Page images
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

« Les

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

must needs have stammered in the language of Donizetti developed those peculiar characteristics his nurse before having found that of his own of his talent which he added to the paternal soul. Mozart formed his enchanting style by inheritance. Among the sixty and odd operas imitating in his youth George Benda, Emanuel which were produced by his fertile pen, the Bach, Handel, Gluck, and Haydn ; Beethoven following are the most remarkable and the best was inspired by Mozart; and Rossini has known: " Anna Bolena,” “ Parisina," "Lucrezia plundered half his contemporaries, such as Borgia,” “Lucia di Lammermoor,

“ Marino Mayer, Paër, Generali, whom he has left for Faliero," “La Favorite,” “L'Elisire d'Amore, enough behind him and whose borrowed and “Don Pasquale." In each of these works melodies he has mingled with his own, instru- there are some well-known compositions, “Marino mented in the German style. Imitation is a Faliero," “Lucrezia Borgia,' and necessity of human nature. It is the act by Martyrs" contain passages in a noble and which the life of departing generations is trans- beautiful style. But it seems to us that the mitted to those which arrive. Ordinary minds better qualities of the composer will be found appropriate the ideas of the past and transmit united in " Anna Bolena," “Lucia” and “La them intact and with nothing added; while Favorite” of the serious kind, and in “L'Elisire gifted men by the action of their genius make d’Amore” and “Don Pasquale” of the buffo the heritage of ages fruitful. It is thus that style. progress is always made without dissolving "" Anna Bolena,” as we have said, was composed connection with tradition.

at Milan for Pasta, Rubini and Galli. The There are two kinds of imitation, two ways of story of the libretto, taken from English annals, appropriating a thought which one has not was perfectly adapted to bring out the characoriginated : the one natural, which proceeds by teristic qualities of the three virtuosos just inspiration and which is the result of the common named. In the first act we at once notice the parentage, the consanguinity of genius, the charming romance,“ Deh! non voler constrin, other deliberative, wilfully premeditated, which gere," the character of which is so gentle and supposes that it is possible to detect the secret the air which poor Anna Bolena sings, “Come of life and steal undetected the property of innocente giovane,” in which the memories of another, with which it seeks to glorify itself

. childhood, the tender return of a first love, and The first is legitimate and fruitful: it is the the discovered hollowness of grandeur are so answering of mind to mind, the intuition of the touchingly expressed. Afterward

comes the soul which assimilates to itself the inspiration well-known air“ Da quel di che lei perduta," of another soul and identifies itself with it ; it is sung by Percy, the queen's lover. The music in truth the perpetuation of races of intellect, which is assigned to these words, the manifestation of a law necessary to the progress of the human mind. The second is

“Ogni terra ov'io m'assisi fruitless and fallacious, because those who

La mia tomba mi sembro," practise it follow to the letter the work which they wish to reproduce; and being incapable of is instinct with a sadness quite heart-breaking; emotion they think to deceive and to simulate a and the allegro of this exquisite composition is passion which they do not feel, in imitating by perhaps superior to the andante which precedes artifice the language of love.

These are

it. The adagio of the quintet is charming inplagiarists who deceive no one: those are deed; and in the stretta of the finale we find disciples who found schools. Antiquity has that happy disposition of the voices, that easy expressed this double phenomenon of imitation, and elegant style of grouping them and of distinguishing between the spirit and the form gradually increasing the volume of sound, which by a profound and beautiful fable. When is one of Donizetti's merits. In the second act Prometheus conceived the insane project of we must be content with naming the air, making a man with a little clay and water, he “Vivi tu, te ne Scongiuro,” which Rubini sang discovered that the being which he fashioned so inimitably. Whoever has not heard that with his hands had one slight deficiency--the great virtuoso in this air, so full of grace, reverie, same wbich also affected Roland's horse-it and passion, is unable to form an idea of the would not go.

Prometheus was obliged to power of vocal art. mount to beaven in search of a spark of_life, “Lucia di Lammermoor" is incontestably with which to animate his cold creation. It is Donizetti's chef d'oeuvre. It is the best planned thus with plagiarists who are easily able to rob and best written score that he has left us; that masters of the artifices of language; but it is in which there is most unity, and which is only the disciple, the legitimate son, who has endowed with the happiest inspirations of the the faculty of reproducing the genius of his heart. The introduction in which the strong father.

character of Asthon is brought out is in a fine The short and brilliant career of Donizetti style, and entirely in harmony with the sad and divides itself into two phases quite distinct. tender drama which follows. The duet between In the first, which commences in 1818 and Lucia and her lover Edgardo is full of passion, extends to 1831, he but imitated with more or especially the allegro which has become popular. less skill and success the ideas and style of That for baritone and soprano between Lucia Rossini; in the second, which extends to 1845; and her brother Asthon is also quite remarkable, without severing himself from his former self

, I and uo less so that it recalls familiar passages,

[ocr errors]

e

particularly a duet in the “Elisa e Claudio” of and Ferdinand, an dilanci). 11:43? w bich Mercadante. The finale of the first act recom- they sing intertwined in a passionate embrace, mends itself to notice by qualities of the highest order. The sestet embodied in it is certainly one

“ Cest mon rêre perdu of the most dramatic concerted pieces ever

Qui rayonne, et m'enivre ;" written. Can there be anything more piercing than this praise sung by Edgardo

it is one of the most beautiful bursts of passion

which has found expression in music. “T'amo, ingrata, t'amo ancor."

The comic part of Donizetti's works is much

less important, and, what is more, much less Each word is a sob of grief, which stirs the original than his serious operas. The imitation very depths of the soul. In this beautiful ses- of Rossini is flagrant, and appears on ” every tet the voices are grouped with a marvellous art. page. Io “L'Esire d'Amore” there is, in the Donizetti often reproduced afterward the har- first act, a very pretty duet between the charmonic combination of this admirable compo- latan Dulcamara and the young peasant Nesition. The stretta of the finale is full of vigour. morino ; and we have, beside, the finale, which Who has forgotten the imprecation which Ru- is a charming composition, full of brilliant debini launched forth with such fury?

tails, and marked by a sweet and graceful

gaiety. In the second act there is also a very “Maledetto sia l'instante !"

pleasing duet between the charlatan and the

lively Adina, and the pretty romance which all In the second act we find again a very beau- the world knows, “Una furtiva lagrima." tiful duet, and afterwards the final air, which 'Don Pasquale” is far from having the same the dying Edgardo sings uuder the turrets of distinction as "L'Elisire d'Amore;” but it conhis well-beloved. Never have the chaste vo- tains, nevertheless, two duets full of spirit, a luptuousness and divine hopes of a soul charming quartette, and a delicious serenade, aspiring to a better world been better expressed which has become popular. than in this delicious air. * The celebrated Donizetti's instrumentation is brilliant, sometenor Moriani drew all Italy after this air, which times vigorous, but rarely original. It is dishe sang in a most remarkable style. In listen- tinguished neither by a happy choice of quality ing to him we heard a melody of Plato sung by of tone, nor by striking modulation, nor by a Christian soul.

the novelty of its harmonies. “La Favorite” is not an opera altogether as We see plainly that he treats the orches. well composed and as complete as that which tra too slightingly, that he writes too haswe have just examined. In style it is very untily, without giving himself time to arrange equal : vulgar ideas often intrude themselves his colours and combine his tints. He underamong the noblest inspirations, and mar by stands to a marvel the art of accompanying a their presence that unity of design wbich is the voice without fatiguing it; but he uses to abuse stamp upon works of the highest order of the formulas of composition, trite progressions, beauty. The romance, “Un Ange, une femme the crescendo, noisy and vulgar rhythms, and inconnu” in the first act is touching. The instruments which overtask the nervous sensiduet between Fernand and Leonor does not bility, and intoxicate the ear at the expense of commend itself but by the allegro, “Tu ma true emotion and intellectual pleasure. Doniseule ami," the sentiment of which is quite zetti was too hard pressed to live and to propleasing. The romance, “Pour tant d'amour," duce, to await in silence the happy hour of inwhich King Alphonse sings in the third act, spiration. Coming into the world some years affords an agreeable opportunity for the display after Rossini, Donizetti suddenly took possesof a virtuoso's power. The andante of Lonor's sion of the realm of this all-powerful master, air, “O mon Fernand,” is unquestionably in a whose ideas and forms he worked over with a severe slyle; but the allegro which follows is charming naïvete and skill. The success of but a mean cabaletta. The finale to the third Bellini, who entered the field about 1827, made act, as well as the chorus which precedes and

an equal impression upon him, and under the prepares it, is vigorous, and produces a fine dra. double influence of these opposing minds he matic effect. The dancing music is free and wrote “ Anna Bolena,” in which it is impossible elegant. It is in the fourth act, written at Paris not to recognize the overshadowing reverie, the in a propitious moment, that the composer has sad and tender style of melody which characterrecovered all the tenderness of his genius. The ize the composer of “Il Pirata,” “ La Sonnamchorus of monks which opens the scene, “ Les bula,” and “ I Puritani.” Ripened by expe. cieux remplisse d'enticelles,” is remarkable for rience, in the full vigour of his years and his its religious character.

The romance,

“Ange talent, Donizetti freed himself finally from exsi pur," which was written for a score left in- ternal influences, and in a blessed moment be complete (" Le Duc d'Albe”) is a ravishing in- wrote a master-piece, “Lucia di Lammermoor," spiration. As to the final duet between Leonor in which he has united his happiest inspirations

with his best style. All that he wrote afterward * We cannot allow this sentence to pass without bears the impress, more or less marked, of that pointing out its absurdity, and the truly French cha charming work, which is the fruit of the litera. racter of its sentiment. - TRANSLATOR,

ture and the musical progress which manifested

a

66

themselves in Italy after 1830—that is to say, | from the Alps to conquer the smiling plains of after the abdication of Rossini. This is the Lombardy. place briefy to characterize that movement, and The movement in philosophy and literature to estimate the merit of the principal composers which burst forth at the fall of the empire, like who aroused or have obeyed it.

a cry of liberty, had already begun in Italy When Rossini appeared in 1812, the great about 1820. This movement, born of the spirit Italian masters of the second half of the seven- of independence, and of the of necessity reteenth century had passed away, or at least had elevating the ideal of human nature degraded hy ceased to write; for Paisiello did not die until despotism, and the assemblage of strange doc1816. Among the numerous and feeble imi trines, medley of religious aspirations, of retators who divided the spoils and reproduced collections of the past, of sweet and tender the worn-out forms of their predecessors, three reveries which came from that side of the Alps, composers of a more original talent disputed like a breath from the soul of the races of the for popularity-Mayer, Paër, and Generali. North sweeping over the worn-out civilization Maver, born in a village of Bavaria, came upon of the people of the South, excited a school the Italian stage about 1794. He acquired a of ardent innovators, among whom figured very gratifying renown by three or four scores, Manzoni and Silvio Pellico. Resting upon this such as “Ginevra di Scozzia,” Medea,” “ La principle, that art should be the expression of Rosa bianca e la Rosa rossa,

," which are not for the true and profound emotions of the soul, exgotten by connoiseurs. An orchestration some- cited by the recent translation of the masterwhat more careful than that of his contempora. works of Goëthe and Schiller, the poems of ries, a certain experience in handling concerted Byron and the romances of Walter Scott, those pieces, melodic ideas somewhat brief, but which distinguished men endeavoured to impress upon lack neither brilliancy nor elevation, nor yet that the literature of their country a character more slightly repressed tenderness from which there serious, chaste, and reasonable, and to reseems to spring a reflex of German senti- juvenate all the forms of poesy and the imaginamentality—these are the noticeable qualities in tion. Music was not slow to follow the impulse Mayer's operas.

of these spirits; and it was Bellini who first Paër, so well known at Paris, where he died, essayed to subject himself to this new transa member of the Institute, on the 3rd of May, formation. 1839, was a musician of greater skill and more Born in Catania, on the 3rd of November, varied imagination than Mayer. Born at Parma 1802, Vincenzio Bellini went through his first in 1771, in 1797 he was called to Vienna, where musical studies at the Conservatory of Naples, he had the opportunity of hearing Mozart's under the direction of Tritto, and afterward of operas, which made a great impression upon Zingarelli. Aster having obtained an encourag. him, and gave him the taste for a more energetic ing success at the San Carlo by an opera called and varied style of instrumentation than that of “ Bianca and Fernando," which was performed the majority of his countrymen, “Griselda, in 1826, he was called to Milan in the fol. " Camilla," and " Agnese,"hie best works, are lowing year, where he composed " Il Pirata" the result of this double tendency of his talent, for Madame Pasta and Rubini. This work a sort of con nise between the German and had great success, and made the names of the Italian schools. Generali, on the contrary, Bellini and his admirable interpreters known is all Italian. He had even then the spirit, the throughout Italy. In 1828 he composed " La melodic brilliancy, and a little of that vivacity of Straniera” in the same city, and afterward “La style which were the lot of the composer whose Sonnambula," in 1831. This delicious opera, precursor he was.

written equally for Pasta and Rubini, was perIt was among such ideas, such sonorous, stiff, formed at the theatre of Cannobiano, and excited and in a ineasure, empty musical forms, which the liveliest enthusiasm. Happy in so great and are not wanting in analogy with what we call in such easily.won success, he attempted to attain France the literature of the empire, that Rossini more grandeur of style in “ Norma,” which was arose, full of youth and audacity, taking what the last character created by Madame Pasta ; and suited him wherever he found it, because he then, in 1833, he went to Paris. After a short knew how to assimilate everything that he stole. excursion to London he again came among us His labours, equally numerous and varied, im- during the year 1834, and composed “I Puritani” press us by the brilliancy of their imagination, by for the four celebrated virtuosos, who then were the abundance and freshness of their melodies, by making the fortune of the Italian opera ; that is, the vigour of the accompaniments and the no- for Grisi, Tamburini, Lableche, and Rubini, his velty of their harmonies, and by the vehemence, favourite singer. He died six months after the the splendour and the limpidity which they give first performance of that charming opera, like a to the language of passion. A genius emi- bird of the sky which has breathed" l'ultimo nently Italian and strongly imbued with the ar- suo lamento." rogant and sensual spirit of his day, Rossini Of a nature fine and delicate, and a melodic broke violently with the masters who preceded genius rather tender than bold, more excitable him. He comes out of the eighteenth century than varied, Bellini escaped the influence of as from a shaded and peaceful valley, advancing Rossini, and drew his inspiration directly from toward the future with the impatience of a con- the masters of the eighteenth century. His queror, He seems like Bonaparte descending affinities were especially with Paisiello, whose

[ocr errors]

a

a

a

a

sweetness he possessed, and whose languor- | liancy or power ; but they are quite constrained breathing melody he loved to reproduce. This in their scope; and, as he does not know how affinity is most remarkable in “La Sonnambula," to vary their character by the art of elaborathe score which best expressed the characteristic tion, he arrives quickly at a mannerism, the traits of the young composer, and which might sure sign of poveriy. Verdi strives deliberately be called the offspring of Nina, filled as it is after dramatic effect: we see that he often dewith the maternal sorrow. A musician of charm- votes himself to it; and if he sometimes sucing genius, which an imperfect education had ceeds in attaining it, he does so only by a sud. but partially developed, Bellini not only found den and boisterous explosion which bursts from .vent' for his emotions in exquisite and original him, and not by a progressive succession of gramelodies, but also in striking harmonies, as in duated effects in the style of the masters. He the beautiful quartette in “ I Puritani," the best often abuses the unison; when the unison, written composition which he has left us. His being in its nature an easy and monotonous instrumentation, generally feeble, is nevertheless form, requires to be used with great discretion, not without a certain character. He borrows and only thus when it is desired to give repose for the most part the orchestration of Rossini, to an ear fatigued with an affluent harmony. but sometimes that of Weber, as may be re- It is thus that the skilful host of a hotel in the marked in the introduction to “I Puritani.” middle of a splendid banquet brings forward His works, lacking variety, and rather elegiac simple viands to refresh the overtasked palates than truly dramatic in character, are distin. of the guests. guished by a sombre, restrained declamation Verdi's orchestration is at once noisy and which is the exponent of a real emotion, by empty, either too sonorous or too meagre. He melodies somewhat undeveloped, and which are affects to accompany the voice by the most without the luxuriant splendour of Rossini's

, vulgar instruments, such, for instance, as the but which stir us profoundly because they are cornet à piston, the excessive éclát of which, a genuine outpouring of the soul, and not the joined to the bouncing rhythms which the comproduction of artifice. Born in a happy country, poser loves, is more suited to a masked ball his childhood's ear enchanted by those plaintive than a serious drama. His operas, badly melodies which the Sicilian shepherds have written for the voice, which he puts through sung for centuries, his heart filled with that the most violent exercise, have had a fatal effect serene melancholy which is inspired by land upon the art of singing; and his talent, wanting on which the sun lingers, by the vast shadows in flexibility and grace, and which lives upon of the evening, and the far-stretching horizon of the bad traditions of the German and French the sea, a melancholy the expression of which is schools, must be considered the talent of a de. found in Theocritus, in certain madrigals cadence. written in the sixteenth century by Gesualdo, As to Giovanni Pacini, the composer of but above all in Pergolese and Paisiello—Bellini “Niobe,” “L'Ultimo Giornio di Pompeia," mingled these innate accents of his reverie- and “Safo," and of thirty other operas more or loving southern genius with the mysterious and less known, he is but a facile imitator of Rossini. pantheistic aspirations of English and German | There remains Mercadante, a learned and skilliterature, and thus formed an exquisite whole, ful musician, but to whom Heaven has denied full of charm and mystery.

the boon of originality. Having also walked in The talent of M. J. Verdi, the latest born of Rossini's foot-steps, and tasked his ingenuity the Italian composers, and whose operas are to reproduce the Bellini's style, we see him now nowadays the delight of his countrymen, is of emulating Verdi's gloomy glory. "Elisa e a kind entirely opposed to that of Bellini. Claudio," his first success, remains his best Born in the environs of Milan, it is said that work. he learned the rudiments of music of an uncle, The character of the Italian school, it will be a curé of the village, who exercised him at an seen, is much modified since Rossini ceased to early age in picking out chords on the organ of write. The influence of foreign literature and the little church in the place. His luck and ex- of new theories of dramatic art has excited comperience did the rest. The first work which posers in the land of Cimarosa to strive for the made him known was “ Nabuco," which was expression of violent passion, to neglect the por: performed at Milan with very great success. trayal of tender and delicate sentiments for that He has since written about a dozen operas, of the sombre passions of the soul. A sort of which have been received with enthusiasm in all mysticism has clouded the serene imagination the towns of Italy, except Naples. In the of the Italians. Their melodies, more serious, country of Rossini they sing only the music of more profound and tender in sentiment, perVerdi.' His strident melodies resound through haps, are less elaborated, less brilliant, and of all the public places. The composer of "Na- an inferior style to those of Rossini. The duets, buco," " Ernani,” “I due Foscari," and of “I the trios, and in general all the concerted pieces Lombardi,” which, arranged for the opera at are designed upon a more constrained model. Paris under the title of "Jerusalem," ob- The art of handling a theme, and following it tained but a partial success, unites to a disposi- out to all its natural consequences by the linktion somewhat sad an imagination more elevated ing together of episodes and modulations, has than fruitful. His ideas are not without bril- been neglected. Instrumentation has become

a

66

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

coarser, and has no longer that amplitude and or Verdi, the superior of Pacini and all the elegant variety which we admire in “Otello” | composers of that order, Donizetti has a claim and “Semiramide.” In the hands of the suc- to tie first rank after that supreme position cessors of Rossini the art of music is plainly de- which belongs to genius. He will be classed graded ; and dramatic expression is impover, in the history of the art immediately after Ros. ished, having assumed the exaggeration and sini, whose most brilliant disciple he was; and the monotony of melo-drama. The Italian he will live to posterity by his best work, opera is now nothing more than a genre pic. “Lucia,” one of the most beautiful scores of our ture.

day. To characterize at once the nobility of In the midst of this state of things Donizetti his soul and the tenderness of his genius, it appeared. A musician more skilful, more vigo- needs only to write under his portrait these rous, but less original than Bellini, with a talent words from the last air in “Lucia :" " O bell' more fruitful and varied than either Mercadante alma inamorata."

a

[ocr errors]
[blocks in formation]

I bad left Pontrieux very late, taking a cross- | At last I found myself at the entrance of a road which I had formerly travelled, and which, hollow, where its whistling, deadened by the according to my calculations, would permit me mountains, reached me only as an echo, and to reach Treguier before nightfall; but I soon in which the snow was falling less thickly. I perceived that my reminiscences had misled me. raised my heau, happy to be able to breathe at Night surprised me before I had accomplished a my ease. Besides, I knew by experience that third of my journey, and I began to fear losing the valley unmistakably announced habitations. myself among the intricate paths which the The lavoir (place for washing), an isolated darkness made it more difficult to recognize. oven, soon confirmed me in this hope, and, at To complete my embarrassment, the wind rose, a few paces' distance, I perceived a hamlet, and the snow began to fall.

composed of a dozen cottages. The first which I had just reached a table-land covered with I approached was dark and empty ; but, guided heath, which the storm swept without an obsta- by the sound of voices, I reached another, cle, and where it was vain to seek a shelter. standing apart, and, opening the door, found Wrapt in my goat-skin cloak, with my head myself in the midst of a Breton filerie (an asdown and body bent to struggle against the semblage of women for spinning). wind, I was following with difficulty the uneven A dozen women, crouched on their heels path. Whichever way my glance turned, it around a fire, in which was burning a heap of perceived only a white and shifting snow which broom, were twirling their spindles, conversing confounded the sky and the earth. At intervals and singing. Some children, lying at their the teinpest seemed to pause, the wind ceased, feet, were asleep, and a young mother, seated at the noise of a cascade was heard in the distance, the inost distant corner of the hearth, was or the plaintive howls of hungry wolves ; then nursing her infant and murmuring a cradlethe tempest arose anew, increased, and all was song. soon lost in its terrific roar.

At my entrance all turned. I had stopped I had, at first, struggled with a sort of proud on the threshold to shake off the snow, with pleasure against the whirlwinds which followed which I was covered, and deposited my staff each other like waves; but, insensibly, fatigue beside the door, according to the custom. The and cold diminished my ardour, and I began to mistress of the house understood that I asked seek around me the means of procuring a shel. sbelter. ter.

"!

"The blessing of God on those present,” said Fortunately the path I had until then fol. I, advancing to meet her. lowed began to descend and bury itself in a And upon you,” replied she, with Armonarrow gorge. Some naked trees showed before rican brevity. me their confused outlines, and, as I approached “There is a sall upon the earth, and the them, the storm seemed to become more distant,' wolves themselves could not find their way,"

« PreviousContinue »