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the part of Assur, in Semiramide, “the father," in La Gazza Ladra, and several other parts of equal importance, gave Balfe lessons, with the view of his making an appearance at La Scala, where his friend Glossop had promised to bring him out. In this, however, he was disappointed, for the affairs of the manager taking an unfortunate turn, he was obliged to leave Milan, the two theatres proving too much for him.
We must now follow Balfe to Paris, where he was staying a few days, with the intention of returning to London; but having called on Cherubini, for whom he sang, he was advised by him to remain in Paris ; his friend adding, that if he consented he would next day at dinner introduce him to Rossini, who was then at the height of his popularity, and Director of the Italian Opera. The invitation was accepted, and at Cherubini's apartments at the Conservatoire he first met Rossini, and his wife Madame Colbrund, with whom he sang duets after dinner, Rossini accompanying. An offer was that night made to Balfe to be engaged at the Italian Opera, provided he studied with Bordogni for eight or ten months; and the characters of Pelligrini's range (who was then getting old) were those selected in which he was to appear. Some difficulty was suggested as to his ability to pay for the proposed instruction, but Rossini settled this matter by giving him a letter to Bordogni, with whom a satisfactory arrangement was made. Besides, Fortune made him acquainted with a rich banker named Gallois, who had beard him sing at Cherubini's, and liberally agreed to advance him 10,000 francs, which was paid at a rate of 1000 francs per month. With this generous aid (where can such friends as Count Mazzara and M. Gallois be found in these days ?) he pursued his studies up to the time of his making his debut in 1828, in the part of Figaro, in the Barber of Seville. Sontag was the “Rosina," and the opera, with a powerful cast, was repeated for nine nights in succession. After this Rossini brought him an engagement signed by M. Laurent, the Impressario of the Italian Opera, for three seasons; the first, 15,000, the second, 20,000, and the third, 25,000 francs, during which he performed Dandini, in Cenerentola, Malibran being the heroine; Don Giovanni, in Mozart's chef d'œuvre, Podesta in La Gazza Ladra, Baltona in L'inganno Felice. About this period Laurent determined to bring out Zingareli's Romeo et Guiletta, to introduce Malibran as “Romeo ;" but when put into rehearsal it was found that some of the concerted music was weak and ineffective. Rossini was asked to write new music, which he declined; but recommended Laurent to employ Balfe, who at once set to work and wrote the overture, two choruses, a scena for Malibran, and the cavatina and aria for Mademoiselle Blasis, who was the “ Guiletta." He was subsequently introduced to the direction of the Grand Opera, who sent him an accepted poem in two acts entitled Atala, the subject founded on Chateaubriand's tale of that name. Being thus encouraged, he applied himself to composition with such zeal, and laboured so hard, that his health became seriously impaired from excessive study, and his physicians ordered him to Italy to recruit his strength. Previous to his leaving Paris his friend M. Gallois invited the elite of Parisian society to a matineé to hear the pieces which had already been composed for the opera of Atala. Malibran, poor Adolphe Nourrit, who some years afterwards committed suicide at Naples, Alexis Dupont, Levasseur, and several other artists of the Academie Royale, together with the leading performers of the Italian Opera, being engaged to sing the music. The journals next day were loud in praise of the young composer and his new opera, which he was going to Italy to complete. As he was leaving Paris, a gentleman with whom he was but very slightly acquainted drove up to the diligence and put a letter into his hand, request. ing that he would not read it until he was five leagues from the capital. Impatient, however, to know its contents, he soon broke the seal, and found that the letter contained a bank-note for 1,000 francs, accompanied by a few lines thanking him for the pleasure the rehearsal of his opera had given him, he being one of the invités to M. Gallois' matineé, and expressing a hope that the small token of his gratification might be of use to him in the prosecution of his studies. Supplied with several letters of introduction, he proceeded to Milan, and, through the recommendation of Rossini to the Count St. Antonio, afterwards Duke of Calizzara, he was engaged as principal baritone for the theatre at Palermo, then under the direction of the Count of Sommatino. Having three months' leisure, previous to the commencement of the season at Palermo, he went to Bologna, with the intention of visiting his friends the Mazzaras at Rome, on his way to Sicily. In Bologna he was fortunate in making an acquaintance with a celebrated amateur musician and composer, the Marquis of San Pieri, whom he had met in Paris. The marquis insisted upon his residing with him while he remained in Bologna, and on the night of his arrival at the Palazzo de San Pieri took him to a brilliant party given by the Prince Bacchiochi (Napoleon Buonaparte's brother-in-law). It was on that occasion that he met the now celebrated Guilia Grisi, then a girl of about seventeen years of age, and of sur. passing loveliness. She was dressed, as he has told us, in a simple black velvet, with a white rose in her hair; and while she listened to him, standing by his side at the piano forte, “ he felt as if he never sang so well before." She was intro. duced to him after he had finished the cavatina in the “ Barbiere,” by her uncle, M. Rogani, formerly an aid-de-camp of Napoleon, but who then filled the post of private secretary to the Marquis of San Pieri. While at the Palazzo he composed à cantata in honour of the Marquis's birth-day, the principal part of which was executed by Grisi, Tadolini, Pedrazzi, and a host of amateurs. It was so successful, that the composer was presented by the Philharmonic Society of Bologna with a diploma of honorary membership, and was also elected a life member of the Casini dei Nobili. While thus honoured, and passing, as one can easily imagine, a very pleasant life, he entirely forgot his engagement with the Sicilian Count. Hurrying, therefore, to Palermo, with the certainty of having an action brought against him, and of being thrust into prison, he proceeded at once to the Princess San Cataldo, to whom he had a letter of introduction from her brother the Duke Calizzara. Through her kindness he was invited to meet the Count Sommatino, the director of the opera, the next day, and being placed designedly alongside of him at dinner, he frankly told his story, apologised for his absence, and succeeded in obtaining the Count's promise to settle the affair for him. It was fortunate that he had obtained the Princess's interest, for as he was subsequently informed, the police authorities were watching his movements. In a few days after his arrival at Palermo, he made his debut in the part of Valdeburgho in Bellini's Opera of La Straniera. It was the first day of the year,* and the first time the Sicilians heard their countryman's new work—a circumstance which was very favourable to Balfe, for the house was densely crowded, with an audience determined to be pleased with Bellini's new opera; his Il Pirata, which preceded it, having created great enthusiasm on its representation in Palermo. The Viceroy went in state to hear La Straniera, it being the King of Naples' birthday. The theatre was illuminated in every part; a giorno, with thousands of wax-lights. The etiquette which prevails, that no applause shall be given after the reception of the Court on its entrée was rather unfavourable to a debut ; but the exquisite beauty of Valdeburgho's air, in the second act, “ Meco tu vieni o misera,” excited a burst of admiration; the Viceroy, putting his hand out of the box, and giving the signal to applaud, which was answered by a deafening shout demanding its repeti. tion. The opera was performed seventy nights, and the part of Valdeburgho nearly carried Balfe through his year's engagement.
While at Palermo, an emeute took place which led to the Chorus striking for more pay, and the manager, the Count Sommatino, being anxious to resist the combination, exclaimed in Balfe's presence, " Oh, if I had but one more opera without a chorus, I'd punish them severely. I could go on for a while with the Matrimonio Segreto and L’Inganno Felice, but they would only carry me on for a few nights.”
“ If, then," replied Balfe, “you can give me twenty days, you shall have one to suit your purpose.”
The Count at once took him at his word. The poet of the theatre was sent for, the subject chosen, and an opera called I Rivali di se Stessi, founded on the French vaudeville, Les Rivaux de soi meme, written within the promised time, was produced with great success, Malle. Lipparini, Signor Boccacini, and Scalesi, taking the principal parts.
After fulfilling his year's engagement at Palermo, he went to Piacenza, where he sang for some time; then to Bergamo, where he met Malle. Lina Roser,
prima donna of the troupe, and married her shortly afterwards. We find him next at Pavia, having been engaged to bring out Rossini's Mosé in Egitto. At the first rehearsal of this opera, an incident occurred which led to an unfortunate result. Signor Rolla, brother to the celebrated Allessandro Rolla, the leader of the orchestra of La Scala at Milan, was leader of the orchestra at Pavia, and having perceived that Balfe was taking upon himself to give directions not only to the chorus, but to the musicians, became annoyed and disconcerted at his interference. At a passage for the violin, which occurs in the first act, Rolla said “it was not written for the instrument,” and being so difficult, was almost impossible to play ; to which Balfe exclaimed, “ Rossini was a violin-player, and knew what he wrote. The passage is easy enough. Shift your hand higher up and you will do it.” On hearing this, poor Rolla could contain himself no longer, and bursting into a torrent of passion, looked up at Balfe and exclaimed, “ Signor, Dottore venite quà suonate per me, ed io andero cantare per voi."
The challenge was at once accepted, down Balfe jumped into the orchestra, took up a violin, and played the disputed passage in such a masterly manner that he was applauded by every one present. This triumph had such an effect on Signor Rolla, that he left the theatre at once, returned home, took to his bed, and died in a few months afterwards from the effect of wounded pride. No one felt this more than Balfe, who, while he resided in Pavia, never failed to visit Rolla, and had the satisfaction of making his peace with him before he died. It was here his opera, Un avvertimento ai gelosi, was first performed. He wrote it for his benefit, and on that and subsequent occasions, it met with favourable reception. His next and third opera was brought out at Milan, Enrico Quarto al passo de la Murno, which became an established favourite all through Italy. It was at this period that he first became acquainted with Malibran. She came to Milan to fulfil an engagement, for which she was to receive 3,000 francs a night. Balfe having called on her, she told him that she had heard his opera of Enrico, and would insist on his being engaged at La Scala. To this the management at once acceded, fixing his salary at 1,000 francs a night. During the engagement he performed Iago in Otello; Dandini in the Cenerentola, and Figaro in Il Barbiere, with the great prima donna. He then accompanied her to Vienna, where he obtained an engagement at the Fenici on similar terms. While there, he wrote the greater part of an opera (the subject from Hamlet) which he took up at the request of his friend Donzelli, who, as well as Malibran, was to have sustained a principal part; but the death of the Emperor of Austria having taken place, the engagements of all the artists were dissolved. This circumstance had well nigh ruined a manager named Gallo, who had just completed the building of a theatre roofed with glass, which he called “ Il Teatro Emenonitio." In his despair, he waited upon Malle. Malibran, told her how he was circumstanced, and entreated that she would sing one night for him, for which he offered her 200 Napoleons. The terms were accepted, and Sonnambula was performed to a house crammed to suffocation, Donzelli playing Elvino, and Balfe, Rodolpho. An incident occurred just before she began to sing the finale, “Ah, non guinge," which produced a scene of excitement almost unparalleled in the history of the stage. Happening to tread upon some of the flowers of her bouquet, which she had been using in the previous moment, she slipped, and would have fallen had not Balfe caught her in his arms. In her endeavour to save herself, she kicked off one of her slippers, which fell into the pit, and a scramble at once took place among the occupants of that part of the house to possess such a precious memento of the great artist. In the struggle, they were soon joined by several persons from the front circle of boxes, upon perceiving which, Malibran took off the other slipper and threw it among the combatants, who soon tore it and its fellow into a thousand fragmentary relics. The performance was, after a considerable time, resumed, and she proceeded with the finale. During the last bars of the rondo, the poor old manager, Gallo, walked upon the stage, took her by the hand, and in a feeling speech told the public that that night's representation had saved him from ruin, adding, at the same time, that the theatre should henceforward be called “ Teatro Malibran."
Malibran left Vienna, promising Balfe to get him an engagement in England to write an opera. Shortly afterwards he returned to Milan, and being advised by his friend, Puzzi, proceeded to London, where an engagement
was at once made to him to sing at the Antient and Philharmonic Concerts. At tbis time Drury-Lane was closed, the leading English vocalists being employed at the Lyceum Theatre, then under Mr. Arnold's direction, upon whom he called and offered his services. Mr. Arnold knew nothing about Balfe, but being referred to Malibran and Grisi, he very soon ascertained who he was, and arrangements were at once entered into for the production of an opera, which was to be completed in six weeks. The treasury of the theatre beginning to fail, and Mr. Arnold being unable to afford to bring out the work in the way which the composer considered it deserved to be, the opera was withdrawn, and the house soon after closed. It happened then that Mr. Bunn had just returned to town, and having sent for Mr. Mapleson, the librarian and copyist of the Lyceum, who had all the parts of the opera copied, asked him, “What's that rubbish they bave been rehearsing at the English Opera ; and who is this Signor Balfe;" Upon which Mapleson gave his opinion on the merits of the music which he had heard, and strongly advised Bunn to send for the new composer. He at once acted upon the advice, and speedily arranged terms with Balfe for the production of the Siege of Rochelle, which was first represented at Drurylane on the 29th October, 1835. But here is Mr. Bunn's account of it in his interesting book, “ The Stage before and behind the Curtain":
“ I had this season the pleasure of introducing to the English public a young man of great musical attainments, which I conceived were not destined to blush unseen, and waste their sweets upon the desert air ;' and I was determined, at all events, to test my own opinion by that of the public. Mr. Balfe, when I was stage manager of Drury Lane, in 1823, was an huinble member of the orchestra-‘in coarse and homely phraseology,' a fiddler; and, when introduced to me in the summer of 1835, bis name and his fame (then become entirely continental) were new to me. The beauties of the first work he was desirous of bringing out were admitted by many able judges of music, and strenuously impressed upon me by the recommendation of Mr. Cooke (Tom, for fear of mistake). The Sieye of Rochelle was accordingly produced, and its success verified every judgmeat that had been delivered upon its merits. Though not calculated in itself to prove highly attractive, it had the good fortune to be linked in representation with the Jewess, and thus ran seventy nights the first season. became the fashion, as it invariably does in this country, to abuse a man the moment his abilities begin to denote a mental superiority over those he is surrounded by. In France, Italy, and Germany, every species of encouragement is held out to a rising genius—in England, he is subject to every possible detraction; and the moment Balfe's talent burst out upon the town, it was assailed by the most unwarrantable attacks. Persons calling themselves musical judges were loud in their assertions that every note of the Siege of Rochelle was stolen from Ricci's opera of Chiara de Rosenberg; and it was not until this last-named composition was produced by the Italian Buffo Company, under the spirited direction of Mr. Mitchell, ihat these self-constituted judges tardily and reluctantly admitted, that there were not half-a-dozen bars in the two operas that bore the slightest resemblance to each
Bearing out Mr. Bunn's observations as to the injustice of this species of criticism, we ourselves recollect how that charming chorus, Vive le Roi, which terminates the first act, was assailed as being a glaring copy of Weber's glee, Enjoy thyself where'er thou art. Our readers, however, shall judge how far this accusation was well founded
" Look upon this picture and on this."
But even supposing that there was similarity in the design, Mr. Balfe may console himself with the happy reflection, that he has many bright examples of plagiarism in the best works of some of the standard composers. Here, for instance, is an air every one knows :
And again in Mozart's chef d'æuvre, Don Giovanni :
Almost note for note the same in Haydn's Creation, “ Most beautiful appear:".
But one by Mendelssohn, in his Christmas Present, and we have done :
Why, here is our countryman, Sampson Carter's* song, Oh, Nanny, wilt thou gang with me?"
which we would almost hazard asserting as a certainty Mendelssohn never heard; but still none can deny the unmistakeable likeness.
But to return. Balfe's next opera was The Maid of Artois, in which poor Malibran took the town by storm with her matchless performance of Isoline. It produced to the management, by sixteen nights' representation, the sum of £5,690 11s., being a nightly average of £355. Mr. Bunn tells a very amusing anecdote of Malibran, the circumstance connected with which took place on the first night of the performance of the opera. “She had (as he writes) borne along the two first acts on the first night of performance in such a flood of triumph, that she was bent, by some almost superhuman effort, to continue its glory to the final fall of the curtain. I went into her dressing-room previous to the commencement of the third act, to ask how she felt, and she replied, Very
* Formerly organist to St. Werburgh's, Dublin.