12 JANUARY 1850, Page 10


Mr. Mitchell has begim his season of French Plays at the St. James's Theatre, as he did last year, with the opens comique ; and with a com- pany at least equal to that of last season. Besides the attractive Made- moiselle Charton, we have now, for the first time, M. Chollot, who has long been one of the ornaments of the French musical stage—distinguish- ed for his powers both as an actor and a singer.

The flourishing state of the opera in France, in comparison with its condition in every other country, is not a little remarkable. In Italy, par excellence the land of song, it is seemingly in the last stage of decay. Verdi is the sole composer—there is not another, good, bad, or indiffer- ent; and of Verdi even his own countrymen are getting tired, as appears from the complete " fiasco " his last opera made the other day at Naples. In Germany there is not a single dramatic composer of the smallest repu- tation. Spohr, though living, belongs to the past; he has ceased alto- gether to compose, and long before his complete retirement, had ceased to write for the stage. Marschner must also be spoken of in the preterite tense ; and the only remaining composer of any pretension—though his pretensions were but moderate--Conradin Kreutzer, is dead. The German opera, born late—for its age hardly extends beyond the present century— seems destined to die early ; and we doubt whether German genius, notwith- standing a few splendid instances, is favourable ID vocal melody, without which dramatic music cannot flourish. Of the state of our own musical stage it is unnecessary to speak. Compare this decay and poverty with the condi- tion of France, where, at this time, Meyerbeer, Auber, Haley'', Adolphe Adam, besides others of eminent talent but whose fame as yet is less widely spread, are daily emiching two great lyrical theatres with master- pieces which make their way through Europe. This may be ascribed to the rational manner in which the French have cultivated their national opera. They have always regarded it as a branch of the drains, governed by the same laws and entitled to the same honours as tragedy and comedy. They

have held that the music of an opera, as well as its poetry, constitutes the language of the piece, and that the one as well as the other ought to be subservient to dramatic propriety and truth. They have maintained, that if pretty and well-sounding verses afford no excuse for a nonsensical sub- ject and absurd incidents, neither should such things be tolerated for the

sake of melodious airs. Hence, from the days of Quinault to the present, the French operas have been uniformly of high literary merit; and their music, whatever have been its faults, has always been remarkable for its - correct dramatic expression. Another consequence has arisen from the French view of the opera—the extreme care bestowed upon-every part of the performance, so as to obtain an ensemble satisfactory to the judgment and the feelings as well as the ear.

Hzdevy's new opera, Le Fal d' Andorre, with which the theatre opened on Monday, affords an instance of these things. The drama, by M. de St. Georges, is at once so interesting and so comic that it would be a pleasant acting play without any music at all. Halevy's music, though liable to critical questioning in some points, is eminently dramatic ; and the piece was performed with a completeness and evenness which 'we: meetwith only on the French stage. The interest of this opera is of a domestic kind, which must strike everybody as similar to that of the Gazza Lana ; but the French piece greatly excels the Italian in the structure of its plot and the variety of its characters, some of them highly comic. The scene lies in a secluded ryzennean' valley. The heroine, Rose de Mai, a foundling, is a servant- girl in a farm-house. There is a conscription to provide a contingent of soldiers for the service of France, and one of the lots falls upon a young chamois-hunter, the girl's lover. The young man, absent from the men- ter of recruits, is ordered to be taken and shot as a deserter : the girl, driven to extremity by his danger, buys his discharge, by means of a sum of money in her keeping, belonging to her mistress, trusting to replace it immediately out of her own little fortune. But her own money is lost through the failure of the person with whom it was deposited. The embezzlement consequently is discovered; and Rose, accused by her mis- tress, is brought to trial. The fermiere, however, who appears as prose- cutrix, unexpectedly abandons the charge, accusing herself of having made it falsely. She has just discovered that the foundling is her own daughter, and takes the only way of saving her from the consequence of a crime which she has really committed. The girl is acquitted, and the piece closes without the relation between the mother and daughter being disclosed ; the mother, for her child's sake, submitting to the obloquy due to a false accuser. These leading circumstances are mixed with many minor incidents, and introduce several other characters. Not only the heroine, but her mistress the fermiere, and Georgette, a lively village co- quette, are in love with the young hunter ; and their jealousies of Rose and of each other produce piquant scenes and bear directly on the de- nouement. A French captain who commands the recruiting party is a telling character ; and an aged goatherd, the protector from infancy of the young foundling, has many touches of beauty and pathos. It may be ob- jected on the score of morality, that the heroine has been guilty of a felony : but in real life virtue may fall into crime, and why not also upon the stage, provided that the force of the temptation and the consequences of the act are adequately represented ? The moral is really a good one— never be tempted to do a wrong, even though you may think yourself certain of being able to conceal it by immediate reparation. Halevy, as a composer for the Opera Comique, has for a good many years divided the public favour with Auber; audit seems rather remark- able that two musicians so widely different from each other should enjoy equal popularity. lialevy is profoundly versed in harmony and com- bination, the bent of his mind having been evidently turned towards the study of counterpoint. All his music is full of the fruits of such study ; and, though we are convinced that he produces his most complicated effects with the facility bestowed by great skill, yet this want of effort on his part does not exempt the hearer from effort in comprehending his me- clumism and penetrating his designs. Hence his music has an operose and elaborate air, at first fatiguing to the ear, but gradually becoming lighter and more agreeable by means of repetition. The music of Auber, on the contrary, is clear, transparent, and sparkling hie champagne, but apt to become a little flat when its first effervescence has passed away.

Aubees harmony and instrumentation, too, are most ingenious and elegant; but the beauties of his music lie on the surface ; his resources, having a limited range, are soon exhausted, and his contrivances appear somewhat trite and common. Auber will please most at first; but Halevy, we think, will please longer. When we have become weary of the brilliant waltz and quadrille-like movements of Auber, we shall continue to find something new and fresh in Halevy. Then, for dramatic truth, we conceive that there is no comparison between them. Auber is very happy in a bust- ling concerted piece, or in a lively air with a sautillant rhythm and grace- ful flow; but of intensely passionate expression he has shown himself incapable, even in his chef d'oeuvre Masaniello, his only tragic work. His opera music is as well known in the concert-room, and even in the ball-room, as on the stage. Ilalevy's opera music is made for the stage alone, and will never, we thinh, be greatly enjoyed elsewhere : in our estimation, this is one of its merits.

The opera was received very favourably on Monday, and still more warmly, if possible, when it was repeated on Wednesday. The per- formance, both individually and as a whole, was excellent. Mademoiselle Charton, the favourite of last season, was most cordially welcomed on her return. She acted the part of Rose with the utmost grace, simplicity, and feeling; and her singing was in harmony with her action—perfectly simple, natural, and unadorned. Chollet was received with the distinc- tion due to a stranger of his merit. He is no longer young, and his fine tenor voice has lost somewhat of its strength and flexibility ; but in.per- sonating LOyeux, the gallant, easy, nonchalant railitaire of the old re- gime, he showed himself a consummate actor, while his singing exhibited a pure style and high finish. M. Nathan, who acted the old goatherd with great energy and effect, is not surpassed, as a bass, by anybody now on the French stage. Mademoiselle Ootti, from the Brussels Theatre, has a clear flexible voice, considerable execution, and a lively manner; and our last year's acquaintance Mademoiselle Guichard gave good effect to the part of the fermiere. Two other performers, M. Leroy and M. Lac, a baritone and a tenor, acquitted themselves respectably.

The orchestra, under the same conductor and consisting of nearly the same individuals as before, performed its functions very satisfactorily ; and the chorus was good, though scarcely equal to that oflast scum