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sinner, Don Juan de Marana; upon which he became converted and "itant vieux se fit errnite?"
This is not the Don Juan for us. Better by far is the Don Juan of Moliere, who pretends to be converted, and crowns his criminal career with hypocrisy, at the same time calling his valet to bear witness that he is the same Don Juan he has always been ; "ne craignant ni Dieu, ni diable, ni loup garou." This is the Don Juan de Tenorio who asked the statue of the murdered commandant to sup with him ; 'who was not alarmed when the statue, with that punctuality which is the politeness of ghosts, made his appearance in the supper-room, but who, having given his hand—brave and defiant to the last—to the marble guest, felt suddenly the fire of hell in his veins, and was dragged down by his visitor to the regions of eternal torment (in which, by the way, if he had not deserved the assassin's blow he could scarcely have been a resident). This, we need hardly say, is also the Don Juan of Mozart's immortal opera, and probably it was the fact of the original Juan's surname having been Tenorio that suggested to the manager of the Royal Italian Opera the propriety of entrusting the part to Signor Mario, rather than to some barytone.
However that may be, nothing can be clearer than that in representing the story of Don Juan (de Ferrario) it is essential that the statue of the Commandant should be invited to supper, that he should accept the invitation, and that he should ultimately take his irreverent host away to sup with him in the midst of blue fire. Talk of omitting the part of Hamlet in a representation of Hamlet? That would be as nothing compared with the omission of the statue of the Commandant from a performance of Don Juan. Mr. Buckstone, of facetious notoriety, tells a story of an American theologian and preacher who founded a religion which hopelessly and ignominiously failed because ho attempted to carry it on with the assistance of an evil spirit. Well, Don Giovanni, last Thursday, at Her Majesty's Theatre, was like the religion of the poor insane American divine mentioned by Mr. Buckstone, except in this respect, that the opera did not fail — not in a musical sense at least; but the legend was utterly spoiled, the moral entirely lost, from the simple fact that the statue of the Commandant came, saw, actually shook hands with "Don Juan," and then went away with him! It is absurd to see "Don Juan" carried off by a host of imps ; it is absurd to see the last scene terminated (as on Tuesday night, at Her Majesty's Theatre) by a display of fireworks; but most absurd of all is it to see " Don Juan " left quietly to himself after the ghostly commandant has had a few minutes' conversation with him.
If the statue of the Commandant was not sure to come for us at last, who that had the power would not be a Don Juan? The author who translated the drama of Punch understood this. In the original version of that wonderful composition, Punch, after killing every one else, actually kills Satan. What does he do then? He simply and naturally exclaims: "The devil is dead; we can now all do as we like." To teach our modern Don Juans the impossibility of any such course of conduct, we entreat Mr. E. T. Smith to restore the descent of Don Juan into the abyss.
THIS time the report is but too true;—we have lost our Albert Smith. That portion of light pleasantry that made the Egyptian Hall so cheerful has ceased to play. The travelled Brown rests at his journey's end; the engineer's narghilhe pipe is out. For many years to come Mont
Blanc will be regarded as a centre of melancholy thoughts, and we shall not care often to reflect on the Feast of Lanterns. London has sustained an irreparable loss. A species of entertainment has perished with Albert Smith that no other person can be expected to revive.
Albert Smith was distinctly the inventor of the medley lecture which for several years has been connected with his name. All the other "entertainments" are more or less modifications of the old "Mathews at Home" adapted to modern usages,—all more or less monodramas in which the theatrical element is conspicuous ; unless, indeed, as in the case of Mr. and Mrs. T. G. Reed, where two persons appear, the performance becomes absolutely dramatic. The characters embodied in these entertainments are of an abstract kind, assumed to be types of real life, but in point of fact much more like stage conventions. Now with Albert Smith the narrative element decidedly predominated. He was the traveller describing his own journey, and as he always regarded the various objects from his own point of view, he had much of that freshness of which we find a classical type in the Muses of Herodotus. That depreciation of " high art " which has done so much mischief among the smatterers of the day, who think they look fine when they despise what their fathers have admired, was less offensive in him than in any of his followers. It was an honest expression of dislike for that which he really did not admire, not an affected humour put on for the sake of exciting surprise. The personages whom he so inimitably represented, far from being abstractions, exhibited just as much of their idiosyncracies as could readily be displayed by any loquacious individual in a railway carriage or a packet, mid were never intended to stand as entire humanities. That immortal engineer with his grie vances, for instance, was shown on his colloquial side, under circumstances that would bring the colloquial side forward, and had no affinity to those traditional aldermen who bawled for turtle in the midst of their tea and toast.
The charm of Albert Smith's delivery can never be described to those who have not actually heard him. It was natural, fluent, glib, and so utterly unaffected, that he might bo charged with carelessness rather than with a desire to create a sensation. His old experiences of travel seemed to come upon him again, and his hearers were delighted when they found how those experiences accorded with their own. The plenitude of physical comfort in which they were placed disposed them to be in a good humour, and in this amiable disposition they were all maintained by the unceasing affability of the lecturer.
Laying no claim to the character of a musical artist, and endowed with a weak organ, Albert Smith had nevertheless as much vocal proficiency as was required for his purpose, and no one better understood the art of making pleasant phrases effective, by associating them with a telling tune. The faculty of rapid articulation, common among Italians, which was marvellously displayed in his so-called "patter songs," he shared with few compatriots. Indeed we do not know where we should find equal volubility in any living Englishman besides Charles Mathews.
There is another merit of Albert Smith which should never be forgotten, and that is his wonderful mastery over English versification. He could neatly and humorously treat of any subject in any measure, and bis songs, smart and pointed throughout, never seemed to be disfigured by » forced or feeble line. His talent, in this respect, was perpetually exercised by his Galignants Messenger, which was so varied as to contain facetious allusions to the prevailing topics of the day. Albert Smith's entertainment, in fact, was the complete expression of Albert Smith himself,—the yehicle for all his thoughts, sentiments, and opinions; and on this account he might be likened to those old-fashioned divines, whose discourses were not only the sermons, but likewise the newspapers and the political instructors of the congregation.
Pbincess's Theatre.—We understand that M. Fechter, an Englishman by birth and education, and in his own particular department the very best actor on the French stage, is engaged at the Princess's Theatre, and will make his first appearance in October next, most probably in an English version of " Ruy Bias."
Akton Rubinstein.—It is rumoured in London that this celebrated pianist and composer died suddenly a few days since, at Leipsic. We have no direct information which can enable us to vouch for the truth of the report, but trust that it may prove to have been without foundation.
Sig. Cordigiani.—The death of this graceful composer has added another to the list of notable persons whose loss the art has to regret.
Hskb Rudolph Schachneb, whose death is announced in the Guide Musical (of Brussels), is happily for his friends and admirers alive and well.
New Abuttals.—Among the recent arrivals from the Continent are Master Dencke, a pianist of twelve years old, of whom Joseph Joachim writes to a friend in the following terms:—" He is a thoughtful modest youth, and for his age a remarkable executant on the piano. Recommend him to those among our friends who are sure to take an interest in him when they have once heard him." Another pianist—Herr Joseph Wieniawski (brother of the violinist) is also on a visit to London.
Thee Obganistship At The Leeds Provincial Town Hall. From our Correspondent.—The time allotted for applications to be sent in to the Leeds Town Council for the situation of Organist at the Town Hall having expired, the Committee met on Wednesday to take further proceedings. There were twenty-two applications, and these having been examined with their accompanying testimonials, the Committee reduced the candidates to seven, viz.: Mr. Hilton, Manchester; Mr. William Spark, Leeds; Mr. James Broughton, Leeds; Mr. Walter Parratt, Huddersfield; Mr. George Hepworth, Mecklenburg- Schwerin; Mr. Oldham, London; and Mr. James Taylor, Gloucester. The Committee will probably again meet on Wednesday next, when the three judges will be selected, before whom the abilities of the competing candidates will be tested.
^etttrs ia ibt (Bbxtor.
MATHEMATICAL THEORY OF THE CHORD OF THE DOMINANT 7th.; Sib,—In my last (Musical World, April 21st) it will be seen that the sounds of the primary major chords of any three adjacent systems of sounds (see Musical World, January 28th) form a major scale or key, the root or tonic of which is the basis of the central system. Now it is necessary to be observed, that the sounds of these primary chords in any too adjacent systems only could not of themselves decide the key, for in this ease, as there would be no central basis, so the root or tonic would be indeterminate. Thus, for instance, in the two adjacent systems having the primary bases G and C, the sounds of the primary chords belong equally to the keys of which cither basis is the tonic, that is, to either mode formed by the three systems D G C or G C F, in other words, the sounds G B D and CEG belong equally to the scale of G and the scale of C, therefore from these sounds alone, the scale, or key, could not be determined. On the contrary, if we take the sounds G B D and F A C, which are those of the primary chords of the two extreme systems, G and F of the mode C, then the tonic C, which is the basis of the intermediate, or central, system is at once pointed out; these sounds also, taken collectively, belonging to the key of C and not to
any other, that key is immediately indicated ; moreover, as shown in my last, the sound G, the basis of one of these two systems, as dominant leads downwards a 5th, or upwards a 4th, to C, the root of the mode, or tonic of the key, so also the F, the basis of the other system, which, with regard to its position and influence in the mode, would be correctly termed an inverted dominant, or sub-dominant, and on this account act in the opposite direction, leads upwards a 5th or downwards a 4th, to the unit sound C, again to the tonic of the key; when, therefore, we introduce the primary basis F in combination with the major chord of G, we have the sounds of the two extreme systems, both of which in combination lead to tho key of C. The sound F in this chord thus becomes the modulus of the system of which it is the primary basis, and the primary chord, the chord of the modulus, both leading to tho sounds and harmonics of that system, as contained in the derivative chords, which thus become the chords of the resolution, all the sounds of which belong to the keys of which C is the tonic. It is evident that the discord must resolve upon these harmonies only, for the dominant G leads to C, the root of the mode, which is also the unit sound of the system F, and, with the exception of the chord of the modulus (which cannot also become the chord of its resolution—it cannot fall upon itself), all the harmonies into which C enters as the unit sound, are contained in the derivative chords of the system F. From this it is clear that the primary basis F, which is also the fourth sound in the scale of C, is the true 7tA of the major chord of G, and this is correctly called the chord of the dominant 7th. Also, as the chords of the 9th, llth, and 13th are merely variations of this chord (as pointed out in my letter, Musical World, January 28th), it is therefore the fundamental principle of all modulations, as it contains the primary sounds of the two extreme systems of the mode, which of any two, are those only which can determine the key.
By some theorists this 7th has been called a fundamental 7th, because it was supposed to be the sound derived directly as an harmonic from a principal sound as generator, or, which is the same thing, from tho division of a musical string, or monochord, into seven equal parts; but this is incorrect; for suppose a musical string whose length is unity, giving the sound G, then j of this length would give the fundamental 7th, and the ratio of its vibrations would be J, but the ratio of the dominant 7th is and their comparative ratios 63-64, therefore the fundamental 7th is natter in pitch than the dominant 7th in this proportion, but the dominant 7th F is the true 4th of the scale of C, consequently the fundamental 7th, which forms no part of the same scale, cannot be a sound leading to that scale, that is, it cannot give an impression of any of those sounds ; moreover, it being an harmonic of G, it is not a sound leading from but one leading to that basis. Also, if unity represent the length of string giving the sound G, no harmonic whatever of this sound, that is, no aliquot division of this string can give F the tme dominant 7th in any of its octaves; for as the ratio of the vibrations of any harmonic must always have some integral power of 2 for its second term, it is evident that no harmonic can exactly correspond with the dominant 7th whose ratio being its second term must be always 9 times some power of 2; and as 9, which is an odd number, can form no integral power of an even number, such as 2, therefore no aliquot division of the string sounding G can give F the dominant 7th. It is true from the generator G we can find an harmonic as near as wo please to this F, but not the exact sound; in this sense the dominant 7th may be considered as the limit of an infinite series of converging harmonic ratios of which the fundamental 7th may be taken as the first term. Again, although the F is no harmonic of G, wc cannot say the same of these sounds reciprocally, for if we further examine the ratio of F to G, which is Jf, we find that 16, which is the 4th power of 2, is the first term of the ratio, not the second, so that tho ratio appears in tho form of an inverted, or negative harmonic; therefore we must interpret it as we would a negative quantity in algebra, which has exactly the opposite meaning of a positive quantity. In this case it shows that F is not an harmonic of G, but that G is an harmonic of F, and this is evidently true, for if we reduce the ratio to its lowest octave, it is J, and the length of string necessary to produce this sound F is f, or 9, that is, 9 times the length of the one giving the sound G, consequently, G being produced from the division of the string sounding F, into 9 equal parts, is an harmonic of that sound. As regards the manner of the resolution of the chord of tho dominant 7th, it is easy to show that the natural progression of the sounds individually, is to the nearest sounds of that derivative chord, to which we may choose to proceed; but this is again affected by another law, which we may call the |* equilibrium of concordant sounds," depending upon the same sure scientific basis which I may hereafter explain.—I remain, Sir,
Cheetham Hill, Manchester, W. W. Parkinson.
April 25th, I860.
Mr. Editob,—As grumbling is John Bull's prerogative, I often find myself indulging in snndry discontented notions, when I think of " the days that are gone," as regards musical affairs, considering that in some points we have retrograded.
We are entering on another "season," as the migratory influx at this time is termed. We shall have the usual round of concerts, two, and sometimes three, being crowded into one day. Now have you any interest, direct or indirect, with the Seneficiaires or those who assist them? If so, can you prevail upon them to infuse a little novelty into their programmes, and then regular concert goers will not listen with such apathy to the faro which is dished up season after season. I attribute this sameness to the indolence of professionals, who, having " got up" a few things, endeavour to force them into the ears of every audience they come before, until the public become so satiated that the performance is little else but an infliction. However great the talent of the artist, scarcely ono is exempt from the charge If we often dined with a friend who had a variety of excellent wine in his cellar, we should not like to be presented with a bottle of the same port, with an occasional glass of Cape sherry; yet we arc heated with this sort of fare, in a musical sense, week alter week, by our first artists. Beethoven's Adelaide is, we know, a lovely composition j but why Adelaide, ad nauseam, particularly if encored with " Pretty Jane," or "Come into the garden, Maud "? It is in theatres and our large music halls where tins practice mostly prevails, where the taste of the galleries is consulted, and where a few obstinately vociferous frequenters often succeed in obtaining
a repetition of some hackneyed song, which the rest of the audience arc obliged to sit out with apathetic impatience. Several years back I heard Weber's " Ocean, thou mighty monster," by one of our concert singers, and I will not tell you how many concerts I have attended since, where I have heard the same song by the same lady, even at three successive benefit concerts given by the same person. I recollect when enrj aspirant came out with "The Soldier tired," that being the piece it resistance of the day, and the rapidity with which she sang the triplets prevented the public from distinguishing whether they were sung in or out of tune; and if she could reach the D in alt at the close it was considered perfection. Many singing-masters finished their pupils with it, and the latter took care not to forget it or allow the public to lose sight of it. There are many specimens of the old masters that we expert to be occasionally introduced. All lovers of music are pleased to bear "Che faro" and many other pleasing reminiscences of the old school; but a continued presentation of " Che faro " betokens a lack of industry and an indifference that approaches to something like laughing at us for being good easy souls, who will put up with anything from an artist with a good voice. How we were dosed with "Robert tot que faime" a few seasons back! We were afraid to look at a concert bill lest we should see the word "Robert." Then every young lady who could sing it, or could not, was attempting it in private, her master not daring to denj her learning it after a miserable fashion, and so it became our "John Jones." But I need not continue an enumeration of instances of this nature. Instrumental performers are not such great sinners in this respect, because they are not so sparing of their trouble yet H requires more preparation to perfect one of Beethoven's or Mendelssohn's concertos' than is necessary for " Bonnie Dundee " or " Home, sweet home," which class of composition we continually notice in the programmes of concert after concert. I find one source of congratulation, that is, we are getting rid of the disgusting tremolo that many singers indulged in. It was a French importation, though freely bestowed [upon us by some of the Italians, some of whom have so addicted themselves to this voce ii capta that they cannot sing a pure note. When Madame Mara was told that Miss " Such-a-one" was a fine singer, she generally answered,14 Can she sing three good notes in succession?" And a very sensible reply. Signor Ferrari, in his excellent singing tutor, says, that as the street organs imitate this execrable introduction, it can sink no lower, and this may have influenced the perpetrators, in some degree, as U n'y a rim }»i tui comme le ridicule.
Another vice has unfortunately been gaining on us during the lafl twenty years, viz- the rapidity with which pieces are performed, nnless absolutely marked largo. With few exceptions, every orchestral symphony or overture is a match against time, and wc beat the continentals hollow in this race. I suppose it will be admitted that any composition ought to be played in the time the author intended, but conductors nowa-days fancy they know better what the time should be than the composer did. When Weber came to this country to superintend the bringing out of his Oberon he conducted some -concerts at Covent Garden, and was the first who used the baton in England, though a musical reviewer in The Times, a few days back, says that Mendelssohn was the first to introduce it. As soon as they began the overture to Der Freischutz (that is, the allegro movement), he stopped them, and inquired if that was the time they had been accustomed to. On being answered that it was, he replied that it was by no means the time he intended, ami made them begin it a third slower. Haydn also, when he visited this country, and composed the symphonies for Salomon, complained of the same thing. Dr. Crotch, who told me this, was present at the time, and said that the little man was very wroth to find them galloping away with his minuets. Many of your readers must know that Spohr made the same remark when in England. The present fashion for excessive rapidity does not allow the ear to follow or the mind to grasp ODe passage in ten, consequently the performance becomes, to the generality of hearers, an unmeaning succession of rapid fiddling passages; nevertheless, if it be something by one of the great masters, it is considered quite correct to pronounce it " magnificent," " superb," " splendid," and so forth ; they applaud the conductor, he makes a gracious bow, and endeavonrs to merit their laudations, hy getting it done if possible a little faster. In my twilight musings by the fireside the other day, I pictured to myself Haydn, Mozart, and Weber returning to Elysium after a furlough for a few days to the metropolis.
Weber, loq.—"Well, Michael, what do you say to the manner in which they play your symphonies. Do they give the exact time that you intended when you wrote them for your old friend Salomon?"
"My dear Carl Maria, I have no heart to talk about it. Perhaps the best answer I can give you is, that there is a word much used in England
* Mendelssohn's in G minor is becoming pretty well worked.
for which they are indebted to the Americans; it is' go-a-head;' and signifies a reckless haste to effect any object, without regard to consistency or ultimate gratification. This appears to be the leading principle as regards musical performance. The English have become a great musical people, and can collect at a few days' notice, as you must have perceived, a powerful orchestra and a chorus of from 500 to 2000 voices very fairly drilled. Our best compositions are becoming well known to the musical world, but from their being so frequently repeated, the performance becomes a mechanical operation on the part of the orchestra, the time becomes insensibly accelerated; expression and harmonious effect being secondary considerations. The conductor, who never plays a note himself, thinks that the faster he can flourish his stick the more talent he displays, so the whole affair becomes a ridiculous display of manipulation. Ah! those conductors; I swear by the ring of the Emperor Frederick, that I shall look out when Charon brings over two or three of those fellows, and whisper a word in the ear of Hhadamanthus, before he hears what they have to say. What say you Wolfgang?"
Conductors they are called, are they? Assassins is my word for them. Die Lumpe. I saw one of these'geniuses giving the time to my Zauberflote. Oh how I longed for the power to become mortal, that I might have banged about his head the baton he was brandishing to and fro. Nobody who did not know it by heart, could have followed the orchestra so as to understand what it meant, and it was nothing but a mockery. Have you seen Beethoven since your return? He would not like to hear his Choral Symphony as they scramble through it. I heard his Septett in E 7 which was nicely massacred, merely because the orchestra were able to play in the time. The parts they played the best were the pauses; one could breathe now and then. I passed him just now, while he was asking Handel if it would have entered his mind to write oratorios, had he not quarrelled with his opera singers, Bononcini and his patrons. That was a lucky thought of our friend George. He saw that he would secure an audience for sacred music, though it were performed in a theatre. But cither he or the singers of that day were very irascible, as he soon quarrelled with his solo performers, to which circumstance we are indebted for Israel in Egypt, as in that oratorio he rendered himself independent of them. You talk about their manner of playing Beethoven; I should not like Ludwig to hear some of his andantes, particularly those in §. They are often done in the same time that you intended for your minuets. They do not take these liberties with sacred music. Your Creation was very nicely done at a place called Exeter Hall ; the introductory chaos was perfect. I would give half a dozen of my masses for that one page. I must tell you that at this Exeter Hall everything operatic is, if possible, excluded (except the singers), so that a primo tenore may come from a rehearsal of a comic opera straight to Exeter Hall, but he is expected to compose his mind in the state for changing the character of Don Giovanni or Figaro for that of Joshua, Obadiah, or the archangel Gabriel. The orchestra is composed of many of the same individuals at one place as at the other. The principal difference is, that there is no canvas or foot-lights. Is it not true, Weber?"
"Perfectly correct, Wolfgang. It is true as the repetitions from your Idomeneo."
"Gently, gently, Carl; I have been twitted with the same remark by Daddy Haydn. It is well known that I was in love at the time I wrote Idomeneo, and that inspired me to produce what I found would bear repetition. I could find a few passages in his quartetts that arc repeated more than once or twice, to say nothing of the poverty of the first half-dozen. However, there is one thing that should console us; the English honour our memories by bringing forth some of our compositions at every concert of importance. But the man at present in vogue is called Verdi. You should see the music he writes for his sopranos. See it, not hear it, for there are passages enough to spoil lungs of iron. Did you hear any, Michael?"
"Yea, and was quite ont of breath, expecting that the singers would be, every line, in the same state, as I looked for nothing but a break down. Kossini and Bellini are more consistent j their melodies more original In the bargain. I went to the Hanover Square Booms, where I had often sat at the pianoforte when my symphonies were performed; but I did not then intrude on the functions of the leader. Now, the leader's occupation is gone ; yet the music went quite as well in the days of Francois Cramer or John Loder. All the orchestra distinguished his sonorous fiddle, and the firmness with which he led a heavy band nothing could surpass. There was no musical Jack in the box with a truncheon. Viotti, and many others, would have died of a broken heart to have been thus displaced. Why not put the leader in front of the orchestra, that he may appear at his true post, instead of appearing a mere repienof But my spirit strolled into the suburbs, and would yon believe it, at the tea gardens and dancing booths, each little knot of i has its conductor, who flourishes a stick for even a set of i or a polka."
Moz. "What is a polka?"
"I discovered by the performance that it is a movement in J, with a slight accent on the 3rd quaver to accommodate the step of the dancers. It is danced like our waltzes, except that there is a little more of the allegro appasionato between the couples, therefore very much patronised. Did you hear one of your operas, Mozart, while among the mortals?"
"Yes, I heard Don Giovanni. Donnerblitz! how it was galloped through. When they came to 'Non piu andrai' I could stand it no longer. In Spagnoletti's time (and Weichsel's before him), it was a treat to hear tho descending passages of semiquavers staccato as I had expressly marked them, but no violin player could bow them staccato in the way it is sung now. I could hear no more. I am surprised that the conductors succumb to a vitiated taste. In the minor theatres of coarse they ape the conductor mania, and, accordingly, stick somebody up in the middle of the orchestra, though it must be a decided waste of money on the part of the manager, as the light kind of music heard at these theatres makes the conductor a fifth wheel. As this functionary is often absent, his post is filled by the 1st violin, who jumps up in his place, and from that moment considers it derogatory to his dignity pro tern, to bo really useful, so commences waving his bow as if ho were giving the time to my Jupiter. This frequently takes place where there are three 1st violins, j-so the farce is kept up at a decided sacrifice of effect, for the brass and drums then have completely the best of it. Managers in general know as much about music as of Sanscrit, so arc led by the nose b
some one whose interest it is to throw a little dust in their eyes. Di> you notice anything of this sort, Weber?"
"Plenty, my dear Mozart, and was highly amused; but there was another feature that predominates with the English at present, the taste for largo masses of performers, some would say a taste for noise. This is much encouraged by a company who have built an immense glass house they call a Crystal Palace, and make a good speculation by collecting large choirs and commemorating the birthday of some celebrity. Handel has had two days, Schiller has had his fete, and the managers have jumped over you, Mozart, Haydn, and even our revered Beethoven, to celebrate his greatest imitator, Mendelssohn; but Mendelssohn is in fashion now, so it becomes a more profitable speculation. I am glad to see that the profound harmonist Spohr has had a kind of recognition; but it is not to be expected that the best of his works can be appreciated by any bnt musicians. But good bye, for here comes Corelli, and I would rather not tell him that his solos are out of date, except for those who are practising the violoncello. I would rather meet Lully, as they continue to put variations to his An clair de la Lune; or even Palcstrini, he being now and then called to remembrance by the Glee and Madrigal Societies. Au revoir."
[We shall have a word or two with " Veteran " in our next.—Ed.]
Sir,—In your last No. yon say," On Friday, 1st June, Elijah will be given, the first time for two years, at Exeter Hall." I find that the last performance by the Sacred Harmonic Society was on the 3rd February, 1859, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the birth of the Composer; and in your No. of 5th February, 1859, you give an account of the performance; so yon will perceive a slight error is made in your last No. I have the volume for last year before me, and I was at the performance named, so you will find I am correct. The moment I saw your statement in the Musical World, I was certain that Elijah was performed last year.
I remain, Sir, yours, &c,
ROYAL ITALIAN OPERA.
On Saturday Barbiere was repeated. On Tuesday H Don Giovanni was given, with Madame Grisi as Donna Anna; and on Thursday It Trovatore.
La Gazza Ladra will be produced to-night, with Madame Penco as Ninetta (her first appearance in this part in London), and M. Faure as Fernando (first time of performance), with Madame Nantier-Didice as Pippo, and Signor Ronconi as the Podesta.
The new Floral Hall, brilliantly illuminated, has been opened on several evenings of late after the performance, affording the visitors an opportunity of enjoying a delightful half-hour's promenade, and hearing some popular music played by the band of the Coldstream Guards.
HER MAJESTY'S THEATRE.
The part of Maffeo Orsini, in Donizetti's Lucrezia Borgia, is one of subordinate rank, and, indeed, was never accorded any importance here until sustained (in 1847, at the Royal Italian Opera) by the distinguished singer for whose first appearance in London since 1858 it was selected on Saturday night. It has been suggested, and not without reason, that the company engaged by the new lessee of Her Majesty's Theatre exhibits an "embarras de richesses" almost unprecedented; that he has, in short, so many sopranos, "mezzos," and contraltos, tenors, barytones, and basses at disposal, as to be somewhat at a loss how to dispose of them all for the advantage of the establishment and the gratification of its patrons. Nevertheless, were Mr. Smith twice as wealthy in vocalists of every denomination, and of every grade of talent— from the highest to the lowest—the addition of Madame Alboni to the list would be none the less unanimously welcomed by frequenters of the Italian Opera, inasmuch as she worthily represents Italian art in its highest degree of refinement. While vocal excellence continues to hold the sway which has been its privilege since music was in its infancy, and while the human voice is still pronounced by general consent the most absolutely perfect of instruments, although the most difficult to control with address, the peerless organ and consummate proficiency owned by this lady will never lose one atom of their legitimate influence. If a beautiful voice, even untrained by early and assiduous study, can delight the majority of hearers, how much more potent its charm when so entirely under command that the nicest inflection is invariably true, the most delicate turn as just as a mathematical axiom, and the subtlest gradation tempered with such discretion that no mechanical contrivance could surpass it, need hardly be insisted on. Join to these purely artistic acquirements the graces of style, a taste rarely at fault, and expression that, while always genuine, never verges on exaggeration, and we have briefly summed up those qualities which impart to Madame Alboni s singing the attraction it exercises, and to which it is indebted for the recognition it universally obtains among those most competent to judge.
In the music assigned to Maffeo Orsini only one phase of Madame Alboni's talent has a chance of being completely revealed; but as this is probably the phase most readily appreciated by the mass, there can be no reason to wonder at the popularity it has enabled her to win. The instant her well-known figure — draped in that singular tunic (if tunic it may be called) which her excessive "embonpoint" compels her to wear—was detected, mingling with the crowd (in the first scene of the opera), a burst of applause from all parts of the house proclaimed the satisfaction of the audience at seeing their favourite once more. The legend recounted by Orsini to his friends brought forth in all their beauty those pure contralto tones which have so often charmed the public, and—sung, as usual, to perfection—elicited the warmest demonstrations of approval. The "triumph," however, was of course reserved for "II segreto per esser feJ ice"—which Madame Alboni never gave with more spirit and vocal facility, the incomparable "trillo (shake—to employ our own less elegant vernacular) preceding, in each couplet, the resumption of the genial melody to which Donizetti has allied the words exciting the accustomed marks of admiration. It is almost superfluous to add that the brindisi was enthusiastically redemanded, and repeated with undiminished effect.
We need not recapitulate the many fine points that make the Lucrezia of Mademoiselle Titiens one of that lady's most striking and admirable performances; nor dwell upon the characteristics of Signor Mongini's Gennaro, which wants only a little softening here and there to be as irreproachable as it is earnest and impulsive. The merits of these and of Signor Vialetti's very careful impersonation of the Duke have been more than once discussed. On the present occasion the interest naturally centred in Maffeo Orsini, and at the conclusion of the opera, when Mademoiselle Titiens and Signor Mongini had been summoned before the curtain, there was a general call for Alboni, who, after some delay, made her appearance, and was honoured by such a greeting as is never accorded but to artistes standing highest in public esteem.
The house was crowded in every part, scarcely a vacant place being perceptible in gallery, boxes, pit, or stalls.
On Monday, an extra night, the Trovatore was given for the third time; on this occasion Madame Alboni taking the part of Azucena, allotted in the two previous representations to Madame Borghi-Mamo. The great reputation achieved by Madame Alboni in the gipsy-mother, not, we may be assured, any shortcomings on the part of Madame Borghi-Mamo, induced the management to make the transfer, although, we must confess, we see neither the policy nor wisdom of this bandying about of character from one artist to another. An extra-night, of course, may be pleaded in extenuation. Of the performance generally we need only remark that Mdlle. Titiens was as powerful as ever in Leonora, and that Signor Giuglini never sang more delightfully. Madame Alboni's Azucena cannot be forgotten by those who have seen it. The great artist first undertook the part in 1856. The effect she produced in the character in Paris, coming after Madame Yiardot and Madame Borghi-Mamo, was echoed in London; and at last everybody allowed that the incomparable contralto-soprano added intensity and passion to her many other excellencies. Better still than in any former year, in point of energy and force, was Madame Alboni s performance of the gipsy on Monday. It was really powerful acting. Of Madame Alboni's singing we need not hazard a word. It was as exquisite, as perfect as ever, as full of beauties, as sympathetic—a model, in fact, of pure and simple vocalization, and from which any living singer might receive a lesson. Azucena, in fine, is one of Madame Alboni's most remarkable performances.
On Tuesday Semiramide was performed for the first time at Her Majesty's Theatre for several years. The cast was as follows: Semiramide, Mdlle. Titiens ^ Arsace, Madame Alboni; Idreno, Signor Bel art; Assur,J Signor IKverardi; and Oroe, Signor Vialetti. The character of Arsace,—upon which Rossini has lavished all the florid graces of his melodic invention, and which in one sense stands apart from every other personage in the lyric drama—affords the practised vocalist ample opportunity for display. It was in Arsace that Madame Alboni (at the opening of the Royal Italian Opera, 1847) first elicited the admiration of the English public, and since that memorable occasion it has always been regarded as one of her greatest, if not, indeed, her very greatest performance. If the voice has not quite the same depth and richness as of old, it has gained in other respects, bein^ now so equal in volume and quality throughout the register, that it may be compared to a crystal without a flaw. For mellowness and even suavity of tone it is wholly unrivalled, the notes succeeding each other with such natural fluency, that it is impossible to detect a weak place or single out a " break." An instrument thus perfected enables the singer to articulate every phrase and passage set down with such unvarying ease, that any idea of difficulty never presents itself to the hearer, and the ars celart artm is realised to the letter. More faultless examples of vocal efficiency than the two airs—" Eccomi alfine in Babylonia," and "In si barbara sciagura "—as sung by Madame Alboni, could hardly be cited; or purer specimens of vocal declamation than the recitative belonging to the first, or than the duet with Semiramide (Act II.), including the delicious slow-movement, " Giorno d'orrore." It would have been worth reviving Semiramide—even were the music with which Rossini has galvanised the effete drama of Voltaire less gorgeous and magnificent—for the sake alone of such singing as that by means of which Madame Alboni enables us to judge ot Italian art in its perfection, and to show that legitimate exhibitions of skill are still calculated to rouse the enthusiasm of m audience.
Mdlle. Titiens, as Semiramide, is unequal — at times dramatic and superb, at times constrained, and therefore less entirely satisfactory. Some parts of her "Bell raggio" are admirable; her acting in the finale — where the shade of Nino appears to frustrate the designs of the Assyrian Queen — is full of intelligence; and the duets with Assur and Arsace are replete with striking points. But with the remembrance, still vivid, of Madame Gnsi's impersonation of Semiramide, more perhaps was expected than we had a right to expect from a foreigner unacquainted with its traditions. At any rate, no oue since Madame Grisi has looked the character so well, evinced a readier insight into its histrionic purport, or brought more splendid physical means to its technical illustration. That further ei