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From "Chambers' Edinburgh Journal."
| having upon a former occasion devoted an THE ITALIAN OPERA IN LONDON.
article to the physiology of the Opera in
Italy, it may not be uninteresting to say THE QUEEN'S THEATRE
something now of the Queen's Theatre and The spread of musical taste in the British its rival Covent Garden; in the latter of islands is a great fact which seems to be which the Italian lyric drama has fixed itself only dawning on the higher organs of period on the boards trodden so recently by a ical literature. One cause of this may be Kemble and a Siddons-a revolution in pubthe state of insulation in which composers lic taste for which mere fashion could never stand with respect to the professors of other account, and the reasons for which we atarts and sciences; attaining, as they fre-tempted to develop in the article alluded to. quently do, to the very summit of musical The Queen's Theatre is situated at the power, in comparative ignorance of the sis-junction of the Haymarket with Pall-Mall, ter branches of knowledge. The two artists, and, considering the number of architectural for instance, who in vigor and prodigality of abortions in London, is a respectable edifice; invention have surpassed all others in our but seen from Cockspur street, its effect is century, were Scott and Rossini ; but they marred by the cistern which stands on the stood in as little relation to each other as roof like a large trunk, or portmanteau on the Shakspeare and Rubens of the age of the corner of a table. Internally, it is of a James and Mary de Medicis. The ignorance horse-shoe shape, and is considered well of composers, however, may be matched by proportioned. It is of nearly the same size that of the literati ; one distinguished mem- as the Scala of Milan and Covent Garden, ber of which body compares music to rope which, however, fall considerably short of dancing, while almost all assign it a place the magnitude of San Carlo in Naples. The among the imitative arts. There can be no Queen's Theatre is acoustically well congreater mistake than this. Music is a feel structed, and has the peculiar property of ing, of which sound is only the exponent; lighting up beautifully for the ballet, in and it belongs less to the external than the which the appeal is principally to the eye ; mysterious and invisible world.
but there is no spectacle produced on the The time is not distant, however, when stage equal to the view from the centre of music will be better understood. Already the curtain, when the eye is directed to the it is fully taken up by an aristocracy which, audience on a gala night—that of a crowded from various causes, maintains an influence drawing-room, for instance, when the six upon tastes and manners unknown in the tiers of boxes, hung with silk, are full of the same body on the continent. Neither sub beauty of a London season, the female arismerged by the people, as in France, nor tocracy wearing the feathers of the morning. converted into household and military offi- Between the orchestra and the pit are the cers, as in the rest of Europe, the nobility stalls or reserved seats, all numbered, and and higher gentry of England are able to let by the season as well as by the night. make any thing popular they choose to Some years ago the price of such seats was adopt heartily. Their reigning passion- fifteen shillings a night; while by subscripmore especially that of the female aristoc- tion, it was thirty guineas for sixty nights, racy-is at present music; and if we look each representation coming thus to only back a hundred years to the unintellectual about half a guinea, a saving of nearly a frivolity of the court of George II., and the third to the Opera frequenter. There are reign of Beau Nash and the Bath waters, now two Italian Operas, and the price is it will be admitted that society has lost raised to a guinea, which will enable the nothing by the change. Already music is reader to form an idea of the progression in making its way downwards through every the taste for Italian music during the last chink and cranny of society; and even in the dozen years. As regards the classes who lower-middle and humbler classes there is a frequent the stalls, these are mostly tenanted perceptible gravitation to the greatest works by the easy bachelors of the aristocracy, and of the greatest masters. The great central the opulent section of the middle classes ; Propaganda or fountain-head, however, is the counting-houses of the City furnishing the two Italian Operas in London ; and larger contingents to the stalls than either church, law, or medicine-good incomes although the company is in full strength ;being rarely achieved in these until the pe- because at the latter end of July, and during riod of marriage and middle age. When a all August town is gradually thinning; so that lawyer does go to the Opera, it is usually on just before the commencement of partridgea Saturday night, when the pressure of the shooting, on the 1st of September, and about business of the week is over. Between the the period of the prorogation of parliament, stalls and boxes is the pit, which differs a few representations are given at playhouse from that of an English theatre in the higher prices, and the London fashionable season is price-varying, according to pressure of de- supposed to terminate. Thus the Italian mand, from seven shillings to half a guinea Operas regulate themselves by the parlia--and in the prevalence of evening costume, mentary session; the 12th of August—when as well as in the access to the box corridors: grouse-shooting commences—hastening the for those who receive tickets from subscri “massacre of the innocents," as the hasty bers to boxes usually go first into the pit, legislation of this part of the vear is called, paying a visit to the family box between and the approach of the 1st of September acts. In the days of George IV. dandyism, putting them out of pain, as there would be indignant letters from wearers of drab trow- no chance of carrying on the business of the sers used to appear in the newspapers on session after that epoch. their being refused admittance, as incorrect A large proportion of the boxes are not in evening costume ; and even the owner of let to families, but to booksellers, who relet a white hat has been known to expostulate them to third parties. This connection of his way into the pit; but such differences the proprietors of circulating libraries with have now died away.
the Opera arose from subscribers handing The boxes are not open at the sides, as in over their box to their bookseller to be let other English theatres, but, as in Italy, are on nights when they were themselves otherpartitioned, so as to secure perfect privacy wise engaged; and this was some years ago of conversation ; and the box of a lady of a lucrative branch of business in the hands of fashion is the epitome of her drawing room, Messrs. Sams, Mitchell, Ebers, and Andrews; where she receives a few select visits. The although it has latterly been much divided, subscription nights are Tuesday and Satur- all the principal music-sellers, and even day; and the box on the intervening Thurs. wine-merchants and other tradesmen in the day night is the property of the manager, large thoroughfares in the vicinity of the on which occasion the entertainments are theatre, speculating largely on the rise and usually abundant in quantity, to suit fami- fall of Opera admissions, and being, as it lies who can afford the entertainment only were, musical brokers. For this reason there occasionally. On such evenings, however, is no fixity in the price of boxes and stalls, the performances are generally too long, and exorbitant prices being demanded on extraof a too miscellaneous and detached a char- ordinary occasions—such as the production acter to please the habitual frequenter, who of an opera which has had great success in talks rather contemptuously of a “ long Paris or on the continent; or on any unusual Thursday.” The prices of boxes vary con- combination of talent-when, for instance, a siderably, according to demand from five Pasta and a Malibran appear together in the to twelve guineas-during May, June, and same opera, as they did in “Semiramide," July; but they are to be had on much lower when the former played her great part of terms previous to Easter, for the company the Assyrian queen, and Malibran filled the of artists is not usually completed until the fine contralto part of Arsace. The visit of a close of the Italian Opera in Paris. This foreign sovereign usually creates a bumper. regularity has been much broken in upon The writer of this article was invited to acsince the Revolution of 1848 ; but there can company a family to the Queen's Theatre on be no doubt that the Paris season will be the night of the Emperor of Russia's visit; henceforth made to suit that of London, as and the box engaged for the occasion, alMr. Lumley, the proprietor of the Queen's though a small one on the fourth tier, cost Theatre, has become the lessee of the Italian twelve guineas. Opera in Paris. Towards the close of the It only remains to notice the gallery, one London season boxes again fall in price, half of which is devoted to stalls at five:
shillings, and the other half, without stalls, standing the enormous receipts, London is open to the public at two shillings and could support the expense of two Italian sixpence, the lowest sum of admission; and Operas ; but the lesseeship of the Paris here may be seen the mustached foreigner, Opera is a great point gained for Mr. Lumwho enjoys and understands what he sees | ley. On the other hand, the great prospecand hears; or the country bumpkin, who tive receipts of the coming year of Exhibimust not return home without being able to tion will assuredly prolong the career of say that he has been to the Opera. Prob- Covent Garden for at least another season. ably the heat sets him to sleep; but at all As regards the detail of the expenses, the events be rarely sits out the second act, say. principal items are the high salaries of indiing to his friend, after the conclusion of this vidual singers. A highest-class female singer renowned and unintelligible entertainment, gets about £3000 sterling for a season, and * Ah, you never catches me in such a slow a first-class male singer about £2000. The coach as that again !" Those who are in the former, with concerts and her Paris engagepit get access ad libitum to the gallery, and ment, may consequently realize a sum of the back of the upper seat is the best place between £6000 and £7000; but if she in the house for hearing an overture or fa- creates a sensation, (which, however, seldom vorite air, although the features of the sing- lasts above a season or two,) much more. A ers are undistinguishable.
prima donna of this description keeps her The expenditure of the British public on carriage, lives in handsome apartments, has the two Italian Operas is consequently very usually all her family living on her, often large, but the expenses of the establishment including idle, sauntering brothers; but she are so great, that no lessee of the Queen's spends her time on any thing but a bed of Theatre can be pointed out who has made a roses, from the constant apprehension of new fortune. This Temple of the Muses is al candidates for public favor. Nothing can be most as well known to the public by the more unreasonable than the outcry against huge bankruptcies of Chambers, Waters, the high prices given to such singers, their Ebers, Monk Mason, and by Laporte, as by remuneration being in proportion to the the successes of Pasta, Malibran, and Lind; sums which they draw to the theatre. Dufor when the expenses range from £700 to ring a considerable period of the freshness of £1000 every time the curtain rises, it may their voice, their want of musical and drabe easily understood that a few months of matic experience prevents their occupation scanty receipts involve an adventurer of of the foremost rank; and, on the other small means in irretrievable debts and em- hand, when in the plenitude of dramatic barrassments, and if the defalcation con power, voice and beauty are often on the tinue for several seasons consecutively, it wane: so that the few years of heyday must must ingulf a colossal capital. Mr. Lumley, pay for a laborious education, and provide the present proprietor, forms an exception for old age. Such is the explanation given to the list I have given; for he had the by singers when discussing this popular good fortune to get possession of the Queen's fallacy, which puts one in mind of the Swiss Theatre after these successive bankruptcies, innkeepers in the high Alps, who, when at the expense of which the modern inor- taxed with having charged exorbitant prices, dinate appetite for Italian Opera has been answer that whatever may be the case in created; and by the sale of boxes in perpe- England, the year of the Alpine innkeeper tuity, he realized about £90,000 of his cap- consists of only two months. ital. He has consequently been punctual “No gains without pains” is a law from in his payments, although the establish- which no one is exempt; neither the artist ment of an Italian Opera in Covent Gar- of genius, creating the sketch out of the rude den, supported by several of the very first embryo, and the picture out of the sketch, singers, unquestionably damaged the value nor the statesman, constructing his scheme of his property, and involved him in a of national policy from grains of heterogestruggle which had never been anticipated neous fact. From this law nobody is less at the period when he held the monopoly free than the operatic singer. When he has of Italian operatic entertainment. Last completed his elementary musical knowl. season it seemed very doubtful, if, notwith edge, passed the conservatory with éclat,
and gained success on the stage, he has to in dumb show, in which opportunities are go through the rehearsals, which, of all tire created for dancing, and frequently for susome operations, are the most tiresome: and pernatural machinery. The French school little do those who see an opera after re- of ballet in the last century used to be pashearsal know what this ordeal is. The toral; and in the days of the elder Vestris theatre, partially lighted by open shutters, the ballet was confined to a few simple inand aided by an unsightly gas-pipe run up cidents, such as may happen in a village, in front of the stage, producing neither the with its lovers' jealousies, the unwillingness gladness of day nor the artificial brilliancy of a parent to give his daughter in marriage, of night; the orchestra and all the perform- and the arrival of the generous lord of the ers in hats, bonnets, and great-coats; and the manor, who furnishes a dowry, pacifies the business, like a crab, or the pig of the Irish- griping parent, and makes Colin a happy man, going forwards by dint of going back- bridegroom. Afterwards the ballet bewards, the musical director stopping every came more varied and romantic, with connow and then to recommence from a pre-siderable changes of scenery and costume, vious point; in short, whoever has had the often taken from a popular tale, such as the patience and the curiosity to sit out one Manon l'Escaut” of the Abbé Prevost, or opera rehearsal would never repeat the pro- the “ Paul and Virginia” of Bernardin St cess. It may be said that the bread of the Pierre, the two most popular French narrasinger is earned by the sweat of the brow; tives of the latter half of the eighteenth cenand this was last season no metaphor in the tury. The later French ballets are like the case of Lablache, a man of twenty stone modern romances of the French school, more weight, wearing in the dog.days, in the opera brilliant and varied, but much more artiof the “ Tempest,” a dress of hairy skins, ficial, and trusting too much to sudden surwith even his arms and hands covered with prises and changes. mittens, imitating the tawny hide and claw But the attention to historical accuracy of nails of the brutish humanity of Caliban. costume, and the faithful representation of
The best dancers are highly prized, and the architecture of particular periods, is receive salaries not much inferior to that of interesting and instructive : thus what the the best singers. Taglioni, in the height of French school of ballet has lost in easy and her reputation, used to receive from 2000 to unconstrained development of plot, has been 3000 francs per night, or from £80 to £120 partly regained by an approximation to the sterling. Male dancers are paid less. Per illusion of time and place. There is far rot used to receive £60 per night during more historical, geographical, and archæothe period of his vigor. But dancers are logical learning in a modern French ballet liable to greater vicissitudes than singers ; | than formerly. Nothing, for instance, can be by a false step they may be lamed for weeks more striking than to see, as in “ The Girl of or months ; and even the strain of a tendon Ghent,” (reproduced, by the by, in London may reduce a man to a secondary or ter- by Mr. Bunn with great ability,) a scene tiary position as a dancer-fortunate, as was exactly taken from one of Teniers's wedding the case with Perrot, if he has the general pictures, with several hundred figures in the capacity, to become ballet-master. The exact costume and colors of the period Queen's Theatre has still the monopoly of the from the drunkard with his red stockings ballet, dancing in Covent Garden being con- and clogs, to the cavalier in the splendid fined to the so-called divertissements, which costume of the period, not to mention are introduced either in the regular course the dwarf piper on the beer-barrel ; of the business of an opera-such as coro that we feel as if we looked out of a window nations, marriages, and village festivals—or near Antwerp in the middle of the sevento relieve the tedium between acts. In teenth century. If the rehearsal of an opera grand operas, such as those of Meyerbeer, is a laborious business, that of a ballet is the Queen's Theatre cannot compete with still more so; for in the former case all the Covent Garden ; but the ballet preserves to persons engaged, from the first singer at the former a feature of attraction peculiarly £100 per night, down to the chorister at its own.
ten shillings, have the requisite musical A ballet may be characterized as a fable knowledge; but in the case of the ballet, a
great number of persons are employed The musical director is of course an excepwhose business is merely to wear a costume tion. Mr. Balfe received from Mr. Lumley and form part of a crowd. These supernu- £1000 for the season ; which, considering his meraries require much drilling, and are most position at the very head of his profession wretchedly paid, so that if they have a as an English composer, and the only one family, it is a difficult matter to keep soul who ever was universally popular on the and body together; and while the singer continent, is not extravagant. This sum and dancer of the first class often ends life apart, the orchestra costs on an average in a luxurious villa, surrounded by every somewhat more than £100 per night. But comfort, the last stage of the supernume if the musician has not the large income of rary is too often that described by the bard | the singer or dancer, he is less liable to of terrible realities—the parish pauper vicissitudes. He runs neither the risk of asylum, with “the moping idiot and the spraining his ankle nor catching a chronic madman gay."
cold; and long after the age when singers We now pass from the stage to the or- and dancers are past work, the musician can chestra, which, however subordinate in the ply his employment, which, occasioning a English operas of a generation ago, and even healthy excitement, conduces to longevity, in those of Italy up to the middle of last unless when efforts are made in which the century, now demands a degree of complete organic laws of nature are violated; such as ness, variety, and excellence which forms a in certain wind instruments being played by subject of solicitude to the manager. This persons having a tendency to pulmonary has resulted from the great importance disease. So much for the Queen's Theatre; which the wind instruments acquired in the Covent Garden will, we hope, on another age of Mozart, and more especially from the occasion, furnish us with a still more varied influence which the school of Beethoven bas spectacle. indirectly had upon the stage. Although the latter composed only one opera, yet the full power of the modern orchestra was never developed until his symphonies were
From " Bentley's Miscellany." produced ; and it is since Meyerbeer gave | LITERARY MEN OF THE LAST HALF up his early disposition to imitate the Ros
CENTURY.* sinian school of melody, and became the legitimate successor of Beethoven in his Me. GILLIES, we believe, is chiefly known varied transitions and rich instrumental to the public as a skillful translator of Gercoloring, that he has been acknowledged as man and Danish literature, and as the founder the first composer of the operatic school, in of the Foreign Quarterly Review, an underwhich the orchestra is predominant, and has taking in which he embarked upon the adproduced a revolution of powerful influence vice of Sir Walter Scott. He was born and in the elevation of the orchestra in the lyric brought up in an old country house in Scotdrama.
land, and completed his education in EdinA few years ago the orchestra of the burgh ; but he tells us that he was so disQueen's Theatre amounted to 54 performers, gusted with the habits of the city, that he and it is now increased to 74, composed as was rejoiced at being summoned back, by a follows:-14 first violins; 14 second do.; 8 fit of sickness, to the bleak solitude of the tenors; 8 violoncellos, and 8 double basses ; county of Kincardine. 2 flutes; ? clarionets; 2 oboes; 2 bassoons; His temperament appears from the outset 4 horns; 2 trumpets; 4 trombones; and to have unfitted bim for the ordinary labors lastly, 4 drums.
and conflicts to which men are exposed who The position of the orchestral performer have to fight their way through the world. is in emolument much inferior to that of the His health was bad, he was subject to fansinger even of the second or third rank; the tastical depressions of spirits, and had achighest sum I ever recollect being paid to a quired eccentric habits and odd views of life. musician being £5 per night. The recipient in this case was Signor Dragonetti, certainly Memoirs of & Literary Veteran. By R. P. the greatest double bass in our generation. | Gillies. London. Bentley.