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Before The Curtain
Of The Barytone
Of The Opera In The Concrete
Of The Prima Donna
Of The Primo Basso
Of The Suggeritore Or Prompter
Of The Tenore
The Opera In The Abstract

Physiology Of The Opera

Of The Suggeritore Or Prompter

"There never was a man so notoriously abused.


"But whispering words can poison truth."


We should be much grieved were we to let a chance of immortality at our
hands go by, for our great friend the prompter--the suggeritore of the
Italians. The prompter is to the opera, what the fifth wheel is to a
wagon; everything rubs, grates and abrades it, yet the whole concern
turns on it. He is the most abused (not hated--that is reserved for the
Impresario,) man in the company. But he does not care for it. That is
what he is hired for. He is paid to be of a good temper, and he does it.
He returns docility for dollars; and suavity for salary. He is the true
philosopher; just enough in the company to be part of it, and
sufficiently detached to avoid all the squabbles and bickerings. He,
however, is the victim of all the caprices of the company, from the
prima donna, who in a miff kicks about his partition in a very piano
cavatina, to each of the bandy-legged choristers. True, he has his
little revenge. This he accomplishes by using his voice too much and too
loudly in the sotto voce parts, so that all the duos become trios and
the quintettes, choruses. This is little enough to sweeten the
embitterments of a suggeritore's life, but such it is, and he is
contented. The suggeritore must be a thin man. It does not require a
Paxton to know that a hole in the stage two feet square, will not hold
Barnum's obesities. He must also be short and supple-necked, to allow
the green fungus which excresces from the stage to cover him; and he
must be the fortunate owner of a right arm as untiring as a locomotive
crank or the sails of a windmill. It is a prevalent but mistaken idea,
that the prompter is an impolite man; we happen to know that it is a
matter of the deepest concern with him to be obliged to sit with his
back to the audience. But he is like the angels and St. Cecilia, "Il
n'avait pas de quoi" to do otherwise. Operas must be, Singers must
have, a lead horse--(N. B. How can delicate females and tenors be
expected to recollect "les paroles;")--and there he is, with a little
hole in the back of his calash for the leader of the orchestra to stir
him up when the excitement becomes very strong, and the time is
irrecoverably lost. As to the social habits of the suggeritore, the
naturalist is at a loss, for he immediately disappears after rehearsal,
and remains in close retirement till the performance, after which he is
again lost till the next day.

Next: Before The Curtain

Previous: Of The Barytone

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