20 JUNE 1840, Page 14


SPOHR'S celebrated opera, Jessonda, or the Rajah's Wife, was performed on Thursday for the first time in this country. We believe that this opera is considered the composer's chef d'cruvre ; and this we should con- ceive to be the ease, judging from the comparative degree of pleasure we have derived from its performance and that of Faust. Even hold- ing their musical skill to be equal, between their dramatic merits there can be no comparison. Faust is a tissue of diablerie, in which the sublimity of GOETHE is almost turned into burlesque : Jesse/As is an elegant and poetical piece, full of human interest and passion. Before engaging in the composition of Jessonda, SPOIIR seems, like Gsuctc, to have deeply pondered the philosophy of the musical drama ; the prin- ciples of which he expounded in an admirable " Address to the Com- posers of Germany," which appeared in the German journals of 182:3. In Germany, as in France, he remarked, the fate of the opera depends in a great measure on the merit of the poetry ; while in the modern Italian opera, such music as is adapted to the conceptions of the multi- tude can make even an insipid subject supportable. " But in this mode," he adds, "there are no laurels to be gathered by us : for, in the first place, we want the gift to invent those sweeter melodies and to practice those art- ful refinements of the voice which constitute the charm of that music ; and in the second place, because the whole species has already outlived itself, and seems on the eve of dissolution. Let us, therefore, adhere to our old manner." He proposes to try the experiment of giving greater variety to the German opera, by clothing the dialogue with recitative. " Yet," he judiciously adds, "I am far from wishing that dialogues upon the common occurrences of life, of which our operas contain so many examples, should be set to music ; for the sante might with equal con- sistency be done with a paragraph of a common newspaper. No; an opera, m which all is to be sung, must in the first place have it poetical action from beginning to end ; secondly, it should be so simple that a spectator, without knowing the subject, should be able to guess at the tenour of the story ; thirdly, it should be limited to a small number of characters, not exceeding five or six at the utmost. The second of these conditions is necessary, because the greater part of our singers pronounce the text in an unintelligible manner ; and the last, because very few are qualified to sing the recitative, and do justice to the peculiar expression which it requires." It appears that the drama of Jessollthi (like the Aleeste of GLucx) was written with the composer's coliperation, and for the express purpose of reducing the above principles to practice; for lie says—" The opera of Jessonda, which I have just composed, possesses (at least so I flatter myself) all the above requisites. In its representa- tion, I shall shortly be able to ascertain whether the theory which I have laid down will hold good in practice." This question was solved to his satisfaction ; for no modern opera has been more successful than Jessonda.

In conformity with SPOHR'S principles, the plot of Jessonda is very simple, and the characters are few. The scene is laid at Goa. Jes- sonda, the young widow of a deceased Rajah, is devoted, according to the Hindoo custom, to the funeral-pile of her husband. She had been forced to accept his hand, thought she had previously plighted her faith to Tristan D'Accunha, a young Portuguese officer, whom the chance of war had thrown upon these shores. Still devoted to the object of her first attachment, it is with horror and despair that she finds he;rasenlfa about to be immolated to the manes of a husband whom she had never loved. But the town is at this time besieged by the Portuguese her lover, hearing of her impending fate, scales the walls at the head of a band of faithful followers, rushes into the midst of the assembled multitude, and rescues the -victim front the hands of her sacrificers, Besides these two principal characters, there arc Amniazihi, Jessonda' sister ; Nadori, a young priest, her lover, who is instrumental in saving Jessonda by informing D'Aecunlm of her danger ; Lopez, WA ecanha's friend and confidant ; and the 1101 Priest of the Bralnains,t—benioibtrneottreo than are necessary for the development of the plot and for affording a sufficient variety of voices. There is no redundancy, its ictosnsfenosrioenis;. every thing is clear, simple, and coherent ; and, in short,of ./es.sonila is as good a model for the musical dram

for the dramatic musician.

To point oat the beauties of this opera would be to describe every scene. We take two or three passages almost at random. The ()Ves- ture, which is well known front its frequent use at ottr concerts, is a most masterly composition. It commences with the impressive and solemn theme. which is immediately afterwards heard in the first seem, representing the funeral rites of the dead Rajah. This scene contains the most exquisite choral music that can be imagined; in which the grand and masculine harmonies of the Brahmins blend with the lovely strains of the priestesses—the whole uniting in a sublime hymn to Brahma. The scene between the doomed Jessonda and her sister, in which the desolate pair mingle their tears together, cannot he heard unmoved. The young priest afterwards appears to announce to the widow her approaching death ; and this meeting between hint and the sisters fornts a most dramatic and impassioned terzetto. It commences with the message of death', delivered in a plaintive and monotonous strain, accompanied by slow and melancholy chords front the stringed instruments, broken by occasional low muffled sounds from the drum. His eyes, raised while he speaks, rest for the first time on the un- veiled features of two lovely women : new and unknown emotions rush upon his heart, which are expressed by the music with indescriba- ble beauty and effect. In the conflict of' his feelings, he tries to resume his baleful tnsk ; but at length, overcome by the charms of the sup- pliant Amazili, he resolves to shake off his !hastiest thraldom, and en- deavour to avert the fate of Jessonda. This trio, in exquisite beauty and truth of expression, has probably no superior in the whole range of the 'musical drama.

This is the first finale: the next is of a different character. Jessonda, carried in procession to a sacred spring without the city, is met by her lover and his attendants. A conflict is about to take place between the Indians and Portuguese ; but the High Priest reminds D'Accunlut that there is a truce, and a promise not to molest the sacred rite ; and the Portuguese are obliged to allow the procession to proceed. The passion and agitation of this scene—the anguish of the lovers, and the fusions cries and exclatnations of the hostile priests and soldiers—bring into action all the resources of choral and concerted music ; and are ex- pressed by it with a force, a warmth, a reality, of which no other Species of dramatic language is capable.

But we must break off, though the third act contains some of the most striking things in the opera; particalarly the seena or soliloquy of D'Accunha with which it opens, and the great recitative and air by Jessonda immediately before the concluding triumphal chorus. As a whole, .tessomia must be placed on the same level with Don Juan, Fidelio, and Earyanihe.

The opera was admirably performed. Madame SrilcaEL

FETTER, who made her ffiSlatt in the heroine, has long been one of the most brilliant stars of the German musical constellation. She is a fine woman—elegant and graceful in person, with an expressive countenance. Her action is full of intelligence, energy, and feeling. As a singer she is of' the first class. Her voice, we should imagine, has lost something of its freshness, flexibility, and compass in the upper part of the scale; but it is a fine orgam and her use of it is that of a consununate musician. Since Sett lususat-DEvatEssr we have never been so much affected by the combined agency of action and singing. POECK perffirmed the part of Tristan D'Acennita most excellently : this gentleman always rises with the greatness of the effort required of hint. Madame SCHUMANN made the character of Ansts.di sweet and interesting; and, with a thin voice, sang like a German musician. SCI13113ZER, ill Armlori, was not suffi- ciently impassioned, and sang too uniformly )(inv. The choruses were magnificent. The only drawback to the Oka was the extreme poverty of the scenery and decorations,—a serious evil in a piece which de- mands a great deal of gorgeous spectacle. The present week has been prolific in novelties at this theatre. On Wednesday, Der Templer mind die Jinlin,by MARSCHNER, was produced. MmtscoxErt is a composer of the second class, such as LINDPAINTNER, ltr:r17, Elt, ',MAIN ER, LOWE, and lkilm,—excellent artists and sound musicians, but not largely gifted with the mans diviniur winch is essential to greatness. Der ?wiggler was written several years after Jessolaht; but the author seems to have paid little regard to the counsels which Smolt had bestowed on his brother composers, as MARSCHNER'S opera is in complete contravention of the principles which Jesscenkt so beau- tifully illustrates. The subject is front Scores Iran/we; and the dra- matist, in trying to take as large a grasp as possible of the incidents of the romance, has produced a mass of incoherence and confusion. The dramatis persona., too, are so numerous, that the consequence deprecated by SPOHR has arisen—no operatic company is strong enough to do justice to one half of them. With all this, however, the opera, though not of the highest order, is of great merit. It is defective in elegance and grace ; but some of the stirs (especially Friar Tuck's song in the jollification-scene with the Black Knight, admirably sttng by Poses.), are spirited and vigorous. Several of the choruses and concerted pieces are excellent; and the orchestral writing is masterly, though the score is too uniformly elaborate and full. For the reason just given, the per- formance was not so satisfactory as that of some of the other German operas : but the piece, performed as it is, is well worth seeing and hearing.