excerpt from 'Italy Volume 2' pp. 408-410 (509 words)

excerpt from 'Italy Volume 2' pp. 408-410 (509 words)

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Italy Volume 2

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Naples is still the great mart of the musical genius of Italy; and its grand national opera of San Carlos (taken in all its combination of architecutural and ornamental beauty, its adaptation to sound, its principal singers, fine chorusses and scenic illusions) is certainly superior to all other theatres in the world. As a Salle de Spectacle, less imposing, perhaps, than the Scala at Milan, it is infinitely more brilliant; and on the nights of illumination, its fairy splendour has no parallel in the whole range of theatrical effect. To this pure, bright, fresh, temple of harmony and taste, the grand opera of Paris is a filthy den.


 But whether the opera of Naples be sacred or profane, serious or comic, the only composer still received with endless applause is Rossini. His MOSÈ was performed at San Carlos during the whole of our residence; and though we heard it almost as often as it was played, we attended to its splendid scenas with unabated delight and gratification.

 The opera of "Moses" is strictly conformable to the most noted events of that warrior prophet's mission, as related by himself; but is told with such amplifications as may tend to heighten the dramatic effect of the several characters. When the curtain rises, the divine mandate has just gone forth, by which the heart of Pharaoh was hardened; but in a royal theatre every possible delicacy and indulgence were shewn to the King of Egypt, as if he were rather the victim, than the enemy of that power, which withdrew from the sovereign his divine right of volition. While the heart of Pharaoh hardens through a fine solo, the heart of his son softens in an exquisite duo with a pretty Israelitish girl (an episode introduced à plaisir, and one rendered exceedingly affecting by the struggles of the young Egyptian prince and his Jewish love, who is a protegée of Moses). The gran scenas are all between the prophet and the king. Moses is always stern, despotic, and audacious, and threatens, in his deep double bass, the obstinate Pharaoh with those plagues, which are exhibited from time to time in the scene. The Israelites, however, are at last permitted to depart; and as they range themselves at the gates of the city to commence their miraculous march, they really exhibited a most affecting sight. Haggard, woe-worn, ragged, and wretched, they recalled to my Irish mind the emigrating spalpeens of my own poor country; and perhaps the sympathy they excited would have been too deep for opera sensibility, were it not for the little knapsack, which each had strapped upon his shoulders, and which reminded the audience of the plunder of the unsuspecting Egyptians. The scenery and chorusses at this moment were magnificent and melodious beyond description; such as the harps of Sion never surpassed, and the waters of Babylon never flowed to. […] [The audience] retire from this fine opera, vociferating through the streets, "Mi manca la voce," the popular quartetto of the piece, and a chef-d'œuvre of Rossini.

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excerpt from 'Italy Volume 2' pp. 408-410 (509 words)


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