excerpt from 'Reminiscences of the Opera' pp. 286-7 (334 words)

excerpt from 'Reminiscences of the Opera' pp. 286-7 (334 words)

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Reminiscences of the Opera

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My next venture in the way of novelty was certainly not of so "legitimate" a nature, although a justification of the policy of producing any kind of excellence to stimulate curiosity is easily furnished. The appearance of a negress singer had long been announced. In Paris, under the name of the "Black Malibran," this "lady of colour" had certainly excited a considerable sensation. M. Theophile Gautier, who wrote to me respecting this interesting personage, thought she would suit England: "Elle a surtout ce qui plait en Angleterre: l'excentricite, la nouveaute, et l’originalite." But Gautier here only expresses the ordinary French point de vue.

Her biography, excellently written, and introduced in a treatise upon the songs of the Isle of Cuba and negro melodies in general, had been published and disseminated. Donna Maria Martinez, the "Black Malibran," it was generally made known, was the child of freed negroes, had been carefully brought up and well instructed in a Spanish house, and early grounded in musical science. Wedded to a Spanish sea captain (not a "gentleman of colour " it may be presumed), she had suffered reverses of fortune, and had made her musical attainments avail- able by public singing. The "Black Malibran" figured in a new divertissement, entitled "Les Delices du Strait," as "a wandering minstrel," singing to the Sultana. Her Cuban, and more exclusively Spanish melodies, were full of original charm. She accompanied herself upon the guitar, of the powers of which she was evidently a mistress. Her execution was excellent; her spirit and animation were undeniable; her voice was sweet, pure, and true, although too weak for the vast arena of her Majesty's Theatre. She was vehemently applauded and encouraged. But the whole performance was "small," almost to meagreness; and although it might well be regarded as a piquant musical curiosity, it failed in any real power of attraction. This black phantom flitted briefly over the stage, to disappear for ever, as a far more illustrious "shade" had recently done before her.

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excerpt from 'Reminiscences of the Opera' pp. 286-7 (334 words)


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