excerpt from 'Reminiscences of the Opera' pp. 211-3 (663 words)

excerpt from 'Reminiscences of the Opera' pp. 211-3 (663 words)

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Reminiscences of the Opera

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The theatre opened on Saturday, the 19th February, with Verdi's opera of "Ernani," which had been selected as a favourable framework for the debuts of no less than three new artists — viz., Mademoiselle Cruvelli as Elvira, Signer Cuzzani as Ernani, Signor Beletti as Silva.

Although Sophie Cruvelli, at this stage of her career, may not have been a faultless vocalist — (and it has been already seen how Rubini had declared, "Give her good models to study, and a good master, and she mil be great") — she came, nevertheless, before the London audience with so many natural advantages that she was at once acknowledged as certain to become a general favourite. Indeed, it may be fairly assumed that, had not Jenny Lind so completely absorbed the public mind and thus rendered any rivalry in public estimation almost impossible, Sophie Cruvelli would have exercised even greater sway over the operatic world of London. She was endowed with rare and precious gifts — a magnificent organ, sufficient artistic capacity, and a highly attractive person. She possessed, too, a certain quality which might become a treasure or a bane, according to the way in which she applied it. This was an impulsive, ardent, almost reckless genius — a quality capable of achieving great results, but requiring to be reined in by judgment, taste, and tact, so as not to overspring the boundaries of legitimate art, or (in common parlance) to "run wild." Had she the tact, the taste, the judgment? Upon these depended her future greatness. There is no doubt, however, that in spite of the sudden and awful nervousness which fell upon her when for the first time she faced the densely-crowded audience of Her Majesty's Theatre, the aspect of which somewhat paralysed her efforts in her aria entrata, Sophie Cruvelli did achieve a signal success on the occasion of her debut. When once the undeniable spirit within was aroused, she carried all before her by its power. She was young, handsome, impulsive, clever; and with these advantages, she could hardly fail to be irresistible.

By the side of this strangely-gifted child of genius, another debutante already mentioned obtained a success equally certain, perhaps even more solid. Steady and sound as a musician, Beletti seemed to place his feet upon the boards of the opera-house with a consciousness that it was firm ground. He had a sonorous and flexible voice, sang in a careful, correct style, with a voluble delivery, but was endowed with little power as an actor. Beletti took up his position from the very first evening of his appearance — a position incontestable and uncontested. This was a pleasing circumstance for her who had in some measure staked her own reputation for judgment on the success of her estimable comrade.

Cuzzani, the favourite of the Berliners, was less happy in his debut. He was pronounced to be “pleasant," "nice," or any other epithet that did not go beyond a certain succes d'estime. He appeared under the disadvantage of an influenza; but the judgment of the public was never wholly reversed, either on subsequent evenings or in other operas.

So great had been the popularity of Gardoni during the previous season, that to produce their pet sympathetic tenor before the habitues of Her Majesty's Theatre, was ever to "play a trump card." On this account the young singer was "cast" for the character of the king in "Ernani”; the part in the original score being written for a baritone. Some of the music was consequently transposed for Gardoni. But the commanding power of voice required to enable him to predominate in the great finale of the third act, was wanting ; and accordingly the reputation of the favourite tenor nowise gained by this venture. Still, by dint of all the varied interest due to the novelty of the "cast," "Ernani" worked its way, and gave a very important prestige to the opening of Her Majesty's Theatre for the season of 1848.

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excerpt from 'Reminiscences of the Opera' pp. 211-3 (663 words)


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