excerpt from 'Thirty Years of Musical Life in London, 1870-1900' pp. 43-44 (325 words)

excerpt from 'Thirty Years of Musical Life in London, 1870-1900' pp. 43-44 (325 words)

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Thirty Years of Musical Life in London

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Two memorable events occurred in 1875. One was the first production in London of Wagner's "Lohengrin"; the other, the first appearance there of the Carl Rosa Opera Company. The former was regarded almost in the light of an experiment. Never before had an opera by Wagner been performed at Covent Garden. In 1870 his "Fliegende Holländer" had been given at Drury Lane, under the Italian title of "L'Ollandese Dannato" (Luigi Arditi conducting), but without any very marked success. And now here was "Lohengrin," a more advanced example of the composer 's method, about to claim the suffrages of a public still notoriously unprepared for the comprehension or enjoyment of what was generally described as the "music of the future." Yet, thanks to the growing numbers of the German community, the event aroused intense excitement, and the opera-house was packed to overflowing. I think it was the worst performance of "Lohengrin" ever seen in an important theatre. Albani (then in her third season) made a sympathetic Elsa; Nicolini presented a heroic-looking Lohengrin and sang wonderfully well, considering how completely out of his element he was in Wagnerian opera; and Cotogni did creditably as Telramund. But the remainder of the cast were beneath notice, while the chorus sang dreadfully out of tune, and the orchestra, under Vianesi, did its best to drown the singers throughout. Yet, in spite of these drawbacks, the beauty of the music exercised its inevitably powerful sway, and the opera was received with a warmth that grew and grew till it culminated in a tremendous climax of enthusiasm. The "tooth-and-nail" opponents of Wagner, who flourished exceedingly in London at this time, were simply dumfounded. In all probability, "Lohengrin" was as new to them as it was to Covent Garden habitues, and they did not know whether to be more astonished at the subtle fascination of the music or at the ease with which its charm and significance had been grasped by an "unripe" public.

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excerpt from 'Thirty Years of Musical Life in London, 1870-1900' pp. 43-44 (325 words)


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