excerpt from 'Thirty Years of Musical Life in London, 1870-1900' pp. 184-185 (354 words)

excerpt from 'Thirty Years of Musical Life in London, 1870-1900' pp. 184-185 (354 words)

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Thirty Years of Musical Life in London

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The fortunes of Italian opera were now at their lowest ebb. The season of 1885 had been almost wholly barren, and that of 1886 was little better. Incapacity and indifference reached their climax with the disgraceful and humiliating scene that occurred at Her Majesty's Theatre on the night of March 6, 1886. Some unknown person, evidently without experience as a manager, had, there started a season of Italian opera with a company of incompetent artists. On the fourth night it completely collapsed under circumstances un precedented in the annals of opera in a great city. I quote my own description of what occurred.

The second act of "Faust" had concluded when the orchestra refused to proceed further unless their salaries were instantly paid. Their claims were partly satisfied, and, after an interval of inordinate length, in the course of which the audience displayed the noisiest impatience, the opera proceeded for another act, with the accompaniment of about half the band. But the crisis had only been deferred. After the curtain had fallen again there was another long "wait," and the disturbances recommenced. At length, in response to deafening calls, the stage-manager came forward and announced that it was impossible to proceed. The stage-carpenters had refused to set the next scene, and the opera could not, therefore, go on. A howl of derision and anger greeted this statement; but the audience, having made up its mind to the worst, was preparing, amid a fearful din, to depart, when the curtain rose once more and a whole army of stage assistants came down to the footlights with outstretched arms and aprons, as though to implore the charity of the house. The gestures were understood, and, with one accord, the remaining occupants of the gallery and upper tiers began flinging a shower of coppers and small silver coins down on to the stage, uttering the while all sorts of satirical and uncomplimentary epithets. However, the occupation was too expensive to last long, and in a minute or two this disgraceful episode came to a termination, ending also a night of horrors that will never be forgotten by those who witnessed it.

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excerpt from 'Thirty Years of Musical Life in London, 1870-1900' pp. 184-185 (354 words)


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