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need be named on this occasion, and ought to make us bow down our heads. Should you ask me if such a dominion over the passions is possible in nature ? I answer frankly---yes; because I am a witness myself of the possibility of it, from many instances, one of which I will relate. In the year 1714, (if I am not mistaken,) in an opera that was performed at Ancona, there was, in the beginning of the third act, a passage of recitative, unaccompanied by any other instrument but the base, which raised, both in the professors and in the rest of the audience, such and so great a commotion of mind, that we could not help staring at one another, on account of the visible change of colour that was caused in every one's countenance. The effect was not of the plaintive kind. I remember well that the words expressed indignation, but of so harsh and chilling a nature that the mind was disordered by it. Thirteen times this drama was performed, and the same effect always followed, and that too universally, of which the remarkable previous silence of the audience, to prepare themselves for the enjoyment of the effect, was undoubted sign*.”
But even the ordinary conversational dialogue is frequently heightened by the effects of changes in the harmony and the modulationt. Thus we not only, by the incongruous interruption of dialogue, destroy all continuity of musical perception and feeling, but we actually lose many of the most beautiful effects. The earlier and most classical composers of opera
divided air (aria) into distinct orders, which have, like every thing else, undergone modifications in the progress of time that have broken and disturbed the regularity these writers thought proper to observe. We shall not weary the learned reader with distinctions, but for the million who, perhaps, have listened to these things all their lives long without knowing their names, we may simply quote the titles, with their peculiar marks of construction. Mr. Brown, an English artist residing in Rome, about the middle of the last century, produced a very elegant little treatise, now scarcely known, in which he demonstrated all the component parts of opera, properly so called, in a very delightful manner.
He classes them under six heads :—1st. Aria Cantabile, proper to sentiment and pathos, the highest species ; 2d. Aria di Portamento, intended to display the power and beauty of the voice in sustained notes; 3d. Aria di Mezzo carattere, a compound of both the two first, but not so lofty as either; 4th. Aria Parlante, called also Aria di Nota é Parola and Aria Agitata, which is applied to the more rapid and forceful passions; and lastly, Aria di Bravura, or d'agilità, which comprises all the difficulties of execution. Mr. Brown adds another,-Airs of Imitation, -which he modestly insinuates is a distinction of his own, (while the others belong to the Italians,) and which are principally employed in the imitation of natural objects. By these he means such as, by rhythm, accompaniment, or in any other similitudes, are directly imitative. Thus we are taught how the whole musical structure is, or rather was,
* Stillingfleet's “Powers and Principles of Harmony."
† We are constrained to seek examples in the Italian operas. We cannot better illustrate this power spoken of in the text, than by referring the reader to the beautiful little piece of “ Recitativo Parlante,” in “Le Nozze di Figaro,” begin. ning “ E Susanna non viene,” and which precedes the Countess's most pathetic aria, “ Dove sono."
reduced to regularity, for time has materially enlarged, by mixing, the several species, without, however, any further real improvement in the diversity thus produced. One of the chiefest alterations is the admixture of the airs with the chorus, by which a stronger and more immediate contrast is created, and strength given to the sentiment, be it jubilant or melancholy, by a sort of popular assentation. But the capital improvement has been in the concerted pieces, and especially the finales, which we shall next examine.
It is a curious anomaly that one of the most powerful resources of the musical drama is to be found in a circumstance the most, at variance with common sense,-namely, in those repetitions which dialogue cannot admit. Thus, take the simplest form of conversation, that between two persons, or, in musical phrase, a duet. Here (as, indeed, in single songs) we find the same sentiments dwelt upon, protracted, varied, and resumed by diversified musical expression, and, indeed, kept up by both the parties, either with or without immediate reference to each other, Not unfrequently totally opposite ideas and passions are carried on by the two, through the aids of different melody, and connected by harmony, with great force and effect; perhaps tender imprecations on one side, and determined rage on the other, and these are set off by traits from single instruments or by general accompaniments. And this apparently strange confusion is multiplied and heightened with inconceivable effect, and with a curious felicity of expression, when the dialogue comprehends the various characters in the concerted pieces, The mind, however, disregards the confusion, assimilates the beauties, and is certainly often more strongly moved by a duet, trio, or even a sestet, than by any single air, when once the judgment is sufficiently trained to listen to the apparent complication, and to understand the succinct and clear development, of the several parts. In comic pieces the vivacity is extreme, and the pleasurable excitement proportionate.* This constitutes at once a singular exception to the rule of clear perception, and dramatic verisimilitude, and a supremacy in the musical unknown to the regular drama. But let it be remembered, that these effects are the consequences of a continuous and sustained feeling of the music, By and through that medium our affections are moved. The words do little more than give a certain and decided direction to impressions purely musical. It affords, then, one of the most unanswerable arguments for the legitimate construction uninterrupted by dialogue.
But our philosophical critic has left a vast, if not the best, region of the Italian lyric drama almost unexplored, in the comic department. Our estimate is very erroneous if the improvements in this species do not very far outgo those of the Opera Seria. Perhaps (we speak doubt
* At present we are perhaps scarcely entitled to believe that the extremely rapid movements and articulation of the best Italian comic pieces of this character can be introduced into the English operas, owing to the rugged nature of our syllables as compared with the lubricity of the Italian language. But there can be no question of its successful adoption where only a inoderate velocity is requisite. Storace's beautiful adaptation in the “ Pirates," “ Hear, O hear a simple story," his quintet in “ No Song no Supper,” and Bishop's “ The Chough and Crow, afford conclusive evidence. We are not prepared to say what a nice and curious selection of words might effect, but in the existing state of our knowledge it seems hardly to be hoped that we can attain the perfection, in this particular, of such duets as “ Jo di tutto mi contento,” and “ Nella casa.
ingly,) perhaps the comic opera may be reducible to the rules laid down by Mr. Brown; but it appears to us that his genera are divisible into many more species: this, however, we leave to more analytical heads. Our object is to point out how wide a field opens to the English stage in musical comedy, of which we can be said at present to know little or nothing.
For it is not in the mere action or incidents that the supremacy of the Italian drama of this species consists, but it resides also very much in the construction of the music. And it is curious to trace the, progression. The dawnings of comic opera (and very powerfully bright they were) appeared with Piccini, (born in 1728.) His “ La Buona Figluola,” produced in 1760, perhaps made the first great sensation. It was pronounced by Jomelli himself to be "an invention.” Yet if the music were now to be subjected to the test of modern criticism, the airs would scarcely obtain a higher praise than that of prettiness. The especial commendation, however, was directed to the two finales. Paesiello and Guglielmi flourished about the same time, and in some of their works there is a nearer approach to the later manner. But Cimarosa (born in 1754) achieved the triumph of giving birth to the most perfect comic opera that had then appeared, in his justly celebrated “ Il Matrimonio Segreto.” The English reader will feel some exultation that the libretto is taken for our classical comedy, “ The Clandestine Marriage ;” and certainly there breathes throughout a vein of the sweetest, and most elegant, and spirited composition.* Still it is essentially different from that sparkling, effervescent style, which the public taste has now learned to require from the brilliant and overflowing passages of Rossini; and so much was this felt that, even when brought out a season or two since
Nothing is more singular amongst the caprices of genius than the various means by which musical composers have delighted, if they have not found them continually indispensable, to stimulate their efforts. The lively author of the Lives of Haydn and Mozart has concentrated many of these peculiarities. He thus relates them :“ Gluck, in order to warm his imagination, and to transport himself to Aulis, or Sparta, was accustomed to place himself in the middle of a beautiful meadow. In this situation, with his piano before him and a bottle of champagne on each side, he wrote in the open air his two · Iphigenias,' his 'Orpheus,' and his other works. Sarti, on the contrary, required a spacious dark room, dimly illuminated by the funereal light of a lamp suspended from the ceiling ; and it was only in the most silent hours of the night that he could summon musical ideas. In this way he wrote the 'Medonte,' the rondo . Mia speranza, and the finest air known, I mean to say · La dolce compagna.' Cimarosa was fond of noise; he liked to have his friends about him when he composed. It was while he was amusing himself with them that he projected his Horatii' and his ' Matrimonio Segreto;' that is to say, the finest and most original serious opera, and the first comic opera, of the Italian theatre. Sacchini could not write a passage unless his mistress was at his side, and his cats, whose gracefulness he much admired, were playing about him. Paesiello composed in bed. It was between the sheets that he planned the • Barber of Seville,' the Molinara,' and so many other chefs-d'oeuvres of ease and gracefulness. After reading a passage in some holy father or Latin classic, Zingarelli will dictate, in less than four hours, a whole act of Pyrrhus,' or of • Romeo and Juliet. I remember a brother of Anfossi, of great promise, who died young: he could not write a note unless he was surrounded by roast fowls and smoking sausages. As for Haydn, solitary and sober as Newton, putting on his finger the ring which the great Frederic gave him, and which he said was necessary to inspire his imagination, he sat down to his piano, and in a few moments soared among the angelic choirs." Nothing disturbed him at Eisenstädt; he lived wholly for his art, exempt from terrestrial cares.”
- Ah qual
for Lablache, it was considered comparatively heavy by the frequenters of the King's Theatre. The difference is that which exists between melody, soothing, sweet, and rich, with only a certain quantity of velocity and animation, such airs, for example, as “ Udite tutt' Udite," or “ Pria che spunti;” such trios as “ Lei faccho un inchino,”—and the crowded notation, the vast rapidity, the fiery meteoric brilliancy of such airs, with their accompanying instrumentation, as “ Largo al factotum della città," such duets as Dunque io son," such trios as colpo,” of “ Il Barbiere di Seviglia,” and such finales as" Questo vecchio maledetto,” of “ Il Turco in Italia.”
Of such an elevation in comic opera the English have yet no example, and for the reasons we state. A certain degree of vulgarity riots almost throughout, from the gross mixture of what we call witty dialogue,–
5. Light-arm’d with point, antithesis, and pun," which is esteemed indispensable to support the character of comic. Shield, in Rosina,” and Sto ce, in “No Song, no Supper,” illustrate our position, though there is far more of refinement in the former than in the latter piece: indeed, it was Storace's object to introduce gradually the musical effects belonging to the Italian stage upon our own.
He anticipated what has been done, and is now doing, more completely by Mr. Rophino Lacy, in his adaptations of Rossini's operas to the English dress. How far it may be possible to carry the chief characteristic of Rossini's excellence,-and his may now be said to present the model — namely, the “nota e parola,” the rapid articulation of words and notes, under the impediments of our rougher language,--remains, we repeat, to be tried. The nearest approach to it appears, to our judgment, to be the finales we have mentioned in “No Song, no Supper,” and “ The Pirate,” which cannot, however, be called rapid. All the attempts to adapt English words to Rossini's quick, florid music, have failed to our
Much allowance must, however, be made for the previous and original association with the Italian.
Our consideration of this first branch of our subject has led us so far, that we must postpone to another essay the means which the English possess of framing and enjoying a legitimate opera. We are perfectly satisfied they have these means, if they can be brought to use them, in a degree second only, if second at all, to the Italians, who now take rank as the first and highest cultivators of the lyric drama.
March.--VOL. XL. NO. CLIX.
MY TRAVELLING ACQUAINTANCE.
BY THE AUTHOR OF “ HIGH-WAYS AND BY-WAYS."
No. III.—THE PILGRIM OF Mont BLANC.
Never was season more unfavourable to the execution of such a pilgrimage than the summer of the year of grace 1833. It was not that Nature threw obstacles in the way of the holy longing which had led men —or at least one man-to pay homage at her most glorious European shrine. Never, on the contrary, did June show forth a brighter prospect of Alpine magnificence. The drowsy-looking Leman, not yet cleared from the morning mist—the sombre masses of the Jura range, still lightly "periwigged with snow”—the many-villaged plains of the Canton de Vaud, and the peopled picturesqueness of Geneva, were all behind me. I crossed the Swiss frontier at Annamesse, and entered Savoy. The car of day was yoked with sunbeams, and its wheels flashed brilliancy on mountain, wood, and valley. But here it was that one of the most odious obstacles in the code of social annoyance thwarted, with every ingenuity of artifice, the pleasure which Nature intended for mankind.
Need I say that I allude to the torments of the custom-house ?-certainly not, to those who ran the gauntlet of their persecution about the time I speak of. It was just then that a few too ardent and too generous spirits formed a bold but futile plan to wrench their rights from the recreant king, who first made liberty his people's watchword, and then trampled on them in the pride of prerogative. The prisons of Piedmont echoed with the living plaints, the fossés of her fortresses sent back the dying groans of the patriot soldiers, incarcerated on suspicion, or shot on evidence. But those brave spirits had a full revenge Heaven grant that they felt it to relieve their agonies in the abject fears which vibrated through the whole system of the Government, from the monarch down to the meanest underliug. The very custom-house officers at this paltry frontier village trembled as they examined the trunks of the diligence passengers, and the little pacquets of the country people who trudged along to market. Had each pocket-handkerchief covered a conspirator it need not have been more cautiously turned inside out. The wording of the passports—for want of a due attention to which many a traveller was repulsed at this threshold of the country—was strictly scrutinized. Each signalement was minutely verified. Halfa-dozen oranges paid duty; a plated salt-cellar was confiscated, despite the plaintive pleadings of the notary's wife, who had made the unlucky purchase at Geneva, and was carrying it as a present to her brother at Bonneville. Smuggling was impossible; for if the men were roughly examined, the women were little less so, by a person in petticoats, whom I verily believe to have been a grenadier with his whiskers shaved off
. A shako, intended for a recruit at St. Martin, was a fearful puzzle to the geniuses of the douane. The word was vainly looked for over and over in the index of the enormous register of import duties, in the S's, the C's, the H's, the K's, and every consonantal combination which those