra. The vocal parts, too, are to a great
extent, in an obsolete taste. Many of the airs are mere strings of dry,
formal divisions and unmeaning passages of execution, calculated to show
off the powers of the fashionable singers; and many others, admirable in
their design, and containing the finest traits of melody and expression,
are spun out a wearisome length, and deformed by the cumbrous trappings
with which they are loaded. Musical phrases, too, when Handel used them,
had the charm of novelty, have become familiar and common through
repetition by his successors."

Among the airs which Handel has taken from his Operas and introduced
into his Oratorios, may be mentioned _Rendi l' sereno al ciglio_, from
_Sosarme_, now known as _Lord, remember David_, and _Dove sei amato
bene_, in _Rodelinda_, which has been converted into _Holy, Holy, Lord
God Almighty_. That these changes have been made with perfect success,
proves, if any proof were still wanted by those who have ever given a
minute's consideration to the subject, that there is no such thing as
absolute definite expression in music. The music of an impassioned love
song will seem equally appropriate as that of a fervent prayer, except
to those who have already associated it intimately in their memories
with the words to which it has first been written. A positive feeling
of joy, or of grief, of exultation, or of depression, of liveliness, or
of solemnity, can be expressed by musical means without the assistance
of words, but not mixed feelings, into which several shades of sentiment
enter--at least not with definiteness; though once indicated by the
words, they will obtain from music the most admirable colours which will
even appear to have been invented expressly and solely for them. Gluck
arranged old music to suit new verses quite as much, or more, than
Handel--even Gluck who maintained that music ought to convey the precise
signification, not only of a dramatic situation, but of the very words
of a song, phrase by phrase, if not word by word.

       *       *       *       *       *


During the period of Handel's presidency over our Italian Opera, works
not only by Handel and his colleagues, but also by Scarlatti, Hasse,
Porpora, Vinci, Veracini, and other composers were produced at the
King's Theatre, at Covent Garden, and at Porpora's Theatre in Lincoln's
Inn Fields. After Handel's retirement, operas by Galuppi, Pergolese,
Jomelli, Gluck, and Piccinni, were performed, and the most distinguished
singers in Europe continued to visit London. In 1741, when the Earl of
Middlesex undertook the management of the King's Theatre, Galuppi was
engaged as composer, and produced several operas: among others,
_Penelope_, _Scipione_, and _Enrico_. In 1742, the _Olimpiade_, with
music by Pergolese (a pupil of Hasse, and the future composer of the
celebrated _Serva Padrona_) was brought out. After Galuppi's return to
Italy, in 1744, the best of his new operas continued to be produced in
London. His _Mondo della Luna_ was represented in 1760, when the English
public were delighted with the gaiety of the music, and with the
charming acting and singing of Signora Paganini. The year afterwards a
still greater success was achieved with the same composer's _Filosofo di
Campagna_, which, says Dr. Burney, "surpassed in musical merit all the
comic operas that were performed in England till the _Buona Figliola_."
Not only were Gluck's earlier and comparatively unimportant works
performed in London soon after their first production at Vienna, but his
_Orfeo_, the first of those great works written in the style which we
always associate with Gluck's name, was represented in London in 1770,
four years before Gluck went to Paris. Indeed, ever since the arrival of
Handel in this country, London has been celebrated for its Italian
Opera, whereas the French had no regular continuous performances of
Italian Opera until nearly a hundred years afterwards. Handel did much
to create a taste for this species of entertainment, and by the
excellent execution which he took care every opera produced under his
direction should receive, he set an example to his successors of which
the value can scarcely be over-estimated, and which it must be admitted
has, on the whole, been followed with intelligence and enterprise.



     Great Italian Singers.--Ferri in Sweden.--Opera in Vienna.--Scenic
     decorations.--Singers of the Eighteenth Century.--Singers'
     nicknames.--Farinelli's one note.


Handel, by his great musical genius, conferred a two-fold benefit on the
country of his adoption. He endowed it with a series of Oratorios which
stand alone in their grandeur, for which the English of the present day
are deeply grateful, and for which ages to come will honour his name;
and before writing a note of his great sacred works, during the thirty
years which he devoted to the production and superintendence of Italian
Opera in England, he raised that entertainment to a pitch of excellence
unequalled elsewhere, except perhaps at the magnificent Dresden Theatre,
which, for upwards of a quarter of a century was directed by the
celebrated Hasse, and where Augustus, of Saxony, took care that the
finest musicians and singers in Europe should be engaged.

Rousseau, in the _Dictionnaire Musicale_, under the head of "Orchestra,"
writing in 1754[27], says:--

"The first orchestra in Europe in respect to the number and science of
the symphonists, is that of Naples. But the orchestra of the opera of
the King of Poland, at Dresden, directed by the illustrious Hasse, is
better distributed, and forms a better _ensemble_."

Most of Handel's and Porpora's best vocalists were engaged from the
Dresden Theatre, but the great Italian singers had already become
citizens of the world, and settled or established themselves temporarily
as their interests dictated in Germany, England, Spain, or elsewhere,
and at the beginning of the eighteenth century there were Italian Operas
at Naples, Turin, Dresden, Vienna, London, Madrid, and even
Algiers--everywhere but in France, which, as has already been pointed
out, did not accept the musical civilisation of Italy until it had been
adopted by every other country in Europe, including Russia. The great
composers, and above all, the great singers who abounded in this
fortunate century, went to and fro in Europe, from south to north, from
east to west, and were welcomed everywhere but in Paris, where, until a
few years before the Revolution, it seemed to form part of the national
honour to despise Italian music.

As far back as 1645, Queen Christina of Sweden sent a vessel of war to
Italy, to bring to her Court Balthazar Ferri, the most distinguished
singer of his day. Ferri, as Rousseau, quoting from Mancini, tells us in
his "Musical Dictionary," could without taking breath ascend and descend
two octaves of the chromatic scale, performing a shake on every note
unaccompanied, and with such precision that if at any time the note on
which the singer was shaking was verified by an instrument, it was found
to be perfectly in tune.

Ferri was in the service of three kings of Poland and two emperors of
Germany. At Venice he was decorated with the Order of St. Mark; at
Vienna he was crowned King of Musicians; at London, while he was singing
in a masque, he was presented by an unknown hand with a superb emerald;
and the Florentines, when he was about to visit their city, went in
thousands to meet him, at three leagues distance from the gates.

[Sidenote: OPERA IN VIENNA.]

The Italian Opera was established in Vienna under the Emperor Leopold
I., with great magnificence, so much so indeed, that for many years
afterwards it was far more celebrated as a spectacle than as a musical
entertainment. Nevertheless, Leopold was a most devoted lover of music,
and remained so until his death, as the history of his last moments
sufficiently shows. We have seen a French maid of honour die to the
fiddling of her page; the Emperor of Germany expired to the
accompaniment of a full orchestra. Feeling that his end was approaching
he sent for his musicians, and ordered them to commence a symphony,
which they went on playing until he died.

Apostolo Zeno, whom Rousseau calls the Corneille, and Metastasio, whom
he terms the Racine of the Opera, both resided for many years at Vienna,
and wrote many of their best pieces for its theatre. Several of Zeno's,
and a great number of Metastasio's works have been set to music over and
over again, but when they were first brought out at Vienna, many of them
appear to have obtained success more as grand dramatic spectacles than
as operas. During the latter half of the eighteenth century, Vienna
witnessed the production of some of the greatest master-pieces of the
musical drama (for instance, the _Orpheus_, _Alcestis_, &c., of Gluck,
and the _Marriage of Figaro_, of Mozart); but when Handel was in England
directing the King's Theatre in the Haymarket, and when the Dresden
Opera was in full musical glory (before as well as after the arrival of
Hasse), the Court Theatre of Vienna was above all remarkable for its
immense size, for the splendour of its decorations, and for the general
costliness and magnificence of its spectacles. Lady Mary Wortley
Montague visited the Opera, at Vienna, in 1716, and sent the following
account of it to Pope.

"I have been last Sunday at the Opera, which was performed in the garden
of the Favorita; and I was so much pleased with it, I have not yet
repented my seeing it. Nothing of the kind was ever more magnificent,
and I can easily believe what I am told, that the decorations and
habits cost the Emperor thirty thousand pounds sterling. The stage was
built over a very large canal, and at the beginning of the second act
divided into two parts, discovering the water, on which there
immediately came, from different parts, two fleets of little gilded
vessels that gave the representation of a naval fight. It is not easy to
imagine the beauty of this scene, which I took particular notice of. But
all the rest were perfectly fine in their kind. The story of the Opera
is the enchantment of Alcina, which gives opportunities for a great
variety of machines, and changes of scenes which are performed with
surprising swiftness. The theatre is so large that it is hard to carry
the eye to the end of it, and the habits in the utmost magnificence to
the number of one hundred and eight. No house could hold such large
decorations; but the ladies all sitting in the open air exposes them to
great inconveniences, for there is but one canopy for the Imperial
Family, and the first night it was represented, a shower of rain
happening, the opera was broken off, and the company crowded away in
such confusion that I was almost squeezed to death."


One of these open air theatres, though doubtless on a much smaller scale
than that of Vienna, stood in the garden of the Tuileries, at Paris, at
the beginning of the eighteenth century. It was embowered in trees and
covered with creeping plants, and the performances took place there in
the day-time. These garden theatres were known to the Romans, witness
the following lines of Ovid:--

    "Illic quas tulerant nemorosa palatia, frondes
     Simpliciter positæ; scena sine arte fuit."
             _De Arte Amandi_, Liber I., v. 105.

I myself saw a little theatre of the kind, in 1856, at Flensburgh, in
Denmark. There was a pleasure-ground in front, with benches and chairs
for the audience. The stage door at the back opened into a cabbage
garden. The performances, which consisted of a comedy and farce took
place in the afternoon, and ended at dusk.

       *       *       *       *       *

I have already spoken of the magnificence and perfection of the scenic
pictures exhibited at the Italian theatres in the very first days of the
Opera. In the early part of the seventeenth century immense theatres
were constructed so as to admit of the most elaborate spectacular
displays. The Farnesino Theatre, at Parma, built for dramas,
tournaments, and spectacles of all kinds, and which is now a ruin,
contained at least fifty thousand spectators.[28]

In the 18th century the Italians seem to have thought more of the music
of their operas, and to have left the vanities of theatrical decorations
to the Germans.

Servandoni, for some time scene painter and decorator at the Académie
Royale of Paris not finding that theatre sufficiently vast for his
designs, sought a new field for his ambition at the Opera-House of
Dresden, where Augustus of Poland engaged him to superintend the
arrangement of the stage. Servandoni painted a number of admirable
scenes for this theatre, in the midst of which four hundred mounted
horsemen were able to manœuvre with ease.

In 1760 the Court of the Duke of Wurtemburg, at Stuttgardt, was the most
brilliant in Europe, owing partly, no doubt, to the enormous subsidies
received by the Duke from France for a body of ten thousand men, which
he maintained at the service of that power. The Duke had a French
theatre, and two Italian theatres, one for Opera Seria, and the other
for Opera Buffa. The celebrated Noverre was his ballet-master, and there
were a hundred dancers in the _corps de ballet_, besides twenty
principal ones, each of whom had been first dancer at one of the chief
theatres of Italy. Jomelli was chapel-master and director of the Opera
at Stuttgardt from 1754 until 1773.


In the way of stage decorations, theatrical effects, and the various
other spectacular devices by which managers still seek to attract to
their Operas those who are unable to appreciate good music, we have made
no progress since the 17th century. We have, to be sure, gas and the
electric light, which were not known to our forefathers; but St.
Evrémond tells us that in Louis the XIV.'s time the sun and moon were
so well represented at the Académie Royale, that the Ambassador of
Guinea, assisting at one of its performances, leant forward in his box,
when those orbs appeared and religiously saluted them. To be sure, this
anecdote may be classed with one I have heard in Russia, of an actor
who, playing the part of a bear in a grand melodrama, in which a storm
was introduced, crossed himself devoutly at each clap of thunder; but
the stories of Servandoni's and Bernino's decorations are no fables.
Like the other great masters of stage effect in Italy, Bernino was an
architect, a sculptor and a painter. His sunsets are said to have been
marvellous; and in a spectacular piece of his composition, entitled _The
Inundation of the Tiber_, a mass of water was seen to come in from the
back of the stage, gradually approaching the orchestra and washing down
everything that impeded its onward course, until at last the audience,
believing the inundation to be real, rose in terror and were about to
rush from the theatre. Traps, however, were ready to be opened in all
parts of the stage. The Neptune of the troubled theatrical waves gave
the word,

   ----"_et dicto citiùs tumida æquora placat_."

But in Italy, even at the time when such wonders were being effected in
the way of stage decorations, the music of an opera was still its prime
attraction; indeed, there were theatres for operas and theatres for
spectacular dramas, and it is a mistake to attempt the union of the two
in any great excellence, inasmuch as the one naturally interferes with
and diverts attention from the other.

Of Venice and its music, in the days when grand hunts, charges of
cavalry, triumphal processions in which hundreds of horsemen took part,
and ships traversing the ocean, and proceeding full sail to the
discovery of America were introduced on to the stage;[29] of Venice and
its music even at this highly decorative period, St. Evrémond has given
us a brief but very satisfactory account in the following doggrel:--

    "A Venise rien n'est égal:
     Sept opéras, le carneval;
     Et la merveille, l'excellence,
     Point de chœurs et jamais de danse,
     Dans les maisons, souvent concert,
     Où tout se chante à livre ouvert."

The operatic chorus, as has already been observed, is an invention
claimed by the French[30]; on the other hand, from the very foundation
of the Académie Royale, the French rendered their Operas ridiculous by
introducing _ballets_ into the middle of them. We shall find Rousseau
calling attention to this absurd custom which still prevails at the
Académie, where if even _Fidelio_ was to be produced, it would be
considered necessary to "enliven" one or more of the scenes with a
_divertissement_--so unchanging and unchangeable are the revolutionary
French in all that is futile.


We have seen that in the first years of the 18th century, the Opera at
Vienna was chiefly remarkable for its size, and the splendour and
magnificence of its scenery. But it soon became a first-rate musical
theatre; and it was there, as every one who takes an interest in music
knows, that nearly all the masterpieces of Gluck and Mozart[31] were
produced. The French sometimes speak of Gluck's great works as if they
belonged exclusively to the repertory of their Académie. I have already
mentioned that four years before Gluck went to Paris (1774), his _Orfeo_
was played in London. This opera was brought out at Vienna in 1764, when
it was performed twenty-eight times in succession. The success of
_Alceste_ was still greater; and after its production in 1768, no other
opera was played for two years. At this period, the imperial family did
not confine the interest they took in the Opera to mere patronage; four
Austrian archduchesses, sisters of the Emperor Charles VII., themselves
appeared on the stage, and performed, among other pieces, in the
_Egeria_ of Metastasio and Hasse, and even in Gluck's works. Charles
VII. himself played on the harpsichord and the violoncello; and the
Empress mother, then seventy years of age, once said, in conversing with
Faustina (Hasse's widow at that time), "I am the oldest dramatic singer
in Europe; I made my _début_ when I was five years old." Charles VI.
too, Leopold's successor, if not a musician, had, at least, considerable
taste in music; and Farinelli informed Dr. Burney that he was much
indebted to this sovereign for an admonition he once received from him.
The Emperor told the singer that his performance was surprising, and,
indeed, prodigious; but that all was unavailing as long as he did not
succeed in touching the heart. It would appear that at this time
Farinelli's style was wanting in simplicity and expressiveness; but an
artist of the intelligence and taste which his correspondence with
Metastasio proves him to have possessed, would be sure to correct
himself of any such failings the moment his attention was called to


The 18th century produced a multitude of great singers. Their voices
have gone with them; but we know from the music they sang, from the
embellishments and cadences which have been noted down, and which are as
good evidence now as when they were first executed, that those
_virtuosi_ had brought the vocal art to a perfection of which, in these
later days, we meet with only the rarest examples. Is music to be
written for the sake of singers, or are singers to learn to sing for the
sake of music? Of the two propositions, I decidedly prefer the latter;
but it must, at the same time, be remarked, that unless the executive
qualities of the singer be studied to a considerable extent, the singer
will soon cease to pay much attention to his execution. Continue to give
him singable music, however difficult, and he will continue to learn to
sing, counting the difficulties to be overcome only as so many
opportunities for new triumphs; but if the music given to him is such as
can, perhaps even _must_, be shouted, it is to be expected that he will
soon cease to study the intricacies and delicacies of his art; and in
time, if music truly vocal be put before him, he will be unable to sing.

       *       *       *       *       *

The great singers of the 17th century, to judge from the cantilenas of
Caccini's, Peri's, and Monteverde's operas, must have cultivated
expression rather than ornamentation; though what Mancini tells us about
the singing of Balthazar Ferri, and the manner in which it was received,
proves that the florid, highly-adorned style was also in vogue. These
early Italian _virtuosi_ (a name which they adopted at the beginning of
the 17th century to distinguish themselves from mere actors) not only
possessed great acquirements as singers, but were also excellent
musicians; and many of them displayed great ability in matters quite
unconnected with their profession. Stradella, the only vocalist of whom
it is recorded that his singing saved his life, composed an opera, _La
Forza dell Amor paterno_, of which the manifold beauties caused him to
be proclaimed "beyond comparison the first Apollo of music:" the
following inscription being stamped by authority on the published
score--"_Bastando il dirti, che il concerto di si perfetta melodia sia
valore d'un Alessandro, civè del Signor Stradella, riconoscinto senza
contrasto per il primo Apollo della musica._" Atto, an Italian tenor,
who came to Paris with Leonora Baroni, and who had apartments given him
in Cardinal Mazarin's palace, was afterwards entrusted by that minister
with a political mission to the court of Bavaria, which, however, it
must be remembered, was just then presided over, not by an elector, but
by an electoress. Farinelli became the confidential adviser, if not the
actual minister (as has been often stated, but without foundation) of
the king of Spain. In the present day, the only _virtuoso_ I know of
(the name has now a more general signification) who has been entrusted
with _quasi_-diplomatic functions is Vivier, the first horn player, and,
in his own way, the first humorist of the age; I believe it is no secret
that this facetious _virtuoso_ fills the office of secretary to his
Excellency Vely Pasha.


Bontempi, in his _Historia Musica_, gives the following account of the
school of singing directed by Mazzocchi, at Rome, in 1620: "At the
schools of Rome, the pupils were obliged to give up one hour every day
to the singing of difficult passages till they were well acquainted with
them; another to the practice of the shake; another to feats of
agility;[32] another to the study of letters; another to vocal
exercises, under the direction of a master, and before a looking-glass,
so that they might be certain they were making no disagreeable movement
of the muscles of the face, of the forehead, of the eyes, or of the
mouth. So much for the occupation of the morning. In the afternoon,
half-an-hour was devoted to the theory of singing; another half-hour to
counterpoint; an hour to hearing the rules of composition, and putting
them in practice on their tablets; another to the study of letters; and
the rest of the day to practising the harpsichord, to the composition of
some psalm, motet, canzonetta, or any other piece according to the
scholar's own ideas.

"Such were the ordinary exercises of the school in days when the
scholars did not leave the house. When they went out, they often walked
towards Monte Mario, and sang where they could hear the echo of their
notes, so that each might judge by the response of the justness of his
execution. They, moreover, sang at all the musical solemnities of the
Roman Churches; following, and observing with attention the manner and
style of an infinity of great singers who lived under the pontificate of
Urban VIII., so that they could afterwards render an account of their
observations to the master, who, the better to impress the result of
these studies on the minds of his pupils, added whatever remarks and
cautions he thought necessary."

With such a system as the above, it would have been impossible,
supposing the students to have possessed any natural disposition for
singing, not to have produced good singers. We have spoken already of
some of the best vocalists of the 18th century; of Faustina, Cuzzoni,
and Mingotti; of Nicolini, Senesino, and Farinelli. Of Farinelli's life,
however (which was so interesting that it has afforded to a German
composer the subject of one opera, to M. M. Scribe and Auber, that of
another, _La part du Diable_, and to M. Scribe the plan of "_Carlo
Broschi_," a tale), I must give a few more particulars; and this will
also be a convenient opportunity for sketching the careers of some two
or three others of the great Italian singers of this epoch, such as
Caffarelli, Gabrielli, Guadagni, &c.

First, as to his name. It is generally said that Carlo Broschi owed his
appellation of Farinelli to the circumstance of his father having been a
miller, or a flour merchant. This, however, is pure conjecture. No one
knows or cares who Carlo Broschi's father was, but he was called
"Farinelli," because he was the recognised _protégé_ of the Farina
family; just as another singer, who was known to be one of Porpora's
favorite pupils, was named "Porporino."


Descriptive nicknames were given to the celebrated musicians as well as
to the celebrated painters of Italy. Numerous composers and singers owed
their sobriquets


  _Il Sassone_ (Hasse), born at Bergendorf, in Saxony;
  _Portogallo_ (Simao);
  _Lo Spagnuolo_ (Vincent Martin);
  _L'Inglesina_ (Cecilia Davies);
  _La Francesina_ (Elizabeth Duparc), who, after singing
  for some years with success in Italy and at London,
  was engaged by Handel in 1745, to take the principal
  soprano parts in his oratorios:


  _Buranello_, of Burano (Galuppi);
  _Pergolese_, of Pergola (Jesi);
  _La Ferrarese_, of Ferrara (Francesca Gabrielli);
  _Senesino_, of Sienna (Bernardi):


  _La Cochetta_ (Catarina), whose father was cook
  to Prince Gabrielli, at Rome:


  _Checca della Laguna_, (Francesca of the Lagune):


  _Caffarelli_ (Majorano), pupil of Caffaro;
  _Gizziello_ (Conti), pupil of Gizzi;
  _Porporino_ (Hubert), pupil of Porpora:


  _Farinelli_ (Carlo Broschi), protected by the Farinas,
  of Naples;
  _Gabrielli_ (Catarina), protected by Prince Gabrielli;

  _Cusanimo_ (Carestini), protected by the Cusani
  family of Milan:


  _Siface_ (Grossi), who had obtained a triumphant
  success, as that personage, in Scarlatti's _Mitridate_.

But the most astonishing of all these nicknames was that given to
Lucrezia Aguiari, who, being a natural child, was called publicly, in
the playbills and in the newspapers, _La Bastardina_, or _La

Catarina, called Gabrielli, a singer to be ranked with the Faustinas and
Cuzzonis, naturally became disgusted with her appellation of _la
cocchetta_ (little cook) as soon as she had acquired a little celebrity.
She accordingly assumed the name of Prince Gabrielli, her patron;
Francesca Gabrielli, who was in no way related to the celebrated
Catarina, keeping to that of _Ferrarese_, or _Gabriellina_, as she was
sometimes called.

But to return to my short anecdotal biographies of a few of these
singers.[33] Carlo Broschi, then, called "Farinelli," first
distinguished himself, at the age of seventeen, in a bravura with an
_obligato_ trumpet accompaniment, which Porpora, his master, wrote
expressly for him, and for a German trumpet-player whose skill on that
instrument was prodigious. The air commenced with a sustained note,
given by the trumpet. This note was then taken up by the vocalist, who
held it with consummate art for such a length of time that the audience
fell into raptures with the beauty and fulness of his voice. The note
was then attacked, and held successively by the player and the singer,
_pianissimo_, _crescendo_, _forte_, _fortissimo_, _diminuendo_, _
smorzando_, _perdendosi_--of which the effect may be imagined from the
delirious transports of the lady who, on hearing this one note several
times repeated, hastened to proclaim in the same breath the unity of the
Deity and the uniqueness of Farinelli. This trumpet song occurs
originally in Porpora's _Eomene_; and Farinelli sang it for the first
time at Rome, in 1722. In London, in 1734, he introduced it in Hasse's
_Artaserse_, the opera in which he made his _début_, at the Lincoln's
Inn Theatre, under the direction of Porpora, his old preceptor.


I, who have heard a good many fine singers, and one or two whose voices
I shall not easily forget, must confess myself unable to understand the
enthusiasm caused by Farinelli's one note, however wonderful the art
that produced it, however exquisite the gradations of sound which gave
it colour, and perhaps a certain appearance of life; for one musical
sound is, after all, not music. Bilboquet, in Dumersan and Varin's
admirable burlesque comedy of _Les Saltimbanques_, would, perhaps, have
understood it; and, really, when I read of the effect Farinelli
produced by keeping to one note, I cannot help thinking of the
directions given by the old humorist and scoundrel to an incompetent
_débutant_ on the trombone. The amateur has the instrument put into his
hands, and, with great difficulty, succeeds in bringing out one note;
but, to save his life, he could not produce two. "Never mind," says
Bilboquet, "one note is enough. Keep on playing it, and people who are
fond of that note will be delighted." How little the authors of _Les
Saltimbanques_ knew that one note had delighted and enchanted thousands!
Not only is truth stranger than fiction, but reality is more grotesque
even than a burlesque fancy.

Farinelli visited Paris in 1737, and sang before Louis XV., who,
according to Riccoboni, was delighted, though His Majesty cared very
little for music, and least of all for Italian music. It is also said
that, on the whole, Farinelli was by no means satisfied with his
reception in Paris, nor with the general distaste of the French for the
music of his country; and some writers go so far as to maintain that the
ill-will he always showed to France during his residence, in a
confidential position, at the Court of Madrid, was attributable to his
irritating recollections of his visit to the French capital. In 1752,
the Duke de Duras was charged with a secret mission to the Spanish Court
(concerning an alliance with France), which is supposed to have
miscarried through the influence of Farinelli; but there were plenty of
good reasons, independently of any personal dislike he may have had for
the French, for advising Ferdinand VI. to maintain his good
understanding with the cabinets of Vienna, London, and Turin.


Ferdinand's favourite singer remained ten years in his service; soothing
and consoling him with his songs, and, after a time, giving him valuable
political advice. Farinelli's quasi-ministerial functions did not
prevent him from continuing to sing every day. Every day, for ten years,
the same thing! Or rather, the same things, for His Majesty's particular
collection included as many as four different airs. Two of them were by
Hasse, _Pallido il sole_ and _Per questo dulce amplesso_. The third was
a minuet, on which Farinelli improvised variations. It has been
calculated that during the ten years he sang the same airs, and never
anything else, about three thousand six hundred times. If Ferdinand VI.
had not, in the first instance, been half insane, surely this would have
driven him mad.

Caffarelli, hearing of Farinelli's success at Madrid, is said to have
made this curious observation: "He deserves to be Prime Minister; he has
an admirable voice."


Caffarelli was regarded as Farinelli's rival; and some critics,
including Porpora, who had taught both, considered him the greatest
singer of the two. This sopranist was notorious for his intolerable
insolence, of which numerous anecdotes are told. He would affect
indisposition, when persons of great importance were anxious to hear
him sing, and had engaged him for that purpose. "Omnibus hoc vitium
cantoribus;" but it may be said Caffarelli was capricious and
overbearing to an unusual extent. Metastasio, in one of his letters,
tells us that at a rehearsal which had been ordered at the Opera of
Vienna, all the performers obeyed the summons except Caffarelli; he
appeared, however, at the end of the rehearsal, and asked the company
with a very disdainful air, "What was the use of these rehearsals?" The
conductor answered, in a voice of authority, "that no one was called
upon to account to him for what was done; that he ought to be glad that
his failure in attendance had been suffered; that his presence or
absence was of little consequence to the success of the opera; but that
whatever he chose to do himself, he ought, at least, to let others do
their duty." Caffarelli, in a great rage, exclaimed "that he who had
ordered such a rehearsal was a solemn coxcomb." At this, all the
patience and dignity of the poet forsook him; "and getting into a
towering passion, he honoured the singer with all those glorious titles
which Caffarelli had earned in various parts of Europe, and slightly
touched, but in lively colours, some of the most memorable particulars
of his life; nor was he likely soon to come to a close; but the hero of
the panegyric, cutting the thread of his own praise, boldly called out
to his eulogist: 'Follow me, if thou hast courage, to a place where
there is none to assist thee, * * * * * The bystanders tremble; each
calls on his tutelar saint, expecting every moment to see poetical and
vocal blood besprinkle the harpsichords and double basses. But at length
the Signora Tesi, rising from under her canopy, where, till now, she had
remained a most tranquil spectator, walked with a slow and stately step
towards the combatants; when, O sovereign power of beauty! the frantic
Caffarelli, even in the fiercest paroxysm of his wrath, captivated and
appeased by this unexpected tenderness, runs with rapture to meet her;
lays his sword at her feet; begs pardon for his error; and generously
sacrificing to her his vengeance, seals, with a thousand kisses upon her
hand, his protestations of obedience, respect and humility. The nymph
signifies her forgiveness by a nod; the poet sheathes his sword; the
spectators begin to breathe again; and the tumultuous assembly breaks up
amid the joyous sounds of laughter."

Of Caffarelli a curious, and as it seems to me fabulous, story is told
to the effect that for five years Porpora allowed him to sing nothing
but a series of scales and exercises, all of which were written down on
one sheet of paper. According to this anecdote, Caffarelli, with a
patience which did not distinguish him in after life, asked seriously
after his five years' scale practice, when he was likely to get beyond
the rudiments of his art,--upon which Porpora suddenly exclaimed:--"Young
man you have nothing more to learn, you are the greatest singer in the
world." In London, however, coming after Farinelli, Caffarelli did not
meet with anything like the same success.

At Turin, when the Prince of Savoy told Caffarelli, after praising him
greatly, that the princess thought it hardly possible any singer could
please after Farinelli, "To night," exclaimed the sopranist, in the
fulness of his vanity, "she shall hear two Farinellis."

What would the English lady have said to this, who maintained that there
was but "_one_ Farinelli?"

At sixty-five years of age, Caffarelli was still singing; but he had
made an enormous fortune--had purchased nothing less than a dukedom for
his nephew, and had built himself a superb palace, over the entrance of
which he placed the following modest inscription:--

    "Amphion THEBAS, ego domum."

    "Ille eum, sine tu!"

wrote a commentator beneath it.

       *       *       *       *       *

Guadagni was the "creator" of the parts of _Telemacco_ and _Orfeo_, in
the operas by Gluck, bearing those names. He sang in London in 1766, at
Venice the year afterwards, when he was made a Knight of St. Mark; at
Potsdam before the King of Prussia, in 1776, &c. Guadagni amassed a
large fortune, though he was at the same time noted for his generosity.
He has the credit of having lent large sums of money to men of good
family, who had ruined themselves. One of these impoverished gentlemen
said, after borrowing the sum of a hundred sequins from him--

"I only want it as a loan, I shall repay you."

"That is not my intention," replied the singer; "if I wanted to have it
back, I should not lend it to you."

       *       *       *       *       *

[Sidenote: GABRIELLI.]

Gabrielli (Catarina) is described by Brydone, in his tour through
Sicily, in a letter, dated Palermo, July 27, 1770. She was at this time
upwards of thirty, but on the stage appeared to be scarcely eighteen;
and Brydone considers her to have been "the most dangerous syren of
modern times," adding, that she has made more conquests than any woman
living. "She was wonderfully capricious," he continues, "and neither
interest nor flattery, nor threats, nor punishment, had any power to
control her. Instead of singing her airs as other actresses do, for the
most part she hums them over _a mezza voce_, and no art whatever is
capable of making her sing when she does not choose it. The most
successful expedient has ever been found to prevail on her favourite
lover (for she always has one) to place himself in the centre of the pit
or the front box, and if they are on good terms, which is seldom the
case, she will address her tender airs to him, and exert herself to the
utmost. Her present inamorato promised to give us this specimen of his
power over her. He took his seat accordingly, but Gabrielli, probably
suspecting the connivance, would take no notice of him, so that even
this expedient does not always succeed. The viceroy, who is fond of
music, has tried every method with her to no purpose. Some time ago he
gave a great dinner, and sent an invitation to Gabrielli to be of the
party. Every other person came at the hour of invitation. The viceroy
ordered dinner to be put back, and sent to let her know that the company
had all arrived. The messenger found her reading in bed. She said she
was sorry for having made the company wait, and begged he would make her
apology, but really she had entirely forgotten her engagement. The
viceroy would have forgiven this piece of insolence, but when the
company went to the Opera, Gabrielli repeated her part with the utmost
negligence and indifference, and sang all her airs in what they call
_sotto voce_, that is, so low that they can scarcely be heard. The
viceroy was offended; but as he is a good tempered man, he was loth to
enforce his authority; but at last, by a perseverance in this insolent
stubbornness, she obliged him to threaten her with punishment in case
she any longer refused to sing. On this she grew more obstinate than
ever, declaring that force and authority would never succeed with her;
that he might make her cry, but never could make her sing. The viceroy
then sent her to prison, where she remained twelve days; during which
time she gave magnificent entertainments every day, paid the debts of
all the poor prisoners, and distributed large sums in charity. The
viceroy was obliged to give up struggling with her, and she was at last
set at liberty amidst the acclamations of the poor."

[Sidenote: GABRIELLI.]

Gabrielli said at this time that she should never dare to appear in
England, alleging as her reason that if, in a fit of caprice, which
might at any time attack her, she refused to sing, or lost her temper
and insulted the audience, they were said to be so ferocious that they
would probably murder her. She asserted, however, and, doubtless, with
truth, that it was not always caprice which prevented her singing, and
that she was often really indisposed and unable to sing, when the public
imagined that she absented herself from the theatre from caprice alone.

       *       *       *       *       *

Mingotti used to say that the London public would admit that any one
might have a cold, a head-ache, or a fever, except a singer. In the
present day, our audiences often show the most unjustifiable anger
because, while half the people in a concert room are coughing and
sneezing, some favourite vocalist, with an exceptionally delicate
larynx, is unable to sing an air, of which the execution would be sure
to fatigue the voice even in its healthiest condition.

       *       *       *       *       *

To Brydone's anecdotes of Gabrielli we may add another. The ambassador
of France at the court of Vienna was violently in love with our
capricious and ungovernable vocalist. In a fit of jealousy, he attempted
to stab her, and Gabrielli was only saved from transfixion by the
whalebone of her stays. As it was, she was slightly wounded. The
ambassador threw himself at the singer's feet and obtained her
forgiveness, on condition of giving up his sword, on which the offended
_prima donna_ proposed to engrave the following words:--"_The sword
of----, who on such a day in such a year, dared to strike La
Gabrielli._" Metastasio, however, succeeded in persuading her to abandon
this intention.

In 1767 Gabrielli went to Parma, but wearied by the attentions of the
Infant, Don Philip ("her accursed hunch back"--_gobbo maladetto_--as she
called him), she escaped in secret the following year to St.
Petersburgh, where Catherine II. had invited her some time before. When
the empress enquired what terms the celebrated singer expected, the sum
of five thousand ducats was named.

"Five thousand ducats," replied Catherine; "not one of my field marshals
receives so much."

"Her majesty had better ask her field marshals to sing," said Gabrielli.

Catherine gave the five thousand ducats. "Whether the great Souvaroff's
jealousy was excited, is not recorded.

At this time the composer Galuppi was musical director at the Russian
court. He went to St. Petersburgh in 1766, and had just returned when
Dr. Burney saw him at Venice. Among the other great composers who
visited Russia in Catherine's reign were Cimarosa and Paisiello, the
latter of whom produced his _Barbiere di Siviglia_, at St. Petersburgh,
in 1780.

Most of the celebrated Italian vocalists of the 18th century visited
Vienna, Dresden, London and Madrid, as well as the principal cities of
their own country, and sometimes even Paris, where both Farinelli and
Caffarelli sang, but only at concerts. "I had hoped," says Rousseau,
"that Caffarelli would give us at the 'Concert Spirituel' some specimen
of grand recitative, and of the pathetic style of singing, that
pretended connoisseurs might hear once for all what they have so often
pronounced an opinion upon; but from his reasons for doing nothing of
the kind I found that he understood his audience better than I did."

       *       *       *       *       *


It was not until the accession of Frederick the Great, warrior, flute
player, and severe protector of the arts in general, that the Italian
Opera was established in Berlin; and it had been reserved for Catherine
the Great to introduce it into St. Petersburgh. In proportion as the
Opera grew in Prussia and Russia it faded in Poland, and its decay at
the court of the Elector of Saxony was followed shortly afterwards by
the first signs of the infamous partition.

Frederick the Great's favourite composers were Hasse, Agricola, and
Graun, the last of whom wrote a great number of Italian operas for the
Berlin Theatre. When Dr. Burney was at Berlin, in 1772, there were fifty
performers in the orchestra. There was a large chorus, and a numerous
ballet, and several principal singers of great merit. The king defrayed
the expenses of the whole establishment. He also officiated as general
conductor, standing in the pit behind the chef d'orchestre, so as to
have a view of the score, and drilling his musical troops in true
military fashion. We are told that if any mistake was committed on the
stage, or in the orchestra, the king stopped the offender, and
admonished him; and it is really satisfactory to know, that if a singer
ventured to alter a single passage in his part (which almost every
singer does in the present day) His Majesty severely reprimanded him,
and ordered him to keep to the notes written by the composer. It was not
the Opera of Paris, nor of London, nor of New York that should have been
called the Academy, but evidently that of Berlin.

The celebrated Madame Mara sang for many years at the Berlin Opera. When
her father Herr Schmaling first endeavoured to get her engaged by the
king of Prussia, Frederick sent his principal singer Morelli to hear her
and report upon her merits.


"She sings like a German," said the prejudiced Morelli, and the king,
who declared that he should as soon expect to receive pleasure from the
neighing of his horse as from a German singer, paid no further attention
to Schmaling's application. The daughter, however, had heard of the
king's sarcasm, and was determined to prove how ill-founded it was.
Mademoiselle Schmaling made her _début_ with great success at Dresden,
and afterwards, in 1771, went to Berlin. The king, when the young
vocalist was presented to him, after a few uncourteous observations,
asked her if she could sing at sight, and placed before her a very
difficult bravura song. Mademoiselle Schmaling executed it to
perfection, upon which Frederick paid her a multitude of compliments,
made her a handsome present, and appointed her _prima donna_ of his

When Madame Mara in 1780 wished to visit England with her husband, (who
was a dissipated violoncellist, belonging to the Berlin orchestra) the
king positively prohibited their departure, and on their escaping to
Vienna, sent a despatch to the Emperor Joseph II., requesting him to
arrest the fugitives and send them back. The emperor, however, merely
gave them a hint that they had better get out of Vienna as soon as
possible, when he would inform the king that his messenger had arrived
too late. Afterwards, as soon as it was thought she could do so with
safety, Madame Mara made her appearance at the Viennese Opera and sang
there with great success for nearly two years.

According to another version of Madame Mara's flight, she was arrested
before she had passed the Prussian frontier, and separated from her
husband, who was shut up in a fortress, and instead of performing on the
violoncello in the orchestra of the Opera, was made to play the drum at
the head of a regiment. The tears of the singer had no effect upon the
inflexible monarch, and it was only by giving up a portion of her salary
(so at least runs this anecdote of dubious authenticity) that she could
obtain M. Mara's liberation. In any case it is certain that the position
of this "_prima donna_" by no means "_assoluta_," at the court of a
very absolute king, was by no means an agreeable one, and that she had
not occupied it many years before she endeavoured to liberate herself
from it by every device in her power, including such disobedience of
orders as she hoped would entail her prompt dismissal. On one occasion,
when the Cæsarevitch, afterwards Paul I., was at Berlin, and Madame Mara
was to take the principal part in an opera given specially in his
honour, she pretended to be ill, and sent word to the theatre that she
would be unable to appear. The king informed her on the morning of the
day fixed for the performance that she had better get well, for that
well or ill she would have to sing. Nevertheless Madame Mara remained at
home and in bed. Two hours before the time fixed for the commencement of
the opera, a carriage, escorted by a few dragoons, stopped at her door,
and an officer entered her room to announce that he had orders from His
Majesty to bring her alive or dead to the theatre.

"But you see I am in bed, and cannot get up," remonstrated the vocalist.

"In that case I must take the bed too," was the reply.

It was impossible not to obey. Bathed in tears she allowed herself to be
taken to her dressing room, put on her costume, but resolved at the same
time to sing in such a manner that the king should repent of his
violence. She conformed to her determination throughout the first act,
but it then occurred to her that the Russian grand duke would carry
away a most unworthy opinion of her talent. She quite changed her
tactics, sang with all possible brilliancy, and is reported in
particular to have sustained a shake for such a length of time and with
such wonderful modulations of voice, that his Imperial Highness was
enchanted, and applauded the singer enthusiastically.


In Paris Madame Mara was received with enthusiasm, and founded the
celebrated party of the Maratistes, to which was opposed the almost
equally distinguished sect of the Todistes. Madame Todi was a
Portuguese, and she and Madame Mara were the chief, though contending,
attractions at the Concert Spirituel of Paris, in 1782. These rivalries
between singers have occasioned, in various countries and at various
times, a good many foolish verses and _mots_. The Mara and Todi
disputes, however, inspired one really good stanza, which is as

    "Todi par sa voix touchante,
       De doux pleurs mouille mes yeux;
     Mara plus vive, plus brillante,
       M'étonne, me transporte aux cieux.
     L'une ravit et l'autre enchante,
       Mais celle qui plait le mieux,
     Est toujours celle qui chante."

Of Madame Mara's performances in London, where she obtained her greatest
and most enduring triumphs, I shall speak in another chapter.

       *       *       *       *       *

A good notion of the weak points in the Opera in Italy during the early
part of the 18th century is given, that is to say, is conveyed
ironically, in the celebrated satire by Marcello, entitled _Teatro a la
Moda, &c., &c._[34]


The author begins by telling the poet, that "there is no occasion for
his reading, or having read, the old Greek and Latin authors: for this
good reason, that the ancients never read any of the works of the
moderns. He will not ask any questions about the ability of the
performers, but will rather inquire whether the theatre is provided with
a good bear, a good lion, a good nightingale, good thunder, lightning
and earthquakes. He will introduce a magnificent show in his last scene,
and conclude with the usual chorus in honour of the sun, the moon or the
manager. In dedicating his libretto to some great personage, he will
select him for his riches rather than his learning, and will give a
share of the gratuity to his patron's cook, or maître d'hôtel, from whom
he will obtain all his titles, that he may blazon them on his title
pages with an &c., &c. He will exalt the great man's family and
ancestors; make an abundant use of such phrases as liberality and
generosity of soul; and if he can find any subject of eulogy (as is
often the case), he will say, that he is silent through fear of hurting
his patron's modesty; but that fame, with her hundred brazen trumpets,
will spread his immortal name from pole to pole. He will do well to
protest to the reader that his opera was composed in his youth, and may
add that it was written in a few days: by this he will show that he is a
true modern, and has a proper contempt for the antiquated precept,
_nonumque prematur in annum_. He may add, too, that he became a poet
solely for his amusement, and to divert his mind from graver
occupations; but that he had published his work by the advice of his
friends and the command of his patrons, and by no means from any love of
praise or desire of profit. He will take care not to neglect the usual
explanation of the three great points of every drama, the place, time,
and action; the place, signifying in such and such a theatre; the time,
from eight to twelve o'clock at night; the action, the ruin of the
manager. The incidents of the piece should consist of dungeons, daggers,
poison, boar-hunts, earthquakes, sacrifices, madness, and so forth;
because the people are always greatly moved by such unexpected things. A
good _modern_ poet ought to know nothing about music, because the
ancients, according to Strabo, Pliny, &c., thought this knowledge
necessary. At the rehearsals he should never tell his meaning to any of
the performers, wisely reflecting that they always want to do everything
in their own way. If a husband and wife are discovered in prison, and
one of them is led away to die, it is indispensable that the other
remain to sing an air, which should be to lively words, to relieve the
feelings of the audience, and make them understand that the whole
affair is a joke. If two of the characters make love, or plot a
conspiracy, it should always be in the presence of servants and
attendants. The part of a father or tyrant, when it is the principal
character, should always be given to a soprano; reserving the tenors and
basses for captains of the guard, confidants, shepherds, messengers, and
so forth.


"The modern composer is told that there is no occasion for his being
master of the principles of composition, a little practice being all
that is necessary. He need not know anything of poetry, or give himself
any trouble about the meaning of the words, or even the quantities of
the syllables. Neither is it necessary that he should study the
properties of the stringed or wind instruments; if he can play on the
harpsichord, it will do very well. It will, however, be not amiss for
him to have been for some years a violin-player, or music-copier for
some celebrated composer, whose original scenes he may treasure up, and
thus supply himself with subjects for his airs, recitations, or
choruses. He will by no means think of reading the opera through, but
will compose it line by line; using for the airs, _motivi_ which he has
lying by him; and if the words do not go well below the notes, he will
torment the poet till they are altered to his mind. When the singer
comes to a cadence, the composer will make all the instruments stop,
leaving it to the singer to do whatever he pleases. He will serve the
manager on very low terms, considering the thousands of crowns that the
singers cost him:--he will, therefore, content himself with an inferior
salary to the lowest of these, provided that he is not wronged by the
bear, the attendants or the scene-shifters being put above him. When he
is walking with the singers, he will always give them the wall, keep his
hat in his hand, and remain a step in the rear; considering that the
lowest of them, on the stage, is at least a general, a captain of the
guards, or some such personage. All the airs should be formed of the
same materials--long divisions, holding notes, and repetitions of
insignificant words, as amore, amore, impero, impero, Europa, Europa,
furori, furori, orgoglio, orgoglio, &c.; and therefore the composer
should have before him a memorandum of the things necessary for the
termination of every air. This will enable him to eschew variety, which
is no longer in use. After ending a recitative in a flat key, he will
suddenly begin an air in three or four sharps; and this by way of
novelty. If the modern composer wishes to write in four parts, two of
them must proceed in unison or octave, only taking care that there shall
be a diversity of movement; so that if the one part proceeds by minims
or crotchets, the other will be in quavers or semiquavers. He will charm
the audience with airs, accompanied by the stringed instruments
_pizzicati_ or _con sordini_, trumpets, and other effective
contrivances. He will not compose airs with a simple bass accompaniment,
because this is no longer the custom; and, besides, he would take as
much time to compose one of these as a dozen with the orchestra. The
modern composer will oblige the manager to furnish him with a large
orchestra of violins, oboes, horns, &c., saving him rather the expense
of double basses, of which there is no occasion to make any use, except
in tuning at the outset. The overture will be a movement in the French
style, or a prestissimo in semiquavers in a major key, to which will
succeed a _piano_ in the minor; concluding with a minuet, gavot or jig,
again in the major key. In this manner the composer will avoid all
fugues, syncopations, and treatment of subjects, as being antiquated
contrivances, quite banished from modern music. The modern composer will
be most attentive to all the ladies of the theatre, supplying them with
plenty of old songs transposed to suit their voices, and telling each of
them that the Opera is supported by her talent alone. He will bring
every night some of his friends, and seat them in the orchestra; giving
the double bass or violoncello (as being the most useless instruments)
leave of absence to make room for them.


"The singer is informed that there is no occasion for having practised
the solfeggio; because he would thus be in danger of acquiring a firm
voice, just intonation, and the power of singing in tune; things wholly
useless in modern music. Nor is it very necessary that he should be able
to read or write, know how to pronounce the words or understand their
meaning, provided he can run divisions, make shakes, cadences, &c. He
will always complain of his part, saying that it is not in his way,
that the airs are not in his style, and so on; and he will sing an air
by some other composer, protesting that at such a court, or in the
presence of such a great personage, that air carried away all the
applause, and he was obliged to repeat it a dozen times in an evening.
At the rehearsals he will merely hum his airs, and will insist on having
the time in his own way. He will stand with one hand in his waistcoat
and the other in his breeches' pocket, and take care not to allow a
syllable to be heard. He will always keep his hat on his head, though a
person of quality should speak to him, in order to avoid catching cold;
and he will not bow his head to anybody, remembering the kings, princes,
and emperors whom he is in the habit of personating. On the stage he
will sing with shut teeth, doing all he can to prevent a word he says
from being understood, and, in the recitatives, paying no respect either
to commas or periods. While another performer is reciting a soliloquy or
singing an air, he will be saluting the company in the boxes, or
listening with musicians in the orchestra, or the attendants; because
the audience knows very well that he is Signor So-and-so, the _musico_,
and not Prince Zoroastro, whom he is representing. A modern virtuoso
will be hard to prevail on to sing at a private party. When he arrives
he will walk up to the mirror, settle his wig, draw down his ruffles,
and pull up his cravat to show his diamond brooch. He will then touch
the harpsichord very carelessly, and begin his air three or four times,
as if he could not recollect it. Having granted this great favour, he
will begin talking (by way of gathering applause) with some lady,
telling her stories about his travels, correspondence and professional
intrigues; all the while ogling his companion with passionate glances,
and throwing back the curls of his peruke, sometimes on one shoulder,
sometimes on the other. He will every minute offer the lady snuff in a
different box, in one of which he will point out his own portrait; and
will show her some magnificent diamond, the gift of a distinguished
patron, saying that he would offer it for her acceptance were it not for
delicacy. Thus he will, perhaps, make an impression on her heart, and,
at all events, make a great figure in the eyes of the company. In the
society of the literary men, however eminent, he will always take
precedence, because, with most people, the singer has the credit of
being an artist, while the literary man has no consideration at all. He
will even advise them to embrace his profession, as the singer has
plenty of money as well as fame, while the man of letters is very apt to
die of hunger. If the singer is a bass, he should constantly sing tenor
passages as high as he can. If a tenor, he ought to go as low as he can
in the scale of the bass, or get up, with a falsetto voice, into the
regions of the contralto, without minding whether he sings through his
nose or his throat. He will pay his court to all the principal
_cantatrici_ and their protectors; and need not despair, by means of
his talent and exemplary modesty, to acquire the title of a count,
marquis, or chevalier.

"The _prima donna_ receives ample instructions in her duties both on and
off the stage. She is taught how to make engagements and to screw the
manager up to exorbitant terms; how to obtain the "protection" of rash
amateurs, who are to attend her at all times, pay her expenses, make her
presents, and submit to her caprices. She is taught to be careless at
rehearsals, to be insolent to the other performers, and to perform all
manner of musical absurdities on the stage. She must have a music-master
to teach her variations, passages and embellishments to her airs; and
some familiar friend, an advocate or a doctor, to teach her how to move
her arms, turn her head, and use her handkerchief, without telling her
why, for that would only confuse her head. She is to endeavour to vary
her airs every night; and though the variations may be at cross purposes
with the bass, or the violin part, or the harmony of the accompaniments,
that matters little, as a modern conductor is deaf and dumb. In her airs
and recitatives, in action, she will take care every night to use the
same motions of her hand, her head, her fan, and her handkerchief. If
she orders a character to be put in chains, and addresses him in an air
of rage or disdain, during the symphony she should talk and laugh with
him, point out to him people in the boxes, and show how very little she
is in earnest. She will get hold of a new passage in rapid triplets, and
introduce it in all her airs, quick, slow, lively, or sad; and the
higher she can rise in the scale, the surer she will be of having all
the principal parts allotted her," &c., &c.

Enough, however, of this excellent but somewhat fatiguing irony; and let
me conclude this chapter with a few words about the librettists of the
18th century. The best _libretti_ of Apostolo Zeno, Calsabigi and
Metastasio, such as the _Demofonte_, the _Artaserse_, the _Didone_, and
above all the _Olimpiade_, have been set to music by dozens of
composers. Piccinni, and Sacchini each composed music twice to the
_Olimpiade_; Jomelli set _Didone_ twice and _Demofonte_ twice; Hasse
wrote two operas on the _libretto_ of the _Nittetti_, two on that of
_Artemisia_, two on _Artaserse_, and three on _Arminio_. The excellence
of these opera-books in a dramatic point of view is sufficiently shown
by the fact that many of them, including Metastasio's _Didone_,
_Issipile_ and _Artaserse_ have been translated into French, and played
with success as tragedies. The _Clemenza di Tito_, by the same author
(which in a modified form became the _libretto_ of Mozart's last opera)
was translated into Russian and performed at the Moscow Theatre during
the reign of the Empress Elizabeth.

In the present day, several of Scribe's best comic operas have been
converted into comic dramas for the English stage, while others by the
same author have been made the groundwork of Italian _libretti_. Thus
_Le Philtre_ and _La Somnambule_ are the originals of Donizetti's
_Elisir d'amore_ and Bellini's _Sonnambula_. Several of Victor Hugo's
admirably constructed dramas have also been laid under contribution by
the Italian librettists of the present day. Donizetti's _Lucrezia_ is
founded on _Lucrèce Borgia_; Verdi's _Ernani_ on _Hernani_, his
_Rigoletto_ on _Le Roi s'amuse_.

[Sidenote: LIBRETTI.]

Our English writers of _libretti_ are about as original as the rest of
our dramatists. _The Bohemian Girl_ is not only identical in subject
with _La Gitana_, but is a translation of an unpublished opera founded
on that _ballet_ and written by M. St. George. The English version is
evidently called _The Bohemian Girl_ from M. St. George having entitled
his manuscript opera _La Bohémienne_, and from Mr. Bunn having mistaken
the meaning of the word. It is less astonishing that the manager of a
theatre should commit such an error than that no one should hitherto
have pointed it out. The heroine of the opera is not a Bohemian, but a
gipsey; and Bohemia has nothing to do with the piece, the action taking
place in some portion of the "fair land of Poland," which, as the
librettist informs us, was "trod by the hoof;" though whether in
Russian, in Austrian or in Prussian Poland we are not informed. _La
Zingara_ has often been played at Vienna, and I have seen _La Gitana_ at
Moscow. Probably the Austrians lay the scene of the drama in the
Russian, and the Russians in the Austrian, dominions. Fortunately, Mr.
Balfe has given no particular colour to the music of his _Bohemian
Girl_, which, as far as can be judged from the melodies sung by her, is
as much (and as little) a Bohemian girl as a gipsey girl, or a Polish
girl, or indeed any other girl. The _libretti_ of Mr. Balfe's
_Satanella_, _Rose of Castille_, _Maid of Honour_, _Bondsman_, &c., are
all founded on French pieces. Mr. Wallace's _Maritana_, is, I need
hardly say, founded on the French drama of _Don Cæsar de Bazan_. But
there is unmistakeable originality in the _libretto_ of this composer's
_Lurline_, though the chief incidents are, of course, taken from the
well-known German legend on which Mendelsohn commenced writing his opera
of _Loreley_.


One of the very few good original _libretti_ in the English language is
that of _Robin Hood_, by Mr. Oxenford. The best of all English libretti,
in point of literary merit, being probably Dryden's _Albion and
Albanius_, while the best French libretto in all respects is decidedly
Victor Hugo's _Esmeralda_. Mr. Macfarren has, in many places, given
quite an English character to the music of _Robin Hood_, though, in
doing so, he has not (as has been asserted) founded a national style of
operatic music; for the same style applied to subjects not English might
be found as inappropriate as the music of _The Barber of Seville_ would
be adapted to _Tom and Jerry_. A great deal can be written and very
little decided about this question of nationality of style in music. If
Auber's style is French, (instead of being his own, as I should say)
what was that of Rameau? If "The Marseillaise" is such a thoroughly
French air (as every one admits), how is it that it happens to be an
importation from Germany? The Royalist song of "Pauvre Jacques" passed
for French, but it was Dibdin's "Poor Jack." How is it that "Malbrook"
sounds so French, and "We won't go home till morning" so English--an
attempt, by the way, having been made to show that the airs common to
both these songs were sung originally by the Spanish Moors? I fancy the
great point, after all, is to write good music; and if it be written to
good English words, full of English rhythm and cadence, it will, from
that alone, derive a sufficiently English character.

Handel appears to me to have done far greater service to English Opera
than Arne or any of our English and pseudo-English operatic composers
whose works are now utterly forgotten, except by musical antiquaries;
for Handel established Italian Opera among us on a grand artistic scale,
and since then, at Her Majesty's Theatre, and subsequently at the
comparatively new Royal Italian Opera, all the finest works, whether of
the Italian, the German, or the French school, have been brought out as
fast as they have been produced abroad, and, on the whole, in very
excellent style. English Opera has no history, no unbroken line of
traditions; it has no regular sequence of operatic weeks by native
composers; but at our Italian Opera Houses, the whole history of
dramatic music has been exemplified, and from Gluck to Verdi is still
exemplified in the present day. We take no note, it is true, of the old
French composers,--Lulli, who begat Rameau, and Rameau, who begat no
one--and for the reason just indicated. There are plenty of amusing
stories about the _Académie Royale_ from its very foundation, but the
true history of dramatic music in France dates from the arrival of Gluck
in Paris in 1774.



     Ramists and Lullists.--Rameau's Letters of nobility.--His
     death.--Affairs of honour and love.--Sophie Arnould.--Madame
     Favart.--Charles Edward at the Académie.

Lulli died in Paris, March 22nd, 1687, at the age of fifty-four. In
beating time with his walking stick during the performance of a _Te
Deum_ which he had composed to celebrate the convalescence of Louis
XIV., he struck his foot, and with so much violence that he died from
the effects of the blow. It is said[35] that this _Te Deum_ produced a
great sensation, and that Lulli died satisfied, like a general expiring
on the battle field immediately after a victory.

All Lulli's operas are in five acts, but they are very short. "The
drama," says M. Halévy, "comprises but a small number of scenes; the
pieces are of a briefness to be envied; it is music summarized; two
phrases make an air. The task of the composer then was far from being
what it is now. The secret had not yet been discovered of those pieces,
those finales which have since been so admirably developed, linking
together in one well-conceived whole, a variety of situations which
assist the inspiration of the composer and sometimes call it forth.
There is certainly more music in one of the finales of a modern work
than in the five acts of an opera of Lulli's. We may add that the art of
instrumentation, since carried to such a high degree of brilliancy, was
then confined within very narrow limits, or rather this art did not
exist. The violins, violas, bass viols, hautboys, which at first formed
the entire arsenal of the composer, seldom did more than follow the
voices. Lulli, moreover, wrote only the vocal part and the bass of his
compositions. His pupils, Lalouette and Colasse, who were conductors
(_chefs d'orchestre_, or, as was said at that time, _batteurs de
mesure_) under his orders, filled up the orchestral parts in accordance
with his indications. This explains how, in the midst of all the details
with which he had to occupy himself, he could write such a great number
of works; but it does not diminish the idea one must form of his
facility, his intelligence, and his genius, for these works, rapidly as
they were composed, kept possession of the stage for more than a

The next great composer, in France, to Lulli, in point of time, was
Rameau. "Rameau" (in the words of the author from whom I have just
quoted, and whose opinion on such a subject cannot be too highly valued)
"elevated and strengthened the art; his harmonies were more solidly
woven, his orchestra was richer, his instrumentation more skilful, his
colouring more decided."

Dr. Burney, however, in his account of the French Opera of his period
(when Rameau's works were constantly being performed) speaks of the
music as monotonous in the extreme and without ryhthm or expression.
Indeed, he found nothing at the French Opera to admire but the dancing
and the decorations, and these alone (he tells us) seemed to give
pleasure to the audience. Nevertheless, the French journals of the
middle of the 18th century constantly informed their readers that Rameau
was the first musician in Europe, "though," as Grimm remarked, "Europe
scarcely knew the name of her first musician, knew none of his operas,
and could not have tolerated them on her stages."


Jean Phillippe Rameau was born the 25th September, 1683, at Dijon. He
studied music under the direction of his father, Jean Rameau, an
organist, and afterwards visited Italy, but does not appear to have
appreciated Italian music. On his return to France he wrote the music of
an opera founded on the _Phèdre_ of Racine, and entitled _Hippolyte et
Aricie_. This work, which was produced in 1733, was received with much
applause and a good deal of hissing, but on the whole it obtained a
great success which was not diminished in the end by having been
contested in the first instance. Rameau had soon so many admirers of his
own, and met with so much opposition from the admirers of Lulli that two
parties of Lullists and of Ramists were formed. This was the first of
those foolish musical feuds of which Paris has witnessed so many, though
scarcely more than London. Indeed, London had already seen the disputes
between the partisans of Mrs. Tofts, the English singer, and Margarita
l'Epine, the Italian, as well as the more celebrated Handel and
Buononcini contests, and the quarrels between the friends of Faustina
and Cuzzoni. However, when Rameau produced his _Castor and Pollux_, in
1737, he was generally admitted by his compatriots to be the greatest
composer of the day, not only in France, but in all Europe--which, as
Grimm observed, was not acquainted with him. Gluck, however, is said[36]
to have expressed his admiration of the chorus, _Que tout gémisse_, and
M. Castil Blaze assures us, that "the fine things which this work
(_Castor and Pollux_) contains, would please in the present day."

Great honours were paid to Rameau by Louis XV., who granted him letters
of nobility, and that only to render him worthy of a still higher mark
of favour, the order of St. Michael. The composer on receiving his
patent did not take the trouble to register it, upon which the king,
thinking Rameau was afraid of the expense, offered to defray all the
necessary charges himself. "Let me have the money, your Majesty," said
Rameau, "and I will apply it to some more useful purpose. Letters of
nobility to me? _Castor_ and _Dardanus_ gave them to me long ago!"


Rameau's letters of nobility were invalidated by not being registered,
but the order of St. Michael was given to him all the same.

The badge of the same order was refused unconditionally by Beaumarchais,
when it was offered to him by the Baron de Breteuil, minister of Louis
XVI., the author of the _Marriage of Figaro_ observing that men whose
merit was acknowledged had no need of decorations.

Thus, too, Tintoretto refused knighthood at the hands of Henry III. of
France (of what value, by the way, was the barren compliment to Sir
Antony Vandyke, whom every one knows as a painter, and no one, scarcely,
as a knight)? Thus, the celebrated singer, Forst, of Mies, in Bohemia,
refused letters of nobility from Joseph I., Emperor of Germany, but
accepted a pension of three hundred florins, which was offered to him in
its place; and thus Beethoven being asked by the Prince von Hatzfeld,
Prussian ambassador at Vienna, whether he would rather have a
subscription of fifty ducats, which was due to him,[37] or the cross of
some order, replied briefly, with all readiness of determination--"Fifty

Besides being a very successful operatic composer, (he wrote thirty-six
works for the stage, of which twenty-two were represented at the
Académie Royale), Rameau was an admirable performer on the organ and
harpsichord, and wrote a great deal of excellent music for those two
instruments. He, moreover, distinguished himself by his important
discoveries in the science of harmony, which he published, defended, and
explained, in twenty works, more or less copious.

"Rameau's music," says M. Castil Blaze, "marks (in France) a progress.
Not that this master improved the taste of our nation: he possessed none
himself. Although he had visited the north of Italy, he had no idea that
it was possible to sing better than the hack-vocalists of our Opera.
Rameau never understood anything of Italian music; accordingly he did
not bring the forms of melody to perfection among us. The success of
Rameau was due to the fact, that he gave more life, warmth, and
movement, to our dramatic music. His ryhthmical airs (when the
irregularity of the words did not trouble him too much), the free,
energetic, and even daring character of his choruses, the richness of
his orchestra, raised this master at last to the highest rank, which he
maintained until his death. All this, however, is relative, comparative.
I must tell you in confidence, that these choruses, this orchestra, were
very badly constructed, and often incorrect in point of harmony.
Observe, too, if you please, that I do not go beyond our own frontiers,
lest I should meet a Scarlatti, a Handel, a Jomelli, a Pergolese, a
Sebastian Bach, and twenty other rivals, too formidable for our
compatriot, as regards operas, religious dramas, cantatas, and

[Sidenote: DEATH OF RAMEAU.]

Rameau died in 1764. The Opera undertook the direction of his funeral,
and caused a service for the repose of his soul to be celebrated in the
church of the Oratory. Several pieces from _Castor_ and _Pollux_, and
other of his lyrical works, had been arranged for the ceremony, and were
introduced into the mass. The music was executed by the orchestra and
chorus of the Opera, both of which were doubled for the occasion. In
1766, on the second anniversary of Rameau's death, a mortuary mass,
written by Philidor, the celebrated chess player and composer (but one
of those minor composers of whose works it does not enter into our
limited plan to speak), was performed in the same church.

The chief singers of the Académie during the greater portion of Rameau's
career as a composer, were Jéliotte, Chassé, and Mademoiselle de Fel.
Jéliotte retired in 1775, and for nine years the French Opera was
without a respectable tenor. Chassé (baritone), and Mademoiselle de Fel,
were replaced, about the same time, by Larrivée, and the celebrated
Sophie Arnould, both of whom appeared afterwards in Gluck's operas.

Claude Louis de Chassé, Seigneur de Ponceau, a gentleman of a good
Breton family, gave up a commission in the army in 1721, to join the
Opera. He succeeded equally as a singer and as an actor, and also
distinguished himself by his skill in arranging tableaux. He it was who
first introduced on to the French stage immense masses of men, and
taught them to manœuvre with precision. Louis XV. was so pleased
with the evolutions of Chassé's theatrical troops in an opera
represented at Fontainbleau, that he afterwards addressed him always as
"General." In 1738, Chassé left the Académie on the pretext that the
histrionic profession was not suited to a man of gentle birth.[38] But
the true reason is said to have been that having saved a considerable
sum of money, he found he could afford to throw up his engagement.
However, he invested the greater part of his fortune in a speculation
which failed, and was obliged to return to the stage a few years after
he had declared his intention of abandoning it for ever. On his
reappearance, the "gentlemanliness" of Chassé's execution was noticed,
but in a sarcastic, not a complimentary spirit.

    "Ce n'est plus cette voix tonnante
     Ce ne sont plus ses grands éclats;
     C'est un gentilhomme qui chante
     Et qui ne se fatigue pas--"

were lines circulated on the occasion of the Seigneur du Ponceau's
return to the Académie, where, however, he continued to sing with
success for a dozen years afterwards.


Jéliotte was one of the great favourites of fashionable Parisian society
(at least, among the women); but Chassé (also among the women) was one
of the most admired men in France. Among other triumphs of the same
kind, he had the honour of causing a duel between a Polish and a French
lady, who fought with pistols in the Bois de Boulogne. The latter was
wounded rather seriously, and on her recovery, was confined in a
convent, while her adversary was ordered to quit France. During the
little trouble which this affair caused in the polite world, Chassé
remained at home, reclining on a sofa after the manner of a delicate,
sensitive woman who has had the misfortune to see two of her adorers
risk their lives for her. In this style he received the visits of all
who came to compliment him on his good luck. Louis XV. thought it worth
while to send the Duke de Richelieu to tell him to put an end to his

"Explain to his Majesty," said Chassé to the Duke, "that it is not my
fault, but that of Providence, which has made me the most popular man in
the kingdom."

"Let me tell you, coxcomb, that you are only the third," said the Duke.
"I come next to the king."

It was indeed a fact that Madame de Polignac, and Madame de Nesle had
already fought for the affection of the Duke de Richelieu, when Madame
de Nesle received a wound in the shoulder.[39]

Sophie Arnould was a discovery made by the Princess of Modena at the Val
de Grâce, whither her royal highness had retired, according to the
fashion of the time, to atone, during a portion of Lent, for the sins
she had committed during the Carnival, and where she chanced to hear the
young girl singing a vesper hymn. The Princess spoke of Mademoiselle
Arnould's talents at the court, and, in spite of her mother's
opposition, (the parents kept a lodging house somewhere in Paris) she
was inscribed on the list of choristers at the king's chapel. Madame de
Pompadour, already struck by the beauty of her eyes, which are said to
have been enchantingly expressive, exclaimed when she heard her sing,
"_Il y a là, de quoi faire une princesse._"


Sophie Arnould (a charming name, which the bearer thereof owed in part
to her own good taste, and in no way to her godfathers and godmothers,
who christened her Anne-Madeleine) made her _début_ in the year 1757, at
the age of thirteen. She wore a lilac dress, embroidered in silver. Her
talent, combined with her wonderful beauty, ensured her immediate
success, and before she had been on the stage a fortnight, all Paris was
in love with her. When she was announced to sing, the doors of the Opera
were besieged by such crowds that Fréron declared he scarcely thought
persons would give themselves so much trouble to enter into paradise.
The fascinating Sophie was as witty as she was beautiful, and her _mots_
(the most striking of which are quoted by M. A. Houssaye in his _Galerie
du 18me. Siècle_), were repeated by all the fashionable poets and
philosophers of Paris. Her suppers soon became celebrated, but her life
of pleasure did not cause her to forget the Opera. She is said to have
sung with "a limpid and melodious voice," and to have acted with "all
the grace and sentiment of a practiced comédienne."[40] Garrick saw her
when he was in Paris, and declared that she was the only actress on the
French stage who had really touched his heart.[41]

As an instance of the effect her singing had upon the public, I may
mention that in 1772, Mademoiselle Arnould refused to perform one
evening, and made her appearance among the audience, saying that she had
come to take a lesson of her rival, Mademoiselle Beaumesnil; that the
minister, de la Vrillière, instead of sending the capricious and
facetious vocalist to For-l'Evèque, in accordance with the request of
the directors, contented himself with reprimanding her; that a party
was formed to hiss her violently the next night of her appearance, as a
punishment for her impertinence; but that directly Sophie Arnould began
to sing, the conspirators were disarmed, and instead of hissing,
applauded her.

On the 1st of April, 1778, the day of Voltaire's coronation at the
Comédie Française, all the most celebrated actresses in Paris went to
compliment him. He returned their visits directly afterwards, and his
conversation with Sophie Arnould at the opera, is said to have been a
speaking duet of the most marvellous lightness and brilliancy.

       *       *       *       *       *

When poor Sophie was getting old she continued to sing, and the Abbé
Galiani said of her voice that it was "the finest asthma he had ever
heard." This remark, however, belongs to the list of sharp things said
during the Gluck and Piccinni contests, described at some length in the
next chapter but one, and in which Sophie Arnould played an important

       *       *       *       *       *

Mademoiselle Arnould's _mots_ seem to me, for the most part, not very
susceptible of satisfactory translation. I will quote a few of them in
Sophie's own language.


Of the celebrated dancer, Madeleine Guimard, concerning whom I shall
have something to say a few pages further on, Sophie Arnould, reflecting
on Madeleine's remarkable thinness, observed "_ce petit ver à soie
devrait être plus gras, elle ronge une si bonne feuille._"[42]

Sophie was born in the room where Admiral Coligny was assassinated, and
where the Duchess de Montbazon lived for some time. "_Je suis venue au
monde par une porte célèbre_," she said.

One day, when a very dull work, Rameau's _Zoroastre_, was going to be
played at the Académie, Beaumarchais, whose tedious drama _Les deux
amis_ had just been brought out at the Comédie Française, remarked to
Sophie Arnould that there would be no people at the opera that evening,

"_Je vous demande pardon_," was the reply, "_vos deux amis nous en

Seeing the portraits of Sully and Choiseul on the same snuff-box, she
exclaimed, "_C'est la recette et la dépense._"

To a lady, whose beauty was her only recommendation, and who complained
that so many men made love to her, she said, "_Eh ma chère il vous est
si facile des les éloigner; vous n'avez qu'à parler._"

Sophie's affection for the Count de Lauragais, the most celebrated and,
seemingly, the most agreeable of her admirers, is said to have lasted
four years. This constancy was mutual, and the historians of the French
Opera speak of it as something not only unique but inexplicable and
almost miraculous. At last Mademoiselle Arnould, unwilling, perhaps, to
appear too original, determined to break with the Count; the mode,
however, of the rupture was by no means devoid of originality. One day,
by Mademoiselle Arnould's orders, a carriage was sent to the Hotel de
Lauragais, containing lace, ornaments, boxes of jewellery--and two
children; everything in fact that she owed to the Count. The Countess
was even more generous than Sophie. She accepted the children, and sent
back the lace, the jewellery, and the carriage.

A little while afterwards the Count de Lauragais fell in love with a
very pretty _débutante_ in the ballet department of the Opera. Sophie
Arnould asked him how he was getting on with his new passion. The Count
confessed that he had not made much progress in her affections, and
complained that he always found a certain knight of Malta in her
apartments when he called upon her.

"You may well fear him," said Sophie, "_Il est là pour chasser les


This certainly looks like a direct reproach of inconstancy, and from
Sophie's sending the Count back all his presents, it is tolerably clear
that she felt herself aggrieved. He was of a violently jealous
disposition, though he had no cause for jealousy as far as Sophie was
concerned. Indeed, she appears naturally to have been of a romantic
disposition, and a tendency to romance though it may mislead a girl yet
does not deprave her.

We shall meet with the charming Sophie again during the Gluck and
Piccinni period, and once again when the revolution had invaded the
Opera, and had ruined some of the chief operatic celebrities. During her
last illness, in telling her confessor the unedifying story of her life,
she had to speak of the jealous fury of the Count de Lauragais, whom she
had really loved.[43]

"My poor child, how much you have suffered!" said the kind priest.

"_Ah! c'était le bon temps! j'était si malheureuse!_" exclaimed Sophie.

       *       *       *       *       *

Sophie Arnould's rival and successor at the Opera was Mademoiselle
Laguerre, who, if she had not the wit of Sophie, had considerably more
than her prudence, and who died, leaving a fortune of about £180,000.

       *       *       *       *       *

Among the celebrated French singers of the 18th century, Madame Favart
must not be forgotten. This vocalist was for many years the glory and
the chief support of the Opéra Comique, which, in 1762, combined with
the Comédie Italienne to form but one establishment. There was so much
similarity in the styles of the performances at these two operatic
theatres, that for seven years before the union was effected, the
favourite piece at the one house was _La Serva Padrona_, at the other,
_La Servante Maitresse_, that is to say, Pergolese's favourite work
translated into French.

       *       *       *       *       *

[Sidenote: MADAME FAVART.]

The history of the Opera in France during the latter half of the 18th
century abounds in excellent anecdotes; and several very interesting
ones are told of Marshal Saxe. This brave man was much loved by the
beautiful women of his day. In M. Scribe's admirable play of _Adrienne
Lecouvreur_, Maurice de Saxe is made to say, that whatever celebrity he
may attain, his name will never be mentioned without recalling that of
Adrienne Lecouvreur. Some genealogist, without affectation, ought to
tell us how many persons illustrious in the arts are descendants of
Marshal Saxe, or of Adrienne Lecouvreur, or of both. It would be an
interesting list, at the head of which the names of George Sand, and of
Francœur the mathematician, might figure. But I was about to say,
that the mention of the great Maurice de Saxe recalled to me not only
Adrienne Lecouvreur, but also the charming Fifine Desaigles, one of the
fairest and most fascinating of _blondes_, the beautiful and talented
Madame Favart, and a good many other theatrical fair ones. When the
Marshal died, poor Fifine went into mourning for him, and wore black,
even on the stage, for as many days as it appeared to her that his
passionate affection for her had lasted. It is uncertain whether or not
the warrior's love for Madame Favart was returned. The Marshal said it
was; the lady said it was not; the lady's husband said he didn't know.
The best story told about Marshal Saxe and Madame Favart, or rather
Mademoiselle Chantilly, which was at that time her name, is one relating
to her elopement with Favart from Maestricht, during the siege.
Mademoiselle Chantilly was a member of the operatic _troupe_ engaged by
the Marshal to follow the army of Flanders,[44] and of which Favart was
the director. Marshal Saxe became deeply enamoured of the young _prima
donna_, and made proposals to her of a nature partly flattering, partly
the reverse. Mademoiselle Chantilly, however, preferred Favart, and
contrived to escape with him one dark and stormy night. Indeed, so
tempestuous was it, that a bridge, which formed the communication
between the main body of the army and a corps on the other side of the
river, was carried away, leaving the detached regiments quite at the
mercy of the enemy. The next morning an officer visited the Marshal in
his tent, and found him in a state of great grief and agitation.

"It is a sad affair, no doubt," said the visitor; "but it can be

"Remedied!" exclaimed the distressed hero; "no; all hope is lost; I am
in despair!"

The officer showed that the bridge might be repaired in such and such a
manner; upon which, the great commander, whom no military disaster could
depress, but who was now profoundly afflicted by the loss of a very
charming singer, replied--

"Are you talking about the bridge? That can be mended in a couple of
hours. I was thinking of Chantilly. Perfidious girl! she has deserted

       *       *       *       *       *

Among the historical persons who figured at the Académie Musique about
the middle of the 18th century, we must not forget Charles Edward, who
was taken prisoner there. The Duke de Biron had been ordered to see to
his arrest, and on the evening of the 11th December, when it was known
that he intended to visit the Opera, surrounded the building with twelve
hundred guards as soon as the Young Pretender had entered it. The prince
was taken to Vincennes, and kept there four days. He was then liberated,
and expelled from France in accordance with the terms of the treaty of
1748, so humiliating to the French arms.


The servants of the Young Pretender, and with them one of the retinue of
the Princess de Talmont, whose antiquated charms had detained the
Chevalier de St. Georges at Paris, were sent to the Bastille, upon which
the princess wrote the following letter to M. de Maurepas:--

"The king, sir, has just covered himself with immortal glory by
arresting Prince Edward. I have no doubt but that His Majesty will order
a _Te Deum_ to be sung, to thank God for so brilliant a victory. But as
Placide, my lacquey, taken in this memorable expedition, can add nothing
to His Majesty's laurels, I beg you to send him back to me."

"The only Englishman the regiment of French guards has taken throughout
the war!" exclaimed the Princess de Conti, when she heard of the arrest.

       *       *       *       *       *

There was a curious literary apparition at the Académie in 1750, on the
occasion of the revival of _Thétis et Pélée_, when Fontenelle, the
author of the libretto of that opera, entered a box, and sat down just
where he had taken his place sixty years before, on the first night of
its production. The public, delighted, no doubt, to see that men could
live so long, and get so much enjoyment out of life, applauded with

       *       *       *       *       *


In this necessarily incomplete history of the Opera (anything like a
full narrative of its rise and progress, with particulars of the lives
of all the great composers and singers, would fill ten large volumes and
would probably not find a hundred readers) there are some forms of the
lyric drama to which I can scarcely do more than allude. My great
difficulty is to know what to omit, but I think that in addressing
English readers I am justified in passing hastily over the Pulcinella
Operas of Italy and the Opéra Comique of France. I shall say very little
about the ballad operas of England, which are no longer played, which
led to nothing, and which do not interest me personally. The lowest
style of Italian comic opera, again, has not only exercised no
influence, but has never attained even a moderate amount of success in
this country. Not so the Opéra Comique of France, if Auber is to be
taken as its representative. But the author of the _Muette de Portici_,
_Gustave III._, and _Fra Diavolo_, is not only the greatest dramatic
composer France has produced, but one of the greatest dramatic composers
of the century. By his masterly concerted pieces and finales he has
given an importance to the _Opéra Comique_ which it did not possess
before his time, and if he had never written works of that class at all
he would still be one of the favourite composers of the English public,
esteemed and studied by musicians, and admired by all classes. The
French historians of the Opéra Comique show that, as regards the
dramatic form, it has its origin in the _vaudeville_, many of the old
_opéras comiques_ being, in fact, little more than _vaudevilles_, with
original airs in place of songs adapted to tunes already known. In a
musical point of view, however, the French owe their lyrical comedy to
the Italians. Monsigny, Philidor, Grétry, the founders of the style,
were felicitous imitators of the Pergoleses, the Leos, the Vincis, and
the Piccinnis. "In _Le Déserteur_, _Le Roi et le Fermier_, _Le Maréchal
Ferrant_, _Le Tableau Parlant_, we are struck," says M. Scudo, the
excellent musical critic of the _Révue des Deux Mondes_, "as Dr. Burney
was, in 1770, to find more than one recollection of _La Serva Padrona_,
_La Cecchina_, and other opera buffas by the first masters of the
Neapolitan school. The influence of Cimarosa, Paisiello, Anfossi, may be
remarked in the works of Dalayrac, Berton, Boieldieu, and Nicolo.
Boieldieu afterwards imitated Rossini to some extent in _La Dame
Blanche_, but the chief followers of this great Italian master in France
have been Hérold and Auber." This brings us down to the present day,
when we find Meyerbeer, the composer of great choral and orchestral
schemes, the cultivator of musico-dramatic "effects" on a large scale,
writing for the Opéra Comique; and in spite of the spoken dialogue in
the _Etoile du Nord_ and the _Pardon de Ploermel_, it is impossible not
to place those important and broadly conceived lyrical dramas in the
class of grand opera.



     The Musical Dictionary.--Account of the French Opera from the
     Nouvelle Héloise.--Le devin du Village.--Jean-Jacques Rousseau and
     Granet of Lyons.

Rousseau, a man of a decidedly musical organisation, who, during his
residence in Italy, learnt, as he tells us in the _Confessions_, to love
the music of Italy; who wrote so earnestly and so well in favour of that
music, and against the psalmody of Lulli and Rameau, in his celebrated
_Lettre sur la Musique Française_; and who had sufficient candour, or,
rather let us say, a sufficiently sincere love of art to express the
enthusiasm he felt for Gluck when all the other writers in France, who
had ever praised Italian music, felt bound to depreciate him blindly,
for the greater glory of Piccinni; this Rousseau, who cared more for
music than for truth or honour, and who has now been proved to have
stolen from two obscure, but not altogether unknown, composers the music
which he represented to be his own, in _Pygmalion_, and the _Devin du
Village_, has given in his _Dictionnaire Musicale_, in the
before-mentioned _Lettre sur la Musique Française_, but above all in
the _Nouvelle Héloise_, the best general account that can be obtained of
the Opera in France during the middle of the 18th century. I will begin
with Rousseau's article on the Opera (omitting only the end, which
relates to the ballet), from the _Dictionnaire Musicale_:--


"An opera is a dramatic and lyrical spectacle, designed to combine the
enchantments of all the fine arts by the representation of some
passionate action through sensations so agreeable as to excite both
interest and illusion.[45]

"The constituent parts of an opera are the poem, the music, and the
decoration. By poetry, the spectacle speaks to the mind; by music, to
the ear; and by painting, to the eye: all combining, through different
organs, to make the same impression on the heart. Of these three parts,
my subject only allows me to consider the first and last with reference
to the second.

"The art of combining sounds agreeably may be regarded under two
different aspects. As an institution of nature, music confines its
effects to the senses, to the physical pleasure which results from
melody, harmony, and rhythm. Such is usually the music of churches; such
are the airs suited to dancing and songs. But as the essential part of a
lyrical scene, aiming principally at imitation, music becomes one of the
fine arts, and is capable of painting all pictures; of exciting all
sentiments; of competing with poetry; of endowing her with new
strength; of embellishing her with new charms; and of triumphing over
her while placing the crown on her head.

"The sounds of a speaking voice, being neither harmonious nor sustained,
are inappreciable, and cannot, consequently, connect themselves
agreeably with the singing voice, or with instruments, at least in
modern languages. It was different with the Greeks. Their language was
so accentuated that its inflections, in a long declamation, formed,
spontaneously as it were, musical intervals, distinctly appreciable.
Thus it may be said that their theatrical pieces were a species of
opera; and it was for this very reason that they could have no operas
properly so called.

"But the difficulty of uniting song to declamation in modern languages
explains how it is that the intervention of music has given to the lyric
poem a character quite different from that of tragedy or comedy, and
made it a third species of drama, having its particular rules. The
differences alluded to cannot be determined without a perfect knowledge
of music, of the means of identifying it with words, and of its natural
relations to the human heart--details which belong less to the artist
than to the philosopher.

[Sidenote: GREEK MUSIC.]

"Confining myself, therefore, on this subject to a few observations
rather historical than didactic, I remark, first, that the Greek theatre
had not, like ours, any lyrical feature, for that which they called so,
had not the slightest resemblance to what we call so.

Their language had so much accent that, in a concert of voices, there
was little noise, whilst all their poetry was musical, and all their
music declamatory. Thus, song with them was hardly more than sustained
discourse. They really sang their verses, as they declared at the head
of their poems, a practice which gave the Romans, and afterwards the
moderns, the ridiculous habit of saying, _I sing_, when nothing is sung.
That which the Greeks called the lyric style was a pompous and florid
strain of heroic poesy, accompanied by the lyre. It is certain, too,
that their tragedies were recited in a manner very similar to singing,
and that they were accompanied by instruments, and had choruses.

"But if, on that account, it should he inferred that they were operas
like ours, then it must be supposed that their operas were without airs,
for it appears to me unquestionable that the Greek music, without
excepting even the instrumental, was a real recitative. It is true that
this recitative, uniting the charm of musical sounds to all the harmony
of poetry, and to all the force of declamation, must have had much more
energy than the modern recitative, which can hardly acquire one of these
advantages but at the expense of the others. In our living languages,
which partake for the most part of the rudeness of their native
climates, the application of music to speech is much less natural than
it was with the Greeks. An uncertain prosody agrees ill with regularity
of measure; deaf and dumb syllables, hard articulations, sounds not
sonorous, with little variation, and no suppleness, cannot but with
great difficulty be consorted with melody; and a poetry cadenced solely
by the number of syllables, whilst it gets but a very faint harmony in
musical rhythm, is constantly opposed to the diversity of that rhythm's
values and movements. These are the difficulties which were to be
overcome, or eluded, in the invention of the lyrical poem. The effort,
therefore, of its inventors was to form, by a nice selection of words,
by choice turns of expression, and by varied metres, a particular
language; and this language, called lyrical, is rich or poor in
proportion to the softness or harshness of that from which it is

"Having thus prepared a language for music, the question was next to
apply music to this language, and to render it so apt for the purposes
of the lyrical scene that the whole, vocal and instrumental, should be
taken for one and the same idiom. This produced the necessity of
continuous singing,--a necessity the greater in proportion as the
language employed should be unmusical, as the less a language has of
softness and accentuation, the more the alternate change from song to
speech shocks the ear.


"This mode of uniting music to poetry sufficed to produce interest and
illusion among the Greeks, because it was natural; and, for the contrary
reason, it cannot have the like effect on us. In listening to a
hypothetical and constrained language, we can hardly conceive what the
singers would say, so that with much noise they excite little emotion.
Hence the further necessity of bringing physical to the aid of moral
pleasure, and of supplying, by the charm of harmony, the lack of
distinctness of meaning and energy of expression. Thus, the less the
heart was touched the more need there was to flatter the ear, and from
sensation was sought the delight which sentiment could not furnish.
Hence the origin of airs, choruses, symphonies, and of that enchanting
melody which often embellishes modern music at the expense of its poetic

"At the birth of the Opera, its inventors, to elude that which seemed
unnatural, as an imitation of human life, in the union of music with
speech, transferred their scenes from earth to heaven, and to hell. Not
knowing how to make men speak, they made gods and devils, instead of
heroes and shepherds, sing. Thus magic and marvels became speedily the
stock in trade of the lyrical theatre. Yet, in spite of every effort to
fascinate the eyes, whilst multitudes of instruments and of voices
bewildered the ear, the action of every piece remained cold, and all its
scenes were totally void of interest. As there was no plot which,
however intricate, could not be easily unravelled by the intervention of
some god, the spectator quietly abandoned to the poet the task of
delivering his hero from his greatest dangers. Thus immense machinery
produced little effect, for the imitation was always grossly defective
and coarse. A supernatural action had in it no human interest, and the
senses refused to yield to an illusion, in which the heart had no part.
It would have been difficult to weary an assembly at greater cost than
was done by these first operas.

But the spectacle, imperfect as it was, was for a long time the
admiration of its contemporaries. They congratulated themselves on so
fine a discovery. Here, they said, is a new principle added to that of
Aristotle; here is admiration added to terror and pity. They were not
aware that the apparent riches of which they boasted were but a sign of
sterility, like flowers which cover the fields before harvest. It was
because they could not touch the heart that they aimed at surprising,
and their pretended admiration was, in fact, but a puerile astonishment
of which they ought to have been ashamed. A false air of magnificence
and enchantments, sorceries, chimeras, extravagances the most insane, so
imposed upon them that, with the best faith in the world, they spoke
with respect and enthusiasm of a theatre which merited nothing but
hisses: as if there were more merit in making the king of gods utter the
stupidest platitudes than there would be in attributing the same to the
lowest of mortals; or as if the valets of Molière were not infinitely
preferable to the heroes of Pradon.

[Sidenote: EARLY OPERAS.]

"Although the author of these first operas had had hardly any other
object than to dazzle the eye and to astound the ear, it could scarcely
happen that the musician did not sometimes endeavour to express, by his
art, some sentiments diffused through the piece in performance. The
songs of nymphs, the hymns of priests, the shouts of warriors, infernal
outcries did not so completely fill up these barbarous dramas as to
leave no moments or situations of interest when the spectator was
disposed to be moved. Thus it soon began to be felt, that independently
of the musical declamation, often ill adapted to the language employed,
the musical movement of harmony and of songs was not alien to the words
which were to be uttered, and that consequently the effect of music
alone, hitherto confined to the senses, could reach the heart. Melody,
which was at first only separated from poetry by necessity, profited by
this independence to adopt beauties absolutely and purely musical;
harmony, improved and carried to perfection, opened to it new means of
pleasing and of moving; and the measure, freed from the embarrassment of
poetic rhythm, acquired a sort of cadence of its own.

"Music, having thus become a third imitative art, had speedily its own
language, its expressions, its pictures, altogether independent of
poetry. Symphony also learnt to speak without the aid of words; and
sentiments often came from the orchestra quite as distinctly and vividly
expressed as they could be by the mouths of actors. Spectators then,
beginning to get disgusted with all the tinsel of fairy land, of puerile
machinery, and of fantastic images of things never seen, looked for the
imitation of nature in pictures more interesting and more true. Up to
this time the Opera had been constituted as it alone could be; for what
better use, at the theatre, could be made of a kind of music which could
paint nothing than by employing it in the representation of things which
could not exist? But as soon as music learnt to paint and to speak the
charms of sentiment, it brought into contempt those of the Wand; the
theatre was purged of its garden of mythology, interest was substituted
for astonishment; the machines of poets and of carpenters were
destroyed; and the lyric drama assumed a more noble and less gigantic
character. All that could move the heart was employed with success, and
gods were driven from the stage on which men were represented[46]....


"This reform was followed by another not less important. The Opera, it
was felt, should represent nothing cold or intellectual--nothing that
the spectator could witness with sufficient tranquillity to reflect on
what he saw. And it is in this especially that the essential difference
between the lyric drama and pure tragedy consists. All political
deliberations, all plots, conspiracies, explanations, recitals,
sententious maxims--in a word, all which speaks to the reason was
banished from the theatre of the heart, with all _jeux d'esprit_,
madrigals, and other pleasant conceits, which suppose some activity of
thought. On the contrary, to depict all the energies of sentiments, all
the violence of the passions, was made the principal object of this
drama: for the illusion which makes its charm is destroyed as soon as
the author and actor leave the spectator a moment to himself. It is on
this principle that the modern Opera is established. Apostolo Zeno, the
Corneille of Italy, and his tender pupil, who is its Racine,
[Metastasio] have opened and carried to its perfection this new career
of the dramatic art. They have brought the heroes of history on a
theatre which seemed only adapted to exhibit the phantoms of fable....

"Having tried and felt her strength, music, able to walk alone, began to
disdain the poetry she had to accompany. To enhance her own value, she
drew from herself beauties of which her companion had hitherto had a
share. She still professes, it is true, to express her ideas and
sentiments; but she assumes, so to speak, an independent language, and
though the object of the poet and of the musician is the same, they are
too much separated in their labours, to produce at once two images,
resembling each other, yet distinct, without mutual injury. Thus it
happens, that if the musician has more art than the poet, he effaces
him; and the actor, seeing the spectator sacrifice the words to the
music, sacrifices in his turn theatrical gesture and action to song and
brilliancy of voice, which transforms a dramatic entertainment into a
mere concert....

"Such are the defects which the absolute perfection of music, and its
defective application to language, may introduce into the Opera. And
here it may be remarked that the languages the most apt to conform to
all the laws of measure and of melody are those in which the duality of
which I have spoken is the least apparent, because music, lending itself
to the ideas of poetry, poetry yields, in its turn, to the inflections
of music, so that when music ceases to observe the rhythm, the accent
and the harmony of verses, verses syllable themselves, and submit to the
cadence of musical measure and accent. But when a language has neither
softness nor flexibility, the harshness of its poetry hinders its
subjection to music; a good recitation of verses is obstructed even by
the sweetness of the melody accompanying it; and one is conscious, in
the forced union of the two arts, of a perpetual constraint which shocks
the ear, and which destroys at once the charm of melody and the effect
of declamation. For this defect there is no remedy; and to apply, by
compulsion, music to a language which is not musical, is to give it more
harshness than it would otherwise have....


"Although music, as an imitative art, has more connection with poetry
than with painting, this latter is not obliged, as poetry is, at the
theatre, to make a double representation of the same object; because the
one expresses the sentiments of men, and the other gives pictures merely
of the places where they are, which strengthens much the illusion of the
whole spectacle.... But it must be acknowledged that the task of the
musician is greater than that of the painter. The imitation expressed by
painting is always cold, because it wants that succession of ideas and
of impressions which increasingly kindle the soul, all its portraiture
being conveyed to the mind at a first look. It is a great advantage,
also, to a musician that he can paint things which cannot be heard,
whilst the painter cannot paint those which cannot be seen; and the
greatest prodigy of an art which has no life but in movement is, that it
is able to give even an image of repose. Sleep, the quietude of night,
solitude, and silence, are among the number of music's pictures.
Sometimes noise produces the effect of silence and silence the effect of
noise, as when one falls asleep at a monotonous reading and wakes up the
moment the reader stops.... Further, whilst the painter can derive
nothing from the musician, the skilful musician will not leave the
studio of the painter without profit. Not only can he, at his will,
agitate the sea, excite the flames of a conflagration, make rivulets run
and murmur, bring down the rain and swell it to torrents, but he can
augment the horrors of the frightful desert, darken the walls of a
subterranean prison, calm the storm, make the air tranquil and the sky
serene, and shed from the orchestra the freshest fragrance of the
sweetest bowers.

"We have seen how the union of the three arts we have mentioned
constitute the lyric scene. Some have been tempted to introduce a
fourth, of which I have now to speak.

"The question is to know whether dancing, being a language, and
consequently capable of becoming an imitative art, should not enter with
the other three into the action of the lyrical drama, or whether it
would not rather interrupt and suspend this action and spoil the effect
and the unity of the whole piece.

"But here, I think, there can be no question at all. For every one feels
that the interest of a successive action depends upon the continuance
and growing increase of the impression its representation makes on us.
But by breaking off a spectacle and introducing other spectacles which
have nothing to do with it, the principal subject is divided into
independent parts, with no link of connection between them; and the more
agreeable the inserted spectacles are, the greater must be the deformity
produced by the mutilation of the whole.... It is for this reason that
the Italians have at last banished these interludes from their operas.
They are, separately considered, a species of spectacle very pleasing,
very piquante, and quite natural, but so misplaced in the midst of a
tragic action, that the two exhibitions injure each other mutually, and
the one can never interest but at the expense of the other."

       *       *       *       *       *

[Sidenote: THE BALLET.]

Rousseau then suggests that the ballet should come after the opera,
which, as every one knows, is the rule at the Italian Opera houses of
London, and which appears to me a far preferable arrangement to that of
the French Académie, where no lyrical work is considered complete
without a _divertissement_ introduced anyhow into the middle of it, or
of the Italian theatres where it is still the custom to perform short
ballets or _divertissements_ between the acts of the opera. Italy, the
country of the Vestrises, of the Taglionis, and in the present day I may
add of Rosati, has always bestowed much care on the production of its
_ballets_. I have mentioned (Chapter I.), that the opera in its infancy
owed much to the protection of the Popes. The Papal Government in the
present day is said to pay special attention to the _ballet_, and to
watch with paternal solicitude the _pirouettes_ and _jetés battus_ of
the _danseuses_. At least I find a passage to that effect in a work
entitled "La Rome des Papes,"[47] the writer declaring that cardinals
and bishops attend the Operas of Italy to see that the _ballerine_ swing
their legs within certain limits.

       *       *       *       *       *

Having seen Rousseau's views of the Opera as it might be, let us now
turn to his description of the Opera of Paris as it actually was; a
description put into the mouth of St. Preux, the hero of his _Nouvelle

       *       *       *       *       *

"Before I tell you what I think of this famous theatre, I will tell you
what is said here about it; the judgment of connoisseurs may correct
mine, if I am wrong.

"The Opera of Paris passes at Paris for the most pompous, the most
voluptuous, the most admirable spectacle that human art has ever
invented. It is, say its admirers, the most superb monument of the
magnificence of Louis XIV.; and one is not so free as you may think to
express an opinion on so important a subject. Here you may dispute about
everything except music and the Opera; on these topics alone it is
dangerous not to dissemble. French music is defended, too, by a very
rigorous inquisition, and the first thing intimated as a warning, to
strangers who visit this country, is that all foreigners admit, there is
nothing in this world so fine as the Opera of Paris. The fact is,
discreet people hold their tongues, and dare only laugh in their

"It must, however, be conceded, that not only all the marvels of nature,
but many other marvels, much greater, which no one has ever seen, are
represented, at great cost, at this theatre; and certainly Pope[48] must
have alluded to it when he describes one on which was seen gods,
hobgoblins, monsters, kings, shepherds, fairies, fury, joy, fire, a jig,
a battle, and a ball.


"This magnificent assemblage, so well organized, is in fact regarded as
though it contained all the things it represents. When a temple appears,
the spectators are seized with a holy respect, and if the goddess be at
all pretty, they become at once half pagan. They are not so difficult
here as they are at the _Comédie Francaise_. There the audience cannot
indue a comedian with his part: at the Opera, they cannot separate the
actor from his. They revolt against a reasonable illusion, and yield to
others in proportion as they are absurd and clumsy. Or, perhaps, they
find it easier to form an idea of gods than of heroes. Jupiter having a
different nature from ours, we may think about him just as we please:
but Cato was a man; and how many men are they who have any right to
believe that Cato could have existed?

"The Opera is not then here as elsewhere, a company of comedians paid to
entertain the public; its members are, it is true, people whom the
public pay, and who exhibit themselves before it; but all this changes
its nature and name, for these dramatists form a Royal Academy of
Music,[49] a species of sovereign court, which judges without appeal in
its own cause, and is otherwise by no means particular about justice or

"Having now told you what others say of this brilliant spectacle, I will
tell you at present what I have seen myself.

"Imagine an enclosure fifteen feet broad, and long in proportion; this
enclosure is the theatre. On its two sides are placed at intervals
screens, on which are grossly painted the objects which the scene is
about to represent. At the back of the enclosure hangs a great curtain,
painted in like manner and nearly always pierced and torn that it may
represent at a little distance gulfs on the earth or holes in the sky.
Every one who passes behind this stage, or touches the curtain, produces
a sort of earthquake, which has a double effect. The sky is made of
certain blueish rags suspended from poles or from cords, as linen may be
seen hung out to dry in any washerwoman's yard. The sun, for it is seen
here sometimes, is a lighted torch in a lantern. The cars of the gods
and goddesses are composed of four rafters, squared and hung on a thick
rope in the form of a swing or see-saw; between the rafters is a
cross-plank on which the god sits down, and in front hangs a piece of
coarse cloth well dirtied, which acts the part of clouds for the
magnificent car. One may see towards the bottom of the machine, two or
three stinking candles, badly snuffed, which, whilst the great personage
dementedly presents himself swinging in his see-saw, fumigate him with
an incense worthy of his dignity. The agitated sea is composed of long
angular lanterns of cloth and blue pasteboard, strung on parallel spits,
which are turned by little blackguard boys. The thunder is a heavy cart
rolled over an arch, and is not the least agreeable instrument one
hears. The flashes of lightning are made of pinches of resin thrown on a
flame; and the thunder is a cracker at the end of a fusee.


"The theatre is moreover furnished with little square traps, which,
opening at need, announce that the demons are about to issue from their
cave. When they have to rise into the air, little demons of stuffed
brown cloth are substituted for them, or sometimes real chimney sweeps,
who swing about suspended on ropes till they are majestically lost in
the rags of which I have spoken. The accidents, however, which not
unfrequently happen are sometimes as tragic as farcical. When the ropes
break, then infernal spirits and immortal gods fall together, and lame
and occasionally kill one another. Add to all this, the monsters, which
render some scenes very pathetic, such as dragons, lizards, tortoises,
crocodiles and large toads, who promenade the theatre with a menacing
air, and display at the Opera all the temptations of St. Anthony. Each
of these figures is animated by a lout of a Savoyard, who has not even
intelligence enough to play the beast.

"Such, my cousin, is the august machinery of the Opera, as I have
observed it from the pit with the aid of my glass; for you must not
imagine that all this apparatus is hidden, and produces an imposing
effect. I have only described what I have seen myself, and what any
other spectator may see. I am assured, however, that there are a
prodigious number of machines employed to put the whole spectacle in
motion, and I have been invited several times to examine them; but I
have never been curious to learn how little things are performed by
great means.

       *       *       *       *       *

"I will not speak to you of the music; you know it. But you can form no
idea of the frightful cries, the long bellowings with which the theatre
resounds daring the representation. One sees actresses nearly in
convulsions, tearing yelps and howls violently out of their lungs,
closed hands pressed on their breasts, heads thrown back, faces
inflamed, veins swollen, and stomachs panting. I know not which of the
two, the eye or the ear, is most agreeably affected by this ugly
display; and, what is really inconceivable, it is these shriekings alone
that the audience applaud. By the clapping of their hands they might be
taken for deaf people delighted at catching some shrill piercing sound.
For my part, I am convinced that they applaud the outcries of an actress
at the Opera as they would the feats of a tumbler or a rope-dancer at a
fair. The sensation produced by this screaming is both revolting and
painful; one actually suffers whilst it lasts, but is so glad to see it
all over without accident as willingly to testify joy. Imagine this
style of singing employed to express the delicate gallantry and
tenderness of Quinault! Imagine the muses, the graces, the loves, Venus
herself, expressing themselves in this way, and judge the effect! As for
devils, it might pass, for this music has something infernal in it, and
is not ill-adapted to such beings.

[Sidenote: THE AUDIENCE]

"To these exquisite sounds those of the orchestra are most worthily
married. Conceive an endless charivari of instruments without melody, a
drawling and perpetual rumble of basses, the most lugubrious and
fatiguing I have ever heard, and which I have never been able to
support for half an hour without a violent headache. All this forms a
species of psalmody in which there is generally neither melody nor
measure. But should a lively air spring up, oh, then, the sensation is
universal; you then hear the whole pit in movement, painfully following,
and with great noise, some certain performer in the orchestra. Charmed
to feel for a moment a cadence, which they understand so little, their
ears, voices, arms, feet, their entire bodies, agitated all over, run
after the measure always about to escape them; while the Italians and
Germans, who are deeply affected by music, follow it without effort, and
never need beat the time. But in this country the musical organ is
extremely hard; voices have no softness, their inflections are sharp and
strong, and their tones all reluctant and forced; and there is no
cadence, no melodious accent in the airs of the people; their military
instruments, their regimental fifes, their horns, and hautbois, their
street singers, and _guinguette_ violins, are all so false as to shock
the least delicate ear. Talents are not given indiscriminately to all
men, and the French seem to me of all people to have the least aptitude
for music. My Lord Edward says that the English are not better gifted in
this respect; but the difference is, that they know it, and do not care
about it; whilst the French would relinquish a thousand just titles to
praise, rather than confess, that they are not the first musicians in
the world. There are even those here who would willingly regard music
as a state interest, because, perhaps, the cutting of two chords of the
lyre of Timotheus was so regarded at Sparta.--But to return to my

"I have yet to speak of the ballets, the most brilliant part of the
opera. Considered separately, they form agreeable, magnificent, and
truly theatrical spectacles; but it is as constituent parts of operatic
pieces that I now allude to them. You know the operas of Quinault. You
know how this sort of diversion is there introduced. His successors, in
imitating, have surpassed him in absurdity. In every act the action is
generally interrupted at the most interesting moment, by a dance given
to the actors who are seated, while the public stand up to look on. It
thus happens that the _dramatis personæ_ are absolutely forgotten. The
way in which these fêtes are brought about is very simple: Is the prince
joyous? his courtiers participate in his joy, and dance. Is he sad? he
must be cheered up, and they dance again. I do not know whether it is
the fashion at our court to give balls to kings when they are out of
humour; but I know that one cannot too much admire the stoicism of the
monarchs of the buskin who listen to songs, and enjoy _entrechats_, and
_pirouettes_, while their crowns are in danger, their lives in peril,
and their fate is being decided behind the curtain. But there are many
other occasions for dances: the gravest actions in life are performed in

[Sidenote: THE BALLET]

"Priests dance, soldiers dance, gods dance, devils dance; there is
dancing even at interments,--dancing _àpropos_ of everything.

"Dancing is there the fourth of the fine arts constituting the lyrical
scene. The three others are imitative; but what does this imitate?
Nothing. It is then quite extraneous when employed in this manner, for
what have minuets and rigadoons to do in a tragedy? I will say more. It
would not be less misplaced, even if it imitated something, because of
all the unities that of language is the most indispensable; and an
action or an opera performed, half in singing and half in dancing, would
be even more ridiculous than one written half in French and half in

"Not content with introducing dancing as an essential part of the
lyrical scene, the Academicians have sometimes even made it its
principal subject; and they have operas, called _ballets_, which so ill
respond to their title, that dancing is just as much out of its place in
them as in the others. Most of these ballets form as many separate
subjects as there are acts, and these subjects are linked together by
certain metaphysical relations, which the spectator could never
conceive, if the author did not take care to explain them to him in the
prologue. The seasons, the ages, the senses, the elements, what
connexion have these things with dancing? and what can they offer,
through such a medium, to the imagination? Some of the pieces referred
to are even purely allegorical, as the Carnival, and Folly; and these
are the most insupportable of all, because, with much cleverness and
piquancy they have neither sentiments nor pictures, nor situations, nor
warmth, nor interest, nor anything that music can take hold of, to
flatter the heart or to produce illusion. In these pretended ballets,
the action always passes in singing, whilst dancing always interrupts
the action. But as these performances have still less interest than the
tragedies, the interruptions are less remarked. Thus defect serves to
hide defect, and the great art of the author is, in order to make his
ballet endurable, to make his piece as dull as possible....

       *       *       *       *       *

"After all, perhaps, the French ought not to have a better operatic
drama than they have, at least, with respect to execution; not that they
are not capable of appreciating what is good, but because the bad amuses
them more. They feel more gratification in satirising than in
applauding; the pleasure of criticising more than compensates them for
the _ennui_ of witnessing a stupid composition, and they would rather
mockingly pelt a performance after they have left the theatre, than
enjoy themselves while there."

       *       *       *       *       *


I have already remarked that, although in his _Lettre sur la Musique
Française_, Rousseau had praised the melody of the Italians as much as
he had condemned the dreary psalmody of the French, he expressed the
highest admiration for the genius of Gluck. He never missed a
representation of _Orphée_, and said, in allusion to the gratification
that work had afforded him, that "after all there was something in life
worth living for, since in two hours so much genuine pleasure could be
obtained." He observed that Gluck seemed to have come to France in order
to give the lie to his proposition that good music could never be set to
French words. At another time he observed that every one complained of
Gluck's want of melody, but that for his part he thought it issued from
all his pores.

       *       *       *       *       *

Now let us turn to the _Devin du Village_, of which both words and music
are generally attributed to Jean Jacques Rousseau; that Rousseau who, in
the _Confessions_, reproaches himself so bitterly with having stolen a
ribbon (it is true he had accused an innocent young girl of the theft,
and, by implication, of something more), who passes complacently over a
hundred mean and disgusting acts which he acknowledges to have
committed, and who ends by declaring that any one who may come to the
conclusion that he, Rousseau, is, "_un malhonnête homme_," is himself "a
man to be smothered," (_un homme à étouffer_).

_Le Devin du Village_ is undoubtedly the work of Jean Jacques Rousseau,
as far as the libretto is concerned; but M. Castil Blaze has shown, on
what appears to me very good evidence,[50] that the music was the
production of Granet, a composer residing at Lyons.

One day in the year 1751, Pierre Rousseau, called Rousseau of Toulouse,
to distinguish him from the numerous other Rousseaus living in Paris,
and known as the director of the _Journal Encyclopédique_, received a
parcel containing a quantity of manuscript music, which, on examination,
turned out to be the score of an opera. It was accompanied by a letter
addressed, like the parcel itself, to "M. Rousseau, _homme de lettres_,
demeurant à Paris," in which a person signing himself Granet, and
writing from Lyons, expressed a hope that his music would be found
worthy of the illustrious author's words; that he had given appropriate
expression to the tender sentiments of Colette and Colin, &c. Pierre
Rousseau, though a journalist, understood music. He knew that Granet's
letter was intended for Jean Jacques, and that he ought to return it,
with the music, to the post-office, but the score of the _Devin du
Village_, from the little he had seen of it, interested him, and he not
only kept it until he had made himself familiar with it from beginning
to end, but even showed it to a friend, M. de Belissent, one of the
conservators of the Royal Library, and a man of great musical
acquirements. As soon as Pierre Rousseau and De Belissent had quite
finished with the _Devin du Village_, they sent it back to the
post-office, whence it was forwarded to its true destination.


Jean Jacques had been expecting Granet's music, and, on receiving the
opera in a complete form, took it to La Vaubalière, the farmer-general,
and offered it to him, directly or indirectly, as a suitable piece for
Madame de Pompadour's theatre at Versailles, where several operettas had
already been produced. La Vaubalière was anxious to maintain himself in
the good graces of the favourite, and purchased for her entertainment
the right of representing the _Devin du Village_. This handsome present
cost the gallant financier the sum of six thousand francs. However, the
opera was performed, was wonderfully successful, and was afterwards
produced at the Académie, when Rousseau received four thousand francs
more; so at least says M. Castil Blaze, who appears to have derived his
information from the books of the theatre, though according to
Rousseau's own statement in the _Confessions_, the Opera sent him only
fifty _louis_, which he declares he never asked for, but which he does
not pretend to have returned.

Rousseau "confesses," with studied detail, how the music of each piece
in the _Devin du Village_ occurred to him; how he at one time thought of
burning the whole affair (a conceit, by the way, which has since been
rendered common-place by amateur authors in their prefaces); how his
friends succeeded in persuading him to do nothing of the kind; and how,
at last, he wrote the drama and sketched out the whole of the music in
six days, so that when he arrived with his work in Paris, he had nothing
to add but the recitative and the "_remplissage_" by which he probably
meant the orchestral parts. In the next page he tells us that he would
have given anything in the world if he could only have had the _Devin du
Village_ performed for himself alone, and have listened to it with
closed doors, as Lulli is reported to have listened to his _Armide_,
executed for his sole gratification. This pleasure might, perhaps, have
been enjoyed by Rousseau if he had really composed the music himself,
for when the Académie produced his second _Devin du Village_, of which
the music was undoubtedly his own, the public positively refused to
listen to it, and hissed it until it was withdrawn. If the director had
persisted in representing the piece the theatre would doubtless have
been deserted by every one but the composer.


But to return to the original score which, as Rousseau himself informs
us, wanted nothing when he arrived in Paris except what he calls the
"_remplissage_" and the recitative. He had intended, he says, to have
_Le Devin_ performed at the Opera, but M. de Cury, the intendant of the
Menus Plaisirs, was determined it should first be brought out at the
Court. A duel was very nearly taking place between the two directors,
when it was at last decided by Rousseau himself, that Fontainebleau,
Madame de Pompadour, and La Vaubalière should have the preference.
Whether Granet had omitted to write recitative or not, it is a
remarkable fact that recitative was wanted when the piece came to be
rehearsed, and that Rousseau allowed Jéliotte, the singer, to supply it.
This he mentions himself, as also that he was not present at any of the
rehearsals--for it is at rehearsals above all, that a sham composer
runs the chance of being detected. It is an easy thing for any man to
say that he has composed an opera, but it may be difficult for him to
correct a very simple error made by the copyist in transcribing the
parts. However, Rousseau admits that he attended no rehearsals except
the last, and that he did not compose the recitative, which, be it
observed, the singers required forthwith, and which had to be written
almost beneath their eyes.

But what was Granet doing in the meanwhile? it will be asked. In the
meanwhile Granet had died. And Pierre Rousseau and his friend M. de
Bellissent? Rousseau, of Toulouse, supported by the Conservator of the
Royal Library, accused Jean Jacques openly of fraud in the columns of
the _Journal Encyclopédique_. These accusations were repeated on all
sides, until at last Rousseau undertook to reply to them by composing
new music to the _Devin du Village_. This new music the Opera refused to
perform, and with some reason, for it appears (as the reader has seen)
to have been detestable. It was not executed until after Rousseau's
death, and at the special request of his widow, when, in the words of
Grimm, "all the new airs were hooted without the slightest regard for
the memory of the author."

It is this utter failure of the second edition of the _Devin du Village_
which convinces me more than anything else that the first was not from
the hand of Rousseau. But let us not say that he was "_un malhonnête
homme_." Probably the conscientious author of the Contrat Social adopted
the children of others by way of compensation for having sent his own to
the Enfants Trouvés.



     Gluck at Vienna.--Iphigenia in Aulis.--A rehearsal at Sophie
     Arnould's.--Gluck and Vestris.--Piccinni in Italy.--Piccinni in
     Paris.--The two Iphigenias.--Iphigenia in Champagne.--Madeleine
     Guimard, Vestris, and the Ballet.

Fifteen years before the French Revolution, of which, in the present
day, every one can trace the gradual approach, the important question
that occupied the capital of France was not the emancipation of the
peasants, nor the reorganisation of the judicial system, nor the
equalisation of the taxes all over the country; it was simply the merit
of Gluck as compared with Piccinni, and of Piccinni as compared with
Gluck. Paris was divided into two camps, each of which had its own
special music. The German master was declared by the partisans of the
Italian to be severe, unmelodious and heavy: by his own friends he was
considered profound, full of inspiration and eminently dramatic.
Piccinni, on the other hand, was accused by his enemies of frivolity and
insipidity, while his supporters maintained that his melodies touched
the heart, and that it was not the province of music to appeal to the
intellect. Fundamentally, the dispute was that which still exists as to
the superiority of German or Italian music. Severe classicists continue
to despise modern Italian composers as unintellectual, and the Italians
still sneer at the music of Germany as the "music of mathematics."
Rossini, Donizetti, and Verdi have been undervalued in succession by the
critics of Germany, France and England; and although there can be no
question as to the inferiority of the last to the first-named of these
composers, Signor Verdi, if he pays any attention to the attacks of
which he is so constantly the object, can always console himself by
reflecting that, after all, not half so much has been said against his
operas as it was once the fashion to say against Rossini's. The
Italians, on the other hand, can be fairly reproached with this, that,
to the present day, they have never appreciated _Don Giovanni_. They
consent to play it in London, Paris and St. Petersburgh because the
musical public of the capitals know the work and are convinced that
nothing finer has ever been written; (this is, however, less in Paris
than in the other two capitals of the Italian Opera), but the singers
themselves do not in their hearts like Mozart. They are kind enough to
execute his music, because they are well paid for it, but that is all.


In the present century, which is above all an age of eclecticism, we
find the natural descendants of Piccinni going over to the Gluckists,
while the legitimate inheritors of Gluck abandon their succession to
adopt the facile forms and sometimes unmeaning if melodious phrases of
the Piccinnists. Certainly there are no traces of the grand old German
school in the light popular music of Herr Flotow (who, if not a German,
is a Germanised Russian); and, on the other hand, Signor Verdi in his
emphatic moments quite belies his Italian origin; indeed, there are
passages in several of this composer's operas which may be traced
directly not to Rossini, but to Meyerbeer.

The history of the quarrels between the Gluckists and Piccinnists has no
importance in connection with art. These disputes led to no sound
criticism, nor have the attacks and replies on either side added
anything to what was already known on the subject of music as applied to
the expression and illustration of human passion. As for deciding
between Gluckism and Piccinnism (I say nothing about the men, who
certainly were not equal in point of genius), that is impossible. It is
almost a question of organisation. It may be remarked, however, that no
composer ever began as a Gluckist (so to speak) and ended as a
Piccinnist, whereas Rossini, in his last and greatest work, approaches
the German style, and even Donizetti, in his latest and most dramatic
operas, exhibits somewhat of the same tendency. It will be remembered,
too, that the great Mozart, and in our own day Meyerbeer, wrote their
earlier operas in the Italian mode, and abandoned it when they
recognised its insufficiency for dramatic purposes. Indeed, Gluck's own
style, as we shall presently see, underwent a similar change. But it
would be rash to conclude from these instances, that Italians, writing
in the Italian style, have produced no great dramatic music. Rossini's
_Otello_ and Bellini's _Norma_ at once suggest themselves as convincing
proofs of the contrary.

All that remains now of the Gluck _versus_ Piccinni contest is a number
of anecdotes, which are amusing, as showing the height musical
enthusiasm and musical prejudice had reached in Paris at an epoch when
music and the arts generally were about the last things that should have
occupied the French. But before calling attention to a few of the
principal incidents in this harmonious civil war, let me sketch the
early career of each of the great leaders.

Gluck was born, in 1712, of Bohemian parents, so that he was almost
certainly not of German but of Slavonian origin.[51] Young Gluck learnt
the scale simultaneously with the alphabet (why should not all children
be taught to read from music-notes as they are taught to read from
ordinary typography?) and soon afterwards received lessons on the
violoncello, which, however, were put a stop to by the death of his


Little Christopher was left an orphan at a very early age. Fortunately,
he had made sufficient progress on the violoncello to obtain an
engagement with a company of wandering musicians. Thus he contrived to
exist until the troupe had wandered as far as Vienna, where his talent
attracted the attention of a few sympathetic and generous men, who
enabled him to complete his musical education in peace.

After studying harmony and counterpoint, Gluck determined to leave the
capital of Germany for Italy; for in those days no one was accounted a
musician who had not derived a certain amount of his inspiration from
Italian sources. After studying four years under the celebrated Martini,
he felt that the time had come for him to produce a work of his own. His
"Artaxerxes" was given at Milan with success, and this opera was
followed by seven others, which were brought out either at Venice,
Cremona or Turin. Five years sufficed for Gluck to make an immense name
in Italy. His reputation even extended to the other countries of Europe
and the offers he received from the English were sufficiently liberal to
tempt the rising composer to pay a visit to London. Here, however, he
had to contend with the genius and celebrity of Handel, compared with
whom he was as yet but a composer of mediocrity. He returned to Vienna
not very well pleased with his reception in England, and soon afterwards
made his appearance once more in Italy, where he produced five other
works, all of which were successful. Hitherto Gluck's style had been
quite in accordance with the Italian taste, and the Italians did not
think of reproaching him with any want of melody. On the contrary, they
applauded his works, as if they had been signed by one of their most
esteemed masters. But if the Italians were satisfied with Gluck, Gluck
was not satisfied with the Italians; and it was not until he had left
Italy, that he discovered his true vein.

Gluck was forty-six years of age when he brought out his _Alcestis_, the
first work composed in the style which is now regarded as peculiarly his
own. _Alcestis_, and _Orpheus_, by which it was followed, created a
great sensation in Germany, and when the Chevalier Gluck composed a work
"by command," in honour of the Emperor Joseph's marriage, it was played,
not perhaps by the greatest artists in Germany, but certainly by the
most distinguished, for the principal parts were distributed among four
arch-duchesses and an arch-duke. Where are the dukes and duchesses now
who could play, not with success, but without disastrous failure, in an
opera by Gluck?

[Sidenote: GLUCK AT VIENNA.]

It so happened that at Vienna, attached to the French embassy, lived a
certain M. du Rollet, who was in the habit of considering himself a
poet. To him Gluck confided his project of visiting Paris, and composing
for the French stage. Du Rollet not only encouraged the musician in his
intentions, but even promised him a libretto of his own writing. The
libretto was not good--indeed what _libretto_ is?--except, perhaps, some
of Scribe's _libretti_ for the light operas of Auber. But it must be
remembered that the _Opéra Comique_ is only a development of the
vaudeville; and in the entire catalogue of serious operas, with the
exception of Metastasio's, a few by Romani and Da Ponte's _Don Giovanni_
(with a Mozart to interpret it), it is not easy to find any which, in a
literary and poetical sense, are not absurd. However, Du Rollet
arranged, or disarranged, Racine's _Iphigénie_, to suit the requirements
of the lyric stage, and handed over "the book" to the Chevalier Gluck.

_Iphigenia in Aulis_ was composed in less than a year; but to write an
opera is one thing, to get it produced another. At that time the French
Opera was a close borough, in the hands of half a dozen native
composers, whose nationality was for the most part their only merit.
These musicians were not in the habit of positively refusing all chance
to foreign competitors; but they interposed all sorts of delays between
the acceptance and the production of their works, and did their best
generally to prevent their success. However, the Dauphiness Marie
Antoinette, had undertaken to introduce the great German composer to
Paris, and she smoothed the way for him so effectually, that soon after
his arrival in the French capital, _Iphigenia in Aulis_ was accepted,
and actually put into rehearsal.

Gluck now found a terrible and apparently insurmountable obstacle to his
success in the ignorance and obstinacy of the orchestra. He was not the
man to be satisfied with slovenly execution, and many and severe were
the lessons he had to give the French musicians, in the course of almost
as many rehearsals as Meyerbeer requires in the present day, before he
felt justified in announcing his work as ready for representation. The
young Princess had requested the lieutenant of police to take the
necessary precautions against disturbances; and she herself, accompanied
by the Dauphin, the Count and Countess of Provence, the Duchesses of
Chartres and of Bourbon, and the Princess de Lamballe, entered the
theatre before the public were admitted. The ministers and all the
Court, with the exception of the king (Louis XV.) and Madame Du Barry
were present. Sophie Arnould was the Iphigenia, and is said to have been
admirable in that character, though the charming Sophie seems to have
owed most of her success to her acting rather than to her singing.

The first night of _Iphigenia_, Larrivée, who took the part of
Agamemnon, actually abstained from singing through his nose. This is
mentioned by the critics and memorialists of the time as something
incredible, and almost supernatural. It appears that Larrivée, in spite
of his nasal twang, was considered a very fine singer. The public of the
pit used to applaud him, but they would also say, when he had just
finished one of his airs, "That nose has really a magnificent voice!"


The success of _Iphigenia_ was prodigious. Marie Antoinette herself gave
the signal of the applause, and it mattered little to the courtiers
whether they understood Gluck's grand, simple music, or not.

All they had to do, and all they did, was to follow the example of the

Never did poet, artist, or musician have a more enthusiastic patroness
than Marie Antoinette. She not only encouraged Gluck herself, but
visited with her severe displeasure all who ventured to treat him
disrespectfully. And it must be remembered that in those days a _Grand
Seigneur_ paid a great artist, or a great writer, just what amount of
respect he thought fit. Thus, one _Grand Seigneur_ had Voltaire caned
(and afterwards from pride or from cowardice refused his challenge),
while another struck Beaumarchais, and, after insulting him in the court
of justice over which he presided, summoned him to leave the bench and
come outside, that he might assassinate him.

The first person with whom Gluck came to an open rupture was the Prince
d'Hennin, the "Prince of Dwarfs," as he was called. The chevalier, in
spite of his despotic, unyielding nature, could not help giving way to
the charming Sophie Arnould, who, with a caprice permitted to her alone,
insisted on the rehearsals of _Orpheus_ taking place in her own
apartments. The orchestra was playing, and Sophie Arnould was singing,
when suddenly the door opened, and in walked the Prince d'Hennin. This
was not a grand rehearsal, and all the vocalists were seated.

"I believe," said the _Grand Seigneur_, addressing Sophie Arnould in the
middle of her air, "that it is the custom in France to rise when any
one enters the room, especially if it be a person of some

Gluck leaped from his seat with rage, rushed towards the intruder, and
with his eyes flashing fire, said to him:--

"The custom in Germany, sir, is to rise only for those whom we esteem."

Then turning to Sophie, he added:--

"I perceive, Mademoiselle, that you are not mistress in your own house.
I leave you, and shall never set foot here again."

When the story was told to Marie Antoinette, she was indignant with the
Prince, and compelled him to make amends to the chevalier for the insult
offered to him. The Prince's pride must have suffered terribly; for he
had to pay a visit to the composer, and to thank him for having assured
him in the plainest terms, that he looked upon him with great contempt.

This Prince d'Hennin was a favourite butt for the wit of the vivacious
Count de Lauragais, who, as the reader, perhaps, remembers, was one of
Sophie Arnould's earliest and most devoted admirers. One day when the
interesting Sophie was unwell, the Count asked her physician whether it
was not especially necessary to think of her spirits, and to keep away
everything that might tend to have a depressing effect upon them.

The doctor answered the Count's sagacious question in the affirmative.


"Above all," continued De Lauragais, "do you not consider it of the
greatest importance that the Prince d'Hennin should not be allowed to
visit her?"

The physician admitted that it would be as well she should not see the
prince; but De Lauragais was not satisfied with this, and he at last
persuaded the obliging doctor to put his opinion in the form of a direct
recommendation. In other words, he made him write a prescription for
Mdlle. Arnould, forbidding her to have any conversation with the Prince
d'Hennin. This prescription he sent to the prince's house, with a letter
calling his particular attention to it, and entreating him, for the sake
of Mdlle. Arnould's health, not to forget the injunction it contained.
The consequence was a duel, which, however, was attended with no bad
results, for, in the evening, the insultor and the insulted met at
Sophie Arnould's house.

It now became the fashion at the Court to attend the rehearsals of
_Orpheus_, which took place once more in the theatre. On these
occasions, the doors were besieged long before the performance
commenced; and numbers of persons were unable to gain admission. To see
Gluck at a rehearsal was infinitely more interesting than to see him at
one of the ordinary public representations. The composer had certain
habits; and from these he would not depart for any one. Thus, on
entering the orchestra, he would take his coat off to conduct at ease in
his shirt sleeves. Then he would remove his wig, and replace it by a
cotton night-cap of the remotest fashion. When the rehearsal was at an
end, he had no necessity to trouble himself about the articles of dress
which he had laid aside, for there was a general contest between the
dukes and princes of the Court as to who should hand them to him.
_Orpheus_ is said to have been quite as successful as _Iphigenia_. One
thing, however, which sometimes makes me doubt the completeness of this
success, in a musical point of view, is the recorded fact, that "_the
ballet_, especially, was very fine." The _ballet_ is certainly not the
first thing we think of in _William Tell_, or even in _Robert_. It
appears that Gluck himself objected positively to the introduction of
dancing into the opera of _Orpheus_. He held, and with evident reason,
that it would interfere with the seriousness and pathos of the general
action, and would, in short, spoil the piece. He was overruled by the
"_Diou_ de la Danse." What could Gluck's opinion be worth in the eyes of
Auguste or of Gaetan Vestris, who held that there were only three great
men in Europe--Voltaire, Frederick of Prussia, and himself. No! the
dancer was determined to have his "_Chacone_," and he was as obstinate,
indeed, more obstinate, than Gluck himself.

"Write me the music of a _chacone_, Monsieur Gluck," said the god of

"A chacone!" exclaimed the indignant composer; "Do you think the Greeks,
whose manners we are endeavouring to depict, knew what a chacone was?"


"Did they not!" replied Vestris, astonished at the information; and in a
tone of compassion, he added, "Then they are much to be pitied."

_Alcestis_, on its first production, did not meet with so much success
as _Orpheus_ and _Iphigenia_. The piece itself was singularly
uninteresting; and this was made the pretext for a host of epigrams, of
which the sting fell, not upon the author, but upon the composer.
However, after a few representations, _Alcestis_ began to attract the
public quite as much as the two previous works had done. Gluck's
detractors were discomfited, and the theatre was filled every evening
with his admirers. At this juncture, the composer of _Alcestis_ was
thrown into great distress by the death of his favourite niece. He left
Paris, and his enemies, who had been unable to vanquish, now resolved to
replace him.

I have said that Madame Du Barry did not honour the representation of
Gluck's operas with her presence. It was, in fact, she who headed the
opposition against him. She was mortified at not having some favourite
musician of her own to patronize when the Dauphiness had hers, and now
resolved to send to Italy for Piccinni, in the hope that when Gluck
returned, he would find himself neglected for the already celebrated
Italian composer. Baron de Breteuil, the French ambassador at Rome, was
instructed to offer Piccinni an annual salary of two thousand crowns if
he would go to Paris, and reside there. The Italian needed no pressing,
for he was as anxious to visit the French capital as Gluck himself had
been. Just then, however, Louis XV. died, by which the patroness of the
German composer, from Dauphiness, became Queen. Madame Du Barry's party
hesitated about bringing over a composer to whom they fancied Marie
Antoinette must be as hostile as they themselves were to Gluck. But the
Marquis Caraccioli, the Neapolitan ambassador at the Court of France,
had now taken the matter in hand, and from mere excess of patriotism,
had determined that Piccinni should make his appearance in Paris to
destroy the reputation of the German at a single blow. As for Marie
Antoinette, she not only did not think of opposing the Italian, but,
when he arrived, received him most graciously, and showed him every
possible kindness. But before introducing Piccinni to our readers as the
rival of Gluck in Paris, let us take a glance at his previous career in
his native land.

       *       *       *       *       *


Nicolas Piccinni, who was not less than fifty years of age when he left
Naples, for Paris, with the avowed purpose of outrivalling Gluck, was
born at Bari, in the Neapolitan territory, in 1728. His father was a
musician, and apparently an unsuccessful one, for he endeavoured to
disgust his son with the art he had himself practised, and absolutely
forbade him to touch any musical instrument. No doubt this injunction of
the father produced just the contrary of the effect intended. The
child's natural inclination for music became the more invincible the
more it was repressed, and little Nicolas contrived, every day, to
devote a few hours in secret to the study of the harpsichord, the piano
of that day. He knew nothing of music, but guided by his own instinct,
learnt something of its mysteries simply by experimenting (for it was
nothing more) on the instrument which his father had been imprudent
enough, as he would have said himself, to leave within his reach.
Gradually he learnt to play such airs as he happened to remember, and,
probably without being aware himself of the process he was pursuing,
studied the art of combining notes in a manner agreeable to the ear; in
other words, he acquired some elementary notions of harmony. And still
his father flattered himself that little Nicolas cared nothing for
music, and that nothing could ever make him a musician.

One day, old Piccinni had occasion to visit the Bishop of Bari. He took
his son with him, but left the little boy in one room while he conversed
on private business with His Eminence in another. Now it chanced that in
the room where Nicolas was left there was a magnificent harpsichord, and
the temptation was really too great for him. Harpsichords were not made
merely to be looked at, he doubtless thought. He went to the instrument,
examined it carefully, and struck a note. The tone was superb.

Next he ventured upon a few notes in succession; and, then, how he
longed to play an entire air!

There was no help for it; he must, at all events, play a few bars with
both hands. The harpsichord at home was execrable, and this one was
admirable--made by the Broadwood of harpsichord makers. He began, but,
carried away by the melody, soon forgot where he was, and what he was

The Bishop, and especially Piccinni _père_, were thunderstruck. There
was a roughness and poverty about the accompaniment which showed that
the young performer was far from having completed his studies in
harmony; but, at the same time, there was no mistaking the fire, the
true emotion, which characterised his playing. The father thought of
going into a violent passion, but the Bishop would not hear of such a

"Music is evidently the child's true vocation," said the worthy
ecclesiastic; "He must be a musician, and one day, perhaps, will be a
great composer."


The Bishop now would not let old Piccinni rest until he promised to send
his son to the Conservatory of Music, directed by the celebrated Leo.
The father was obliged to consent, and Nicolas was sent off to Naples.
Here he was confided to the care of an inferior professor, who was by no
means aware of the child's precocious talent. The latter was soon
disgusted with the routine of the class, and conceived the daring
project of composing a mass, being at the time scarcely acquainted even
with the rudiments of composition. He was conscious of the audacity of
the undertaking, and therefore confided it to no one; but, somehow or
other, the news got abroad that little Nicolas had composed a grand
mass, and, before long, Leo himself heard of it.

Then the great professor sent for the little pupil, who arrived
trembling from head to foot, thinking apparently that for a boy of his
age to compose a mass was a species of crime.

Leo was grave, but not so severe as the young composer had expected.

"You have written a mass?" he commenced.

"Excuse me, sir, I could not help it;" said the youthful Piccinni.

"Let me see it?"

Nicolas went to his room for the score, and brought it back, together
with the orchestral parts all carefully copied out.

After casting a rapid glance at the manuscript, Leo went into the
concert-room, assembled an orchestra, and distributed the orchestral
parts among the requisite number of executants.

Little Nicolas was in a state of great trepidation, for he saw plainly
that the professor was laughing at him. It was impossible to run away,
or he would doubtless have made his escape. Leo advanced towards him,
handed him the score, and with imperturbable gravity, requested him to
take his place at the desk in front of the orchestra. Nicolas, with the
courage of despair, took up his position, and gave the signal to the
orchestra which the merciless professor had placed under his command.
After his first emotion had passed away, Nicolas continued to beat time,
fancying that, after all, what he had composed, though doubtless bad,
was, perhaps, not ridiculous. The mass was executed from beginning to
end. As he approached the finale, all the young musician's fears
returned. He looked at the professor, and saw that he did not seem to be
in the slightest degree impressed by the performance. What _did_ he,
what _could_ he think of such a production?

"I pardon you this time," said the terrible _maestro_, when the last
chord had been struck; "but if ever you do such a thing again I will
punish you in such a manner that you will remember it as long as you
live. Instead of studying the principles of your art, you give yourself
up to all the wildness of your imagination, and when you have tutored
your ill-regulated ideas into something like shape, you produce what you
call a mass, and think, no doubt, that you have composed a masterpiece."

Nicolas burst into tears, and then began to tell Leo how he had been
annoyed by the dry and pedantic instruction of the sub-professor. Leo,
who, with all his coldness of manner, had a heart, clasped the boy in
his arms, told him not to be disheartened, but to persevere, for that he
had real talent; and finally promised that from that moment he himself
would superintend his studies.


Leo died, and was succeeded by Durante, who used to say of young
Piccinni, "The others are my pupils, but this one is my son." Twelve
years after his entrance into the Conservatory the most promising of its
_alumni_ left it and set about the composition of an opera. As Piccinni
was introduced by Prince Vintimille, the director of the theatre then
in vogue was unable to refuse him a hearing; but he represented to His
Highness the certainty of the young composer's work turning out a
failure. Piccinni's patron was not wanting in generosity.

"How much can you lose by his opera," he said to the manager, "supposing
it should be a complete _fiasco_?"

The manager named a sum equivalent to three hundred and twenty pounds.

"There is the money, then," said the prince, handing him at the same
time a purse. "If the _Donne Dispetose_ (that was the name of Piccinni's
opera) should prove a failure, you may keep the money, otherwise you can
return it to me."

Logroscino was the favorite Italian composer of that day, and great was
the excitement when it was heard that the next new opera to be produced
was not of his writing. Evidently, his friends had only one course open
to them. They decided to hiss Logroscino's rival.

But the Florentine public had reckoned without Piccinni's genius. They
could not hiss a man whose music delighted them, and Piccinni's _Donne
Dispetose_ threw them into ecstacies. Those who had come to hoot
remained to applaud. Piccinni's reputation had commenced, and it went on
increasing until at last his was the most popular name in all musical

Five years afterwards, Piccinni (who in the meanwhile had produced two
other operas) gave his celebrated _Cecchina_, otherwise _La Buona
Figliuola_, at Rome. The success of this work, of which the libretto is
founded on the story of _Pamela_, was almost unprecedented. It was
played everywhere in Italy, even at the marionette theatres; and still
there was not sufficient room for the public, who were all dying to see
it. This little opera filled every playhouse in the Italian peninsula,
and it had taken Piccinni ten days to write! The celebrated Tonelli,
who, being an Italian, had naturally heard of its success, happened to
pass through Rome when it was being played there. He was not by any
means persuaded that the music was good because the public applauded it;
but after hearing the melodious opera from beginning to end, he turned
to his friends and said, in a tone of sincere conviction, "This Piccinni
is a true inventor!"

Of course the _Cecchina_ was heard of in France. Indeed, it was the
great reputation achieved by that opera which first rendered the
Parisians anxious to hear Piccinni, and which inspired Madame Du Barry
with the hope that in the Neapolitan composer she might find a
successful rival to the great German musician patronised by Marie


Piccinni, after accepting the invitation to dispute the prize of
popularity in Paris with Gluck, resolved to commence a new opera
forthwith, and had no sooner reached the French capital than he asked
one of the most distinguished authors of the day to furnish him with a
_libretto_. Marmontel, to whom the request was made, gave him his
_Roland_, which was the Roland of Quinault cut down from five acts to
three. Unfortunately, Piccinni did not understand a word of French.
Marmontel was therefore obliged to write beneath each French word its
Italian equivalent, which caused it to be said that he was not only
Piccinni's poet, but also his dictionary.

Gluck was in Germany when Piccinni arrived, and on hearing of the
manœuvres of Madame du Barry and the Marquis Caraccioli to supplant
him in the favour of the Parisian public, he fell into a violent
passion, and wrote a furious letter on the subject, which was made
public. Above all, he was enraged at the Academy having accepted from
his adversary an opera on the subject of Roland, for he had agreed to
compose an _Orlando_ for them himself.

"Do you know that the Chevalier is coming back to us with an _Armida_
and an _Orlando_ in his portfolio?" said the Abbé Arnaud, one of Gluck's
most fervent admirers.

"But Piccinni is also at work at an _Orlando_?" replied one of the

"So much the better," returned the Abbé, "for then we shall have an
_Orlando_ and also an _Orlandino_."

Marmontel heard of this _mot_, which caused him to address some
unpleasant observations to the Abbé the first time he met him in

But the Abbé was not to be silenced. One night, when Gluck's _Alceste_
was being played, he happened to occupy the next seat to Marmontel.
_Alceste_ played by Mademoiselle Lesueur, has, at the end of the second
act, to exclaim--

"_Il me déchire le cœur._"

"_Ah, Mademoiselle_," said the Academician quite aloud, "_vous me
déchirez les oreilles._"

"What a fortunate thing for you, Sir," said the Abbé, "if you could get
new ones."

Of course the two armies had their generals. Among those of the
Piccinnists were some of the greatest literary men of the
day--Marmontel, La Harpe, D'Alembert, &c. The only writers on Gluck's
side were Suard, and the Abbé Arnaud, for Rousseau, much as he admired
Gluck, cannot be reckoned among his partisans. Suard, who wrote under a
pseudonym, generally contrived to raise the laugh against his
adversaries. The Abbé Arnaud, as we have seen, used to defend his
composer in society, and constituted himself his champion wherever there
appeared to be the least necessity, or even opportunity, of doing so.
Volumes upon volumes were written on each side; but of course no one was

The Gluckists persisted in saying that Piccinni would never be able to
compose anything better than concert music.

The Piccinnists, on the other hand, denied that Gluck had the gift of
melody, though they readily admitted that he had this advantage over his
adversary--he made a great deal more noise.


In the meanwhile the rehearsals of Piccinni's _Orlando_, or
_Orlandino_, as the Abbé Arnaud called it, were not going on favourably.
The orchestra, which had been subdued by the energetic Gluck, rebelled
against Piccinni, who was quite in despair at the vast inferiority of
the French to the Italian musicians.

"Everything goes wrong," he said to Marmontel; "there is nothing to be
done with them."

Marmontel was then obliged to interfere himself. Profiting by Piccinni's
forbearance, directors, singers, and musicians were in the habit of
treating him with the coolest indifference. Once, when Marmontel went to
rehearsal, he found that none of the principal singers were present, and
that the opera was to be rehearsed with "doubles." The author of the
_libretto_ was furious, and said he would never suffer the work of the
greatest musician in Italy to be left to the execution of "doubles."
Upon this, Mademoiselle Bourgeois had the audacity to tell the
Academician that, after all, he was but the double of Quinault, whose
_Roland_ (as we have seen) he had abridged. One of the chorus singers,
too, explained, that for his part he was not double at all, and that it
was a fortunate thing for M. Marmontel's shoulders that such was the

At last, when all seemed ready, and the day had been fixed for the first
representation, up came Vestris, the god of dancing, with a request for
some _ballet_ music. It was for the thin but fascinating Madeleine
Guimard, who was not in the habit of being refused. Piccinni, without
delay, set about the music of her _pas_, and produced a gavot, which
was considered one of the most charming things in the Opera.

When Piccinni started for the theatre, the night of the first
representation, he took leave of his family as if he had been going to
execution. His wife and son wept abundantly, and all his friends were in
a state of despair.

"Come, my children," said Piccinni, at last; "this is unreasonable.
Remember that we are not among savages. We are living with the politest
and kindest nation in Europe. If they do not like me as a musician, they
will, at all events, respect me as a man and a stranger."

Piccinni's success was complete. It was impossible for the Gluckists to
deny it. Accordingly they said that they had never disputed Piccinni's
grace, nor his gift of melody, though his talent was spoiled by a
certain softness and effeminacy, which was observable in all his

Marie Antoinette, whom Madame du Barry and her clique had looked upon as
the natural enemy of Piccinni, because she was the avowed patroness of
Gluck, astonished both the cabals by sending for the Italian composer
and appointing him her singing-master. This was, doubtless, a great
honour for Piccinni, though a very unprofitable one; for he was not only
not paid for his lessons, but incurred considerable expense in going to
and from the palace, to say nothing of the costly binding of the operas
and other music, which he presented to the royal circle.


Beaumarchais had found precisely the same disadvantages attaching to the
post of Court music-master, when, in his youth, he gave lessons to the
daughters of Louis XV.

When Berton assumed the management of the Opera, he determined to make
the rival masters friends, and invited them to a magnificent supper,
where they were placed side by side. Gluck drank like a man and a
German, and before the supper was finished, was on thoroughly
confidential terms with his neighbour.

"The French are very good people," said he to Piccinni, "but they make
me laugh. They want us to write songs for them, and they can't sing."

The reconciliation appeared to be quite sincere; but the fact was, the
quarrel was not between two men, but between two parties. When the
direction of the Opera passed from the hands of Berton into those of
Devismes, a project of the latter, for making Piccinni and Gluck compose
an opera, at the same time, on the same subject, brought their
respective admirers once more into open collision. "Here," said Devismes
to Piccinni, "is a libretto on the story of Iphigenia in Tauris. M.
Gluck will treat the same subject; and the French public will then, for
the first time, have the pleasure of hearing two operas founded upon the
same incidents, and introducing the same characters, but composed by two
masters of entirely different schools."

"But," objected Piccinni, "if Gluck's opera is played first, the public
will think so much of it that they will not listen to mine."

"To avoid that inconvenience," replied the director, "we will play yours

"But Gluck will not permit it."

"I give you my word of honour," said Devismes, "that your opera shall be
put into rehearsal and brought out as soon as it is finished, and before

Piccinni went home, and at once set to work.

He had just finished his two first acts when he heard that Gluck had
come back from Germany with his _Iphigenia in Tauris_ completed.
However, he had received the director's promise that his Iphigenia
should be produced first, and, relying upon Devismes's word of honour,
Piccinni merely resolved to finish his opera as quickly as possible, so
that the management might not be inconvenienced by having to wait for
it, now that Gluck's work, which was to come second, was ready for

Piccinni had not quite completed his _Iphigenia_, when, to his horror,
he heard that Gluck's was already in rehearsal! He rushed to Devismes,
reminded him of his promise, reproached him with want of faith, but all
to no purpose. The director of the Opera declared that he had received a
"command" to produce Gluck's work immediately, and that he had nothing
to do but to obey. He was very sorry, was in despair, &c.; but it was
absolutely necessary to play M. Gluck's opera first.


Piccinni felt that he was lost. He went to his friends, and told them
the whole affair.

"In the first place," said Guinguenée, the writer, "let me look at the
poem?" The poem was not merely bad, it was ridiculous. The manager had
taken advantage of Piccinni's ignorance of the French language to impose
upon him a _libretto_ full of absurdities and common-places, such as no
sensible schoolboy would have put his name to. Guinguenée, at Piccinni's
request, re-wrote the whole piece--greatly, of course, to the annoyance
of the original author.

In the meanwhile the rehearsals of Gluck's _Iphigenia_ were continued.
At the first of these, in the scene where _Orestes_, left alone in
prison, throws himself on a bench saying "L_e calme rentre dans mon
cœur_," the orchestra hesitated as if struck by the apparent
contradiction in the accompaniment, which is still of an agitated
character, though "Orestes" has declared that his heart is calm. "Go
on!" exclaimed Gluck; "he lies! He has killed his mother!"

The musicians of the Académie had a right, so many at a time, to find
substitutes to take their places at rehearsals. Not one profited by this
permission while _Iphigenia_ was being brought out.

The _Iphigenia in Tauris_ is known to be Gluck's masterpiece, and it is
by that wonderful work and by _Orpheus_ that most persons judge of his
talent in the present day. Compared with the German's profound, serious,
and admirably dramatic production, Piccinni's _Iphigenia_ stood but
little chance. In the first place, it was inferior to it; in the second,
the public were so delighted with Gluck's opera that they were not
disposed to give even a fair trial to another written on the same
subject. However, Piccinni's work was produced, and was listened to with
attention. An air, sung by _Pylades_ to _Orestes_, was especially
admired, but on the whole the public seemed to be reserving their
judgment until the second representation.

The next evening came; but when the curtain drew up, Piccinni
discovered, to his great alarm, that something had happened to
Mademoiselle Laguerre, who was entrusted with the principal part.
_Iphigenia_ was unable to stand upright. She rolled first to one side,
then to the other; hesitated, stammered, repeated the words, made eyes
at the pit; in short, Mdlle. Laguerre was intoxicated!

"This is not 'Iphigenia in Tauris,'" said Sophie Arnould; "this is
'Iphigenia in Champagne.'"

That night, the facetious heroine was sent, by order of the king, to
sleep at For-l'Evèque, where she was detained two days. A little
imprisonment appears to have done her good. The evening of her
re-appearance, Mademoiselle Laguerre, with considerable tact, applied a
couplet expressive of remorse to her own peculiar situation, and,
moreover, sang divinely.


While the Gluck and Piccinni disputes were at their height, a story is
told of one amateur, doubtless not without sympathizers, who retired in
disgust to the country and sang the praises of the birds and their
gratuitous performances in a poem, which ended as follows:--

    Là n'est point d'art, d'ennui scientifique;
    Piccinni, Gluck n'ont point noté les airs;
    Nature seule en dicta la musique,
    Et Marmontel n'en a pas fait les vers.

The contest between Gluck and Piccinni (or rather between the Gluckists
and Piccinnists) was brought to an end by the death of the former. An
attempt was afterwards made to set up Sacchini against Piccinni; but
Sacchini being, as regards the practice of his art, as much a Piccinnist
as a Gluckist, this manœuvre could not be expected to have much

The French revolution ruined Piccinni, who thereupon retired to Italy.
Seven years afterwards he returned to France, and, having occasion to
present a petition to Napoleon, was graciously received by the First
Consul in the Palace of the Luxembourg.

"Sit down," said Napoleon to Piccinni, who was standing; "a man of your
merit stands in no one's presence."

Piccinni now retired to Passy; but he was an old man, his health had
forsaken him, and, in a few months, he died, and was buried in the
cemetery of the suburb which he had chosen for his retreat.

In the present day, Gluck appears to have vanquished Piccinni, because,
at long intervals, one of Gluck's grandly constructed operas is
performed, whereas the music of his former rival is never heard at all.
But this, by no means, proves that Piccinni's melodies were not
charming, and that the connoisseurs of the eighteenth century were not
right in applauding them. The works that endure are not those which
contain the greatest number of beauties, but those of which the form is
most perfect. Gluck was a composer of larger conceptions, and of more
powerful genius than his Italian rival; and it may be said that he built
up monuments of stone while Piccinni was laying out parterres of
flowers. But if the flowers were beautiful while they lasted, what does
it matter to the eighteenth century that they are dead now, when even
the marble temples of Gluck are antiquated and moss-grown?

I cannot take leave of the Gluck and Piccinni period without saying a
few words about its principal dancers, foremost among whom stood
Madeleine Guimard, the thin, the fascinating, the ever young, and the
two Vestrises--Gaetan, the Julius of that Cæsar-like family, and Auguste
its Augustus.

One evening when Madeleine Guimard was dancing in _Les fêtes de l'hymen
et de l'amour_, a very heavy cloud fell from the theatrical heavens upon
one of her beautiful arms, and broke it. A mass was said for
Mademoiselle Guimard's broken arm in the church of Notre Dame.[52]


Houdon, the sculptor, moulded Mademoiselle Guimard's foot.

Fragonard, the painter, decorated Mademoiselle Guimard's magnificent,
luxuriously-furnished hotel. In his mural pictures he made a point of
introducing the face and figure of the divinity of the place, until at
last he fell in love with his model, and, presuming so far as to show
signs of jealousy, was replaced by David--yes Louis David, the fierce
and virtuous republican!

David, the great painter of the republic and of the empire was, of
course, at this time, but a very young man. He was, in fact, only a
student, and Madeleine Guimard, finding that the decoration of her
"Temple of Terpsichore" (as the _danseuse's_ artistic and voluptuous
palace was called) did not quite satisfy his aspirations, gave him the
stipend he was to have received for covering her walls with fantastic
designs, to continue his studies in the classical style according to his
own ideas.

This was charity of a really thoughtful and delicate kind. As an
instance of simple bountiful generosity and kindheartedness, I may
mention Madeleine Guimard's conduct during the severe winter of 1768,
when she herself visited all the poor in her neighbourhood, and gave to
each destitute family enough to live on for a year. Marmontel, deeply
affected by this beneficence, addressed the celebrated epistle to her

    _"Est il bien vrai, jeune et belle damnée," &c._

"Not yet Magdalen repentant, but already Magdalen charitable," exclaimed
a preacher in allusion to Madeleine Guimard's good action, (which soon
became known all over Paris, though the dancer herself had not said a
word about it); and he added, "the hand which knows so well how to give
alms will not be rejected by St. Peter when it knocks at the gate of

Madeleine Guimard, with all her powers of fascination, was not beautiful
nor even pretty, and she was notoriously thin. Byron used to say of thin
women, that if they were old, they reminded him of spiders, if young and
pretty, of dried butterflies. Madeleine Guimard's theatrical friends, of
course, compared her to a spider. Behind the scenes she was known as
_L'araignée_. Another of her names was _La squelette des grâces_. Sophie
Arnould, it will be remembered, called her "a little silk-worm," for the
sake of the joke about "_la feuille_," and once, when she was dancing
between two male dancers in a _pas de trois_ representing two satyrs
fighting for a nymph, an uncivil spectator said of the exhibition that
it was like "two dogs fighting for a bone."


Madeleine Guimard is said to have preserved her youth and beauty in a
marvellous manner, besides which, she had such a perfect acquaintance
with all the mysteries of the toilet, that by the arts of dress and
adornment alone, she could have made herself look young when she was
already beginning to grow old. Marie-Antoinette used to consult her
about her costume and the arrangement of her hair, and once when, for
insubordination at the theatre, she had been ordered to For-l'Evèque,
the _danseuse_ is reported to have said to her maid, "never mind,
Gothon, I have written to the Queen to tell her that I have discovered a
style of _coiffure_; we shall be free before the evening."

I have not space to describe Mademoiselle Guimard's private theatre,[53]
nor to speak of her _liaison_ with the Prince de Soubise, nor of her
elopement with a German prince, whom the Prince de Soubise pursued,
wounding him and killing three of his servants, nor of her ultimate
marriage with a humble "professor of graces" at the Conservatory of
Paris. I must mention, however, that in her decadence Madeleine Guimard
visited London (a dozen Princes de Soubise would have followed her with
drawn swords if she had attempted to leave Paris during her prime); and
that Lord Mount Edgcumbe, the author of the interesting "Musical
Reminiscences," saw her dance at the King's Theatre in the year 1789.
This was the year of the taking of the Bastille, when a Parisian artist
might well have been glad to make a little tour abroad. The dancers who
had appeared at the beginning of the season had been insufferably bad,
and the manager was at last compelled to send to Paris for more and
better performers. Amongst them, says Lord Mount Edgcumbe, "came the
famous Mademoiselle Guimard, then near sixty years old, but still full
of grace and gentility, and she had never possessed more." Madeleine
Guimard had ceased to be the rage in Paris for nearly ten years, ("_Vers
1780_," says M. A. Houssaye, in his "Galerie du Dix-huitième Siècle",
_elle tomba peu à peu dans l'oubli_"), but she was not sixty or even
fifty years of age when she came to London. M. Castil Blaze, an
excellent authority in such matters, tells us in his "_Histoire de
l'Académie Royale de Musique_," that she was born in 1743.


By way of contrast to Madeleine Guimard, I may call attention to
Mademoiselle Théodore, a young, pretty and accomplished _danseuse_, who
hesitated before she embraced a theatrical career, and actually
consulted Jean Jacques Rousseau on the subject; who remained virtuous
even on the boards of the Académie Royale; and who married Dauberval,
the celebrated dancer, as any respectable _bourgeoise_ (if Dauberval had
not been a dancer) might have done. Perhaps some aspiring but timid and
scrupulous Mademoiselle Théodore of the present day would like to know
what Rousseau thought about the perils of the stage? He replied to the
letter of the _danseuse_ that he could give her no advice as to her
conduct if she determined to join the Opera; that in his own quiet path
he found it difficult to lead a pure irreproachable life: how then
could he guide her in one which was surrounded with dangers and

Vestris, I mean Vestris the First, the founder of the family, was as
celebrated as Mademoiselle Guimard for his youthfulness in old age. M.
Castil Blaze, the historian of the French Opera, saw him fifty-two years
after his _début_ at the Académie, which took place in 1748, and
declares that he danced with as much success as ever, going through the
steps of the minuet "_avec autant de grâce que de noblesse_." Gaetan
left the stage soon after the triumphant success of his son Auguste, but
re-appeared and took part in certain special performances in 1795, 1799
and 1800. On the occasion of the young Vestris's _début_, his father, in
court dress, sword at side, and hat in hand, appeared with him on the
stage. After a short but dignified address to the public on the
importance of the art he professed, and the hopes he had formed of the
inheritor of his name, he turned to Auguste and said, "Now, my son,
exhibit your talent to the public! Your father is looking at you!"

The Vestris family, which was very numerous, and very united, always
went in a body to the opera when Auguste danced, and at other times made
a point of stopping away. "Auguste is a better dancer than I am," the
old Vestris would say; "he had Gaetan Vestris for his father, an
advantage which nature refused me."

"If," said Gaetan, on another occasion, "_le dieu de la danse_ (a title
which he had himself given him) touches the ground from time to time, he
does so in order not to humiliate his comrades."

This notion appears to have inspired Moore with the lines he addressed
in London to a celebrated dancer.

                  "---- You'd swear
    When her delicate feet in the dance twinkle round,
    That her steps are of light, that her home is the air,
    And she only _par complaisance_ touches the ground."


The Vestrises (whose real name was _Vestri_) came from Florence. Gaetan,
known as _le beau Vestris_, had three brothers, all dancers, and this
illustrious family has had representatives for upwards of a century in
the best theatres of Italy, France and England. The last celebrated
dancer of the name who appeared in England, was Charles Vestris, whose
wife was the sister of Ronzi di Begnis. Charles Vestris was Auguste's
nephew. His father, Auguste's brother, was Stefano Vestris, a stage poet
of no ability, and Mr. Ebers, in his "Seven Years of the King's
Theatre,"[54] tells us (giving us therein another proof of the excellent
_esprit de famille_ which always animated the Vestrises) that when
Charles Vestris and his wife entered into their annual engagement, "the
poet was invariably included in the agreement, at a rate of
remuneration for his services to which his consanguinity to those
performers was his chief title."

We can form some notion of Auguste Vestris's style from that of Perrot
(now ballet-master at the St. Petersburgh Opera), who was his favourite
pupil, and who is certainly by far the most graceful and expressive
dancer that the opera goers of the present day have seen.





from its Origin in Italy to the present Time.











(_The right of translation and reproduction is reserved._)






The Opera in England at the end of the Eighteenth and beginning
of the Nineteenth Century                                              1


Opera in France after the departure of Gluck                          34


The French Opera before and after the Revolution                      46


Opera in Italy, Germany and Russia, during and in connection
with the Republican and Napoleonic Wars.--Paisiello, Paer,
Cimarosa, Mozart.--The Marriage of Figaro.--Don Giovanni              86


Manners and Customs at the London Opera half a century
since                                                                121


Rossini and his Period                                               140


Opera in France under the Consulate, Empire and Restoration          178


Donizetti and Bellini                                                226


Rossini--Spohr--Beethoven--Weber and Hoffmann                        282




Hitherto I have been obliged to trace the origin and progress of the
Opera in various parts of Europe. At present there is one Opera for all
the world, that is to say, the same operatic works are performed every
where, if not,

    "De Paris à Pékin, de Japon jusqu'à Rome,"

at least, in a great many other equally distant cities, and which
Boileau never heard of; as, for instance, from St. Petersburgh to
Philadelphia, and from New Orleans to Melbourne. But for the French
Revolution, and the Napoleonic wars, the universality of Opera would
have been attained long since. The directors of the French Opera, after
producing the works of Gluck and Piccinni, found it impossible, as we
shall see in the next chapter, to attract the public by means of the
ancient _répertoire_, and were obliged to call in the modern Italian
composers to their aid. An Italian troop was engaged to perform at the
Académie Royale, alternately with the French company, and the best opera
buffas of Piccinni, Traetta, Paisiello, and Anfossi were represented,
first in Italian, and afterwards in French. Sacchini and Salieri were
engaged to compose operas on French texts specially for the Académie. In
1787, Salieri's _Tarare_ (libretto by Beaumarchais),[55] was brought out
with immense success; the same year, the same theatre saw the production
of Paisiello's _Il re Teodoro_, translated into French; and, also the
same year, Paisiello's _Marchese di Tulipano_ was played at Versailles,
by a detachment from the Italian company engaged at our own King's


This is said to have been the first instance of an Italian troop
performing alternately in London and in Paris. A proposition had been
made under the Regency of Philip of Orleans, for the engagement of
Handel's celebrated company;[56] but, although the agreement was drawn
up and signed, from various causes, and principally through the jealousy
of the "Academicians," it was never carried out. The London-Italian
company of 1787 performed at Versailles, before the Court and a large
number of aristocratic subscribers, many of whom had been solicited to
support the enterprise by the queen herself. Storace, the _prima donna
assoluta_ of the King's Theatre, would not accompany the other singers
to Paris. Madame Benini, however, the _altra prima donna_ went, and
delighted the French amateurs. Lord Mount Edgcumbe, in his interesting
volume of "Musical Reminiscences," tells us that she "had a voice of
exquisite sweetness, and a finished taste and neatness in her manner of
singing; but that she had so little power, that she could not be heard
to advantage in so large a theatre: her performance in a small one was
perfect." Among the other vocalists who made the journey from London to
Paris, were Mengozzi the tenor, who was Madame Benini's husband, and
Morelli the bass. "The latter had a voice of great power, and good
quality, and he was a very good actor. Having been running footman to
Lord Cowper at Florence," continues Lord Mount Edgcumbe, "he could not
be a great musician." Benini, Mengozzi, and Morelli, again visited Paris
in 1788, but did not make their appearance there in 1789, the year of
the taking of the Bastille. The _répertoire_ of these singers included
operas by Paisiello, Cimarosa, Sarti, and Anfossi, and they were
particularly successful in Paisiello's _Gli Schiavi per Amore_. When
this opera was produced in London in 1787 (with Storace, not Benini, in
the principal female part), it was so much admired that it ran to the
end of the season without any change. Another Italian company gave
several series of performances in Paris between 1789 and 1792, and then
for nine years France was without any Italian Opera at all.

Storace was by birth and parentage, on her mother's side, English; but
she went early to Italy, "and," says the author from whom I have just
quoted, "was never heard in this country till her reputation as the
first buffa of her time was fully established." Her husband was Fisher,
a violinist (whose portrait has been painted by Reynolds); but she never
bore his name, and the marriage was rapidly followed by a separation.
Mrs. Storace settled entirely in England, and after quitting the King's
Theatre accepted an engagement at Drury Lane. Here English Opera was
raised to a pitch of excellence previously unknown, thanks to her
singing, together with that of Mrs. Crouch, Mrs. Bland, Kelly, and
Bannister. The musical director was Mrs. Storace's brother, Stephen
Storace, the arranger of the pasticcios entitled the _Haunted Tower_,
and the _Siege of Belgrade_.

[Sidenote: MADAME MARA.]

Madame Mara made her first appearance at the King's Theatre the year
before Storace's _début_. She had previously sung in London at the
Pantheon Concerts, and at the second Handel Festival (1785), in
Westminster Abbey. I have already spoken of this vocalist's
performances and adventures at the court of Frederick the Great, at
Vienna, and at Paris, where her worshippers at the Concerts Spirituels
formed themselves into the sect of "Maratistes," as opposed to that of
the "Todistes," or believers in Madame Todi.[57]

Lord Mount Edgcumbe, during a visit to Paris, heard Madame Mara at one
of the Concerts Spirituels, in the old theatre of the Tuileries. She had
just returned from the Handel Commemoration, and sang, among other
things, "I know that my Redeemer liveth," which was announced in the
bills as being "Musique de Handel, paroles de _Milton_." "The French,"
says Lord Mount Edgcumbe, "had not the taste to like it."

The first opera in which Madame Mara appeared at the King's Theatre was
_Didone_, a pasticcio, in which four songs of different characters, by
Sacchini, Piccinni, and two other composers, were introduced. She
afterwards sang with Miss Cecilia Davies (_L'Inglesina_) in Sacchini's

At this period Handel's operas were already so much out of fashion,
though esteemed as highly as ever by musicians and by the more venerable
of connoisseurs, that when _Giulio Cesare_ was revived, with Mara and
Rubinelli (both of whom sang the music incomparably well), in the
principal parts, it had no success with the general public; nor were
any of Handel's operas afterwards performed at the King's Theatre.
_Giulio Cesare_, in which many of the most favourite songs from Handel's
other operas ("Verdi prati," "Dove sei," "Rendi sereno il ciglio," and
others) were interpolated, answered the purpose for which it was
produced, and attracted George III. two or three times to the theatre.
Moreover (to quote Lord Mount Edgcumbe's words), "it filled the house,
by attracting the exclusive lovers of the old style, who held cheap all
other operatic performances."

[Sidenote: THE PANTHEON.]

In 1789 (the year in which the supposed sexagenarian, Madeleine Guimard,
"still full of grace and gentility," made her appearance) the King's
Theatre was burnt to the ground--not without a suspicion of its having
been maliciously set on fire, which was increased by the suspected
person soon after committing suicide. Arrangements were made for
carrying on the Opera at the little theatre in the Haymarket, where Mara
was engaged as the first woman in serious operas, and Storace in comic.
The company afterwards moved to the Pantheon, "which," says Lord Mount
Edgcumbe, "in its original state was the largest and most beautiful room
in London, and a very model of fine architecture. It was the
chef-d'œuvre of Wyatt, who himself contrived and executed its
transformation, taking care not to injure any part of the building, and
so concealing the columns and closing its dome, that it might be easily
restored after its temporary purpose was answered, it being then in
contemplation to erect an entirely new and magnificent opera-house
elsewhere, a project which could never be realised. Mr. Wyatt, by this
conversion, produced one of the prettiest, and by far the most genteel
and comfortable theatres I ever saw, of a moderate size and excellent
shape, and admirably adapted both for seeing and hearing. There the
regular Opera was successfully carried on, with two very good companies
and ballets. Pacchierotti, Mara, and Lazzarini, a very pleasing singer
with a sweet tenor voice, being at the head of the serious; and
Casentini, a pretty woman and genteel actress, with Lazzarini, for
tenor, Morelli and Ciprani principal buffos, composing the comic. This
was the first time that Pacchierotti[58] had met with a good _prima
donna_ since Madame Lebrun, and his duettos with Mara were the most
perfect pieces of execution I ever heard. The operas in which they
performed together were Sacchini's _Rinaldo_ and Bertoni's _Quinto
Fabio_ revived, and a charming new one by Sarti, called _Idalide_, or
_La Vergine del Sole_. The best comic were La Molinara, and La bella
Pescatrice, by Guglielmi. On the whole I never enjoyed the opera so much
as at this theatre."

The Pantheon enterprise, however, like most operatic speculations in
England, did not pay, and at the end of the first season (1791) the
manager had incurred debts to the amount of thirty thousand pounds. In
the meanwhile the King's Theatre had been rebuilt, but the proprietor,
now that the Opera was established at the Pantheon, found himself unable
to obtain a license for dramatic performances, and had to content
himself with giving concerts at which the principal singer was the
celebrated David. It was proposed that the new Opera house should take
the debts of the Pantheon, and with them its operatic license, but the
offer was not accepted, and in 1792 the Pantheon was destroyed by
fire--in this case the result, clearly, of accident.

At last the schism which had divided the musical world was put an end
to, and an arrangement was made for opening the King's Theatre in the
winter of 1793. There was not time to bring over a new company, but one
was formed out of the singers already in London, with Mara at their head
and with Kelly for the tenor.

[Sidenote: MR. MARA.]

Mara was now beginning to decline in voice and in popularity. When she
was no longer engaged at the Italian Opera, she sang at concerts and for
a short time at Covent Garden, where she appeared as "Polly" in _The
Beggars' Opera_. She afterwards sang with the Drury Lane company while
they performed at the King's Theatre during the rebuilding of their own
house, which had been pulled down to be succeeded by a much larger one.
She appeared in an English serious opera, called _Dido_, "in which,"
says Lord Mount Edgcumbe, "she retained one song of her _Didone_, the
brilliant _bravura_, _Son Regina_. It did not greatly succeed, though
the music was good and well sung. This is not surprising," he adds, "the
serious opera being ill suited to our stage, and our language to
recitative. None ever succeeded but Dr. Arne's _Artaxerxes_, which was,
at first, supported by some Italian singers, Tenducci being the original
Arbaces." It is noticeable that in the aforesaid English _Dido_ Kelly
was the tenor, while Mrs. Crouch took the part of first man, which at
this time in Italy was always given to a sopranist.

Madame Mara's husband, the ex-violinist of the Berlin orchestra, appears
never to have been a good musician, and always an idle drunkard. His
wife at last got disgusted with his habits, and probably, also, with his
performance on the violin,[59] for she went off with a flute-player
named Florio to Russia, where she lived for many years. When she was
about seventy she re-appeared in England and gave a concert at the
King's Theatre, but without any sort of success. Her wonderful powers
were said to have returned, but when she sang her voice was generally
compared to a penny trumpet. Madame Mara then returned to Moscow, where
she suffered greatly by the fire of 1812. She afterwards resided at some
town in the Baltic provinces, and died there at a very advanced age.

The next great vocalist who visited England after Mara's _début_, was
Banti. She had commenced life as a street singer; but her fine voice
having attracted the attention of De Vismes, the director of the
Académie, he told her to come to him at the Opera, where the future
_prima donna_, after hearing an air of Sacchini's three times, sang it
perfectly from beginning to end. De Vismes at once engaged her; and soon
afterwards she made her first appearance with the most brilliant
success. Although Banti was now put under the best masters, she was of
such an indolent, careless disposition, that she never could be got to
learn even the first elements of music. Nevertheless, she was so happily
endowed by nature, that it gave her no trouble to perfect herself in the
most difficult parts; and whatever she sang, she rendered with the most
charming expression imaginable. Lord Mount Edgcumbe, who does not
mention the fact of her having sung at the French Opera, says that Banti
was the most delightful singer he ever heard (though, when she appeared
at the King's Theatre in 1799, she must have been forty-two years of
age[60]); and tells us that, "in her, genius supplied the place of
science; and the most correct ear, with the most exquisite taste,
enabled her to sing with more effect, more expression, and more apparent
knowledge of her art, than many much better professors."

[Sidenote: BANTI.]

It is said of Banti, that when she was singing in Paris, though she
never made the slightest mistake in concerted pieces, she sometimes
executed her airs after a very strange fashion. For instance: in the
_allegro_ of a cavatina, after singing the principal motive, and the
intermediary phrase or "second part," she would, in a fit of absence,
re-commence the air from the very beginning; go on with it until the
turning point at the end of the second part; again re-commence and
continue this proceeding, until at last the conductor warned her that
next time she had better think of terminating the piece. In the
meanwhile the public, delighted with Banti's voice, is said to have been
quite satisfied with this novel mode of performance.

Banti made her _début_ in England in Bianchi's _Semiramide_, in which
she introduced an air from one of Guglielmi's oratorios, with a violin
_obbligato_ accompaniment, played first by Cramer, afterward by Viotti,
Salomon, and Weichsell, the brother of Mrs. Billington. This song was of
great length, and very fatiguing; but Banti was always encored in it,
and never omitted to repeat it.

At her benefit in the following year (1800) Banti performed in an opera,
founded on the _Zenobia_ of Metastasio, by Lord Mount Edgcumbe, the
author of the interesting "Reminiscences," to which, in the course of
the present chapter I shall frequently have to refer. The "first man's"
part was allotted to Roselli, a sopranist, who, however, had to transfer
it to Viganoni, a tenor. Roselli, whose voice was failing him, soon
afterwards left the country; and no other male soprano made his
appearance at the King's Theatre until the arrival of Velluti, who sang
twenty-five years afterwards in Meyerbeer's _Crociato_.

Banti's favourite operas were Gluck's _Alceste_, in which she was called
upon to repeat three of her airs every night; the _Iphigénie en
Tauride_, by the same author; Paisiello's _Elfrida_, and _Nina_ or _La
Pazza per Amore_; Nasolini's[61] _Mitridate_; and several operas by
Bianchi, composed expressly for her.

Before Banti's departure from England, she prevailed on Mrs. Billington
to perform with her on the night of her benefit, leaving to the latter
the privilege of assuming the principal character in any opera she might
select. _Merope_ was chosen. Mrs. Billington took the part of the
heroine, and Banti that of "Polifonte," though written for a tenor
voice. The curiosity to hear these two celebrated singers in the same
piece was so great, that the theatre was filled with what we so often
read of in the newspapers, but so seldom see in actual life,--"an
overflowing audience;" many ladies being obliged, for want of better
places, to find seats on the stage.

Banti died at Bologna, in 1806, bequeathing her larynx (of extraordinary
size) to the town, the municipality of which caused it to be duly
preserved in a glass bottle. Poor woman! she had by time dissipated the
whole of her fortune, and had nothing else to leave.

[Sidenote: MRS. BILLINGTON.]

Mrs. Billington, Banti's contemporary, after singing not only in
England, but at all the best theatres of Italy, left the stage in 1809.
In 1794, while she was engaged at Naples, at the San Carlo, a violent
eruption of Mount Vesuvius took place, which the Neapolitans attributed
to the presence of an English heretic on their stage. Mrs. Billington's
friends were even alarmed for her personal safety, when, fortunately,
the eruption ceased, and the audience, relieved of their superstitious
fears, applauded the admirable vocalist in all liberty and confidence.
Mrs. Billington was an excellent musician, and before coming out as a
singer had distinguished herself in early life (when Miss Weichsell) as
a pianoforte player. She appears to have been but an indifferent
actress, and, in her singing, to have owed her success less to her
expression than to her "agility," which is said to have been marvellous.
Her execution was distinguished by the utmost neatness and precision.
Her voice was sweet and flexible, but not remarkable for fulness of
tone, which formed the great beauty of Banti's singing. Mrs. Billington
appeared with particular success in Bach's _Clemenza di Scipione_, in
which the part of the heroine had been originally played in England by
Miss Davies (_L'Inglesina_); Paisiello's _Elfrida_; Winter's _Armida_,
and _Castore e Polluce_; and Mozart's _Clemenza di Tito_--the first of
that master's works ever performed in England. At this time, neither the
_Nozze di Figaro_, nor Mozart's other masterpiece, _Don Giovanni_
(produced at Prague in 1787), seem to have been at all known either in
England or in France.

After Banti's departure from England, and while Mrs. Billington was
still at the King's Theatre, Grassini was engaged to sing alternately
with the latter vocalist. She made her first appearance in _La Vergine
del Sole_ an opera by Mayer (the future preceptor of Donizetti), but in
this work she succeeded more through her acting and her beauty than by
her singing. Indeed, so equivocal was her reception, that on the
occasion of her benefit, she felt it desirable to ask Mrs. Billington to
appear with her. Mrs. Billington consented; and Winter composed an opera
called _Il Ratto di Proserpina_, specially for the rival singers, Mrs.
Billington taking the part of "Ceres," and Grassini that of
"Proserpine." Now the tide of favour suddenly turned, and we are told
that Grassini's performance gained all the applause; and that "her
graceful figure, her fine expression of face, together with the sweet
manner in which she sang several simple airs, stamped her at once the
reigning favourite." Indeed, not only was Grassini rapturously applauded
in public, but she was "taken up by the first society, _fêted_,
caressed, and introduced as a regular guest in most of the fashionable
assemblies." "Of her _private_ claims to that distinction," adds Lord
Mount Edgcumbe, "it is best to be silent; but her manners and exterior
behaviour were proper and genteel."

[Sidenote: BRAHAM.]

At this period 1804-5, the tenors at the King's Theatre were Viganoni
and Braham. Respecting the latter, who, in England, France and Italy, in
English and in Italian operas, on the stage and in concert rooms, must
have sung altogether for something like half a century, I must again
quote the author of "Musical Reminiscences," who heard him in his prime.
"All must acknowledge," he says, "that his voice is of the finest
quality, of great power and occasional sweetness. It is equally certain
that he has great knowledge of music, and _can_ sing extremely well. It
is therefore the more to be regretted that he should ever do otherwise;
that he should ever quit the natural register of his voice by raising it
to an unpleasant falsetto, or force it by too violent exertion; that he
should depart from a good style, and correct taste, which he knows and
can follow as well as any man, to adopt at times the over-florid and
frittered Italian manner; at others, to fall into the coarseness and
vulgarity of the English. The fact is, that he can be two distinct
singers, according to the audience before whom he performs, and that to
gain applause he condescends to sing as ill at the playhouse as he has
done well at the Opera. His compositions have the same variety, and he
can equally write a popular noisy song for the one, or its very
opposite, for the other. A duetto of his, introduced into the opera of
_Gli Orazj_, sung by himself and Grassini, had great beauty, and was in
excellent taste. * * * * Braham has done material injury to English
singing, by producing a host of imitators. What is in itself not good,
but may be endured from a fine performer, becomes insufferable in bad
imitation. Catalani has done less mischief, only because her powers are
_unique_, and her astonishing execution unattainable. Many men endeavour
to rival Braham, no woman can aspire to being a Catalani."

When both Grassini and Mrs. Billington retired, (1806), the place of
both was supplied by the celebrated Catalani, the vocal queen of her
time. She made her first appearance in Portogallo's _Semiramide_, (which
is said to have been a very inferior opera to Bianchi's, on the same
subject), and, among other works, had to perform in the _Clemenza di
Tito_, of Mozart, whose music she is said to have disliked on the ground
that it kept the singer too much under the control of the orchestra.
Nevertheless, she introduced the _Nozze di Figaro_ into England, and
herself played the part of "Susanna" with admirable success.

       *       *       *       *       *

[Sidenote: CATALANI.]

"Her voice," says Ferrari (Jacques Godefroi, a pupil of Paisiello), "was
sonorous, powerful, and full of charm and suavity. This organ, of so
rare a beauty, might be compared for splendour to the voice of Banti;
for expression, to that of Grassini; for sweet energy, to that of Pasta;
uniting the delicious flexibility of Sontag to the three registers of
Malibran. Madame Catalani had formed her style on that of Pacchierotti,
Marchesi, Crescentini;[62] her groups, roulades, triplets, and
_mordenti_, were of admirable perfection; her well articulated
execution lost nothing of its purity in the most rapid and most
difficult passages. She animated the singers, the chorus, the orchestra,
even in the finales and concerted pieces. Her beautiful notes rose above
and dominated the _ensemble_ of the voices and instruments; nor could
Beethoven, Rossini or any other musical Lucifer, have covered this
divine voice with the tumult of the orchestra. Our _virtuosa_ was not a
profound musician; but, guided by what she did know, and by her
practised ear, she could learn in a moment the most complicated pieces."

       *       *       *       *       *

"Her firm, strong, brilliant, voluminous voice was of a most agreeable
_timbre_," says Castil Blase; "it was an admirable soprano of prodigious
compass, from _la_ to the upper _sol_, marvellous in point of agility,
and producing a sensation difficult to describe. Madame Catalani's
manner of singing left something to desire in the noble, broad,
sustained style. Mesdames Grassini and Barilli surpassed her on this
point, but with regard to difficulties of execution and _brio_, Madame
Catalani could ring out one of her favourite airs and exclaim, _Son
Regina!_ She was then without a rival. I never heard anything like it.
She excelled in chromatic passages, ascending and descending, of extreme
rapidity. Her execution, marvellous in audacity, made talents of the
first order pale before it, and instrumentalists no longer dared figure
by her side. When Tulou, however, presented himself, his flute was
applauded with enthusiasm after Madame Catalani's voice. The experiment
was a dangerous one, and the victory was only the more brilliant for the
adventurous young artist. There was no end to the compliments addressed
to him on his success."

       *       *       *       *       *

On her way to London, in the summer of 1806, Catalani, whose reputation
was then at its height, passed through Paris, and sang before the
Emperor at St. Cloud. Napoleon gave her 5,000 francs for this
performance, besides a pension of 1,200 francs, and the use of the
Opera, with all expences paid, for two concerts, of which the receipts
amounted to 49,000 francs. The French emperor, during his victorious
career, had acquired the habit of carrying off singers as captives, and
enrolling them, in spite of themselves, in his musical service. The same
dictatorial system, however, failed when applied to Catalani.

"Where are you going, that you wish to leave Paris?" said Napoleon.

"To London, Sire," answered the singer.

"You must remain in Paris," replied Napoleon, "you will be well paid and
your talents will be better appreciated here. You will have a hundred
thousand francs a year, and two months' leave of absence. That is
settled. Adieu, Madame."

Catalani went away without daring to say that she did not mean to break
her engagement with the manager of the King's Theatre. In order to keep
it she was obliged to embark secretly at Morlaix.

[Sidenote: CATALANI.]

I have spoken of this celebrated vocalist's first appearance in London,
and, having given an Italian and a French account of her singing, I may
as well complete the description by quoting the remarks made by an
Englishman, Lord Mount Edgcumbe, on her voice and style of execution.

"It is well known," he says, "that her voice is of a most uncommon
quality, and capable of exertions almost supernatural. Her throat seems
endued (as has been remarked by medical men) with a power of expansion
and muscular motion by no means usual, and when she throws out all her
voice to the utmost, it has a volume and strength that are quite
surprising, while its agility in divisions, running up and down the
scale in semi-tones, and its compass in jumping over two octaves at
once, are equally astonishing. It were to be wished she was less lavish
in the display of these wonderful powers, and sought to please more than
to surprise; but her taste is vicious, her excessive love of ornament
spoiling every simple air, and her greatest delight (indeed her chief
merit) being in songs of a bold and spirited character, where much is
left to her discretion (or indiscretion) without being confined by
accompaniment, but in which she can indulge in _ad libitum_ passages
with a luxuriance and redundancy no other singer ever possessed, or if
possessing, ever practised, and which she carries to a fantastical
excess. She is fond of singing variations on some known simple air, and
latterly has pushed this taste to the very height of absurdity, by
singing, even without words, variations composed for the fiddle."

Allusion is here doubtless made to the _air varié_ by Pierre Rode, the
violinist, which, from Catalani to Alboni and our own Louisa Pyne, has
been such a favourite show-piece with all vocalists of brilliant
executive powers, more especially in England. The vocal variations on
Rode's air, however, were written in London, specially for Catalani, by
Drouet the flute-player.

Catalani returned to Paris in October, 1815, when there was no longer
any chance of Napoleon reproaching her for her abrupt departure nine
years before. She solicited and obtained the "privilege" of the Italian
theatre; but here the celebrated system of her husband, M. Valabrèque
(in which the best possible operatic company consisted only of _ma femme
et trois ou quatre poupées_) quite broke down. Madame Catalani gave up
the theatre, with the subvention of 160,000 francs allowed her by the
government, in 1818, M. Valabrèque having previously enunciated in a
pamphlet the reasons which led to this abandonment. Great expenses had
been incurred in fitting up the theatre, and, moreover, the management
had been forced to pay its rent. The pamphlet concluded with a paragraph
which was scarcely civil on the part of a foreigner who had been most
hospitably received, towards a nation situated as France was just then.
It is sufficiently curious to be quoted.

[Sidenote: M. VALABREQUE.]

"Consider, moreover," said the discomforted director, or rather the
discomforted husband of the directress, "that in the time when several
provinces beyond the mountains belonged to France, twenty thousand
Italians were constantly attracted to the capital and supplied numerous
audiences for the Italian theatre; that, moreover, the artists who were
chiefly remarked at the theatres of Milan, Florence, Venice and Genoa,
could be engaged for Paris by order of the government, and that in such
a case the administration was reimbursed for a portion of the extra

Catalani had left the King's Theatre in 1813, two years before she
assumed the management of the Italian Theatre of Paris. With some brief
intervals she had been singing in London since 1806, and after quitting
England, she was for many years without appearing on any stage, if we
except the short period during which she directed the Théâtre Feydau.
Her terms were so inordinate that managers were naturally afraid of
them, and Catalani found it more to her advantage to travel about
Europe, giving concerts at which she was the sole performer of
importance, than to accept such an engagement as could be offered to her
at a theatre. She gave several concerts of this kind in England, whither
she returned twice after she had ceased to appear at the Opera. She is
said to have obtained more success in England than in any other country,
and least of all in Italy.

When she appeared at the King's Theatre in 1824, and sang in Mayer's
_Fanatico per la Musica_, the frequenters of the Opera, who remembered
her performance in the same work eighteen years before, were surprised
that so long an interval had produced so little change in the singer.
The success of the first night was prodigious; but Mr. Ebers (in his
"Seven Years of the King's Theatre"), tells us that "repetitions of this
opera, again and again, diminished the audiences most perceptibly,
though some new air was on each performance introduced, to display the
power of the Catalani. * * * In this opera the sweet and soothing voice
of Caradori was an agreeable relief to the bewildering force of the
great wonder."

In one season of four months in London, Madame Catalani, by her system
of concerts, gained upwards of ten thousand pounds, and doubled that sum
during a subsequent tour in the provinces, in Ireland and Scotland. She
sang for the last time in public at Dublin, in 1828.


As to the sort of engagement she approved of, some notion may be formed
from the following draft of a contract submitted by her to Mr. Ebers in

     "_Conditions between Mr. Ebers and M. P. de Valabrèque._

     "1. Every box and every admission shall be considered as belonging
     to the management. The free admissions shall be given with paper
     orders, and differently shaped from the paid tickets. Their number
     shall be limited. The manager, as well as Madame Catalani, shall
     each have a good box.

     "2. Madame Catalani shall choose and direct the operas in which she
     is to sing; she shall likewise have the choice of the performers in
     them; she will have no orders to receive from any one; she will
     find all her own dresses.

     "3. Madame Catalani shall have two benefits, to be divided with the
     manager; Madame Catalani's share shall be free: she will fix her
     own days.

     "4. Madame Catalani and her husband shall have a right to
     superintend the receipts.

     "5. Every six weeks Madame Catalani shall receive the payment of
     her share of the receipts, and of the subscription.

     "6. Madame Catalani shall sing at no other place but the King's
     Theatre, during the season; in the concerts or oratorios, where she
     may sing, she will be entitled to no other share but that specified
     as under.

     "7. During the season, Madame Catalani shall be at liberty to go to
     Bath, Oxford, or Cambridge.

     "8. Madame Catalani shall not sing oftener than her health will
     allow her. She promises to contribute to the utmost of her power to
     the good of the theatre. On his side, Mr. Ebers engages to treat
     Madame Catalani with every possible care.

     "9. This engagement, and these conditions, will be binding for this
     season, which will begin and end and continue during all the
     seasons that the theatre shall be under the management of Mr.
     Ebers, unless Madame Catalani's health, or state of her voice,
     should not allow her to continue.


     "10. Madame Catalani, in return for the conditions above mentioned,
     shall receive the half part of the amount of all the receipts which
     shall be made in the course of the season, including the
     subscription to the boxes, the amount of those sold separately, the
     monies received at the doors of the theatre, and of the
     concert-room; in short, the said half part of the general receipts
     of the theatre for the season.

     "11. It is well understood that Madame Catalani's share shall be
     free from every kind of deduction, it being granted her in lieu of
     salary. It is likewise well understood, that every expense of the
     theatre during the season shall be Mr. Ebers'; such as the rent of
     the theatre, the performers' salaries, the tradespeople's bills; in
     short, every possible expense; and Madame Catalani shall be
     entirely exonerated from any one charge.

     "This engagement shall be translated into English, taking care that
     the conditions shall remain precisely as in the original, and shall
     be so worded as to stipulate that Madame Catalani, on receiving her
     share of the receipts of the theatre, shall in no ways whatever be
     considered as partner of the manager of the establishment.

     "12. The present engagement being made with the full approbation of
     both parties, Mr. Ebers and M. Valabrèque pledge their word of
     honour to fulfil it in every one of its parts."

       *       *       *       *       *

I must now add that Madame Catalani, by all accounts, possessed an
excellent disposition, that her private life was irreproachable, and
that while gaining immense sums, she also gave immense sums away in
charity. Indeed, the proceeds of her concerts, for the benefit of the
poor and sick have been estimated at eighty thousand pounds, besides
which she performed numerous acts of generosity towards individuals. Nor
does she appear to have possessed that excessive and exclusive
admiration for Madame Catalani's talent which was certainly entertained
by her husband, M. Valabrèque. Otherwise there can be no truth in the
well known story of her giving, by way of homage, the shawl which had
just been presented to her by the Empress of Russia, to a Moscow
gipsey--one of those singing _tsigankie_ who execute with such
originality and true expression their own characteristic melodies.

After having delighted the world for thirty-five years, Madame Catalani
retired to a charming villa near Florence. The invasion of the cholera
made her leave this retreat and go to Paris; where, in 1849, in her
seventieth year, she fell a victim to the very scourge she had hoped to


As for the husband, Valabrèque, he appears to have been mean, officious,
conceited (of his wife's talent!) and generally stupid. M. Castil Blaze
solemnly affirms, that when Madame Catalani was rehearsing at the
Italian Opera of Paris an air which she was to sing in the evening to a
pianoforte accompaniment, she found the instrument too high, and told
Valabrèque to see that it was lowered; upon which (declares M. Blase)
Valabrèque called for a carpenter and caused the unfortunate piano's
feet to be amputated!

"Still too high?" cried Madame Catalani's husband, when he was accused
in the evening of having neglected her orders. "Why, how much did you
lower it, Charles?" addressing the carpenter.

"Two inches, Sir," was the reply.

       *       *       *       *       *

The historian of the above anecdote calls Tamburini, Lablache, and
Tadolini, as well as Rossini and Berryer, the celebrated advocate, to
witness that the mutilated instrument had afterward four knobs of wood
glued to its legs by the same Charles who executed in so faithful a
manner M. Valabrèque's absurd behest. It continued to wear these pattens
until its existence was terminated in the fire of 1838--in which by the
way, the composer of _William Tell_, who at that time nominally directed
the theatre, and who had apartments on the third floor, would inevitably
have perished had he not left Paris for Italy the day before!

       *       *       *       *       *

Before concluding this chapter, I will refer once more to the "Musical
Reminiscences" of Lord Mount Edgcumbe, whose opinions on singers seem
to me more valuable than those he has expressed about contemporary
composers, and who had frequent and constant opportunities of hearing
the five great female vocalists engaged at the King's Theatre, between
the years 1786 and 1814.

"They may be divided," he says, "into two classes, of which Madame Mara
and Mrs. Billington form the first; and they were in most respects so
similar, that the same observations will apply equally to both. Both
were excellent musicians, thoroughly skilled in their profession; both
had voices of uncommon sweetness and agility, particularly suited to the
bravura style, and executed to perfection and with good taste, every
thing they sung. But neither was an Italian, and consequently both were
deficient in recitative: neither had much feeling or theatrical talent,
and they were absolutely null as actresses; therefore they were more
calculated to give pleasure in the concert-room than on the stage.

The other three, on the contrary, had great and distinguished dramatic
talents, and seemed born for the theatrical profession. They were all
likewise but indifferently skilled in music, supplying by genius what
they wanted in science, and thereby producing the greatest and most
striking effects on the stage: these are their points of resemblance.
Their distinctive differences, I should say, were these: Grassini was
all grace, Catalani all fire, Banti all feeling."

[Sidenote: GUGLIELMI.]

The composers, in whose music the above singers chiefly excelled, were
Gluck, Piccinni, Guglielmi, Cimarosa, and Paisiello. We have seen that
"Susanna" in the _Nozze di Figaro_, was one of Catalani's favourite
parts; but as yet Mozart's music was very little known in England, and
it was not until 1817 that his _Don Giovanni_ was produced at the King's

       *       *       *       *       *

After Gluck and Piccinni, the most admired composers, and the natural
successors of the two great rivals in point of time, were Cimarosa and
Paisiello. Guglielmi was considerably their senior, and on returning to
Naples in 1777, after having spent fifteen years away from his country,
in Vienna, and in London, he found that his two younger competitors had
quite supplanted him in public favour. His works, composed between the
years 1755 and 1762, had become antiquated, and were no longer
performed. All this, instead of discouraging the experienced musician
(Guglielmi was then fifty years of age) only inspired him with fresh
energy. He found, however, a determined and unscrupulous adversary in
Paisiello, who filled the theatre with his partisans the night on which
Guglielmi was to produce his _Serva innamorata_, and occasioned such a
disturbance, that for some time it was impossible to attend to the

The noise was especially great at the commencement of a certain
quintett, on which, it was said, the success of the work depended.
Guglielmi was celebrated for the ingenuity and beauty of his concerted
pieces, but there did not seem to be much chance, as affairs stood on
this particular evening, of his quintett being heard at all.
Fortunately, while it was being executed, the door of the royal box
opened, and the king appeared. Instantly the most profound silence
reigned throughout the theatre, the piece was recommenced, and Guglielmi
was saved. More than that, the enthusiasm of the audience was raised,
and went on increasing to such a point, that at the end of the
performance the composer was taken from his box, and carried home in
triumph to his hotel.

From this moment Paisiello, with all his jealousy, was obliged to
discontinue his intrigues against a musician, whom Naples had once more
adopted. Cimarosa had taken no part in the plot against Guglielmi; but
he was by no means delighted with Guglielmi's success. Prince San
Severo, who admired the works of all three, invited them to a
magnificent banquet where he made them embrace one another, and swear
eternal friendship.[63] Let us hope that he was not the cause of either
of them committing perjury.

[Sidenote: FINALES.]

Paisiello seems to have been an intriguer all his life, and to have been
constantly in dread of rivals; though he probably had less reason to
fear them than any other composer of the period. However, at the age of
seventy-five, when he had given up writing altogether, we find him, a
few months before his death, getting up a cabal against the youthful
Rossini, who was indeed destined to eclipse him, and to efface even the
memory of his _Barbiere di Siviglia_, by his own admirable opera on the
same subject. It is as if, painting on the same canvas, he had simply
painted out the work of his predecessor.

       *       *       *       *       *

Cimarosa, though he may have possessed a more dignified sense than
Paisiello of what was due to himself, had less vanity. A story is told
of a painter wishing to flatter the composer of _Il Matrimonio
Segretto_, and saying that he looked upon him as superior to Mozart.

"Superior to Mozart!" exclaimed Cimarosa. "What should you think, Sir,
of a musician, who told you that you were a greater painter than

       *       *       *       *       *

Among the other composers who adorned the end of the eighteenth and the
beginning of the nineteenth century, may be mentioned Sacchini, the
successor of Piccinni in Paris; Salieri, the envious rival of Mozart,
and (in Paris) the successor of Gluck; Paer, in whose _Camilla_ Rossini
played the child's part at the age of seven (1799); Mayer, the future
master of Donizetti; and Zingarelli, the future master of Bellini, one
of whose operas was founded on the same _libretto_ which afterwards
served the pupil for his _Capuletti i Montecchi_.

       *       *       *       *       *

Piccinni is not connected in any direct manner with the present day; but
it is nevertheless to Piccinni that we owe the first idea of those
magnificent finales which, more than half a century afterwards,
contributed so much to the success of Rossini's operas, and of which the
first complete specimens, including several movements with changes of
key and of rhythm, occur in _La Cecchina ossia la Buona Figliuola_,
produced at Rome in 1760.

Logroscino, who sometimes passes as the inventor of these finales, and
who lived a quarter of a century earlier, wrote them only on one theme.

The composer who introduced dramatic finales into serious opera, was

It may interest the reader to know, that the finale of _Don Giovanni_
lasts fifteen minutes.

That of the _Barber of Seville_ lasts twenty-one minutes and a-half.

That of _Otello_ lasts twenty-four minutes.

[Sidenote: FINALES.]

The quintett of _Gazza Ladra_ lasts twenty-seven minutes.

The finale of _Semiramide_ lasts half an hour--or perhaps a minute or
two less, if we allow for the increased velocity at which quick
movements are "taken" by the conductors of the present day.



A few months before Gluck left Paris for the last time, an insurrection
broke out at the Opera. The revolutionary spirit was abroad in Paris.
The success of the American War of Independence, the tumultuous meetings
of the French Parliament, the increasing resistance to authority which
now manifested itself everywhere in France; all these stimulants to
revolt seem to have taken effect on the singers and dancers of the
Académie. The company resolved to carry on the theatre itself, for its
own benefit, and the director, Devismes, was called upon to abdicate.
The principal insurgents held what they called "Congress," at the house
of Madeleine Guimard, and the God of Dancing, Auguste Vestris, declared
loudly that he was the Washington of the affair.


Every day some fresh act of insubordination was committed, and the
chiefs of the plot had to be forced to appear on the stage by the
direct interference of the police.

"The minister desires me to dance," said Mademoiselle Guimard on one of
these occasions; "_eh bien qu'il y prenne garde, je pourrais bien le
faire sauter_."

The influential leader just named conducted the intrigue with great
skill and discretion.

"One thing, above all!" she said to her fellow conspirators; "no
combined resignations,--that is what ruined the Parliament."

To the minister, Amelot, the destroyer and reconstructor of the
Parliament of Dijon, Sophie Arnould observed, in reference to his
interference with the affairs of the Académie---

"You should remember, that it is easier to compose a parliament than to
compose an opera."

Auguste Vestris having spoken very insolently to Devismes, the latter
said to him---

"Do you know, sir, to whom you are speaking?"

"To whom? to the farmer of my talent," replied the dancer.

Things were brought to a crisis by the _fêtes_ given to celebrate the
birth of Marie Antoinette's first child, December, 1778. The city of
Paris proposed to spend enormous sums in festivities and illuminations;
but the king and queen benevolently suggested that, instead of being
wasted in useless display, the money should be given away in marriage
portions to a hundred deserving young girls; and their majesties gave
fifty thousand francs themselves for the same object. Losing sight of
the Opera for the moment, I must relate, in as few words as possible, a
charming little anecdote that is told of one of the applicants for a
dowry. Lise was the name of this innocent and _naïve_ young person, who,
on being asked some question respecting her lover, replied, that she had
none; and that she thought the municipality provided everything! The
municipality found the necessary admirer, and could have had no
difficulty in doing so, if we may judge from the graceful bust of Lise,
executed in marble by the celebrated sculptor, Houdon.

The Académie, which at this time belonged to the city, determined to
follow its example, and to give away at least one marriage portion.
Twelve hundred francs were subscribed and placed in the hands of
Mademoiselle Guimard, the treasurer elect. The nuptial banquet was to
take place at the winter Vauxhall (_Gallicè_ "Wauxhall"); and all Paris
was in a state of eager excitement to be present at what promised to be
a most brilliant and original entertainment. It was not allowed,
however, to take place, the authorities choosing to look upon it as a
parody of the _fête_ given by the city.


The doors of the "Wauxhall" being closed to the subscribers,
Mademoiselle Guimard invited them to meet at her palace, in the Chaussée
d'Antin. The municipality again interfered; and in the middle of the
banquet Vestris and Dauberval were arrested by _lettres de cachet_ and
taken to For-l'Evèque, on the ground that they had refused to dance the
Tuesday previous in the _divertissement_ of _Armide_.

Gaetan Vestris was present at the arrest of his son, and excited the
mirth of the assembly by the pompous, though affectionate, manner in
which he bade him farewell. After embracing him tenderly, he said--

"Go, Augustus; go to prison. This is the grandest day of your life! Take
my carriage, and ask for the room of my friend, the King of Poland; and
live magnificently--charge everything to me."

On another occasion, when Gaetan was not so well pleased with his
Augustus, he said to him:

"What! the Queen of France does her duty, by requesting you to dance
before the King of Sweden, and you do not do yours? You shall no longer
bear my name. I will have no misunderstanding between the house of
Vestris and the house of Bourbon; they have hitherto always lived on
good terms."

For his refusal to dance, Augustus was this time sentenced to six
months' imprisonment; but the opera goers were so eager for his
re-appearance that he was set free long before the expiration of the
appointed term.

He made his _rentrée_ amid the groans and hisses of the audience, who
seemed determined to give him a lesson for his impertinence.

Then Gaetan, magnificently attired, appeared on the stage, and addressed
the public as follows:--

"You wish my son to go down on his knees. I do not say that he does not
deserve your displeasure; but remember, that the dancer whom you have so
often applauded has not studied the _pose_ you now require of him."

"Let him speak; let him endeavour to justify himself," cried a voice
from the pit.

"He _shall_ speak; he _shall_ justify himself," replied the father. And,
turning to his son, he added: "Dance, Auguste!"

Auguste danced; and every one in the theatre applauded.

The orchestra took no part in the operatic insurrection; and we have
seen that the musicians were not invited to contribute anything to the
dowry, offered by the Académie to virtue in love and in distress. De
Vismes proposed to reward his instrumentalists by giving up to them a
third of the receipts from some special representation of Gluck's
_Iphigénie en Tauride_. The band rejected the offer, as not sufficiently
liberal, and by refusing to play on the evening in question, made the
performance a failure.

The Academic revolt was at last put an end to, by the city of Paris
cancelling de Vismes's lease, and taking upon itself the management of
the theatre, de Vismes receiving a large sum in compensation, and the
appointment of director at a fixed salary.

       *       *       *       *       *


Beaumarchais, while assisting the national revolution with the _Marriage
of Figaro_, is known to have aided in a more direct manner the
revolution which was now imminent at the opera. It is said, that he was
anxious to establish an operatic republic in the hope of being made
president of it himself. He is known to have been a good musician. I
have spoken of his having held the honourable, if not lucrative, post of
music-master to the daughters of Louis XV. (by whom he was as well paid
as was Piccinni by that monarch's successor);[64] and a better proof of
his talent is afforded, by his having composed all the music of his
_Barber of Seville_ and _Marriage of Figaro_, except the air of
_Malbrook_ in the latter comedy.

Beaumarchais had been much impressed by the genius of Gluck. He met him
one evening in the _foyer_ of the Opera, and spoke to him so clearly and
so well about music that the great composer said to him: "You must
surely be M. de Beaumarchais." They agreed to write an opera together,
and some years afterwards, when Gluck had left Paris for Vienna, the
poet sent the composer the _libretto_ of _Tarare_. Gluck wrote to say
that he was delighted with the work, but that he was now too old to
undertake the task of setting it to music, and would entrust it to his
favourite pupil, Salieri.

Gluck benefited French opera in two ways. He endowed the Académie with
several master-pieces, and moreover, destroyed, or was the main
instrument in destroying, its old _répertoire_, which after the works of
Gluck and Piccinni was found intolerable. It was now no longer the
fashion to exclude foreign composers from the first musical theatre in
France, and Gluck and Piccinni were followed by Sacchini and Salieri.
Strange to say, Sacchini, when he first made his appearance at the
Académie with his _Olympiade_, was deprived of a hearing through the
jealousy of Gluck, who, on being informed, at Vienna, that the work in
question was in rehearsal, hurried to Paris and had influence enough to
get it withdrawn. Worse than this, when the _Olympiade_ was produced at
the Comédie Italienne, with great success, Gluck and his partisans put a
stop to the representation by enforcing one of the privileges of the
Académie, which rendered it illegal for any other theatre to perform
operas with choruses or with more than seven singers on the stage.

       *       *       *       *       *

[Sidenote: GLUCK.]

No work by Sacchini or Salieri was produced at the Académie until after
the theatre in the Palais Royal was burnt down, in 1781. In this fire,
which took place about eighteen months after Gluck had retired from
Paris, and five months after the production of Piccinni's _Iphigenia in
Tauris_, the old _répertoire_ would seem to have been consumed, for no
opera by Lulli was afterwards played in France, and only one by
Rameau,--_Castor and Pollux_, which, revived in 1791, was not favourably

       *       *       *       *       *

It was in June, 1781, after a representation of Gluck's _Orphée_, that
the Académie Royale was burnt to the ground. _Coronis_ (music by Rey,
the conductor of the orchestra) was the last piece of the evening, and
before it was finished, during the _divertissement_, one of the scenes
caught fire. Dauberval, the principal dancer, had enough presence of
mind to order the curtain down at once. The public wanted no more of
_Coronis_, and went quietly away without calling for the conclusion of
Rey's opera, and without having the least idea of what was taking place
behind the curtain. In the meanwhile the fire had spread on the stage
beyond the possibility of extinction. Singers, dancers, musicians, and
scene-shifters, rushed in terror from the theatre, and about a dozen
persons, who were unable to escape, perished in the conflagration.
Madeleine Guimard was nearly burnt to death in her dressing-room, which
was surrounded by flames. One of the carpenters, however, penetrated
into her _loge_, wrapped her up in a counterpane (she was entirely
undressed), and bore her triumphantly through the fire to a place of

"Save my child! save my child!" cried Rey, in despair; and as soon as he
saw the score of _Coronis_ out of danger he went away, giving the flames
full permission to burn everything else. All the manuscripts were saved,
thanks to the courageous exertions of Lefebrvre, the librarian, who
remained below in the music room even while the stage was burning, until
the last sheet had been removed.

"The Opera is burnt down," said a Parisian to a Parisian the next

"So much the better," was the reply. "It had been there such a time!"

This remark was ingenious but not true, for the Académie Royale de
Musique had only been standing eighteen years. It was burnt down before,
in 1768, on which occasion Voltaire, in a letter to M. d'Argental, wrote
as follows: "_on dit que ce spectacle était si mauvais qu'il fallait tôt
ou tard que la vengeance divine éclatât_." The theatre destroyed by fire
in 1763[65] was in the Palais Royal, and it was reconstructed on the
same spot. After the fire of 1781, the Porte St. Martin theatre was
built, and the Opera was carried on there ten years, after which it was
removed to the opera-house in the Rue Richelieu, which was pulled down
after the assassination of the Duc de Berri. But we are advancing beyond
the limits of the present chapter.


The new Opera House was built in eighty-six days. The members of the
company received orders not to leave Paris, and during the interval
were paid their salaries regularly as if for performing. The work began
on the 2nd of August, and was finished on the 27th of October. Lenoir,
the architect, had told Marie Antoinette that the theatre could be
completed in time for the first performance to take place on the 30th of

"Say the 31st," replied the queen; "and if on that day I receive the key
of my box, I promise you the Order of St. Michael in exchange."

The key was sent to her majesty on the 26th, who not only decorated
Lenoir with the _cordon_ of St. Michael, but also conferred on him a
pension of six thousand francs; and on the 27th the theatre was opened
to the public.

       *       *       *       *       *

In 1784, Sacchini's _Chimène_, adapted from _Il Gran Cid_, an opera he
had written for the King's Theatre in 1778, was produced at the Académie
with great success. The principal part in this work was sustained by
Huberti, a singer much admired by Piccinni, who wrote some airs in the
_cantabile_ style specially for her, and said that, without her, his
opera of _Dido_, in which she played the principal part, was "without
Dido." M. Castil Blaze tells us that she was the first true singer who
appeared at the Académie. Grimm declares, that she sang like Todi and
acted like Clairon. Finally, when Madame de Saint Huberti was performing
at Strasburgh, in 1787, a young officer of artillery, named Napoleon
Bonaparte, addressed the following witty and complimentary verses to

    "Romains qui vous vantez d'une illustre origine
     Voyez d'où dépendait votre empire naissant:
     Didon n'eut pas de charme assez puissant
     Pour arrêter la fuite où son amant s'obstine;
     Mais si l'autre Didon, ornement de ces lieux,
       Eût été reine de Carthage,
     Il eût, pour la servir, abandonné ces dieux,
     Et votre beau pays serait encore sauvage."

Sacchini's first opera, _Œdipe à Colosse_, was not produced at the
Académie until 1787, a few months after his death. It was now no
question, of whether he was a worthy successor of Gluck or a formidable
opponent to Piccinni. His opera was admired for itself, and the public
applauded it with genuine enthusiasm.

[Sidenote: SALIERI.]

In the meanwhile, Salieri, the direct inheritor of Gluck's mantle (as
far as that poetic garment could be transferred by the mere will of the
original possessor) had brought out his _Danaides_--announced at first
as the work of Gluck himself and composed under his auspices. Salieri
had also set _Tarare_ to music. "This is the first _libretto_ of modern
times," says M. Castil Blaze, "in which the author has ventured to join
buffoonery to tragedy--a happy alliance, which permits the musician to
vary his colours and display all the resources of genius and art." The
routine-lovers of the French Académie, the pedants, the blunderers,
were indignant with the new work; and its author entrusted Figaro with
the task of defending it.

"Either you must write nothing interesting," said Figaro, "or fools will
run you down."

The same author then notices, as a remarkable coincidence, that
"Beaumarchais and Da Ponte, at four hundred leagues distance from one
another, invented, at the same time, the class of opera since known as
"romantic." Beaumarchais's _Tarare_ had been intended for Gluck; Da
Ponte's _Don Giovanni_, as every one knows, found its true composer in




A complete history of the French Opera would include something like a
history of French society, if not of France generally. It would, at
least, show the effect of the great political changes which the country
has undergone, and would remind us here and there of her celebrated
victories, and occasionally even of her reverses. Under the despotism,
we have seen how a simple _lettre de cachet_ sufficed to condemn an
_abbé_ with a good voice, or a young girl with a pretty face, to the
Opera, just as a person obnoxious to the state or to any very
influential personage was sent to the Bastille. During the Regency, half
the audience at the Opera went there drunk; and almost until the period
of the Revolution the _abbés_, the _mousquetaires_, and the _grands
seigneurs_, quarrelled, fought, and behaved in many respects as if the
theatre were, not their own private house, but their own particular
tap-room. Music profited by the Revolution, in so far that the
privileges of the Académie were abolished, and, as a natural
consequence, a number of new musical works produced at a variety of
theatres which would otherwise never have seen the light; but the
position of singers and dancers was by no means a pleasant one under the
Convention, and the tyranny of the republican chiefs was far more
oppressive, and of a more brutal kind, than any that had been exercised
at the Académie in the days of the monarchy. The disobedient daughters,
whose admirers got them "inscribed" on the books of the Opera so as to
free them from parental control, would, under another system, have run
away from home. No one, in practice, was injured very much by the
regulation, scandalous and immoral as it undoubtedly was; for, before
the name was put down, all the harm, in most cases, was already done.
Sophie Arnould, it is true, is said to have been registered at the Opera
without the consent of her mother, and, what seems very
extraordinary--not at the suggestion of a lover; but Madame Arnould was
quite reconciled to her daughter's being upon the stage before she
eloped with the Count de Lauragais. To put the case briefly: the
_académiciens_ (and above all, the _académiciennes_) in the immoral
atmosphere of the court, were fêted, flattered, and grew rich, though,
owing to their boundless extravagance, they often died poor: whereas,
during the republic, they met with neither sympathy nor respect, and in
the worst days of the Convention lived, in a more literal sense than
would be readily imagined, almost beneath the shadow of the guillotine.

In favour of the old French society, when it was at its very worst, that
is to say, during the reign of Louis XV., it may be mentioned that the
king's mistresses did not venture to brave general opinion, so far as to
present themselves publicly at the Opera. Madame Dubarry announced more
than once that she intended to visit the Académie, and went so far as to
take boxes for herself and suite, but at the last moment her courage (if
courage and not shamelessness be the proper word) failed her, and she
stayed away. On the other hand, towards the end of this reign, the
licentiousness of the court had become so great, that brevets,
conferring the rights and privileges of married ladies on ladies
unmarried, were introduced. Any young girl who held a "_brevet de dame_"
could present herself at the Opera, which etiquette would otherwise have
rendered impossible. "The number of these brevets," says _Bachaumont_,
"increased prodigiously under Louis XVI., and very young persons have
been known to obtain them. Freed thus from the modesty, simplicity, and
retirement of the virginal state, they give themselves up with impunity
to all sorts of scandals. * * * Such disorder has opened the eyes of the
government; and this prince, the friend of decency and morality, has at
last shown himself very particular on the subject. It is now only by the
greatest favour that one of these brevets can be obtained."[66]


No _brevets_ were required of the fishwomen and charcoal men of Paris,
who, on certain fêtes, such as the Sovereign's birth day, were always
present at the gratuitous performances given at the Opera. On these
occasions the balcony was always reserved for them, the _charbonniers_
being placed on the king's side, the _poissardes_ on the queen's. At the
close of the representation the performers invited their favoured guests
on to the stage, the orchestra played the airs from some popular ballet,
and a grand ball took place, in which the _charbonniers_ chose their
partners from among the operatic _danseuses_, while the _poissardes_
gave their hands to Vestris, Dauberval, &c.

       *       *       *       *       *

During Passion week and Easter, the Opera was shut, but the great
operatic vocalists could be heard elsewhere, either at the Jesuits'
church or at the Abbaye of Longchamp, to which latter establishment it
is generally imagined that the Parisian public used to be attracted by
the singing of the nuns. What is far more extraordinary is, that the
Parisians always laboured under that delusion themselves. "The
Parisians," says M. Castil Blaze, in his "History of the Grand Opera,"
"always such fine connoisseurs in music, never penetrated the mystery of
this incognito. The railing and the green curtain, behind which the
voices were concealed, sufficed to render the singers unrecognisable to
the _dilettanti_ who heard them constantly at the opera."

Adjoining the Jesuits' church was a theatre, also belonging to the
Jesuits, for which, between the years 1659 and 1761, eighty pieces of
various kinds, including tragedies, operas and ballets, were written.
Some of these productions were in Latin, some in French, some in Latin
and French together. The _virtuosi_ of the Académie used to perform in
them and afterwards proceed to the church to sing motets. "This church
is so much the church of the Opera," says Freneuse, "that those who do
not go to one console themselves by attending vespers at the other,
where they find the same thing at less cost." He adds, that "an actor
newly engaged, would not think himself fully recognised unless asked to
sing for the Jesuits." As for the actresses, "in their honor the price
which would be given at the door of the opera is given for a chair in
the church. People look out for Urgande, Arcabonne, Armide, and applaud
them. (I have seen them applaud la Moreau and la Chérat, at the midnight
mass.) These performances replace those which are suspended at the

       *       *       *       *       *


There would be no end to this chapter (and many persons would think it
better not written) if I were to enter into details on the subject of
the relations between the singers and dancers of the Académie, and the
Grands Seigneurs of the period. I may observe, however, that the latter
appear to have been far more generous, without being more vicious, and
that they seem to have lived in better taste than their modern
imitators, who usually ruin themselves by means of race-horses, or, in
France, on the Stock Exchange. The Count de Lauragais paid an immense
sum to the directors of the Académie, to compensate them for abolishing
the seats on the stage (probably impertinent visitors used to annoy him
by staring at Sophie Arnould); the Duke de Bouillon spent nine hundred
thousand livres on Mademoiselle la Guerre (Gluck's _Iphigénie_); the
Prince de Soubise nearly as much on Mademoiselle Guimard--who at least
gave a portion of it away in charity, and who, as we have seen, was an
intelligent patroness of David, the painter.

When the Prince de Guéméné became insolvent, the Prince de Soubise, his
father-in-law, ceased to attend the Opera. There were three thousand
creditors, and the debts amounted to forty million livres. The heads of
the family felt called upon to make a sacrifice, and the Prince de
Soubise was no longer in a position to give _petits soupers_ to his
_protégées_ at the Académie. Under these circumstances, the "ladies of
the _ballet_" assembled in the dressing-room of Mademoiselle Guimard,
their chief, and prepared the following touching, and really very
becoming letter, to their embarrassed patron:--


     "Accustomed to see you amongst us at the representations at the
     Lyrical Theatre, we have observed with the most bitter regret that
     you not only tear yourself away from the pleasures of the
     performance, but also that none of us are now invited to the little
     suppers you used so frequently to give, in which we had turn by
     turn the happiness of interesting you. Report has only too well
     informed us of the cause of your seclusion, and of your just grief.
     Hitherto we have feared to importune you, allowing sensibility to
     give way to respect. We should not dare, even now, to break
     silence, without the pressing motive to which our delicacy is
     unable any longer to resist.

     "We had flattered ourselves, Monseigneur, that the Prince de
     Guéméné's bankruptcy, to employ an expression which is re-echoed in
     the _foyers_, the clubs, the newspapers of France, and all Europe,
     would not be so considerable, so enormous, as was announced; and,
     above all, that the wise precautions taken by the King to assure
     the claimants the amount of their debts, and to avoid expenses and
     depredations more fatal even than the insolvency itself, would not
     disappoint the general expectation. But affairs are doubtless in
     such disorder, that there is now no hope. We judge of it by the
     generous sacrifices to which the heads of your illustrious house,
     following your example, have resigned themselves. We should think
     ourselves guilty of ingratitude, Monseigneur, if we were not to
     imitate you in seconding your humanity, and if we were not to
     return you the pensions which your munificence has lavished upon
     us. Apply these revenues, Monseigneur, to the consolation of so
     many retired officers, so many poor men of letters, so many
     unfortunate servants whom M. le Prince de Guéméné drags into ruin
     with him.

     "As for us, we have other resources: and we shall have lost
     nothing, Monseigneur, if we preserve your esteem. We shall even
     have gained, if, by refusing your gifts now, we force our
     detractors to agree that we were not unworthy of them. "We are,
     with profound respect,


     "Your most Serene Highness's very humble and

     "devoted Servants,

     "GUIMARD, HEINEL," &c.

     With twenty other names.


Auguste Vestris spent and owed a great deal of money; the father
honoured the engagements of the young dancer, but threatened him with
imprisonment if he did not alter his conduct, and concluded by
saying:--"Understand, Sir, that I will have no Guéméné in _my_ family."

Although ballet dancers were important persons in those days, they were
as nothing compared to the institution to which they belonged. Figaro,
in his celebrated soliloquy, observes, with reference to the great
liberty of the press accorded by the government, that provided he does
not speak of a great many very different things, among which the Opera
is included, he is at liberty to publish whatever he likes "under the
inspection of three or four censors." Beaumarchais was more serious
than would be generally supposed, in including the Opera among the
subjects which a writer dared not touch upon, or, if so, only with the
greatest respect. Rousseau tells us in more than one place, that it was
considered dangerous to say anything against the Opera; and Mademoiselle
Théodore (the interesting _danseuse_ before-mentioned, who consulted the
fantastic moralist on the conduct she ought to pursue as a member of the
ballet), was actually imprisoned, and exiled from Paris for eighteen
days, because she had ventured to ridicule the management of the
Académie, in some letters addressed to a private friend. The author of
the _Nouvelle Héloise_ should have warned her to be more careful.

       *       *       *       *       *


On the 12th July, 1789, the bills were torn down from the doors of the
Opera. The Parisians were about to take the Bastille. Having taken it,
they allowed the Académie to continue its performance, and it re-opened
on the 21st of the same month. In Warsaw, during the "demonstrations" of
last March, the Opera was closed. It remains closed now[67] (end of
November), and will re-open--neither Russians nor Poles can say when! No
one tears the bills down, because no one thinks of putting them up; it
being perfectly understood by the administration, (which is a department
of the Government), that the Warsaw public are not disposed at present
for amusement of any kind.

       *       *       *       *       *

In 1789, the revolutionary spirit manifested itself among the company
engaged at the French Opera. An anonymous letter--or rather a letter in
the name of all the company, printed, but not signed--was addressed to
the administration of the theatre. It pointed out a number of abuses,
and bore this epigraph, strongly redolent of the period: "_Tu dors
Brutus, et Rome est dans les fers!_"

In 1790 the city of Paris assumed once more the management of the
Académie, the artistic direction being entrusted to a committee composed
of the chiefs of the various departments, and of the principal singers
and dancers. One of the novelties produced was a "melodrama founded on
passages from the Scriptures," called "The Taking of the Bastille,"
written specially for Notre Dame, where it was performed for the first
time, and where it was followed by a grand _Te Deum_. In this _Te Deum_
few of the lovers of the Opera could have joined, for one of the first
effects of the revolution was naturally to drive the best singers and
dancers away from Paris. Lord Mount Edgcumbe tells us that Mademoiselle
Guimard was dancing in London in 1789. Madame Huberti, who was, by all
accounts, the best singer the French had ever heard at the Académie,
left Paris early in 1790.

We know how injurious a distant war, a dissolution of parliament, a
death in the royal family are to the fortunes of an operatic season in
London. Fancy what must have been the effect of the French revolution on
the Académie after 1789! The subscription list for boxes showed, in a
few years, a diminution of from 475,000 _livres_ to 000,000! Some of the
subscribers had gone into exile, more or less voluntary, some had been
banished, others had been guillotined. M. Castil Blaze, from whose
interesting works I have obtained a great number of particulars
concerning the French Opera at the time of the revolution, tells us that
the Queen used to pay 7,000 livres for her box. The Duke d'Orléans paid
7,000 for his own private box, and joined the Duke de Choiseul and
Necker in a subscription of 3,200 francs for another. The Princess de
Lamballe and Madame de Genlis gave 3,600 francs for a "post chaise;"
(there were other boxes, called "spittoons"--the _baignoires_ of the
present day--"cymbals," &c.; names which they evidently owed to their
position and form). On the other hand, there were 288 free admissions,
of which, thirty-two were given to authors, and eight to newspapers--_La
Gazette de France_, _Le Journal de Paris_, and _Le Mercure_. The
remaining 248 were reserved for the Hôtel de Ville, the King's
Household, the actors of the Comédie Française, and the singers and
dancers of the Opera itself.

       *       *       *       *       *


The howling of the _ça ira_ put an end for ever to the Concert
Spirituel, where the Parisians for nearly eighty years had been in the
habit of hearing excellent instrumental soloists, and some of the best
of the Italian singers, when there was as yet no Italian Opera in Paris.
The last _concert spirituel_ took place at the theatre of the Tuileries
in 1791.

Louis XVI. and his family fled from Paris on the 28th June, 1791. The
next day, and before the king was brought back to the Tuileries, the
title of the chief lyric theatre was changed, and from the "Académie
_Royale_" became simply the "Opera." At the same time the custom was
introduced of announcing the performers' names, which was evidently an
advantage for the public, and which was also not without its benefit,
for the inferior singers and dancers who, when they unexpectedly made
their appearance to replace their betters, used often to get hissed in a
manner which their own simple want of merit scarcely justified. "_Est ce
que je savais qu'on làcherait le Ponthieu?_" exclaimed an unhappy
ticket-seller one evening, when an indignant amateur rushed out of the
theatre and began to cane the recipient of his ill-spent money. We may
fancy how Ponthieu himself must have been received inside the house.

       *       *       *       *       *


By an order of the Committee of Public Safety, dated the 16th of the
September following, the title of the Opera was again changed to
_Académie Royale de Musique_. This was intended as a compliment to the
king, who had signed the Constitution on the 14th, and who was to go to
the Opera six days afterwards. On the 20th the royal visit took place.
"_Castor and Pollux_ was played," says M. Castil Blaze, "and not
_Iphigénie en Aulide_, as is asserted by some ill-informed historians,
who even go so far as to pretend that the chorus _Chantons, célébrons
notre reine_ was, as on another occasion, hailed with transports of
enthusiasm, and that the public called for it a second time. The house
was well filled, but not crammed[68] (_comble_), as is proved by the
amount of the receipts--6,686 livres, 15 sous. The same opera of
Rameau's, vamped by Candeille, had produced 6,857 livres on the 14th of
the preceding June. The representation of _Castor and Pollux_ in
presence of the royal family took place on Tuesday the 20th September,
and not on the 21st, the Wednesday, at that time, not being an opera
night. On the 19th, Monday, the people had assisted at a _special
performance_ of the same work given, gratuitously, in honour of the
Constitution. The Royalists were present in great numbers at the
representation of the 20th September, and some lines which could be
applied to the Queen were loudly applauded. Marie-Antoinette was
delighted, and said to the ladies who accompanied her, "You see that the
people is really good, and wishes only to love us." Encouraged by so
flattering a reception, she determined to go the next night to the
Opéra Comique, but the king refused to accompany her. The piece
performed was _Les Evénements imprévus_. In the duet of the second act,
before singing the words "_Ah comme j'aime ma maitresse_" Madame Dugazon
looked towards the Queen, when a number of voices cried out from the
pit, _Plus de maitresse! Plus de maitre! Vive la liberté!_ This cry was
answered from the boxes with _Vive la reine! Vive le roi!_ Sabres and
sword-sticks were drawn, and a battle began.


The Queen escaped from the theatre in the midst of the tumult. Cries of
_à bas la reine!_ followed her to her carriage, which went off at a
gallop, with mud and stones thrown after it. Marie Antoinette returned
to the Tuileries in despair. On the first of October, fourteen days
afterwards, the title of _Opéra National_ was substituted for that of
_Académie Royale de Musique_. The Constitution being signed, there was
no longer any reason for being civil to Louis XVI. This was the third
change of title in less than four months. The majority of the buffoons,
(M. Castil Blaze still speaks), "who now write histories more or less
Girondist, or romantic of the French Revolution, do not take the trouble
to verify their facts and dates. I have told you simply that the
dauphiness Marie Antoinette made her first appearance at the Opera on
the 16th June, 1773, in company with her husband. Others, more ingenious
no doubt, substitute the 21st January for the 16th June, in order to
establish a sort of fatality by connecting days, months and years. To
prophecy after the event is only too easy, above all, if you take the
liberty of advancing by five months, the day which it is desired to
render fatal. These same buffoons, (says M. Castil Blaze), who now go to
the Opera on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, sometimes on Sunday, think
people have done the same for the last two centuries. As they have not
the slightest suspicion that the evenings of performance at the Académie
Royale were changed in 1817, we find them maundering, paddling,
splashing about, and finally altering figures and days, in order to make
the events of the last century accord with the dates of our own epoch.
That is why we are told that the Royal Family went for the last time to
this theatre on Wednesday, the 21st September, 1791, instead of Tuesday,
the 20th. Indeed how is it possible to go to the Opera on a Tuesday?
That is why it is stated with the most laughable aplomb, that on the
21st October, 1793, _Roland_ was performed, and on the 16th of October
following, the _Siege of Thionville_, the _Offering to Liberty_, and the
ballet of _Telemachus_. Each of these history-writing novelists fills or
empties the house according to his political opinions; applauds the
French people or deplores its blindness; but all the liberalism or
sentiment manufactured by them is thrown away. Monday, the 21st of
January, Wednesday the 16th of October, 1793, not being opera nights at
that time, the Opera did not on those evenings throw open its doors to
the public. On Tuesday, the 22nd of January, the day after the death of
Louie XVI., _Roland_ was represented; the amount of the receipts, 492
livres, 8 sous, proves that the house was empty. No free admissions were
given then. On Tuesday, October the 15th, 1793, the eve of the execution
of Marie Antoinette, the _Siege of Thionville_, the _Offering to
Liberty_, _Telemachus_, in which "_la Citoyenne Perignon_" was to
appear--a forced performance--only produced 3,251 livres. On Friday, the
18th of October, the next day but one after this horrible catastrophe,
_Armide_ and the _Offering to Liberty_--a forced performance and
something more--produced 2,641 livres, which would have filled about a
third of the house."[69]

The 10th August, 1792, was the last day of the French monarchy. On the
Sunday previous, during the Vespers said at the Chapel of the Tuileries
in presence of the king, the singers with one accord tripled the sound
of their voices when they came to the following verse in the
_Magnificat_: _Deposuit potentes de sede, et exaltavit humiles_.
Indignant at their audacity, the royalists thundered forth the _Domine
salvum fac regem_, adding these words with increased energy and
enthusiasm, _et reginam_! The greatest excitement and agitation
prevailed in the Chapel during the rest of the service.

To conclude the list of musical performances which have derived a gloomy
celebrity from their connexion with the last days of Louis XVI., I may
reproduce the programme issued by the directors of the Opéra National,
on the first anniversary of his execution, 21st January, 1794.



   In joyful commemoration of the Death of the Tyrant,







The Opera under the Republic was directed, until 1792, by four
distinguished _sans culottes_--Henriot, Chaumette, Le Rouxand Hébert,
the last named of whom had once been check-taker at the Académie! The
others know nothing whatever of operatic affairs. The management of the
theatre was afterwards transferred to Francœur, one of the former
directors, associated with Cellérier, an architect; but the dethroned
_impresarii_, accompanied by Danton and other republican amateurs,
constantly made their appearance behind the scenes, and very frequently
did the chief members of the company the honour of supping with them. In
these cases the invitations, as under the ancient régime, proceeded, not
from the artists, but from the artists' patrons; with this difference,
however, that under the republic, the latter never paid the bill. There
was no Duke de Bouillon now testifying his admiration of the vocal art
to the tune of 900,000 francs;[70] there was no Prince de Soubise, to
receive from the united ballet letters of condolence, thanks, and
proposed pecuniary assistance; and if there _had_ been such an
impossible phenomenon as a Count de Lauragais, what, I wonder, would he
not have given to have been able to clear the _coulisses_ of such
abominable intruders as the before named republican chiefs? "The chiefs
of the republic, one and indivisible," says M. Castil Blaze, "were very
fond of moistening their throats. Henriot, Danton, Hébert, Le Roux,
Chaumette, had hardly taken a turn in the _coulisses_ or in the _foyer_,
before they said to such an actor or actress: We are going to your room,
see that we are received properly." A superb collation was brought in.
When the repast was finished and the bottles were empty, the national
convention, the commune of Paris beat a retreat without troubling
itself about the expense. You think, perhaps, that the dancer or the
singer paid for the representatives of the people? Not at all; honest
Mangin, who kept the refreshment room of the theatre, knew perfectly
well that the actors of the Opera were not paid, that they had no sort
of money, not even a rag of an assignat; he made a sacrifice; from
delicacy he did not ask from the artists what he would not have dared to
claim from the sans culottes for fear of the guillotine."

       *       *       *       *       *

Sometimes the executioner, who, as a public official, had a right to his
entrées, made his appearance behind the scenes, and it is said that in a
facetious mood, he would sometimes express his opinion about the
"execution" of the music. So, I am told, the London hangman went one
night to the pit of Her Majesty's Theatre to hear Jenny Lind, and on
seeing the Swedish nightingale, exclaimed, breathless with admiration
and excitement, "What a throat to scrag!"

       *       *       *       *       *


Operatic kings and queens were suppressed by the republic. Not only were
they forbidden to appear on the stage, but even their names were not to
be pronounced behind the scenes, and the expressions _côté du roi_,
_côté de la reine_, were changed into _côté jardin_, _côté cour_, which
at the theatre of the Tuileries indicated respectively the left and
right of the stage, from the stage point of view. At first all pieces in
which kings and queens appeared, were prohibited, but the dramas of
_sans culottes_ origin were so stupid and disgusting, that the republic
was absolutely obliged to return to the old monarchical _répertoire_.
The kings, however, were turned into chiefs; princes and dukes became
representatives of the people; seigneurs subsided into mayors; and
substitutes more or less synonymous, were found for such offensive words
as crown, throne, sceptre, &c. In a new republican version of a lyrical
work represented at the Opera Comique, _le roi_ in one well known line
was replaced by _la loi_, and the vocalist had to declaim _La loi
passait, et le tambour battait aux champs._ A certain voluble executant,
however, is said to have preferred the following emendation: _Le pouvoir
exécutif passait, et le tambour battait aux champs._

The scenes of most of the new operas were laid in Italy, Prussia,
Portugal,--anywhere but in France, where it would have been
indispensable, from a political, and impossible from a poetical, point
of view to make the lovers address one another as _citoyen_,

       *       *       *       *       *

On the 19th of June, 1793, the directors of the Opera having objected to
give a gratuitous performance of _The Siege of Thionville_, the commune
of Paris issued the following edict:

"Considering that for a long time past the aristocracy has taken refuge
in the administration of various theatres;

"Considering that these gentlemen corrupt the public mind by the pieces
they represent;

"Considering that they exercise a fatal influence on the revolution;

It is decreed that the _Siege of Thionville_ shall be represented gratis
and solely for the amusement of the _sans culottes_, who, to this moment
have been the true defenders of liberty and supporters of democracy."

Soon afterwards it was proposed to shut up the Opera, but Hébert, the
ferocious Hébert, better known as _le père Duchèsne_, undertook its
defence on the ground that it procured subsistence for a number of
families, and "caused the agreeable arts to flourish."

It was thereupon resolved "that the Opera should be encouraged and
defended against its enemies." At the same time the managers Cellérier
and Francœur were arrested as _suspects_. Neither of them was

       *       *       *       *       *


The Opera was now once more placed under the direction of a committee
chosen from among the singers and dancers, who were selected this time,
not by reason of their artistic merit, but solely with reference to
their political principles. Lays, one of the chief managers, was a
furious democrat, and on one occasion insisted on Mademoiselle Maillard
(Gluck's "Armida!") appearing in a procession as the Goddess of Reason.

Mademoiselle Maillard having refused, Chaumette was appealed to. The
arguments he employed were simple but convincing. "Well, _citoyenne_,"
he said, "since you refuse to be a divinity, you must not be astonished
if we treat you _as a mortal_." Fortunately for the poor prima donna,
Mormoro, a member of the Commune of Paris, and a raging "Maratiste"
(which has not quite the same meaning now as in the days of the
"Todistes") claimed the obnoxious part for his unhappy wife. The
beautiful Madame Mormoro was forced to appear in the streets of Paris in
the light and airy costume of an antique Goddess, with the thermometer
at twenty degrees below freezing point! "Reason" not unreasonably wept
with annoyance throughout the ceremony.

       *       *       *       *       *

Léonard Bourdon, called by those who knew him _Léopard_ Bourdon, used
all his influence, as a distinguished member of the Mountain, to get a
work he had prepared for the Opera produced. His piece was called the
_Tomb of the Impostors_, or _the Inauguration of the Temple of Truth_.
It was printed at the expense of the Republic, but never brought out. In
the first scene the stage represents a church, built with human skulls.
In the sanctuary there is to be a fountain of blood. A woman enters to
confess, the priest behaves atrociously in the confessional, &c., &c.
The scenes and incidents throughout the drama are all in the same style,
and the whole is dedicated in an uncomplimentary epistle to the Pope.
Léopard tormented the directors actors, and actresses, night and day, to
produce his master-piece, and threatened, that if they were not quick
about it, he would have a guillotine erected on the stage.

This threat was not quite so vain as it might seem. A list of twenty-two
persons engaged at the Opera (twenty-two--the fatal number during the
Reign of Terror), had been already drawn up by Hébert, as a sort of
executioner's memorandum. When he was in a good humour he would show it
to the singers and dancers, and say to them with easy familiarity; "I
shall have to send you all to the guillotine some day. Two reasons have
prevented me hitherto; in the first place you are not worth the trouble,
in the second I want you for my amusement." These reasons were not
considered quite satisfactory by the proscribed artists, and Beaupré, a
comic dancer of great talent, contrived by various humorous stratagems
(one of which, and doubtless the most readily forgiven, consisted in
intoxicating Hébert), to gain possession of the fatal list; but the day
afterwards the republican _dilettante_ was always sufficiently recovered
from the effects of his excessive potations to draw up another one
exactly like it.

       *       *       *       *       *


At the head of the catalogue of suspected ones figured the name of
Lainez, whom the republicans could not pardon for the energy and
expression with which he had sung the air _Chantez, célébrez votre
reine_, at the last performances of _Iphigénie en Aulide_; and that of
Mademoiselle Maillard, whose crime has been already mentioned. At this
period it was dangerous not only to sing the words, but even to hum or
whistle the music of such airs as the aforesaid _Chantez, célébrez votre
reine_, _O Richard o mon roi!_ _Charmante Gabrielle_, and many others,
among which may be mentioned _Pauvre Jacques_--an adaptation of Dibdin's
_Poor Jack_, in which allusions had been discovered to the fate of Louis
XVI. Indeed, to perform any kind of music might be fatal to the
executant, and thus Mesdemoiselles de Saint Léger, two young ladies
living in Arras, were executed for having played the piano the day that
Valenciennes fell into the hands of the enemy.

       *       *       *       *       *

Mademoiselle Maillard, much as she detested the republicans, was forced,
on one occasion, to sing a republican hymn. When Lainez complimented her
on the warmth of her expression, the vigour of her execution, she
replied, "I was burning with rage at having to sing to such monsters."

       *       *       *       *       *

Vestris, the Prince de Guéméné of the Vestris family, he who had been
accused by his father of wishing to produce a misunderstanding between
the Vestrises and the Bourbons, had to dance in a _pas de trois_ as a
_sans culottes_, between two nuns!

Sophie Arnould, accused (and not quite unreasonably), of aristocratic
sympathies, pointed indignantly to a bust of Gluck in her room, and
asked the intelligent agents of the Republic, if it was likely she would
keep the bust of Marat were she not a true republican?

       *       *       *       *       *

The vocalists of a revolutionary turn of mind would have succeeded
better if they had possessed more talent; but the Parisian public, even
in 1793, was not prepared to accept correctness in politics as an excuse
for inaccuracy in singing. Lefèvre, a sixth tenor, but a bloodthirsty
republican, insisted on being promoted to first characters, and
threatened those whom he wished to replace with denunciations and the
guillotine, if they kept him in a subordinate position any longer.
Lefèvre had his wish gratified in part, but not altogether. He appeared
as _primo tenore_, but was violently hissed by his friends, the _sans
culottes_. He then came out as first bass, and was hissed again. In his
rage he attributed his _fiasco_ to the machinations of the
counter-revolution, and wanted the soldiers to come into the theatre,
and fire upon the infamous accomplices of "Pitt and Coburg."

       *       *       *       *       *


This bad singer, and worse man, was one of the twelve chiefs of the
National Guard of Paris, and on certain days had the command of the
city. As his military rule was most oppressive, the Parisians used to
punish him for his tyranny as a soldier, by ridiculing his monstrous
defects as a vocalist.

       *       *       *       *       *

Though the Reign of Terror was a fearful time for artists and art, the
number of playhouses in Paris increased enormously. There were
sixty-three theatres open, and in spite of war, famine, and the
guillotine, they were always full.

       *       *       *       *       *

In 1794, the opera was transferred to the Rue de la Loi (afterwards Rue
de Richelieu), immediately opposite the National Library. With regard to
this change of locality, let us hear what M. Castil Blaze has to say, in
his own words.

       *       *       *       *       *

"How was it that the opera was moved to a building exactly opposite the
National Library, so precious and so combustible a repository of human
knowledge? The two establishments were only separated by a street, very
much too narrow: if the theatre caught fire, was it not sure to burn the
library? That is what a great many persons still ask; this question has
been re-produced a hundred times in our journals. Go back to the time
when the house was built by Mademoiselle Montansier; read the _Moniteur
Universel_, and you will see that it was precisely in order to expose
this same library to the happy chances of a fire, that the great lyrical
entertainment was transferred to its neighbourhood. The opera hung over
it, and threatened it constantly. At this time enlightenment abounded
to such a point, that the judicious Henriot, convinced in his innermost
conscience that all reading was henceforth useless, had made a motion to
burn the library. To move the opera to the Rue Richelieu--the opera,
which twice in eighteen years had been a prey to the flames--to place it
exactly opposite our literary treasures, was to multiply to infinity the
chances of their being burnt.'

       *       *       *       *       *

Mercier, in reference to the literary views of the Committee of Public
Safety, writes in the _Nouveau Paris_, as follows:--

       *       *       *       *       *

"The language of Omar about the Koran was not more terrible than those
uttered by the members of the committee of public safety when they
expressed their intentions formally, as follows:--'Yes, we will burn all
the libraries, for nothing will be needed but the history of the
Revolution and its laws.'" If the motion of Henriot had been carried,
David, the great Conventional painter was ready to propose that the same
service should be rendered to the masterpieces in the Louvre, as to the
literary wealth of the National Library. Republican subjects, according
to David, were alone worthy of being represented.


At one of the sittings of the very council in which Henriot had already
brought forward his motion for burning the Library, Mademoiselle
Montansier was accused of having built the theatre in the Rue Richelieu
with that very design. On the 14th of November, 1793, Chaumette at the
sitting of the Commune of Paris, said--

"I denounce the _Citoyenne_ Montansier. The money of the Englishman[71]
has been largely employed in raising this edifice, and the former queen
gave fifty thousand crowns towards it. I demand that this theatre be
closed on account of the dangers which would result from its catching
fire." Adopted.

Hébert. "I denounce _la demoiselle_ Montansier, personally; I have
information against her. She offered me a box at her new theatre to
procure my silence. I demand that la Montansier be arrested as a
suspicious person." Adopted.

Chaumette. "I demand, moreover, that the actors, actresses and directors
of the Parisian theatres be subjected to the censorship of the council."

After deciding that the theatre in the Rue de la Loi could not be kept
open without imperilling the existence of the National Library, and
after imprisoning Mademoiselle Montansier for having built it, the
Commune of Paris deliberately opened it as an opera house! Mademoiselle
Montansier was, nevertheless, still kept in prison, and remained there
ten months, until after the death of Robespierre.

Mademoiselle Montansier's nocturnal assemblies in the Palais Royal were
equally renowned before and after her arrest. Actors and actresses,
gamblers, poets, representatives of the people, republican generals,
retired aristocrats, conspicuous _sans culottes_, and celebrities of all
kinds congregated there. Art, pleasure, politics, the new opera, the
last execution were alike discussed by Dugazon and Barras, le père
Duchesne and the Duke de Lauzun, Robespierre and Mademoiselle Maillard,
the Chevalier de Saint Georges and Danton, Martainville and the Marquis
de Chanvelin, Lays and Marat, Volange and the Duke of Orleans. From the
names just mentioned, it will be understood that some members of this
interesting society were from time to time found wanting. Their absence
was not much remarked, and fresh notorieties constantly came forward to
fill the places of those claimed by the guillotine.

After Mademoiselle Montansier's liberation from prison, Napoleon
Bonaparte was introduced to her by Dugazon and Barras. His ambition had
not yet been excited, and Barras--who may, nevertheless, have looked
upon him as a possible rival, and one to be dreaded--wished to get up a
marriage between him and the fashionable but now somewhat antiquated
syren of the Palais Royal. Everything went on well for some time. Then a
magnificent dinner was given with the view of bringing the affair to a
conclusion; but Bonaparte was very reserved, and Barras now saw that his
project was not likely to succeed. At a banquet given by Mademoiselle
Montansier, to celebrate the success of the thirteenth Vendémiaire,
Bonaparte proposed a toast in honour of his venerable "intended," and
soon afterwards she married Neuville.


Mademoiselle Montansier who had been shamefully cheated, indeed robbed,
by the Convention, hoped to have her claims recognised by the Directory.
Barras offered her one million, six hundred thousand francs. She refused
it, the indemnity she demanded for the losses which she had sustained by
the seizure of her theatre at the hands of the Convention amounting to
seven millions. Napoleon, when first consul, caused the theatre to be
estimated, when its value was fixed at one million three hundred
thousand francs. After various delays, Mademoiselle Montansier received
a partial recognition of her claim, accompanied by an order for payment,
signed by the Emperor at Moscow.

       *       *       *       *       *

Some readers have, probably, been unable to reconcile two facts
mentioned above with respect to the Opera under the Convention:--1. That
the performers were not paid; and 2. That the public attended the
representations in immense numbers. The explanation is very simple. The
money was stolen by the Commune of Paris. Gardel, the ballet-master,
required fifty thousand francs for the production of a work composed by
himself, on the subject of _William Tell_. Twice was the sum amassed
from the receipts and professedly set apart for the unfortunate _William
Tell_, and twice the money disappeared. It had been devoted to the
requirements of patriots in real life.

       *       *       *       *       *

Danton, Hébert, Chaumette, Henriot, Robespierre, all administrators of
the Opera; Dubuisson, Fabre d'Eglantine, librettists writing for the
Opera, and both republicans had been executed during the Reign of
Terror. Chamfort, a republican, killed himself to avoid the same fate.

Coquéau, architect, musician, and writer, the author of a number of
musical articles produced during the Gluck and Piccinni contests, was
guillotined in the year II. of the republic.

The musician, Edelman, after bringing a number of persons to the
scaffold, including his patron and benefactor, the Baron de Diétrich,
arrived there himself in 1794, accompanied by his brother.

In the same year Despréaux, leader of the first violins at the opera in
1782, and member of the Revolutionary Tribunal in 1793, killed himself
from remorse.

Altogether, sixteen persons belonging to the opera in various ways
killed themselves, or were executed in 1792, '93, and '94.

After the fall of Robespierre, the royalists for a time ruled the
theatres, and avenged themselves on all actors who had made themselves
conspicuous as revolutionists. Trial, a comic tenor, who had made a very
serious accusation against Mademoiselle Buret, of the Comédie Italienne,
which led to her execution, was forced to sing the _Réveil du Peuple_ on
his knees, amid the execrations of the audience. He sang it, but was
thrown into such a state of agitation that he died from the effects.

Lays, whose favourite part was that of "Oreste," in _Iphigénie en
Tauride_, had, in the course of the opera, to declaim these verses:--

    "J'ai trahi l'amitié,
       J'ai trahi la nature;
     Des plus noirs attentats
       J'ai comblé la mesure."

The audience of the Bordeaux theatre considered this confession so
becoming in the mouth of the singer who had to utter it, that Lays took
care not to give them an opportunity a second time of manifesting their
views on the subject. Lays made his next appearance in _Œdipe à
Colone_. As in this opera he had to represent the virtuous Theseus, he
felt sure that the public would not be able to confound him in any
manner with the character he was supporting; but he had to submit to all
sorts of insults during the performance, and at the fall of the curtain
was compelled to begin the _Réveil du Peuple_. After the third verse, he
was told he was unworthy to sing such a song, and was driven from the


On the 23rd of January, 1796, Mademoiselle Guimard re-appeared at a
performance given for the benefit of aged and retired artists. A number
of veteran connoisseurs came forward on this occasion to see how the
once charming Madeleine looked at the age of fifty-nine. After the
ballet an old _habitué_ of Louis the Fifteenth's time called for a
coach, drove to his lodging, and on getting out, proceeded naturally to
pay the driver the amount of his fare.

"You are joking, my dear Count," said the coachman. "Whoever heard of
Lauragais paying the Chevalier de Ferrière for taking him home in his

"What! is it you?" said the Count de Lauragais.

"Myself!" replied the Chevalier.

The two friends embraced, and the Chevalier de Ferrière then explained
that, when all the royalists were concealing themselves or emigrating,
he had determined to do both. He had assumed the great coat of his
coachman, painted a number over the arms on his carriage, and emigrated
as far as the Boulevard, where he found plenty of customers, and passed
uninjured and unsuspected through the Reign of Terror.

"Where do you live?" said the Count.

"Rue des Tuileries," replied the Chevalier, "and my horses with me. The
poor beasts have shared all my misfortunes."

"Give me the whip and reins, and get inside," cried de Lauragais.

"What for?" inquired the Chevalier.

"To drive you home. It is an act which, as a gentleman, I insist on
performing; a duty I owe to my old companion and friend. Your day's work
is over. To-morrow morning we will go to Sophie's, who expects me to


"At the Hotel d'Angivillier, a caravansary of painters and musicians,
where Fouché has granted her, on the part of the Republic, an apartment
and a pension of two thousand four hundred francs--we should have said a
hundred _louis_ formerly. This is called a national reward for the
eminent services rendered by the _citoyenne_ Arnould to the country, and
to the sovereign people at the Opera. The poor girl was greatly in need
of it."


Fouché had once been desperately in love with Sophie Arnould, and now
pitied her in her distress. Thanks to her influence with the minister,
the Chevalier Ferrière obtained an order, authorizing him to return to
France, though he had never left Paris, except occasionally to drive a
fare to one of the suburbs.

       *       *       *       *       *

The natural effect of Napoleon's campaigns in Italy was to create among
the French army a taste for Italian music. The First Consul and many of
his generals were passionately fond of it; and a hint from the Tuileries
in 1801 was sufficient to induce Mademoiselle Montansier to engage an
Italian company, which performed for the first time in Paris on the 1st
of May in the same year. The enterprise, however, was not successful;
and in 1803 the directress, who had been arrested before because money
was owing to her, was put in prison for owing money.

If, by taking his troops to Italy, Napoleon was the means of introducing
a taste for Italian music among the French, he provided his country with
Italian singers in a far more direct manner. At Dresden, in 1806, he
was delighted with the performance of Brizzi and Madame Paer in the
opera of _Achille_, composed by the prima donna's husband.

"You sing divinely, Madame Paer," said the emperor. What do they give
you at this theatre?"

"Fifteen thousand francs, Sire."

"You shall receive thirty. M. Brizzi, you shall follow me on the same

"But we are engaged."

"With me. You see the affair is quite settled. The Prince of Benevento
will attend to the diplomatic part of it."


Napoleon took away _Achille_, and everything belonging to it; music,
composer, and the two principal singers. The engagement by which the
emperor engaged Paer as composer of his chamber music, was drawn up by
Talleyrand, and bore his signature, approved by Napoleon, and attested
by Maret, the secretary of state. Paer, who had been four years at
Dresden, and who, independently of his contract, was personally much
attached to the king of Saxony, did all in his power to avoid entering
into Napoleon's service. Perhaps, too, he was not pleased at the
prospect of having to follow the emperor about from one battle-field to
another, though by a special article in the engagement offered to him,
he was guaranteed ten francs a post, and thirty-four francs a day for
his travelling expenses. As Paer, in spite of the compliments, and the
liberal terms[72] offered to him by Napoleon, continued to object,
General Clarke told the emperor that he had an excellent plan for
getting over all difficulties, and saving the maestro from any
reproaches of ingratitude which the king of Saxony might otherwise
address to him. This plan consisted in placing Paer in the hands of
_gens d'armes_, and having him conducted from camp to camp wherever the
emperor went. No violence, however, was done to the composer. The king
of Saxony liberated him from his engagement at the Dresden opera, and,
moreover, signified to him that he must either follow Napoleon, or quit
Saxony immediately. It is said that Paer was ceded by a secret treaty
between the two sovereigns, like a fortress, or rather like a province,
as provinces were transferred before the idea of nationality was
invented; that is to say, without the wishes of the inhabitants being in
any way taken into account. The king of Saxony was only too glad that
Napoleon took nothing from him but his singers and musicians.

Brizzi, the tenor, Madame Paer, the prima donna, and her husband, the
composer, were ordered to start at once for Warsaw. In the morning, the
emperor would attend to military and state affairs, and perhaps preside
at a battle, for fighting was now going on in the neighbourhood of the
Polish capital. In the evening, he had a concert at head quarters, the
programme of which generally included several pieces by Paisiello.
Napoleon was particularly fond of Paisiello's music, and Paer, who,
besides being a composer, was a singer of high merit, knew a great deal
of it by heart.

Paisiello had been Napoleon's chapel-master since 1801, the emperor
having sent for him to Naples after signing the Concordat with the Pope.
On arriving in Paris, the cunning Italian, like an experienced courtier,
was no sooner introduced to Napoleon than he addressed him as 'sire!'

"'Sire,' what do you mean?" replied the first consul; "I am a general,
and nothing more."

"Well, General," continued the composer, "I have come to place myself at
your majesty's orders."

"I must really beg you," continued Napoleon, "not to address me in this

"Forgive me, General," answered Paisiello, "but I cannot give up the
habit I have contracted in addressing sovereigns who, compared with you,
seem but pigmies. However, I will not forget your commands, sire; and if
I have been unfortunate enough to offend, I must throw myself upon your
Majesty's indulgence."


Paisiello received ten thousand francs for the mass he wrote for
Napoleon's coronation. Each of the masses for the imperial chapel
brought him one thousand francs. Not much, certainly; but then it must
be remembered that he produced as many as fourteen in two years. They
were for the most part made up of pieces of church music, which the
maestro had written for Italy, and when this fruitful source failed him,
he had recourse to his numerous serious and comic operas. Thus, an air
from the _Nittetti_ was made to do duty as a _Gloria_, another from the
_Scuffiera_ as an _Agnus Dei_. Music depends so much upon association
that, doubtless, only those persons who had already heard these melodies
on the stage, found them at all inappropriate in a church. Figaro's air
in the _Barber of Seville_ would certainly not sound well in a mass; but
there are plenty of love songs, songs expressive of despair (if not of
too violent a kind), songs, in short, of a sentimental and slightly
passionate cast, which only require to be united to religious words to
be at once and thereby endowed with a religious character. Gluck,
himself, who is supposed by many to have believed that music was capable
of conveying absolute, definite ideas, borrowed pieces from his old
Italian operas to introduce into the scores he was writing, on entirely
different subjects, for the Académie Royale of Paris. Thus, he has
employed an air from his _Telemacco_ in the introduction to the overture
of _Iphigénie en Aulide_. The chorus in the latter work, _Que d'attraits
que de majesté_, is founded on the air, _Al mio spirto_, in the same
composer's _Clemenza di Tito_. The overture to Gluck's _Telemacco_
became that of his _Armide_. Music serves admirably to heighten the
effect of a dramatic situation, or to give force and intensity to the
expression of words; but the same music may often be allied with equal
advantage to words of very different shades of meaning. Thus, the same
melody will depict equally well the rage of a baffled conspirator, the
jealousy of an injured and most respectable husband, and various other
kinds of agitation; the grief of lovers about to part, the joy of lovers
at meeting again, and other emotions of a tender nature; the despondency
of a man firmly bent on suicide, the calm devotion of a pious woman
entering a convent, and other feelings of a solemn class. The
signification we discover in music also depends much upon the
circumstances under which it is heard, and to some extent also on the
mood we are in when hearing it.


Under the republic, consulate, and empire, music did not flourish in
France, and not even the imperial Spontini and Cherubini, in spite of
the almost European reputation they for some time enjoyed, produced any
works which will bear comparison with the masterpieces of their
successors, Rossini, Auber, and Meyerbeer. During the dark artistic
period which separates the fall of the monarchy from the restoration, a
few interesting works were produced at the Opera Comique; but until
Napoleon's advent to power, France neglected more than ever the music of
Italy, and did worse than neglect that of Germany, for, in 1793, the
directors of the Academy brought out a version of Mozart's _Marriage of
Figaro_, in five acts, without recitative and with all the prose
dialogue of Beaumarchais introduced. In 1806, too, a _pasticcio_ by
Kalkbrenner, formed out of the music of Mozart's _Don Juan_, with
improvements and additions by Kalkbrenner himself, was performed at the
same theatre. Both these medleys met with the fate which might have been
anticipated for them.



Nothing shows better the effect on art of the long continental wars at
the end of the eighteenth and beginning of the nineteenth century than
the fact that Mozart's two greatest works, written for Vienna and Prague
immediately before the French Revolution, did not become known in
England and France until about a quarter of a century after their
production. Fortunate Austria, before the great break up of European
territories and dynasties, possessed the two first musical capitals in
Europe. Opera had already declined in Berlin, and its history, even
under the direction of the flute-playing Frederic, possesses little
interest for English readers after the departure or rather flight of
Madame Mara. Italy was still the great nursery of music, but her maestri
composed their greatest works for foreign theatres, and many of them
were attached to foreign courts. Thus, Paisiello wrote his _Barbiere di
Siviglia_ for St. Petersburgh, whither he had been invited by the
Empress Catherine, and where he was succeeded by Cimarosa. Cimarosa,
again, on his return from St. Petersburgh, wrote his masterpiece, _Il
Matrimonio Segretto_, for the Emperor Leopold II., at Vienna. Of the
Opera at Stockholm, we have heard nothing since the time of Queen
Christina. The Dresden Opera, which, in the days of Handel, was the
first in Europe, still maintained its pre-eminence at the beginning of
the second half of the eighteenth century, when Rousseau published his
"Musical Dictionary," and described at length the composition of its
admirable orchestra. But the state and the resources of the kings of
Saxony declined with the power of Poland, and the Dresden Opera, though,
thanks to the taste which presided at the court, its performances were
still excellent, had quite lost its peculiar celebrity long before
Napoleon came, and carried away its last remaining glories in the shape
of the composer, Paer, and Madame Paer and Brizzi, its two principal


The first great musical work produced in Russia, Paisiello's _Barbiere
di Siviglia_, was performed for the first time at St. Petersburgh, in
1780. In this opera work, of which the success soon became European, the
composer entered thoroughly into the spirit of all Beaumarchais's best
scenes, so admirably adapted for musical illustration. Of the solos, the
three most admired were Almaviva's opening romance, Don Basil's _La
Calomnia_, and the air for Don Bartholo; the other favourite pieces
being a comic trio, in which La Jeunesse sneezes, and L'Eveillé yawns in
the presence of the tutor (I need scarcely remark that the personages
just named belong to Beaumarchais's comedy, and that they are not
introduced in Rossini's opera), another trio, in which Rosina gives the
letter to Figaro, a duet for the entry of the tenor in the assumed
character of Don Alonzo, and a quintett, in which Don Basil is sent to
bed, and in which the phrase _buona sera_ is treated with great

Pergolese rendered a still greater service to Russia than did Paisiello
by writing one of his masterpieces for its capital, when he took the
young Bortnianski with him from St. Petersburgh to Italy, and there
educated the greatest religious composer that Russia, not by any means
deficient in composers, has yet known.


We have seen that Paisiello, some years after his return to Italy, was
engaged by Napoleon as chapel-master, and that the services of Paer were
soon afterwards claimed and secured by the emperor as composer of his
chamber music. This was not the first time that Paer had been forced to
alter his own private arrangements in consequence of the very despotic
patronage accorded to music by the victorious leaders of the French
army. In 1799 he was at Udine, where his wife was engaged as _prima
donna_. Portogallo's _la Donna di genio volubile_ was about to be
represented before a large number of the officers under the command of
Bernadotte, when suddenly it appeared impossible to continue the
performance owing to the very determined indisposition of the _primo
basso_. This gentleman had gone to bed in the middle of the day
disguised as an invalid. He declared himself seriously unwell in the
afternoon, and in the evening sent a message to the theatre to excuse
himself from appearing in Portogallo's opera. Paer and his wife
understood what this meant. The performance was for Madame Paer's
benefit; and Olivieri, the perfidious basso, from private pique, had
determined, if possible, to prevent it taking place. Paer's spirit was
roused by the attitude of the _primo buffo_, which was still that of a
man confined to his bed; and he resolved to frustrate his infamous
scheme, which, though simple, appeared certain of success, inasmuch as
no other comic _basso_ was to be found anywhere near Udine. The audience
was impatient, Madame Paer in tears, the manager in despair, when Paer
desired that the performance might begin; saying, that Providence would
send them a basso who would at least know his part, and that in any case
Madame Paer must get ready for the first scene. Madame Paer obeyed the
marital injunction, but in a state of great trepidation; for she had no
confidence in the capabilities of the promised basso, and was not by any
means sure that he even existed. The curtain was about to rise, when the
singer who was to have fallen from the clouds walked quietly on to the
stage, perfectly dressed for the part he was about to undertake, and
without any sign of hesitation on his countenance. The _prima donna_
uttered a cry of surprise, burst into a fit of laughter, and then rushed
weeping into the arms of her husband,--for it was Paer himself who had
undertaken to replace the treacherous Olivieri.

"No," said Madame Paer; "this is impossible! It shall never be said that
I allowed you, a great composer, who will one day be known throughout
Europe, to act the buffoon. No! the performance must be stopped!"

At this moment the final chords of the overture were heard. Poor Madame
Paer resigned herself to her fate, and went weeping on to the stage to
begin a comic duet with her husband, who seemed in excellent spirits,
and commenced his part with so much _verve_ and humour, that the
audience rewarded his exertions with a storm of applause. Paer's gaiety
soon communicated itself to his wife. If Paer was to perform at all, it
was necessary that his performance should outshine that of all possible
rivals, and especially that of the miscreant Olivieri, who was now
laughing between his sheets at the success which he fancied must have
already attended his masterly device. The _prima donna_ had never sung
so charmingly before, but the greatest triumph of the evening was gained
by the new _basso_. Olivieri, who previously had been pronounced
unapproachable in Portogallo's opera, was now looked upon as quite an
inferior singer compared to the _buffo caricato_ who had so
unexpectedly presented himself before the Udine public. Paer, in
addition to his great, natural histrionic ability, knew every note of
_la Donna_. Olivieri had studied only his own part. Paer, in directing
the rehearsals, had made himself thoroughly acquainted with all of them,
and gave a significance to some portions of the music which had never
been expressed or apprehended by his now defeated, routed, utterly
confounded rival.


At present comes the dark side of the picture. Olivieri, dangerously ill
the night before, was perfectly well the next morning, and quite ready
to resume his part in _la Donna di genio volubile_. Paer, on the other
hand, was quite willing to give it up to him; but both reckoned without
the military connoisseurs of Udine, and above all without Bernadotte,
who arrived the day after Paer's great success, when all the officers of
the staff were talking of nothing else. Olivieri was announced to appear
in his old character; but when the bill was shown to the General, he
declared that the original representative might go back to bed, for that
the only buffo he would listen to was the illustrious Paer. In vain the
director explained that the composer was not engaged as a singer, and
that nothing but the sudden indisposition of Olivieri would have induced
him to appear on the stage at all. Bernadotte swore he would have Paer,
and no one else; and as the unfortunate _impresario_ continued his
objections, he was ordered into arrest, and informed that he should
remain in prison until the _maestro_ Paer undertook once more the part
of "Pippo" in Portogallo's opera.

The General then sent a company of grenadiers to surround Paer's house;
but the composer had heard of what had befallen the manager, and,
foreseeing his own probable fate, if he remained openly in Udine, had
concealed himself, and spread a report that he was in the country.
Lancers and hussars were dispatched in search of him, but naturally
without effect. In the supposed absence of Paer, the army was obliged to
accept Olivieri; and when six or seven representations of the popular
opera had taken place and the military public had become accustomed to
Olivieri's performance of the part of "Pippo," Paer came forth from his
hiding place and suffered no more from the warlike dilettanti-ism of


There would be no end to my anecdotes if I were to attempt to give a
complete list of all those in which musicians and singers have been made
to figure in connection with all sorts of events during the last great
continental war. The great vocalists, and many of the great composers of
the day, continued to travel about from city to city, and from court to
court, as though Europe were still in a state of profound peace.
Sometimes, as happened once to Paer, and was nearly happening to him a
second time, they were taken prisoners; or they found themselves shut up
in a besieged town; and a great _cantatrice_, Madame Fodor, who chanced
to be engaged at the Hamburg opera when Hamburg was invested, was
actually the cause of a _sortie_ being made in her favour. On one
occasion, while she was singing, the audience was disturbed by a cannon
ball coming through the roof of the theatre and taking its place in the
gallery; but the performances continued nevertheless, and the officers
and soldiers of the garrison continued to be delighted with their
favourite vocalist. Madame Fodor, however, on her side, was beginning to
get tired of her position; not that she cared much about the bombardment
which was renewed from time to time, but because the supply of milk had
failed, cows and oxen having been alike slaughtered for the sustenance
of the beleaguered garrison. Without milk, Madame Fodor was scarcely
able to sing; at least, she had so accustomed herself to drink it every
evening during the intervals of performance, that she found it
inconvenient and painful to do without it. Hearing in what a painful
situation their beloved vocalist found herself, the French army
gallantly resolved to remedy it without delay. The next evening a
_sortie_ was effected, and a cow brought back in triumph. This cow was
kept in the property and painting room in the theatre, above the stage,
and was lowered like a drop scene, to be milked whenever Madame Fodor
was thirsty. So, at least, says the operatic anecdote on the subject,
though it would perhaps have been a more convenient proceeding to have
sent some trustworthy person to perform the milking operation up stairs.
In any case, the cow was kept carefully shut up and under guard.
Otherwise the animal's life would not have been safe, so great was the
scarcity of provision in Hamburg at the time, and so great the general
hunger for beef of any kind.

       *       *       *       *       *


Madame Huberti, after flying from Paris during the Reign of Terror,
married the Count d'Entraigues, and would seem to have terminated her
operatic career happily and honourably; but she was destined some years
afterwards to die a horrible death. The countess always wore the order
of St. Michael, which had been given to her by the then unacknowledged
Louis XVIII., in token of the services she had rendered to the royalist
party, by enabling her husband to escape from prison and preserving his
portfolio which contained a number of political papers of great
importance. The Count afterwards entered the service of Russia, and was
entrusted by the government with several confidential missions. Hitherto
he had been working in the interest of the Bourbons against Napoleon;
but when the French emperor and the emperor Alexander formed an
alliance, after the battles of Eylau and Friedland, he seems to have
thought that his connexion with Russia ought to terminate. However this
may have been, he found means to obtain a copy of the secret articles
contained in the treaty of Tilsit[73] and hastened to London to
communicate them to the English government. For this service he is said
to have received a pension, and he now established himself in England,
where he appears to have had continual relations with the foreign
office. The French police heard how the Count d'Entraigues was employed
in London, and Fouché sent over two agents to watch him and intercept
his letters. These emissaries employed an Italian refugee, to get
acquainted with and bribe Lorenzo, the Count's servant, who allowed his
compatriot to read and even to take copies of the despatches frequently
entrusted to him by his master to take to Mr. Canning. He, moreover,
gave him a number of the Count's letters to and from other persons. One
evening a letter was brought to M. d'Entraigues which obliged him to go
early the next morning from his residence at Barnes to London. Lorenzo
had observed the seal of the foreign office on the envelope, and saw
that his treachery would soon be discovered. Everything was ready for
the journey, when he stabbed his master, who fell to the ground mortally
wounded. The Countess was getting into the carriage. To prevent her
charging him with her husband's death, the servant also stabbed her, and
a few moments afterwards, in confusion and despair, blew his own brains
out with a pistol which he in the first instance appears to have
intended for M. d'Entraigues. This horrible affair occurred on the 22nd
of July, 1812.

Nothing fatal happened to Madame Colbran, though she was deeply mixed up
with politics, her name being at one time quite a party word among the
royalists at Naples. Those who admired the king made a point of
admiring his favourite singer. A gentleman from England asked a friend
one night at the Naples theatre how he liked the vocalist in question.

"Like her? I am a royalist," was the reply.

When the revolutionists gained the upper hand, Madame Colbran was
hissed; but the discomfiture of the popular party was always followed by
renewed triumphs for the singer.

Madame Colbran must not lead us on to her future husband, Rossini, whose
epoch has not yet arrived. The mention of Paer's wife has already taken
us far away from the composers in vogue at the end of the eighteenth


Two of the three best comic operas ever produced, _Le Nozze di Figaro_
and _Il Matrimonio Segretto_ (I need scarcely name Rossini's _Il
Barbiere di Siviglia_ as the third), were written for Vienna within six
years (1786-1792), and at the special request of emperors of Germany.
Cimarosa was returning from St. Petersburgh when Leopold II., Joseph the
Second's successor, detained him at Vienna, and invited him to compose
something for his theatre. The _maestro_ had not much time, but he did
his best, and the result was, _Il Matrimonio Segretto_. The Emperor was
delighted with the work, which seemed almost to have been improvised,
and gave the composer twelve thousand francs, or, as some say, twelve
thousand florins; in either case, a very liberal sum for the period when
Cimarosa, Paisiello and Gughelmi had mutually agreed, whatever more
they might receive for their operas, never to take less than two
thousand four hundred francs.

The libretto of _Il Matrimonio Segretto_, by Bertatti, is imitated from
that of a forgotten French operetta, _Sophie ou le Mariage Caché_, which
is again founded on Garrick and Coleman's _Clandestine Marriage_. The
Emperor Leopold was unable to be present at the first performance of
Cimarosa's new work, but he heard of its enormous success, and
determined not to miss a note at the second representation. He was in
his box before the commencement of the overture, and listened to the
performance throughout with the greatest attention, but without
manifesting any opinion as to the merits of the music. As the Sovereign
did not applaud, the brilliant audience who had assembled to hear _Il
Matrimonio_ a second time, were obliged, by court etiquette, to remain
silent without giving the slightest expression to the delight the music
afforded them. This icy reception was very different to the one obtained
by the opera the night before, when the marks of approbation from all
parts of the house had been of the most enthusiastic kind. However, when
the piece was at an end, the Emperor rose and said aloud--

"Bravo, Cimarosa, bravissimo! The whole opera is admirable, delightful,
enchanting. I did not applaud that I might not lose a single note of
this masterpiece. You have heard it twice, and I must have the same
pleasure before I go to bed. Singers and musicians, pass into the next
room! Cimarosa will come too, and will preside at the banquet prepared
for you. When you have had sufficient rest we will begin again. I
_encore_ the whole opera, and, in the mean while, let us applaud it as
it deserves." Leopold clapped his hands, and for some minutes the whole
theatre resounded with plaudits. After the banquet, the entire opera was

The only other example of such an occurrence as the above is to be found
in the career of Terence, whose _Eunuchus_ on its first production, was
performed twice the same day, or, rather, once in the morning, and once
in the evening.

A similar amount of success obtained by Paer's _Laodicea_ had quite an
opposite result; for, as nearly the whole opera was encored, piece by
piece, it was found impossible to conclude it the same evening, and the
performance of the last act was postponed until the next night.

Mozart's _Nozze di Figaro_, produced six years before the _Matrimonio
Segretto_, was far less justly appreciated,--indeed, at Vienna, was not
appreciated at all. This admirable work, so full of fresh spontaneous
melody, and of rich, varied harmony was actually hissed by the Viennese!
They even hissed _Non piu andrai_, which seems equally calculated to
delight the educated and the most uneducated ear. Mozart has made
allusion to this almost incredible instance of bad taste very happily
and ingeniously in the supper scene of _Don Giovanni_.


Joseph II. cared only for Italian music, and never gave his entire
approbation to anything Mozart produced, though the musicians of the
period acknowledged him to be the greatest composer in Europe.

"It is too fine for our ears," said the presumptuous Joseph, speaking to
Mozart of the _Seraglio_. "Seriously, I think there are too many notes."

"Precisely the proper number," replied the composer.

The Emperor rewarded his frankness by giving him only fifty ducats for
his opera.[74]

Nevertheless, the _Seraglio_ had caused the success of one of the
emperor's favourite enterprises. It was the first work produced at the
German Opera, established by Joseph II., at Vienna. Until that time,
Italian opera predominated everywhere; indeed, German opera, that is to
say, lyric dramas in the German language, set to music by German
composers, and sung by German singers, could not be said to exist. There
were a number of Italian musicians living at Vienna who were quite aware
of Mozart's superiority, and hated him for it; the more so, as by taking
such an important part in the establishment of the German Opera, he
threatened to diminish the reputation of the Italian school. The
_Entführung aus dem Serail_ was the first blow to the supremacy of
Italian opera. Der _Schauspieldirector_ was the second, and when, after
the production of this latter work at the new German theatre of Vienna,
Mozart proceeded to write the _Nozze di Figaro_ for the Italians, he
simply placed himself in the hands of his enemies. At the first
representation, the two first acts of the _Nozze_ were so shamefully
executed, that the composer went in despair to the emperor to denounce
the treachery of which he was being made the victim. Joseph had detected
the conspiracy and was nearly as indignant as Mozart himself. He sent a
severe message round to the stage, but the harm was now done, and the
remainder of the opera was listened to very coldly. _Le Nozze di Figaro_
failed at Vienna, and was not appreciated, did not even get a fair
hearing, until it was produced some months afterwards at Prague. The
Slavonians of Bohemia showed infinitely more good taste and intelligence
than the Germans (led away and demoralized, however, by an Italian
clique) at Vienna. At Prague, _le Nozze di Figaro_ caused the greatest
enthusiasm, and Mozart replied nobly to the sympathy and admiration of
the Bohemians. "These good people," he said, "have avenged me. They know
how to do me justice, I must write something to please them." He kept
his word, and the year afterwards gave them the immortal _Don Giovanni_.


At the head of the clique which had sworn eternal enmity to Mozart, was
Salieri, a musician with a sort of Pontius Pilate reputation, owing his
infamous celebrity to the fact that his name is now inseparably coupled
with that of the sublime composer whom he would have destroyed. Salieri
(whom we have met with before in Paris as the would-be successor of
Gluck) was the most learned of the Italian composers at that time
residing in Vienna; and, therefore, must have felt the greatness of
Mozart's genius more profoundly than any of the others. When _Don
Giovanni_, after its success at Prague, was produced at Vienna, it was
badly put on the stage, imperfectly rehearsed, and represented
altogether in a very unsatisfactory manner. Nor, with improved execution
did the audience show any disposition to appreciate its manifold
beauties. Mozart's _Don Giovanni_ was quite eclipsed by the _Assur_ of
his envious and malignant rival.

"I will leave it to psychologists to determine," says M.
Oulibicheff,[75] "whether the day on which Salieri triumphed publicly
over Mozart, was the happiest or the most painful of his life. He
triumphed, indeed, thanks to the ignorance of the Viennese, to his own
skill as a director, (which enabled him to render the work of his rival
scarcely recognisable), and to the entire devotion of his subordinates.
He must have been pleased; but Salieri was not only envious, he was also
a great musician. He had read the score of _Don Giovanni_, and you know
that the works one reads with the greatest attention are those of one's
enemies. With what admiration and despair it must have filled the heart
of an artist who was even more ambitious of true glory than of mere
renown! What must he have felt in his inmost soul! And what serpents
must again have crawled and hissed in the wreath of laurel which was
placed on his head! In spite of the fiasco of his opera, which he seems
to have foreseen, and to which, at all events, he resigned himself with
great calmness, Mozart, doubtless, more happy than his conqueror, added
a few 'numbers,' each a masterpiece to his score. Four new pieces were
written for it, at the request of the Viennese singers."

M. Oulibicheff's compatriot Poushkin has written an admirable study on
the subject presented above in a few suggestive phrases by Mozart's
biographer. Unfortunately, it is impossible in these volumes to find a
place for the Russian poet's "Mozart and Salieri."

After the failure of _Don Giovanni_ at Vienna, a number of persons were
speaking of it in a room where Haydn and the principal connoisseurs of
the place were assembled. Every one agreed in pronouncing it a most
estimable work, but, also, every one had something to say against it. At
last, Haydn, who, hitherto, had not spoken a word, was asked to give his

"I do not feel myself in a position to decide this dispute," he
answered. "All I know and can assure you of is that Mozart is the
greatest composer of our time."

[Sidenote: DON GIOVANNI.]

As Salieri's _Assur_ completely eclipsed _Don Giovanni_, so, previously,
did Martini's _Cosa Rara_, the _Nozze di Figaro_. Both these phenomena
manifested themselves at Vienna, and the reader has already been
reminded that the fate of the _Nozze di Figaro_ is alluded to in _Don
Giovanni_. All the airs played by the hero's musicians in the supper
scene are taken from the operas which were most in vogue when Mozart
produced his great work; such as _La Cosa Rara_, _Frà due Litiganti
terzo gode_, and _I Pretendenti Burlati_. Leporello calls attention to
the melodies as the orchestra on the stage plays them, and when, to
terminate the series, the clarionets strike up _Non piu andrai_, he
exclaims _Questo lo conosco pur troppo!_ "I know this one only too
well!" With the exception of _Non piu andrai_, which the Viennese could
not tolerate the first time they heard it, none of the airs introduced
in the _Don Giovanni_ supper scene would be known in the present day,
but for _Don Giovanni_.

       *       *       *       *       *

_Don Giovanni_, composed by Mozart to _Da Ponte's_ libretto (which is
founded on Molière's _Festin de Pierre_, which is imitated from Tirso di
Molina's _El Burlador di Siviglia_, which seems to have had its origin
in a very ancient legend[76]), was produced at Prague, on the 4th of
November, 1787. The subject had already been treated in a ballet, in
four acts, for which Gluck wrote the music (produced at Parma in 1758;
and long before the production of Mozart's _Don Giovanni_, it had been
dramatised in some shape or other in almost every country in Europe, and
especially in Spain, Italy, and France, where several versions of the
Italian _Il Convitato di Pietra_ were being played, when Molière first
brought out his so-called _Festin de Pierre_. The original cast of _Don
Giovanni_ at Prague was as follows:--

    _Donna Anna_, Teresa Saporiti.
    _Elvira_, Catarina Micelli.
    _Zerlina_, Madame Bondini (Catarina Saporiti).
    _Don Giovanni_, Bassi (Luigi).
    _Ottavio_, Baglioni (Antonio).
    _Leporello_, Ponziani (Felice).
    _Don Pedro_, Lolli (Guiseppe).
    _Masetto_, the same.

Righini, of Bologna, had produced his opera of _Don Giovanni, ossia il
Convitato di Pietra_, at Prague, only eight years before, for which
reason the title of _Il Dissoluto Punito_ was given to Mozart's work. It
was not until some years afterwards that it received the name by which
it is now universally known.

[Sidenote: DON GIOVANNI.]

Although the part of _Don Giovanni_ was written for a baritone, tenors,
such as Tacchinardi and Garcia, have often played it, and frequently
with greater success than the majority of baritones have obtained. But
no individual success of a favourite singer can compensate for the
transpositions and changes that have to be effected in Mozart's
masterpiece, when the character of the hero is assigned to a vocalist
who cannot execute the music which of right belongs to it. It has been
said that Mozart wrote the part of _Don Giovanni_ for a baritone,
because it so happened that the baritone at the Prague theatre, Bassi,
was the best singer of the company; but it is not to be imagined that
the musical characterization of the personages in the most truly
dramatic opera ever written, was the result of anything but the
composer's well-considered design. "_Don Giovanni_ was not intended for
Vienna, but for Prague," Mozart is reported to have said. "The truth,
however, is," he added, "that I wrote it for myself, and a few friends."
Accordingly, the great composer was not thinking of Bassi at the time.
It would be easy, moreover, to show, that though the most feminine of
male voices may suit the ordinary _jeune premier_, or _premier
amoureux_, there is nothing tenor-like in the temperament of a _Don
Giovanni_; deceiving all women, defying all men, breaking all laws,
human and divine, and an unbeliever in everything--even in the power of
equestrian statues to get off their horses, and sit down to supper.

[Sidenote: DON GIOVANNI.]

But, let us not consider whether or not _Fin ch' han dal vino_ is
improved by being sung (as tenor _Don Giovannis_ sometimes sing it) a
fourth higher than it was written by Mozart; or whether it is tolerable
that the concerted pieces in which _Don Giovanni_ takes part should be,
not transposed (for that would be insufficient, or, rather, would
increase the difficulties of execution) but so altered, that in some
passages the original design of the composer is entirely perverted. Let
us simply repeat the maxim, on which it is impossible to lay too much
stress, that the work of a great master should not be touched,
re-touched, or in any manner interfered with, under any pretext. There
is, absolutely, no excuse for managers mutilating _Don Giovanni_; not
even the excuse that in its original form this inexhaustible opera does
not "draw." It has already lived, and with full, unfailing life, for
three-quarters of a century. It has survived all sorts of revolutions in
taste, and especially in musical taste. There are now no Emperors of
Germany. Prague has become a third-rate city. That German Opera, which
Mozart originated with his _Entführung aus dem Serail_, has attained a
grand development, and among its composers has numbered Beethoven,
Weber, and the latter's follower, and occasional imitator, Meyerbeer.
Rossini has appeared with his seductive melody, and his brilliant,
sonorous orchestra. But justice is still--more than ever--done to
Mozart. The verdict of Prague is maintained; and this year, as ten,
twenty, forty years ago, if the manager of the Italian Opera of London,
Paris, or St. Petersburgh, has had for some time past a series of empty
houses, he takes an opera, seventy-four years of age, and which,
according to all ordinary musical calculations, ought long since to have
had, at least, one act in the grave, dresses it badly, puts it badly on
the stage, with such scenery as would be thought unworthy of Verdi, and
hazardous for Meyerbeer, announces _Don Giovanni_, and every place in
the theatre is taken!

       *       *       *       *       *

Although Mozart's genius was fully acknowledged by the greatest
musicians, among his contemporaries (the reader already knows what Haydn
said of him, and what Cimarosa replied when he was addressed as his
superior), his music found an echo in the hearts of only a very small
portion of the ordinary public. Admired at Prague, condemned at Vienna,
unknown in the rest of Europe, it may be said, with only too much truth,
that Mozart's master-pieces, speaking generally, met with no recognition
until after his death; with no fitting recognition until long
afterwards. From the slow, strong, oak-like growth of Mozart's fame, now
flourishing, and still increasing every day, we may see, not for his
name alone, but for his music, a continued celebrity and popularity,
which will probably endure as long as our modern civilization. I have
already spoken of the effects of the last general war in checking
literary and artistic communication between the nations of Europe. This
will, in part, account for Mozart's master-piece not having been
performed at the Italian Opera of Paris until 1811, nor in London until
after the peace, in 1817. In the Paris cast, the part of _Don Giovanni_
was assigned to a tenor, Tacchinardi; and when the opera was revived at
the same theatre (which was not until nine years afterwards),
Tacchinardi was replaced by Garcia.

The first "Don Giovanni" who appeared in London, was the celebrated
baritone, Ambrogetti. Among the other distinguished singers who have
appeared as "Don Giovanni," with great success, may be mentioned
Nourrit, the tenor; Lablache (in 1832), before he had identified himself
with the part of "Leporello;" Tamburini, and I suppose I must now add,
Mario; though this great artist has been seen and heard to more
advantage in other characters. The last great "Don Giovanni" known to
the present generation was Signor Tamburini. It is a remarkable fact,
well worth the consideration of managers, who are inclined to take
liberties with Mozart's master-piece, that when Garcia, the tenor,
appeared in London as "Don Giovanni," after Ambrogetti, the baritone, he
produced comparatively but little effect; though Garcia was one of the
most accomplished musicians, and, probably, the very best singer of his

Without going back again to the original cast, I may notice among the
most celebrated Donna Annas, Madame Ronzi de Begnis, Mademoiselle
Sontag, Madame Grisi, Mademoiselle Sophie Cruvelli, and Mademoiselle

Among the Zerlinas, Madame Fodor, Madame Malibran, Madame Persiani[77],
and Madame Bosio.

[Sidenote: DON GIOVANNI.]

Among the Don Ottavios, Rubini and Mario.

Porto is said to have been particularly admirable as Masetto, and
Angrisani and Angelini as the commandant.

Certainly, no one living has heard a better Leporello than Lablache.

Mr. Ebers tells us, in his "Seven Years of the King's Theatre," that
_Don Giovanni_ was brought out by Mr. Ayrton in 1817, "in opposition to
a vexatious cabal," and "in despite of difficulties of many kinds which
would have deterred a less decided and persevering manager."
Nevertheless, "it filled the boxes and benches of the theatre for the
whole season, and restored to a flourishing condition the finances of
the concern, which were in an almost exhausted state."

       *       *       *       *       *


The war, so injurious to the Opera, had a still more disastrous effect
on the ballet, a fact for which we have the authority of the manager and
author from whom I have just quoted. "The procrastinated war," says Mr.
Ebers, "which, until the treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle, had kept England and
France in hostilities, had rendered the importation of dancers from the
latter country almost impracticable." Mr. Waters, Mr. Ebers'
predecessor, had repeatedly endeavoured to prevail on French dancers to
come to England, "either with the _congés_, if attainable, or by such
clandestine means as could be carried into effect." He failed; and we
are told that his want of success in this respect was one cause of the
disagreement between himself and the committee of the theatre, which led
soon afterwards to his abandoning the management. Mr. Ebers, however,
testifies from his own experience to the almost insuperable difficulty
of inducing the directors of the French Opera to cede any of their
principal performers even for a few weeks to the late enemies of their
country. When the dancers were willing to accept the terms offered to
them, it was impossible to obtain leave from the minister entrusted with
the supreme direction of operatic affairs; if the minister was willing,
then objections came from the ballet itself. It was necessary to secure
the aid of the highest diplomatists, and the engagement of a few first
dancers and _coryphées_ was made as important an affair as the signing
of a treaty of commerce. The special envoy, the Cobden of the affair,
was Monsieur Boisgerard, an ex-officer in the French army under the
Bourbons, and actually the second ballet-master of the King's Theatre;
but all official correspondence connected with the negotiation had to be
transmitted through the medium of the English ambassador at Paris to the
Baron de la Ferté. Boisgerard arrived in Paris furnished with letters of
introduction from the five noblemen who at that time formed a "committee
of superintendence" to aid Mr. Ebers in the management of the King's
Theatre, and directed all his attention and energy towards forming an
engagement with Bigottini and Noblet, the principal _danseuses_, and
Albert, the _premier danseur_ of the French Opera. In spite of his
excellent recommendations, of the esteem in which he was himself held by
his numerous friends in Paris, and of the interest of a dancer named
Deshayes, who appears to have readily joined in the conspiracy, and who
was afterwards rewarded for his aid with a lucrative engagement as first
ballet-master at the London Opera House--in spite of all these
advantages it was impossible, for some time, to obtain any concessions
from the Académie. To begin with, Bigottini, Noblet and Albert refused
point blank to leave Paris. M. Boisgerard, however, as a ballet-master
and a man of the world, understood that this was intended only as an
invitation for larger offers; and finally all three were engaged,
conditionally on their _congés_ being obtained from the directors of the
theatre. Now the real difficulty began; now the influence of the five
English noblemen was brought to bear; now despatches were interchanged
between the British ambassador in Paris and the Baron de la Ferté,
intendant of the royal theatres; now consultations took place between
the said intendant and the Viscount de la Rochefoucault, aide-de-camp of
the king, entrusted with the department of fine arts in the ministry of
the king's household; and between the said artistic officer of the
king's household and Duplanty, the administrator of the Royal Academy of
Music, and of the Italian Opera. The result of all this negotiation
was, that the administration first hesitated and finally refused to
allow Mademoiselle Bigottini to visit England on any terms; but, after
considerable trouble, the French agents in the service of Mr. Ebers
obtained permission for Albert and Noblet to accept engagements for two
months,--it being further arranged that, at the expiration of that
period, they should be replaced by Coulon and Fanny Bias. Albert was to
receive fifty pounds for every night of performance, and twenty-five
pounds for his travelling expenses. Noblet's terms were five hundred and
fifty pounds for the two months, with twenty-five pounds for expenses.
Coulon and Bias were each to receive the same terms as Noblet. Three
other dancers, Montessu, Lacombe, and Mademoiselle de Varennes, were at
the same time given over to Mr. Ebers for an entire season, and he was
allowed to retain all his prisoners--that is to say, those members of
the Académie, with Mademoiselle Mélanie at their head, whom previous
managers had taken from the French prior to the friendly and pacific
embassy of M. Boisgerard. An attempt was made to secure the services of
Mademoiselle Elisa, but without avail. M. and Mademoiselle Paul entered
into an agreement, but the administration refused to ratify it;
otherwise, with a little encouragement, Mr. Ebers would probably have
engaged the entire ballet of the Académie Royale.


Male dancers have, I am glad to think, never been much esteemed in
England; and Albert, though successful enough, produced nothing like the
same impression in London which he was in the habit of causing in
Paris. Mademoiselle Noblet's dancing, on the other hand, excited the
greatest enthusiasm, and the subscribers made all possible exertions to
obtain a prolongation of her _congé_ when the time for her return to the
Académie arrived. Noblet's performance in the ballet of _Nina_ (of which
the subject is identical with that of Paisiello's opera of the same
name) is said to have been particularly admirable, especially for the
great dramatic talent which she exhibited in pourtraying the heroine's
melancholy madness. _Nina_ was announced for Mademoiselle Noblet's
benefit, on a night not approved by the Lord Chamberlain--either because
it interfered with some of the court regulations, or for some other
reason not explained. The secretary to the committee of the Opera was
directed to address a letter to the Chamberlain, representing to him how
inconvenient it would be to postpone the benefit, as the _congé_ of the
_bénéficiaire_ was now on the point of expiring. Lord Hertford, with
becoming politeness, wrote the following letter, which shows with what
deep interest the graceful dancer inspired even those who knew her only
by reputation. The letter was addressed to the Marquis of Ailesbury, one
of the members of the operatic committee.

     "MY DEAR LORD,--I have this moment (eleven o'clock) received your
     letter, which I have sent to the Chamberlain's office to Mr. Mash;
     and as Mademoiselle Noblet is a very pretty woman as I am told, I
     hope she will call there to assist in the solicitation which
     interests her so much. Not having been for many years at the opera,
     except for the single purpose of attending his majesty, I am no
     judge of the propriety of her request or the objections which may
     arise to the postponement of her benefit for one day at so short a
     notice. I hope the fair solicitress will be prepared with an answer
     on this part of the subject, as it is always my wish to accommodate
     you; and I remain most sincerely your very faithful servant,


     "Manchester Square,

     _April 29th, 1821_."

     Mademoiselle Noblet's benefit having taken place, the subscribers,
     horrified at the notion that they had now, perhaps, seen her for
     the last time, determined, in spite of all obstacles, in spite even
     of the very explicit agreement between the director of the King's
     Theatre and the administration of the Académie Royale, that she
     should remain in London. The _danseuse_ was willing enough to
     prolong her stay, but the authorities at the French Opera
     protested. The Academy of Music was not going to be deprived in
     this way of one of the greatest ornaments of its ballet, and the
     Count de Caraman, on behalf of the Academy, called on the committee
     to direct Mr. Ebers to send over to Paris, without delay, the
     performers whose _congés_ were now at an end. The members of the
     committee replied that they had only power to interfere as regarded
     the choice of operas and ballets, and that they had nothing to do
     with agreements between the manager and the performers. They added,
     "that they had certainly employed their influence with the English
     ambassador at Paris at the commencement of the season, to obtain
     the best artists from that city; but it appearing that the Academy
     was not disposed to grant _congés_ for London, even to artists, for
     whose services the Academy had no occasion, the committee had
     determined not again to meddle in that branch of the management."


The French now sent over an ambassador extraordinary, the Baron de la
Ferté himself, to negotiate for the restoration of the deserters. It was
decided, however, that they should be permitted to remain until the end
of the season; and, moreover, that two first and two second dancers
should be allowed annually to come to London, but only under the precise
stipulations contained in the following treaty, which was signed between
Mr. Ebers, on the one hand, and M. Duplantys on the part of Viscount de
la Rochefoucault, on the other.

"The administration of the Theatre of the Royal Academy of Music,
wishing to facilitate to the administration of the theatre of London,
the means of making known the French artists of the ballet without this
advantage being prejudicial to the Opera of Paris;

"Consents to grant to Mr. Ebers for each season, the first commencing on
the 10th of January, and ending the 20th of April, and the second
ending the 1st of August, two first dancers, two _figurants_, and two
_figurantes_; but in making this concession, the administration of the
Royal Academy of Music reserves the right of only allowing those dancers
to leave Paris to whom it may be convenient to grant a _congé_; this
rule applies equally to the _figurants_ and _figurantes_. None of them
can leave the Paris theatre except by the formal permission of the

"And in return for these concessions, Mr. Ebers promises to engage no
dancer until he has first obtained the necessary authorization in
accordance with his demand.

"He engages not under any pretext to keep the principal dancers a longer
time than has been agreed without a fresh permission, and above all, to
make them no offers with the view of enticing them from their permanent
engagements with the French authorities.

"The present treaty is for the space of * * *.

"In case of Mr. Ebers failing in one of the articles of the said treaty,
the whole treaty becomes null and void."



The prime mover in the diplomatic transactions which had the effect of
securing Mademoiselle Noblet far the London Opera was, as I have said,
the ballet master, Boisgerard, formerly an officer in the French army.
In a chapter which is intended to show to some extent the effect on
opera of the disturbed state of Europe consequent on the French
Revolution, it will, perhaps, not be out of place to relate a very
daring exploit performed by the said M. Boisgerard, which was the cause
of his adopting an operatic career. "This gentleman," says Mr. Ebers, in
the account published by him of his administration of the King's Theatre
from 1821 to 1828, "was a Frenchman of good extraction, and at the
period of the French Revolution, was attached to the royal party. When
Sir Sidney Smith was confined in the Temple, Boisgerard acted up to his
principles by attempting, and with great personal risk, effecting the
escape of that distinguished officer, whose friends were making every
effort for his liberation. Having obtained an impression of the seal of
the Directorial Government, he affixed it to an order, forged by
himself, for the delivery of Sir Sidney Smith into his care. Accompanied
by a friend, disguised like himself, in the uniform of an officer of the
revolutionary army, he did not scruple personally to present the
fictitious document to the keeper of the Temple, who, opening a small
closet, took thence some original document, with the writing and seal of
which, he carefully compared the forged order. Desiring the adventurers
to wait a few minutes, he then withdrew, and locked the door after him.
Giving themselves up for lost, the confederate determined to resist,
sword in hand, any attempt made to secure them. The period which thus
elapsed, may be imagined as one of the most horrible suspense to
Boisgerard and his companion; his own account of his feelings at the
time was extremely interesting. Left alone, and in doubt whether each
succeeding moment might not be attended by a discovery involving the
safety of his life, the acuteness of his organs of sense was heightened
to painfulness; the least noise thrilled through his brain, and the
gloomy apartment in which he sat seemed filled with strange images. They
preserved their self-possession, and, after the lapse of a few minutes,
their anxiety was determined by the re-appearance of the gaoler,
accompanied by his captive, who was delivered to Boisgerard. But here a
new and unlooked for difficulty occurred; Sir Sidney Smith, not knowing
Boisgerard, refused, for some time, to quit the prison; and considerable
address was required on the part of his deliverers to overcome his
scruples. At last, the precincts of the Temple were cleared; and, after
going a short distance in a fiacre, then walking, then entering another
carriage, and so on, adopting every means of baffling pursuit, the
fugitives got to Havre, where Sir Sidney was put on board an English
vessel. Boisgerard, on his return to Paris (for he quitted Sir Sidney at
Havre) was a thousand times in dread of detection; tarrying at an
_auberge_, he was asked whether he had heard the news of Sir Sidney's
escape; the querist adding, that four persons had been arrested on
suspicion of having been instrumental in it. However, he escaped all
these dangers, and continued at Paris until his visit to England, which
took place after the peace of Amiens. A pension had been granted to Sir
Sidney Smith for his meritorious services; and, on Boisgerard's arrival
here, a reward of a similar nature was bestowed on him through the
influence of Sir Sidney, who took every opportunity of testifying his

We have already seen that though the international character of the
Opera must always be seriously interfered with by international wars,
the intelligent military amateur may yet be able to turn his European
campaigning to some operatic advantage. The French officers acquired a
taste for Italian music in Italy. So an English officer serving in the
Peninsula, imbibed a passion for Spanish dancing, to which was due the
choregraphic existence of the celebrated Maria Mercandotti,--by all
accounts one of the most beautiful girls and one of the most charming
dancers that the world ever saw. This inestimable treasure was
discovered by Lord Fife--a keen-eyed connoisseur, who when Maria was but
a child, foretold the position she would one day occupy, if her mother
would but allow her to join the dancing school of the French Academy.
Madame Mercandotti brought her daughter to England when she was fifteen.
The young Spaniard danced a bolero one night at the Opera, repeated it a
few days afterwards at Brighton, before Queen Charlotte, and then set
off to Paris, where she joined the Académie. After a very short period
of study, she made her _début_ with success, such as scarcely any dancer
had obtained at the French Opera, since the time of La Camargo--herself,
by the way, a Spaniard.

Mademoiselle Mercandotti came to London, was received with the greatest
enthusiasm, was the fashionable theme of one entire operatic season, had
a number of poems, valuable presents, and offers of undying affection
addressed to her, and ended by marrying Mr. Hughes Ball.

The production of this _danseuse_ appears to have seen the last direct
result of that scattering of the amateurs of one nation among the
artists of another, which was produced by the European convulsions of
from 1789 to 1815.




A complete History of the Opera would include a history of operatic
music, a history of operatic dancing, a history of the chief operatic
theatres, and a history of operatic society. I have made no attempt to
treat the subject on such a grand scale; but though I shall have little
to say about the principal lyrical theatres of Europe, or of the habits
of opera-goers as a European class, there is one great musical dramatic
establishment, to whose fortunes I must pay some special attention, and
concerning whose audiences much may be said that will at least interest
an English reader. After several divided reigns at the Lincoln's Inn
Theatre, at Covent Garden, at the Pantheon, and at the King's Theatre,
Italian Opera found itself, in 1793, established solely and majestically
at the last of these houses, which I need hardly remind the reader was
its first home in England. The management was now exercised by Mr.
Taylor, the proprietor. This gentleman, who was originally a banker's
clerk, appears to have had no qualification for his more exalted
position, beyond the somewhat questionable one of a taste for
speculation. He is described as having had "all Sheridan's deficiency of
financial arrangement, without that extraordinary man's resources."
Nevertheless he was no bad hand at borrowing money. All the advances,
however, made to him by his friends, to enable him to undertake the
management of the Opera, are said to have been repaid. Mr. Ebers, his
not unfriendly biographer, finds it difficult to account for this, and
can only explain it by the excellent support the Opera received at the
period. Mr. Taylor was what in the last century was called "a humorist."
Not that he possessed much humour, but he was a queer, eccentric man,
and given to practical jokes, which, in the present day, would not be
thought amusing even by the friends of those injured by them. On one
occasion, Taylor having been prevailed upon to invite a number of
persons to breakfast, spread a report that he intended to set them down
to empty plates. He, moreover, recommended each of the guests, in an
anonymous letter, to turn the tables on the would-be ingenious Taylor,
by taking to the _déjeuner_ a supply of suitable provisions, so that the
inhospitable inviter might be shamed and the invited enabled to feast in
company, notwithstanding his machinations to the contrary. The manager
enjoyed such a reputation for liberality that no one doubted the
statement contained in the anonymous letter.

Each of the guests sent or took in his carriage a certain quantity of
eatables, and when all had arrived, the happy Taylor found his room
filled with all the materials for a monster picnic. Breakfast _had_ been
prepared, the guests sat down to table, some amused, others disgusted at
the hoax which had been practised upon them, and Taylor ordered the
game, preserved meats, lobsters, champagne, &c., into his own larder and
wine cellar.

Even while directing the affairs of the Opera, Taylor passed a
considerable portion of his time in the King's Bench, or within its

"How can you conduct the management of the King's Theatre," a friend
asked him one day, "perpetually in durance as you are?"

"My dear fellow," he replied, "how could I possibly conduct it if I were
at liberty? I should be eaten up, sir--devoured. Here comes a
dancer,--'Mr. Taylor, I want such a dress;' another, 'I want such and
such ornaments.' One singer demands to sing in a part not allotted to
him; another, to have an addition to his appointments. No, let me be
shut up and they go to Masterson (Taylor's secretary); he, they are
aware, cannot go beyond his line; but if they get at _me_--pshaw! no man
at large can manage that theatre; and in faith," he added, "no man that
undertakes it ought to go at large."

Though Mr. Taylor lived within the "rules," the "rules" in no way
governed him. He would frequently go away for days together into the
country and amuse himself with fishing, of which he appears to have
been particularly fond. At one time, while living within the "rules," he
inherited a large sum of money, which he took care not to devote to the
payment of his debts. He preferred investing it in land, bought an
estate in the country (with good fishing), and lived for some months the
quiet, peaceable life of an ardent, enthusiastic angler, until at last
the sheriffs broke in upon his repose and carried him back captive to

But the most extraordinary exploit performed by Taylor during the period
of his supposed incarceration, was of a political nature. He went down
to Hull at the time of an election and actually stood for the borough.
He was not returned--or rather he was returned to prison.

[Sidenote: THE PANTHEON.]

One way and another Mr. Taylor seems to have made a great deal of money
out of the Opera; and at one time he hit upon a plan which looked at
first as if it had only to be pursued with boldness to increase his
income to an indefinite amount. This simple expedient consisted in
raising the price of the subscribers' boxes. For the one hundred and
eighty pound boxes he charged three hundred pounds, and so in proportion
with all the others. A meeting of subscribers having been held, at
which, although the expensive Catalani was engaged, it was decided that
the proposed augmentation was not justified by the rate of the receipts
and disbursements, and this decision having been communicated to Taylor,
he replied, that if the subscribers resisted his just demands he would
shut up their boxes. In consequence of this defiant conduct on the part
of the manager, many of the subscribers withdrew from the theatre and
prevailed upon Caldas, a Portuguese wine merchant, to re-open the
Pantheon for the performance of concerts and all such music as could be
executed without infringing the licence of the King's Theatre. The
Pantheon speculation prospered at first, but the seceders from the
King's Theatre missed their operas, and doubtless also their ballets. A
sort of compromise was effected between them and Taylor, who persisted,
however, in keeping up the price of his boxes; and the unfortunate
Caldas, utterly deserted by those who had dragged him from his
wine-cellars to expose him to the perils of musical speculation, became
a bankrupt.

Taylor was now in his turn brought to account. Waters, his partner in
the proprietorship of the King's Theatre, had been proceeding against
him in Chancery, and it was ordered that the partnership should be
dissolved and the house sold. To the great annoyance of the public, the
first step taken in the affair was to close the theatre,--the
chancellor, who is said to have had no ear for music, having refused to
appoint a manager.

It was proposed by private friends that Taylor should cede his interest
in the theatre to Waters; but it was difficult to bring them to any
understanding on the subject, or even to arrange an interview between
them. Waters prided himself on the decorum of his conduct, while Taylor
appears to have aimed at quite a contrary reputation. All business
transactions, prior to Taylor's arrest, had been rendered nearly
impossible between them; because one would attend to no affairs on
Sunday, while the other, with a just fear of writs before him, objected
to show himself in London on any other day. The sight of Waters,
moreover, is said to have rendered Taylor "passionate and scurrilous;"
and while the negociations were being carried on, through
intermediaries, between himself and his partner, he entered into a
treaty with the lessee of the Pantheon, with the view of opening it in
opposition to the King's Theatre.

Ultimately, the management of the theatre was confided, under certain
restrictions, to Mr. Waters; but even now possession was not given up to
him without a struggle.

[Sidenote: WITHIN THE "RULES."]

When Mr. Waters' people were refused admittance by Mr. Taylor's people,
words led to blows. The adherents of the former partners, and actual
enemies and rivals, fought valiantly on both sides, but luck had now
turned against Taylor, and his party were defeated and ejected. That
night, however, when the Watersites fancied themselves secure in their
stronghold, the Taylorites attacked them; effected a breach in the stage
door, stormed the passage, gained admittance to the stage, and finally
drove their enemies out into the Haymarket. The unmusical chancellor,
whose opinion of the Opera could scarcely have been improved by the
lawless proceeding of those connected with it, was again appealed to;
and Waters established himself in the theatre by virtue of an order from
the court.

The series of battles at the King's Theatre terminated with the European
war. Napoleon was at Elba, Mr. Taylor still in the Bench, when Mr.
Waters opened the Opera, and, during the great season which followed the
peace of 1814, gained seven thousand pounds.

Taylor appears to have ended his days in prison; profiting freely by the
"rules," and when at head quarters enjoying the society of Sir John and
Lady Ladd. The trio seem, on the whole, to have led a very agreeable
prison life (and, though strictly forbidden to wander from the jail
beyond their appointed tether, appear in many respects to have been
remarkably free.) Taylor's great natural animal spirits increased with
the wine he consumed; and occasionally his behaviour was such as would
certainly have shocked Waters. On one occasion, his elation is said to
have carried him so beyond bounds, that Lady Ladd found it expedient to
empty the tea-kettle over him.


In 1816 the Opera, by direction of the Chancellor, (it was a fortunate
thing that this time he did not order it to be pulled down,) was again
put up for sale, and purchased out and out by Waters for seven thousand
one hundred and fifty pounds. As the now sole proprietor was unable to
pay into court even the first instalment of the purchase money,[78] he
mortgaged the theatre, with a number of houses belonging to him, to
Chambers the banker. Taylor, who had no longer any sort of connection
with the Opera, at present amused himself by writing anonymous letters
to Mr. Chambers, prophesying the ruin of Waters, and giving dismal but
grotesque pictures of the manager's penniless and bailiff-persecuted
position. Mr. Ebers, who was a great deal mixed up with operatic affairs
before assuming the absolute direction of the Opera, also came in for
his share of these epistles, which every one seems to have instantly
recognised as the production of Taylor. "If Waters is with you at
Brompton," he once wrote to Mr. Ebers, "for God's sake send him away
instantly, for the bailiffs (alias bloodhounds) are out after him in all
directions; and tell Chambers not to let him stay at Enfield, because
that is a suspected place; and so is Lee's in York Street, Westminster,
and Di Giovanni, in Smith Street, and Reed's in Flask Lane--both in
Chelsea. It was reported he was seen in the lane near your house an
evening or two ago, with his eye blacked, and in the great coat and hat
of a Chelsea pensioner." At another time, Mr. Chambers was informed that
Michael Kelly, the singer, was at an hotel at Brighton, on the point of
death, and desirous while he yet lived to communicate something very
important respecting Waters. The holder of Waters' mortgage took a post
chaise and four and hurried in great alarm to Brighton, where he found
Michael Kelly sitting in his balcony, with a pine apple and a bottle of
claret before him.

Taylor's prophecies concerning Waters, after all, came true. His
embarrassments increased year by year, and in 1820 an execution was put
into the theatre at the suit of Chambers. Ten performances were yet due
to the subscribers, when, on the evening of the 15th of August, bills
were posted on the walls of the theatre, announcing that the Opera was
closed. Mr. Waters did not join his former partner in the Bench, but
retired to Calais.

Mr. Ebers's management commenced in 1821. He formed an excellent
company, of which several singers, still under engagement to Mr. Waters,
formed part, and which included among the singers, Madame Camporese,
Madame Vestris, Madame Ronzi de Begnis; and M. M. Ambrogetti, Angrisani,
Begrez, and Curioni. The chief dancers (as already mentioned in the
previous chapter), were Noblet, Fanny Bias, and Albert. The season was a
short one, it was considered successful, though the manager but lost
money by it. The selection of operas was admirable, and consisted of
Paer's _Agnese_, Rossini's _Gazza Ladra_, _Tancredi_ and _Turco_ in
_Italia_, with Mozart's _Clemenza di Tito_, _Don Giovanni_, and _Nozze
di Figaro_. The manager's losses were already seven thousand pounds. By
way of encouraging him, Mr. Chambers increased his rent the following
year from three thousand one hundred and eighty pounds to ten thousand.
It is right to add, that in the meanwhile Mr. Chambers had bought up
Waters's entire interest in the Opera for eighty thousand pounds.
Altogether, by buying and selling the theatre, Waters had cleared no
less than seventy-three thousand pounds. Not contented with this, he no
sooner heard of the excellent terms on which Mr. Chambers had let the
house, than he made an application (a fruitless one), to the
ever-to-be-tormented Chancellor, to have the deed of sale declared

During Mr. Ebers's management, from the beginning of 1821 to the end of
1827, he lost money regularly every year; the smallest deficit in the
budget of any one season being that of the last, when the manager
thought himself fortunate to be minus only three thousand pounds (within
a few sovereigns).

After Mr. Ebers's retirement, the management of the Opera was undertaken
by Messrs. Laporte and Laurent. Mr. Laporte was succeeded by Mr. Lumley,
the history of whose management belongs to a much later period than that
treated of in the present chapter.

       *       *       *       *       *

[Sidenote: THE KING'S THEATRE IN 1789.]

During the early part of the last century, the character of the London
Opera House, as a fashionable place of entertainment, and in some other
respects, appears to have considerably changed. Before the fire in
1789, the subscription to a box for fifty representations was at the
rate of twenty guineas a seat. The charge for pit tickets was at this
time ten shillings and sixpence; so that a subscriber who meant to be a
true habitué, and visited the Opera every night, saved five guineas by
becoming a subscriber. At this time, too, the theatre was differently
constructed, and there were only thirty-six private boxes, eighteen
arranged in three rows on each side of the house. "The boxes," says Lord
Mount Edgcumbe, in his "Musical Reminiscences," "were then much larger
and more commodious than they are now, and could contain with ease more
than their allotted subscribers; far different from the miserable
pigeon-holes of the present theatre, into which six persons can scarcely
be squeezed, whom, in most situations, two-thirds can never see the
stage. The front," continues Lord Mount Edgcumbe, "was then occupied by
open public boxes, or _amphitheatre_ (as it is called in French
theatres), communicating with the pit. Both of these were filled,
exclusively, with the highest classes of society; all, without
exception, in full dress, then universally worn. The audiences thus
assembled were considered as indisputably presenting a finer spectacle
than any other theatre in Europe, and absolutely astonished the foreign
performers, to whom such a sight was entirely new. At the end of the
performance, the company of the pit and boxes repaired to the
coffee-room, which was then the best assembly in London; private ones
being rarely given on opera nights; and all the first society was
regularly to be seen there. Over the front box was the five shilling
gallery; then resorted to by respectable persons not in full dress: and
above that an upper gallery, to which the admission was three shillings.
Subsequently the house was encircled with private boxes; yet still the
prices remained the same, and the pit preserved its respectability, and
even grandeur, till the old house was burnt down in 1789."

       *       *       *       *       *

[Sidenote: THE KING'S THEATRE IN 1789.]

When the Opera was rebuilt, the number of representations for the
season, was increased to sixty, and the subscription was at the same
time raised to thirty guineas, so that the admission to a box still did
not exceed the price of a pit ticket. During the second year of
Catalani's engagement, however, when she obtained a larger salary than
had ever been paid to a singer before, the subscription for a whole box
with accommodation for six persons, was raised from one hundred and
eighty to three hundred guineas. This, it will, perhaps, be remembered,
was to some extent a cunning device of Taylor's; at least, it was
considered so at the time by the subscribers, though the expenses of the
theatre had much increased, and the terms on which Catalani was engaged,
were really enormous.[79] Dr. Veron, in his interesting memoirs (to
which, by the way, I may refer all those who desire full particulars
respecting the management of the French Opera during the commencement of
the Meyerbeer period) tells us that, at the end of the continental war,
the price of the _demi-tasse_ in the cafés of Paris was raised from six
to eight _sous_, and that it has never been lowered. So it is in
taxation. An impost once established, unless the people absolutely
refuse to pay it, is never taken off; and so it has been with the boxes
at the London Opera House. The price of the best boxes once raised from
one hundred and eighty to three hundred guineas, was never, to any
considerable extent, diminished, and hence the custom arose of halving
and sub-dividing the subscriptions, so that very few persons have now
the sole ownership of a box. Hence, too, that of letting them for the
night, and selling the tickets when the proprietor does not want them.
This latter practice must have had the effect of lessening considerably
the profits directly resulting from the high sums charged for the boxes.
The price of admission to the pit being ten shillings and six-pence, the
subscribers, through the librarians, and the librarians, who had
themselves speculated in boxes, found it necessary in order to get rid
of the box-tickets singly, to sell them at a reduced price. This
explains why, for many years past, the ordinary price of pit tickets at
the libraries and at shops of all kinds in the vicinity of the Opera,
has been only eight shillings and six-pence. No one but a foreigner or a
countryman, inexperienced in the ways of London, would think of paying
ten shillings and six-pence at the theatre for admission to the pit;
indeed, it is a species of deception to continue that charge at all,
though it certainly does happen once or twice in a great many years that
the public profit by the establishment of a fixed official price for pit
tickets. Thus, during the great popularity of Jenny Lind, the box
tickets giving the right of entry to the pit, were sold for a guinea,
and even thirty shillings, and thousands of persons were imbecile enough
to purchase them, whereas, at the theatre itself, anyone could, as
usual, go into the pit by paying ten shillings and six-pence.

[Sidenote: THE KING'S THEATRE IN 1789.]

"Formerly," to go back to Lord Mount Edgcumbe's interesting remarks on
this subject, "every lady possessing an opera box, considered it as much
her home as her house, and was as sure to be found there, few missing
any of the performances. If prevented from going, the _loan_ of her box
and the gratuitous use of the tickets was a favour always cheerfully
offered and thankfully received, as a matter of course, without any idea
of payment. Then, too, it was a favour to ask gentlemen to belong to a
box, when subscribing to one was actually advantageous. Now, no lady can
propose to them to give her more than double the price of the admission
at the door, so that having paid so exorbitantly, every one is glad to
be re-imbursed a part, at least, of the great expense which she must
often support alone. Boxes and tickets, therefore, are no longer given;
they are let for what can be got; for which traffic the circulating
libraries afford an easy accommodation. Many, too, which are not taken
for the season, are disposed of in the same manner, and are almost put
up to auction. Their price varying from three to eight, or even ten
guineas, according to the performance of the evening, and other
accidental circumstances." From these causes the whole style of the
opera house, as regards the audience, has become changed. "The pit has
long ceased to be the resort of ladies of fashion, and, latterly, by the
innovations introduced, is no longer agreeable to the former male
frequenters of it." This state of things, however, has been altered, if
not remedied, from the opera-goers' point of view, by the introduction
of stalls where the manager compensates himself for the slightly reduced
price of pit tickets, by charging exactly double what was paid for
admission to the pit under the old system.

[Sidenote: OPERA COSTUME IN 1861.]

On the whole, the Opera has become less aristocratic, less respectable,
and far more expensive than of old. Those who, under the ancient system,
paid ten shillings and six-pence to go to the pit, must now, to obtain
the same amount of comfort, give a guinea for a stall, while "most
improper company is sometimes to be seen even in the principal tiers;
and tickets bearing the names of ladies of the highest class have been
presented by those of the lowest, such as used to be admitted only to
the hindmost rows of the gallery." The last remark belongs to Lord Mount
Edgcumbe, but it is, at least, as true now as it was thirty years ago.
Numbers of objectionable persons go to the Opera as to all other public
places, and I do not think it would be fair to the respectable lovers of
music who cannot afford to pay more than a few shillings for their
evening's entertainment, that they should be all collected in the
gallery. It would, moreover, be placing too much power in the hands of
the operatic officials, who already show themselves sufficiently severe
censors in the article of dress. I do not know whether it is chiefly a
disgrace to the English public or to the English system of operatic
management; but it certainly is disgraceful, that a check-taker at a
theatre should be allowed to exercise any supervision, or make the
slightest remark concerning the costume of a gentleman choosing to
attend that theatre, and conforming generally in his conduct and by his
appearance to the usages of decent society. It is not found necessary to
enforce any regulation as to dress at other opera houses, not even in
St. Petersburgh and Moscow, where, as the theatres are directed by the
Imperial Government, one might expect to find a more despotic code of
laws in force than in a country like England. When an Englishman goes to
a morning or evening concert, he does not present himself in the attire
of a scavenger, and there is no reason for supposing that he would
appear in any unbecoming garb, if liberty of dress were permitted to him
at the Opera. The absurdity of the present system is that, whereas, a
gentleman who has come to London only for a day or two, and does not
happen to have a dress-coat in his portmanteau; who happens even to be
dressed in exact accordance with the notions of the operatic
check-takers, except as to his cravat, which we will suppose through the
eccentricity of the wearer, to be black, with the smallest sprig, or
spray, or spot of some colour on it; while such a one would be regarded
as unworthy to enter the pit of the Opera, a waiter from an oyster-shop,
in his inevitable black and white, reeking with the drippings of
shell-fish, and the fumes of bad tobacco, or a drunken undertaker, fresh
from a funeral, coming with the required number of shillings in his
dirty hands, could not be refused admission. If the check-takers are
empowered to inspect and decide as to the propriety of the cut and
colour of clothes, why should they not also be allowed to examine the
texture? On the same principle, too, the cleanliness of opera goers
ought to be enquired into. No one, whose hair is not properly brushed,
should be permitted to enter the stalls, and visitors to the pit should
be compelled to show their nails.

I will conclude this chapter with an extract from an epistle from a
gentleman, who, during Mr. Ebers's management of the King's Theatre, was
a victim to the despotic (and, in the main, unnecessary) regulations of
which I have been speaking. I cannot say I feel any sympathy for this
particular sufferer; but his letter is amusing. "I was dressed," he
says, in his protest forwarded to the manager the next morning, "in a
_superfine blue coat_, with _gold buttons_, a white waistcoat,
fashionable tight drab pantaloons, white silk stockings, and dress
shoes; _all worn but once a few days before at a dress concert at the
Crown and Anchor Tavern_!" The italics, and mark of admiration, are the
property of the gentleman in the superfine blue coat, who next proceeds
to express his natural indignation at the idea of the manager presuming
to "enact sumptuary laws without the intervention of the legislature,"
and threatens him with legal proceedings, and an appeal to British jury.
"I have mixed," he continues, "too much in genteel society, not to know
that black breeches, or pantaloons, with black silk stockings, is a very
prevailing full dress; and why is it so? Because it is convenient and
economical, _for you can wear a pair of white silk stockings but once
without washing, and a pair of black is frequently worn for weeks
without ablution_. P. S. I have no objection to submit an inspection of
my dress of the evening in question to you, or any competent person you
may appoint."

[Sidenote: OPERA COSTUME IN 1861.]

If this gentleman, instead of being excluded, had been admitted into the
theatre, the silent ridicule to which his costume would have exposed
him, would have effectually prevented him from making his appearance
there in any such guise again. It might also have acted as a terrible
warning to others inclined to sin in a similar manner.



[Sidenote: ROSSINI.]

Innovators in art, whether corrupters or improvers, are always sure to
meet with opposition from a certain number of persons who have formed
their tastes in some particular style which has long been a source of
delight to them, and to interfere with which is to shock all their
artistic sympathies. How often have we seen poets of one generation not
ignored, but condemned and vilified by the critics and even by the poets
themselves of the generation preceding it. Musicians seem to suffer even
more than poets from this injustice of those who having contracted a
special and narrow admiration for the works of their own particular
epoch, will see no merit in the productions of any newer school that may
arrive. Byron, Shelley, Keats, Tennyson have one and all been attacked,
and their poetic merit denied by those who in several instances had
given excellent proofs of their ability to appreciate poetry. Almost
every distinguished composer of the last fifty years has met with the
same fate, not always at the hands of the ignorant public, for it is
this ignorant public with its naïve, uncritical admiration, which has
sometimes been the first to do justice to the critic-reviled poets and
composers, but at those of musicians and of educated amateurs.
Ignorance, prejudice, malice, are the causes too often assigned for the
non-appreciation of the artist of to-day by the art-lover, partly of
to-day, but above all of yesterday. It should be remembered however,
that there is a conservatism in taste as in politics, and that both have
their advantages, though the lovers of noise and of revolution may be
unable to see them; that the extension of the suffrage, the excessive
use of imagery, the special cultivation of brilliant orchestral effects,
may, in the eyes of many, really seem injurious to the true interests of
government, poetry and music; finally that as in old age we find men
still keeping more or less to the costumes of their prime, and as the
man who during the best days of his life has habituated himself to drink
port, does not suddenly acquire a taste for claret, or _vice versâ_,--so
those who had accustomed their musical stomachs to the soft strains of
Paisiello and Cimarosa, _could not_ enjoy the sparkling, stimulating
music of Rossini. So afterwards to the Rossinians, Donizetti poured
forth nothing but what was insipid and frivolous; Bellini was languid
and lackadaisical; Meyerbeer with his restlessness and violence, his new
instruments, his drum songs, trumpet songs, fencing and pistol songs,
tinder-box music, skating scenes and panoramic effects, was a noisy
_charlatan_; Verdi, with his abruptness, his occasional vulgarity and
his general melodramatic style, a mere musical Fitzball.

It most not be supposed, however, that I believe in the constant
progress of art; that I look upon Meyerbeer as equal to Weber, or Weber
as superior to Mozart. It is quite certain that Rossini has not been
approached in facility, in richness of invention, in gaiety, in
brilliancy, in constructiveness, or in true dramatic power by any of the
Italian, French, or German theatrical composers who have succeeded him,
though nearly all have imitated him one way or another: I will exclude
Weber alone, an original genius, belonging entirely to Germany[80] and
to himself. It is, at least, quite certain that Rossini is by far the
greatest of the series of Italian composers, which begins with himself
and seems to have ended with Verdi; and yet, while neither Verdi nor
Bellini, nor Donizetti, were at all justly appreciated in this country
when they first made their appearance, Rossini was--not merely sneered
at and pooh-poohed; he was for a long time condemned and abused every
where, and on the production of some of his finest works was hissed and
hooted in the theatres of his native land. But the human heart is not so
black as it is sometimes painted, and the Italian audiences who whistled
and screeched at the _Barber of Seville_ did so chiefly because they did
not like it. It was not the sort of music which had hitherto given them
pleasure, and therefore they were not pleased.


Rossini had already composed several operas for various Italian theatres
(among which may be particularly mentioned _L'Italiana in Algeri_,
written for Venice in 1813, the composer having then just attained his
majority) when the _Barbiere di Siviglia_ was produced at Rome for the
Carnival of 1816. The singers were Vitarelli, Boticelli, Zamboni, Garcia
and Mesdames Giorgi-Righetti, and Rossi. A number of different versions
of the circumstances which attended, preceded, and followed the
representation of this opera, have been published, but the account
furnished by Madame Giorgi-Righetti, who introduced the music of Rossini
to the world, is the one most to be relied upon and which I shall adopt.
I may first of all remind the reader that a very interesting life of
Rossini, written with great _verve_ and spirit, full of acute
observations, but also full of misstatements and errors of all
kinds,[81] has been published by Stendhal, who was more than its
translator, but not its author. Stendhal's "Vie de Rossini" is founded
on a work by the Abbé Carpani. To what extent the ingenious author of
the treatise _De l'Amour_, and of the admirable novel _La Charteuse de
Parme_, is indebted to the Abbé, I cannot say; but if he borrowed from
him his supposed facts, and his opinions as a musician, he owes him all
the worst portion of his book. The brothers Escudier have also published
a "Vie de Rossini," which is chiefly valuable for the list of his
works, and the dates of their production.


To return to the _Barber of Seville_, of which the subject was
librsuggested to Rossini by the author of the _libretto_, Sterbini.
Sterbini proposed to arrange it for music in a new form; Rossini
acquiesced, and the librettists went to work. The report was soon spread
that Rossini was about to reset Paisiello's libretto. For this some
accused Rossini of presumption, while others said that in taking
Paisiello's subject he was behaving meanly and unjustly. This was
absurd, for all Metastasio's lyrical dramas have been set to music by
numbers of composers; but this fact was not likely to be taken into
consideration by Rossini's enemies. Paisiello himself took part in the
intrigues against the young composer, and wrote a letter from Naples,
begging one of his friends at Rome to leave nothing undone that could
contribute to the failure of the second _Barber_. When the night of
representation, at the Argentina Theatre, arrived, Rossini's enemies
were all at their posts, declaring openly what they hoped and intended
should be the fate of the new opera. His friends, on the other hand,
were not nearly so decided, remembering, as they did, the
uncomplimentary manner in which Rossini's _Torvaldo_ had been received
only a short time before. The composer, says Madame Giorgi-Righetti "was
weak enough to allow Garcia to sing beneath Rosina's balcony a Spanish
melody of his own arrangement. Garcia maintained, that as the scene was
in Spain the Spanish melody would give the drama an appropriate local
colour; but, unfortunately, the artist who reasoned so well, and who was
such an excellent singer, forgot to tune his guitar before appearing on
the stage as "Almaviva." He began the operation in the presence of the
public. A string broke. The vocalist proceeded to replace it; but before
he could do so, laughter and hisses were heard from all parts of the
house. The Spanish air, when Garcia was at last ready to sing it, did
not please the Italian audience, and the pit listened to it just enough
to be able to give an ironical imitation of it afterwards.

The introduction to Figaro's air seemed to be liked; but when Zamboni
entered, with another guitar in his hand, a loud laugh was set up, and
not a phrase of _Largo al factotum_ was heard. When Rosina made her
appearance in the balcony, the public were quite prepared to applaud
Madame Giorgi-Righetti in an air which they thought they had a right to
expect from her; but only hearing her utter a phrase which led to
nothing, the expressions of disapprobation recommenced. The duet between
"Almaviva" and "Figaro" was accompanied throughout with hissing and
shouting. The fate of the work seemed now decided.

At length Rosina came on, and sang the _cavatina_ which had so long been
looked for. Madame Giorgi-Righetti was young, had a fresh beautiful
voice, and was a great favourite with the Roman public. Three long
rounds of applause followed the conclusion of her air, and gave some
hope that the opera might yet be saved. Rossini, who was at the
orchestral piano, bowed to the public, then turned towards the singer,
and whispered "_oh natura_!"

This happy moment did not last, and the hisses recommenced with the duet
between Figaro and Rosina. The noise increased, and it was impossible to
hear a note of the finale. When the curtain fell Rossini turned towards
the public, shrugged his shoulders and clapped his hands. The audience
were deeply offended by this openly-expressed contempt for their
opinion, but they made no reply at the time.

The vengeance was reserved for the second act, of which not a note
passed the orchestra. The hubbub was so great, that nothing like it was
ever heard at any theatre. Rossini in the meanwhile remained perfectly
calm, and afterwards went home as composed as if the work, received in
so insulting a manner, had been the production of some other musician.
After changing their clothes, Madame Giorgi-Righetti, Garcia, Zamboni,
and Botticelli, went to his house to console him in his misfortune. They
found him fast asleep.


The next day he wrote the delightful _cavatina, Ecco ridente il cielo_,
to replace Garcia's unfortunate Spanish air. The melody of the new solo
was borrowed from the opening chorus of _Aureliano in Palmira_, written
by Rossini in 1814, for Milan, and produced without success; the said
chorus having itself figured before in the same composer's _Ciro_ in
_Babilonia_, also unfavourably received. Garcia read his _cavatina_ as
it was written, and sang it the same evening. Rossini, having now made
the only alteration he thought necessary, went back to bed, and
pretended to be ill, that he might not have to take his place in the
evening at the piano.

At the second performance, the Romans seemed disposed to listen to the
work of which they had really heard nothing the night before. This was
all that was needed to ensure the opera's triumphant success. Many of
the pieces were applauded; but still no enthusiasm was exhibited. The
music, however, pleased more and more with each succeeding
representation, until at last the climax was reached, and _Il Barbiere_
produced those transports of admiration among the Romans with which it
was afterwards received in every town in Italy, and in due time
throughout Europe. It must be added, that a great many connoisseurs at
Rome were struck from the first moment with the innumerable beauties of
Rossini's score, and went to his house to congratulate him on its
excellence. As for Rossini, he was not at all surprised at the change
which took place in public opinion. He was as certain of the success of
his work the first night, when it was being hooted, as he was a week
afterwards, when every one applauded it to the skies.


In Paris, more than three years afterwards, with Garcia still playing
the part of "Almaviva," and with Madame Ronzi de Begnis as "Rosina,"
_Il Barbiere_ was not much better received than on its first production
at Rome. It was less astonishing that it should fail before an audience
of Parisians (at that time quite unacquainted with Rossini's style) than
before a highly musical public like that of Rome. In each case, the work
of Paisiello was made the excuse for condemning that of Rossini; but
Rossini's _Barber_ was not treated with indignity at the Italian Theatre
of Paris. It was simply listened to very coldly. Every one was saying,
that after Paisiello's opera it was nothing, that the two were not to be
compared, &c., when, fortunately, some one proposed that Paisiello's
_Barber_ should be revived. Paer, the director of the music, and who is
said to have been rendered very uneasy by Rossini's Italian successes,
thought that to crush Rossini by means of his predecessor, was no bad
idea. The St. Petersburgh _Barber_ of 1788 was brought out; but it was
found that he had grown old and feeble; or, rather, the simplicity of
the style was no longer admired, and the artists who had already lost
the traditions of the school, were unable to sing the music with any
effect. Rossini's _Barber_ has now been before the world for nearly half
a century, and we all know whether it is old-fashioned; whether the airs
are tedious; whether the form of the concerted pieces, and of the grand
finale, leaves anything to be desired; whether the instrumentation is
poor; whether, in short, on any one point, any subsequent work of the
same kind even by Rossini himself, has surpassed, equalled, or even
approached it. But the thirty years of Paisiello's Barber bore heavily
upon the poor old man, and he was found sadly wanting in that gaiety and
brilliancy which have given such celebrity to Rossini's hero, and after
which Beaumarchais's sparkling epigrammatic dialogue appears almost
dull.[82] Paisiello's opera was a complete failure. And when Rossini's
_Barbiere_ was brought out again, every one was struck by the contrast.
It profited by the very artifice which was to have destroyed it, and
Rossini's enemies took care for the future not to establish comparisons
between Rossini and Paisiello. Madame Ronzi de Begnis, too, had been
replaced very advantageously by Madame Fodor. With two such admirable
singers as Fodor and Garcia in the parts of "Rosina" and "Almaviva,"
with Pellegrini as "Figaro," and Begnis as "Basil," the success of the
opera increased with each representation: and though certain musical
_quid-nuncs_ continued to shake their heads when Rossini's name was
mentioned in a drawing-room, his reputation with the great body of the
theatrical public was now fully established.

The _tirana_ composed by Garcia _Se il mio nome saper voi bramate_,
which he appears to have abandoned after the unfavourable manner in
which it was received at Rome, was afterwards re-introduced into the
_Barber_ by Rubini.

The whole of the _Barber of Seville_ was composed from beginning to end
in a month. _Ecco ridente il cielo_ (the air adapted from _Aureliano in
Palmira_) was, as already mentioned, added after the first
representation. The overture, moreover, had been previously written for
_Aureliano in Palmira_, and (after the failure of that work) had been
prefixed to _Elizabetta regina d'Inghilterra_ which met with some
success, thanks to the admirable singing of Mademoiselle Colbran, in the
principal character.

       *       *       *       *       *

Rossini took his failures very easily, and with the calm confidence of a
man who knew he could do better things and that the public would
appreciate them. When his _Sigismondo_ was violently hissed at Venice he
sent a letter to his mother with a picture of a large _fiasco_,
(bottle). His _Torvaldo e Dorliska_, which was brought out soon
afterwards, was also hissed, but not so much.


This time Rossini sent his mother a picture of a _fiaschetto_ (little

       *       *       *       *       *

The motive of the _allegro_ in the trio of the last act of (to return
for a moment to) the _Barber of Seville_, is, as most of my readers are
probably aware, simply an arrangement of the bass air sung by "Simon,"
in _Haydn's Seasons_. The comic air, sung by "Berta," the duenna, is a
Russian dance tune, which was very fashionable in Rome, in 1816. Rossini
is said to have introduced it into the _Barber of Seville_, out of
compliment to some Russian lady.

       *       *       *       *       *

Rossini's first opera _la Pietra del Paragone_, was written when he was
seventeen years of age, for the Scala at Milan, where it was produced in
the autumn of 1812. He introduced the best pieces out of this work into
the _Cenerentola_, which was brought out five years afterwards at Rome.
Besides _la Pietra del Paragone_, he laid _il Turco in Italia_, and _la
Gazzetta_ under contribution to enrich the score of _Cinderella_. The
air _Miei rampolli_, the duet _un Soave non so chè_, the drinking chorus
and the burlesque proclamation of the baron belonged originally to _la
Pietra del Paragone_; the _sestett_, the _stretta_ of the finale, the
duet _zitto, zitto_, to the _Turco in Italia_, (produced at Milan in
1814), _Miei rampolli_ had also been inserted in _la Gazzetta_.

The principal female part in the _Cenerentola_, though written for a
contralto, has generally, (like those of Rosina and Isabella, and also
written for contraltos), been sung by sopranos, such as Madame Fodor,
Madame Cinti, Madame Sontag, &c. When sung by Mademoiselle Alboni, these
parts are executed in every respect in conformity with the composer's

       *       *       *       *       *


Rossini's first serious opera, or at least the first of those by which
his name became known throughout Europe, was _Tancredi_, written for
Venice in 1813, the year after _la Pietra del Paragone_. In this opera,
we find indicated, if not fully carried out, all those admirable changes
in the composition of the lyric drama which were imputed to him by his
adversaries as so many artistic crimes. Lord Mount Edgcumbe, in his
objections to Rossini's music, strange and almost inexplicable as they
appear, yet only says in somewhat different language what is advanced by
Rossini's admirers, in proof of his great merit. The connoisseur of a
past epoch describes the changes introduced by Rossini into dramatic
music, for an enemy, fairly enough; only he regards as detestable
innovations what others have accepted as admirable reforms. It appeared
to Rossini that the number of airs written for the so-called lyric
dramas of his youth, delayed the action to a most wearisome extent. In
_Tancredi_, concerted pieces in which the dramatic action is kept up,
are introduced in situations where formerly there would have been only
monologues. In _Tancredi_ the bass has little to do, but more than in
the operas of the old-school, where he was kept quite in the back
ground, the _ultima parte_ being seldom heard except in _ensembles_. By
degrees the bass was brought forward, until at last he became an
indispensable and frequently the principal character in all tragic
operas. In the old opera the number of characters was limited and
choruses were seldom introduced. Think, then, how an amateur of the
simple, quiet old school must have been shocked by a thoroughly
Rossinian opera, such as _Semiramide_, with its brilliant, sonorous
instrumentation, its prominent part for the bass or baritone, its long
elaborate finale, and above all its military band on the stage! Mozart
had already anticipated every resource that has since been adopted by
Rossini, but to Rossini belongs, nevertheless, the merit of having
brought the lyric drama to perfection on the Italian stage, and forty
and even thirty years ago it was to Rossini that its supposed
degradation was attributed.

"So great a change," says Lord Mount Edgcumbe, "has taken place in the
character of the (operatic) dramas, in the style of the music and its
performance, that I cannot help enlarging on that subject before I
proceed further. One of the most material alterations is, that the grand
distinction between serious and comic operas is nearly at an end, the
separation of the singers for their performance, entirely so.[83] Not
only do the same sing in both, but a new species of drama has arisen, a
kind of mongrel between them called _semi seria_, which bears the same
analogy to the other two that that nondescript melodrama does to the
legitimate tragedy and comedy of the English stage."

And of which style specimens may be found in Shakespeare's plays and in
Mozart's _Don Giovanni_! The union of the serious and the comic in the
same lyric work was an innovation of Mozart's, like almost all the
innovations attributed by Lord Mount Edgcumbe to Rossini. Indeed, nearly
all the operatic reforms of the last three-quarters of a century that
have endured, have had Mozart for their originator.


"The construction of these newly invented pieces," continues Lord Mount
Edgcumbe, "is essentially different from the old. The dialogue which
used to be carried on in recitative, and which in Metastasio's operas,
is often so beautiful and interesting, is now cut up (and rendered
unintelligible, if it were worth listening to), into _pezzi concertati_,
or long singing conversations, which present a tedious succession of
unconnected, ever-changing motivos, having nothing to do with each
other: and if a satisfactory air is for a moment introduced, which the
ear would like to dwell upon, to hear modulated, varied and again
returned to, it is broken off before it is well understood, by a sudden
transition into a totally different melody, time and key, and recurs no
more; so that no impression can be made or recollection of it preserved.
Single songs are almost exploded ... even the _prima donna_ who would
formerly have complained at having less than three or four airs allotted
to her, is now satisfied with one trifling _cavatina_ for a whole

       *       *       *       *       *

Lord Mount Edgcumbe has hitherto given a tolerably true account of the
reforms introduced by Rossini into the operatic music of Italy; only,
instead of calling Rossini's concerted pieces and finales, "a tedious
succession of unconnected, ever-changing motivos," he ought to describe
them as highly interesting, well connected and eminently dramatic. He
goes on to condemn Rossini for his new distribution of characters, and
especially for his employment of bass voices in chief parts "to the
manifest injury of melody and total subversion of harmony, in which the
lowest part is their peculiar province." Here, however, it occurs to
Lord Mount Edgcumbe, and he thereupon expresses his surprise, "that the
principal characters in two of Mozart's operas should have been written
for basses."

       *       *       *       *       *

When the above curious, and in its way valuable, strictures on Rossini's
music were penned, not only _Tancredi_, but also _Il Barbiere_,
_Otello_, _La Cenerentola_, _Mosè in Egitto_, _La Gazza Ladra_, and
other of his works had been produced. _Il Barbiere_ succeeded at once
in England, and Lord Mount Edgcumbe tells us that for many years after
the first introduction of Rossini's works into England "so entirely did
he engross the stage, that the operas of no other master were ever to be
heard, with the exception of those of Mozart; and of his only _Don
Giovanni_ and _le Nozze di Figaro_ were often repeated.... Every other
composer, past and present, was totally put aside, and these two alone
named or thought of." Rossini, then, if wrongly applauded, was at least
applauded in good company. It appears from Mr. Ebers's "Seven years of
the King's Theatre," that of all the operas produced from 1821 to 1828,
nearly half were Rossini's, or in exact numbers fourteen out of
thirty-four, but it must be remembered that the majority of these were
constantly repeated, whereas most of the others were brought out only
for a few nights and then laid aside. During the period in question the
composer whose works, next to Rossini, were most often represented, was
Mozart with _Don Giovanni_, _Le Nozze_, _La Clemenza di Tito_, and _Cosi
fan Tutti_. The other operas included in the repertoire were by Paer,
Mayer, Zingarelli, Spontini, (_la Vestale_), Mercadante, Meyerbeer, (_Il
Crociato in Egitto_) &c.

       *       *       *       *       *

[Sidenote: TANCREDI.]

Our consideration of the causes of Rossini's success, and want of
success, has led us far away from the first representation of _Tancredi_
at the theatre of La Fenice. Its success was so great, that each of its
melodies became for the Venetians a second "Carnival of Venice;" and
even in the law courts, the judges are said to have been obliged to
direct the ushers to stop the singing of _Di tanti palpiti_, and _Mi
rivedrai te rivedrò_.

"I thought after hearing my opera, that the Venetians would think me
mad," said Rossini. "Not at all; I found they were much madder than I
was." _Tancredi_ was followed by _Aureliano_, produced at Milan in 1814,
and, as has already been mentioned, without success. The introduction,
however, containing the chorus from which Almaviva's _cavatina_ was
adapted, is said to have been one of Rossini's finest pieces. _Otello_,
the second of Rossini's important serious operas, was produced in 1816
at Naples (Del Fondo Theatre). The principal female part, as in the
now-forgotten _Elizabetta_, and as in a great number of subsequent
works, was written for Mademoiselle Colbran. The other parts were
sustained by Benedetti, Nozzari, and the celebrated Davide.

       *       *       *       *       *

In _Otello_, Rossini continued the reforms which he had commenced in
_Tancredi_. He made each dramatic scene one continued piece of music,
used recitative but sparingly, and when he employed it, accompanied it
for the first time in Italy, with the full band. The piano was now
banished from the orchestra, forty-two years after it had been banished
by Gluck from the orchestras of France.

Davide, in the part of Otello," created the greatest enthusiasm. The
following account of his performance is given by a French critic, M.
Edouard Bertin, in a letter from Venice, dated 1823:--

[Sidenote: OTELLO.]

"Davide excites among the _dilettanti_ of this town an enthusiasm and
delight which could scarcely be conceived without having been witnessed.
He is a singer of the new school, full of mannerism, affectation, and
display, abusing, like Martin, his magnificent voice with its prodigious
compass (three octaves comprised between four B flats). He crushes the
principal motive of an air beneath the luxuriance of his ornamentation,
and which has no other merit than that of difficulty conquered. But he
is also a singer full of warmth, _verve_, expression, energy, and
musical sentiment; alone he can fill up and give life to a scene; it is
impossible for another singer to carry away an audience as he does, and
when he will only be simple, he is admirable; he is the Rossini of song.
He is a great singer; the greatest I ever heard. Doubtless, the manner
in which Garcia plays and sings the part of "Otello" is preferable,
taking it altogether, to that of Davide. It is purer, more severe, more
constantly dramatic; but with all his faults Davide produces more
effect, a great deal more effect. There is something in him, I cannot
say what, which, even when he is ridiculous, commands, enhances
attention. He never leaves you cold; and when he does not move you, he
astonishes you; in a word, before hearing him, I did not know what the
power of singing really was. The enthusiasm he excites is without
limits. In fact, his faults are not faults for Italians, who in their
_opera seria_ do not employ what the French call the tragic style, and
who scarcely understand us, when we tell them that a waltz or quadrille
movement is out of place in the mouth of a Cæsar, an Assur, or an
Otello. With them the essential thing is to please: they are only
difficult on this point, and their indifference as to all the rest is
really inconceivable: here is an example of it. Davide, considering
apparently that the final duet of _Otello_ did not sufficiently show off
his voice, determined to substitute for it a duet from _Armida_ (Amor
possente nome), which is very pretty, but anything rather than severe.
As it was impossible to kill Desdemona to such a tune, the Moor, after
giving way to the most violent jealousy, sheathes his dagger, and begins
in the most tender and graceful manner his duet with Desdemona, at the
conclusion of which he takes her politely by the hand, and retires,
amidst the applause and bravos of the public, who seem to think it quite
natural that the piece should finish in this manner, or, rather, that it
should not finish at all: for after this beautiful _dénouement_, the
action is about as far advanced as it was in the first scene. We do not
in France carry our love of music so far as to tolerate such absurdities
as these, and perhaps we are right."

Lord Byron saw _Otello_ at Venice, soon after its first production. He
speaks of it in one of his letters, dated 1818, in which he condemns
the libretto, but expresses his admiration of the music.

_La Gazza Ladra_ was written for Milan, and brought out at the theatre
of "La Scala," in 1817. Four years afterwards it was produced in London
in the spring, and Paris in the autumn. The part of "Ninetta,"
afterwards so favourite a character with Sontag, Malibran, and Grisi,
was sung in 1821 by Madame Camporese in London, by Madame Fodor in
Paris. Camporese's performance was of the greatest merit, and highly
successful. Fodor's is said to have been perfection. The part of
"Pippo," originally written for a contralto, used at one time to be sung
at the English and French theatres by a baritone or bass. It was not
until some years after _La Gazza Ladra_ was produced, that a contralto
(except for first parts), was considered an indispensable member of an
opera company.

Madame Fodor was not an Italian, but a Russian. She was married to a
Frenchman, M. Mainvielle, and, before visiting Italy, and, until her
_début_, had studied chiefly in Paris. Her Italian tour is said to have
greatly improved her style, which, when she first appeared in London, in
1816, left much to be desired. Camporese was of good birth, and was
married to a member of the Guistiniani family. She cultivated singing in
the first instance only as an accomplishment; but was obliged by
circumstances to make it her profession. In Italy she sang only at
concerts, and it was not until her arrival in England that she appeared
on the stage. She seems to have possessed very varied powers; appearing
at one time as "Zerlina" to Ronzi's "Donna Anna;" at another, as "Donna
Anna," to Fodor's "Zerlina."

[Sidenote: LA GAZZA LADRA.]

_La Gazza Ladra_ is known to be founded on a French melo-drama, _La Pie
Voleuse_, of which the capabilities for operatic "setting," were first
discovered by Paer. Paer had seen Mademoiselle Jenny Vertpré in _La Pie
Voleuse_. He bought the play, and sent it to his librettist in ordinary
at Milan, with marginal notes, showing how it ought to be divided for
musical purposes. The opera book intended by Paer for himself was
offered to Rossini, and by him was made the groundwork of one of his
most brilliant productions.

_La Gazza Ladra_ marks another step in Rossini's progress as a composer,
and accordingly we find Lord Mount Edgcumbe saying, soon after its
production in England:--"Of all the operas of Rossini that have been
performed here, that of _la Gazza Ladra_ is most peculiarly liable to
all the objections I have made to the new style of drama, of which it is
the most striking example." The only opera of Rossini's which Lord Mount
Edgcumbe seems really to have liked was _Aureliano in Palmira_, written
in the composer's earliest style, and which failed.

"Its finales," (Lord Mount Edgcumbe is speaking of _La Gazza Ladra_)
"and many of its very numerous _pezzi concertati_, are uncommonly loud,
and the lavish use made of the noisy instruments, appears, to my
judgment, singularly inappropriate to the subject; which, though it
might have been rendered touching, is far from calling for such warlike
accompaniments. Nothing can be more absurd than the manner in which this
simple story is represented in the Italian piece, or than to be a young
peasant servant girl, led to trial and execution, under a guard of
soldiers, with military music." The quintett of _La Gazza Ladra_, is,
indeed, open to a few objections from a dramatic point of view.
"Ninetta" is afraid of compromising her father; but "Fernando" has
already given himself up to the authorities, in order to save his
daughter--in whose defence he does not say a word. An explanation seems
necessary, but then the drama would be at an end. There would be no
quintett, and we should lose one of Rossini's finest pieces. Would it be
worth while to destroy this quintett, in order to make the opera end
like the French melo-drama, and as the French operatic version of _La
Gazza Ladra_ also terminates?

I have already spoken of _La Cenerentola_, produced in 1817 at Rome.
This admirable work has of late years been much neglected. The last time
it was heard in England at Her Majesty's Theatre, Madame Alboni played
the principal part, and excited the greatest enthusiasm by her execution
of the final air, _Non piu mesta_ (the model of so many solos for the
_prima donna_, introduced with or without reason, at the end of
subsequent operas); but the cast was a very imperfect one, and the
performance on the whole (as usual, of late years, at this theatre)
very unsatisfactory.

[Sidenote: MOSE IN EGITTO.]

_Mosè in Egitto_ was produced at the San Carlo[84] Theatre, at Naples,
in 1818; the principal female part being written again for Mademoiselle
Colbran. In this work, two leading parts, those of "Faraoni" and "Mosè,"
were assigned to basses. The once proscribed, or, at least contemned
basso, was, for the first time brought forward, and honoured with full
recognition in an Italian _opera seria_. The story of the Red Sea, and
of the chorus sung on its banks, has often been told; but I will repeat
it in a few words, for the benefit of those readers who may not have met
with it before. The Passage of the Red Sea was intended to be
particularly grand; but, instead of producing the effect anticipated, it
was received every night with laughter. The two first acts were always
applauded; but the Red Sea was a decided obstacle to the success of the
third. Tottola, the librettist, came to Rossini one morning, with a
prayer for the Israelites, which he fancied, if the composer would set
it to music, might save the conclusion of the opera. Rossini, who was in
bed at the time, saw at once the importance of the suggestion, wrote on
the spur of the moment, and in a few minutes, the magnificent _Del tuo
stellato soglio_. It was performed the same evening, and excited
transports of admiration. The scene of the Red Sea, instead of being
looked forward to as a source of hilarity, became now the chief
"attraction" of the opera. The performance of the prayer produced a sort
of frenzy among the audience, and a certain Neapolitan doctor, whose
name has not transpired, told either Stendhal or the Abbé Carpani (on
whose _Letters_, as before mentioned, Beyle's "Vie de Rossini par
Stendhal" is founded), that the number of nervous indispositions among
the ladies of Naples was increased in a remarkable manner by the change
of key, from the minor to the major, in the last verse.

_Mosè_ was brought out in London, as an oratorio, in the beginning of
1822. Probably, dramatic action was absolutely necessary for its
success; at all events, it failed as an oratorio. The same year it was
produced as an opera at the King's Theatre; but with a complete
transformation in the libretto, and under the title of _Pietro
l'Eremita_. The opera attracted throughout the season, and no work of
Rossini's was ever more successful on its first production in this
country. The subscribers to the King's Theatre were in ecstacies with
it, and one of the most distinguished supporters of the theatre, after
assuring the manager that he deserved well of this country, offered to
testify his gratitude by proposing him at White's!

[Sidenote: MOSE IN EGITTO.]

In the autumn of the same year _Mosè_ was produced at the Italian Opera
of Paris, and in 1827, a French version of it was brought out at the
Académie. The Red Sea appears to have been a source of trouble
everywhere. At the Académie, forty-five thousand francs were sunk in it,
and to so little effect, or rather with such bad effect, that the
machinists' and decorators' waves had to be suppressed after the first
evening. In London the Red Sea became merely a river. The river,
however, failed quite as egregiously as the larger body of water, and
had to be drained off before the second performance took place.

_Mosè_ is quite long enough and sufficiently complete in its original
form. Several pieces, however, out of other operas, by Rossini, were
added to it in the London version of the work. In Paris, in accordance
with the absurd custom (if it be not even a law) at the Académie, _Mosè_
could not be represented without the introduction of a ballet. The
necessary dance music was taken from _Ciro in Babilonia_ and _Armida_,
and the opera was further strengthened as it was thought (weakened as it
turned out), by the introduction of a new air for Mademoiselle Cinti,
and several new choruses.

The _Mosè_ of the Académie, with its four acts of music (one more than
the original opera) was found far too long. It was admired, and for a
little while applauded; but when it had once wearied the public, it was
in vain that the directors reduced its dimensions. It became smaller and
smaller, until it at last disappeared.

_Zelmira_, written originally for Vienna, and which is said to have
contained Madame Colbran Rossini's best part, was produced at Naples in
1822. The composer and his favourite _prima donna_ were married in the
spring of the same year at Castelnaso, near Bologna.

"The recitatives of _Zelmira_" says Carpani, in his _Le Rossinane ossia
lettere musico-teatrali_, "are the best and most dramatic that the
Italian school has produced; their eloquence is equal to that of the
most beautiful airs, and the spectator, equally charmed and surprised,
listens to them from one end to the other. These recitatives are
sustained by the orchestra; _Otello_, _Mosè in Egitto_, are written
after the same system, but I will not attribute to Rossini the honour of
a discovery which belongs to our neighbours. Although the French Opera
is still barbarous from a vocal point of view, there are some points
about it which may be advantageously borrowed. The introduction of
accompanied recitative is of the greatest importance for our _opera
seria_, which, in the hands of the Mayers, Paers, the Rossinis, has at
last become dramatic."

_Zelmira_ was brought out in London in 1824, under the direction of
Rossini himself, and with Madame Colbran Rossini in the principal part.
The reception of the composer, when he made his appearance in the
orchestra, was most enthusiastic, and at the end of the opera, he was
called on to the stage, which, in England, was, then, quite a novel


At the same time, all possible attention was paid to Rossini, in
private, by the most distinguished persons in the country. He was
invited by George IV. to the Pavilion at Brighton, and the King gave
orders that when his guest entered the music room, his private band
should play the overture to the _Barber of Seville_. The overture being
concluded, his Majesty asked Rossini what piece he would like to hear
next. The composer named _God save the King_.

The music of _Zelmira_ was greatly admired by connoisseurs, but made no
impression on the public, and though Madame Colbran-Rossini's
performance is said to have been admirable, it must be remembered that
she had already passed the zenith of her powers. Born in Madrid, in
1785, she appears to have retired from the stage, as far as Italy was
concerned, in 1823, after the production of _Semiramide_. At least, I
find no account of her having sung anywhere after the season of 1824, in
London, though her name appears in the list of the celebrated company
assembled the same year by Barbaja, at Vienna. Mademoiselle Colbran
figures among the sopranos with Mesdames Mainvielle-Fodor, Féron, Esther
Mombelli,[85] Dardanelli, Sontag, Unger, Giuditta, Grisi, and Grimbaun.
The contraltos of this unrivalled _troupe_ were Mesdames
Cesare-Cantarelli and Eckerlin; the tenors, Davide, Nozzari, Donzelli,
Rubini, and Cicimarra; the basses, Lablache, Bassi, Ambroggi,
Tamburini, and Bolticelli. Rossini had undertaken to write an opera
entitled _Ugo rè d'Italia_, for the King's Theatre. The engagement had
been made at the beginning of the season, in January, and the work was
repeatedly announced for performance, when, at the end of May, it was
said to be only half finished. He had, at this time, quarrelled with the
management, and accepted the post of director at the Italian Opera of
Paris. The end of _Ugo rè d'Italia_ is said by Mr. Ebers to have been,
that the score, as far as it was written, was deposited with Messrs.
Ransom, the bankers. Messrs. Ransom, however, have informed me, that
they never had a score of Rossini's in their possession.

       *       *       *       *       *

After Rossini's departure from London, his _Semiramide_, produced at
Venice only the year before, was brought out with Madame Pasta, in the
principal character. The part of "Semiramide" had been played at the
_Fenice_ Theatre, by Madame Colbran; it was the last Rossini wrote for
his wife, and _Semiramide_ was the last opera he composed for Italy.
When we meet with Rossini again, it will be at the Académie Royale of
Paris, as the composer of _the Siege of Corinth_, _Count Ory_, and
_William Tell_.


The first great representative of "Semiramide" was Pasta, who has
probably never been surpassed in that character. After performing it
with admirable success in London, she resumed in it the year afterwards,
1825, at the Italian Opera of Paris. Madame Pasta had already gained
great celebrity by her representation of "Tancredi" and of "Romeo," but
in _Semiramide_, she seems, for the first time, to have exhibited her
genius in all its fulness.[86]

The original "Arsace" was Madame Mariani, the first great "Arsace,"
Madame Pisaroni.

Since the first production of _Semiramide_, thirty years ago, all the
most distinguished sopranos and contraltos of the day have loved to
appear in that admirable work.

Among the "Semiramides," I may mention in particular Pasta, Grisi,
Viardot-Garcia, and Cruvelli. Although not usually given to singers who
particularly excel in the execution of light delicate music, the part of
"Semiramide" was also sung with success by Madame Sontag (Paris, 1829),
and Madame Bosio (St. Petersburgh, 1855).

Among the "Arsaces," may be cited Pisaroni, Brambilla, and Alboni.

Malibran, with her versatile comprehensive genius, appeared both as
"Arsace" and as "Semiramide," and was equally fortunate in each of these
very different impersonations.

I will now say a few words respecting those of the singers just named,
whose names are more especially associated with Rossini's earliest
successes in England.

Madame Pasta having appeared in Paris with success in 1816, was engaged
with her husband, Signor Pasta (an unsuccessful tenor), for the
following season at the King's Theatre. She made no great impression
that year, and was quite eclipsed by Fodor and Camporese, who were
members of the same company. The young singer, not discouraged, but
convinced that she had much to learn, returned to Italy, where she
studied unremittingly for four years. She reappeared at the Italian
Opera of Paris in 1821, as "Desdemona," in Rossini's _Otello_, then for
the first time produced in France. Her success was complete, but her
performance does not appear to have excited that enthusiasm which was
afterwards caused by her representation of "Medea," in Mayer's opera of
that name. In _Medea_, however, Pasta was everything; in _Otello_, she
had to share her triumph with Garcia, Bordogni, and Levasseur. From this
time, the new tragic vocalist gained constantly in public estimation.
_Medea_ was laid aside; but Pasta gained fresh applause in every new
part she undertook, and especially in _Tancredi_ and _Semiramide_.

[Sidenote: PASTA.]

Pasta made her second appearance at the King's Theatre in 1824, in the
character of "Desdemona." Her performance, from a histrionic as well as
from a vocal point of view, was most admirable; and the habitués could
scarcely persuade themselves that this was the singer who had come
before them four years previously, and had gone away without leaving a
regret behind. When Rossini's last Italian opera was produced, the same
season, the character of "Semiramide" was assigned to Madame Pasta, who
now sang it for the first time. She had already represented the part of
"Tancredi," and her three great Rossinian impersonations raised her
reputation to the highest point. In London, Madame Pasta did not appear
as "Medea" until 1826, when she already enjoyed the greatest celebrity.
It was found at the King's Theatre, as at the Italian Opera of Paris,
that Mayer's simple and frequently insipid music was not tolerable,
after the brilliant dramatic compositions of Rossini; but Pasta's
delineation of "Medea's" thirst for vengeance and despair, is said to
have been sublime.

A story is told of a distinguished critic persuading himself, that with
such a power of pourtraying "Medea's" emotions, Madame Pasta must
possess "Medea's" features; but for some such natural conformity he
seems to have thought it impossible that she could at once, by
intuition, enter profoundly and sympathetically into all "Medea's"
inmost feelings. Much might be said in favour of the critic's theory; it
is unnecessary to say a word in favour of a performance by which such a
theory could be suggested. We are told, that the believer in the
personal resemblance between Pasta and "Medea" was sent a journey of
seventy miles to see a visionary portrait of "Medea," recovered from the
ruins of Herculaneum. To rush off on such a journey with such an object,
may not have been very reasonable; to cause the journey to be
undertaken, was perfectly silly. Probably, it was a joke of our friend

       *       *       *       *       *

[Sidenote: PISARONI.]

Madame Pisaroni made her début in Italy in the year 1811, when she was
eighteen years of age. She at first came out as a soprano, but two years
afterwards, a severe illness having changed the nature of her voice, she
appeared in all the most celebrated parts, written for the musicos or
sopranists, who were now beginning to die out, and to be replaced by
ladies with contralto voices. Madame Pisaroni was not only not
beautiful, she was hideously ugly; I have seen her portrait, and am not
exaggerating. Lord Mount Edgcumbe tells us, that another favourite
contralto of the day Mariani (Rossini's original Arsace) was Pisaroni's
rival "in voice, singing, and ugliness;" adding, that "in the two first
qualities, she was certainly her inferior; though in the last it was
difficult to know to which the preference should be given." But the
anti-pathetic, revolting, almost insulting features of the great
contralto, were forgotten as soon as she began to sing. As the hideous
Wilkes boasted that he was "only a quarter of an hour behind the
handsomest man in Europe," so Madame Pisaroni might have said, that she
had only to deliver one phrase of music to place herself on a level with
the most personally prepossessing vocalist of the day. This
extraordinary singer on gaining a contralto, did not lose her original
soprano voice. After her illness, she is said to have possessed three
octaves (between four C's), but her best notes were now in the contralto
register. In airs, in concerted pieces, in recitative, she was equally
admirable. To sustain a high note, and then dazzle the audience with a
rapid descending scale of two octaves, was for her an easy means of
triumph. Altogether, her execution seems never to have been surpassed.
After making her début in Paris as "Arsace," Madame Pisaroni resumed
that part in 1829, under great difficulties. The frightfully ugly
"Arsace" had to appear side by side with a charmingly pretty
"Semiramide,"--the soprano part of the opera being taken by Mademoiselle
Sontag. But in the hour of danger the poor contralto was saved by her
thoroughly beautiful singing, and Pisaroni and Sontag, who as a vocalist
also left nothing to desire, were equally applauded. In London, Pisaroni
appears to have confined herself intentionally to the representation of
male characters, appearing as "Arsace," "Malcolm," in _La Donna del
Lago_, and "Tancredi;" but in Paris she played the principal female part
in _L'Italiana in Algeri_, and what is more, played it with wonderful

       *       *       *       *       *

The great part of "Arsace" was also that in which Mademoiselle Brambilla
made her début in England in the year 1827. Brambilla, who was a pupil
of the conservatory of Milan, had never appeared on any stage; but
though her acting is said to have been indifferent, her lovely voice,
her already excellent style, her youth and her great beauty, ensured
her success.

"She has the finest eyes, the sweetest voice, and the best disposition
in the world," said a certain cardinal of the youthful Brambilla, "if
she is discovered to possess any other merits, the safety of the
Catholic Church will require her excommunication." After singing in
London several years, and revisiting Italy, Brambilla was engaged in
Paris, where she again chose the part of "Arsace," for her début.

Many of our readers will probably remember that "Arsace" was also the
character in which Mademoiselle Alboni made her first appearance in
England, and on this side of the Alps. Until the opening night of the
Royal Italian Opera, 1847, the English public had never heard of
Mademoiselle Alboni; but she had only to sing the first phrase of her
part, to call forth unanimous applause, and before the evening was at an
end, she had quite established herself in the position which she has
ever since held.

[Sidenote: SONTAG.]

Sontag and Malibran both made their first appearance in England as
"Rosina," in the _Barber of Seville_. Several points of similarity might
be pointed out between the romantic careers of these two wonderfully
successful and wonderfully unfortunate vocalists. Mademoiselle Garcia
first appeared on the stage at Naples, when she was eight years old.
Mademoiselle Sontag was in her sixth year when she came out at
Frankfort. Each spent her childhood and youth in singing and acting, and
each, after obtaining a full measure of success, made an apparently
brilliant marriage, and was thought to have quitted the stage. Both,
however, re-appeared, one after a very short interval, the other, after
a retirement of something like twenty years. The position of
Mademoiselle Garcia's husband, M. Malibran, was as nothing, compared to
that of Count Rossi, who married Mademoiselle Sontag; the former was a
French merchant, established (not very firmly, as it afterwards
appeared) at New York; the latter was the Sardinian Ambassador at the
court of Vienna; but on the other hand, the Countess Rossi's end was far
more tragic, or rather more miserable and horrible than that of Madame
Malibran, itself sufficiently painful and heart-rending.

Though Rosina appears to have been one of Mademoiselle Sontag's best, if
not absolutely her best part, she also appeared to great advantage
during her brief career in London and Paris, in two other Rossinian
characters, "Desdemona" and "Semiramide." In her own country she was
known as one of the most admirable representatives of "Agatha," in _Der
Freischütz_, and she sang "Agatha's" great _scena_ frequently, and
always with immense success, at concerts, in London. She also appeared
as "Donna Anna," in _Don Giovanni_, (from the pleasing, graceful
character of her talent, one would have fancied the part of "Zerlina"
better suited to her), but in Italian opera all her triumphs were gained
in the works of Rossini.

[Sidenote: MALIBRAN.]

When Marietta Garcia made her début in London, in the _Barber of
Seville_, she was, seriously, only just beginning her career, and was at
that time but seventeen years of age. She appeared the same year in
Paris, as the heroine in _Torvaldo e Dorliska_ (Rossini's
"_fiaschetto_," now quite forgotten) and was then taken by her father on
that disastrous American tour which ended with her marriage. Having
crossed the Atlantic, Garcia converted his family into a complete opera
company, of which he himself was the tenor and the excellent musical
director (if there had only been a little more to direct). The daughter
was the _prima donna_, the mother had to content herself with secondary
parts, the son officiated as baritone and bass. In America, under a good
master, but with strange subordinates, and a wretched _entourage_,
Mademoiselle Garcia accustomed herself to represent operatic characters
of every kind. One evening, when an uncultivated American orchestra was
massacring Mozart's master-piece, Garcia, the "Don Giovanni" of the
evening, became so indignant that he rushed, sword in hand, to the foot
lights, and compelled the musicians to re-commence the finale to the
first act, which they executed the second time with care, if not with
skill. This was a severe school in which poor Marietta was being formed;
but without it we should probably never have heard of her appearing one
night as "Desdemona" or as "Arsace," the next as "Otello," or as
"Semiramide;" nor of her gaining fresh laurels with equal certainty in
the _Sonnambula_

and in _Norma_. But we have at present only to do with that period of
operatic history, during which, Rossini's supremacy on the Italian stage
was unquestioned. Towards 1830, we find two new composers appearing,
who, if they, to some extent, displaced their great predecessor, at the
same time followed in his steps. For some dozen years, Rossini had been
the sole support, indeed, the very life of Italian opera. Naturally, his
works were not without their fruit, and a great part of Donizetti's and
Bellini's music may be said to belong to Rossini, inasmuch as Rossini
was clearly Donizetti's and Bellini's progenitor.



The History of the Opera, under the Consulate and the Empire, is perhaps
more remarkable in connexion with political than with musical events.
Few persons at present know much of Spontini's operas, though _la
Vestale_ in its day was celebrated in Paris, London and especially in
Berlin; nor of Cherubini's, though the overtures to _Anacreon_ and _les
Abencerrages_ are still heard from time to time at "classical" concerts;
but every one remembers the plot to assassinate the First Consul which
was to have been put into execution at the Opera, and the plot to
destroy the Emperor, the Empress and all their retinue, which was to
take effect just outside its doors. Then there is the appearance of the
Emperor at the Opera, after his hasty arrival in Paris from Moscow, on
the very night before his return to meet the Russians with the allies
who had now joined them, at Bautzen and Lutzen--the same night by the
way on which _les Abencerrages_ was produced, with no great success.
Then again there is the evening of the 29th of March, 1814, when
_Iphigénie en Aulide_ was performed to an accompaniment of cannon which
the Piccinnists, if they could only have heard it, would have declared
very appropriate to Gluck's music; that of the 1st of April, when by
desire, of the Russian emperor and the Prussian king, _la Vestale_ was
represented; and finally that of the 17th of May, 1814, when _Œdipe à
Colone_ was played before Louis XVIII., who had that morning made his
triumphal entry into Paris.


       *       *       *       *       *

On the 10th of October, 1800, a band of republicans had sworn to
assassinate the First Consul at the Opera. A new work was to be produced
that evening composed by Porta to a libretto founded on Corneille's
tragedy of _les Horaces_. The most striking scene in the piece, that in
which the Horatii swear to conquer or perish, was to be the signal for
action; all the lights were to be put out at the same moment, fireworks
and grenades were to be thrown into the boxes, the pit and on to the
stage; cries of "fire" and "murder" were to be raised from all parts of
the house, and in the midst of the general confusion the First Consul
was to be assassinated in his box. The leaders of the plot, to make
certain of their cue, had contrived to be present at the rehearsal of
the new opera, and everything was prepared for the next evening and the
post of each conspirator duly assigned to him, when one of the number,
conscience smitten and unable to sleep during the night of the 9th,
went at daybreak the next morning to the Prefect of Police and informed
him of all the details of the plot.

The conspiracy said Bonaparte, some twenty years afterwards at St.
Helena, "was revealed by a captain in the line.[87] What limit is
there," he added, "to the combinations of folly and stupidity! This
officer had a horror of me as Consul but adored me as general. He was
anxious that I should be torn from my post, but he would have been very
sorry that my life should be taken. I ought to be made prisoner, he
said, in no way injured, and sent to the army to continue to defeat the
enemies of France. The other conspirators laughed in his face, and when
he saw them distribute daggers, and that they were going beyond his
intentions, he proceeded at once to denounce the whole affair."

Bonaparte, after the informer had been brought before him, suggested to
the officers of his staff, the Prefect of Police and other functionaries
whom he had assembled, that it would be as well not to let him appear at
the Opera in the evening; but the general opinion was, that on the
contrary, he should be forced to go, and ultimately it was decided that
until the commencement of the performance everything should be allowed
to take place as if the conspiracy had not been discovered.


In the evening the First Consul went to the Opera, attended by a number
of superior officers, all in plain clothes. The first act passed off
quietly enough--in all probability, far too quietly to please the
composer, for some two hundred persons among the audience, including the
conspirators, the police and the officers attached to Bonaparte's
person, were thinking of anything but the music of _les Horaces_. It was
necessary, however, to pay very particular attention to the music of the
second act in which the scene of the oath occurred.

The sentinels outside the Consul's box had received orders to let no one
approach who had not the pass word, issued an hour before for the opera
only; and as a certain number of conspirators had taken up their
positions in the corridors, to extinguish the lights at the signal
agreed upon, a certain number of Bonaparte's officers were sent also
into the corridors to prevent the execution of this manœuvre. The
scene of the oath was approaching, when a body of police went to the
boxes in which the leaders of the plot were assembled, found them with
fireworks and grenades in their hands, notified to them their arrest in
the politest manner, cautioned them against creating the slightest
disturbance, and led them so dexterously and quietly into captivity,
that their disappearance from the theatre was not observed, or if so,
was doubtless attributed to the badness of Porta's music. The officers
in the corridors carried pistols, and at the proper moment seized the
appointed lamp-extinguishers. Then the old Horatius came forward and

    "_Jurez donc devant moi, par le ciel qui m'écoute._
     _Que le dernier de vous sera mort ou vainqueur._"

The orchestra "attacked" the introduction to the quartett. The fatal
prelude must have sounded somewhat unmusical to the ear of the First
Consul; but the conspirators were now all in custody and assembled in
one of the vestibules on the ground floor.

       *       *       *       *       *


On the 24th of December, 1800, the day on which the "infernal machine"
was directed against the First Consul on his way to the Opera, a French
version of Haydn's _Creation_ was to be executed. Indeed, the
performance had already commenced, when, during the gentle _adagio_ of
the introduction, the dull report of an explosion, as if of a cannon,
was heard, but without the audience being at all alarmed. Immediately
afterwards the First Consul appeared in his box with Lannes, Lauriston,
Berthier, and Duroc. Madame Bonaparte, as she was getting into her
carriage, thought of some alteration to make in her dress, and returned
to her apartments for a few minutes. But for this delay her carriage
would have passed before the infernal machine at the moment of its
explosion. Ten minutes afterwards she made her appearance at the Opera
with her daughter, Mademoiselle Hortense Beauharnais, Madame Murat, and
Colonel Rapp. The performance of the _Creation_ continued as if nothing
had happened; and the report, which had interfered so unexpectedly with
the effect of the opening _adagio_, was explained in various ways; the
account generally received in the pit being, that a grocer going into
his cellar with a candle, had set light to a barrel of gunpowder. Two
houses were said to have been blown up. This was at the beginning of the
first part of the _Creation_; at the end of the second, the number had
probably increased to half a dozen.

Under the consulate and the empire, the arts did not flourish greatly in
France; not for want of direct encouragement on the part of the ruler,
but rather because he at the same time encouraged far above everything
else the art of war. Until the appearance of Spontini with _la Vestale_,
the Académie, under Napoleon Bonaparte, whether known as Bonaparte or
Napoleon, was chiefly supported by composers who composed without
inventing, and who, with the exception of Cherubini, were either very
feeble originators or mere plagiarists and spoliators. Even Mozart did
not escape the French arrangers. His _Marriage of Figaro_ had been
brought out in 1798, with all the prose dialogue of Beaumarchais's
comedy substituted for the recitative of the original opera. _Les
Mystères d'Isis_, an adaptation, perversion, disarrangement of _Die
Zauberflötte_, with several pieces suppressed, or replaced by fragments
from the _Nozze di Figaro_, _Don Giovanni_, and Haydn's symphonies, was
produced on the 23rd of August, 1801, under the auspices of Morel the
librettist, and Lachnith the musician.

_Les_ Misères _d'Isis_ was the appropriate name given to this sad
medley by the musicians of the orchestra. Lachnith was far from being
ashamed of what he had done. On the contrary, he gloried in it, and
seemed somehow or other to have persuaded himself that the pieces which
he had stolen from Mozart and Haydn were his own compositions. One
evening, when he was present at the representation of _Les Mystères
d'Isis_, he was affected to tears, and exclaimed, "No, I will compose no
more! I could never go beyond this!"

_Don Giovanni_, in the hands of Kalkbrenner, fared no better than the
_Zauberflötte_ in those of Lachnith. It even fared worse; for
Kalkbrenner did not content himself with spoiling the general effect of
the work, by means of pieces introduced from Mozart's other operas, and
from Haydn's symphonies: he mutilated it so as completely to alter its
form, and further debased it by mixing with its pure gold the dross of
his own vile music.


In Kalkbrenner's _Don Giovanni_, the opera opened with a recitative,
composed by Kalkbrenner himself. Next came Leporello's solo, followed by
an interpolated romance, in the form of a serenade, which was sung by
Don Juan, under Donna Anna's window. The struggle of Don Juan with Donna
Anna, the entry of the commandant, his combat with Don Juan, the trio
for the three men and all the rest of the introduction, was cut out. The
duet of Donna Anna and Ottavio was placed at the end of the act, and as
Don Juan had killed the commandant off the stage, it was of course
deprived of its marvellous recitative, which, to be duly effective, must
be declaimed by Donna Anna over the body of her father. The whole of the
opera was treated in the same style. The first act was made to end as it
had begun, with a few phrases of recitative of Kalkbrenner's own
production. The greater part of the action of Da Ponte's libretto was
related in dialogue, so that the most dramatic portion of the music lost
all its significance. The whole opera, in short, was disfigured, cut to
pieces, destroyed, and further defiled by the musical weeds which the
infamous Kalkbrenner introduced among its still majestic ruins. At this
period the supreme direction of the Opera was in the hands of a jury,
composed of certain members of the Institute of France. It seems never
to have occurred to this learned body that there was any impropriety in
the trio of masques being executed by three men, and in the two soprano
parts being given to tenors,--by which arrangement the part of Ottavio,
Mozart's tenor, instead of being the lowest in the harmony, was made the
highest. The said trio was sung by three archers, of course to entirely
new words! Let us pass on to another opera, which, if not comparable to
_Don Giovanni_, was at least a magnificent work for France in 1807, and
which had the advantage of being admirably executed under the careful
direction of its composer.

       *       *       *       *       *

Spontini had already produced _La Finta Filosofa_, which, originally
brought out at Naples, was afterwards performed at the Italian Theatre
of Paris, without success; _La Petite Maison_, written for the Opéra
Comique, and violently hissed; and _Milton_ also composed for the Opéra
Comique, and favourably received. When _La Vestale_ was submitted to the
jury of the Académie, it was refused unanimously on the ground of the
extravagance of its style, and of the audacity of certain innovations in
the score. Spontini appealed to the Empress Josephine, and it was owing
to her influence, and through a direct order of the court that _La
Vestale_ was put upon the stage. The jury was inexorable, however, as
regarded certain portions of the work, and the composer was obliged to
submit it to the orchestral conductor, who injured it in several places,
but without spoiling it. Spontini wished to give the part of the tenor
to Nourrit; but Lainez protested, went to the superintendant of the
imperial theatres, represented that he had been first tenor and first
lover at the Opera for thirty years, and finally received full
permission to make love to the Vestal of the Académie.

The Emperor Napoleon had the principal pieces in _La Vestale_ executed
by his private band, nearly a year before the opera was brought out at
the Académie. He had sufficient taste to admire the music, and predicted
to Spontini the success it afterwards met with. He is said, in
particular, to have praised the finale, the first dramatic finale
written for the French Opera.

[Sidenote: SPONTINI.]

_La Vestale_ was received by the public with enthusiasm. It is said to
have been admirably executed, and we know that Spontini was difficult on
this point, for we are told by Mr. Ebers that he objected to the
performance of _La Vestale_, in London, on the ground "that the means of
representation there were inadequate to do justice to his composition."
This was twenty years after it was first brought out in Paris, when all
Rossini's finest and most elaborately constructed operas (such as
_Semiramide_, for instance), had been played in London, and in a manner
which quite satisfied Rossini. Probably, however, it was in the
spectacular department that Spontini expected the King's Theatre would
break down. However that may have been, _La Vestale_ was produced in
London, and met with very little success. The part of "La Vestale" was
given to a Madame Biagioli, who objected to it as not sufficiently good
for her. From the accounts extant of this lady's powers, it is quite
certain that Spontini, if he had heard her, would have considered her
not nearly good enough for his music. It would, of course, have been far
better for the composer, as for the manager and the public, if Spontini
had consented to superintend the production of his work himself; but
failing that, it was scandalous in defiance of his wishes to produce it
at all. Unfortunately, this is a kind of scandal from which operatic
managers in England have seldom shrunk.

Spontini's _Fernand Cortez_, produced at the Académie in 1809, met with
less success than _La Vestale_. In both these works, the spectacular
element played an important part, and in _Fernand Cortez_, it was found
necessary to introduce a number of Franconi's horses. A journalist of
the period proposed that the following inscription should be placed
above the doors of the theatre:--_Içi on joue l'opéra à pied et à

Spontini, as special composer for the Académie of grand operas with
hippic and panoramic effects, was the predecessor of M. M. Meyerbeer,
and Halévy; and Heine, in his "Lutèce"[88] has given us a very witty,
and perhaps, in the main, truthful account of Spontini's animosity
towards Meyerbeer, whom he is said to have always regarded as an
intriguer and interloper. I may here, however, mention as a proof of the
attractiveness of _La Vestale_ from a purely musical point of view, that
it was once represented with great success, not only without magnificent
or appropriate scenery, but with the scenery belonging to another piece!
This was on the 1st of April, 1814, the day after the entry of the
Russian and Prussian troops into Paris. _Le Triomphe de Trajan_ had been
announced; the allied sovereigns, however, wished to hear _La Vestale_,
and the performance was changed. But there was not time to prepare the
scenery for Spontini's opera, and that of the said _Triomphe_ was made
to do duty for it.


_Le Triomphe de Trajan_ was a work in which Napoleon's clemency to a
treacherous or patriotic German prince was celebrated, and it has been
said that the programme of the 1st of April was changed, because the
allied sovereigns disliked the subject of the opera. But it was
perfectly natural that they should wish to hear Spontini's master-piece,
and that they should not particularly care to listen to a _pièce
d'occasion_, set to music by a French composer of no name.

I have said that Cherubini's _Abencerrages_, of which all but the
overture is now forgotten, was produced in 1813, and that the emperor
attended its first representation the night before his departure from
Paris, to rejoin his troops, and if possible, check the advance of the
victorious allies. No other work of importance was produced at the
French Académie until Rossini's _Siège de Corinthe_ was brought out in
1825. This, the first work written by the great Italian master specially
for the French Opera, was represented at the existing theatre in the Rue
Lepelletier, the opera house in the Rue Richelieu having been pulled
down in 1820.

       *       *       *       *       *


In the year just mentioned, on the 13th of February, being the last
Sunday of the Carnival, an unusually brilliant audience had assembled at
the Académie Royale. _Le Rossignol_, an insipid, and fortunately, very
brief production, was the opera; but the great attraction of the evening
consisted in two ballets, _La Carnaval de Venise_, and _Les Noces de
Gamache_. The Duke and Duchess de Berri were present, and when _Le
Carnaval de Venise_, _Le Rossignol_, and the first act of _Les Noces de
Gamache_, had been performed, the duchess rose to leave the theatre. Her
husband accompanied her to the carriage, and was taking leave of her,
intending to return to the theatre for the last act of the ballet, when
a man crept up to him, placed his left arm on the duke's left side,
pulled him violently towards him, and as he held him in his grasp,
thrust a dagger through his body. The dagger entered the duke's right
side, and the pressure of the assassin's arm, and the force with which
the blow was given, were so great, that the weapon went through the
lungs, and pierced the heart, a blade of six inches inflicting a wound
nine inches long. The news of the duke's assassination spread through
the streets of Paris as if by electricity; and M. Alexandre Dumas, in
his interesting Memoirs, tells us almost the same thing that Balzac says
about it in one of his novels; that it was known at the farther end of
Paris, before a man on horseback, despatched at the moment the blow was
struck, could possibly have reached the spot. On the other hand, M.
Castil Blaze shows us very plainly that the terrible occurrence was not
known within the Opera; or, at least, only to a few officials, until
after the conclusion of the performance, which went on as if nothing had
happened. The duke was carried into the director's room, where he was
attended by Blancheton, the surgeon of the Opera, and at once bled in
both arms. He, himself, drew the dagger from the wound, and observed at
the same time that he felt it was mortal. The Count d'Artois, and the
Duke and Duchess d'Angoulême arrived soon afterwards. There lay the
unhappy prince, on a bed hastily arranged, and already inundated, soaked
with blood, surrounded by his father, brother, sister, and wife, whose
poignant anguish was from time to time alleviated by some faint ray of
hope, destined, however, to be quickly dispelled.

Five of the most celebrated doctors in Paris, with Dupuytren among the
number, had been sent for; and as the patient was now nearly suffocating
from internal hæmorrhage, the orifice of the wound was widened. This
afforded some relief, and for a moment it was thought just possible that
a recovery might be effected. Another moment, and it was evident that
there was no hope. The duke asked to see his daughter, and embraced her
several times; he also expressed a desire to see the king. Now the
sacrament was administered to him, but, on the express condition exacted
by the Archbishop of Paris, that the Opera House should afterwards be
destroyed. Two other unacknowledged daughters of his youth were brought
to the dying man's bedside, and received his blessing. He had already
recommended them to the duchess's care.

"Soon you will have no father," she said to them, "and I shall have
three daughters."

In the meanwhile the Spanish ballet was being continued, amidst the
mirth and applause of the audience, who testified by their demeanour
that it was Carnival time, and that the _jours gras_ had already
commenced. The house was crowded, and the boleros and sequidillas with
which the Spaniards of the Parisian ballet astonished and dazzled Don
Quixote and his faithful knight, threw boxes, pit, and gallery, into
ecstasies of delight.

Elsewhere, in the room next his victim, stood the assassin, interrogated
by the ministers, Decazes and Pasquier, with the bloody dagger before
them on the table. The murderer simply declared that he had no
accomplices,[89] and that he took all the responsibility of the crime on

At five in the morning, Louis XVIII. was by the side of his dying
nephew. An attempt had been made, the making of which was little less
than an insult to the king, to dissuade him from being present at the
duke's last moments.


"The sight of death does not terrify me," replied His Majesty, "and I
have a duty to perform." After begging that his murderer might be
forgiven, and entreating the duchess not to give way to despair, the
Duke de Berri breathed his last in the arms of the king, who closed his
eyes at half-past six in the morning.

       *       *       *       *       *

Opera was now to be heard no more in the Rue Richelieu. The holy
sacrament had crossed the threshold of a profane building, and it was
necessary that this profane building should be destroyed; indeed, a
promise to that effect had been already given. All the theatres were
closed for ten days, and the Opera, now homeless, did not re-commence
its performances until upwards of two months afterwards, when it took
possession for a time of the Théâtre Favart. In the August of the same
year the erection of the theatre in the Rue Lepelletier was commenced.
The present Théâtre de l'Opéra, (the absurd title of Académie having
recently been abandoned), was intended when it was first built, to be
but a temporary affair. Strangely enough it has lasted forty years,
during which time it has seen solidly constructed opera-houses perish by
fire in all parts of Europe. May the new opera-house about to be erected
in Paris, under the auspices of Napoleon III., be equally fortunate.

I am here reminded that both the Napoleons have proved themselves good
and intelligent friends to the Opera. In the year eleven of the French
republic, the First Consul and his two associates, the Minister of the
French republic, the three Consuls, the Ministers of the interior and
police, General Junot, the Secretary of State, and a few more officials
occupied among them as many as seventeen boxes at the opera, containing
altogether ninety-four places. Bonaparte had a report drawn up from
which it appeared that the value of these boxes to the administration,
was sixty thousand four hundred francs per annum, including fifteen
thousand francs for those kept at his own disposition. Thereupon he
added to the report the following brief, but on the whole satisfactory

"_A datter du premier nivose toutes ces loges seront payées par ceux qui
les occupent._"

The error in orthography is not the printers', but Napoleon Bonaparte's,
and the document in which it occurs, is at present in the hands of M.
Regnier of the Comédie Française.

A month afterwards, Napoleon, or at least the consular trio of which he
was the chief, assigned to the Opera a regular subsidy of 600,000 francs
a year; he at the same time gave it a respectable name. Under the
Convention it had been entitled "Théâtre de la République et des Arts;"
the First Consul called it simply, "Théâtre des Arts," an appellation it
had borne before.[90]

Hardly had the new theatre in the Rue Lepelletier opened its doors,
when a singer of the highest class, a tenor of the most perfect kind,
made his appearance. This was Adolphe Nourrit, a pupil of Garcia, who,
on the 10th of September, 1821, made his first appearance with the
greatest success as "Pylade" in _Iphigénie en Tauride_. It was not,
however, until Auber's _Muette de Portici_ was produced in 1828, that
Nourrit had an opportunity of distinguishing himself in a new and
important part.


_La Muette_ was the first of those important works to which the French
Opera owes its actual celebrity in Europe. _Le Siège de Corinthe_,
translated and adapted from _Maometto II._, with additions (including
the admirable blessing of the flags) written specially for the Académie,
had been brought out eighteen months before, but without much success.
_Maometto II._ was not one of Rossini's best works, the drama on which
it was constructed was essentially feeble and uninteresting, and the
manner in which the whole was "arranged" for the French stage, was
unsatisfactory in many respects. _Le Siège de Corinthe_ was greatly
applauded the first night, but it soon ceased to have any attraction for
the public. Rossini had previously written _Il Viaggio a Reims_ for the
coronation of Charles X., and this work was re-produced at the Academy
three years afterwards, with several important additions (such as the
duet for "Isolier" and the "Count," the chorus of women, the
unaccompanied quartett, the highly effective drinking chorus, and the
beautiful trio of the last act), under the title of _le Comte Ory_. In
the meanwhile _La Muette_ had been brought out, to be followed the year
afterwards by _Guillaume Tell_, which was to be succeeded in its turn by
Meyerbeer's _Robert le Diable_, _Les Huguenots_ and _Le Prophète_,
(works which belong specially to the Académie and with which its modern
reputation is intimately associated), by Auber's _Gustave III._,
Donizetti's _la Favorite_, &c.

_La Muette de Portici_ had the great advantage of enabling the Académie
to display all its resources at once. It was brought out with
magnificent scenery and an excellent _corps de ballet_, with a _première
danseuse_, Mademoiselle Noblet as the heroine, with the new tenor,
Nourrit, in the important part of the hero, and with a well taught
chorus capable of sustaining with due effect the prominent _rôle_
assigned to it. For in the year 1828 it was quite a novelty at the
French Opera to see the chorus taking part in the general action of the


If we compare _La Muette_ with the "Grand Operas" produced subsequently
at the Académie, we find that it differs from them all in some important
respects. In the former, instead of a _prima donna_ we have a _prima
ballerina_ in the principal female part. Of course the concerted pieces
suffer by this, or rather the number of concerted pieces is diminished,
and to the same cause may, perhaps, be attributed the absence of finales
in _La Muette_. It chiefly owed its success (which is still renewed from
time to time whenever it is re-produced) to the intrinsic beauty of its
melodies and to the dramatic situations provided by the ingenious
librettist, M. Scribe, and admirably taken advantage of by the composer.
But the part of Fenella had also great attractions for those unmusical
persons who are found in almost every audience in England and France,
and for whom the chief interest in every opera consists in the
skeleton-drama on which it is founded. To them the graceful Fenella with
her expressive pantomime is no bad substitute for a singer whose words
would be unintelligible to them, and whose singing, continued throughout
the Opera, would perhaps fatigue their dull ears. These ballet-operas
seem to have been very popular in France about the period when _La
Muette_ was produced, the other most celebrated example of the style
being Auber's _Le Dieu et la Bayadère_. In the present day it would be
considered that a _prima ballerina_, introduced as a principal character
in an opera, would interfere too much with the combinations of the
singing personages.

I need say nothing about the charming music of _La Muette_, which is
well known to every frequenter of the Opera, further than to mention,
that the melody of the celebrated barcarole and chorus, "_Amis, amis le
soleil va paraitre_" had already been heard in a work of Auber's, called
_Emma_; and that the brilliant overture had previously served as an
instrumental preface to _Le Maçon_.

_La Muette de Portici_ was translated and played with great success in
England. But shameful liberties were taken with the piece; recitatives
were omitted, songs were interpolated: and it was not until _Masaniello_
was produced at the Royal Italian Opera that the English public had an
opportunity of hearing Auber's great work without suppressions or

The greatest opera ever written for the Académie, and one of the three
or four greatest operas ever produced, was now about to be brought out.
_Guillaume Tell_ was represented for the first time on the 3rd of
August, 1829. It was not unsuccessful, or even coldly received the first
night, as has often been stated; but the result of the first few
representations was on the whole unsatisfactory. Musicians and
connoisseurs were struck by the great beauties of the work from the very
beginning; but some years passed before it was fully appreciated by the
general public. The success of the music was certainly not assisted by
the libretto--one of the most tedious and insipid ever put together; and
it was not until Rossini's masterpiece had been cut down from five to
three acts, that the Parisians, as a body, took any great interest in


_Guillaume Tell_ is now played everywhere in the three act form. Some
years ago a German doctor, who had paid four francs to hear _Der
Freischütz_ at the French Opera, proceeded against the directors for the
recovery of his money, on the plea that it had been obtained from him on
false pretences, the work advertised as _Der Freischütz_ not being
precisely the _Der Freischütz_[91] which Karl Maria von Weber composed.
The doctor might amuse himself (the authorities permitting) by bringing
an action against the managers of the Berlin theatre every time they
produce Rossini's _Guillaume Tell_--which is often enough, and always in
three acts.

The original cast of _Guillaume Tell_ included Nourrit, Levasseur,
Dabadie, A. Dupont, Massol, and Madame Cinti-Damoreau. The singers and
musicians of the Opera were enthusiastic in their admiration of the new
work, and the morning after its production assembled on the terrace of
the house where Rossini lived and performed a selection from it in his
honour. One distinguished artist who took no part in this ceremony had,
nevertheless, contributed in no small degree to the success of the
opera. This was Mademoiselle Taglioni, whose _tyrolienne_ danced to the
music of the charming unaccompanied chorus, was of course understood and
applauded by every one from the very first.

After the first run of _Guillaume Tell_, the Opera returned to _La
Muette de Portici_, and then for a time Auber's and Rossini's
masterpieces were played alternate nights. On Wednesday, July 3rd, 1830,
_La Muette de Portici_ was performed, and with a certain political
appropriateness;--for the "days of July" were now at hand, and the
insurrectionary spirit had already manifested itself in the streets of
Paris. The fortunes of _La Muette de Portici_ have been affected in
various ways by the revolutionary character of the plot. Even in London
it was more than once made a pretext for a "demonstration" by the
radicals of William the Fourth's time. At most of the Italian theatres
it has been either forbidden altogether or has had to be altered
considerably before the authorities would allow it to be played. Strange
as it may appear, in absolute Russia it has been represented times out
of number in its original shape, under the title of _Fenella_.


We have seen that _Masaniello_ was represented in Paris four days before
the commencement of the outbreak which ended in the elder branch of the
Bourbons being driven from the throne. On the 26th of July, _Guillaume
Tell_ was to have been represented, but the city was in such a state of
agitation, in consequence of the issue of the _ordonnances_, signed at
St. Cloud the day before, that the Opera was closed. On the 27th the
fighting began and lasted until the 29th, when the Opera was re-opened.
On the 4th of August, _La Muette de Portici_ was performed, and created
the greatest enthusiasm,--the public finding in almost every scene some
reminder, and now and then a tolerably exact representation, of what had
just taken place within a stone's throw of the theatre. _La Muette_,
apart from its music, became now the great piece of the day; and the
representations at the Opera were rendered still more popular by
Nourrit singing "_La Parisienne_" every evening. The melody of this
temporary national song, like that of its predecessor (so infinitely
superior to it), "_La Marseillaise_" (according to Castil Blaze), was
borrowed from Germany. France, never wanting in national spirit, has yet
no national air. It has four party songs, not one of which can be
considered truly patriotic, and of which the only one that possesses any
musical merit, disfigured as it has been by its French adapters, is of
German origin.

Nourrit is said to have delivered "_La Parisienne_" with wonderful
vigour and animation, and to this and to Casimir Delavigne's verses (or
rather to Delavigne's name, for the verses in themselves are not very
remarkable) may be attributed the reputation which the French national
song, No. 4,[92] for some time enjoyed.

       *       *       *       *       *

_Guillaume Tell_ is Rossini's last opera. To surpass that admirable work
would have been difficult for its own composer, impossible for any one
else; and Rossini appears to have resolved to terminate his artistic
career when it had reached its climax. In carrying out this resolution,
he has displayed a strength of character, of which it is almost
impossible to find another instance. Many other reasons have been given
for Rossini's abstaining from composition during so many years, such as
the coldness with which _Guillaume Tell_ was received (when, as we have
seen, its _immediate_ reception by those whose opinion Rossini would
chiefly have valued, was marked by the greatest enthusiasm), and the
success of Meyerbeer's operas, though who would think of placing the
most successful of Meyerbeer's works on a level with _Guillaume Tell_?

"_Je reviendrai quand les juifs auront fini leur sabbat_," is a speech
(somewhat uncharacteristic of the speaker, as it seems to me),
attributed to Rossini by M. Castil Blaze; who, however, also mentions,
that when _Robert le Diable_ was produced, every journal in Paris said
that it was the finest opera, _except Guillaume Tell_, that had been
produced at the Académie for years. It appears certain, now, that
Rossini simply made up his mind to abdicate at the height of his power.
There were plenty of composers who could write works inferior to
_Guillaume Tell_, and to them he left the kingdom of opera, to be
divided as they might arrange it among themselves. He was succeeded by
Meyerbeer at the Académie; by Donizetti and Bellini at the Italian
opera-houses of all Europe.

       *       *       *       *       *

Rossini had already found a follower, and, so to speak, an original
imitator, in Auber, whose eminently Rossinian overture to _La Muette_,
was heard at the Académie the year before _Guillaume Tell_.


I need scarcely remind the intelligent reader, that the composer of
three master-pieces in such very different styles as _Il Barbiere_,
_Semiramide_, and _Guillaume Tell_, might have a dozen followers, whose
works, while all resembling in certain points those of their predecessor
and master, should yet bear no great general resemblance to one another.
All the composers who came immediately after Rossini, accepted, as a
matter of course, those important changes which he had introduced in the
treatment of the operatic drama, and to which he had now so accustomed
the public, that a return to the style of the old Italian masters, would
have been not merely injudicious, but intolerable. Thus, all the
post-Rossinian composers adopted Rossini's manner of accompanying
recitative with the full band; his substitution of dialogued pieces,
written in measured music, with a prominent connecting part assigned to
the orchestra, for the interminable dialogues in simple recitative,
employed by the earlier Italian composers; his mode of constructing
finales; and his new distribution of characters, by which basses and
baritones become as eligible for first parts as tenors, while great
importance is given to the chorus, which, in certain operas, according
to the nature of the plot, becomes an important dramatic agent. I may
repeat, by way of memorandum, what has before been observed, that nearly
all these forms originated with Mozart, though it was reserved for
Rossini to introduce and establish them on the Italian stage. In short,
with the exception of the very greatest masters of Germany, all the
composers of the last thirty or forty years, have been to some, and
often to a very great extent, influenced by Rossini. The general truth
of this remark is not lessened by the fact, that Hérold and Auber, and
even Donizetti and Bellini (the last, especially, in the simplicity of
his melodies), afterwards found distinctive styles; and that Meyerbeer,
after _Il Crociato_, took Weber, rather than Rossini, for his model--the
composer of _Robert_ at the same time exhibiting a strongly marked
individuality, which none of his adverse critics think of denying, and
which is partly, no doubt, the cause of their adverse criticism.

       *       *       *       *       *


What will make it appear to some persons still more astonishing, that
Rossini should have retired after producing _Guillaume Tell_ is, that he
had signed an agreement with the Académie, by which he engaged to write
three grand operas for it in six years. In addition to his "author's
rights," he was to receive ten thousand francs annually until the
expiration of the sixth year, and the completion of the third opera. No.
1 was _Guillaume Tell_. The librettos of Nos. 2 and 3 were _Gustave_ and
_Le Duc d'Albe_, both of which were returned by Rossini to M. Scribe,
perhaps, with an explanation, but with none that has ever been made
public. Rossini was at this time thirty-seven years of age, strong and
vigorous enough to have outlived, not only his earliest, but his latest
compositions, had they not been the most remarkable dramatic works of
this century. If Rossini had been a composer who produced with
difficulty, his retirement would have been more easy to explain; but the
difficulty with him must have been to avoid producing. The story is
probably known to many readers of his writing a duet one morning, in
bed, letting the music paper fall, and, rather than leave his warm
sheets to pick it up, writing another duet, which was quite different
from the first. A hundred similar anecdotes are told of the facility
with which Rossini composed. Who knows but that he wished his career to
be measured against those of so many other composers whose days were cut
short, at about the age he had reached when he produced _Guillaume
Tell_? A very improbable supposition, certainly, when we consider how
little mysticism there is in the character of Rossini. However this may
be, he ceased to write operas at about the age when many of his
immediate predecessors and followers ceased to live.[93]

And even Rossini had a narrow escape. About the critical period, when
the composer of _Guillaume Tell_ was a little more than half way between
thirty and forty, the Italian Theatre of Paris was burnt to the ground.
This, at first sight, appears to have nothing to do with the question;
but Rossini lived in the theatre, and his apartments were near the
roof. He had started for Italy two days previously; had he remained in
Paris, he certainly would have shared the fate of the other inmates who
perished in the flames.

       *       *       *       *       *

Meyerbeer is a composer who defies classification, or who, at least, may
be classified in three different ways. As the author of the _Crociato_,
he belongs to Italy, and the school of Rossini; _Robert le Diable_
exhibits him as a composer chiefly of the German school, with a tendency
to follow in the steps of Weber; but _Robert_, _les Huguenots_, _le
Prophète_, _l'Etoile du Nord_, and, above all _Dinorah_, are also
characteristic of the composer himself. The committee of the London
International Exhibition has justly decided that Meyerbeer is a German
composer, and there is no doubt about his having been born in Germany,
and educated for some time under the same professor as Karl Maria Von
Weber; but it is equally certain that he wrote those works to which he
owes his great celebrity for the Académie Royale of Paris, and as we are
just now dealing with the history of the French Opera, this, I think, is
the proper place in which to introduce the most illustrious of living
and working composers.

[Sidenote: REHEARSALS.]

"The composer of _Il Crociato in Egitto_, an amateur, is a native of
Berlin, where his father, a Jew, who is since dead, was a banker of
great riches. The father's name was Beer, Meyer being merely a Jewish
prefix, which the son thought fit to incorporate with his surname. He
was a companion of Weber, in his musical studies. He had produced other
operas which had been well received, but none of them was followed by or
merited the success that attended _Il Crociato_." So far Mr. Ebers, who,
in a few words, tells us a great deal of Meyerbeer's early career. The
said _Crociato_, written for Venice, in 1824, was afterwards produced at
the Italian Opera of Paris in 1825, six years before _Robert le Diable_
was brought out at the Académie. In the summer of 1825, a few months
before its production in Paris, it was modified in London, and Mr. Ebers
informs us that the getting up of the opera, to which nine months were
devoted at the Théâtre Italien, occupied at the King's Theatre only one.
Such rapid feats are familiar enough to our operatic managers and
musical conductors. But it must be remembered that a first performance
in England is very often less perfect than a dress rehearsal in France;
and, moreover, that between bringing out an original work (or an old
work, in an original style), in Paris, and bringing out the same work
afterwards, more or less conformably to the Parisian[94] model, in
London, there is the same difference as between composing a picture and
merely copying one. No singers and musicians read better than those of
the French Académie, and it is a terrible mistake to suppose that so
much time is required at that theatre for the production of a grand
opera on account of any difficulty in making the _artistes_ acquainted
with their parts. _Guillaume Tell_ was many months in rehearsal, but
the orchestra played the overture at first sight in a manner which
astonished and delighted Rossini. The great, and I may add, the
inevitable fault of our system of management in England is that it is
impossible to procure for a new opera a sufficient number of rehearsals
before it is publicly produced. It is surprising how few "repetitions"
suffice, but they would _not_ suffice if the same perfection was thought
necessary on the first night which is obtained at the Paris and Berlin
Operas, and which, in London, in the case of very difficult, elaborate
works, is not reached until after several representations.

However, _Il Crociato_ was brought out in London after a month's
rehearsal. The manager left the musical direction almost entirely in the
hands of Velluti, who had already superintended its production at
Venice, and Florence, and who was engaged, as a matter of course, for
the principal part written specially for him. The opera (of which the
cast included, besides Velluti, Mademoiselle Garcia, Madame Caradori and
Crivelli the tenor) was very successful, and was performed ten nights
without intermission when the "run" was brought to a termination by the
closing of the theatre. The following account of the music by Lord Mount
Edgcumbe, shows the sort of impression it made upon the old amateurs of
the period.


It was "quite of the new school, but not copied from its founder,
Rossini; original, odd, flighty, and it might even be termed
_fantastic_, but at times beautiful; here and there most delightful
melodies and harmonies occurred, but it was unequal, solos were as rare
as in all the modern operas, but the numerous concerted pieces much
shorter and far less noisy than Rossini's, consisting chiefly of duets
and terzettos, with but few choruses and no overwhelming accompaniments.
Indeed, Meyerbeer has rather gone into the contrary extreme, the
instrumental parts being frequently so slight as to be almost meagre,
while he has sought to produce new and striking effects from the voices

Before speaking of Meyerbeer's better known and more celebrated works, I
must say a few words about Velluti, a singer of great powers, but of a
peculiar kind ("_non vir sed Veluti_") who, as I have said before,
played the principal part in _Il Crociato_. He was the last of his
tribe, and living at a time when too much license was allowed to singers
in the execution of the music entrusted to them, so disgusted Rossini by
his extravagant style of ornamentation, that the composer resolved to
write his airs in future in such elaborate detail, that to embellish
them would be beyond the power of any singer. Be this how it may,
Rossini did not like Velluti's singing, nor Velluti Rossini's
music--which sufficiently proves that the last of the sopranists was not
a musician of taste.[95] Mr. Ebers tells us that "after making the tour
of the principal Italian and German theatres, Velluti arrived in Paris,
where the musical taste was not prepared for him," and that, "Rossini
being at this time engaged at Paris under his agreement to direct there,
Velluti did not enter into his plans, and having made no engagement
there, came over to England without any invitation, but strongly
recommended by Lord Burghersh." The re-appearance of a musico in London
when the race was thought to be extinct, caused a great sensation, and
not altogether of an agreeable kind. However, the Opera was crowded the
night of his _début_; to the old amateurs it recalled the days of
Pacchierotti, to the young ones, it was simply a strange and unexpected
novelty. Some are said to have come to the theatre expressly to oppose
him, while others were there for the avowed purpose of supporting him,
from a feeling that public opinion had dealt harshly with the
unfortunate man. Velluti had already sung at concerts, where his
reception was by no means favourable. Indeed, Lord Mount Edgcumbe tells
us "that the scurrilous abuse lavished upon him before he was heard, was
cruel and illiberal," and that "it was not till after long deliberation,
much persuasion, and assurances of support that the manager ventured to
engage him for the remainder of the season."

[Sidenote: VELLUTI.]

Velluti's demeanour on entering the stage was highly prepossessing. Mr.
Ebers says that "it was at once graceful and dignified," and that "he
was in look and action the son of chivalry he represented."

He adds, that "his appearance was received with mingled applause and
disapprobation; but that "the scanty symptoms of the latter were
instantly overwhelmed." The effect produced on the audience by the first
notes Velluti uttered was most peculiar. According to Mr. Ebers, "there
was a something of a preternatural harshness about them, which jarred
even more strongly on the imagination than on the ear;" though, as he
proceeded, "the sweetness and flexibility of those of his tones which
yet remained unimpaired by time, were fully perceived and felt." Lord
Mount Edgcumbe informs us, that "the first note he uttered gave a shock
of surprise, almost of disgust, to inexperienced ears;" though,
afterwards, "his performance was listened to with great attention and
applause throughout, with but few _audible_ expressions of
disapprobation speedily suppressed." The general effect of his
performance is summed up in the following words:--"To the old he brought
back some pleasing recollections; others, to whom his voice was new,
became reconciled to it, and sensible of his merits; whilst many
declared, to the last, his tones gave them more pain than pleasure."
However, he drew crowded audiences, and no opera but Meyerbeer's
_Crociato_ was performed until the end of the season.

       *       *       *       *       *

Some years after the production of _Il Crociato_, Meyerbeer had written
an _opéra comique_, entitled _Robert le Diable_, which was to have been
represented at the Ventadour Theatre, specially devoted to that kind of
performance. The company, however, at the "Théâtre de l'Opera Comique,"
was not found competent to execute the difficult music of _Robert_, and
the interesting libretto by M. M. Scribe and Delavigne, was altered and
reduced, so as to suit the Académie. The celebrated "pruning knife" was
brought out, and vigorously applied. What remained of the dialogue was
adapted for recitative, and the character of "Raimbaud" was cut out in
the fourth and fifth acts. With all these suppressions, the opera, as
newly arranged, to be recited or sung from beginning to end, was still
very long, and not particularly intelligible. However, the legend on
which _Robert le Diable_ is founded is well suited for musical
illustration, and the plot, with a little attention and a careful study
of the book, may be understood, in spite of the absence of "Raimbaud,"
who, in the original piece, is said to have served materially to aid and
explain the progress of the drama.


If _Robert le Diable_ had been produced at the Opéra Comique, in the
form in which it was originally conceived, the many points of
resemblance it presents to _Der Freischütz_ would have struck every one.
Meyerbeer seems to have determined to write a romantic semi-fantastic
legendary opera, like _Der Freischütz_, and, in doing so, naturally
followed in the footsteps of Weber. He certainly treats these legendary
subjects with particular felicity, and I fancy there is more spontaneity
in the music of _Robert le Diable_, and _Dinorah_, than in any other
that he has composed; but this does not alter the fact that such
subjects were first treated in music, and in a thoroughly congenial
manner, by Karl Maria von Weber. Without considering how far Meyerbeer,
in _Robert le Diable_, has borrowed his instrumentation and harmonic
combinations from Weber, there can be no doubt about its being a work of
much the same class as _Der Freischütz_; and it would have been looked
upon as quite of that class, had it been produced, like _Der
Freischütz_, with spoken dialogue, and with the popular characters more
in relief.

_Robert le Diable_, converted into a grand opera, was produced at the
Académie, on the 21st of November, 1831. Dr. Véron, in his "Mémoires
d'un Bourgeois de Paris," has given a most interesting account of all
the circumstances which attended the rehearsals and first representation
of this celebrated work. Dr. Véron had just undertaken the management of
the Académie; and to have such an opera as _Robert le Diable_, with
which to mark the commencement of his reign, was a piece of rare good
fortune. The libretto, the music, the ballet, were all full of interest,
and many of the airs had the advantage (in Paris) of being somewhat in
the French style. The applause with which this, the best constructed of
all M. Meyerbeer's works, was received, went on increasing from act to
act; and, altogether, the success it obtained was immense, and, in some
respects, unprecedented.

Nourrit played the part of "Robert," Madame Cinti Damoreau that of
"Isabelle." Mademoiselle Dorus and Levasseur were the "Alice" and the
"Bertram." In the _pas de cinq_ of the second act, Noblet, Montessu, and
Perrot appeared; and in the nuns' scene, the troop of resuscitated
virgins was led by the graceful and seductive Taglioni. All the scenery
was admirably painted, especially that of the moonlight _tableau_ in the
third act. The costumes were rich and brilliant, the _mise en scène_,
generally, was remarkable for its completeness; in short, every one
connected with the "getting up" of the opera from Habeneck, the musical
conductor, to the property-men, gas-fitters and carpenters, whose names
history has not preserved, did their utmost to ensure its success.

In 1832, _Robert le Diable_ was brought out at the King's Theatre, with
the principal parts sustained, as in Paris, by Nourrit, Levasseur, and
Madame Damoreau. The part of "Alice" appears to have been given to
Mademoiselle de Méric. This opera met with no success at the King's
Theatre, and was scarcely better received at Covent Garden, where an
English version was performed, with such alterations in Meyerbeer's
music as will easily be conceived by those who remember how the works of
Rossini, and, indeed, all foreign composers, were treated at this time,
on the English stage.


In 1832, and, indeed, many years afterwards, when _Robert_ and _Les
Huguenots_ had been efficiently represented in London by German
companies, Meyerbeer's music was still most severely handled by some of
our best musical critics. At present there is perhaps an inclination to
go to the other extreme; but, at all events, full justice has now been
rendered to M. Meyerbeer's musical genius. Let us hear what Lord Mount
Edgcumbe (whose opinion I do not regard as one of authority, but only as
an interesting index to that of the connoisseurs of the old school), has
to say of the first, and, on the whole, the most celebrated of
Meyerbeer's operas. He entertains the greatest admiration for _Don
Giovanni_, _Fidelio_, _Der Freischütz_, and _Euryanthe_; but neither the
subject, nor even the music of _Robert le Diable_, pleases him in the
least. "Never," he says, "did I see a more disagreeable or disgusting
performance. The sight of the resurrection of a whole convent of nuns,
who rise from their graves, and begin dancing, like so many bacchants,
is revolting; and a sacred service in a church, accompanied by an organ
on the stage, not very decorous. Neither does the music of Meyerbeer
compensate for a fable, which is a tissue of nonsense and improbability.
Of course, I was not tempted to hear it again in its original form, and
it did credit to the taste of the English public, that it was not
endured at the Opera House, and was acted only a very few nights."

Meyerbeer's second grand opera, _Les Huguenots_, was produced at the
Académie Royale on the 26th of January, 1836, after twenty-eight full
rehearsals, occasioning a delay which cost the composer a fine of thirty
thousand francs. The expense of getting up the _Huguenots_ (in scenery,
dresses, properties, &c.), amounted to one hundred and sixty thousand

[Sidenote: LES HUGUENOTS.]

In London, and I believe everywhere on the continent except in Paris,
the most popular of M. Meyerbeer's three grand operas is _Les
Huguenots_. At the Académie, _Robert le Diable_ seems still to carry
away the palm. Of late years, the admirable performance of Mario and
Grisi, and of Titiens and Giuglini, in the duet of the fourth act, has
had an immense effect in increasing the popularity of _Les Huguenots_
with the English. This duet, the septett for male voices, the blessing
of the daggers and the whole of the dramatic and animated scene of which
it forms part, are certainly magnificent compositions; but the duet for
"Raoul" and "Valentine" is the very soul of the work. At the theatres of
Italy, the opera in question is generally "cut" with a free hand; and it
is so long, that even after plentiful excisions an immense deal of
music, and of fine music, still remains. But who would go to hear _Les
Huguenots_, if the duet of the fourth act were omitted, or if the
performance stopped at the end of act III.? On the other hand, the
fourth act alone would always attract an audience; for, looked upon as a
work by itself, it is by far the most dramatic, the most moving of all
M. Meyerbeer's compositions. The construction of this act is most
creditable to the librettist; while the composer, in filling up, and
giving musical life to the librettist's design, has shown the very
highest genius. It ends with a scene for two personages, but the whole
act is of one piece. While the daggers are being distributed, while the
plans of the chief agents in the massacre are being developed in so
striking and forcible a manner, the scene between the alarmed "Raoul"
and the terrified "Valentine" is, throughout, anticipated; and equally
necessary for the success of the duet, from a musical as well as from a
dramatic point of view, is the massive concerted piece by which this
duet is preceded. To a composer, incapable or less capable than M.
Meyerbeer, of turning to advantage the admirable but difficult situation
here presented, there would, of course, have been the risk of an
anti-climax; there was the danger that, after a stageful of fanatical
soldiers and monks, crying out at the top of their voices for blood, it
would be impossible further to impress the audience by any known musical
means. Meyerbeer, however, has had recourse to the expression of an
entirely different kind of emotion, or rather a series of emotions, full
of admirable variations and gradations; and everyone who has heard the
great duet of _Les Huguenots_ knows how wonderfully he has succeeded. It
has been said that the idea of this scene originated with Nourrit. In
any case, it was an idea which Scribe lost no time in profiting by, and
the question does not in any way affect the transcendent merit of the

       *       *       *       *       *

_Le Prophète_, M. Meyerbeer's third grand opera, was produced at the
Académie on the 16th of April, 1849, with Roger, Viardot-Garcia, and
Castellan, in the principal characters. This opera, like _Les
Huguenots_, has been performed with great success in London. The part of
"Jean" has given the two great tenors of the Royal Italian Opera--Mario
and Tamberlik--opportunities of displaying many of their highest
qualities as dramatic singers. The magnificent Covent Garden orchestra
achieves a triumph quite of its own, in the grand march of the
coronation scene; and the opera enables the management to display all
its immense resources in the scenic department.

       *       *       *       *       *

[Sidenote: GUSTAVE III.]

In passing from _Masaniello_ to Rossini's _Guillaume Tell_, and from
Rossini to Meyerbeer, we have lost sight too soon of the greatest
composer France ever produced, and one who is ranked in all countries
among the first composers of the century. I mean, of course, M. Auber,
of whose works I should have more to say, if I had not determined, in
this brief "History of the Opera" to pay but little attention to the
French "Opéra Comique," which, with the exception of a very few examples
(all by M. Auber)[96] is not a _genre_ that has been accepted anywhere
out of France. In sketching, however, the history of the Grand Opera,
it would be impossible to omit _Gustave III._ _Gustave ou le Bal
Masqué_, composed on one of the two librettos returned to M. Scribe by
Rossini,[97] was performed for the first time on the 27th of February,
1833. This admirable work is not nearly so well known in England, or
even in France, as it deserves to be. The government of Louis Philippe
seems to have thought it imprudent to familiarize the Parisians with
regicide, by exhibiting it to them three or four times a week on the
stage, as the main incident of a very interesting drama; and after a
certain number of representations, _Gustave_, which, taken altogether,
is certainly Auber's masterpiece, was cut down to the ball-scene. In
England, no one objected to the theatrical assassination of _Gustavus_;
but unfortunately, also, no scruple was made about mutilating and
murdering Auber's music. In short, the _Gustavus_ of Auber was far more
cruelly ill-treated in London than the Gustavus of Sweden at his own
masqued ball. Mr. Gye ought to produce _Gustavus_ at the Royal Italian
Opera, where, for the first time in England, it would be worthily
represented. The frequenters of this theatre have long been expecting
it, though I am not aware that it has ever been officially promised.

The original caste of _Gustave_ included Nourrit, Levasseur, Massol,
Dabadie, Dupont, Mademoiselle Falcon, Mademoiselle Dorus, and Madame
Dabadie. Nourrit, the original "Guillaume Tell," the original "Robert,"
the original "Raoul," the original "Gustave," was then at the height of
his fame; but he was destined to be challenged four years afterwards by
a very formidable rival. He was the first, and the only first tenor at
the Académie Royale de Musique, where he had been singing with a zeal
and ardour equal to his genius for the last sixteen years, when the
management engaged Duprez, to divide the principal parts with the
vocalist already in office. After his long series of triumphs, Nourrit
had no idea of sharing his laurels in this manner; nor was he at all
sure that he was not about to be deprived of them altogether. "One of
the two must succeed at the expense of the other," he declared; and
knowing the attraction of novelty for the public, he was not at all sure
that the unfortunate one would not be himself.

"Duprez knows me," he said, "and comes to sing where I am. I do not know
him, and naturally fear his approach." After thinking over the matter
for a few days he resolved to leave the theatre. He chose for his last
appearance the second act of _Armide_, in which "Renaud," the character
assigned to the tenor, has to exclaim to the warrior, "Artemidore"--

    "Allez, allez remplir ma place,
     Aux lieux d'où mon malheur me chasse," &c.

To which "Artemidore" replies--

    "Sans vous que peut on entreprendre?
     Celui qui vous bannit ne pourra se défendre
     De souhaiter votre retour."

[Sidenote: NOURRIT.]

The scene was very appropriate to the position of the singer who was
about to be succeeded by Duprez. The public felt this equally with
Nourrit himself, and testified their sympathy for the departing Renaud,
by the most enthusiastic applause.

Nourrit took his farewell of the French public on the 1st of April,
1837, and on the 17th of the same month Duprez made his _début_ at the
Académie, as "Arnold," in _William Tell_. The latter singer had already
appeared at the Comédie Française, where, at the age of fifteen, he was
entrusted with the soprano solos in the choruses of _Athalie_, and
afterwards at the Odéon, where he played the parts of "Almaviva," in the
_Barber of Seville_, and Ottavio," in _Don Juan_. He then visited Italy
for a short time, returned to Paris, and was engaged at the Opéra
Comique. Here his style was much admired, but his singing, on the whole,
produced no great impression on the public. He once more crossed the
Alps, studied assiduously, performed at various theatres in a great
number of operas, and by incessant practice, and thanks also to the
wonderful effect of the climate on his voice, attained the highest
position on the Italian stage, and was the favourite tenor of Italy at a
time when Rubini was singing every summer in London, and every winter in
Paris. Before visiting Italy the second time, Duprez was a "light
tenor," and was particularly remarkable for the "agility" of his
execution. A long residence in a southern climate appears to have quite
changed the nature of his voice; a transformation, however, which must
have been considerably aided by the nature of his studies. He returned
to France a _tenore robusto_, an impressive, energetic singer, excelling
in the declamatory style, and in many respects the greatest dramatic
vocalist the French had ever heard. As an actor, however, he was not
equal to Nourrit, whose demeanour as an operatic hero is said to have
been perfection. _Guillaume Tell_, with Duprez, in the part of "Arnold,"
commenced a new career, and Rossini's great work now obtained from the
general public that applause which, on its first production, it had, for
the most part, received only from connoisseurs.

[Sidenote: NOURRIT.]

In the meanwhile, Nourrit, after performing with great success at
Marseilles, Toulouse, Lyons, and elsewhere, went to Italy, and was
engaged first at Milan, and afterwards at Florence and Naples. At each
city fresh triumphs awaited him, but an incident occurred at Naples
which sorely troubled the equanimity of the failing singer, whose mind,
as we have seen, had already been disturbed by painful presentiments.
Nourrit, to be sure, was only "failing" in this sense, that he was
losing confidence in his own powers, which, however, by all accounts,
remained undiminished to the last. He was a well-educated and a highly
accomplished man, and besides being an excellent musician, possessed
considerable literary talent, and a thorough knowledge of dramatic
effect.[98] He had prepared two librettos, in which the part adapted
for the tenor would serve to exhibit his double talent as an actor and
as a singer. One of these musical dramas was founded on Corneille's
_Polyeucte_, and, in the hands of Donizetti, became _I Martiri_; but
just when it was about to be produced, the Neapolitan censorship forbade
its production on the ground of the unfitness of religious subjects for
stage representation. Nourrit was much dejected at being thus prevented
from appearing in a part composed specially for him at his own
suggestion, and in which he felt sure he would be seen and heard to the
greatest advantage. A deep melancholy, such as he had already suffered
from at Marseilles, to an extent which alarmed all his friends, now
settled upon him. He appeared, and was greatly applauded, in
Mercadante's _Il Giuramento_, and in Bellini's _Norma_, but soon
afterwards his despondency was increased, and assumed an irritated form,
from a notion that the applause the Neapolitans bestowed upon him was

Nothing could alter his conviction on this point, which at last had the
effect of completely unsettling his mind--unless it be more correct to
say that mental derangement was itself the cause of the unhappy
delusion. Finally, after a performance given for the benefit of another
singer, in which Nourrit took part, his malady increased to such an
extent that on his return home he became delirious, threw himself out of
a window, at five in the morning, and was picked up in the street quite
dead. This deplorable event occurred on the 8th of March, 1889.

       *       *       *       *       *

The late "Académie Royale de Musique," the Théatre Italien of Paris, and
all the chief opera houses of Italy are connected inseparably with the
history of Opera in England. All the great works written by Rossini and
Meyerbeer for the Académie have since been represented in London; the
same singers for nearly half a century past have for the most part sung
alternately at the Italian operas of Paris and of London; finally, from
Italy we have drawn the great majority of the works represented at our
best musical theatres, and nearly all our finest singers.

[Sidenote: GERMAN OPERA.]

German opera, in the meanwhile, stands in a certain way apart. Germany,
compared with Italy, has sent us very few great singers. We have never
looked to Germany for a constant supply of operas, and, indeed, Germany
has not produced altogether half a dozen thoroughly German operas (that
is to say, founded on German libretti, and written for German singers
and German audiences), which have ever become naturalized in this
country, or, indeed, anywhere out of their native land. Moreover, the
most celebrated of the said _thoroughly_ German operas, such as
_Fidelio_ and _Der Freischütz_, exercised no such influence on
contemporary dramatic music as to give their composers a well-marked
place in the operatic history of the present century, such as clearly
belongs to Rossini. Beethoven, with his one great masterpiece, stands
quite alone, and in the same way, Weber, with his strongly marked
individuality has nothing in common with his contemporaries; and, living
at the same time as Rossini, neither affected, nor was affected, by the
style of a composer whose influence all the composers of the Italian
school experienced. Accordingly, and that I may not entangle too much
the threads of my narrative, I will now, having followed Rossini to
Paris, and given some account of his successors at the French Opera,
proceed to speak of Donizetti and Bellini, who were followers of Rossini
in every sense. Of Weber and Beethoven, who are not in any way
associated with the Rossini school, and only through the accident of
birth with the Rossini period, I must speak in a later chapter.



Sigismondi, the librarian of the Neapolitan Conservatory, had a horror
of Rossini's music, and took care that all his printed works in the
library should be placed beyond the reach of the young and innocent
pupils. He was determined to preserve them, as far as possible, from the
corrupt but seductive influence of this composer's brilliant,
extravagant, meretricious style. But Donizetti, who at this time was
studying at Naples, had heard several of the proscribed operas, and was
most anxious to examine, on the music paper, the causes of the effects
which had so delighted his ear at the theatre. The desired scores were
on the highest shelf of the library; and the careful, conscientious
librarian had removed the ladder by means of which alone it seemed
possible to get to them.


Donizetti stood watching the shelves which held the operas of Rossini
like a cat before a bird cage; but the ladder was locked up, and the key
in safe keeping in Sigismondi's pocket. Under a northern climate, the
proper mode of action for Donizetti would have been to invite the jailor
to a banquet, ply him with wine, and rob him of his keys as soon as he
had reached a sufficiently advanced state of intoxication. Being in
Italy, Donizetti should have made love to Sigismondi's daughter, and
persuaded her to steal the keys from the old man during his mid-day
_siesta_. Perhaps, however, Sigismondi was childless, or his family may
have consisted only of sons; in any case, the young musician adopted
neither of the schemes, by combining which the troubadour Blondel was
enabled to release from captivity his adored Richard.[99] He resorted to
a means which, if not wonderfully ingenious, was at least to the point,
and which promised to be successful. He climbed, monkey-like, or
cat-like, not to abandon our former simile, to the top shelf, and had
his claws on the _Barber of Seville_, when who should enter the library
but Sigismondi.

The old man was fairly shocked at this perversity on the part of Gaetan
Donizetti, reputed the best behaved student of the Academy. His morals
would be corrupted, his young blood poisoned!--but fortunately the
librarian had arrived in time, and he might yet be saved.

Donizetti sprang to the ground with his prey--the full score of the
_Barber of Seville_--in his clutches. He was about to devour it, when a
hand touched him on the shoulder: he turned round, and before him stood
the austere Sigismondi.

The old librarian spoke to Gaetan as to a son; appealed to his sense of
propriety, his honour, his conscience; and asked him, almost with tears
in his eyes, how he could so far forget himself as to come secretly into
the library to read forbidden books--and Rossini's above all? He pointed
out the terrible effects of the course upon which the youthful Donizetti
had so nearly entered; reminded him that one brass instrument led to
another; and that when once he had given himself up to violent
orchestration, there was no saying where he would stop.


Donizetti could not or would not argue with the venerable and determined
Sigismondi. At least, he did not oppose him; but he inquired whether, as
a lesson in cacophony, it was not worth while just to look at Rossini's
notorious productions. He reminded his stern adviser, that he had
already studied good models under Mayer, Pilotti, and Mattei, and that
it was natural he should now wish to complete his musical education, by
learning what to avoid. He quoted the well known case of the Spartans
and their Helots; inquired, with some emotion, whether the frightful
example of Rossini was not sufficient to deter any well meaning
composer, with a little strength of character, from following in his
unholy path; and finally declared, with undisguised indignation, that
Rossini ought to be made the object of a serious study, so that once for
all his musical iniquities might be exposed and his name rendered a
bye-word among the lovers and cultivators of pure, unsophisticated art!

"Come to my arms, Gaetano," cried Sigismondi, much moved. "I can refuse
nothing to a young man like you, now that I know your excellent
intentions. A musician, who is imbued with the true principles of his
art, may look upon the picture of Rossini's depravity not only without
danger, but with positive advantage. Some it might weaken and
destroy;--_you_ it can only fortify and uphold. Let us open these
monstrous scores; their buffooneries may amuse us for an hour.

"_Il Barbiere di Siviglia!_ I have not much to say about that,"
commenced Sigismondi. "It is a trifle; besides, full justice was done to
it at Rome. The notion of re-setting one of the master-pieces of the
great Paisiello,--what audacity! No wonder it was hissed!"

"Under Paisiello's direction," suggested Donizetti.

"All a calumny, my young friend; pure calumny, I can assure you. There
are so many Don Basilios in the musical world! Rossini's music was
hissed because it was bad and because it recalled to the public
Paisiello's, which was good." "But I have heard," rejoined Donizetti,
"that at the second representation there was a great deal of applause,
and that the enthusiasm of the audience at last reached such a point,
that they honoured Rossini with a torch-light procession and conducted
him home in triumph."

"An invention of the newspapers," replied Sigismondi; "I believe there
was a certain clique present prepared to support the composer through
everything, but the public had already expressed its opinion. Never mind
this musical burlesque, and let us take a glance at one of Rossini's
serious operas."

Donizetti wished for nothing better. This time he had no occasion to
scale the shelf in his former feline style. The librarian produced the
key of the mysterious closet in which the ladder was kept. The young
musician ran up to the Rossini shelf like a lamp-lighter and brought
down with him not one but half-a-dozen volumes.

"Too many, too many," said Sigismondi, "one would have been quite
enough. Well, let us open _Otello_."

In the score which the old and young musician proposed to examine
together, the three trombone parts, according to the Italian custom,
were written on one and the same staff, thus 1º, 2º, 3º _tromboni_.
Sigismondi began his lecture on the enormities of Rossini as displayed
in _Otello_ by reading the list of the instruments employed.

"_Flutes_, two flutes; well there is not much harm in that. No one will
hear them; only, with diabolical perfidy, one of these modern flutists
will be sure to take a _piccolo_ and pierce all sensitive ears with his
shrill whistling.

"_Hautboys_, two hautboys; also good. Here Rossini follows the old
school. I say nothing against his two hautboys; indeed, I quite approve
of them.


"_Clarionets!_ a barbarous invention, which the _Tedeschi_ might have
kept them for themselves. They may be very good pipes for calling cows,
but should be used for nothing else.

"_Bassoons_; useless instruments, or nearly so. Our good masters
employed them for strengthening the bass; but now the bassoon has
acquired such importance, that solos are written for it. This is also a
German innovation. Mozart would have done well to have left the bassoon
in its original obscurity.

"1st and 2nd _Horns_; very good. Horns and hautboys combine admirably. I
say nothing against Rossini's horns.

"3rd and 4th _Horns_! How many horns does the man want? _Quattro Corni,
Corpo di Bacco!_ The greatest of our composers have always been
contented with two. Shades of Pergolese, of Leo, of Jomelli! How they
must shudder at the bare mention of such a thing. Four horns! Are we at
a hunting party? Four horns! Enough to blow us to perdition."

The indignation and rage of the old musician went on increasing as he
followed the gradual development of a _crescendo_ until he arrived at
the explosion of the _fortissimo_. Then Sigismondi uttered a cry of
despair, struck the score violently with his fist, upset the table which
the imprudent Donizetti had loaded with the nefarious productions of
Rossini, raised his hands to heaven and rushed from the room,
exclaiming, "a hundred and twenty-three trombones! A hundred and
twenty-three trombones!"

Donizetti followed the performer and endeavoured to explain the mistake.

"Not 123 trombones, but 1st, 2nd, 3rd trombones," he gently observed.
Sigismondi however, would not hear another word, and disappeared from
the library crying "a hundred and twenty-three trombones," to the last.

Donizetti came back, lifted up the table, placed the scores upon it and
examined them in peace. He then, in his turn, concealed them so that he
might be able another time to find them whenever he pleased without
clambering up walls or intriguing to get possession of ladders.

[Sidenote: ANNA BOLENA.]

The inquiring student of the Conservatory of Naples was born, in 1798,
at Bergamo, and when he was seventeen years of age was put to study
under Mayer, who, before the appearance of Rossini, shared with Paer the
honour of being the most popular composer of the day. His first opera
_Enrico di Borgogna_ was produced at Venice in 1818, and obtained so
much success that the composer was entrusted with another commission for
the same city in the following year. After writing an opera for Mantua
in 1819 _Il Falegname di Livonia_, Donizetti visited Rome, where his
_Zoraide di Granata_ procured him an exemption from the conscription and
the honour of being carried in triumph and crowned at the Capitol.
Hitherto he may be said to have owed his success chiefly to his skilful
imitation of Rossini's style, and it was not until 1830, when _Anna
Bolena_ was produced at Milan (and when, curiously enough, Rossini had
just written his last opera), that he exhibited any striking signs of
original talent. This work, which is generally regarded as Donizetti's
master-piece, or at least was some time ago (for of late years no one
has had an opportunity of hearing it), was composed for Pasta and
Rubini, and was first represented for Pasta's benefit in 1831. It was in
this opera that Lablache gained his first great triumph in London.

Donizetti visited Paris in 1835, and there produced his _Marino
Faliero_, which contains several spirited and characteristic pieces,
such as the opening chorus of workmen in the Arsenal and the gondolier
chorus at the commencement of the second act. The charming _Elisir
d'Amore_, the most graceful, melodious, moreover the most
characteristic, and in many respects the best of all Donizetti's works,
was written for Milan in 1832. In this work Signor Mario made his
re-appearance at the Italian Opera of Paris in 1839; he had previously
sung for some time at the Académie Royale in _Robert_ and other operas.

_Lucia di Lammermoor_, Donizetti's most popular opera, containing some
of the most beautiful melodies in the sentimental style that he has
composed, and altogether his best finale, was produced at Naples in
1835. The part of "Edgardo" was composed specially for Duprez, that of
"Lucia" for Persiani.

The pretty little opera or operetta entitled _Il Campanello di Notte_
was written under very interesting circumstances to save a little
Neapolitan theatre from ruin. Donizetti heard that the establishment was
in a failing condition, and that the performers were without money and
in great distress. He sought them out, supplied their immediate wants,
and one of the singers happening to say that if Donizetti would give
them a new opera, their fortunes would be made: "As to that," replied
the Maestro, "you shall have one within a week." To begin with, a
libretto was necessary, but none was to be had. The composer, however,
possessed considerable literary talent, and recollecting a vaudeville
which he had seen some years before in Paris, called _La Sonnette de
Nuit_, he took that for his subject, re-arranged it in an operatic form,
and in nine days the libretto was written, the music composed, the parts
learnt, the opera performed, and the theatre saved. It would have been
difficult to have given a greater proof of generosity, and of fertility
and versatility of talent. I may here mention that Donizetti designed,
and wrote the words, as well as the music of the last act of the
_Lucia_; that the last act of _La Favorite_ was also an afterthought of
his; and that he himself translated into Italian the libretti of Betly
and _La Fille du Regiment_.


When _Lucrezia Borgia_ (written for Milan in 1834) was produced in
Paris, in 1840, Victor Hugo, the author of the admirable tragedy on
which it is founded, contested the right of the Italian librettists, to
borrow their plots from French dramas; maintaining that the
representation of such libretti in France constituted an infringement of
the French dramatists' "_droits d'auteur_." He gained his action, and
_Lucrezia Borgia_ became, at the Italian Opera of Paris, _La Rinegata_,
the Italians at the court of Pope Alexander the Sixth being
metamorphosed into Turks. A French version of _Lucrezia Borgia_ was
prepared for the provinces, and entitled _Nizza di Grenada_.

[Sidenote: AUTHORS' RIGHTS.]

A year or two afterwards, Verdi's _Hernani_ experienced the same fate at
the Théâtre Italien as _Lucrezia Borgia_. Then the original authors of
_La Pie Voleuse_, _La Grace de Dieu_, &c., followed Victor Hugo's
example, and objected to the performance of _La Gazza Ladra_ and _Linda
di Chamouni_, &c. Finally, an arrangement was made, and at present
exists, by which Italian operas founded on French dramas may be
performed in Paris on condition of an indemnity being paid to the French
dramatists. Marsolier, the author of the Opéra Comique, entitled _Nina,
ou la Folle par Amour_, set to music by Dalayrac, had applied for an
injunction twenty-three years before, to prevent the representation of
Paisiello's _Nina_, in Paris; but the Italian disappeared before the
question was tried. The principle, however, of an author's right of
property in a work, or any portion of a work, had been established
nearly two centuries before. In a "privilege" granted to St. Amant in
1653, for the publication of his _Moise Sauvé_, it is expressly
forbidden to extract from that "epic poem" subjects for novels and
plays. These cautions proved unnecessary, as the work so strictly
protected contained no available materials for plays, novels, or any
other species of literary composition, including even "epic poems;" but
_Moise Sauvé_ has nevertheless been the salvation of several French
authors whose property might otherwise have been trespassed upon to a
considerable extent. Nevertheless, the principle of an author's sole,
inalienable interest in the incidents he may have invented or combined,
without reference to the new form in which they may be presented,
cannot, as a matter of course, be entertained anywhere; but the system
of "author's rights" so energetically fought for and conquered by
Beaumarchais has a very wide application in France, and only the other
day it was decided that the translators and arrangers of _Le Nozze di
Figaro_, for the Théâtre Lyrique must share their receipts with the
descendants and heirs of the author of _Le Mariage de Figaro_. It will
appear monstrous to many persons in England who cannot conceive of
property otherwise than of a material, palpable kind, that
Beaumarchais's representatives should enjoy any interest in a work
produced three-quarters of a century ago; but as his literary
productions possess an actual, easily attainable value, it would be
difficult to say who ought to profit by it, if not those who, under any
system of laws, would benefit by whatever other possessions he might
have left. It may be a slight advantage to society, in an almost
inappreciable degree, that "author's rights" should cease after a
certain period; but, if so, the same principle ought to be applied to
other forms of created value. The case was well put by M. de Vigny, in
the "Revue des Deux Mondes," in advocating the claims of a
grand-daughter, or great grand-daughter of Sedaine. He pointed out, that
if the dramatist in question, who was originally an architect, had built
a palace, and it had lasted until the present day, no one would have
denied that it descended naturally to his heirs; and that as, instead of
building in stone, he devoted himself to the construction of operas and
plays, the results of his talent and industry ought equally to be
regarded as the inalienable property of his descendants.

[Sidenote: LA FAVORITE.]

But to return to _Lucrezia Borgia_, which, with _Lucia_ and _La
Favorite_, may be ranked amongst the most successful of Donizetti's
productions. The favour with which _Lucrezia_ is received by audiences
of all kinds may be explained, in addition to the merit of much of the
music, by the manner in which the principal parts are distributed, so
that the cast, to be efficient, must always include four leading
singers, each of whom has been well-provided for by the composer. It
contains less recitative than any of Rossini's operas--a great
advantage, from a popular point of view, it having been shown by
experience that the public of the present day do not care for recitative
(especially when they do not understand a word of it), but like to pass
as quickly as possible from one musical piece to another. From an
artistic point of view the shortness of Donizetti's recitatives is not
at all to be regretted, for the simple reason that he has never written
any at all comparable to those of Rossini, whose dramatic genius he was
far from possessing. The most striking situation in the drama, a
thoroughly musical situation of which a great composer, or even an
energetic, passionate, melo-dramatic composer, like Verdi, would have
made a great deal, is quite lost in the hands of Donizetti. The
_Brindisi_ is undeniably pretty, and was never considered vulgar until
it had been vulgarised. But Donizetti has shown no dramatic power in the
general arrangement of the principal scene, and the manner in which the
drinking song is interrupted by the funeral chorus, has rather a
disagreeable, than a terrible or a solemn effect. The finale to the
first act, or "prologue," is finely treated, but "Gennaro's" dying scene
and song, is the most dramatic portion of the work, which it ought to
terminate, but unfortunately does not. I think it might be shown that
_Lucrezia_ marks the distance about half way between the style of
Rossini and that of Verdi. Not that it is so much inferior to the works
of the former, or so much superior to those of the latter; but that
among Donizetti's later operas, portions of _Maria di Rohan_ (Vienna,
1843), might almost have been written by the composer of _Rigoletto_;
whereas, the resemblance for good or for bad, between these two
musicians, of the decadence, is not nearly so remarkable, if we compare
_Lucrezia Borgia_ with one of Verdi's works. Still, in _Lucrezia_ we
already notice that but little space is accorded to recitative, which
in the _Trovatore_ finds next to none; we meet with choruses written in
the manner afterwards adopted by Verdi, and persisted in by him to the
exclusion of all other modes; while as regards melody, we should
certainly rather class the tenor's air in _I Lombardi_ with that in
_Lucrezia Borgia_, than the latter with any air ever composed by

When Donizetti revisited Paris in 1840, he produced in succession _I
Martiri_ (the work written for Nourrit and objected to by the Neapolitan
censorship), _La Fille du Regiment_, written for the Opéra Comique, and
_La Favorite_, composed in the first instance for the Théâtre de la
Renaissance, but re-arranged for the Académie, when the brief existence
of the Théâtre de la Renaissance had come to an end. As long as it
lasted, this establishment, opened for the representation of foreign
operas in the French language, owed its passing prosperity entirely to a
French version of the _Lucia_.

Jenny Lind, Sontag, Alboni, have all appeared in _La Figlia del
Reggimento_ with great success; but when this work was first produced in
Paris, with Madame Thillon in the principal part, it was not received
with any remarkable favour. It is full of smooth, melodious, and highly
animated music, but is, perhaps, wanting in that piquancy of which the
French are such great admirers, and which rendered the duet for the
vivandières, in Meyerbeer's _Etoile du Nord_, so much to their taste.
_L'Ange de Nigida_, converted into _La Favorite_ (and founded in the
first instance on a French drama, _Le Comte de Commingues_) was brought
out at the Académie, without any expense in scenery and "getting up,"
and achieved a decided success. This was owing partly to the pretty
choral airs at the commencement, partly to the baritone's cavatina
(admirably sung by Barroilhet, who made his _début_ in the part of
"Alphonse"); but, above all, to the fourth act, with its beautiful
melody for the tenor, and its highly dramatic scene for the tenor and
soprano, including a final duet, which, if not essentially dramatic in
itself, occurs at least in a most dramatic situation.

The whole of the fourth act of _La Favorite_, except the cavatina, _Ange
si pur_, which originally belonged to the Duc d'Albe, and the _andante_
of the duet, which was added at the rehearsals, was written in three
hours. Donizetti had been dining at the house of a friend, who was
engaged in the evening to go to a party. On leaving the house, the host,
after many apologies for absenting himself, intreated Donizetti to
remain, and finish his coffee, which Donizetti, being inordinately fond
of that stimulant, took care to do. He asked at the same time for some
music paper, began his fourth act, and finding himself in the vein for
composition, went on writing until he had completed it. He had just put
the final stroke to the celebrated "_Viens dans une autre patrie_," when
his friend returned, at one in the morning, and congratulated him on the
excellent manner in which he had employed his time.

[Sidenote: L'ELISIR D'AMORE.]

After visiting Rome, Milan, and Vienna, for which last city he wrote
_Linda di Chamouni_, Donizetti returned to Paris, and in 1843 composed
_Don Pasquale_ for the Théâtre Italien, and _Don Sebastien_ for the
Académie. The lugubrious drama to which the music of _Don Sebastien_ is
wedded, proved fatal to its success. On the other hand, the brilliant
gaiety of _Don Pasquale_, rendered doubly attractive by the admirable
execution of Grisi, Mario, Tamburini, and Lablache, delighted all who
heard it. The pure musical beauty of the serenade, and of the quartett,
one of the finest pieces of concerted music Donizetti ever wrote, were
even more admired than the lively animated dialogue-scenes, which are in
Donizetti's very best style; and the two pieces just specified, as well
as the baritone's cavatina, _Bella siccome un angelo_, aided the general
success of the work, not only by their own intrinsic merit, but also by
the contrast they present to the comic conversational music, and the
buffo airs of the bass. The music of _Don Pasquale_ is probably the
cleverest Donizetti ever wrote; but it wants the _charm_ which belongs
to that of his _Elisir d'Amore_, around which a certain sentiment, a
certain atmosphere of rustic poetry seems to hang, especially when we
are listening to the music of "Nemorino" or "Norina." Even the comic
portions in the _Elisir_ are full of grace, as for instance, the
admirable duet between "Norina" and "Dulcamara;" and the whole work
possesses what is called "colour," that is to say, each character is
well painted by the music, which, moreover, is always appropriate to
the general scene. To look for "colour," or for any kind of poetry in a
modern drawing-room piece of intrigue, like _Don Pasquale_, with the
notaries of real life, and with lovers in black coats, would be absurd.
I may mention that the libretto of _Don Pasquale_ is a re-arrangement of
Pavesi's _Ser Marcantonio_ (was "_Ser_" _Marcantonio_ an Englishman?)
produced in 1813.


In the same year that Donizetti brought out _Don Pasquale_ in Paris, he
produced _Maria di Rohan_ at Vienna. The latter work contains an
admirable part for the baritone, which has given Ronconi the opportunity
of showing that he is not only an excellent buffo, but is also one of
the finest tragic actors on the stage. The music of _Maria di Rohan_ is
highly dramatic: that is to say, very appropriate to the various
personages, and to the great "situations" of the piece. In pourtraying
the rage of the jealous husband, the composer exhibits all that
earnestness and vigour for which Verdi has since been praised--somewhat
sparingly, it is true, but praised nevertheless by his admirers. The
contralto part, on the other hand, is treated with remarkable elegance,
and contains more graceful melodies than Verdi is in the habit of
composing. I do not say that Donizetti is in all respects superior to
Verdi; indeed, it seems to me that he has not produced any one opera so
thoroughly dramatic as _Rigoletto_; but as Donizetti and Verdi are
sometimes contrasted, and as it was the fashion during Donizetti's
lifetime, to speak of his music as light and frivolous, I wish to
remark that in one of his latest operas he wrote several scenes, which,
if written by Verdi, would be said to be in that composer's best style.

Donizetti's last opera, _Catarina Comaro_, was produced in Naples in the
year 1844. This was his sixty-third dramatic work, counting those only
which have been represented. There are still two operas of Donizetti's
in existence, which the public have not heard. One, a piece in one act,
composed for the Opéra Comique, and which is said every now and then to
be on the point of being performed; the other, _Le Duc d'Albe_, which,
as before-mentioned, was written for the Académie Royale, on one of the
two libretti returned by Rossini to Scribe, after the composer of
_William Tell_ came to his mysterious resolution of retiring from
operatic life.

Of Donizetti's sixty-three operas, about two-thirds are quite unknown to
England, and of the nine or ten which may still be said to keep the
stage, the earliest produced, _Anna Bolena_, is the composer's
thirty-second work. _Anna Bolena_, _L'Elisir d'Amore_, _Lucrezia
Borgia_, _Lucia di Lammermoor_, and _Roberto Devereux_, are included
between the numbers 31 and 52, while between the numbers 53 and 62, _La
Fille du Regiment_, _La Favorite_, _Linda di Chamouni_, _Don Pasquale_,
and _Maria di Rohan_, are found. The first five of Donizetti's most
popular operas, were produced between the years 1830 and 1840; the last
five between the years 1840 and 1844. Donizetti appears, then, to have
produced his best serious operas during the middle period of his
career--unless it be considered that _La Favorite_, _Linda di Chamouni_,
and _Maria di Rohan_, are superior to _Anna Bolena_, _Lucrezia Borgia_,
and _Lucia di Lammermoor_; and to the same epoch belongs _L'Elisir
d'Amore_, which in my opinion is the freshest, most graceful, and most
melodious of his comic operas, though some may prefer _La Fille du
Regiment_ or _Don Pasquale_, both full of spirit and animation.

It is also tolerably clear, from an examination of Donizetti's works in
the order in which they were produced, that during the last four or five
years of his artistic life he produced more than his average number of
operas, possessing such merit that they have taken their place in the
repertoires of the principal opera houses of Europe. Donizetti had lost
nothing either in fertility or in power, while he appeared in some
respects to be modifying and improving his style. Thus, in the Swiss
opera of _Linda di Chamouni_ (Vienna, 1842), we find, especially in the
music of the contralto part, a considerable amount of local colour--an
important dramatic element which Donizetti had previously overlooked,
or, at least, had not turned to any account; while _Maria di Rohan_
contains the best dramatic music of a passionate kind that Donizetti has
ever written.


In composing, Donizetti made no use of the pianoforte, and wrote, as may
be imagined, with great rapidity, never stopping to make a correction,
though he is celebrated among the modern Italian composers for the
accuracy of his style. Curiously enough, he never went to work without
having a small ivory scraper by his side; and any one who has studied
intellectual peculiarities will understand, that once wanting this
instrument, he might have felt it necessary to scratch out notes and
passages every minute. Mr. J. Wrey Mould, in his interesting "memoir,"
tells us that this ivory scraper was given to Donizetti by his father
when he consented, after a long and strenuous opposition, to his
becoming a musician. An unfilial son might have looked upon the present
as not conveying the highest possible compliment that could be paid him.
The old gentleman, however, was quite right in impressing upon the
bearer of his name, that having once resolved to be a composer, he had
better make up his mind to produce as little rubbish as possible.

The first signs of the dreadful malady to which Donizetti ultimately
succumbed, manifested themselves during his last visit to Paris, in
1845. Fits of absence of mind, followed by hallucinations and all the
symptoms of mental derangement followed one another rapidly, and with
increasing intensity. In January, 1846, it was found necessary to place
the unfortunate composer in an asylum at Ivry, and in the autumn of
1847, his medical advisers recommended as a final experiment, that he
should be removed to Bergamo, in the hope that the air and scenes of his
birth-place would have a favourable influence in dispelling, or, at
least, diminishing the profound melancholy to which he was now subject.
During his journey, however, he was attacked by paralysis, and his
illness assumed a desperate and incurable character.

Donizetti was received at Bergamo by the Maestro Dolci, one of his
dearest friends. Here paralysis again attacked him, and a few days
afterwards, on the 8th of April, 1848, he expired, in his fifty-second
year, having, during the twenty-seven years of his life, as a composer,
written sixty-four operas; several masses and vesper services; and
innumerable pieces of chamber music, including, besides arias,
cavatinas, and vocal concerted pieces, a dozen quartetts for stringed
instruments, a series of songs and duets, entitled _Les soirées du
Pausilippe_, a cantata entitled _la Morte d'Ugolino_, &c., &c.

Antoine, Donizetti's attendant at Ivry, became much attached to him, and
followed him to Bergamo, whence he forwarded to M. Adolphe Adam, a
letter describing his illustrious patient's last moments, and the public
honours paid to his memory at the funeral.


"More than four thousand persons," he relates, "were present at the
ceremony. The procession was composed of the numerous clergy of Bergamo;
the most illustrious members of the community and its environs, and of
the civic guard of the town and suburbs. The discharges of musketry,
mingled with the light of three or four hundred large torches,
presented a fine effect--the whole was enhanced by the presence of
three military bands, and the most propitious weather it was possible to
behold. The service commenced at ten o'clock in the morning, and did not
conclude until half-past two. The young gentlemen of Bergamo insisted on
bearing the remains of their illustrious fellow-citizen, although the
cemetery in which they finally rested lay at a distance of a
league-and-a-half from the town. The road there was crowded along its
whole length by people who came from the surrounding country to witness
the procession--and, to give due praise to the inhabitants of Bergamo,
never, hitherto, had such great honours been bestowed upon any member of
that city."

       *       *       *       *       *

Bellini, who was Donizetti's contemporary, but who was born nine years
after him, and died thirteen years before, was a native of Sicily. His
father was an organist at Catania, and under him the future composer of
_Norma_ and _La Sonnambula_, took his first lessons in music. A Sicilian
nobleman, struck by the signs of genius which young Bellini evinced at
an early age, persuaded his father to send him to Naples, supporting his
arguments with an offer to pay his expenses at the celebrated
Conservatorio. Here one of Bellini's fellow pupils was Mercadante, the
future composer of _Il Giuramento_, an opera which, in spite of the
frequent attempts of the Italian singers to familiarize the English
public with its numerous beauties, has never been much liked in this
country. I do not say that it has not been justly appreciated on the
whole, but that the grace of some of the melodies, the acknowledged
merit of the orchestration and the elegance and distinction which seem
to me to characterize the composer's style generally, have not been
accepted as compensating for his want of passion and of that spontaneity
without which the expression of strong emotion of any kind is naturally
impossible. Mercadante could never have written _Rigoletto_, but,
probably, a composer of inferior natural gifts to Verdi might, with a
taste for study and a determination to bring his talent to perfection,
have produced a work of equal artistic merit to _Il Giuramento_. And
here we must take leave of Mercadante, whose place in the history of the
opera is not a considerable one, and who, to the majority of English
amateurs, is known only by his _Bella adorata_, a melody of which Verdi
has shown his estimation by borrowing it, diluting it, and re-arranging
it with a new accompaniment for the tenor's song in _Luisa Miller_.

[Sidenote: RUBINI.]

I should think Mercadante must have written better exercises, and passed
better examinations at the Conservatorio than his young friend Bellini,
though the latter must have begun at an earlier age to compose operas.
Bellini's first dramatic work was written and performed while he was
still a student. Encouraged by its success, he next composed music to a
libretto already "set" by Generali, and entitled _Adelson e Salvino_.
_Adelson_ was represented before the illustrious Barbaja, who was at
that time manager of the two most celebrated theatres in Italy, the St.
Carlo at Naples, and La Scala at Milan,--as well as of the Italian opera
at Vienna, to say nothing of some smaller operatic establishments also
under his rule. The great impresario, struck by Bellini's promise,
commissioned him to write an opera for Naples, and, in 1826, his _Bianca
e Fernando_ was produced at the St. Carlo. This work was so far
successful, that it obtained a considerable amount of applause from the
public, while it inspired Barbaja with so much confidence that he
entrusted the young composer, now twenty years of age, with the libretto
of _il Pirata_, to be composed for La Scala. The tenor part was written
specially for Rubini, who retired into the country with Bellini, and
studied, as they were produced, the simple, touching airs which he
afterwards delivered on the stage with such admirable expression.

_Il Pirata_ was received with enthusiasm by the audiences of La Scala,
and the composer was requested to write another work for the same
theatre. _La Straniera_ was brought out at Milan in 1828, the principal
parts being entrusted to Donzelli, Tamburini, and Madame Tosi. This,
Bellini's third work, appears, on the whole, to have maintained, but
scarcely to have advanced, his reputation. Nevertheless, when it was
represented in London soon after its original production, it was by no
means so favourably received as _Il Pirato_ had been.

Bellini's _Zaira_, executed at Parma, in 1829, was a failure--soon,
however, to be redeemed by his fifth work, _Il Capuletti ed i
Montecchi_, which was written for Venice, and was received with all
possible expressions of approbation. In London, the new operatic version
of _Romeo and Juliet_ was not particularly admired, and owed what
success it obtained entirely to the acting and singing of Madame Pasta
in the principal part. It may be mentioned that the libretto of
Bellini's _I Montecchi_ had already served his master, Zingarelli, for
his opera of _Romeo e Julietta_.

[Sidenote: LA SONNAMBULA.]

The time had now arrived at which Bellini was to produce his
master-pieces, _La Sonnambula_ and _Norma_; the former of which was
written for _La Scala_, in 1831, the latter, for the same theatre, in
the year following. The success of _La Sonnambula_ has been great
everywhere, but nowhere so great as in England, where it has been
performed in English and in Italian, oftener than any other two or
perhaps three operas, while probably no songs, certainly no songs by a
foreign composer, were ever sold in such large numbers as _All is lost_
and _Do not mingle_. The libretto of _La Sonnambula_, by Romani, is one
of the most interesting and touching, and one of the best suited for
musical illustration in the whole _répertoire_ of _libretti_. To the
late M. Scribe, belongs the merit of having invented the charming story
on which Romani's and Bellini's opera is founded; and it is worthy of
remark that he had already presented it in two different dramatic forms
before any one was struck with its capabilities for musical treatment. A
thoroughly, essentially, dramatic story can be presented on the stage in
any and every form; with music, with dialogue, or with nothing but dumb
action. Tried by this test, the plots of a great number of merely well
written comedies would prove worthless; and so in substance they are. On
the other hand, the vaudeville of _La Somnambula_, became, as
re-arranged by M. Scribe, the ballet of _La Somnambule_, (one of the
prettiest, by the way, from a choregraphic point of view ever produced);
which, in the hands of Romani, became the libretto of an opera; which
again, vulgarly treated, has been made into a burlesque; and, loftily
treated, might be changed (I will not say elevated, for the operatic
form is poetical enough), into a tragedy.

The beauties of _La Sonnambula_, so full of pure melody and of emotional
music, of the most simple and touching kind, can be appreciated by every
one; by the most learned musician and the most untutored amateur, or
rather let us say by any play-goer, who, not having been born deaf to
the voice of music, hears an opera for the first time in his life. It
was given, however, to an English critic, to listen to this opera, as
natural and as unmistakably beautiful as a bed of wild flowers, through
a special ear-trumpet of his own; and in number 197 of the most
widely-circulated of our literary journals, the following remarks on
_La Sonnambula_ appeared. With the exception of one or two pretty
_motivi_, exquisitely given by Pasta and Rubini, the music is sometimes
scarcely on a level with that of _Il Pirata_, and often sinks below it;
there is a general thinness and want of effect in the instrumentation
not calculated to make us overlook the other defects of this
composition, which, in our humble judgment, are compensated by no
redeeming beauties. Bellini has soared too high; there is nothing of
grandeur, no touch of true pathos in the common place workings of his
mind. He cannot reach the _Opera semi-seria_; he should confine his
powers to the lowest walk of the musical drama, the one act _Opera

Equally ill fared _Norma_ at the hands of another musical critic to
whose "reminiscences" I have often had to refer, but who tells us that
he did not hear the work in question himself. He speaks of it simply as
a production of which the scene is laid in _Wales_, and adds that "it
was not liked."

Yet _Norma_ has been a good deal liked since its first production at
Milan, now nearly thirty years ago; and from Madame Pasta's first to
Madame Grisi's last appearance in the principal part, no great singer
with any pretension to tragic power has considered her claims fully
recognised until she has succeeded in the part of the Druid priestess.

[Sidenote: I PURITANI.]

_Beatrice di Tenda_, Bellini's next opera after _Norma_, cannot be
reckoned among his best works. It was written for Venice, in 1833, and
was performed in England for the first time, in 1836. It met with no
very great success in Italy or elsewhere.

In 1834, Bellini went to Paris, having been requested to write an opera
for the excellent Théâtre Italien of that capital. The company at the
period in question, included Grisi, Rubini, Tamburini and Lablache, all
of whom were provided with parts in the new work. _I Puritani_, was
played for the first time in London, for Grisi's benefit, in 1835, and
with precisely the same distribution of characters as in Paris. The
"_Puritani_ Season" is still remembered by old habitués, as one of the
most brilliant of these latter days. Rubini's romance in the first act
_A te o cara_, Grisi's _Polonaise_, _Son vergin vezzosa_ and the grand
duet for Tamburini and Lablache, produced the greatest enthusiasm in all
our musical circles, and the last movement of the duet was treated by
"arrangers" for the piano, in every possible form. This is the movement,
(destined, too soon, to find favour in the eyes of omnibus conductors,
and all the worst amateurs of the cornet), of which Rossini wrote from
Paris to a friend at Milan; "I need not describe the duet for the two
basses, you must have heard it where you are."

_I Puritani_ was Bellini's last opera. The season after its production
he retired to the house of a Mr. Lewis at Puteaux, and there, while
studying his art with an ardour which never deserted him, was attacked
by a fatal illness. "From his youth up," says Mr. J. W. Mould, in his
interesting "Memoir of Bellini;" "Vincenzo's eagerness in his art was
such as to keep him at the piano day and night, till he was obliged
forcibly to leave it. The ruling passion accompanied him through his
short life, and by the assiduity with which he pursued it, brought on
the dysentery, which closed his brilliant career, peopling his last
hours with the figures of those to whom his works were so largely
indebted for their success. During the moments of delirium which
preceded his death, he was constantly speaking of Lablache, Tamburini
and Grisi, and one of his last recognisable impressions was, that he was
present at a brilliant representation of his last opera, at the Salle
Favart. His earthly career closed on Wednesday, the 23rd of September,

[Sidenote: BELLINI'S DEATH.]

Thus died Bellini, in the twenty-ninth year of his age. Immediately
after his death, and on the very eve of his interment, the Théâtre
Italien re-opened with the _Puritani_. "The work," says the writer from
whom I have just quoted, "was listened to throughout with a sad
attention, betraying evidently how the general thoughts of both audience
and artists were pre-occupied with the mournful fate of him so recently
amongst them, now extended senseless, soulless, and mute, upon his
funeral bier. The solemn and mournful chords which commence the opera,
excited a sorrowful emotion in the breasts of both those who sang and
those who heard. The feeling in which the orchestra and chorus
participated, ex-tended itself to the principal artists concerned, and
the foremost amongst them displayed neither that vigour nor that
neatness of execution which Paris was so accustomed to accept at their
hands; Tamburini in particular, was so broken down by the death of the
young friend, whose presence amongst them spurred the glorious quartett
on the season before, to such unprecedented exertions, that his
magnificent organ, superb vocalisation were often considerably at fault
during the evening, and his interrupted accent, joined to the melancholy
depicted on the countenances of Grisi, Rubini, and Lablache, sent those
to their homes with an aching heart who had presented themselves to that
evening's hearing of _I Puritani_, previously disposed, moreover, to
attend the mournful ceremony of the morrow."

A committee of Bellini's friends, including Rossini, Cherubini, Paer,
and Carafa, undertook the general direction of the funeral of which the
musical department was entrusted to M. Habeneck the _chef d'orchestre_
of the Académie Royale. The expenses of the ceremony were defrayed by M.
Panseron, of the Théâtre Italien. The most remarkable piece for the
programme of the funeral music, was a lacrymosa for four voices, without
accompaniment, in which the text of the Latin hymn was united to the
beautiful melody (and of a thoroughly religious character), sung by the
tenor in the third act of the _Puritani_. This lacrymosa was executed by
Rubini, Ivanoff, Tamburini, and Lablache. The service was performed in
the church of the Invalides, and Bellini's remains were interred in the
cemetery of Père la Chaise.

Rossini had always shown the greatest affection for Bellini; and Rosario
Bellini, a few weeks after his son's death, wrote a letter to the great
composer, thanking him for the almost paternal kindness which he had
shown to young Vincenzo during his lifetime, and for the honour he had
paid to his memory when he was no more. After speaking of the grief and
despair in which the loss of his beloved son had plunged him, the old
man expressed himself as follows:--

"You always encouraged the object of my eternal regret in his labours;
you took him under your protection; you neglected nothing that could
increase his glory and his welfare. After my son's death what have you
not done to honour his memory and render it dear to posterity! I learnt
this from the newspapers; and I am penetrated with gratitude for your
excessive kindness, as well as for that of a number of distinguished
artistes, which also I shall never forget. Pray, sir, be my interpreter,
and tell these artistes that the father and family of Bellini, as well
as our compatriots of Catana, will cherish an imperishable recollection
of this generous conduct. I shall never cease to remember how much you
did for my son; I shall make known everywhere, in the midst of my tears,
what an affectionate heart belongs to the great Rossini; and how kind,
hospitable, and full of feeling are the artistes of France."


If we compare Bellini with Donizetti, we find that the latter was the
more prolific of the two, judging simply by the number of works
produced; inasmuch as Donizetti, at the age of twenty-eight, had already
produced thirteen operas; whereas the number of Bellini's dramatic
works, when he died in his twenty-ninth year, amounted only to nine. But
of the baker's dozen thrown off by Donizetti at so early an age, not one
made any impression on the public, or on musicians, such as was caused
by _I Capuletti_, or _Il Pirata_, or _La Straniera_, to say nothing of
_I Puritani_, which, in the opinion of many good judges, holds forth
greater promise of dramatic excellence than is contained in any other of
Bellini's works, including those masterpieces in two such different
styles, _La Sonnambula_ and _Norma_. When Donizetti had been composing
for a dozen years, and had produced thirty one operas (_Anna Bolena_ was
his thirty-second), he had still written nothing which could be ranked
on an equality with Bellini's second-rate works, such as _Il Pirata_ and
_I Capuletti_; and during the second half of Donizetti's operatic
career, not one work of his in three met with the success which
(_Beatrice_ alone excepted) attended all Bellini's operas, as soon as
Bellini had once passed that merely experimental period when, to fail,
is, for a composer of real ability, to learn how not to fail a second
time. I do not say that the composer of _Lucrezia_, _Lucia_, and _Elisir
d'Amore_ is so vastly inferior to the composer of _La Sonnambula_ and
_Norma_; but, simply, that Donizetti, during the first dozen years of
his artistic life, did not approach the excellence shown by the young
Bellini during the nine years which made up the whole of his brief
musical career. More than that, Donizetti never produced a musical
tragedy equal to _Norma_, nor a musical pastoral equal to _La
Sonnambula_; while, dramatic considerations apart, he cannot be compared
to Bellini as an inventor of melody. Indeed, it would be difficult in
the whole range of opera to name three works which contain so many
simple, tender, touching airs, of a refined character, yet possessing
all the elements of popularity (in short, airs whose beauty is
universally appreciable) as _Norma_, _La Sonnambula_, and _I Puritani_.
The simplicity of Bellini's melodies is one of their chief
characteristics; and this was especially remarkable, at a time when
Rossini's imitators were exaggerating the florid style of their model in
every air they produced.

       *       *       *       *       *


Most of the great singers of the modern school,--indeed, all who have
appeared since and including Madame Pasta, have gained their reputation
chiefly in Bellini's and Donizetti's operas. They formed their style, it
is true, by singing Rossini's music; but as the public will not listen
for ever even to such operas as _Il Barbiere_ and _Semiramide_, it was
necessary to provide the new vocalists from time to time with new parts;
and thus "Amina" and "Anna Bolena" were written for Pasta; "Elvino,"
&c., for Rubini; "Edgardo," in the _Lucia_, for Duprez; a complete
quartett of parts in _I Puritani_, for Grisi, Rubini, Tamburini, and
Lablache. Since Donizetti's _Don Pasquale_, composed for Grisi, Mario
(Rubini's successor), Tamburini, and Lablache, no work of any importance
has been composed for the Italian Opera of Paris--nor of London either,
I may add, in spite of Verdi's _I Masnadieri_, and Halévy's _La
Tempesta_, both manufactured expressly for Her Majesty's Theatre.

I have already spoken of Pasta's and Malibran's successes in Rossini's
operas. The first part written for Pasta by Bellini was that of "Amina"
in the _Sonnambula_; the second, that of "Norma." But though Pasta
"created" these characters, she was destined to be surpassed in both of
them by the former Marietta Garcia, now returned from America, and known
everywhere as Malibran. This vocalist, by all accounts the most poetic
and impassioned of all the great singers of her period, arrived in Italy
just when _I Capuletti_, _La Sonnambula_, and _Norma_, were at the
height of their popularity--thanks, in a great measure, to the admirable
manner in which the part of the heroine in each of these works was
represented by Pasta. Malibran appeared as "Amina," as "Norma," and also
as "Romeo," in _I Capuletti_. She "interpreted" the characters (to
borrow an expression, which is admissible, in this case, from the jargon
of French musical critics) in her own manner, and very ingeniously
brought into relief just those portions of the music of each which were
not rendered prominent in the Pasta versions. The new singer was
applauded enthusiastically. The public were really grateful to her for
bringing to light beauties which, but for her, would have remained in
the shade. But it was also thought that Malibran feared her illustrious
rival and predecessor too much, to attempt _her_ readings. This was just
the impression she wished to produce; and when she saw that the public
had made up its mind on the subject, she changed her tactics, followed
Pasta's interpretation, and beat her on her own ground. She excelled
wherever Pasta had excelled, and proved herself on the whole superior to
her. Finally, she played the parts of "Norma" and "Amina" in her first
and second manner combined. This rendered her triumph decisive.

Now Malibran commenced a triumphal progress through Italy. Wherever she
sang, showers of bouquets and garlands fell at her feet; the horses were
taken from her carriage on her leaving the theatre, and she was dragged
home amid the shouts of an admiring crowd. These so-called
"ovations"[100] were renewed at every operatic city in Italy; and
managers disputed, in a manner previously unexampled, the honour and
profit of engaging the all-successful vocalist.

[Sidenote: MALIBRAN.]

The director of the Trieste opera gave Malibran four thousand francs a
night, and at the end of her engagement pressed her to accept a set of
diamonds. Malibran refused, observing, that what she had already
received was amply sufficient for her services, and more than she would
ever have thought of asking for them, had not the terms been proposed by
the director himself.

"Accept my present all the same," replied the liberal _impresario_; "I
can afford to offer you this little souvenir. It will remind you that I
made an excellent thing out of your engagement, and it may, perhaps,
help to induce you to come here again."

"The actions of this fiery existence," says M. Castil Blaze, "would
appear fabulous if we had not seen Marietta amongst us, fulfilling her
engagements at the theatre, resisting all the fatigue of the rehearsals,
of the representations, after galloping morning and evening in the Bois
de Boulogne, so as to tire out two horses. She used to breakfast during
the rehearsals on the stage. I said to her, one morning, at the
theatre:--'_Marietta carissima, non morrai. Che farò, dunque? Nemica
sorte! Creperai._'

"Her travels, her excursions, her studies, her performances might have
filled the lives of two artists, and two very complete lives, moreover.
She starts for Sinigaglia, during the heat of July, in man's clothes,
takes her seat on the box of the carriage, drives the horses; scorched
by the sun of Italy, covered with dust, she arrives, jumps into the
sea, swims like a dolphin, and then goes to her hotel to dress. At
Brussels, she is applauded as a French Rosìna, delivering the prose of
Beaumarchais as Mademoiselle Mars would have delivered it. She leaves
Brussels for London, comes back to Paris, travels about in Brie, and
returns to London, not like a courier, but like a dove on the wing. We
all know what the life of a singer is in the capital of England, the
life of a dramatic singer of the highest talent. After a rehearsal at
the opera, she may have three or four matinée's to attend; and when the
curtain falls, and she can escape from the theatre, there are soirées
which last till day-break. Malibran kept all these engagements, and,
moreover, gave Sunday to her friends; this day of absolute rest to all
England, was to Marietta only another day of excitement."

[Sidenote: MALIBRAN.]

Malibran spoke Spanish, Italian, French, English, and a little German,
and acted and sang in the first four of these languages. In London, she
appeared in an English version of _La Sonnambula_ (1838), when her
representation of the character of "Amina" created a general enthusiasm
such as can scarcely have been equalled during the "Jenny Lind
mania,"--perfect vocalist as was Jenny Lind. Malibran appears, however,
to have been a more impassioned singer, and was certainly a finer
actress than the Swedish Nightingale. "Never losing sight of the
simplicity of the character," says a writer in describing her
performance in _La Sonnambula_, "she gave irresistible grace and force
to the pathetic passages with which it abounds, and excited the feeling
of the audience to as high pitch as can be perceived. Her sleep-walking
scenes, in which the slightest amount of exaggeration or want of caution
would have destroyed the whole effect, were played with exquisite
discrimination; she sang the airs with refined taste and great power;
her voice, which was remarkable, rather for its flexibility and
sweetness than for its volume, was as pure as ever, and her style
displayed that high cultivation and luxuriance which marked the school
in which she was educated, and which is almost identified with the name
she formerly bore."

Drury Lane was the last theatre at which Madame Malibran sang; but the
last notes she ever uttered were heard at Manchester, where she
performed only in oratorios and at concerts. Before leaving London,
Madame Malibran had a fall from her horse, and all the time she was
singing at Manchester, she was suffering from its effects. She had
struck her head, and the violence of the blow, together with the general
shock to her nerves, without weakening any of her faculties, seemed to
have produced that feverish excitement which gave such tragic poetry to
her last performances. At first, she would take no precautions, though
inflammation of the brain was to be feared, and, indeed, might be said
to have already declared itself. She continued to sing, and never was
her voice more pure and melodious, never was her execution more daring
and dazzling, never before had she sung with such inspiration and with a
passion which communicated itself in so electric a manner to her
audience. She was bled; not one of the doctors appears to have had
sufficient strength of mind to enforce that absolute rest which everyone
must have known was necessary for her existence, and she still went on
singing. There were no signs of any loss of physical power, while her
nervous force appeared to have increased. The last time she ever sang,
she executed the duet from _Andronico_, with Madame Caradori, who, by a
very natural sympathy, appeared herself to have received something of
that almost supernatural fire which was burning within the breast of
Malibran, and which was now fast consuming her. The public applauded
with ecstacy, and as the general excitement increased, the marvellous
vocalisation of the dying singer became almost miraculous. She
improvised a final cadence, which was the climax of her triumph and of
her life. The bravos of the audience were not at an end when she had
already sunk exhausted into the arms of Madame Alessandri, who carried
her, fainting, into the artist's room. She was removed immediately to
the hotel. It was now impossible to save her, and so convinced of this
was her husband, that almost before she had breathed her last, he was on
his way to Paris, the better to secure every farthing of her property!

       *       *       *       *       *

[Sidenote: RUBINI.]

Rubini, though he first gained his immense reputation by his mode of
singing the airs of _Il Pirata_, _Anna Bolena_, and _La Sonnambula_,
formed his style in the first instance, on the operas of Rossini. This
vocalist, however, sang and acted in a great many different capacities
before he was recognised as the first of all first tenors. At the age of
twelve Rubini made his début at the theatre of Romano, his native town,
in a woman's part. This curious _prima donna_ afterwards sat down at the
door of the theatre, between two candles, and behind a plate, in which
the admiring public deposited their offerings to the fair bénéficiare.
She is said to have been perfectly satisfied with the receipts and with
the praise accorded to her for her first performance. Rubini afterwards
went to Bergamo, where he was engaged to play the violin in the
orchestra between the acts of comedies, and to sing in the choruses
during the operatic season. A drama was to be brought out in which a
certain cavatina was introduced. The manager was in great trouble to
find a singer to whom this air could be entrusted. Rubini was mentioned,
the manager offered him a few shillings to sing it, the bargain was
made, and the new vocalist was immensely applauded. This air was the
production of Lamberti. Rubini kept it, and many years afterwards, when
he was at the height of his reputation, was fond of singing it in memory
of his first composer.

In 1835, twenty-three years after Rubini's first engagement at Bergamo,
the tenor of the Théâtre Italien of Paris was asked to intercede for a
chorus-singer, who expected to be dismissed from the establishment. He
told the unhappy man to write a letter to the manager, and then gave it
the irresistible weight of his recommendation by signing it "Rubini,
_Ancien Choriste_."

After leaving Bergamo, Rubini was engaged as second tenor in an operatic
company of no great importance. He next joined a wandering troop, and
among other feats he is said to have danced in a ballet somewhere in
Piedmont, where, for his pains, he was violently hissed.

In 1814, he was engaged at Pavia as tenor, where he received about
thirty-six shillings a month. Sixteen years afterwards, Rubini and his
wife were offered an engagement of six thousand pounds, and at last the
services of Rubini alone were retained at the Italian Opera of St.
Petersburgh, at the rate of twenty thousand pounds a year.

[Sidenote: RUBINI.]

Rubini was such a great singer, and possessed such admirable powers of
expression, especially in pathetic airs (it was well said of him,
"_qu'il avait des larmes dans la voix_,") that he may be looked upon as,
in some measure, the creator of the operatic style which succeeded that
of the Rossinian period up to the production of _Semiramide_, the last
of Rossini's works, written specially for Italy. The florid mode of
vocalization had been carried to an excess when Rubini showed what
effect he could produce by singing melodies of a simple emotional
character, without depending at all on vocalization merely as such. It
has already been mentioned that Bellini wrote _Il Pirato_ with Rubini at
his side, and it is very remarkable that Donizetti never achieved any
great success, and was never thought to have exhibited any style of his
own until he produced _Anna Bolena_, in which the tenor part was
composed expressly for Rubini. Every one who is acquainted with _Anna
Bolena_, will understand how much Rossini's mode of singing the airs,
_Ogni terra ove_, &c., and _Vivi tu_, must have contributed to the
immense favour with which it was received.

Rubini will long be remembered as the tenor of the incomparable quartett
for whom the _Puritani_ was written, and who performed together in it
for seven consecutive years in Paris and in London. Rubini disappeared
from the West in 1841, and was replaced in the part of "Arturo," by
Mario. Tamburini was the next to disappear, and then Lablache. Neither
Riccardo nor Giorgio have since found thoroughly efficient
representatives, and now we have lost with Grisi the original "Elvira,"
without knowing precisely where another is to come from.


Before taking leave of Rubini, I must mention a sort of duel he once had
with a rebellious B flat, the history of which has been related at
length by M. Castil Blaze, in the _Revue de Paris_. Pacini's _Talismano_
had just been produced with great success at _la Scala_. Rubini made his
entry in this opera with an accompanied recitative, which the public
always applauded enthusiastically. One phrase in particular, which the
singer commenced by attacking the high B flat without preparation, and,
holding it for a considerable period, excited their admiration to the
highest point. Since Farinelli's celebrated trumpet song, no one note
had ever obtained such a success as their wonderful B flat of Rubini's.
The public of Milan went in crowds to hear it, and having heard it,
never failed to encore it. _Un 'altra volta!_ resounded through the
house almost before the magic note itself had ceased to ring. The great
singer had already distributed fourteen B flats among his admiring
audiences, when, eager for the fifteenth and sixteenth, the Milanese
thronged to their magnificent theatre to be present at the eighth
performance of _Il Talismano_. The orchestra executed the brief prelude
which announced the entry of the tenor. Rubini appeared, raised his eyes
to heaven, extended his arms, planted himself firmly on his calves,
inflated his breast, opened his mouth, and sought, by the usual means,
to pronounce the wished-for B flat. But no B flat would come. _Os habet,
et non clamabit._ Rubini was dumb; the public did their best to
encourage the disconsolate singer, applauded him, cheered him, and gave
him courage to attack the unhappy B flat a second time. On this
occasion, Rubini was victorious. Determined to catch the fugitive note,
which for a moment had escaped him, the singer brought all the muscular
force of his immense lungs into play, struck the B flat, and threw it
out among the audience with a vigour which surprised and delighted them.
In the meanwhile, the tenor was by no means equally pleased with the
triumph he had just gained. He felt, that in exerting himself to the
utmost, he had injured himself in a manner which might prove very
serious. Something in the mechanism of his voice had given way. He had
felt the fracture at the time. He had, indeed, conquered the B flat, but
at what an expense; that of a broken clavicle!

However, he continued his scene. He was wounded, but triumphant, and in
his artistic elation he forgot the positive physical injury he had
sustained. On leaving the stage he sent for the surgeon of the theatre,
who, by inspecting and feeling Rubini's clavicle, convinced himself that
it was indeed fractured. The bone had been unable to resist the tension
of the singer's lungs. Rubini may have been said to have swelled his
voice until it burst one of its natural barriers.

"It seems to me," said the wounded tenor, "that a man can go on singing
with a broken clavicle."

"Certainly," replied the doctor, "you have just proved it."

"How long would it take to mend it?" he enquired.

"Two months, if you remained perfectly quiet during the whole time."

"Two months! And I have only sung seven times. I should have to give up
my engagement. Can a person live comfortably with a broken clavicle?"

"Very comfortably indeed. If you take care not to lift any weight you
will experience no disagreeable effects."

"Ah! there is my cue," exclaimed Rubini; "I shall go on singing."

"Rubini went on singing," says M. Castil Blaze, "and I do not think any
one who heard him in 1831 could tell that he was listening to a wounded
singer--wounded gloriously on the field of battle. As a musical doctor I
was allowed to touch his wound, and I remarked on the left side of the
clavicle a solution of continuity, three or four lines[101] in extent
between the two parts of the fractured bone. I related the adventure in
the _Revue de Paris_, and three hundred persons went to Rubini's house
to touch the wound, and verify my statement."

[Sidenote: TAMBURINI.]

Two other vocalists are mentioned in the history of music, who not only
injured themselves in singing, but actually died of their injuries.
Fabris had shown himself an unsuccessful rival of the celebrated
Guadagni, when his master, determined that he should gain a complete
victory, composed expressly for him an air of the greatest difficulty,
which the young singer was to execute at the San Carlo Theatre, at
Naples. Fabris protested that he could not sing, or that if so, it would
cost him his life; but he yielded to his master's iron will, attacked
the impossible air, and died on the stage of hæmorrhage of the lungs. In
the same manner, an air which the tenor Labitte was endeavouring to
execute at the Lion's theatre, in 1820, was the cause of his own

I have spoken of the versatility of talent displayed by Rubini in his
youth. Tamburini and Lablache were equally expert singers in every
style. In the year 1822 Tamburini was engaged at Palermo, where, on the
last day of the carnival, the public attend, or used to attend, the
Opera, with drums, trumpets, saucepans, shovels, and all kinds of
musical and unmusical instruments--especially noisy ones. On this
tumultuous evening, Tamburini, already a great favourite with the
Palermitans, had to sing in Mercadante's _Elisa e Claudio_. The public
received him with a salvo of their carnavalesque artillery, when
Tamburini, finding that it was impossible to make himself heard in the
ordinary way, determined to execute his part in falsetto; and, the
better to amuse the public, commenced singing with the voice of a
soprano sfogato. The astonished audience laid their instruments aside to
listen to the novel and entirely unexpected accents of their _basso
cantante_. Tamburini's falsetto was of wonderful purity, and in using it
he displayed the same agility for which he was remarkable when employing
his ordinary thoroughly masculine voice. The Palermitans were interested
by this novel display of vocal power, and were, moreover, pleased at
Tamburini's readiness and ingenuity in replying to their seemingly
unanswerable charivari. But the poor _prima donna_ was unable to enter
into the joke at all. She even imagined that the turbulent
demonstrations with which she was received whenever she made her
appearance, were intended to insult her, and long before the opera was
at an end she refused to continue her part. The manager was in great
alarm, for he knew that the public would not stand upon any ceremony
that evening; and that, if the performance were interrupted by anything
but their own noise, they would probably break everything in the
theatre. Tamburini rushed to the _prima donna's_ room. Madame Lipparini,
the lady in question, had already left the theatre, but she had also
left the costume of "Elisa" behind. The ingenious baritone threw off his
coat, contrived, by stretching and splitting, to get on "Elisa's" satin
dress, clapped her bonnet over his own wig, and thus equipped appeared
on the stage, ready to take the part of the unhappy and now fugitive
Lipparini. The audience applauded with one accord the entry of the
strangest "Elisa" ever seen. Her dress came only half way down her legs,
the sleeves did not extend anywhere near her wrists. The soprano, who at
a moment's notice had replaced Madame Lipparini, had the largest hands
and feet a _prima donna_ was ever known to possess.

[Sidenote: TAMBURINI.]

The band had played the ritornello of "Elisa's" cavatina a dozen times,
and the most turbulent among the assembly had actually got up from their
seats, and were ready to scale the orchestra, and jump on the stage,
when Tamburini rushed on in the costume above described. After
curtseying to the audience, pressing one hand to his heart, and with
the other wiping away the tears of gratitude he was supposed to shed for
the enthusiastic reception accorded to him, he commenced the cavatina,
and went through it admirably; burlesquing it a little for the sake of
the costume, but singing it, nevertheless, with marvellous expression,
and displaying executive power far superior to any that Madame Lipparini
herself could have shown. As long as there were only airs to sing,
Tamburini got on easily enough. He devoted his soprano voice to "Elisa,"
while the "Count" remained still a basso, the singer performing his
ordinary part in his ordinary voice. But a duet for "Elisa" and the
"Count" was approaching; and the excited amateurs, now oblivious of
their drums, kettles, and kettle-drums, were speculating with anxious
interest as to how Tamburini would manage to be soprano and
basso-cantante in the same piece. The vocalist found no difficulty in
executing the duet. He performed both parts--the bass replying to the
soprano, and the soprano to the bass--with the most perfect precision.
The double representative even made a point of passing from right to
left and from left to right, according as he was the father-in-law or
the daughter. This was the crowning success. The opera was now listened
to with pleasure and delight to the very end; and it was not until the
fall of the curtain that the audience re-commenced their charivari, by
way of testifying their admiration for Tamburini, who was called upwards
of a dozen times on to the stage. This was not all: they were so
grieved at the idea of losing him, that they entreated him to appear
again in the ballet. He did so, and gained fresh applause by his
performance in a _pas de quatre_ with the Taglionis and Mademoiselle

       *       *       *       *       *

[Sidenote: LABLACHE.]

Lablache was scarcely seventeen years of age, and had just finished his
studies at the Conservatorio of Naples when he was engaged as
"Neapolitan buffo" at the little San Carlino theatre. Here two
performances were given every day, one in the afternoon, the other in
the evening, while the morning was devoted to rehearsals. Lablache
supported the fatigue caused by this system without his voice suffering
the slightest injury, though all the other members of the company were
obliged to throw up their engagements before the year was out, and
several of them never recovered their voices. He had been five months at
San Carlino when he married Teresa Pinotti, daughter of an actor engaged
at the theatre, and one of the greatest comedians of Italy. This union
appears to have had a great effect on Lablache's fate. His wife saw what
genius he possessed, and thought of all possible means to get him away
from San Carlino, an establishment which she justly regarded as unworthy
of him. Lablache, for his part, would have remained there all his life,
playing the part of Neapolitan buffo, without thinking of the brilliant
position within his reach. There was at that time a celebrated
Neapolitan buffo, named Mililotti, who, Madame Lablache thought, might
advantageously replace her husband. She not only procured an engagement
for Lablache's rival at the San Carlino theatre, but is even said to
have packed the house the first night of his appearance (or
re-appearance, for he was already known to the Neapolitans) so as to
ensure him a favourable reception. Her intelligent love would,
doubtless, have caused her to hiss her husband, had not Mililotti's
success been sufficiently great to convince Lablache that he might as
well seek his fortune elsewhere, and in a higher sphere. He had some
hesitation, however, about singing in the Tuscan language, accustomed as
he was to the Neapolitan jargon, but his wife determined him to make the
change, and procured an engagement for him in Sicily. Arrived at
Messina, however, he continued for some time to appear as Neapolitan
buffo, a line for which he had always had a great predilection, and in
which, spite of the forced success of Mililotti, he had no equal.

Lablache will be generally remembered as a true basso; but, before
appearing as "Bartolo" in the _Barber of Seville_, he for many years
played the part of "Figaro." I have seen it stated that Lablache has
played not only the bass and baritone, but also the tenor part in
Rossini's great comic opera; but I do not believe that he ever appeared
as "Count Almaviva." I have said that he performed bass parts (the
Neapolitan buffo was always a bass), when he first made his _début_; and
during the last five-and-twenty years of his career, his
voice--marvellously even and sound from one end to the other--had at the
same time no extraordinary compass; but from G to E all his notes were
full, clear, and sonorous, as the tones of a bronze bell. Indeed, this
bell-like quality of the great basso's voice, is said on one occasion to
have been the cause of considerable alarm to his wife, who, hearing its
deep boom in the middle of the night, imagined, as she started from her
slumbers, that the house was on fire. This was the period of the great
popularity of _I Puritani_, when Grisi, accompanied by Lablache, was in
the habit of singing the polacca three times a week at the opera, and
about twice a day at morning concerts. Lablache, after executing his
part of this charming and popular piece three times in nine hours, was
so haunted by it, that he continued to ring out his sounding _staccato_
accompaniment in his sleep. Fortunately, Madame Lablache succeeded in
stopping this somnambulistic performance before the engines arrived.

[Sidenote: LABLACHE.]

Like all complete artists, like Malibran, like Ronconi, like Garrick,
the great type of the class, Lablache was equally happy in serious and
in comic parts. Though Malibran is chiefly remembered in England by her
almost tragic rendering of the part of "Amina" in the _Sonnambula_, many
persons who have heard her in all her _répertoire_, assure me that she
exhibited the greatest talent in comic opera, or in such lively "half
character" parts as "Norina" in the _Elixir of Love_, and "Zerlina" in
_Don Giovanni_. Lord Mount Edgcumbe declares, after speaking of her
performance of "Semiramide" ("Semiramide" has also been mentioned as one
of Malibran's best parts) that "in characters of less energy she is much
better, and best of all in the comic opera. She even condescended," he
adds, "to make herself a buffa caricata, and take the third and least
important part in Cimarosa's _Matrimonio Segretto_, that of an old woman
(the Mrs. Heidelberg of the _Clandestine Marriage_), generally acted by
the lowest singer of the company. From an insignificant character she
raised it to a prominent one, and very greatly added to the effect of
that excellent opera." So of Lablache, Lord Mount Edgcumbe, after
remarking that his voice was "not only of deeper compass than almost any
ever heard, but, when he chose, absolutely stentorian," tells his
readers that "he was a most excellent actor, especially in comic operas,
in which he was (as I am told) as highly diverting as any of the most
laughable comedians." Yet the character in which Lablache himself, and
not Lablache's reputation, produced so favourable an impression on this
writer--not very favourably impressed by any singers, or any music
towards the close of his life--was "Assur" in _Semiramide!_ Who that
remembers Lablache as "Bartolo"--that remembers the prominence and the
genuine humour which he gave to that slight and colourless part--can
deny that he was one of the greatest of comic actors? And did he not
communicate the same importance to the minor character of "Oroveso" in
_Norma_, in which nothing could be more tragic and impressive than his
scene with the repentant dying priestess in the last act? What a
picture, too, was his "Henry VIII." in _Anna Bolena_! A picture which
Lablache himself composed from a careful study of the costume worn by
the original, and for which nature had certainly supplied him in the
first place with a most suitable form. Think, again, of his superb
grandeur as "Maometto," of his touching dignity as "Desdemona's" father;
then forget both these characters, and recollect how perfect, how unique
a "Leporello" was this same Lablache. One of our best critics has taken
objection to Lablache's version of this last-named part--though, of
course, without objecting to his actual performance, which he as well,
or better than any one else, knows to have been almost beyond praise.
But it has been said that Lablache (and if Lablache, then all his
predecessors in the same character) indulged in an unbecoming spirit of
burlesque during the last scene of _Don Giovanni_, in which the statue
seizes the hero with his strong hand, and takes him down a practicable
trap-door to eternal torments. "Leporello," however, is a burlesque
character, and a buffoon throughout; cowardly, superstitious, greedy,
with all possible low qualities developed to a ludicrous extent, and
thus presenting a fine dramatic contrast to his master, who possesses
all the noble qualities, except faith--this one great flaw rendering all
the use he makes of valour, generosity, and love of woman, an abuse.
"Leporello" is always thinking of the bad end which he is sure awaits
him unless he quits the service of a master whom he is afraid to leave;
always thinking, too, of maccaroni, money, and the wages which "Don
Juan" certainly will not pay him, if he is taken to the infernal regions
before his next quarter is due. "_Mes gages, mes gages_," cries the
"Sganarelle" of Molière's comedy, and "Sganarelle" and "Leporello" are
one and the same person. We may be sure that Molière and Lablache are
right, and that Herr Formes, with his new reading of a good old part is
wrong. At the same time it is natural and allowable that a singer who
cannot be comic should be serious.

In addition to his other great accomplishments, Lablache possessed that
of being able to whistle in a style that many a piccolo player would
have envied. He could whistle all Rode's variations as perfectly as
Louisa Pyne sings them. As to the vibratory force of his full voice, it
was such that to have allowed Lablache to sing in a green house might
have been a dangerous experiment. Chéron, a celebrated French bass, is
said to have been able to burst a tumbler into a thousand pieces, by
sounding, within a fragile and doubtless sympathetic glass, some
particular note. Equally interesting, in connexion with a glass, is a
performance in which I have seen the veteran,[102] but still almost
juvenile basso, Signor Badiali, indulge. The artist takes a glass of
particularly good claret, drinks it, and, while in the act of
swallowing, sings a scale. The first time his execution is not quite
perfect. He repeats the performance with a full glass, a loud voice, and
without missing a note or a drop. To convince his friends that there is
no deception, he offers to go through this refreshing species of
vocalization a third time; after which, if the supply of wine on the
table happens to be limited, and the servants gone to bed, the audience
generally declares itself satisfied.

[Sidenote: MADAME GRISI.]

Giulia Grisi, the last of the celebrated Puritani quartett, first
distinguished herself by her performance of the part of "Adalgisa," in
_Norma_, when that opera was produced at Milan, in 1832. Giulia or
Giulietta Grisi, is the younger sister of Giuditta Grisi, also a singer,
but to whom Giulietta was superior in all respects; and she is the elder
sister of Carlotta Grisi, who, from an ordinary vocalist, became, under
the tuition of Perrot, the most charming dancer of her time. When Madame
Grisi first appeared, lord Mount Edgcumbe having ceased himself to
attend the opera, tells us that she possessed "a handsome person, sweet,
yet powerful voice, considerable execution, and still more expression;"
that "she is an excellent singer, and excellent actress;" in short, is
described to be as nearly perfect as possible, and is almost a greater
favorite than even Pasta or Malibran. In his _Pencillings by the Way_,
Mr. N. P. Willis writes, after seeing Grisi, who had then first appeared
at the King's Theatre, in the year 1833; "she is young, very pretty,
and an admirable actress--three great advantages to a singer; her voice
is under absolute command, and she manages it beautifully; but it wants
the infusion of soul--the gushing uncontrollable passionate feeling of
Malibran. You merely feel that Grisi is an accomplished artist, while
Malibran melts all your criticism into love and admiration. I am easily
moved by music, but I come away without much enthusiasm for the present
passion of London." The impression conveyed by Mr. N. P. Willis is not
precisely that which I received from hearing Grisi fourteen or fifteen
years afterwards, and up to her last season. Of late years, at least,
Madame Grisi has shown herself above all "a passionate singer," though
as "accomplished artists" superior to her, if not in force at least in
delicacy of expression, she has, from the time of Madame Sontag to that
of Madame Bosio, had plenty of superiors. It seems to us, in the present
day, that the "incontrollable passionate feeling of Grisi," is just what
we admire her for in "Norma," beyond doubt her best character; but it is
none the less interesting, or perhaps the more interesting for that very
reason, to know what a man of taste in poetry and the drama, and who had
heard all the best singers of his time, thought of Madame Grisi at a
period when her most striking qualifications may have been different
from what they are now. She was at all events a great singer and actress
then, in 1833, and is a great actress and singer now, in 1861--the year
of her final retirement from the stage.



[Sidenote: ROSSINI.]

Bellini and Donizetti were contemporaries of Rossini; so were Paisiello
and Cimarosa; so are M. Verdi and M. Meyerbeer; but Rossini has outlived
most of them, and will certainly outlive them all. It is now forty-eight
years since _Tancredi_, forty-five since _Otello_, and forty-five since
_Il Barbiere di Siviglia_ were written. With the exception of Cimarosa's
_Matrimonio Segretto_, which at long intervals may still occasionally be
heard, the works of Rossini's Italian predecessors have been thrown into
utter obscurity by the light of his superior genius. Let us make all due
allowances for such change of taste as must result in music, as in all
things, from the natural changeableness of the human disposition; still
no variation has taken place in the estimation in which Rossini's works
are held. It was to be expected that a musician of equal genius, coming
after Paisiello and his compeers, young and vigorous, when they were old
and exhausted, would in time completely eclipse them, even in respect to
those works which they had written in their best days; but the
remarkable thing is, that Rossini so re-modelled Italian opera, and gave
to the world so many admirable examples of his own new style, that to
opera-goers of the last thirty years he may be said to be the most
ancient of those Italian composers who are not absolutely forgotten. At
the same time, after hearing _William Tell_, it is impossible to deny
that Rossini is also the most modern of operatic composers. That is to
say, that since _William Tell_ was produced, upwards of thirty years
ago, the art of writing dramatic music has not advanced a step. Other
composers have written admirable operas during Rossini's time; but if no
Italian _opera seria_, produced prior to _Otello_, can be compared to
_Otello_; if no opera, subsequent to _William Tell_, can be ranked on a
level with _William Tell_; if rivals have arisen, and Rossini's operas
of five-and-forty years ago still continue to be admired and applauded;
above all, if a singer,[103] the favourite heroine of a composer[104]
who is so boastfully modern that he fancies he belongs to the next age,
and who is nothing if not an innovator; if even this ultra modern
heroine appears, when she wishes really to distinguish herself in a
Rossinian opera of 1813;[105] then it follows that of our actual
operatic period, and dating from the early part of the present century,
Rossini is simply the Alpha and the Omega. Undoubtedly his works are
full of beauty, gaiety, life, and of much poetry of a positive,
passionate kind, but they are wanting in spiritualism, or rather they
do not possess spirituality, and exhibit none of the poetry of romance.
It would be difficult to say precisely in what the "romantic"
consists;--and I am here reminded that several French writers have
spoken of Rossini as a composer of the "romantic school," simply (as I
imagine) because his works attained great popularity in France at the
same time as those of Victor Hugo and his followers, and because he gave
the same extension to the opera which the cultivators and naturalisers
in France of the Shakspearian drama gave, _after_ Rossini, to their
plays.[106] I may safely say, however, that with the "romantic," as an
element of poetry, we always associate somewhat of melancholy and
vagueness, and of dreaminess, if not of actual mystery. A bright
passionate love-song of Rossini's is no more "romantic" than is a
magnificent summer's day under an Italian sky; but Schubert's well known
_Serenade_ is essentially "romantic;" and Schubert, as well as Hoffmann,
(a composer of whom I shall afterwards have a few words to say), is
decidedly of the same school as Weber, who is again of the same school,
or rather of the same class, as Schubert and Beethoven, in so far that
not one of the three ever visited Italy, or was influenced, further than
was absolutely inevitable, by Italian composers.

[Sidenote: SPOHR.]

As a romantic composer Weber may almost be said to stand alone. As a
thoroughly German composer he belongs to the same class as Beethoven and
Spohr. Spohr, greatly as his symphonies and chamber compositions are
admired, has yet never established himself in public favour as an
operatic composer--at least not in England, nor indeed anywhere out of
Germany. I may add, that in Germany itself, the land above all others of
scientific music, the works which keep possession of the stage are, for
the most part, those which the public also love to applaud in other
countries. The truth is, that the success of an opera is seldom in
proportion to its abstract musical merit, just as the success of a drama
does not depend, or depends but very little, on the manner in which it
is written. We have seen plays by Browning, Taylor (I mean the author of
Philip Von Artevelde), Leigh Hunt, and other most distinguished writers,
prove failures; while dramas and comedies put together by actors and
playwrights have met with great success. This success is not to be
undervalued; all I mean to say is, that it is not necessarily gained by
the best writers in the drama, or by the best composers in the opera;
though the best composers and the best writers ought to take care to
achieve it in every department in which they present themselves. In the
meanwhile, Spohr's dramatic works, with all their beauties, have never
taken root in this country; while even Beethoven's _Fidelio_, one of the
greatest of operas, does not occupy any clearly marked space in the
history of opera; nor is it as an operatic composer that Beethoven has
gained his immense celebrity.

[Sidenote: BEETHOVEN.]

All London opera-goers remember Mademoiselle Sophie Cruvelli's admirable
performance in _Fidelio_; and like Mademoiselle Cruvelli (or Cruwel),
all the great German singers who have visited England--with the single
exception of Mademoiselle Titiens--have some time or other played the
part of the heroine in Beethoven's famous dramatic work: but _Fidelio_
has never been translated into English or French,--has never been played
by any thoroughly Italian company, and admired, as it must always be by
musicians--nor has ever excited any great enthusiasm among the English
public, except when it has been executed by an entire company of
Germans,--the only people who can do justice to its magnificent
choruses. It is a work apart in more than one sense, and it has not had
that perceptible influence on the works which have succeeded it, either
in Germany or in other countries, that has been exercised by Weber's
operas in Germany, and by Rossini's everywhere. For full particulars
respecting Beethoven and his three styles, and _Fidelio_ and its three
overtures, the reader may be referred to the works published at St.
Petersburgh by M. Lenz in 1852 (_Beethoven et ses trois styles_), at
Coblentz, by Dr. Wegeler and Ferdinand Ries in 1838, and at Munster, by
Schindler (that friend of Beethoven's, who, according to the malicious
Heine, wrote "_Ami de Beethoven_" on his card), in 1845. Schindler's
book is the sourse of nearly all the biographical particulars since
published respecting Beethoven; that of M. Lenz is chiefly remarkable
for the inflated nonsense it contains in the shape of criticism. Thus
Beethoven's third style is said to be "_un jugement porté sur le cosmos
humain, et non plus une participation à ses impressions_,"--words which,
I confess, I do not know how to render into intelligible English. His
symphonies in general are "events of universal history rather than
musical productions of more or less merit." Those who have read M.
Lenz's extravagant production, will remember that he attacks here and
there M. Oulibicheff, author of the "Life of Mozart," published at
Moscow in 1844. M. Oulibicheff replied in a work devoted specially to
Beethoven (and to M. Lenz), published at St. Petersburgh in 1854;[107]
in which he is said by our best critics not to have done full justice to
Beethoven, though he well maintains his assertion; an assertion which
appears to me quite unassailable, that the composer of _Don Juan_
combined all the merits of all the schools which had preceded him. I
have already endeavoured, in more than one place, to impress this truth
upon such of my readers as might not be sufficiently sensible of it, and
moreover, that all the important operatic reforms attributed to the
successors of Mozart, and especially to Rossini, belong to Mozart
himself, who from his eminence dominates equally over the present and
the past.


Karl Maria von Weber has had a very different influence on the opera
from that exercised by Beethoven and Spohr; and so much of his method of
operatic composition as could easily be imitated has found abundance of
imitators. Thus Weber's plan of taking the principal melodies for his
overtures from the operas which they are to precede, has been very
generally followed; so also has his system of introducing national airs,
more or less modified, when his great object is to give to his work a
national colour.[108] This process, which produces admirable results in
the hands of a composer of intelligence and taste, becomes, when adopted
by inferior musicians, simply a convenient mode of plagiarism. Without
for one moment ranking Rossini, Bellini, or Donizetti in the latter
class, I may nevertheless observe, that the cavatina of _La Gazza Ladra_
is founded on an air sung by the peasants of Sicily; that the melody of
the trio in the _Barber of Seville_ (_Zitti, Zitti_), is Simon's air in
the _Seasons_, note for note; that _Di tanti palpiti_ was originally a
Roman Catholic hymn; that the music of _La Sonnambula_ is full of
reminiscences of the popular music of Sicily; and that Donizetti has
also had recourse to national airs for the tunes of his choruses in _La
Favorite_. In the above instances, which might easily be multiplied the
composers seem to me rather to have suited their own personal
convenience, than to have aimed at giving any particular "colour" to
their works. However that may be, I feel obliged to them for my part for
having brought to light beautiful melodies, which but for them might
have remained in obscurity, as I also do to Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven,
and Mendelssohn, for the admirable use they also have occasionally made
of popular themes. It appears to me, however, (to speak now of operatic
composers alone) that there is a great difference between borrowing an
air from an oratorio, a collection of national music, or any other
source, simply because it happens to be beautiful, and doing so because
it is appropriate to a particular personage or scene. We may not blame,
but we cannot praise Rossini for taking a melody of Haydn's for his
_Zitti, Zitti_, instead of inventing one for himself; nor was there any
particular merit, except that of civility, in giving "Berta," in the
same opera, a Russian air to sing, which Rossini had heard at the house
of a Russian lady residing at Rome, for whom he had a certain
admiration. But the _Ranz des Vaches_, introduced with such admirable
effect into _Guillaume Tell_, where it is marvellously embellished, and
yet loses nothing of its original character; this _Ranz des Vaches_ at
once transports us amongst the Swiss mountains. So Luther's hymn is in
its proper place in the _Huguenots_;[109] so is the Persian air, made
the subject of a chorus of Persian beauties by the Russian composer
Glinka, in his _Rouslan e Loudmila_; so also is the Arabian march (first
published by Niebuhr in his "Travels in Arabia"), played behind the
scenes by the guards of the seraglio in _Oberon_, and the old Spanish
romance employed as the foundation to the overture of _Preciosa_.

[Sidenote: WEBER.]

Weber had a fondness not only for certain instrumental combinations and
harmonic effects, but also for particular instruments, such as the
clarionet and the horn, and particular chords (which caused Beethoven to
say that Weber's _Euryanthe_ was a collection of diminished sevenths).
There are certain rhythms too, which, if Weber did not absolutely
invent, he has employed so happily, and has shown such a marked liking
for them (not only in his operas, but also in his pianoforte
compositions, and other instrumental works), that they may almost be
said to belong to him. With regard to the orchestral portion of his
operas generally, I may remark that Weber, though too high-souled a poet
to fall into the error of direct imitation of external noises, has yet
been able to suggest most charmingly and poetically, such vague natural
sounds as the rustling of the leaves of the forest, and the murmuring of
the waves of the sea. Finally, to speak of what defies analysis, but to
assert what every one who has listened to Weber's music will I think
admit, his music is full of that ideality and spirituality which in
literature is regarded in the present day, if not as the absolute
essence of poetry, at least, as one of its most essential elements. Read
Weber's life, study his letters, listen again and again to his music,
and you will find that he was a conscientious, dutiful, religious man,
with a thoroughly musical organization, great imaginative powers,
inexhaustible tenderness, and a deep, intuitive appreciation of all that
is most beautiful in popular legends. He was an artist of the highest
order, and with him art was truly a religion. He believed in its
ennobling effect, and that it was to be used only for ennobling
purposes. Thus, to have departed from the poetic exigencies of a subject
to gratify the caprice of a singer, or to attain the momentary applause
of the public would, to Weber, with the faith he held, have been a
heresy and a crime.

Weber has not precisely founded a school, but his influence is
perceptible in some of the works of Mendelssohn, (as, for instance, in
the overture to a _Midsummer Night's Dream_) and in many portions of
Meyerbeer's operas, especially in the fantastic music of _Robert le
Diable_, and in certain passages of _Dinorah_--a legend which Weber
himself would have loved to treat. Meyerbeer is said to have borrowed
many of his instrumental combinations from Weber; but in speaking of the
points of resemblance between the two composers, I was thinking not of
details of style, but of the general influence of Weber's thought and
manner. If Auber is indebted to Weber it is simply for the idea of
making the overture out of the airs of an opera, and of colouring the
melodic portion by the introduction of national airs. Only while Weber
gives to his operas a becoming national or poetic colour throughout, the
musical tints in M. Auber's dramatic works are often by no means in
harmony. The Italian airs in _La Muette_ are appropriate enough, and the
whole of that work is in good keeping; but in the _Domino Noir_,
charming opera as it is, no one can help noticing that Spanish songs,
and songs essentially French, follow one another in the most abrupt
manner. As nothing can be more Spanish than the second movement of
"Angèle's" scene (in the third act) so nothing can be more French, more
Parisian, more vaudevillistic than the first.


But to return to Weber and his operas. _Der Freischütz_, decidedly the
most important of all Weber's works, and which expresses in a more
remarkable manner than any other of his dramatic productions the natural
bent of his genius, was performed for the first time at Berlin in 1821.
_Euryanthe_ was produced at Vienna in 1823, and _Oberon_ at London in
1826. _Der Freischütz_ is certainly the most perfect German opera that
exists; not that it is a superior work to _Don Giovanni_, but that _Don
Giovanni_ is less a German than a universal opera; whereas _Der
Freischütz_ is essentially of Germany, by its subject, by the
physiognomy of the personages introduced, and by the general character
of the music. There is this resemblance, however, between _Don Giovanni_
and _Der Freischütz_: that in each the composer had met with a libretto
peculiarly suited to his genius--the librettist having first conceived
the plan of the opera, and having long carried its germ in his mind.
Lorenzo da Ponte, in his memoirs (of which an interesting account was
published some years ago by M. Scudo, the accomplished critic of the
_Revue des Deux Mondes_) states, that he had long thought of Don Juan as
an admirable subject for an opera, of which he felt the poetic
truthfulness only too well, from reflecting on his own career; and that
he suggested it to Mozart, not only because he appreciated that
composer's high dramatic genius, but also because he had studied his
mental and moral nature; and saw, from his simplicity, his loftiness of
character, and his reverential, religious disposition, that he would do
full justice to the marvellous legend. Frederic Kind has also published
a little volume ("Der Freischütz-Buch"), in which he explains how the
circumstances of his life led him to meditate from an early age on such
legends as that which Weber has treated in his master-piece. When Weber
was introduced to Kind, he was known as the director of the Opera at
Prague, and also, and above all, as the composer of numerous popular and
patriotic choruses, which were sung by all Germany during the national
war of 1813. He had not at this time produced any opera; nor had Kind,
a poet of some reputation, ever written the libretto of one. Kind was
unwilling at first to attempt a style in which he did not feel at all
sure of success. One day, however, taking up a book, he said to Weber:
"There ought to be some thing here that would suit us, and especially
you, who have already treated popular subjects." He at the same time
handed to the musician a collection of legends, directing his attention
in particular to Apel's Freischütz. Weber, who already knew the story,
was delighted with the suggestion. "Divine! divine!" he exclaimed with
enthusiasm; and the poet at once commenced his libretto.


No great work ever obtained a more complete and immediate triumph than
_Der Freischütz_; and within a few years of its production at Berlin it
was translated and re-produced in all the principal capitals of Europe.
It was played at London in English, at Paris in French, and at both
cities in German. In London it became so popular, that at the height of
its first success a gentleman, in advertising for a servant, is said to
have found it necessary to stipulate that he should _not_ be able to
whistle the airs from _Der Freischütz_. In Paris, its fate was curious,
and in some respects almost inexplicable. It was brought out in 1824 at
the Odéon, in its original form, and was hissed. Whether the intelligent
French audience objected to the undeniable improbability of the chief
incidents in the drama, or whether the originality of the music offended
their unprepared ears, or whatever may have been the cause, Weber's
master-piece was damned. Its translator, M. Castil Blaze, withdrew it,
but determined to offer it to the critical public of the Odéon in
another form. He did not hesitate to remodel _Der Freischütz_, changing
the order of the pieces, cutting out such beauties as the French thought
laughable, interpolating here and there such compositions of his own as
he thought would please them, and finally presenting them this
remarkable medley (which, however, still consisted mainly of airs and
choruses by Weber) nine days after the failure of _Der Freischütz_,
under the title of _Robin des Bois_. The opera, as decomposed and
recomposed by M. Castil Blaze, was so successful, that it was
represented three hundred and fifty-seven times at the Odéon. Moreover,
it had already been played sixty times at the Opéra Comique, when the
French Dramatic Authors' Society interfered to prevent its further
representation at that theatre, on the ground that it had not been
specially written for it. M. Castil Blaze, in the version he has himself
published of this curious affair, tells us, that his first version of
_Der Freischütz_, in which his "respect for the work and the author had
prevented him from making the least change" was "_sifflé_, _meurtri_,
_bafoué_, _navré_, _moqué_, _conspué_, _turlupiné_, _hué_, _vilipendié_,
_terrassé_, _déchiré_, _lacéré_, _cruellement enfoncé_, _jusqu'au
troisiéme dessous_." This, and the after success of his modified
version, justified him, he thinks, in depriving Weber's work of all its
poetry, and reducing it to the level of the comprehension of a French
musical audience in the year 1824.

Strangely enough, when Berlioz's version of _Der Freischütz_ was
produced at the Académie in 1841, it met with scarcely more success than
had been obtained by _Der Freischütz_ in its original musical form at
the Odéon. The recitatives added by M. Berlioz, if not objectionable in
themselves, are at least to be condemned in so far that they are not
Weber's, that they prolong the music beyond Weber's intentions, and,
above all, that they change the entire character of the work. I cannot
think, after Meyerbeer's _Dinorah_, that recitative is an inappropriate
language in the mouths of peasants. Recitative of an heroic character,
would be so, no doubt; but not such as a composer of genius, or even of
taste or talent, would write for them. Nevertheless, Weber conceived his
master-piece as a species of melodrama, in which the personages were now
to sing, now to speak, "through the music," (to adopt an expressive
theatrical phrase), now to speak without any musical accompaniment at
all. If, at a theatre devoted exclusively to the performance of grand
opera, it is absolutely necessary to replace the spoken dialogue by
recitative, then this dialogue should, at least, be so compressed as to
reduce the amount of added recitative to a minimum quantity. _Der
Freischütz_, however, will always be heard to the greatest advantage in
the form in which it was originally produced. The pauses between the
pieces of music have, it must be remembered, been all premeditated, and
their effect taken into account by the composer.


But the transformations of _Der Freischütz_ are not yet at an end. Six
years ago M. Castil Blaze re-arranged his _Robin des Bois_ once more,
restored what he had previously cut out, cut out what he had himself
added to Weber's music, and produced his version, No. 3 (which must have
differed very little, if at all, from his unfortunate version, No. 1),
at the Théâtre Lyrique.

Every season, too, it is rumoured that _Der Freischütz_ is to be
produced at one of the Italian theatres of London, with Mademoiselle
Titiens or Madame Csillag in the principal part. When managers are tired
of tiring the public with perpetual variations between Verdi and
Meyerbeer, (to whose monstrously long operas my sole but sufficient
objection is, that there is too much of them, and--with the exception of
the charming _Dinorah_--that they are stuffed full of ballets,
processions, and other pretexts for unnecessary scenic display), then we
shall assuredly have an opportunity of hearing once more in England the
masterpiece of the chief of all the composers of the romantic and
legendary school. In such a case, who will supply the necessary
recitatives? Those of M. Berlioz have been tried, and found wanting. Mr.
Costa's were not a whit more satisfactory. M. Alary, the mutilator of
_Don Giovanni_, would surely not be encouraged to try his hand on
Weber's masterpiece? Meyerbeer, between whose genius and that of Weber,
considerable affinity exists, is, perhaps, the only composer of the
present day whom it would be worth while to ask to write recitatives for
_Der Freischütz_. The additions would have to be made with great
discretion, so as not to encumber the opera; but who would venture to
give a word of advice, if the work were undertaken by M. Meyerbeer?

Weber's _Preciosa_ was produced at Berlin in 1820, a year before _Der
Freischütz_, which latter opera appears to have occupied its composer
four years--undoubtedly the four years best spent of all his artistic
life. The libretto of _Preciosa_ is founded on Cervantes' _Gipsy of
Madrid_, (of which M. Louis Viardot has published an excellent French
translation); and here Weber, faithful to his system has given abundant
"colour" to his work, in which the Spanish romance introduced into the
overture, and the Gipsies' march are, with the waltz (which may be said
to be in Weber's personal style), the most striking and characteristic

[Sidenote: EURYANTHE.]

_Euryanthe_ was written for Vienna, where it was represented for the
first time in 1823, the part of "Euryanthe" being filled by Mademoiselle
Sontag, that of "Adolar," by Heitzinger. The libretto of this opera,
composed by a lady, Madame Wilhelmine de Chézy is by no means
interesting, and the dulness of the poem, though certainly not
communicated to the music, has caused the latter to suffer from the mere
fact of being attached to it. _Euryanthe_ was received coldly by the
public of Vienna, and was called by its wits--professors of the
"_calembourg d'à-peu-près_"--_Ennuyante_. If such facetiousness as this
was thought enlivening, it is easy to understand how Weber's music was
considered the reverse. I have already mentioned Beethoven's remark
about _Euryanthe_ being "a collection of diminished sevenths." Weber was
naturally not enchanted with this observation; indeed it is said to
have pained him exceedingly, and some days after the first production of
_Euryanthe_ he paid a visit to Beethoven, in order to submit the score
to his judgment. Beethoven received him kindly, but said to him, with a
certain roughness which was habitual to him: "You should have come to me
before the representation, not afterwards...." Nevertheless," he added,
"I advise you to treat _Euryanthe_ as I did _Fidelio_; that is to say,
cut out a third."

_Euryanthe_, however, soon met with the success it deserved, not only at
Berlin, Dresden, and Leipzig, but at Vienna itself, where the part
created by Mademoiselle Sontag was performed in 1825 by Madame
Schrœder-Devrient, in a manner which excited general enthusiasm. The
passionate duet between "Adolar" and "Euryanthe," in the second act, as
sung by Heitzinger and Madame Schrœder, would alone have sufficed to
attract the public of Vienna to Weber's opera, now that it was revived.

_Oberon_, Weber's last opera, was composed for Covent Garden Theatre, in
1826. Some ingenious depreciators of English taste have discovered that
Weber died from grief, caused by the coldness with which this work was
received by the London public. With regard to this subject, I cannot do
better than quote the excellent remarks of M. Scudo. After mentioning
that _Oberon_ was received with enthusiasm on its first production at
Covent Garden--that it was "appreciated by those who were worthy of
comprehending it"--and that an English musical journal, the
_Harmonicon_, "published a remarkable article, in which all the beauties
of the score were brought out with great taste," he observes that "it is
impossible to quote an instance of a great man in literature, or in the
arts, whose merit was entirely overlooked by his contemporaries;" while,
"as for the death of Weber, it may be explained by fatigue, by grief,
without doubt, but, above all, by an organic disease, from which he had
suffered for years." At the same time "the enthusiasm exhibited by the
public, at the first representation of _Oberon_, did not keep at the
same height at the following representations. The master-piece of the
German composer experienced much the same fate as _William Tell_ in

[Sidenote: OBERON.]

Weber himself, in a letter written to his wife, on the very night of the
first performance, says:--"My dear Lina; thanks to God and to his all
powerful will, I obtained this evening the greatest success in my life.
The emotion produced in my breast by such a triumph, is more than I can
describe. To God alone belongs the glory. When I entered the orchestra,
the house, crammed to the roof, burst into a frenzy of applause. Hats
and handkerchiefs were waved in the air. The overture had to be executed
twice, as had also several of the pieces in the opera itself. The air
which Braham sings in the first act was encored; so was Fatima's
romance, and a quartett in the second act. The public even wished to
hear the finale over again. In the third act, Fatima's ballad was
re-demanded. At the end of the representation I was called on to the
stage by the enthusiastic acclamations of the public, an honour which
no composer had ever before obtained in England. All went excellently,
and every one around me was happy."

In spite of the enthusiasm inspired by Weber's works in England, when
they were first produced, and for some years afterwards, we have now but
rarely an opportunity of hearing one of them. _Oberon_, it is true, was
brought out at Her Majesty's Theatre at the end of last season, when,
not being able to achieve miracles, it did not save the manager from
bankruptcy; but the existence of Weber's other works seems to be
forgotten by our directors, English as well as Italian, though from time
to time a rumour goes about, which proves to be a rumour and nothing
more, that _Der Freischütz_ is to be performed by one of our Italian
companies. In the meanwhile Weber has found an abundance of appreciation
in France, where, at the ably and artistically-conducted Théâtre
Lyrique, _Der Freischütz_, _Oberon_, _Euryanthe_ and _Preciosa_ have all
been brought out, and performed with remarkable success during the last
few years.

A composer, whose works present many points of analogy with those of
Weber, and which therefore belong essentially to the German romantic
school, is Hoffmann--far better known by his tales than by his
_Miserere_, his _Requiem_, his airs and choruses for Werner's _Crusade
of the Baltic_, or his operas of _Love and Jealousy_, the _Canon of
Milan_, or _Undine_. This last production has always been regarded as
his master-piece. Indeed, with _Undine_, Hoffmann obtained his one great
musical success; and it is easy to account for the marked favour with
which that work was received in Germany. In the first place the
fantastic nature of the subject was eminently suited to the peculiar
genius of the composer. Then he possessed the advantage of having an
excellent _libretto_, written by Lamotte-Fouqué, the author of the
original tale; and, finally, the opera was admirably executed at the
Royal Theatre of Berlin. Probably not one of my readers has heard
Hoffmann's _Undine_, which was brought out in 1817, and I believe was
never revived, though much of the music, for a time, enjoyed
considerable popularity, and the composition, as a whole, was warmly and
publicly praised by no less a personage than Karl Maria von Weber
himself. On the other hand, _Undine_, and Hoffmann's music generally,
have been condemned by Sir Walter Scott, who is reported not to have
been able to distinguish one melody from another, though he had, of
course, a profound admiration for Scotch ballads of all kinds. M. Fétis,
too, after informing us that Hoffmann "gave music lessons, painted
enormous pictures, and wrote _licentious novels_ (where are Hoffmann's
licentious novels?) without succeeding in making himself remarked in any
style," goes on to assure us, without ever having heard _Undine_, that
although there were "certain parts" in which genius was evinced, yet
"want of connexion, of conformity, of conception, and of plan, might be
observed throughout;" and that "the judgment of the best critics was,
that such a work could not be classed among those compositions which
mark an epoch in art."


Weber had studied criticism less perhaps than M. Fétis; but he knew
more about creativeness, and in an article on the opera of _Undine_, so
far from complaining of any "want of connexion, of conformity, of
conception, and of plan," the author of _Der Freischütz_ says: "This
work seems really to have been composed at one inspiration, and I do not
remember, after hearing it several times, that any passage ever recalled
me for a single minute from the circle of magic images that the artist
evoked in my soul. Yes, from the beginning to the end, the author
sustains the interest so powerfully, by the musical development of his
theme, that after but a single hearing one really seizes the _ensemble_
of the work; and detail disappears in the _naïveté_ and modesty of his
art. With rare renunciation, such as can be appreciated only by him who
knows what it costs to sacrifice the triumph of a momentary success, M.
Hoffmann has disdained to enrich some pieces at the expense of others,
which it is so easy to do by giving them an importance, which does not
belong to them as members of the entire work. The composer always
advances, visibly guided by this one aspiration--to be always truthful,
and keep up the dramatic action without ceasing, instead of checking or
fettering it in its rapid progress. Diverse and strongly marked as are
the characters of the different personages, there is, nevertheless,
something which surrounds them all; it is that fabulous life, full of
phantoms, and those soft whisperings of terror, which belong so
peculiarly to the fantastic. Kühleborn is the character most strikingly
put in relief, both by the choice of the melodies, and by the
instrumentation which, never leaving him, always announces his sinister
approach.[110] This is quite right, Kühleborn appearing, if not as
destiny itself, at least as its appointed instrument. After him comes
_Undine_, the charming daughter of the waves, which, made sonorous, now
murmur and break in harmonious roulades, now powerful and commanding,
announce her power. The 'arietta' of the second act, treated with rare
and subtle grace, seems to me a thorough success, and to render the
character perfectly. 'Hildebrand,' so passionate, yet full of
hesitation, and allowing himself to be carried away by each amorous
desire, and the pious and simple priest, with his grave choral melody,
are the next in importance. In the back-ground are Bertalda, the
fisherman, and his wife, and the duke and duchess. The strains sung by
the suite of the latter breathe a joyous, animated life, and are
developed with admirable gaiety; thus forming a contrast with the sombre
choruses of the spirits of the earth and water, which are full of harsh,
strange progressions. The end of the opera, in which the composer
displays, as if to crown his work, all his abundance of harmony in the
double chorus in eight parts, appears to me grandly conceived and
perfectly rendered. He has expressed the words--'good night to all the
cares and to all the magnificence of the earth'--with true loftiness,
and with a soft melancholy, which, in spite of the tragic conclusion of
the piece, leaves behind a delicious impression of calm and
consolation. The overture and the final chorus which enclose the work
here give one another the hand. The former, which evokes and opens the
world of wonders, commences softly, goes on increasing, then bursts
forth with passion; the latter is introduced without brusqueness, but
mixes up with the action, and calms and satisfies it completely. The
entire work is one of the most _spiritual_ that these latter times have
given us. It is the result of the most perfect and intimate
comprehension of the subject, completed by a series of ideas profoundly
reflected upon, and by the intelligent use of all the material resources
of art; the whole rendered into a magnificent work by beautiful and
admirably developed melodies."

M. Berlioz has said of Hoffmann's music, adding, however, that he had
not heard a note of it, that it was "_de la musique de littérateur_." M.
Fétis, having heard about as much of it, has said a great deal more;
but, after what has been written concerning Hoffmann's principal opera
by such a master and judge as Karl Maria von Weber, neither the opinion
of M. Fétis, nor of M. Berlioz, can be of any value on the subject. The
merit of Hoffmann's music has probably been denied, because the world is
not inclined to believe that the same man can be a great writer and also
a great musician. Perhaps it is this perversity of human nature that
makes us disposed to hold M. Berlioz in so little esteem as an author;
and I have no doubt that there are many who would be equally unwilling
to allow M. Fétis any tolerable rank as a composer.




Abbaye of Longchamp, the great operatic vocalists engaged at the, ii. 49.

Academiciens, of the Paris opera, ii. 47.

Académie Royale de Musique, of Paris, numerous works produced
    at the, i. 13, 14;
  its institution, 15;
  its system of conscription, 77;
  privileges of its members, 77;
  its state of morality, 81, 82;
  its absurd privileges, 86, 87;
  its chief singers, 223;
  operatic disturbances at the, ii. 36-38;
  destroyed by fire, 41;
  management and proceedings of the, 55;
  prices for private boxes, 56;
  effect of the French Revolution on the, 56 _et seq_;
  its changes of name, 57, 194 note;
  Opera National substituted, 59. (See OPERA).

Academy of Music (See ROYAL ACADEMY OF MUSIC).

"Actor's Remonstrance," a tract, i. 81.

Actresses, their prodigality under the French regency, i. 82, 83.

Addison, Joseph, on the Italian Opera in England, i. 53-58;
  the justness of his views on operatic representations, 62;
  his satirical remarks on the French Opera, 66;
  on the Italian Opera, 113;
  his critique on Nicolini and the lion, 118-122;
  his humorous critique on "Rinaldo" and the operatic sparrows, 123-126;
  his unfavourable opinion of Opera, 127;
  his critique on Milton, 128.

Aguiari, Lucrezia, the vocalist, i. 188.

Albert, the French dancer, ii. 111, 112.

Alboni, Madame, the Italian vocalist, ii. 162.

Algarotti's work on the Opera, i. 2.

_Almahide_, opera of, i. 117.

_Ambleto_, opera of, i. 127, 128.

Ambrogetti, the celebrated baritone, ii. 108;
  the first performer of _Giovanni_ in London, 108.

_Anna Bolena_, of Donizetti, ii. 232;
  the author's master-piece, 233.

_Antiochus_, opera of, i. 127.

Antoine de Baif, privileged to establish an Academy of Music, i. 15.

Antony à Wood, on the operatic drama, i. 37.

Arbuthnot, Dr., on the failure of Italian operas, i. 148.

Archilei, the celebrated singer, i. 8.

Arnauld, Abbé, his passionate exclamation, i. 64.

Arnaud, Abbe, an admirer of Gluck, i. 287, 288.

Arnould, Sophie, the celebrated singer, i. 223;
  biographical notices of, 226 _et seq._;
  her talents, wit, and beauty, 226-230;
  her death, 231;
  anecdote of, ii. 35;
  accused of aristocratic sympathies, 70;
  pensioned by Fouché, 79.

_Arsinoe_, opera of, played by Mrs. Tofts, i. 107;
  critique on the play, 108, 109.

Atto, the Italian tenor, i. 183, 184.

Auber, his opera of _Masaniello_, i. 14;
  the follower of Rossini, ii. 202;
  his _Gustave III._, 219.

Authors, regulations for their admission to the opera of Paris, i. 79, 80.


B flat, of Rubini, ii. 267, 268.

Badiali, Signor, his curious performance with a drinking glass, ii. 278, 279.

Balfe's libretti, founded on French pieces, i. 214.

Ball, Hughes, marries Mercandotti, ii. 120.

Ballet, introduction and progress of the, i. 70 _et seq._;
  Lulli's great attention to the, 72;
  propriety of its following the Opera, 251;
  great attention paid to it by the Italians, 251.

Ballet d'Action, invented by the Duchess du Maine, i. 77;
  soon afterwards imported into England, 77;
  never naturalised in this country, 77.

Ballet-dancers, important persons in France previous to the Revolution, ii. 53.

Ballets, origin of, i. 18;
  the most brilliant part of the Open at Paris, 258.

Balon, the ballet-dancer, i. 78.

Banti Mdlle., the celebrated vocalist, ii. 10;
  biographical notices of, 10-12.

_Barber of Seville_, by Rossini, ii. 144 _et seq._

_Bardi_, G., Count of Vernio, musical assemblies of, i. 5.

Baroni, the celebrated singer, i. 8.

Barwick, Ann, her arrest for creating a disturbance, i. 105.

Bassi, the baritone singer, ii. 105.

Bastille, taking of the, ii. 54.

_Beatrice di Tenda_, of Bellini, ii. 252.

Beaujoyeux's _Ballet Comique de la Royne_, i. 71.

Beaumarchais, the musical composer, his bon-mot on operatic music, i. 53;
  refuses letters of nobility, 221;
  the court music-master, 291;
  music-master to the daughters of Louis XV., ii. 39;
  anecdote of, 39.

Beaupré, the comic dancer, ii. 68.

Beethoven, the German composer, i. 221, ii. 285, 286;
  accepts fifty ducats in preference to the cross of some order, i. 221;
  his _Fidelio_, ii. 286;
  his three styles, 286;
  critiques on his works, 286, 287;
  his advice to Weber, 299.

_Beggar's Opera_, the touchstone of English taste, i. 148.

Belissent, M. de, anecdote of, i. 262.

Bellini, the musical composer, i. 212;
  his _Sonnambula_ grounded upon _Le Philtre_ and _La Somnambule_, 212;
  biographical notices of, ii. 247 _et seq._;
  his various productions, 249-253;
  _I Puritani_ his last opera, 253;
  his death, 254;
  sorrow caused thereby, 255;
  letter from his father on his lamented death, 256;
  compared with Donizetti, 257;
  his singers, 259.

Beneditti, Signor, performer at the Opera in 1720, i. 159;
  his capricious temper, 160.

Benini, Madame, _the altra prima donna_, goes to Paris, ii. 3;
  her exquisite voice, 3.

Beranger, on the decline of the drama, i. 65.

Bergamo, theatre at, ii. 265.

Berlioz's version of _Der Freischütz_, ii. 296;
  his opinion of Hoffmann's music, 306.

Bernacchi, Signor, the Italian singer, i. 163.

Bernadotte, at Udine, ii. 91.

Bernard, S., the court banker of Paris, i. 92;
  his munificence to actresses, 92.

Bernardi. (See SENESINO.)

Bernier, the musical composer, anecdote of, i. 85.

Bernino, the scenic painter and decorator, i. 179.

Berri, duke de, assassinated, ii. 190.

Bertatti's _Matrimonio Segretto_, ii. 97.

Bertin, E., the French critic, ii. 158.

Bertoldi, Signora, the Italian singer and actress, i. 163.

Berton, manager of the Paris Opera, i. 291.

_Bianca e Fernando_ of Bellini, ii. 249.

Bias, the French dancer, ii. 112.

Bigottini, the French dancer, ii. 111, 112.

Bilboquet, humorous anecdote of, i. 188, 190.

Billington, Mrs., the operatic singer, ii. 12;
  her performance, 13;
  among the first class of singers, 28.

Blaze, M. Castil, historian of the French Opera, i. 301;
  on the removal of the Opera near the National Library, ii. 71;
  his published description of Mddle. Sallé's performances, 93-96, 99;
  his adaptation of Weber's _Der Freischütz_, 297.

_Bohemian Girl_, not original, i. 213;
  sources whence taken, 213.

Boisgerard, M., ballet-master and negociator of the King's
    Theatre, ii. 110, 111;
  his daring exploit in liberating Sir Sidney Smith from the Temple, 117, 118.

Bolton, Duke of, marries Miss Lavinia Fenton, i. 138.

Bonaparte, Napoleon, introduced to Mddle. Montansier, ii. 74;
  grants her an indemnity, 75;
  natural effect of his campaigns in Italy to create a taste
     for Italian music, 79;
  his prompt engagement and liberal offers to Madame Paer
    and M. Brizzi, 80, 81;
  rewards Paisiello, 82;
  plots for assassinating, 179, 182;
  a good friend to the Opera, 193.

Bontempi's account of Masocci's school of singing, i. 184.

Borrowed Themes, ii. 289.

Bouillon, Duke de, his great expenditure, ii. 51.

Bourdon, Leonard, the republican dramatist, ii. 67.

Braham, the distinguished operatic singer, ii. 14.

Brambilla, Mdlle., biographical notices of, ii. 173.

Brevets, granted by the French court for admission to the Opera, ii. 48;
  evils resulting therefrom, 48;
  not required of the fishwomen and charcoal-men of Paris,
     who were always present at the Opera on certain fetes, 49.

Brizzi, M., the vocalist, ii. 80;
  engaged by Bonaparte, 80, 81.

Broschi, Carlo. (See FARINELLI.)

Brydone's anecdote of Gabrielli, the vocalist, i. 195, 197.

Bull, Dr. J., the national anthem attributed to, i. 165, 166.

Buononcini, the musical composer, i. 109;
  his first opera produced in 1720, 145;
  his _Griselda_ in 1722, 146;
  his last opera of _Astyanax_, 146;
  his piracy and disgrace, 146;
  his continental career and death, 147.

Buret, Mddle., execution of, ii. 76.

Burlington, Countess, patroness of the vocalist Faustina, i. 153.

Burney, Dr., at Vienna, i. 198;
  at Berlin, 199.


Caccini, the Italian musician, i. 5;
  composer of the music to _Dafne_, 7.

Caccini, Francesca, daughter of the composer Caccini, i. 8.

Caffarelli, the singer, biographical notices of, i. 191;
  his quarrel with Metastasio, 192.

Caldus, his unfortunate speculation in the Pantheon, ii. 125.

Calsabigi, the librettist, i. 212.

Camargo, Mdlle., the celebrated French danseuse, i. 89;
  her exquisite skill, 90.

Cambert, his French opera, i. 15;
  driven to London, 16;
  his arrival in London, 28;
  his favourable reception, 28;
  English version of his _Ariadne_, 28;
  his death and character, 28.

Cambronne, General, anecdote of, i. 17, _note_.

_Camilla_, music of, i. 109;
  critique on the opera of, 109, 110.

_Campanello di Notte_, of Donizetti, ii. 233.

Campion, Miss, the vocalist, i. 139;
  the Duke of Devonshire's inscription to her memory, i. 139.

Campistron, one of Lulli's librettists, i. 22.

Camporese, Madame, the Italian vocalist, ii. 160.

Campra, J., orchestral conductor of the Marseilles opera, i. 87;
  anecdote of, 88.

_Capuletti ed i Montecchi_, of Bellini, ii. 250, 257.

Caradori, the vocalist, ii. 264.

Carestini, the Italian singer, i. 164.

Carey, H., the national anthem attributed to, i. 166.

Carpentras school of music, i. 6.

Catalani, the vocal queen of the age, ii. 16;
  her extraordinary powers, 17, 19;
  biographical notices of, 18-20;
  Napoleon's munificent offer to, 18;
  draft of a contract between her and Mr. Ebers of the King's Theatre, 23-25;
  her retirement and death, 26;
  enormous sums paid to, 132.

_Caterina Comaro_ of Donizetti, ii. 243.

Catherine the Great of Russia, her interview with the vocalist
    Gabrielli, i. 198;
  introduces the Italian Opera into St. Petersburgh, 199.

Cavaliere, Emilio del, a musician of Rome, i. 5.

Chambers, the banker, mortgagee of the King's Theatre, ii. 128, 130.

Chamfort, the republican, commits suicide, ii. 76.

Chantilly, Mdlle. (See FAVART).

Chapel-Masters, their strange readings, i. 44.

Chappell, W., on the origin of the national anthem, i. 166.

Charbonniers of Paris, present at the Opera on certain fetes, ii. 49.

Charles II., his patronage of operatic music, i. 33.

Charles VI. of Germany, his musical taste, i. 182.

Charles VII. of Germany, a musician, and the great patron
     of the opera at Vienna, i. 181.

Charles Edward, the young Pretender, arrested at the Académie
     Musique, and expelled from France, i. 234.

Chasse, the, baritone singer, i. 223;
  biographical notices of, 223-5.

Chaumette, the sanguinary republican, ii. 73.

Cheron, the celebrated French bass, ii. 279;
  the vibratory force of his voice, 279.

Cherubini's "Abencerrages," ii. 189.

Chorus of opera, i. 47;
  French invention imported into England, 77;
  introduction of the, 180.

Cimarosa, the operatic composer, ii. 29-31;
  invited to St. Petersburgh, 87;
  his _Nozze di Figaro_, 96;
  his _Matrimonio Segretto_ produced at the request of Leopold II., 96.

Clayton, the musical composer, and author of _Arsinoe_, i. 108;
  his spleen against Handel, 129, 132, 133.

Clement IX., the author of seven _libretti_, i. 3.

Colasse, Lafontaine's composer, i. 22.

Colbran, Mdlle., the singer, ii. 95, 96;
  married to Rossini, 166;
  biographical notices of, 167.

Coleman, Mrs., the actress, i. 30, 31.

Comic opera of France, i. 236, 237.

Consulate, state of the French opera under the, ii. 178 _et seq._;
  operatic plots under the, 179, 180;
  the arts did not flourish under the, 183.

Convention, state of the opera under the, ii. 75;
  its receipts confiscated by the, 75;
  its sanguinary proceedings, 75, 76.

"Conversion of St. Paul," played in music at Rome, i. 3.

Copyright, Victor Hugo's claims to against the Italian
    librettists, ii. 234, 235;
  principles of, 235;
  rights of authors, 237.

Coqueau, musician and writer, guillotined, ii. 76.

Corbetta, F., the musical teacher of Louis XIV., i. 75.

Corsi, Giascomi, i. 5.

Costume, ludicrous dispute respecting, i. 161, 162;
  of visitors to the London Opera, ii. 136, 137;
  letter respecting, 138.

Coulon, the French dancer, ii. 112.

Country dances introduced into England, i. 78;
  fondness for, 78.

Covent Garden Theatre, performances at, i. 101.

"Credo," strange readings of the by two chapel masters, i. 44.

Crescentini, the singer, his capricious temper, i. 161, 162.

_Crociato in Egitto_, of Meyerbeer, ii. 206, 207;
  Lord Edgcumbe's description of the music, 208;
  the principal part played by Velluti, 209.

Croix, Abbé de la, i. 86.

Cromwell, his patronage of music, i. 32;
  anecdotes of, 32, 33.

Cruvelli, Mdlle., her admirable performance in _Fidelio_, ii. 286.

Curiosity, wonderful instance of, i. 39.

Cuzzoni, the vocalist, her exquisite qualifications, i. 151, 152;
  memoir of, 152;
  her partizans, 153;
  leaves England, 154;
  returns to London, 155;
  her melancholy end, 155.


_Dafne_, the first complete opera, i. 5, 7;
  new music composed to the libretto of, 6, 7.

_Dame aux Camélias_, its representation prohibited, i. 37.

Dancer and the musician, i. 88.

Dancers of the French opera, i. 77, 296;
  their position previous to the Revolution, ii. 53;
  diplomatic negociations for engaging, 110, 111;
  engagements of in London, 112;
  further negociations about their return, 115, 116;
  treaty respecting their future engagements, 115.

Dancing, at the French court, i. 72;
  language of, 250;
  the fourth part of the fine arts at the Paris Opera, 259.
  (See BALLET).

D'Antin, Duc, appointed manager of the French opera, i. 79.

Dauberval, the dancer, i. 300.

Davenant, Sir Wm., opens a theatre, i. 30, 36;
  actors engaged by him, 30, 31.

David, the Conventional painter, ii. 72.

Davide, the operatic actor of Venice, ii. 158;
  enthusiasm excited by, 159.

Decorations of the stage, i. 63.

De Lauragais, anecdote of, i. 277, 278.

Delany, Lady, her account of Anastasia Robinson afterwards Lady
     Peterborough, i. 134-138.

Delawar, Countess, patroness of the vocalist Faustina, i. 153.

D'Entraigues, Count, married to Madame Huberti, ii. 94;
  murder of, 95.

_Der Freischütz_, of Weber, represented at the French Opera, ii. 198;
  compared with _Robert le Diable_, 213;
  remarks on, 291 _et seq._;
  compared with _Don Giovanni_, 293;
  its complete success, 294;
  remodelled by M. Blaze, and entitled _Robin des Bois_, 295.

Deschamps, Mdlle., the French figurante, i. 83;
  her prodigality, 83.

Desmatins, Mdlle., the actress, i. 24, 25.

Despreaux, the violinist, commits suicide, ii. 76.

_Devin du Village_, of Rousseau, i. 261;
  music presumed to be the production of Granet, i. 262, 263;
  anecdotes of the, 262.

De Vismes, of the Paris Opera, i. 291;
  ii. 38.

Devonshire, Wm., duke of, his inscription to the memory
    of Miss Campion, i. 139.

D'Hennin, Prince, his rupture with Gluck, i. 275, 276;
  a favourite butt for witticism, 276.

Divertissements, propriety of their accompanying operatic performances, i. 25.

"Di tanti Palpiti," originally a Roman Catholic hymn, ii. 289.

_Dinorah_, of Meyerbeer, ii. 296, 297.

_Don Giovanni_, of Mozart, ii. 100-109;
  its original cast at Prague, 104;
  the performers of the character in London, 108;
  general cast of characters in the opera, 108, 109;
  compared with _Der Freischütz_, 293.

_Don Pasquale_, of Donizetti, ii. 241;
  libretto of, 242.

_Don Sebastien_, of Donizetti, ii. 241.

Donizetti, the musical composer, i. 112;
  his _Elizir d'Amore_, grounded upon _Le Philtre_ and _La Somnambule_, 112;
  his _Lucrezia_, founded on _Lucrece Borgia_, 213;
  anecdotes of, ii. 226 _et seq._;
  his early admiration of Rossini's works, 230;
  biographical notices of, 232;
  his various works, 232 _et seq._, 239 _et seq._;
  his rapidity of composition, 240;
  his last opera, _Catarina Comaro_, 243;
  the author of sixty-three operas, 243;
  critique on his works, 243, 244;
  his illness and death, 245, 246;
  his numerous compositions, 246;
  compared with Bellini, 257.

Drama, Beranger on the decline of the, i. 65.

Dramatic ballet. (See BALLET).

Dresden, theatre of, the first opera in Europe, and the best
     vocalists engaged from them, i. 172, 173;
  ii. 80, 81, 87.

Dryden, his political opera of _Albion and Albanius_, i. 29;
  his character of Grabut, 29.

Du Barry, Madame, her opposition to Gluck, and support of
    Piccinni, i. 279, 280;
  mistress of Louis XV., ii. 48.

Dubuisson, the librettist, guillotined, ii. 75.

_Duc d'Albe_, of Donizetti, ii. 243.

Duelling, i. 107;
  among women, 225, _et note_.

Dumenil, the tenor, i. 24.

Duparc, Eliz., the soprano singer, nicknamed "La Francesina," i. 187.

Dupre, the violinist, exchanges the violin for the ballet, i. 88, 89, 91.

Durastanti, Madame, the celebrated vocalist, i. 158, 159.


Ebers, Mr., of the King's Theatre, ii. 22;
  draft of a contract between him and Madame Catalani, 23-25;
  is opinions on the state of the opera, 109;
  his negociation respecting the Paris dancers, 115;
  takes the management of the King's Theatre, 129;
  his selection of operas and singers, 129;
  his losses, 129, 130;
  his retirement, 130.

Eclecticism, the present age of, i. 286.

Edelman, the musician, executed, ii. 76.

Edgar, Sir John, his attack on a company of French actors, i. 159, 160.

Eglantine, Fabre d', the librettist, guillotined, ii. 76.

_Elisir d'Amore_, of Donizetti, ii. 233.

Empire, state of the French opera under the, ii. 178 _et seq._;
  the arts did not flourish under the, 183.

England, Italian opera introduced into, i. 9, 104 _et seq._;
  state of the opera at the end of the eighteenth and beginning
     of the nineteenth century, ii. 1 _et seq._;
  the chief opera houses of Paris and Italy inseparably connected
     with the history of opera in, 224.

English, the Italians have a genius for music superior to, i. 56;
  have a genius for other performances of a much higher nature, 56.

English opera, account of, i. 9;
  its failures, 10;
  services rendered by Handel to, 215;
  has no history, 215.

"Enraged Musicians," letters from, i. 129, 133.

_Enrico di Borgogna_, of Donizetti, ii. 232.

_Euridice_, opera of, i. 5, 6.

_Euryanthe_ of Weber, ii. 292, 298;
  its great success, 299.


Fabri, Signor, the Italian singer, i. 163.

Fabris, death of, from overstrained singing, ii. 270.

Farinelli, Carlo Boschi, the Italian singer, i. 159;
  the magic and commanding powers of his voice, 164, 189;
  biographical notices of, 185, 186, 188-191;
  his single note, 189.

Farnesino, theatre at Paris, i. 177.

Faustina, the vocalist, i. 150:
  her exquisite qualifications, 151, 152;
  memoir of, 152;
  her artizans, 153;
  returns to Italy, 155;
  married to Hasse, the musical composer, 155, 156;
  her successful career at the Dresden Opera, 156;
  her death, 158.

Faustina and Cuzzoni, disputes respecting, i. 149 _et seq._;
  their respective merits, 150, 151.

Favart, his satirical description of the French Opera, i. 65.

Favart, Madame, of the Opera Comique, i. 231;
  her love for Marshal Saxe, 232, 233.

_Favorite_, by Donizetti, ii. 239.

Fel, Mdlle, a singer of the Academie, i. 223.

Female singers, the most celebrated, i. 8.

Fénélon, Chev. de, accidentally killed, i. 81.

Fenton, Lavinia, married to the Duke of Bolton, i. 138;
  her accomplishments, 138.

Ferri, Balthazar, the most distinguished singer of his day, i. 174.

Ferriere, Chev. de, anecdotes of, ii. 77, 78.

Feuds, among musicians and actors, i. 149 _et seq._

Fiddles, of the seventeenth century, i. 23.

_Fidelio_, of Beethoven, 286.

_Fille du Regiment_, by Donizetti, ii. 239.

Finales, Piccinni the originator, ii. 32;
  time usually occupied by them, 32, 33.

First Consul of France, plots for assassinating, ii. 179, 182.

Fodor, Madame, the celebrated cantatrice, ii, 92;
  anecdote of 93;
  biographical notices of, 160.

Fontenelle, author of "Thetis and
Pelee," revisits the Academie, i. 235.

Forst, the singer, refuses letters of nobility, i. 221.

France, Italian Opera introduced into, i. 8;
  but rejected, 9, 11;
  introduction of the Opera into England, 12 _et seq._;
  French Opera not founded by Lulli, 13, 14;
  nobles of, invited to stage performances by Louis XIV., 75;
  morality of the stage, 81, 82;
  her dramatic music dates from 1774, 216;
  history of the Opera in, abounds in excellent anecdotes, 232;
  state of the Opera after the departure of Gluck, ii. 84 _et seq._;
  after the Revolution, 46 _et seq._;
  under the Consulate, the Empire, and the Restoration, 178 _et seq._;
  the arts did not flourish under the Consulate and the Empire, 183;
  has party songs, but no national air, 201.

Frangipani, Cornelio, drama by, i. 4.

Frederick the Great introduces the Italian Opera into Berlin, i. 199;
  his favourite composers, 199;
  officiated as conductor of the orchestra, 199.

French actors, company of, in London, in 1720, i. 159.

French Court, ballets at the, i. 70, 71.

French Opera, Favart's satirical description of the, i. 65;
  from the time of Lulli to the death of Rameau, i. 217;
  the various pieces produced at the, ii. 195 _et seq._
  (See FRANCE).

French Society at its very worst during the reign of Louis XVI., ii. 48;
  operatic and religious fetes, 49.

Fronsac, duke de, his depravity, i. 76.


Gabrielli, Catarina, the vocalist, i. 188;
  biographical notices of, 195 _et seq._

Gabrielli, Francesca, the vocalist, i. 188.

Gagliano composes the music to the opera of _Dafne_, i. 6.

Galileo, Vincent, inventor of recitative, i. 5.

Galuppi, musical composer, i. 170, 171;
  musical director at the Russian Court, 198.

Garcia, the tenor performer of "Don Giovanni," in London, ii. 108;
  anecdote of, 144, 145.

Garcia, Mademoiselle, (See MALIBRAN.)

Gardel, the ballet-master, ii. 75.

Garrick, his opinion of Sophie Arnould at Paris, i. 227;
  of French descent, 227 _note_.

_Gazza Ladra_, by Rossini, ii. 160.

German Opera, the forms of, perfected by Keiser, i. 6;
  originated from Mozart, ii. 99 _et seq._;
  its celebrated composers, 106.

Germans, music of the, i. 268, 269.

Germany, Italian Opera introduced into, i. 10;
  her opera during the republican and Napoleonic wars, ii. 86;
  has sent us few singers as compared with Italy, 224;
  state of her opera, 225;
  the land of scientific music, 285.

_Giovanni_, of Mozart, i. 13.

Glass, broken to pieces by the vibratory force of particular notes, ii. 279.

Glinka, the Russian composer, ii. 290.

Gluck, the musical composer, i. 12;
  works of, 13;
  the estimation in which his works were held, 181;
  merits of, as compared with Piccinni, 267;
  biographical and anecdotal notices of, 270 _et seq._;
  his _Alcestis_ and _Orpheus_, 272;
  his _Iphigenia in Aulis_, acted at Paris with immense success, 273;
  success of his _Orpheus_, 278;
  his _Alcestis_, 279;
  his death, 295;
  state of the Opera in France after his departure, ii. 34;
  anecdote of, 39;
  benefitted French opera in different ways, 40.

Gluck and Piccinni, contests respecting, in Paris, i. 150.

"God save the king," origin of the anthem, i. 165, 166.

Goddess of Reason, personated by the actresses of the Opera, ii. 67.

Grabut, the musical composer, i. 28, 29;
  Dryden's character of him, 29.

Grammont, count de, extract from his memoirs, i. 73.

Granet, the musical composer, i. 261;
  author of the music to Rousseau's _Devin du Village_, 262;
  his death, 265.

Grassini, the singer, ii. 14.

Greek Plays, first specimens of operas, 3.

Greek Theatre, i. 240;
  music of the, 241.

Greeks, their language and accent, i. 241;
  their lyric style, 241:
  their music a real recitative, 241;
  absurdities of their dramas, 244.

Grisi, Giulia, the accomplished vocalist, ii. 280, 281;
  her family connexions, 280;
  her vocal powers, 281;
  "Norma" her best character, 281.

Grossi, the vocalist, i. 188.

Guadigni, the vocalist, biographical notices of, i. 194.

Guéméné, prince de, his insolvency, ii. 51;
  feeling letter of the operatic vocalists to, 51.

Guglielmi, the operatic composer, ii. 29;
  his success at Naples, 30.

_Guillaume Tell_, its first performance at the French Opera, ii. 198;
  cut down from three to five acts, 198;
  Rossini's last opera, 201.

Guimard, Madeline, the celebrated danseuse, i. 288, 296;
  accident to, 296;
  biographical and anecdotal notices of, 297 _et seq._;
  anecdotes of, ii. 34, 35;
  her narrow escape from being burnt to death, 41;
  her reappearance at the Opera, 77.

Guinguenée, the French librettist, i. 293.

_Gustave III._ of Auber, ii. 219.


_Hamlet_, set to music, i. 127;
  its absurdity, 128.

Handel, G. F., at Paris, i. 86;
  in London, 97, 100-3;
  his _Pastor Fido_ played at the Haymarket Theatre, i. 102;
  his great improvement of the Italian Opera, 108;
  success of his _Rinaldo_, 116;
  his arrival in England, 122;
  brings out his _Rinaldo and Armide_, 123;
  Clayton's spleen against, 129, 132, 133;
  the Italian operas under his direction, 140 _et seq._;
  his career as an operatic composer and director, 140;
  wrote his last opera, _Deidamia_, 141;
  biographical account of, 141 _et seq._;
  his duel with Mattheson of the Hamburgh Theatre, 142;
  his _Rinaldo_, _Pastor Fido_, and _Amadigi_, 142;
  direction of the Royal Academy of Music confided to him, 144;
  his first opera at the Royal Academy was _Radamisto_, 144;
  his next opera, _Muzio Scevola_, 145;
  his various operatic pieces played at the Royal Academy of Music, 146;
  his services to English Opera, 215;
  appointed to the management of the King's Theatre, 163;
  names of the Italian performers engaged by him, 163;
  his rival Porpora, and the difficulties with which he had to contend, 167;
  abandons dramatic music after having written thirty-five Italian operas, 168;
  his operas now become obsolete, and unadapted to modern times, 168, 169;
  success of the operatic airs, which he introduced into his oratorios, 169;
  position of the Italian Opera under his presidency, 170, 171;
  his great musical genius, and the grandeur of his oratorios, 172.

Harmony, preferable to simple declamation, i. 45, 46.

Hasse, the musical composer, i. 155;
  marries the vocalist Faustina, 156;
  appointed director of the Dresden Opera, 156;
  his death, 158;
  a librettist, 212.

Hauteroche, humour of exhausted, i. 49.

Haydn, his opinion of Mozart's work, ii. 102.

Haymarket Theatre, Handel's _Pastor Fido_ played at, i. 102.

Hébert, the sanguinary republican, ii. 68, 73.

Heidegger, appointed manager of the King's Theatre, i. 163;
  his "puff direct," 163.

Henriot, the sanguinary republican, ii. 62, 72.

Hingston, the musician, patronised by Cromwell, i. 32.

Hoffman, the musical composer, ii. 301;
  his _Undine_, 301-305;
  Berlioz's opinion of his music, 305.

Huberti, Madame, the singer, ii. 43, 94;
  her marriage and horrible death, 94.

Hugo, Victor, his dramas made the groundwork of Italian librettists, i. 213;
  his actions against them for violation of copyright, ii. 234, 235.

_Huguenots_, of Meyerbeer, ii. 216.

_Hydaspes_, opera of, i. 117;
  Addison's critique on, 118, 119.


_Il Pirato_, of Bellini, ii. 249.

Insanity, Steele's remarks on, i. 111, 112.

Interludes, banished from the operas, i. 250.

_Iphigenia in Aulis_, by Gluck, i. 273;
  its introduction on the Paris stage, and immense success, 273, 274.

_Iphigenia in Tauris_, a rival opera, composed by Piccinni, i. 291, 292.

Italian librettists, Victor Hugo's actions against for copyright, ii. 234, 235.

Italian opera, introduced into France under the auspices of
     Cardinal Mazarin, i. 8;
  rejected by the French, 9, 11;
  introduced into England, 9, 11;
  into Germany, 10;
  into all parts of Europe, 10;
  introduced into England at the beginning of the eighteenth century, 54;
  Addison's critical remarks on, 55-8;
  attempts to engage the company of London at the French Academie, 26:
  raised to excellence by Handel in London, 103;
  history of its introduction into England, 104 _et seq._;
  Steele's hatred to, 113;
  a complete failure in London, 147-149;
  its position under Handel, and subsequently, 170, 171;
  various operas produced, 170, 171;
  established at Berlin and St. Petersburgh, 199;
  its weak points during the eighteenth century exhibited
     in Marcello's satire, "Teatro a la Modo," 204-12;
  the company performing alternately in London and in Paris, ii. 2;
  its position during the Republican and Napoleonic wars, 86.

Italian plays, of the earliest period, called by the
     general name of "Opera," i. 2.

Italian singers, establish themselves everywhere but in France, i. 173;
  company of engaged by Mdlle. Montansier, ii. 79;
  unsuccessful, 79.

Italians, their genius for music above that of the English, i. 56;
  music of the, 268, 269.

Italy, modern, earliest musical dramas of, i. 3, 6, 7.


Jeliotte, the tenor singer, i. 223.

Jesuits' church at Paris, the great operatic vocalists engaged at the, ii. 49;
  their theatre near the, 50.

Jomelli, anecdote related by, i. 44;
  director of the Stutgardt opera, 178;
  sets _Didone_ to music, 212.


Kalkbrenner, a pasticcio by, unsuccessful, ii. 85;
  his _Don Giovanni_, 184.

Keiser, the operatic composer;
  author of _Ismene and Basilius_, i. 6, 141.

Kelly, Michael, the singer, ii. 128.

Kind, Frederick, ii. 293;
  Weber's introduction to, 293.

King's Theatre, performances at, and assemblies, i. 101;
  opened under Heidegger, 163;
  celebrated vocalists at the, ii. 4;
  destroyed by fire, 6;
  rebuilt and re-opened, 8;
  its negociations with the Parisian operatists, 110, 111;
  Mr. Taylor the proprietor, 121;
  the theatre closed, 125;
  quarrels of the proprietors, 126;
  re-opened under Waters, 127;
  again closed, 129;
  Mr. Eber's management, 129;
  selection of operas and singers for the, 129;
  management of Messrs. Laporte and Laurent, 130;
  its position and character in 1789, 131;
  enormous prices paid for private boxes and admission, 132, 133;
  sale of the tickets at reduced prices, 133, 134;
  costume of visitors, 136, 137.


Labitte, death of, from overstrained singing, ii. 270.

Lablache, the basso singer, the "Leporello" of _Don Giovanni_, ii. 108, 109;
  biographical notices of, 274-278;
  his versatile powers, 277, 278;
  his great whistling accomplishments, 279;
  his characters of "Bartolo" and "Figaro," 275.

Lachnick, the musician, ii. 183, 184.

Lacombe, the French dancer, ii. 112.

_La Cenerentola_, opera of, ii. 162.

La Fare, Marq. de, author of the _Panthée_, i. 85.

Lafontaine, his want of success as a librettist, i. 21;
  anecdote of, 21.

Lafontaine, Mdlle., the celebrated ballerina at the French Opera, i. 72.

Laguerre, Mdlle., the vocalist, i. 281;
  the actress, i. 294.

Lainez, the poet, i. 27;
  the singer, ii. 69.

"_La Marseillaise_," borrowed from Germany, ii. 201.

Lamartine, M. de, his faultiness in history, ii. 61, _note_.

Lamb, Charles, anecdote of, i. 21.

Laniere, musical composer and engraver, i. 30.

"_La Parisienne_," of Nourrit, ii. 201.

Laporte and Laurent, Messieurs, managers of the London opera house, ii. 130.

Larrivée, the vocalist, i. 223, 274.

_La Straniera_, of Bellini, ii. 249.

Lauragais, Count de, anecdotes of, i. 229, 230;
  ii. 77, 78;
  his great expenditure, ii. 51.

_La Vestale_, of Spontini, ii. 186, 187.

Law, M., introduces wax into the candelabra of the French Opera, i. 84;
  breaking up of his financial schemes, 84;
  favoured by the Duke of Orleans, 84.

Lays, a furious democrat, and chief manager of the French Opera, ii. 66;
  treated with public indignation, 77.

Leclair, exchanges the ballet for the violin, i. 88, 89.

Lefevre, the republican singer, hissed off the stage, ii. 70.

Legal disputes among musicians, i. 87, 88.

Legroscino, the musical composer, ii. 32.

Lemaure, Mdlle., the actress, i. 92.

Lenoir, the architect of the Paris Opera, ii. 43.

Lenz, the biographer of Beethoven, ii. 287.

Leopold I., Emperor of Germany, his devotedness to music, i. 174.

Leopold II., of Germany, his liberality to Cimarosa, ii. 96;
  his public approbation of _Il Matrimonio Segretto_, 97.

Lettres de Cachet, issued, to command certain persons to join the Opera, i. 76.

Libretti of English writers, i. 213;
  of the French, 214.

Librettists of the eighteenth century, i. 212 _et seq._

Libretto, no opera intelligible without one, i. 40;
  the words should be good, and yet need not of necessity be heard, 41.

Limeuil, Madame, death of, i. 23.

Lincoln's Inn Theatre, under the direction of Porpora, i. 164.

Lind, Jenny, the hangman's admiration of, ii. 64.

_Linda di Chamouni_, of Donizetti, ii. 241.

Lion, Nicolini's contest with the, at the Haymarket, i. 118;
  Addison's satirical critique on the, 119-122.

Lipparini, Madame, the _prima donna_ at Palermo, ii. 271, 272.

Lise, Mddle., anecdote of, ii. 36.

Lock, the musical composer, i. 28.

London Opera, manners and customs of the, half a century ago, ii. 122 _et seq._

Lorenzo da Ponte, ii. 293.

Lotti, the Venetian composer, i. 146.

Louis XIV., a great actor, i. 73;
  in the habit of singing and dancing in the court ballets, 74;
  retires from the stage, 74;
  returns to it, 75;
  the various characters assumed by him, 75.

Louis XV., his heartless conduct at the theatre, i. 81;
  his meanness to his daughter's music-masters, ii. 39;
  French society at the very worst during his reign, 48.

Louis XVI., his flight from Paris, ii. 57;
  his death, and state of the Opera at the time of, 61.

_Lucia di Lammermoor_, of Donizetti, ii. 233.

_Lucrezia Borgia_, of Donizetti, ii. 234, 237;
  Victor Hugo's action against the author for breach of copyright, 234.

Lulli, French Opera not founded by, i. 13, 14;
  his intrigues, 16;
  his _Cadmus and Hermione_, 16;
  originally a scullion in the service of Madame de Montpensier, 16;
  his disgrace, 17;
  his elevation by Louis XIV., 17, 18;
  intrusted with them music of the ballets, 18;
  a buffoon, 18;
  various mistakes of, 18 _et seq._;
  his intemperate habits, 24;
  his great attention to the ballet, 72;
  tumult at the representation of his _Aloeste_, 85;
  history of French Opera dates from the time of, 217;
  his singular death, 217;
  his operas, 217, 218.

Lyric drama, remarks on the, i. 236, 237;
  Rousseau's critique on, 243.


_M. de Pourceaugnac_, performance of, i. 19.

Machinery of the Opera at Paris, i. 255.

Maillard, Mdlle., the _prima donna_, of the Paris Opera, ii. 66;
  requested to personate the Goddess of Reason, 67;
  compelled to sing republican songs, 69;
  suspected by the republicans, 69.

Mailly's _Akébar, Roi de Mogol_, i. 15.

Maine, Duchess du, her passion for theatrical and musical performances, i. 77;
  her lotteries, 78.

Malibran, Madame, the vocalist, ii. 69;
  biographical notices of, 174, 175;
  her triumphal progress through Italy, 260, 261;
  characteristic anecdotes of, 261-264;
  her activity and great acquirements, 262;
  her death, 264.

Mara, Madame, the celebrated vocalist, i. 200;
  biographical notices of, 200-3;
  appointed _prima donna_ of the Berlin theatre, 201;
  at the King's Theatre, ii. 4;
  her distinguished performances, 5;
  biographical notices of, 5-9;
  among the first class of singers, 28.

Mara and Todi, Mesdames, quarrels between the admirers of, i. 150, 203.

Marcello's satire, _Teatro a la Modo_, i. 204-12.

Margarita de l'Epine, the Italian vocalist, i. 104;
  at Drury Lane, 108.

_Maria di Rohan_, of Donizetti, ii. 242.

Marie Antoinette, the enthusiastic patroness of Gluck, i. 275;
  patronizes Piccinni, 290;
  her visit to the Académie and Opera Comique, ii. 58, 59;
  popular cries against, 59;
  obliged to fly, 59;
  her execution, 61.

Mariette, Mdlle., the Parisian danseuse, i, 82.

_Marino Faliero_, of Donizetti, ii. 233.

Mario, the actor, in the character of the _Duke of Mantua_, i. 39;
  a performer of _Don Giovanni_ in London, ii. 108.

Marmontel, the librettist, i. 287, 289;
  the admirer of Piccinni, 289.

Marre, Abbé de la, defends Mdlle. Petit, i. 82.

Marsolier, of the Opera Comique, ii. 235.

Martinella, Catarina, the celebrated singer, i. 8.

Martini's _Cosa Rara_, ii. 102.

_Martiri_, of Donizetti, ii. 239.

_Masaniello_, market scene in, i. 47;
  effects of its representation in Paris, ii. 200.

_Matrimonio Segretto_, comic opera of, ii. 96-100;
  its successful performance before Leopold II., 97.

Mattheson, the musical composer and conductor of the
     orchestra at the Hamburgh theatre, i. 141, 142;
  his duel with Handel, 142.

Maupin, Mdlle., the operatic actress, i. 26;
  the Lola Montes of her day, 26.

Mayer, the musical composer, ii. 32.

Mazarin, Cardinal, introduces Italian Opera into France, i. 8;
  into Paris, 14.

Maze, Mdlle., the danseuse, her melancholy suicide, &c., i. 84.

Mazocci's school of singing at Rome, i. 184.

Melun, Count de, his depravity, i. 76.

Menestrier, on the origin of the Italian Opera, i. 3.

Mengozzi, the tenor singer, visits Paris, ii. 3.

Mercadante, the musical composer, ii. 247, 248.

Mercandotti, Maria, the charming Spanish danseuse, ii. 119;
  married to Mr. Hughes Ball, 120.

Merighi, Signora, the Italian singer, i. 163.

Merulo, Claudio, the musical composer, i. 4.

Metastasio, the poet and librettist, i. 175, 212;
  his quarrel with Caffarelli, i. 191.

Meyerbeer, the successor of Rossini at the Académie, ii. 202;
  a composer who defies classification, 206;
  his different productions, 206;
  biographical notices of, 206, 207;
  his _Robert le Diable_, 207, 211 _et seq._;
  his _Huguenots_, 216;
  his _Prophete_, 218.

Mililotti, the Neapolitan buffo, ii. 274, 275.

Mingotti, the celebrated vocalist of the Dresden opera, i. 156;
  her opinion of the London public, 197.

Minuet, introduced into England, i. 73.

Moliere, the friend of Lulli, i. 19;
  his disagreement with him, 20;
  his _Amants Magnifiques_, 65.

Montagu, Lady Wortley, her description of the Vienna theatre, i. 175.

Montansier, Mdlle., 71, 72;
  denounced by the republicans for building a theatre, 73;
  imprisoned, 73;
  her nocturnal assemblies, 73;
  Napoleon introduced to her, 74;
  her marriage, 74;
  receives indemnity for her losses, 75;
  engaged by Napoleon to form an Italian operatic company, 79;
  is unsuccessful, 79.

Montessu, the French dancer, ii. 112.

Monteverde, the musical composer, i. 7;
  his improvements in orchestral music, 7;
  the score of his _Orfeo_, 7, 23;
  produces his _Arianna_ at Venice, 8;
  his great popularity, 8.

Moreau, the musical composer, i. 27.

Morel, the librettist, ii. 183.

Morelli, the bass-singer, visits Paris, ii. 3.

Mormoro, Madame, personates the Goddess of Reason, ii. 67.

_Mosé in Egitto_, by Rossini, ii. 163.

Mount Edgcumbe, Lord, author of "Musical Reminiscences," i. 299, 300;
  his notices of celebrated vocalists, ii. 5, 6, 8, 11, _et passim_;
  his description of the King's Theatre in 1789, 131.

Mouret, the musical composer, i. 78.

Mozart, the musical composer, i. 12;
  works of, 13;
  reception of his _Nozze di Figaro_, ii. 98;
  his _Seraglio_, 99;
  founder of the German operatic school at Vienna, 99 _et seq._;
  his _Don Giovanni_, 100-109;
  its original cast at Prague, 104;
  Salieri his great rival, 101, 102;
  his genius fully acknowledged, but his music not at first appreciated, 107;
  _Musette de Portici_, the first important work to which
     the French Opera owes its celebrity, 195;
  translated and played with great success in England, 197, 198;
  his fortunes affected by the revolutionary character of the plot, 200.

Music of the operatic works of the sixteenth century, i. 4, 5;
  Woolfenbuttel school of, 6;
  Carpentras school of, 6;
  of the drama, its importance, 45, 46;
  the language of the masses, 46;
  its powerful effects in dramatic representations, 47;
  its powers as an art, 59, 60;
  capabilities of, 169;
  Marcello's satirical advice respecting, 204-12;
  of the Greeks, 241;
  a real recitative, 241;
  an imitative art, 245, 248;
  of the Italians and the Germans, 268, 269;
  on expression in, ii. 83;
  did not flourish under the French Republic or Empire, 84;
  different schools of, 284.

Musical composers, who adorned the end of the eighteenth and
     the beginning of the nineteenth century, ii. 31, 32;
  their peculiar characteristics, 141.

Musical compositions, different adaptations of, ii. 83, 84.

Musical instruments of the seventeenth century, i. 23.

Musical pieces, danger of performing under the Republican regime, ii. 67.

Musical plays of the fifteenth century, i. 2.

Musical valets of the seventeenth century, i. 23, 24.

Musician, his contest with the dancer, i. 88;
  his task of imitation greater than that of the painter, 249.

Musicians of the French Opera, privileges of the, i. 77;
  of Italy, nicknames given to, 86-8;
  the "three enraged" ones, 129, 133.

_Muzio Scevola_, produced at the Royal Academy of Music, i. 145.

_Mysteres d'Isis_, opera of the, ii. 183.


Napoleon, his munificent offers to Catalani, ii. 18.

Napoleons, both of them good friends to the Opera, ii. 193, 194.

Nasolini, the musical composer, ii. 12.

National anthem, story respecting the, i. 165;
  on the origin of the, 166.

National styles, i. 214, 215.

Nicknames given to celebrated musicians, singers, and painters
    of Italy, i. 186-8.

Nicolini, a great actor, i. 61;
  a sopranist, 117;
  Addison's critique on his combat with a lion at the Haymarket, 118-122.

Nobles of France, operatic actors, i. 76;
  abuses arising from the system, 76.

Noblet, Mdlle., the French danseuse, ii. 111-13;
  negociations respecting her benefit, 113, 114.

_Norma_, of Bellini, ii. 250, 252, 257.

Nose-pulling, i. 106.

Nourrit, Adolphe, the celebrated tenor, a performer of
     "Don Giovanni" in London, ii. 108;
  makes his appearance at Paris, 195;
  his _La Parisienne_, 201;
  his professional engagements, 221, 222;
  his melancholy death, 223, 224.

Noverre, the celebrated ballet master, i. 178.

_Nozze de Figaro_, of Mozart, ii. 98-103.

_Nuits de Sceaux_, or _Nuits Blanches_, of the Duchess du Maine, i. 77, 78.


_Oberon_ of Weber, ii, 299, 301.

Olivieri, primo basso at Udine, ii. 89.

OPERA, history of the, i. 1 _et seq._;
  meaning and character of, 1, 2;
  Wagner's definition, 1, _et note_;
  the earliest Italian plays, called by the general name of, 2;
  the title afterwards applied to lyrical dramas, 2;
  proceeds from the sacred musical plays of the sixteenth century, 2;
  first specimens of in the Greek plays, 3;
  operatic composers and singers, 4-8;
  its success promoted by the musical genius of Monteverde, 8;
  taken under the patronage of the most illustrious nobles, 8;
  the most celebrated female singers connected with, 8;
  Italian opera introduced into France under the auspices of
     Cardinal Mazarin, 8;
  into England at the commencement of the eighteenth century, 9, 54;
  into Germany, 10;
  flourishing state of during the eighteenth century, 10;
  history of its introduction into France and England, 12 _et seq._;
  not founded by Lulli, 13, 14;
  the first English opera ten years later than the first French one, 31;
  the leading actors, 31;
  the nature of and its merits as compared with other
     forms of the drama, 36 _et seq._;
  unintelligibility of, 37;
  music in a dramatic form, 38;
  the words ought to be good, and yet need not of necessity be heard, 41;
  unnaturalness of, 45;
  chorus of, 47;
  Addison's articles on, 53-58;
  and the drama, 61;
  Beranger on the decline of the, 65;
  Panard's remarks on the, 67;
  his song on what may be seen at the, 67;
  Louis XIV. and the nobles of France actors in, 73-78;
  lettres de cachet issued, commanding certain persons to join the, 76, 77;
  privileges of singers, dancers, and musicians belonging to the, 77;
  state of, under the regency of the Duke of Orleans, 79;
  the scene of frequent disturbances, 80;
  etiquette respecting the visits of young ladies to the, 92, 93;
  introduction of the Italian Opera into England, 104 _et seq._;
  under Handel, 140;
  its position under Handel, and subsequently, 170, 171;
  general view of in Europe in the eighteenth century,
     until the appearance of Gluck, 172;
  its appearance at Vienna, 175, 181;
  its weak points during the eighteenth century exhibited
     in Marcello's celebrated satire "Teatro a la Modo," 204-12;
  history of French opera from Lulli to the death of Rameau, 217 _et seq._;
  history of, in France, during the eighteenth century,
     abounds in excellent anecdotes, 232 _et seq._;
  different kinds of, 236, 237;
  Rousseau's definition, and critical remarks on, 239 _et seq._;
  of the Greeks, 243 _et seq._;
  early periods of, 245;
  subjects of, 247;
  Rousseau's description of, at Paris, 251 _et seq._;
  ludicrous caricature of, 252-260;
  its monstrous scenery, machinery, and decorations, 255;
  audience of the, 257;
  history of, in England, at the end of the eighteenth century,
     and beginning of the nineteenth, ii. 1 _et seq._;
  at Versailles, 3;
  King's Theatre, 4, 5;
  notices of the most celebrated singers, 3-33;
  the Pantheon enterprise, 6, 7;
  state of in France after the departure of Gluck, 35 _et seq._;
  at Paris, frequently burnt down and rebuilt, 42;
  of the "Romantic" school, 45;
  its condition before and after the Revolution, 46 _et seq._;
  strange customs connected therewith, 49;
  great singers of the, at the Jesuits' church and theatre at Paris, 50;
  dangerous to write anything about in Paris previous to the Revolution, 54;
  its decline after the Revolution commenced, 56 _et seq._;
  the National Opera of Paris, 62;
  history of, under the Republic of France, 62 _et seq._;
  state of the, under the Convention, 75;
  its receipts confiscated, and its artists guillotined, 75, 76;
  under Napoleon, 79;
  state of in Italy, Germany, and Russia, during the Republican
     and Napoleonic wars, 87 _et seq._;
  its difficulties arising from the continued wars, 109;
  diplomatists and dancers, 111;
  Terpsichorean treaty, 115;
  manners and customs of, half a century ago, 121 _et seq._;
  Mr. Ebers's management in 1821, 129;
  the King's Theatre in 1789, 131, _et seq._;
  costume of, in 1861, 137;
  Rossini and his period, 143;
  his _Barber of Seville_, and other operatic pieces, 144-163.
    (See ROSSINI).
  Madame Pasta, 170; Madame Pisaroni, 172;
  Madlle. Sontag, 175;
  its position in France under the Consulate, Empire, and
     Restoration, 178 _et seq._;
  plots for assassinating the First Consul at the, 179, 182;
  assassination of the Duke de Berri at the, 190;
  its temporary suspension, 193;
  the Napoleons good friends to the, 193, 194;
  the different pieces produced at Paris, 195, 196;
  Rossini's _Guillaume Tell_, 201;
  rehearsals, 207;
  Nourrit, 221;
  the chief opera houses of Paris and Italy inseparably
     connected with the history of opera in England, 224;
  Donizetti and Bellini, 226, _et seq._, 257;
  author's rights, 237;
  different schools of, 284.

Opera Comique, of France, i. 236, 237.

Opera, French, Favart's satirical description of, i. 65.

Opera National, substituted for that of the Academie Royale, ii. 59;
  programme issued by the directors, 62;
  change of site, 71.

Opera singers, badly paid in the 17th century, i. 25.

Operatic feuds, i. 105.

Operatic incongruity at Paris, i. 253.

Opitz, translator of the opera of Dafne, i. 6.

Orchestra, instrumental music being deficient in the 17th century, i. 7;
  Monteverde's improvements, 7.

_Orfeo_, of Monteverde, music of, produced at Rome in 1440, i. 3, 13.

Orleans, duke of, state of the Opera under his regency, i. 79;
  his sincere love of music and literature, 85, 86;
  his death, 86.

_Otello_, by Rossini, ii. 157.

Oulibicheff, M., his notices of Mozart, ii. 101;
  the biographer of Beethoven, 287;
  Lenz's attack on, 287.

Oxenford's _Robin Hood_, i. 214.


Pacchierotti, the celebrated male soprano, ii. 7.

Pacini's _Talismano_, ii. 267, 268.

Paer, the musical composer, ii. 32;
  plays the part of basso, 90, 91;
  success of his Laodicea, 98.

Paer, Madame, the vocalist, ii. 80;
  engaged by Bonaparte, 80, 81, 88;
  anecdote of, 89.

Painters of Italy, nicknames given to, i. 186-8.

Paisiello, the operatic composer, ii. 2, 29, 30, 31, 82;
  his interview with Bonaparte, 82;
  liberally rewarded, 82, 83;
  at St. Petersburgh, 87.

Panard, his satirical remarks on the Opera, i. 67;
  song on what he had seen at the Opera, 67.

Pantheon of London converted to the use of the Opera, ii. 6, 7;
  its company, 7;
  burnt down, 8;
  opening of the, 125;
  an unfortunate speculation, 125.

Paris, absurd regulations of the Theatres at, i. 86, 87;
  Rousseau's descriptions of the Opera at, 251, 252-260;
  contests in, respecting the merits of Gluck and Piccinni, 267;
  its operatic company towards the end of the 18th century, ii. 3;
  the opera burnt down at different times, 42;
  National Library of, proposed to be burnt, 71, 72;
  the various operatic pieces produced at, 195 _et seq._

Parisian public manners and customs of the time of Louis XIV., i. 75 _et seq._;
  the turbulent and dissipated habits, 80.

Pasta, Madame, the celebrated singer, ii. 168;
  her representation of Rossini's _Semiramide_, 168, 169;
  biographical notices of, 170.

Pelissier, Mdlle., the prima donna of Paris, i. 82;
  her prodigality, 83.

Pembroke, Countess of, the leader of a party against the
     vocalist Faustina, i. 153.

Pergolese, the musical composer, i. 9, 170;
  his _Serva Padrona_ hissed from the stage, 9;
  at St. Petersburgh, ii. 88.

Peri, the Italian musician, i. 5;
  composer of the music to _Dafne_, 7.

Perrin, French Operas of, i. 15.

Peruzzi, Balthazar, his wonderful skill in scenic decoration, i. 3, 4.

Peter the Great, his visit to the French Opera, i. 81.

Peterborough, lord, account of his marriage with Miss
    Anastasia Robinson, i. 134-138.

Petit, Mdlle., the Parisian danseuse, i. 82.

Petits Violins du Roi, a band formed by Lulli, i. 17.

Phillips, Ambrose, the plagiarist, i. 115.

Piccinni, the musical composer, i. 212;
  merits of, as compared with Gluck, 267;
  biographical and anecdotal notices of, 280 _et seq._;
  his natural genius for music, 284;
  success of his _Donne Dispetose_ and other operatic pieces, 285 _et seq._;
  his arrival at Paris, 287;
  his contests with the Gluckists, 288 _et seq._;
  his _Orlando_, 289;
  his rival opera of _Iphigenia in Tauris_, 291, 292;
  ruined by the French Revolution, 295;
  his death, 295;
  the originator of the popular musical finales, ii. 32.

_Pietra del Paragone_, of Rossini, ii. 151.

Pinotti, Teresa, the celebrated comedian, ii. 274.

Pisaroni, Madame, biographical notices of, ii. 172.

Pleasantries of the drama exploded, i. 49;
  their antiquity and harmlessness, 49.

Poissardes of Paris, present at the Opera on certain fetes, ii. 49.

_Pomone_, the first French Opera heard in Paris, i. 15.

Ponceau, Seigneur de, (See CHASSE).

Porpora, the musical composer, i. 44, 100;
  his perversion of the "Credo", 44;
  director of the Lincoln's Inn Theatre, 164;
  singers engaged by him, 167.

Porte St. Martin Theatre at Paris, ii. 42.

_Preciosa_, of Weber, ii. 298.

Prevost, Mdlle. the ballet dancer, i. 78, 89;
  her jealousy of Mdlle. de Camargo, 90.

Prima donnas, Marcello's satirical instructions respecting, i. 211.

_Prophete_, of Meyerbeer, ii. 218.

Purcell, the writer of English operas, i. 9;
  his _King Arthur_, 14;
  his dramatic music, 29;
  his operatic compositions, 33;
  his death, 34;
  his talents, 34.

_Pygmalion_, of Mdlle. Sallé, 93, 94.

_Pyrrhus and Demetrius_, Scarlatti's opera of, i. 117.


Quantz, the celebrated flute player, i. 151;
  his account of the Faustina and Cuzzoni contests, 151, 153.

Quin, James, the musician, anecdote of, i. 32.

Quinault, one of Lulli's librettists, i. 22.


Racine, merits of, i. 115, 116.

Rameau, J. P., the great French composer, i. 13, 212;
  opinions of Dr. Burney and Grimm on his compositions, 213;
  memoirs of, 213 _et seq._;
  letters of nobility granted to him, 220;
  his music, 222;
  his death and funeral, 222, 223.

_Ranz des Vaches_, ii. 289, 290.

Recitative, on the use of, in opera, ii. 296.

Rehearsals at the French opera, ii. 207;
  in London, 208.

Reign of Terror, a fearful time for artists and art, ii. 71;
  its numerous victims, 76, 77.

Republic of France, changes effected, in the Opera by the, ii. 64, 65.

Republican celebrities, their direction of the Opera National, ii. 62, 63, 74;
  changes effected by, in operatic pieces, 64, 65.

Revolution in France, state of the Opera at the period, ii. 34 _et seq._ 55;
  its effect on the Academie, 56 _et seq._;
  musicians and singers who fell victims to its fury, 76, 77.

Rey, the musical composer, and conductor of the Paris orchestra, ii. 41.

Righini, the operatic composer, ii. 104.

_Rigoletto_, operatic music of, i. 47, 48.

_Rinaldo and Armida_, by Handel, i. 123;
  operatic sparrows of, 123-126.

Rinuccini, Ottavio, the Italian poet, i. 5;
  author of the libretto to _Dafne_, 7.

_Robert le Diable_, of Meyerbeer, new version of a chorus in, i. 42;
  remarks on, ii. 202, 211 _et seq._;
  compared with _Der Freischutz_, 213;
  brought out at the King's Theatre, 214.

Robespierre, fall of, ii. 76.

_Robin des Bois_, an adaptation of Weber's _Der Freischutz_, ii. 295-297.

Robinson, Anastasia, the celebrated vocalist, i. 134;
  privately married to the Earl of Peterborough, 134;
  Lady Delany's account of, 134-138.

Robinson, Mr., father of Lady Peterborough, i. 135;
  death of, 136.

Rochois, Martha le, the vocalist, i. 25.

"Romantic School" of the opera, ii. 284.

Rossi, the Italian librettist, i. 128.

Rossini, the operatic composer. ii. 31;
  history of his period, 140 _et seq._;
  the greatest of Italian composers, 142;
  his biographers, 143;
  his _Barber of Seville_, 144;
  historical anecdotes of, 144 _et seq._;
  comparison of, with Mozart and Beaumarchais, 149;
  his _Pietra del Paragone_, 151;
  his innovations, 153, 155; _Tancredi_ and _Otello_, 156, 157;
  his _Gazza Ladra_, 160;
  his _Mosé in Egitto_, 163;
  married to Mdlle. Colbran, 166;
  his _Semiramide_ played by Madame Pasta and others, 168, 169;
  his _Siege de Corinth_, 189;
  his _Viaggio a Reims_, 195;
  _Guillaume Tell_ his last opera, 201;
  succeeded by Meyerbeer at the Academie, 202;
  his followers, 203, 204;
  his retirement, 205;
  Donizetti's early admiration of, 226;
  Sigismondi's horror of his works, and his adverse criticisms, 228 _et seq._;
  his musical genius and powers, 282;
  his _William Tell_, 283;
  the most modern of operatic composers, 283;
  the alpha and the omega of our operatic period, 283.

_Rouslan e Loudmila_, of Glinka, ii. 290.

Rousseau, J. J., a critic and a composer of music, i. 238 _et seq._;
  his "Dictionnaire de Musique," 239;
  his definition of Opera, 239;
  his critical dissertation on the Opera in France during
     the eighteenth century, 239-250;
  his opinions on dancing and the ballet, 250;
  author of the _Devin du Village_, 261,
    but Granet the musical composer, 262, 263;
  his advice to Mdlle. Theodore, 300.

Rousseau, Pierre, anecdote of, i. 262;
  accuses Jean J. Rousseau of fraud, 265.

Royal Academy of Music formed in London, i. 142;
  liberally patronized, 143;
  confided to Handel, 144;
  the various operas produced at, 144, 145;
  involved in difficulties, 145;
  finally closed, 146;
  a complete failure, 147.

Rubini, the celebrated tenor singer, ii. 249, 264, 265;
  the fellow-student of Bellini, 249;
  biographical notices of, 265, 266;
  his great emoluments, 266;
  his B flat, 267, 268;
  his broken clavicle, 269.

Rue Richelieu, opera in closed after the assassination of the
     Duc de Berri, ii. 193.

Russia, opera in, during the republican and Napoleonic wars, ii. 87.


Sacchini, the musical composer, i. 212; ii. 2, 31, 40;
  works of, 40;
  his _Chimène_ played at the Paris Opera, 43;
  his _Œdipe à Colosse_, 44.

Sacred musical plays of the fifteenth century, i. 2.

_Saggio sopra l'Opera in musica_, of Algarotte, i. 2;
  St. Evremond's comedy of _Les Operas_, i. 50.

St. Leger, Mdlles. de, executed for playing the piano, ii. 69.

St. Montant, M. de, a musical enthusiast, i. 87.

St. Petersburg, opera at, ii. 87, 88.

Salieri, the operatic composer, ii. 2, 32, 40, 100;
  brings out his _Danaides_, 44;
  the rival of Mozart, 101;
  his _Assur_, 101, 102.

Sallé, Mdlle., the celebrated danseuse, i. 91;
  her proposed reforms in stage costume, 91;
  noticed by Voltaire, Fontenelle, and others, 92;
  her first appearance in London, 93;
  her alterations in stage costume, 93;
  performance of her _Pygmalion_, and her great success, 98 _et seq._;
  enthusiasm at her benefit in London, 98, 99;
  announcement of her first arrival in England, 101.

Saxe, Marshal, the great favourite of the ladies, i. 232, 233;
  his love for Madame Favart, 233, 234.

Scarlatti's opera of _Pyrrhus and Demetrius_, i. 117.

Scenery, the great attraction in operatic representations, i. 3;
  the art carried to great perfection at Rome, 3, 4;
  of the opera of Paris, 252.

Schœlcher, M. Victor, biographer of Handel, i. 97;
  on the origin of "God save the king," 165.

Schindler, the biographer of Beethoven, ii. 287.

Schmaling, Mdlle. (See MARA).

Schools, the different ones, ii. 284.

Schrœder-Devrient, Madame, the vocalist, ii. 299.

Schutz, the musical composer, i. 6.

Scribe, M., the librettist, i. 212, ii. 250;
  his comic operas, i. 212.

Scudo, the critic, ii. 293.

_Semiramide_, of Rossini, ii. 168;
  represented by Madame Pasta and others, 168, 169.

Senesino, Signor, the sopranist, i. 158, 159;
  quarrels with Handel, and joins the Lincoln's Inn Theatre, 164.

_Serva Padrona_, opera of, hissed from the French stage, i. 9.

Servandoni, of the Tuileries theatre, i. 63;
  his scenic decorations, 177, 179.

Shakspeare's dramas, i. 61.

_Siege de Corinthe_, produced at the French Opera, ii. 195.

_Siege of Thionville_, its gratuitous performance for
     the amusement of the _sans culottes_, ii. 66.

Sigismondi, the librarian of the Neapolitan Conservatory, ii. 226;
  his pious horror of Rossini's works, and his adverse criticisms, 228, 229.

Singers of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, i. 8, 182, 183 _et seq._;
  their capricious tempers, 161;
  Lord Mount Edgcumbe's "Reminiscences" of, ii. 28;
  divided into two classes, 28;
  exposed to the threats of the Republicans, 69.

Singers of Italy, found in all parts of Europe, i. 10, 172 _et seq._;
  nicknames given to, 186-8.

Singers of the French Opera, privileges of the, i. 77.

Singing in dramatic representations, its powerful effects, i. 47;
  humorous satire on, 50, 51;
  Mazocci's school of, 184;
  Marcello's satirical advice respecting, 204-12;
  deaths caused by, ii. 270.

Smith, J., the husband of Mrs. Tofts, i. 111.

Smith, Sir Sidney, his liberation from the French prison
     by Boisgerard, ii. 117, 118.

Sobriquets, applied to celebrated musicians, singers, and painters
     of Italy, i. 186-8.

Song, difficulty of writing to declamation in modern languages, i. 240.

Song of Solomon, considered the earliest opera on record, i. 3.

_Sonnambula_, of Bellini, ii. 250, 251, 257.

Sontag, Mdlle., biographical notices of, ii. 174.

Soubise, Prince de, i. 299;
  his great expenditure, ii. 51.

Sounds, art of combining agreeably, i. 239;
  of a speaking voice, 240.

Sparrows, operatic, at the Haymarket, i. 123-126.

Spectator. (See ADDISON).

Spitting, i. 107.

Spohr, the celebrated German composer, ii. 285.

Spontini, the musical composer, ii. 183;
  his _Finta Filosofa_, 185;
  his _La Vestale_, and _Fernand Cortez_, 186, 187;
  his animosity towards Meyerbeer, 188.

Stage of France, its state of morality, i. 81, 82.

Stage costume, Mdlles. Sallé's proposed reforms in, i. 93;
  her alterations in, 93.

Stage decoration, i. 63, 178, 179, 180.

Stage plays, ordinances for the suppression of, i. 31.

Steele, on insanity, i. 111, 112;
  his hatred of the Italian Opera, 113;
  his chagrin at the success of Handel's _Rinaldo_, 116;
  his insults to operatic singers, 117;
  on the operatic sparrows and chaffinches at the Haymarket, 126;
  his unfavourable opinion of opera, 126, 127.

Stockholm, opera at, ii. 87.

Storace, Mrs., the prima donna of the King's Theatre, ii. 3;
  biographical notices of, 4.

Storace, Stephen, musical director of the King's Theatre, ii. 4.

Strada, Signora, the Italian singer, i. 163.

Stradella, the vocalist and operatic composer, i. 183.

Strozzi, Pietro, i. 5.

Stutgardt, magnificence of the theatres at, i. 178.

Styx, how to cross the, i. 85.

Subligny, Mdlle., the celebrated danseuse, i. 92.

Swift, his celebrated epigram on Buononcini and Handel, i. 64.


_Talismano_, of Pacini, ii. 267, 268.

Talmont, princess de, letter from, 235.

Tamburini, the singer, performer of "Don Giovanni" in London, ii. 108;
  biographical notices of, 271-4;
  his grotesque personation of the absent _prima donna_, 272-274;
  his versatile powers, 273.

_Tancredi_, by Rossini, ii. 152, 156, 157.

Taylor, Mr., proprietor and manager of the King's Theatre, ii. 121;
  humorous anecdotes of, 122 _et seq._;
  his quarrel with Mr. Waters, 126;
  driven from the theatre, 126;
  ends his days in prison, 127;
  his anonymous letter respecting Waters, 128.

_Teatro a la Modo_, Marcello's satire of i. 204-12.

Terence, the first production of his _Eunuchus_, ii. 90.

Terpsichorean treaty, ii. 115.

Theatre, at Stutgardt, i. 178;
  at Venice, 180; at Vienna, 181;
  of the jesuits, at Paris, ii. 50.

Théâtre des Arts, of Paris, ii. 194;
  its frequent changes of name, 194, _n._

Théâtre d'Opéra, of Paris, ii. 193.

Theatres in the open air, i. 176, 177;
  of immense size, 177 _et seq._;
  scenic decorations of, 178, 179;
  at Venice, 180;
  number of in Paris during the Reign of Terror, ii. 71.

Théodore, Mdlle., the accomplished danseuse, i. 300;
  imprisoned, ii. 54.

Thévanard, the operatic singer, i. 79.

Thillon, Madame, ii. 239.

Tintoretto, the musical composer, refuses the honour of knighthood, i. 221.

Tofts, Mrs. the vocalist, and rival of Margarita de l'Epine, i. 105;
  letter from, 105;
  plays "Arsinoe" at Drury Lane, 107;
  her insanity, 110, 111.

Tosi, Signor, his observations on Mesdames Faustina and Cuzzoni, i. 151.

Trial, the comic tenor, death of, ii. 76.

Tribou, the French harmonist, i. 83;
  his versatile talents, 83.

_Triomphe de Trajan_, opera of, ii. 189.

Tuileries, the last _concert spirituel_ at the theatre of the, ii. 57.


_Undine_, of Hoffman, ii. 301-305.


Valabrèque, M., the husband of Catalani, ii. 20;
  draft of a contract between him and Mr. Ebers, 23-25;
  anecdote of his stupidity, 26, 27.

Valentini, Regina, the celebrated vocalist, i. 156;
  married to Mingotti, 156.

Varennes, Mdlle., the French danseuse, ii. 112.

Velluti, a tenor singer of great powers, ii. 209;
  played the principal part in _Il Crociato_, 209;
  biographical notices of, 210;
  his first debut and performance in London, 211.

Venice, the opera of, and its scenic decorations, i. 180.

Verdi, Signor, the musical composer, i. 213, 268; ii. 99, _note_;
  his _Ernani_ and _Rigoletto_ founded on _Hernani_ and
    _Le Roi s'amuse_, i. 213;
  his _Ernani_ prohibited the stage, ii. 235.

Versailles, ballets at, i. 70, 71;
  the London Italian company perform at, ii. 3.

Vestris, Gaetan, the dancer, anecdotes of, i. 278; ii. 37;
  founder of the family, i. 301.

Vestris, Auguste, son of Gaetan the dancer, i. 301;
  anecdotes of, ii. 35, 37;
  his extravagant expenditure, 53.

Vestris, the prince of Guéméné, compelled to dance as a sans culotte, ii. 69.

Vestrises, biographical notices of the family, i. 302.

_Viaggio a Reims_, by Rossini, written for the coronation
    of Charles X., ii. 195.

Victor Hugo, his copyright action against Donizetti, ii. 284, 285.

Vienna, establishment of the Italian opera in, i. 174;
  its great writers and composers, 175;
  Lady Wortley Montagu's description of its magnificent theatre, 175;
  opera at, a first-rate musical theatre, 181;
  great patronage of the imperial family, 181.

Viagnoni, the singer, ii. 14.

Violins of the seventeenth century, i. 23.

Virtuosi of the seventeenth century, i. 183.

Vivien, the horn player, i. 184.

Vocalists of Paris, their generous letter to Prince de Guéméné, ii. 51.
  (See SINGERS.)

Voice, speaking, sounds of a, i. 240.


Wagner's definition of the word "Opera," i. 1 _et note_.

Wallace, V., the eminent composer, i. 42;
  critique on a passage in his _Maritana_, i. 42, 43;
  his _Maritana_ and _Lurline_ founded on the French, 214.

Warsaw, the opera of closed, ii. 54.

Warton, Dr. J., his character of the Duchess of Bolton, i. 138.

Waters, Mr., joint proprietor of the King's Theatre, ii. 109, 125;
  quarrels with Taylor, his partner, 126;
  re-opens the Opera, 127;
  makes a purchase of it, 127;
  his retirement, 129.

Weber, Karl Maria Von, a romantic composer, ii. 285;
  belongs to the same class as Beethoven and Spohr, 285;
  his influence on the Opera, 288;
  his fondness for particular instruments, 290;
  characteristics of his music, 291;
  his resemblance to Meyerbeer, 292;
  his _Der Freischutz_, and its great success, 292 _et seq._;
  his various operas, 298 _et seq._;
  his _Oberon_, 301.

_William Tell_, of Rossini, no subsequent opera to be ranked with, ii. 283.

Williams, Sir Charles, anecdote of, i. 157.

Wolfenbuttel school of music, i. 6.

Women, duelling among, i. 225 _et note_.

Wurtemburg, Duke, brilliancy of his court, i. 178.


_Zaira_, of Bellini, ii. 250.

_Zelmira_, of Rossini, ii. 165;
  its music, 167.

Zeno, Apostolo, the operatic writer, i. 175;
  a librettist, 212.

Zingarelli, the musical composer, ii. 32.


       *       *       *       *       *

The following typographical errors were corrected by the etext

_La Dame Camélias_ was to have been played=>_La Dame aux Camélias_ was
to have been played

J'ai vu le soliel et la lune=>J'ai vu le soleil et la lune

of an Italian, who, adandoning=>of an Italian, who, abandoning

old newspapers before before me=>old newspapers before me

One the contrary, it gives=>On the contrary, it gives

the banquet with the apparation of the murdered=>the banquet with the
apparition of the murdered


Hamburg theatre, where operas had been performed=>Hamburgh theatre,
where operas had been performed

Woffenbüttel caused the directors of the Hamburgh=>Wolfenbüttel caused
the directors of the Hamburgh

retirement, operas by Galuppi, Pergolesi, Jomelli,=>retirement, operas
by Galuppi, Pergolese, Jomelli,

Guingueneé, at Piccinni's request=>Guinguenée, at Piccinni's request

"If," said Gaetan, on another occasion, "_le dieu de la danse_=>"If,"
said Gaetan, on another occasion, "_le diou de la danse_

works, had to perform in the _Clemenzo di Tito_=>works, had to perform
in the _Clemenza di Tito_

Gluck benefitted French opera in two ways=>Gluck benefited French opera
in two ways

Bernadotte wore he would have Paer, and no one else=>Bernadotte swore he
would have Paer, and no one else

"The administration of the Theatre of the Royal Academy of music=>"The
administration of the Theatre of the Royal Academy of Music

by lord Fife--a keen-eyed connoisseur=>by Lord Fife--a keen-eyed

For the one hundred and eighty pound boxas=>For the one hundred and
eighty pound boxes

meanwhile Mr. Chambers had bought up Water's=>meanwhile Mr. Chambers had
bought up Waters's

prima uomo=>primo uomo




La Muette di Portici=>La Muette de Portici

threw himself out of window, at five in the morning=>threw himself out
of a window, at five in the morning

the opera performed, and the theatre saved=>the opera perfomed, and the
theatre saved

so that the cast, to be efficient=>so that the caste, to be efficient

The young gentlemen of Burgamo=>The young gentlemen of Bergamo

Il Puritani=>I Puritani

general enthusiam=>general enthusiasm

Schindler's book is the course of nearly=>Schindler's book is the sourse
of nearly

Berlioz's version of Der Freischutz=>Berlioz's version of Der Freischütz

Dame aux Camelias=>Dame aux Camélias

Der Freischutz, of Weber=>Der Freischütz, of Weber

Mailly's Akebar=>Mailly's Akébar

Marre, Abbé de la, defends Mddlle. Petit=>Marre, Abbé de la, defends
Mdlle. Petit

Singers of the seventeenth and eightteenth centuries=>Singers of the
seventeenth and eighteenth centuries

Fenelon, Chev. de, accidentally killed, i. 81.=>Fénélon, Chev. de,
accidentally killed, i. 81.

of Cimarosa, Paesiello, Anfossi=>of Cimarosa, Paisiello, Anfossi

where are Hoffman's licentious novels=>where are Hoffmann's licentious

his opinion of Hoffman's music, 306.=>his opinion of Hoffmann's music,

       *       *       *       *       *


[1] Wagner calls the composer of an opera "the sculptor _or_
upholsterer," (which is complimentary to sculptors,) and the writer of
the words "the architect." I would rather say that the writer of the
words produces a sketch, on which the composer paints a picture.

Since writing the above I find that the greatest of French poets
describes an admirable _libretto_ of his own as "_un canevas d'opéra
plus ou moins bien disposé pour que l'œuvre musicale s'y superpose
heureusement_;" and again, "_une trame qui ne demande pas mieux que de
se dérober sous cette riche et éblouissante broderie qui s'appelle la
musique_." (Preface to Victor Hugo's _Esmeralda_.)

[2] Ménestrier, des representations en musique, anciennes et modernes,
page 23.

[3] See Vol. II.

[4] Cambronne, by the way is said to have been very much annoyed at the
invention of "_La garde meurt et ne se rend pas_;" and with reason, for
he didn't die and he _did_ surrender.

[5] "_The battle or defeat of the Swiss on the day of Marignan._"

[6] This was Heine's own joke.

[7] And this, Beaumarchais's.

[8] _La Dame aux Camélias_ was to have been played at the St. James's
Theatre last summer, with Madame Doche in the principal part; but its
representation was forbidden by the licenser.

[9] _Spectator_, No. 18.

[10] "Life of Handel," by Victor Schœlcher.

[11] I adhere to the custom of calling Margarita de l'Epine by her
pretty Christian name, without any complimentary prefix, and of styling
her probably more dignified competitor, Mrs. Tofts. Thus in later times
it has been the fashion to say, Jenny Lind, and even Giulia Grisi, but
not Theresa Titiens or Henrietta Sontag.

[12] _Spectator_, No. 261.

[13] Burnt down in 1789. The present edifice was erected from designs by
Michael Novosielski, (who, to judge from his name, must have been a
Russian or a Pole), in 1790. Altered and enlarged by Nash and Repton, in

[14] It is to be regretted, however, that in sneering at an Italian
librettist who called Handel "The Orpheus of our age," Addison thought
fit to speak of the great composer with neither politeness, nor wit, nor
even accuracy, as "Mynheer."--_Spectator_, No. V.

[15] The same trenchant critics who attribute Addison's satire of the
Opera to the failure of his _Rosamond_, explain Steele's attacks by his
position as patentee of Drury Lane Theatre. Here, however, dates come to
our assistance. The jocose paper on Mrs. Toft's insanity appeared in the
_Tatler_, in 1709. The attacks of the unhappy Clayton on Handel (see
following pages) were published under Steele's auspices in the
_Spectator_, in 1711-12. Steele did not succeed Collier as manager or
patentee of Drury Lane, together with Wilks, Doggett, and Cibber, until

[16] _Spectator_, 290.

[17] The Queen's gardeners.

[18] _Tatler_, No. 113.

[19] _Spectator_, No. 285.

[20] It is also known that both profited by the study of Scarlatti's

[21] See Chapter II.

[22] Quoted by Mr. Hogarth, in his Memoirs of the Opera.

[23] _The Theatre._ From Tuesday, March 8th, to Saturday March 12th,

[24] See a letter of Dr. Harrington's (referred to by Mr. Chappell), in
the _Monthly Magazine_, Vol. XI., page 386.

[25] "Memoirs of the Opera," Vol. I., page 371.

[26] The sopranists--a species of singers which ceased to be "formed"
after Pope Clement XIV. sanctioned the introduction of female vocalists
into the churches of Rome, and at the same time recommended theatrical
directors to have women's parts in their operas performed by women. This
was in 1769.

[27] The _Dictionnaire Musicale_ was not published until some years

[28] Le Vieux Neuf, par Edouard Fournier, t. ii., p. 293.

[29] See _Moliére Musicien_, by Castil Blaze; t. ii, p. 26.

[30] Choruses were introduced in the earliest Italian Operas, but they
do not appear to have formed essential parts of the dramas represented.

[31] With the important exception, however, of _Don Giovanni_, written
for, and performed for the first time, at Prague.

[32] Vocal agility, not gymnastics.

[33] Of Faustina and Cuzzoni, whose histories are so intimately
connected with that of the Royal Academy of Music, I have spoken in the
preceding chapter on "The Italian Opera under Handel."

[34] The copious title of this work is given by M. Castil Blaze, in his
"Histoire de l'Opéra Italien." I cannot obtain the book itself, but Mr.
Hogarth, in his "Memoirs of the Opera," gives a very full account of it,
from which I extract a few pages.

[35] F. Halévy, Origines de l'Opéra en France (in the volume entitled
"Souvenirs et Portraits: Etudes sur les beaux Arts").

[36] By M. Castil Blaze, "Histoire de l'Académie Royale de Musique,"
vol. i. p. 116.

[37] For a copy of his Mass, No. 2.

[38] It was precisely because persons joining the Opera did _not_
thereby lose their nobility, that M. de Camargo consented to allow his
daughter to appear there. See page 89 of this volume.

[39] Among other instances of duels between women may be cited a combat
with daggers, which took place between the abbess of a convent at
Venice, and a lady who claimed the admiration of the Abbé de Pomponne; a
combat with swords between Marotte Beaupré and Catherine des Urlis,
actresses at the Hotel de Bourgogne, where the duel took place, on the
stage (came of quarrel unknown); and a combat on horseback, with
pistols, about a greyhound, between two ladies whom the historian
Robinet designates under the names of Mélinte and Prélamie, and in which
Mélinte was wounded.

[40] Castil Blaze.

[41] It is not so generally known, by the way, as it should be, that
Garrick was of French origin. The name of his father, who left France
after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, settled in England and
married an Englishwoman, was Carric. (See "the Eighth Commandment," by
Charles Reade.) On the other hand we must not forget that one of
Molière's (Poquelin's) ancestors in the male line was an archer of the
Scottish guard, and that Montaigne was of English descent.

[42] One of Mademoiselle Guimard's principal admirers was de Jarente,
Titular Bishop of Orleans, who held "_la feuilles des bénéfices_," and
frequently disposed of them in accordance with the suggestions of his
young friend.

[43] French audiences owe something to the Count de Lauragais who, by
paying an immense sum of money as compensation, procured the abolition
of the seats on the stage. Previously, the _habitués_ were in the habit
of crowding the stage to such an extent, that an actor was sometimes
obliged to request the public to open a way for him before he could make
his entry.

[44] Compare this with the Duke of Wellington keeping foxhounds in the
Peninsula, and observe the characteristic pastimes of English and French
generals. So, in our House of Commons, there is always an adjournment
over the Derby day; in France, nothing used to empty the Chamber of
Deputies so much as a new opera; and during the last French republic,
when a question affecting its very existence was about to be discussed,
the Assemblée Nationale was quite deserted, from the anxiety of the
members to be present at the first representation of the _Prophète_.

[45] On this subject see _ante_, page 1.

[46] "Gods and devils," says Arteaga, "were banished from the stage as
soon as poets discovered the art of making men speak with
dignity."--_Rivoluzioni del teatro Italiano._

[47] Published by John Chapman, London.

[48] Addison gives some such description of the French Opera in No. 29
of the _Spectator_.

[49] The origin of this absurd title has been already explained (page

[50] _Molière Musicien_, par Castil Blaze, vol. II., p. 409.

[51] Gluck's name proves nothing to the contrary. The Slavonian
languages are such unknown tongues, and so unpronounceable to the West
of Europe that Slavonians have in numerous instances Latinised their
names like Copernicus (a Pole), or Gallicised them like Chopin (also a
Pole), or above all, have Germanised them like Guttenberg (a native of
Kutna Gora in Bohemia), Schwarzenberg (from Tcherna Gora, the Black

[52] We have a right to suppose that the priest did not exactly know for
whose arm the mass was ordered.

[53] Of which, the best account I have met with is given in the memoirs
of Fleury the actor.

[54] From 1821 to 1828.

[55] For an interesting account of the production of this work, see
"Beaumarchais's Life and Times," by Louis de Loménie. See also the
Preface to _Tarare_, in Beaumarchais's "Dramatic Works."

[56] See vol I.

[57] _Question._ Quelle est la meilleure? _Answer._ C'est Mara.
_Rejoinder._ C'est bientôt dit (_bien Todi_).--(From a joke-book of the

[58] A celebrated male soprano, and one of the last of the tribe.

[59] Some writers speak of Mara as a violinist, others as a

[60] Banti was born at Crema, in 1757.

[61] Nasolini, a composer of great promise, died at a very early age.

[62] All three sopranists.

[63] It will be remembered that Berton, the director of the French
Academy, entertained Gluck and Piccinni in a similar manner. (See vol.

[64] We sometimes hear complaints of the want of munificence shown by
modern constitutional sovereigns, in their dealings with artists and
musicians. At least, however, they pay them. Louis XV. and Louis XVI.
not only did not pay their daughters' music-masters, but allowed the
royal young ladies to sponge upon them for what music they required.

[65] In chronicling the material changes that have taken place at the
French Opera, I must not forgot the story of the new curtain, displayed
for the first time, in 1753, or rather the admirable inscription
suggested for it by Diderot--_Hic Marsias Apollinem._ Pergolese's
_Servante Maitresse_ (_La Serva padrona_) had just been "_écorchée_" by
the orchestra of the Académie.

[66] Mémoires Secrètes, vol. xxi., page 121.

[67] This prevented me, when I was in Warsaw, from hearing M.
Moniuszko's Polish opera of _Halka_.

[68] To say that a theatre is "full" in the present day, means very
little. The play-bills and even the newspapers speak of "a full house"
when it is half empty. If a theatre is tolerably full, it is said to be
"crowded" or "crammed;" if quite full, "crammed to suffocation." And
that even in the coldest weather!

[69] M. de Lamartine before writing the _History of the Restoration_,
did not even take the trouble to find out whether or not the Duke of
Wellington led a cavalry charge at the Battle of Waterloo. The same
author, in his _History of the Girondist_, gives an interesting picture
of Charlotte Corday's house at Caen, considered as a ruin. Being at Caen
some years ago, I had no trouble in finding Charlotte Corday's house,
but looked in vain for the moss, the trickling water, &c., introduced by
M. de Lamartine in his poetical, but somewhat too fanciful description.
The house was "in good repair," as the auctioneers say, and persons who
had lived a great many years in the same street assured me that they had
never known it as a ruin.--S. E.

[70] There was a Marquis de Louvois, but he was employed as a

[71] It was built chiefly with the money of Danton and Sébastian

[72] Twenty-eight thousand francs a year, to which Napoleon always added
twelve thousand in presents, with an annual _congé_ of four months.

[73] According to M. Thiers, the pretended copies of the secret
articles, sold to the English Government, were not genuine, and the
money paid for them was "_mal gagné_."

[74] Alexander II. gives Verdi an honorarium of 80,000 roubles for the
opera he is now writing for St. Petersburg. The work, of course, remains
Signor Verdi's property.

[75] Nouvelle Biographie de Mozart. Moscou, 1843.

[76] There are numerous analogies between the various Spanish legends of
Don Juan, the Anglo-Saxon and German legends of Faust, and the Polish
legend of Twardowski. It might be shown that they were all begotten by
the legend of Theophilus of Syracuse, and that their latest descendant
is _Punch_ of London.

[77] Madame Alboni has appeared as Zerlina, and sings the music of this,
as of every other part that she undertakes, to perfection; but she is
not so intimately associated with the character as the other vocalists
mentioned above.

[78] Waters appears to have spent nearly all the money he made during
the seasons of 1814 and 1815, in improving the house.

[79] After receiving, the first year she sang in London, two thousand
guineas, (five hundred more than was paid to Banti,) she declared that
her price was ridiculously low, and that to retain her "_ci voglioni
molte mila lira sterline_." She demanded and obtained five thousand.

[80] There is a scientific German mind and a romantic German mind, and I
perhaps need scarcely say, that Weber's music appears to me thoroughly
German, in the sense in which the legends and ballads of Germany belong
thoroughly to that country.

[81] As for instance where _Semiramide_ is described as an opera written
in the German style!

[82] It would be absurd to say that if Rossini had set the _Marriage of
Figaro_ to music, he would have produced a finer work than Mozart's
masterpiece on the same subject; but Rossini's genius, by its comic
side, is far more akin to that of Beaumarchais, than is Mozart's. Mozart
has given a tender poetic character to many portions of his _Marriage of
Figaro_, which the original comedy does not possess at all. In
particular, he has so elevated the part of "Cherubino" by pure and
beautiful melodies, as to have completely transformed it. It is surely
no disparagement to Mozart, to say, that he took a higher view of life
than Beaumarchais was capable of?

I may add, that, in comparing Rossini with Beaumarchais, it must always
be remembered that the former possesses the highest dramatic talent of a
serious, passionate kind--witness _Otello_ and _William Tell_; whereas
Beaumarchais's serious dramatic works, such as _La Mère Coupable_, _Les
Deux Amis_, and _Eugénie_ (the best of the three), are very inferior

[83] The serious opera consisted of the following persons: the _primo
uomo_ (_soprano_), _prima donna_, and tenor; the _secondo uomo_
(_soprano_), _seconda donna_ and _ultima parte_, (bass). The company for
the comic opera consisted of the _primo buffo_ (tenor), _prima buffa_,
_buffo caricato_ (bass), _seconda buffa_ and _ultima parte_ (bass).
There were also the _uomo serio_ and _donna seria_, generally the second
man and woman of the serious opera.

[84] The San Carlo, Benedetti Theatre, &c., are named after the parishes
in which they are built.

[85] Particularly celebrated for her performance of the brilliant part
of the heroine in _La Cenerentola_, which, however, was not written for

[86] When Madame Pasta sang at concerts, after her retirement from the
stage, her favourite air was still Tancredi's _Di tanti palpiti_.

[87] Mémorial de Sainte Hélène.

[88] "Lutèce" par Henri Heine (a French version, by Heine himself, of
his letters from Paris to the _Allgemeine Zeitung_).

[89] He persisted in this declaration, in spite of his judges, who were
not ashamed to resort to torture, in the hope of extracting a full
confession from him. The thumb-screw and the rack were not, it is true,
employed; but sentinels were stationed in the wretched man's cell, with
orders not to allow him a moment's sleep, until he confessed.

[90] The Académie Royale became the Opéra National; the Opéra National,
after its establishment in the abode of the former Théâtre National,
became the Théâtre des Arts; and the Théâtre des Arts, the Théâtre de la
République et des Arts. Napoleon's Théâtre des Arts became soon
afterwards the Académie Impériale, the Académie Impériale the Académie
Royale, the Académie Royale the Académie Nationale, the Académie
Nationale once more the Académie Impériale, and the Académie Impériale
simply the Théâtre de l'Opera, by far the best title that could be given
to it.

[91] I was in Paris at the time, but, I forget the specific objections
urged by the doctor against the _Freischütz_ set before him at the
"Académie Nationale," as the theatre was then called. Doubtless,
however, he did not, among other changes, approve of added recitatives.

[92] No. 1.--_Vive Henri IV._ No. 2.--_La Marseillaise._ No.
3.--_Partant pour la Syrie._ No. 4.--_La Parisienne._ No. 5.--_Partant
pour la Syrie_ (encored). No. 6.--?

[93] Mozart, Cimarosa, Weber, Hérold, Bellini, and Mendelssohn.

[94] In the case of _Il Crociato_, however, the model was an Italian

[95] Rossini's natural inability to sympathize with sopranists is one
more great point in his favour.

[96] For instance: _Fra Diavolo_ and _Les Diamans la Couronne_.

[97] The second, _Le Duc d'Albe_, was entrusted to Donizetti, who died
without completing the score.

[98] Nourrit was the author of _la Sylphide_, one of the most
interesting and best designed ballets ever produced; that is to say, he
composed the libretto for which Taglioni arranged the groups and dances.

[99] See Raynouard's veracious "Histoire des Troubadours."

[100] When are we to hear the last of the "ovations" which singers are
said to receive when they obtain, or even do not obtain, any very
triumphant success? A great many singers in the present day would be
quite hurt if a journal were simply to record their "triumph." An
"ovation" seems to them much more important; and it cannot be said that
this misapprehension is entirely their fault.

[101] That is to say, a quarter or a third part of an inch.

[102] "What a pity I did not think of this city fifty years ago!"
exclaimed Signor Badiali, when he made his first appearance in London,
in 1859.

[103] Joanna Wagner.

[104] Richard Wagner.

[105] Tancredi.

[106] Once more, I may mention that the "romantic opera" (in the sense
in which the French say "romantic drama,") was founded by Da Ponte and
Mozart, the former furnishing the plan, the latter constructing the
work--"The Opera of Operas."

[107] The gist of M. Lenz's accusations against M. Oulibicheff amounts
to this: that the latter, believing Mozart to have attained perfection
in music, considered it impossible to go beyond him. "_Ou ce caractère
d'universalité que Mozart imprime à quelques-un de ses plus grandes
chefs-d'œuvre_," says M. Oulibicheff. "_M'avait paru le progrès
immense que la musique attendait pour se constituer
définitivement,--pour se constituer, avais-je dit, et non pour ne plus
avancer._" According to M. Lenz, on the other hand, Mozart's
master-pieces (after those which M. Lenz discovers among his latest
compositions), are what preparatory studies are to a great work.

[108] New form of his overtures, national melodies, &c.--(_Straker_).
Love of traditions, melancholy, fanciful, spiritual; also
popular.--(_Der Freischütz_).

[109] I will not here enter into the question whether or not Meyerbeer
desecrated this hymn by introducing it into an opera. Such was the
opinion of Mendelssohn, who thought that but for Meyerbeer and the
_Huguenots_, Luther's hymn might have been befittingly introduced in an
oratorio which he intended to compose on the subject of the Reformation.

[110] Another proof that this device is not new in the hands of Herr

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "History of the Opera from its Origin in Italy to the present Time - With Anecdotes of the Most Celebrated Composers and Vocalists of Europe" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.