A PLEA FOR THE ENGLISH OPERA. '• Teque pates Pyladis.
WE expressed a hope, last week, that MACREADY would receive the thanks of every well-informed lover of music for his spirited and op- portune endeavour to revive the character and reassert the claims of the English Lyric Drama. And we believe that he has them, though not universally. We have learned that to some, who ought to know better, the revival of a classic opera is any thing but a source of gratu- lation. They regard HANDEL as an intruder, and Acis and Galatea an offence. There are at this moment some dozen or score of young com- posers, each primed with his opera, who all unite in the cry of "No re- vivals I" Here, as Puff says, "their unanimity is wonderful." But let the selection of any one of the number be made, and the cry would then be changed : "No favouritism !" would be substituted for "No revivals." The public, it is true, pay little regard to the puny outcry : if they find gratification at Drury Lane Theatre, thither they will resort. The manager may safely disregard the growls of a few disappointed composers, while his boxes are taken and his pit is crowded. Still, if their complaints were reasonable, they ought to meet with attention ; and if their claims are valid, they should be admitted. Are they ? Let us bear in mind that the two last efforts to revive the English Opera were made under the direction and absolute control of two composers. Their fate is well known. In one instance, the theatre closed at the end of a week ; in another, the manager was brought to bankruptcy, as he himself stated, by his theatrical speculation.
The public sympathy with our national lyric drama, if not extinct, is at least dormant. A series of injudicious trials, and a succession of failures, has brought its unfailing consequence. The present generation has to be convinced that there is such a thing as an English opera worth hearing: and the only rational way of effecting this is by resorting to compositions of unquestioned excellence. First establish the fact—first create the taste—and then venture upon novelty. The fact was disbe- lieved; the taste had died away ; and it required such a performance as Acis and Galatea to bring conviction and to restore appetite. It has done both ; and every native composer of true excellence will ultimately benefit from the judicious course of the Drury Lane Manager. He has followed the prudent course of his great predecessor, whose ambition it was to create a love for the higher walks of the drama ; which he ac- complished by directing his chief attention to a revival of the plays of SHAREPERE and JONSON. When GARRICK became the Manager Of Drury Lane, only six of the former were on the acting-list of the theatre ; and of these not one was played from the author's text. In like manner, MACREADY seeks to create a taste for the lyric drama of his country by exhibiting its real majesty and strength. And he will succeed : this is his first attempt, and its few defects he will in future learn to avoid.
We scarcely need to add, that these remarks are made in no spirit of depreciation, much less of hostility to living composers, young or old. But these gentlemen are mistaken if they think to influence either the Manager or the public by ill-timed and splenetic attacks. They have no claim to patronage except as they deserve it ; and when de- served it will be given. One error (a fatal one) is common to all the tribe --carelessness as to the matter on which they employ
themselves. The general excuse is, that dramatists of eminence will not engage in writing operas. This, if true, is only another proof of the prevalent low estimate of the English lyric drama. But we doubt the fact when thus broadly stated. It may be true that unsuccessful attempts have been made in certain quarters ; but let a dramatist of eminence be satisfied that he is associated with a musician of equal rank, and we suspect that the alliance would not be rejected. MILTON did not disdain It union with LAWES, nor DRYDEN With Pea.. CELL ; and it would be no disgrace to any contemporary writer for the stage to find himself in company with Brum. or BARNETT. But expe- rience shows that our composers regard an opera as a mere dramatic vehicle for music, which, in their opinion, will atone for and supply all literary defects. Hence such trash as The Unearthly Bride, Catha- rine Grey, and numberless others. While King Arthur and Comas invite MACREADY'S attention, will he reject them in favour of such productions as those? We think not—for the sake of English art we hope not.