excerpt from 'Reminiscences of the Opera' pp. 42-4 (442 words)

excerpt from 'Reminiscences of the Opera' pp. 42-4 (442 words)

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Reminiscences of the Opera

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Under these circumstances, one of the greatest excitements of the season was undoubtedly the debut of Madame Frezzolini. For some years she had held the proud position of the most celebrated prima donna on the lyric stage in Italy. Her advent was naturally heralded by many a flourish of trumpets, not one of which, perhaps, was louder than her great reputation merited. Italy had proclaimed her "the first among the first." There was nothing, therefore, which in the slightest degree savoured of "humbug" in the "puff preliminary." She was not only a great singer and a great actress; she was, moreover, a fine woman. Italy was enthusiastic about her — why should not England be so likewise ? As it turned out, Madame Frezzolini was received in England with favour, but not with enthusiasm. At all events, her success did not reach the point anticipated. This result may be ascribed to the fact, that her health had suffered greatly, not only from her recent confinement, but from cold and privations endured in one of the houses of refuge on Mount Cenis, where she had been sheltered during a storm for nearly three whole days. Jarring discords between herself and her hus- band, Signor Poggi (which terminated shortly afterwards in a separation), and consequent distress of mind, contributed likewise to deteriorate a voice which had been pre-eminently beautiful when heard a few months previously. The mind and "school" of the great artist were no longer adequately seconded by her physical powers. The fine intention still remained; but the full means for consummate execution were wanting. As it was, when the influence of the vieille garde and its numerous adherents, as well as the conservative tendency of the English public, are taken into account, it is manifest that the really great talent of Madame Frezzolini alone enabled her to maintain such a position as she actually did acquire.

She achieved, however, notwithstanding these untoward circumstances, many a legitimate triumph during the season.

Her first appearance was made in "Beatrice di Tenda," an opera which, although it contains some of Bellini's sweetest melodies, and was supported on this occasion by both Ronconi and Guasco, failed to make a very favourable impression.

The libretto of "Beatrice di Tenda," dark, lugubrious, and painful, is in itself calculated to impress an English audience unfavourably. Nevertheless, in this opera, Ronconi completely established himself, both as singer and actor. Poggi, who had unwisely refused the tenor part, writhed with jealousy to hear Guasco invariably encored in the "Io Soffru", a melody which, it may be noticed, bears a considerable resemblance to the tender composition by Reissiger, known as "Weber's last Waltz."

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excerpt from 'Reminiscences of the Opera' pp. 42-4 (442 words)


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