excerpt from 'Reminiscences of the Opera' pp. 279-81 (591 words)

excerpt from 'Reminiscences of the Opera' pp. 279-81 (591 words)

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Reminiscences of the Opera

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On Saturday the 8th July, the long-expected "Tempest" was produced before an over-flowing audience. The success of the work on the first night was "tremendous." Never, perhaps, had any new opera been received with such frenzied acclamation. The opera, there is no doubt, abounded in striking and captivating morceaux, and had been composed with earnestness and power. Of melody, there was a rich store, although the ever popular air, by Dr. Arne, "Where the bee sucks," judiciously employed by the composer for the pantomimic music of his Ariel and as the finale of the opera, stood out amidst all its modern companions with a delicious freshness.

After the performance, Monsieur Halevy, while on the stage, was overwhelmed with congratulations. All the foreign artists were warm in their expressions of delight. One after the other they approached him to say, "How beautiful! How charming! How exquisite is this motivo!" Each hummed a melody. The melody was invariably the same. It was that of Arne. Poor Monsieur Halevy must have winced under it, even in the midst of his glory. Moreover, there was a drawback in the decrescendo nature of the composition. Each of the three main acts of the opera (the tempest at sea having formed a prologue) was less effective (even though good in itself) than the preceding one. Nevertheless, the opera was received with a species of wild enthusiasm. Artists, composer, author, conductor, and finally the manager, were one and all called and recalled to receive the overwhelming plaudits of the crowded house.

The singing of all employed on the occasion was "first-rate." Madame Sontag won herself fresh laurels, and made the part of Miranda one of the very best. But, in the midst of all that was excellent, Lablache stood out in popular estimation as the striking impersonation of the character of Caliban. It was the last, as it was the best "creation " of this rare artist. The music as well as the acting taxed to the utmost the powers of one already on the wane. But he rose superior to every difficulty. His Caliban was not only adjudged to be the finest delineation of the character known, even amidst the many great actors who had figured in this extraordinary part upon the English stage, but was hailed as one of the "finest creations" ever seen! All was novel — all was artistic in this wonderful personation. His "dull earthiness" and "brute ferocity," his expression of animal love for Miranda, his savage exultation under the influence of wine, and his grovelling, but still revengeful despair, combined to form a masterpiece, and raised Lablache — if anything could raise him — to a loftier pinnacle of fame than before. Scarcely less striking was the Ariel of Carlotta Grisi, who exhibited more "mind" as well as more poetry of expression in this, than in any previous choreographic effort. Coletti, Baucarde, and Mademoiselle Parodi (in the spirited little part of the sailor Stephana, as it stood in operatic form), all came in for the crumbs which fell from the rich harvest of acclamation so lavishly bestowed upon the above-mentioned artists. It is due to the management, at the same time, to say, that all the scenic illustrations of the "faery" opera were fraught with a magnificence and a poetic feeling previously unknown. The contrivance of the vessel wrecking in the storm of the prologue, the landscapes of the "Enchanted Island," and the gorgeous display of spirit power in the concluding tableau, surpassed all yet exhibited on the boards of Her Majesty's Theatre.

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excerpt from 'Reminiscences of the Opera' pp. 279-81 (591 words)


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