JOHN BARNETT'S long-expected opera, Fair Rosamond, was produced Drury Lane, on Tuesday. Our opinion of the composer has not unfrequently been given : lone hefote the production of the Moun- tain Sylph, we predicted his future operatic fame. BARNETT was almost cradled in Covent Garden. where his singing as a boy was much and justly admired ; hence, though young in years. he is old in that sort of experience which often seeeres even a less gifted dramatic writer from failure. His Mountain Sylph was a source of honour and mortification to BARNETT. " Moles tenor, poen contante," was the re- sult ; and he withdrew to Paris, where he planned and completed Fair Rosamond. The usual strucele with the manager of Drury Lune, and the usual delay occurred, before terms and times were arranged ; but at length the piece was announced for performance. Rosamond is a name of ill omen in the history of the English opera. The utter failure of the opera under that name, in which ADDISON was associated with a musical quack named CLAYTON, and which had been heralded by the loud and unmerited eulogies of his parasites, had the effect of paralyzing every effort to perpetuate or revive the fading glory of English dramatic music. CLAYTON'S Rosamond was the funeral dirge of the English opera ; BARNETT'S, we trust, will he the song of
triumph at its revival. Nor ought the anticipation to be groundless, for it contains much that any composer might be proud to own.
The story of Fair Rosamond need not be repeated. The poet, whoever be be, has made some additions to it, and taken some liberties with the character of King Henry. all of which might be pardoned if they bad been necessary or useful to the purposes of the drama ; which, in truth, is a very poor affair—dull, improbable, and prosaic. He has hung a dead-weight about the composer's neck, which it re- quired no common exertion of power to sustain. Fatal is the error when a composer forms an alliance with poetic dulness, and yet few mistakes are more common. Such music as the frost scene in King Arthur would never have been called into existence had SETTLE been PURCELL'S poet instead of DRYDEN. Let us hope that BARNETT'S next effort will be in conjunction with some bard of kindred spirit, not with the author of his present libretto ; for this is a necessary step to a regeneration of the English opera. The first act of Rosamond moved rather heavily. The chorus was in constant requisition, and there was scarcely a song to relieve the too constant succession of full, not to say noisy pieces ; but the second act brightened apace. Two beautiful songs, " The lily no longer," and " Oh my native shades,"—which, by the way, were injudiciously placed in contact,—sung by Queen Eleanor ( Miss BETTS) and Roiamond (Miss ROMER), gaze variety and lightness to the piece; and a very pretty romance. swig by Miss POOLE in the character of a page, evinced the composer's skill as a melodist. The scene of the third act is Westminster Abbey, where the coronation of Henry and his Queen takes place. The composer has not made the most of a good opportunity; for here the character of the music might, nay, ought to have changed, and his orchestra have been relieved from their inces. sant labour by the substitution of the:organ as an accompaniment to the voices. The (so-Balled) canon, " Wild my brain to phrenzy given," is the most striking feature of this act. The fourth act opens with a song from King Henry ( PHILLIPS), of an ambitious character, and which contains much fine writing, but it comes too late in the piece to produce its intended effect. The scene then changes to Rosa- mond's bower ; which the poet has chosen to make not a place of con. cealment, but a splendid and ample pavilion, in which mummers and masquers assemble, where madrigals are sung, and the song and the dance go round. Into this temple of COMBS the Queen intrudes, ejects the guests, and proffers poor Rosamond the pleasing alternative of the cup or the dagger. The voice of Henry is hoard without ; and he and his followers are seen threading the mazes of IVoodstock's famed labyrinth. The conclusion must be given in the poet's own words- Rosamond—I'm saved ! I'm saved! Dr CU./feed—My child ! Hubert—Look there! (at the cup.) Queen—Poison by just revenge prepared.
Henry—Such guilty decd would'st thou have dared ?
Rosamond— I ler pinion. Sir, let me implore;
And then farewell, we meet no more.
Whereupon the fiddles strike up,, the soldiers shout, the Barons sing, Henry and Eleanor " right lovingly do greet," Rosamond (so the book says) looks " a spotless angel," and a right merry chorus con- cludes the opera.
Spite of all the hindrances and incumbrances we have already no. tired, and others which cannot be passed over, BARNETT has added to his reputation as a dramatic writer. Measured against his Italian con- temporaries, he is a giant. In the power to invent and to arrange, in the freshness and vigour of his style. and in his knowledve of orchestral resources and effects, he has few living rivals ; and he has proved his ability not only to sustain but to improve the character of the English opera. It is to this end that we proceed to notice some other great and glaring defects in Fair Rosamond: and, first, its enormous and in- supportable length. An opera of four long acts is a palpable blunder —a blunder never committed by MOZART or by any Italian writer ; and yet we know that Rosamond has been considerably shortened. But had it even thus been reduced within reasonable dimensions, such is not the process by which that end should be attained. The outline.— in fact, the entire plan of the opera—ehould be completed at the very .outset, or the composer is like a clumsy architect, who erects a huge pile, from which he afterwards pulls down wing after wing or room
after room, in order to reduce it into habitable dimensions or just pre. portion.
The next error is the constant occurrence of mere dialogue recitative. Either the dialogue should be spoken or sung. The rule of the Italian opera requires the latter, the practice of the English and the German opera is the former. Our language as well as our habits render the delivery of mere dialogue in recitative ridiculous: and, doubtless for this reason, PURCELL, the greatest master of rrcitat'1re advisedly as well as wisely abandoned it in every opera but his first. An English opera is a play, of which music forms an essential part ; but it neither requires the constant presence of the chorus, the unceasing employ. ment of the orchestra, nor the musical reciastion of mere dialogue.
There is another defect with which the composer, in the present in- stance, must not be charged. Mr. BUNN, for reasons best known to himself, chooses to have three principal bass-singers in his theatre; and thus the composer is compelled to vibrate from one end of the gamut to the other (as all these genth me l must haves oniething to do), with the rare intervention of Wicsos's tenor.
Of the singers not much can be said in commendation. With the exception of Pintail's, whose powers were in too frequent requisi- tion, they cannot be said to have done justice to their parts on the first night. The scenery, especially that of Westminster Abbey, is exceedingly beautiful, and the general getting u of the opera is creditable to the management. The house was Cr. wded, In! the reception most suc- cessful. Further curtailment will, however, be necessary, in order to render the piece popular.