THE NEW ITALIAN OPERA.
PERHAPS it has been too much the fashion of late to condemn the modern Italian school by wholesale, and to employ the names of its composers as contemptuous by-words. That much has been done to provoke this crusade against DONIZETTI, PACINL MERCADANTE &C. is too certain ; still, all who have admired the old and great schools of Italy, who have witnessed the triumphs in instrumental music achieved by many of her later performers, and know the extensive and genuine passion for the art that prevails under her skies, will be prepared and willing to accept the regeneration of the lyric drama from the same quarter. Of a country where melody is spontaneous—where genius is the commonest accident, and stumbled upon at every turn, from the coffeehouse to the cloister—it is not to be expected that Opera will consist of an eternal procession of formulas and examples of conventional style. No; not- withstanding the national indolence, the love of repose, the character.. istic content in obscurity which are to be observed in the musicians of that voluptuous country, the fire and enthusiasm of her old artists still smoulder in the breasts of Italians.
It was with some prepossession of this kind, drawn from personal observation during a recent journey, that we prepared to hear Dasizwrres opera La Favorite; an English version of which was pro- duced at Drury Lane Theatre on Wednesday. An idea of the plot may be conveyed in a few words. The scene lies in Castile ; and opens on the cloister of a convent, where Ferdinand, (TEMPLETON,) a novice, discloses to the Prior, (Boratenx,) an unholy passion that he has conceived for some female vision. The lady proves to be Leonora, (Miss RomEE,) the King's favourite; who, having been mutually touched, orders him to be brought blindfolded into her presence. He has renounced the cloister, and she presents him with a commission in the army ; whence he returns covered with glory. King Alfonso (LEFFLER) promises to gratify any request the victorious soldier may make: he asks for the hand of Leonora ; and the more readily succeeds, as the Church has been thundering its anathemas against the Monarch for neglecting his lawful Queen. Now, however, Ferdinand discovers, in the taunts of the nobles, the true position of his bride, and renounces her. The last act discovers them both in the convent : he has resumed his reli- gious habit; and the piece concludes with her death at his feet, amidst a gorgeous cloistral scene, moonlight glancing through columns and revealing sepulchral brasses, groupings of monks, &c.
The English libretto of a piece in which the incidents and situations occur in natural succession, and are romantic and interesting enough to inspire good musical treatment, is, it must be confessed, dull and over- loaded with verbiage. And the want of progress, or, we might better phrase it, of making way, which is felt to be the main defect of the music, is much increased by the perpetual employment of accompanied recitative; which gives importance to slight details, is injurious to effects of contrast, and makes the transit of the whole heavy. How- ever, such is the practiceof the day, which has dispensed with the piano and bass to accompany the recitative dialogue, and has thus sacrificed those great means for great occasions which were formerly kept so pru- dently in reserve. As a counterbalance to the defect we have men- tioned, it may be said of this opera, that in a prevailing melodiousness of character, in seriousness of style, beauty and novelty of instrumenta- tion, in graceful passages of symphony and instrumental introduction, it contains much to interest the musician, and is far superior to any late effort of the minor Italians. Originality, decided and characteristic strength of invention, may be deficient ; but we have in its place a novel and happy fusion of two schools—Italian melody with German instrumentation. The performance was heard by a crowded house with great attention and interest ; novelty, effect, and good melody, sparkling up too frequently to keep dulness long in the ascendant. The absence of noise was alone a treat. TEMPLETON, Miss ROMER,
and LEFFLER, sang their parts not only without offence, excellently. The new singer, BORRANI, possesses a bass voice somewhat hard in quality, w hich_is more valuable in concerted music than in the solo. Concerted pieces so effective, and an orchestra so nicely subdued, we have never4eard in London beyond the walls of the Italian Opera. Much of fin! tie mast ascribe to the able superintendence of BENEDICT.
It will bejinnecessary to go into long detail on the fugitive beauties of an opera which rather interests us as a pledge of an improving state of things in a certain department of the drama, than as an unexceptionable and accomplished work. We are grateful for finding music once more in alliance with common sense, and for strains that express somewhat of the feelings of the situation. Overlooking our frequent memoranda of good stringed-instrument effects—melodramatic symphonies, modu- lations, &c., of which many occur in the first act—we will enumerate some of the more special successes of the composer. An air in A minor, sung by LEFFLER, in the second act7-" Leonora, from thee never "; a duet in the following scene ; the music accompanying the entrance of Balthasar after the ballet, where the trombones are finely and judiciously employed ; a charming concerted piece, and spirited finale to the same act. Towards the conclusimi of the third act there is a quintet in D minor, with chorus, of which the ensemble was excellent. The principal new effects of instrumentation are a solo by Balthasar in B fiat minor, accompanied by horns in iterated notes, a military drum and trombone obligati; and an air sang by Miss ROMER, accom- panied by four horns and a harp. So much for successful com- bination,—which is at least a work of taste : our present satisfac- tion rests on higher grounds, and results from the discovery of really food ideas, sentiment, and taste, where we did not believe them to ex- ist—in DONIZETTL
Though the ballet exhibited much fine dancing on the part of CAR-
Lows Gam and PETxr.s., we object to the introduction of these things in opera, as stale conventions, highly injurious if not destructive to the interests of the tree musical drama. Cannot there exist an operatic king, but he must take a seat on a throne while the patience is tried by some twenty minutes of bounds and flings, that in any other situation would be interesting and perhaps graceful enough? The resource is exhausted ; and unless it be a really natural ballet, like the village fête in Don Giovanni, is pitiful in the musician of talent.