Donizetti And Bellini





Sigismondi, the librarian of the Neapolitan Conservatory, had a horror

of Rossini's music, and took care that all his printed works in the

library should be placed beyond the reach of the young and innocent

pupils. He was determined to preserve them, as far as possible, from the

corrupt but seductive influence of this composer's brilliant,

extravagant, meretricious style. But Donizetti, who at this time was

studying at Naples, had heard several of the proscribed operas, and was

most anxious to examine, on the music paper, the causes of the effects

which had so delighted his ear at the theatre. The desired scores were

on the highest shelf of the library; and the careful, conscientious

librarian had removed the ladder by means of which alone it seemed

possible to get to them.



[Sidenote: DONIZETTI AND ROSSINI.]



Donizetti stood watching the shelves which held the operas of Rossini

like a cat before a bird cage; but the ladder was locked up, and the key

in safe keeping in Sigismondi's pocket. Under a northern climate, the

proper mode of action for Donizetti would have been to invite the jailor

to a banquet, ply him with wine, and rob him of his keys as soon as he

had reached a sufficiently advanced state of intoxication. Being in

Italy, Donizetti should have made love to Sigismondi's daughter, and

persuaded her to steal the keys from the old man during his mid-day

siesta. Perhaps, however, Sigismondi was childless, or his family may

have consisted only of sons; in any case, the young musician adopted

neither of the schemes, by combining which the troubadour Blondel was

enabled to release from captivity his adored Richard.[99] He resorted to

a means which, if not wonderfully ingenious, was at least to the point,

and which promised to be successful. He climbed, monkey-like, or

cat-like, not to abandon our former simile, to the top shelf, and had

his claws on the Barber of Seville, when who should enter the library

but Sigismondi.



The old man was fairly shocked at this perversity on the part of Gaetan

Donizetti, reputed the best behaved student of the Academy. His morals

would be corrupted, his young blood poisoned!--but fortunately the

librarian had arrived in time, and he might yet be saved.



Donizetti sprang to the ground with his prey--the full score of the

Barber of Seville--in his clutches. He was about to devour it, when a

hand touched him on the shoulder: he turned round, and before him stood

the austere Sigismondi.



The old librarian spoke to Gaetan as to a son; appealed to his sense of

propriety, his honour, his conscience; and asked him, almost with tears

in his eyes, how he could so far forget himself as to come secretly into

the library to read forbidden books--and Rossini's above all? He pointed

out the terrible effects of the course upon which the youthful Donizetti

had so nearly entered; reminded him that one brass instrument led to

another; and that when once he had given himself up to violent

orchestration, there was no saying where he would stop.



[Sidenote: DONIZETTI AND ROSSINI.]



Donizetti could not or would not argue with the venerable and determined

Sigismondi. At least, he did not oppose him; but he inquired whether, as

a lesson in cacophony, it was not worth while just to look at Rossini's

notorious productions. He reminded his stern adviser, that he had

already studied good models under Mayer, Pilotti, and Mattei, and that

it was natural he should now wish to complete his musical education, by

learning what to avoid. He quoted the well known case of the Spartans

and their Helots; inquired, with some emotion, whether the frightful

example of Rossini was not sufficient to deter any well meaning

composer, with a little strength of character, from following in his

unholy path; and finally declared, with undisguised indignation, that

Rossini ought to be made the object of a serious study, so that once for

all his musical iniquities might be exposed and his name rendered a

bye-word among the lovers and cultivators of pure, unsophisticated art!



"Come to my arms, Gaetano," cried Sigismondi, much moved. "I can refuse

nothing to a young man like you, now that I know your excellent

intentions. A musician, who is imbued with the true principles of his

art, may look upon the picture of Rossini's depravity not only without

danger, but with positive advantage. Some it might weaken and

destroy;--you it can only fortify and uphold. Let us open these

monstrous scores; their buffooneries may amuse us for an hour.



"Il Barbiere di Siviglia! I have not much to say about that,"

commenced Sigismondi. "It is a trifle; besides, full justice was done to

it at Rome. The notion of re-setting one of the master-pieces of the

great Paisiello,--what audacity! No wonder it was hissed!"



"Under Paisiello's direction," suggested Donizetti.



"All a calumny, my young friend; pure calumny, I can assure you. There

are so many Don Basilios in the musical world! Rossini's music was

hissed because it was bad and because it recalled to the public

Paisiello's, which was good." "But I have heard," rejoined Donizetti,

"that at the second representation there was a great deal of applause,

and that the enthusiasm of the audience at last reached such a point,

that they honoured Rossini with a torch-light procession and conducted

him home in triumph."



"An invention of the newspapers," replied Sigismondi; "I believe there

was a certain clique present prepared to support the composer through

everything, but the public had already expressed its opinion. Never mind

this musical burlesque, and let us take a glance at one of Rossini's

serious operas."



Donizetti wished for nothing better. This time he had no occasion to

scale the shelf in his former feline style. The librarian produced the

key of the mysterious closet in which the ladder was kept. The young

musician ran up to the Rossini shelf like a lamp-lighter and brought

down with him not one but half-a-dozen volumes.



"Too many, too many," said Sigismondi, "one would have been quite

enough. Well, let us open Otello."



In the score which the old and young musician proposed to examine

together, the three trombone parts, according to the Italian custom,

were written on one and the same staff, thus 1º, 2º, 3º tromboni.

Sigismondi began his lecture on the enormities of Rossini as displayed

in Otello by reading the list of the instruments employed.



"Flutes, two flutes; well there is not much harm in that. No one will

hear them; only, with diabolical perfidy, one of these modern flutists

will be sure to take a piccolo and pierce all sensitive ears with his

shrill whistling.



"Hautboys, two hautboys; also good. Here Rossini follows the old

school. I say nothing against his two hautboys; indeed, I quite approve

of them.



[Sidenote: DONIZETTI AND ROSSINI.]



"Clarionets! a barbarous invention, which the Tedeschi might have

kept them for themselves. They may be very good pipes for calling cows,

but should be used for nothing else.



"Bassoons; useless instruments, or nearly so. Our good masters

employed them for strengthening the bass; but now the bassoon has

acquired such importance, that solos are written for it. This is also a

German innovation. Mozart would have done well to have left the bassoon

in its original obscurity.



"1st and 2nd Horns; very good. Horns and hautboys combine admirably. I

say nothing against Rossini's horns.



"3rd and 4th Horns! How many horns does the man want? Quattro Corni,

Corpo di Bacco! The greatest of our composers have always been

contented with two. Shades of Pergolese, of Leo, of Jomelli! How they

must shudder at the bare mention of such a thing. Four horns! Are we at

a hunting party? Four horns! Enough to blow us to perdition."



The indignation and rage of the old musician went on increasing as he

followed the gradual development of a crescendo until he arrived at

the explosion of the fortissimo. Then Sigismondi uttered a cry of

despair, struck the score violently with his fist, upset the table which

the imprudent Donizetti had loaded with the nefarious productions of

Rossini, raised his hands to heaven and rushed from the room,

exclaiming, "a hundred and twenty-three trombones! A hundred and

twenty-three trombones!"



Donizetti followed the performer and endeavoured to explain the mistake.



"Not 123 trombones, but 1st, 2nd, 3rd trombones," he gently observed.

Sigismondi however, would not hear another word, and disappeared from

the library crying "a hundred and twenty-three trombones," to the last.



Donizetti came back, lifted up the table, placed the scores upon it and

examined them in peace. He then, in his turn, concealed them so that he

might be able another time to find them whenever he pleased without

clambering up walls or intriguing to get possession of ladders.



[Sidenote: ANNA BOLENA.]



The inquiring student of the Conservatory of Naples was born, in 1798,

at Bergamo, and when he was seventeen years of age was put to study

under Mayer, who, before the appearance of Rossini, shared with Paer the

honour of being the most popular composer of the day. His first opera

Enrico di Borgogna was produced at Venice in 1818, and obtained so

much success that the composer was entrusted with another commission for

the same city in the following year. After writing an opera for Mantua

in 1819 Il Falegname di Livonia, Donizetti visited Rome, where his

Zoraide di Granata procured him an exemption from the conscription and

the honour of being carried in triumph and crowned at the Capitol.

Hitherto he may be said to have owed his success chiefly to his skilful

imitation of Rossini's style, and it was not until 1830, when Anna

Bolena was produced at Milan (and when, curiously enough, Rossini had

just written his last opera), that he exhibited any striking signs of

original talent. This work, which is generally regarded as Donizetti's

master-piece, or at least was some time ago (for of late years no one

has had an opportunity of hearing it), was composed for Pasta and

Rubini, and was first represented for Pasta's benefit in 1831. It was in

this opera that Lablache gained his first great triumph in London.



Donizetti visited Paris in 1835, and there produced his Marino

Faliero, which contains several spirited and characteristic pieces,

such as the opening chorus of workmen in the Arsenal and the gondolier

chorus at the commencement of the second act. The charming Elisir

d'Amore, the most graceful, melodious, moreover the most

characteristic, and in many respects the best of all Donizetti's works,

was written for Milan in 1832. In this work Signor Mario made his

re-appearance at the Italian Opera of Paris in 1839; he had previously

sung for some time at the Académie Royale in Robert and other operas.



Lucia di Lammermoor, Donizetti's most popular opera, containing some

of the most beautiful melodies in the sentimental style that he has

composed, and altogether his best finale, was produced at Naples in

1835. The part of "Edgardo" was composed specially for Duprez, that of

"Lucia" for Persiani.



The pretty little opera or operetta entitled Il Campanello di Notte

was written under very interesting circumstances to save a little

Neapolitan theatre from ruin. Donizetti heard that the establishment was

in a failing condition, and that the performers were without money and

in great distress. He sought them out, supplied their immediate wants,

and one of the singers happening to say that if Donizetti would give

them a new opera, their fortunes would be made: "As to that," replied

the Maestro, "you shall have one within a week." To begin with, a

libretto was necessary, but none was to be had. The composer, however,

possessed considerable literary talent, and recollecting a vaudeville

which he had seen some years before in Paris, called La Sonnette de

Nuit, he took that for his subject, re-arranged it in an operatic form,

and in nine days the libretto was written, the music composed, the parts

learnt, the opera performed, and the theatre saved. It would have been

difficult to have given a greater proof of generosity, and of fertility

and versatility of talent. I may here mention that Donizetti designed,

and wrote the words, as well as the music of the last act of the

Lucia; that the last act of La Favorite was also an afterthought of

his; and that he himself translated into Italian the libretti of Betly

and La Fille du Regiment.



[Sidenote: VICTOR HUGO AT THE OPERA.]



When Lucrezia Borgia (written for Milan in 1834) was produced in

Paris, in 1840, Victor Hugo, the author of the admirable tragedy on

which it is founded, contested the right of the Italian librettists, to

borrow their plots from French dramas; maintaining that the

representation of such libretti in France constituted an infringement of

the French dramatists' "droits d'auteur." He gained his action, and

Lucrezia Borgia became, at the Italian Opera of Paris, La Rinegata,

the Italians at the court of Pope Alexander the Sixth being

metamorphosed into Turks. A French version of Lucrezia Borgia was

prepared for the provinces, and entitled Nizza di Grenada.



[Sidenote: AUTHORS' RIGHTS.]



A year or two afterwards, Verdi's Hernani experienced the same fate at

the Théâtre Italien as Lucrezia Borgia. Then the original authors of

La Pie Voleuse, La Grace de Dieu, &c., followed Victor Hugo's

example, and objected to the performance of La Gazza Ladra and Linda

di Chamouni, &c. Finally, an arrangement was made, and at present

exists, by which Italian operas founded on French dramas may be

performed in Paris on condition of an indemnity being paid to the French

dramatists. Marsolier, the author of the Opéra Comique, entitled Nina,

ou la Folle par Amour, set to music by Dalayrac, had applied for an

injunction twenty-three years before, to prevent the representation of

Paisiello's Nina, in Paris; but the Italian disappeared before the

question was tried. The principle, however, of an author's right of

property in a work, or any portion of a work, had been established

nearly two centuries before. In a "privilege" granted to St. Amant in

1653, for the publication of his Moise Sauvé, it is expressly

forbidden to extract from that "epic poem" subjects for novels and

plays. These cautions proved unnecessary, as the work so strictly

protected contained no available materials for plays, novels, or any

other species of literary composition, including even "epic poems;" but



Moise Sauvé has nevertheless been the salvation of several French

authors whose property might otherwise have been trespassed upon to a

considerable extent. Nevertheless, the principle of an author's sole,

inalienable interest in the incidents he may have invented or combined,

without reference to the new form in which they may be presented,

cannot, as a matter of course, be entertained anywhere; but the system

of "author's rights" so energetically fought for and conquered by

Beaumarchais has a very wide application in France, and only the other

day it was decided that the translators and arrangers of Le Nozze di

Figaro, for the Théâtre Lyrique must share their receipts with the

descendants and heirs of the author of Le Mariage de Figaro. It will

appear monstrous to many persons in England who cannot conceive of

property otherwise than of a material, palpable kind, that

Beaumarchais's representatives should enjoy any interest in a work

produced three-quarters of a century ago; but as his literary

productions possess an actual, easily attainable value, it would be

difficult to say who ought to profit by it, if not those who, under any

system of laws, would benefit by whatever other possessions he might

have left. It may be a slight advantage to society, in an almost

inappreciable degree, that "author's rights" should cease after a

certain period; but, if so, the same principle ought to be applied to

other forms of created value. The case was well put by M. de Vigny, in

the "Revue des Deux Mondes," in advocating the claims of a

grand-daughter, or great grand-daughter of Sedaine. He pointed out, that

if the dramatist in question, who was originally an architect, had built

a palace, and it had lasted until the present day, no one would have

denied that it descended naturally to his heirs; and that as, instead of

building in stone, he devoted himself to the construction of operas and

plays, the results of his talent and industry ought equally to be

regarded as the inalienable property of his descendants.



[Sidenote: LA FAVORITE.]



But to return to Lucrezia Borgia, which, with Lucia and La

Favorite, may be ranked amongst the most successful of Donizetti's

productions. The favour with which Lucrezia is received by audiences

of all kinds may be explained, in addition to the merit of much of the

music, by the manner in which the principal parts are distributed, so

that the cast, to be efficient, must always include four leading

singers, each of whom has been well-provided for by the composer. It

contains less recitative than any of Rossini's operas--a great

advantage, from a popular point of view, it having been shown by

experience that the public of the present day do not care for recitative

(especially when they do not understand a word of it), but like to pass

as quickly as possible from one musical piece to another. From an

artistic point of view the shortness of Donizetti's recitatives is not

at all to be regretted, for the simple reason that he has never written

any at all comparable to those of Rossini, whose dramatic genius he was

far from possessing. The most striking situation in the drama, a

thoroughly musical situation of which a great composer, or even an

energetic, passionate, melo-dramatic composer, like Verdi, would have

made a great deal, is quite lost in the hands of Donizetti. The

Brindisi is undeniably pretty, and was never considered vulgar until

it had been vulgarised. But Donizetti has shown no dramatic power in the

general arrangement of the principal scene, and the manner in which the

drinking song is interrupted by the funeral chorus, has rather a

disagreeable, than a terrible or a solemn effect. The finale to the

first act, or "prologue," is finely treated, but "Gennaro's" dying scene

and song, is the most dramatic portion of the work, which it ought to

terminate, but unfortunately does not. I think it might be shown that

Lucrezia marks the distance about half way between the style of

Rossini and that of Verdi. Not that it is so much inferior to the works

of the former, or so much superior to those of the latter; but that

among Donizetti's later operas, portions of Maria di Rohan (Vienna,

1843), might almost have been written by the composer of Rigoletto;

whereas, the resemblance for good or for bad, between these two

musicians, of the decadence, is not nearly so remarkable, if we compare

Lucrezia Borgia with one of Verdi's works. Still, in Lucrezia we

already notice that but little space is accorded to recitative, which

in the Trovatore finds next to none; we meet with choruses written in

the manner afterwards adopted by Verdi, and persisted in by him to the

exclusion of all other modes; while as regards melody, we should

certainly rather class the tenor's air in I Lombardi with that in

Lucrezia Borgia, than the latter with any air ever composed by

Rossini.



When Donizetti revisited Paris in 1840, he produced in succession I

Martiri (the work written for Nourrit and objected to by the Neapolitan

censorship), La Fille du Regiment, written for the Opéra Comique, and

La Favorite, composed in the first instance for the Théâtre de la

Renaissance, but re-arranged for the Académie, when the brief existence

of the Théâtre de la Renaissance had come to an end. As long as it

lasted, this establishment, opened for the representation of foreign

operas in the French language, owed its passing prosperity entirely to a

French version of the Lucia.



Jenny Lind, Sontag, Alboni, have all appeared in La Figlia del

Reggimento with great success; but when this work was first produced in

Paris, with Madame Thillon in the principal part, it was not received

with any remarkable favour. It is full of smooth, melodious, and highly

animated music, but is, perhaps, wanting in that piquancy of which the

French are such great admirers, and which rendered the duet for the

vivandières, in Meyerbeer's Etoile du Nord, so much to their taste.

L'Ange de Nigida, converted into La Favorite (and founded in the

first instance on a French drama, Le Comte de Commingues) was brought

out at the Académie, without any expense in scenery and "getting up,"

and achieved a decided success. This was owing partly to the pretty

choral airs at the commencement, partly to the baritone's cavatina

(admirably sung by Barroilhet, who made his début in the part of

"Alphonse"); but, above all, to the fourth act, with its beautiful

melody for the tenor, and its highly dramatic scene for the tenor and

soprano, including a final duet, which, if not essentially dramatic in

itself, occurs at least in a most dramatic situation.



The whole of the fourth act of La Favorite, except the cavatina, Ange

si pur, which originally belonged to the Duc d'Albe, and the andante

of the duet, which was added at the rehearsals, was written in three

hours. Donizetti had been dining at the house of a friend, who was

engaged in the evening to go to a party. On leaving the house, the host,

after many apologies for absenting himself, intreated Donizetti to

remain, and finish his coffee, which Donizetti, being inordinately fond

of that stimulant, took care to do. He asked at the same time for some

music paper, began his fourth act, and finding himself in the vein for

composition, went on writing until he had completed it. He had just put

the final stroke to the celebrated "Viens dans une autre patrie," when

his friend returned, at one in the morning, and congratulated him on the

excellent manner in which he had employed his time.



[Sidenote: L'ELISIR D'AMORE.]



After visiting Rome, Milan, and Vienna, for which last city he wrote

Linda di Chamouni, Donizetti returned to Paris, and in 1843 composed

Don Pasquale for the Théâtre Italien, and Don Sebastien for the

Académie. The lugubrious drama to which the music of Don Sebastien is

wedded, proved fatal to its success. On the other hand, the brilliant

gaiety of Don Pasquale, rendered doubly attractive by the admirable

execution of Grisi, Mario, Tamburini, and Lablache, delighted all who

heard it. The pure musical beauty of the serenade, and of the quartett,

one of the finest pieces of concerted music Donizetti ever wrote, were

even more admired than the lively animated dialogue-scenes, which are in

Donizetti's very best style; and the two pieces just specified, as well

as the baritone's cavatina, Bella siccome un angelo, aided the general

success of the work, not only by their own intrinsic merit, but also by

the contrast they present to the comic conversational music, and the

buffo airs of the bass. The music of Don Pasquale is probably the

cleverest Donizetti ever wrote; but it wants the charm which belongs

to that of his Elisir d'Amore, around which a certain sentiment, a

certain atmosphere of rustic poetry seems to hang, especially when we

are listening to the music of "Nemorino" or "Norina." Even the comic

portions in the Elisir are full of grace, as for instance, the

admirable duet between "Norina" and "Dulcamara;" and the whole work

possesses what is called "colour," that is to say, each character is

well painted by the music, which, moreover, is always appropriate to

the general scene. To look for "colour," or for any kind of poetry in a

modern drawing-room piece of intrigue, like Don Pasquale, with the

notaries of real life, and with lovers in black coats, would be absurd.

I may mention that the libretto of Don Pasquale is a re-arrangement of

Pavesi's Ser Marcantonio (was "Ser" Marcantonio an Englishman?)

produced in 1813.



[Sidenote: DONIZETTI'S REPERTOIRE.]



In the same year that Donizetti brought out Don Pasquale in Paris, he

produced Maria di Rohan at Vienna. The latter work contains an

admirable part for the baritone, which has given Ronconi the opportunity

of showing that he is not only an excellent buffo, but is also one of

the finest tragic actors on the stage. The music of Maria di Rohan is

highly dramatic: that is to say, very appropriate to the various

personages, and to the great "situations" of the piece. In pourtraying

the rage of the jealous husband, the composer exhibits all that

earnestness and vigour for which Verdi has since been praised--somewhat

sparingly, it is true, but praised nevertheless by his admirers. The

contralto part, on the other hand, is treated with remarkable elegance,

and contains more graceful melodies than Verdi is in the habit of

composing. I do not say that Donizetti is in all respects superior to

Verdi; indeed, it seems to me that he has not produced any one opera so

thoroughly dramatic as Rigoletto; but as Donizetti and Verdi are

sometimes contrasted, and as it was the fashion during Donizetti's

lifetime, to speak of his music as light and frivolous, I wish to

remark that in one of his latest operas he wrote several scenes, which,

if written by Verdi, would be said to be in that composer's best style.



Donizetti's last opera, Catarina Comaro, was produced in Naples in the

year 1844. This was his sixty-third dramatic work, counting those only

which have been represented. There are still two operas of Donizetti's

in existence, which the public have not heard. One, a piece in one act,

composed for the Opéra Comique, and which is said every now and then to

be on the point of being performed; the other, Le Duc d'Albe, which,

as before-mentioned, was written for the Académie Royale, on one of the

two libretti returned by Rossini to Scribe, after the composer of

William Tell came to his mysterious resolution of retiring from

operatic life.



Of Donizetti's sixty-three operas, about two-thirds are quite unknown to

England, and of the nine or ten which may still be said to keep the

stage, the earliest produced, Anna Bolena, is the composer's

thirty-second work. Anna Bolena, L'Elisir d'Amore, Lucrezia

Borgia, Lucia di Lammermoor, and Roberto Devereux, are included

between the numbers 31 and 52, while between the numbers 53 and 62, La

Fille du Regiment, La Favorite, Linda di Chamouni, Don Pasquale,

and Maria di Rohan, are found. The first five of Donizetti's most

popular operas, were produced between the years 1830 and 1840; the last

five between the years 1840 and 1844. Donizetti appears, then, to have

produced his best serious operas during the middle period of his

career--unless it be considered that La Favorite, Linda di Chamouni,

and Maria di Rohan, are superior to Anna Bolena, Lucrezia Borgia,

and Lucia di Lammermoor; and to the same epoch belongs L'Elisir

d'Amore, which in my opinion is the freshest, most graceful, and most

melodious of his comic operas, though some may prefer La Fille du

Regiment or Don Pasquale, both full of spirit and animation.



It is also tolerably clear, from an examination of Donizetti's works in

the order in which they were produced, that during the last four or five

years of his artistic life he produced more than his average number of

operas, possessing such merit that they have taken their place in the

repertoires of the principal opera houses of Europe. Donizetti had lost

nothing either in fertility or in power, while he appeared in some

respects to be modifying and improving his style. Thus, in the Swiss

opera of Linda di Chamouni (Vienna, 1842), we find, especially in the

music of the contralto part, a considerable amount of local colour--an

important dramatic element which Donizetti had previously overlooked,

or, at least, had not turned to any account; while Maria di Rohan

contains the best dramatic music of a passionate kind that Donizetti has

ever written.



[Sidenote: DONIZETTI'S DEATH.]



In composing, Donizetti made no use of the pianoforte, and wrote, as may

be imagined, with great rapidity, never stopping to make a correction,

though he is celebrated among the modern Italian composers for the

accuracy of his style. Curiously enough, he never went to work without

having a small ivory scraper by his side; and any one who has studied

intellectual peculiarities will understand, that once wanting this

instrument, he might have felt it necessary to scratch out notes and

passages every minute. Mr. J. Wrey Mould, in his interesting "memoir,"

tells us that this ivory scraper was given to Donizetti by his father

when he consented, after a long and strenuous opposition, to his

becoming a musician. An unfilial son might have looked upon the present

as not conveying the highest possible compliment that could be paid him.

The old gentleman, however, was quite right in impressing upon the

bearer of his name, that having once resolved to be a composer, he had

better make up his mind to produce as little rubbish as possible.



The first signs of the dreadful malady to which Donizetti ultimately

succumbed, manifested themselves during his last visit to Paris, in

1845. Fits of absence of mind, followed by hallucinations and all the

symptoms of mental derangement followed one another rapidly, and with

increasing intensity. In January, 1846, it was found necessary to place

the unfortunate composer in an asylum at Ivry, and in the autumn of

1847, his medical advisers recommended as a final experiment, that he

should be removed to Bergamo, in the hope that the air and scenes of his

birth-place would have a favourable influence in dispelling, or, at

least, diminishing the profound melancholy to which he was now subject.

During his journey, however, he was attacked by paralysis, and his

illness assumed a desperate and incurable character.



Donizetti was received at Bergamo by the Maestro Dolci, one of his

dearest friends. Here paralysis again attacked him, and a few days

afterwards, on the 8th of April, 1848, he expired, in his fifty-second

year, having, during the twenty-seven years of his life, as a composer,

written sixty-four operas; several masses and vesper services; and

innumerable pieces of chamber music, including, besides arias,

cavatinas, and vocal concerted pieces, a dozen quartetts for stringed

instruments, a series of songs and duets, entitled Les soirées du

Pausilippe, a cantata entitled la Morte d'Ugolino, &c., &c.



Antoine, Donizetti's attendant at Ivry, became much attached to him, and

followed him to Bergamo, whence he forwarded to M. Adolphe Adam, a

letter describing his illustrious patient's last moments, and the public

honours paid to his memory at the funeral.



[Sidenote: DONIZETTI'S DEATH.]



"More than four thousand persons," he relates, "were present at the

ceremony. The procession was composed of the numerous clergy of Bergamo;

the most illustrious members of the community and its environs, and of

the civic guard of the town and suburbs. The discharges of musketry,

mingled with the light of three or four hundred large torches,

presented a fine effect--the whole was enhanced by the presence of

three military bands, and the most propitious weather it was possible to

behold. The service commenced at ten o'clock in the morning, and did not

conclude until half-past two. The young gentlemen of Bergamo insisted on

bearing the remains of their illustrious fellow-citizen, although the

cemetery in which they finally rested lay at a distance of a

league-and-a-half from the town. The road there was crowded along its

whole length by people who came from the surrounding country to witness

the procession--and, to give due praise to the inhabitants of Bergamo,

never, hitherto, had such great honours been bestowed upon any member of

that city."



* * * * *



Bellini, who was Donizetti's contemporary, but who was born nine years

after him, and died thirteen years before, was a native of Sicily. His

father was an organist at Catania, and under him the future composer of

Norma and La Sonnambula, took his first lessons in music. A Sicilian

nobleman, struck by the signs of genius which young Bellini evinced at

an early age, persuaded his father to send him to Naples, supporting his

arguments with an offer to pay his expenses at the celebrated

Conservatorio. Here one of Bellini's fellow pupils was Mercadante, the

future composer of Il Giuramento, an opera which, in spite of the

frequent attempts of the Italian singers to familiarize the English

public with its numerous beauties, has never been much liked in this

country. I do not say that it has not been justly appreciated on the

whole, but that the grace of some of the melodies, the acknowledged

merit of the orchestration and the elegance and distinction which seem

to me to characterize the composer's style generally, have not been

accepted as compensating for his want of passion and of that spontaneity

without which the expression of strong emotion of any kind is naturally

impossible. Mercadante could never have written Rigoletto, but,

probably, a composer of inferior natural gifts to Verdi might, with a

taste for study and a determination to bring his talent to perfection,

have produced a work of equal artistic merit to Il Giuramento. And

here we must take leave of Mercadante, whose place in the history of the

opera is not a considerable one, and who, to the majority of English

amateurs, is known only by his Bella adorata, a melody of which Verdi

has shown his estimation by borrowing it, diluting it, and re-arranging

it with a new accompaniment for the tenor's song in Luisa Miller.



[Sidenote: RUBINI.]



I should think Mercadante must have written better exercises, and passed

better examinations at the Conservatorio than his young friend Bellini,

though the latter must have begun at an earlier age to compose operas.

Bellini's first dramatic work was written and performed while he was

still a student. Encouraged by its success, he next composed music to a

libretto already "set" by Generali, and entitled Adelson e Salvino.

Adelson was represented before the illustrious Barbaja, who was at

that time manager of the two most celebrated theatres in Italy, the St.

Carlo at Naples, and La Scala at Milan,--as well as of the Italian opera

at Vienna, to say nothing of some smaller operatic establishments also

under his rule. The great impresario, struck by Bellini's promise,

commissioned him to write an opera for Naples, and, in 1826, his Bianca

e Fernando was produced at the St. Carlo. This work was so far

successful, that it obtained a considerable amount of applause from the

public, while it inspired Barbaja with so much confidence that he

entrusted the young composer, now twenty years of age, with the libretto

of il Pirata, to be composed for La Scala. The tenor part was written

specially for Rubini, who retired into the country with Bellini, and

studied, as they were produced, the simple, touching airs which he

afterwards delivered on the stage with such admirable expression.



Il Pirata was received with enthusiasm by the audiences of La Scala,

and the composer was requested to write another work for the same

theatre. La Straniera was brought out at Milan in 1828, the principal

parts being entrusted to Donzelli, Tamburini, and Madame Tosi. This,

Bellini's third work, appears, on the whole, to have maintained, but

scarcely to have advanced, his reputation. Nevertheless, when it was

represented in London soon after its original production, it was by no

means so favourably received as Il Pirato had been.



Bellini's Zaira, executed at Parma, in 1829, was a failure--soon,

however, to be redeemed by his fifth work, Il Capuletti ed i

Montecchi, which was written for Venice, and was received with all

possible expressions of approbation. In London, the new operatic version

of Romeo and Juliet was not particularly admired, and owed what

success it obtained entirely to the acting and singing of Madame Pasta

in the principal part. It may be mentioned that the libretto of

Bellini's I Montecchi had already served his master, Zingarelli, for

his opera of Romeo e Julietta.



[Sidenote: LA SONNAMBULA.]



The time had now arrived at which Bellini was to produce his

master-pieces, La Sonnambula and Norma; the former of which was

written for La Scala, in 1831, the latter, for the same theatre, in

the year following. The success of La Sonnambula has been great

everywhere, but nowhere so great as in England, where it has been

performed in English and in Italian, oftener than any other two or

perhaps three operas, while probably no songs, certainly no songs by a

foreign composer, were ever sold in such large numbers as All is lost

and Do not mingle. The libretto of La Sonnambula, by Romani, is one

of the most interesting and touching, and one of the best suited for

musical illustration in the whole répertoire of libretti. To the

late M. Scribe, belongs the merit of having invented the charming story

on which Romani's and Bellini's opera is founded; and it is worthy of

remark that he had already presented it in two different dramatic forms

before any one was struck with its capabilities for musical treatment. A

thoroughly, essentially, dramatic story can be presented on the stage in

any and every form; with music, with dialogue, or with nothing but dumb

action. Tried by this test, the plots of a great number of merely well

written comedies would prove worthless; and so in substance they are. On

the other hand, the vaudeville of La Somnambula, became, as

re-arranged by M. Scribe, the ballet of La Somnambule, (one of the

prettiest, by the way, from a choregraphic point of view ever produced);

which, in the hands of Romani, became the libretto of an opera; which

again, vulgarly treated, has been made into a burlesque; and, loftily

treated, might be changed (I will not say elevated, for the operatic

form is poetical enough), into a tragedy.



The beauties of La Sonnambula, so full of pure melody and of emotional

music, of the most simple and touching kind, can be appreciated by every

one; by the most learned musician and the most untutored amateur, or

rather let us say by any play-goer, who, not having been born deaf to

the voice of music, hears an opera for the first time in his life. It

was given, however, to an English critic, to listen to this opera, as

natural and as unmistakably beautiful as a bed of wild flowers, through



a special ear-trumpet of his own; and in number 197 of the most

widely-circulated of our literary journals, the following remarks on

La Sonnambula appeared. With the exception of one or two pretty

motivi, exquisitely given by Pasta and Rubini, the music is sometimes

scarcely on a level with that of Il Pirata, and often sinks below it;

there is a general thinness and want of effect in the instrumentation

not calculated to make us overlook the other defects of this

composition, which, in our humble judgment, are compensated by no

redeeming beauties. Bellini has soared too high; there is nothing of

grandeur, no touch of true pathos in the common place workings of his

mind. He cannot reach the Opera semi-seria; he should confine his

powers to the lowest walk of the musical drama, the one act Opera

buffa."



Equally ill fared Norma at the hands of another musical critic to

whose "reminiscences" I have often had to refer, but who tells us that

he did not hear the work in question himself. He speaks of it simply as

a production of which the scene is laid in Wales, and adds that "it

was not liked."



Yet Norma has been a good deal liked since its first production at

Milan, now nearly thirty years ago; and from Madame Pasta's first to

Madame Grisi's last appearance in the principal part, no great singer

with any pretension to tragic power has considered her claims fully

recognised until she has succeeded in the part of the Druid priestess.



[Sidenote: I PURITANI.]



Beatrice di Tenda, Bellini's next opera after Norma, cannot be

reckoned among his best works. It was written for Venice, in 1833, and

was performed in England for the first time, in 1836. It met with no

very great success in Italy or elsewhere.



In 1834, Bellini went to Paris, having been requested to write an opera

for the excellent Théâtre Italien of that capital. The company at the

period in question, included Grisi, Rubini, Tamburini and Lablache, all

of whom were provided with parts in the new work. I Puritani, was

played for the first time in London, for Grisi's benefit, in 1835, and

with precisely the same distribution of characters as in Paris. The

"Puritani Season" is still remembered by old habitués, as one of the

most brilliant of these latter days. Rubini's romance in the first act

A te o cara, Grisi's Polonaise, Son vergin vezzosa and the grand

duet for Tamburini and Lablache, produced the greatest enthusiasm in all

our musical circles, and the last movement of the duet was treated by

"arrangers" for the piano, in every possible form. This is the movement,

(destined, too soon, to find favour in the eyes of omnibus conductors,

and all the worst amateurs of the cornet), of which Rossini wrote from

Paris to a friend at Milan; "I need not describe the duet for the two

basses, you must have heard it where you are."



I Puritani was Bellini's last opera. The season after its production

he retired to the house of a Mr. Lewis at Puteaux, and there, while

studying his art with an ardour which never deserted him, was attacked

by a fatal illness. "From his youth up," says Mr. J. W. Mould, in his

interesting "Memoir of Bellini;" "Vincenzo's eagerness in his art was

such as to keep him at the piano day and night, till he was obliged

forcibly to leave it. The ruling passion accompanied him through his

short life, and by the assiduity with which he pursued it, brought on

the dysentery, which closed his brilliant career, peopling his last

hours with the figures of those to whom his works were so largely

indebted for their success. During the moments of delirium which

preceded his death, he was constantly speaking of Lablache, Tamburini

and Grisi, and one of his last recognisable impressions was, that he was

present at a brilliant representation of his last opera, at the Salle

Favart. His earthly career closed on Wednesday, the 23rd of September,

1835."



[Sidenote: BELLINI'S DEATH.]



Thus died Bellini, in the twenty-ninth year of his age. Immediately

after his death, and on the very eve of his interment, the Théâtre

Italien re-opened with the Puritani. "The work," says the writer from

whom I have just quoted, "was listened to throughout with a sad

attention, betraying evidently how the general thoughts of both audience

and artists were pre-occupied with the mournful fate of him so recently

amongst them, now extended senseless, soulless, and mute, upon his

funeral bier. The solemn and mournful chords which commence the opera,

excited a sorrowful emotion in the breasts of both those who sang and

those who heard. The feeling in which the orchestra and chorus

participated, ex-tended itself to the principal artists concerned, and

the foremost amongst them displayed neither that vigour nor that

neatness of execution which Paris was so accustomed to accept at their

hands; Tamburini in particular, was so broken down by the death of the

young friend, whose presence amongst them spurred the glorious quartett

on the season before, to such unprecedented exertions, that his

magnificent organ, superb vocalisation were often considerably at fault

during the evening, and his interrupted accent, joined to the melancholy

depicted on the countenances of Grisi, Rubini, and Lablache, sent those

to their homes with an aching heart who had presented themselves to that

evening's hearing of I Puritani, previously disposed, moreover, to

attend the mournful ceremony of the morrow."



A committee of Bellini's friends, including Rossini, Cherubini, Paer,

and Carafa, undertook the general direction of the funeral of which the

musical department was entrusted to M. Habeneck the chef d'orchestre

of the Académie Royale. The expenses of the ceremony were defrayed by M.

Panseron, of the Théâtre Italien. The most remarkable piece for the

programme of the funeral music, was a lacrymosa for four voices, without

accompaniment, in which the text of the Latin hymn was united to the

beautiful melody (and of a thoroughly religious character), sung by the

tenor in the third act of the Puritani. This lacrymosa was executed by

Rubini, Ivanoff, Tamburini, and Lablache. The service was performed in

the church of the Invalides, and Bellini's remains were interred in the

cemetery of Père la Chaise.



Rossini had always shown the greatest affection for Bellini; and Rosario

Bellini, a few weeks after his son's death, wrote a letter to the great

composer, thanking him for the almost paternal kindness which he had

shown to young Vincenzo during his lifetime, and for the honour he had

paid to his memory when he was no more. After speaking of the grief and

despair in which the loss of his beloved son had plunged him, the old

man expressed himself as follows:--



"You always encouraged the object of my eternal regret in his labours;

you took him under your protection; you neglected nothing that could

increase his glory and his welfare. After my son's death what have you

not done to honour his memory and render it dear to posterity! I learnt

this from the newspapers; and I am penetrated with gratitude for your

excessive kindness, as well as for that of a number of distinguished

artistes, which also I shall never forget. Pray, sir, be my interpreter,

and tell these artistes that the father and family of Bellini, as well

as our compatriots of Catana, will cherish an imperishable recollection

of this generous conduct. I shall never cease to remember how much you

did for my son; I shall make known everywhere, in the midst of my tears,

what an affectionate heart belongs to the great Rossini; and how kind,

hospitable, and full of feeling are the artistes of France."



[Sidenote: BELLINI AND DONIZETTI.]



If we compare Bellini with Donizetti, we find that the latter was the

more prolific of the two, judging simply by the number of works

produced; inasmuch as Donizetti, at the age of twenty-eight, had already

produced thirteen operas; whereas the number of Bellini's dramatic

works, when he died in his twenty-ninth year, amounted only to nine. But

of the baker's dozen thrown off by Donizetti at so early an age, not one

made any impression on the public, or on musicians, such as was caused

by I Capuletti, or Il Pirata, or La Straniera, to say nothing of

I Puritani, which, in the opinion of many good judges, holds forth

greater promise of dramatic excellence than is contained in any other of

Bellini's works, including those masterpieces in two such different

styles, La Sonnambula and Norma. When Donizetti had been composing

for a dozen years, and had produced thirty one operas (Anna Bolena was

his thirty-second), he had still written nothing which could be ranked

on an equality with Bellini's second-rate works, such as Il Pirata and

I Capuletti; and during the second half of Donizetti's operatic

career, not one work of his in three met with the success which

(Beatrice alone excepted) attended all Bellini's operas, as soon as

Bellini had once passed that merely experimental period when, to fail,

is, for a composer of real ability, to learn how not to fail a second

time. I do not say that the composer of Lucrezia, Lucia, and Elisir

d'Amore is so vastly inferior to the composer of La Sonnambula and

Norma; but, simply, that Donizetti, during the first dozen years of

his artistic life, did not approach the excellence shown by the young

Bellini during the nine years which made up the whole of his brief

musical career. More than that, Donizetti never produced a musical

tragedy equal to Norma, nor a musical pastoral equal to La

Sonnambula; while, dramatic considerations apart, he cannot be compared

to Bellini as an inventor of melody. Indeed, it would be difficult in

the whole range of opera to name three works which contain so many

simple, tender, touching airs, of a refined character, yet possessing

all the elements of popularity (in short, airs whose beauty is

universally appreciable) as Norma, La Sonnambula, and I Puritani.

The simplicity of Bellini's melodies is one of their chief

characteristics; and this was especially remarkable, at a time when

Rossini's imitators were exaggerating the florid style of their model in

every air they produced.



* * * * *



[Sidenote: BELLINI'S SINGERS.]



Most of the great singers of the modern school,--indeed, all who have

appeared since and including Madame Pasta, have gained their reputation

chiefly in Bellini's and Donizetti's operas. They formed their style, it

is true, by singing Rossini's music; but as the public will not listen

for ever even to such operas as Il Barbiere and Semiramide, it was

necessary to provide the new vocalists from time to time with new parts;

and thus "Amina" and "Anna Bolena" were written for Pasta; "Elvino,"

&c., for Rubini; "Edgardo," in the Lucia, for Duprez; a complete

quartett of parts in I Puritani, for Grisi, Rubini, Tamburini, and

Lablache. Since Donizetti's Don Pasquale, composed for Grisi, Mario

(Rubini's successor), Tamburini, and Lablache, no work of any importance

has been composed for the Italian Opera of Paris--nor of London either,

I may add, in spite of Verdi's I Masnadieri, and Halévy's La

Tempesta, both manufactured expressly for Her Majesty's Theatre.



I have already spoken of Pasta's and Malibran's successes in Rossini's

operas. The first part written for Pasta by Bellini was that of "Amina"

in the Sonnambula; the second, that of "Norma." But though Pasta

"created" these characters, she was destined to be surpassed in both of

them by the former Marietta Garcia, now returned from America, and known

everywhere as Malibran. This vocalist, by all accounts the most poetic

and impassioned of all the great singers of her period, arrived in Italy

just when I Capuletti, La Sonnambula, and Norma, were at the

height of their popularity--thanks, in a great measure, to the admirable

manner in which the part of the heroine in each of these works was

represented by Pasta. Malibran appeared as "Amina," as "Norma," and also

as "Romeo," in I Capuletti. She "interpreted" the characters (to

borrow an expression, which is admissible, in this case, from the jargon

of French musical critics) in her own manner, and very ingeniously

brought into relief just those portions of the music of each which were

not rendered prominent in the Pasta versions. The new singer was

applauded enthusiastically. The public were really grateful to her for

bringing to light beauties which, but for her, would have remained in

the shade. But it was also thought that Malibran feared her illustrious

rival and predecessor too much, to attempt her readings. This was just

the impression she wished to produce; and when she saw that the public

had made up its mind on the subject, she changed her tactics, followed

Pasta's interpretation, and beat her on her own ground. She excelled

wherever Pasta had excelled, and proved herself on the whole superior to

her. Finally, she played the parts of "Norma" and "Amina" in her first

and second manner combined. This rendered her triumph decisive.



Now Malibran commenced a triumphal progress through Italy. Wherever she

sang, showers of bouquets and garlands fell at her feet; the horses were

taken from her carriage on her leaving the theatre, and she was dragged

home amid the shouts of an admiring crowd. These so-called

"ovations"[100] were renewed at every operatic city in Italy; and

managers disputed, in a manner previously unexampled, the honour and

profit of engaging the all-successful vocalist.



[Sidenote: MALIBRAN.]



The director of the Trieste opera gave Malibran four thousand francs a

night, and at the end of her engagement pressed her to accept a set of

diamonds. Malibran refused, observing, that what she had already

received was amply sufficient for her services, and more than she would

ever have thought of asking for them, had not the terms been proposed by

the director himself.



"Accept my present all the same," replied the liberal impresario; "I

can afford to offer you this little souvenir. It will remind you that I

made an excellent thing out of your engagement, and it may, perhaps,

help to induce you to come here again."



"The actions of this fiery existence," says M. Castil Blaze, "would

appear fabulous if we had not seen Marietta amongst us, fulfilling her

engagements at the theatre, resisting all the fatigue of the rehearsals,

of the representations, after galloping morning and evening in the Bois

de Boulogne, so as to tire out two horses. She used to breakfast during

the rehearsals on the stage. I said to her, one morning, at the

theatre:--'Marietta carissima, non morrai. Che farò, dunque? Nemica

sorte! Creperai.'



"Her travels, her excursions, her studies, her performances might have

filled the lives of two artists, and two very complete lives, moreover.

She starts for Sinigaglia, during the heat of July, in man's clothes,

takes her seat on the box of the carriage, drives the horses; scorched

by the sun of Italy, covered with dust, she arrives, jumps into the

sea, swims like a dolphin, and then goes to her hotel to dress. At

Brussels, she is applauded as a French Rosìna, delivering the prose of

Beaumarchais as Mademoiselle Mars would have delivered it. She leaves

Brussels for London, comes back to Paris, travels about in Brie, and

returns to London, not like a courier, but like a dove on the wing. We

all know what the life of a singer is in the capital of England, the

life of a dramatic singer of the highest talent. After a rehearsal at

the opera, she may have three or four matinée's to attend; and when the

curtain falls, and she can escape from the theatre, there are soirées

which last till day-break. Malibran kept all these engagements, and,

moreover, gave Sunday to her friends; this day of absolute rest to all

England, was to Marietta only another day of excitement."



[Sidenote: MALIBRAN.]



Malibran spoke Spanish, Italian, French, English, and a little German,

and acted and sang in the first four of these languages. In London, she

appeared in an English version of La Sonnambula (1838), when her

representation of the character of "Amina" created a general enthusiasm

such as can scarcely have been equalled during the "Jenny Lind

mania,"--perfect vocalist as was Jenny Lind. Malibran appears, however,

to have been a more impassioned singer, and was certainly a finer

actress than the Swedish Nightingale. "Never losing sight of the

simplicity of the character," says a writer in describing her

performance in La Sonnambula, "she gave irresistible grace and force

to the pathetic passages with which it abounds, and excited the feeling

of the audience to as high pitch as can be perceived. Her sleep-walking

scenes, in which the slightest amount of exaggeration or want of caution

would have destroyed the whole effect, were played with exquisite

discrimination; she sang the airs with refined taste and great power;

her voice, which was remarkable, rather for its flexibility and

sweetness than for its volume, was as pure as ever, and her style

displayed that high cultivation and luxuriance which marked the school

in which she was educated, and which is almost identified with the name

she formerly bore."



Drury Lane was the last theatre at which Madame Malibran sang; but the

last notes she ever uttered were heard at Manchester, where she

performed only in oratorios and at concerts. Before leaving London,

Madame Malibran had a fall from her horse, and all the time she was

singing at Manchester, she was suffering from its effects. She had

struck her head, and the violence of the blow, together with the general

shock to her nerves, without weakening any of her faculties, seemed to

have produced that feverish excitement which gave such tragic poetry to

her last performances. At first, she would take no precautions, though

inflammation of the brain was to be feared, and, indeed, might be said

to have already declared itself. She continued to sing, and never was

her voice more pure and melodious, never was her execution more daring

and dazzling, never before had she sung with such inspiration and with a

passion which communicated itself in so electric a manner to her

audience. She was bled; not one of the doctors appears to have had

sufficient strength of mind to enforce that absolute rest which everyone

must have known was necessary for her existence, and she still went on

singing. There were no signs of any loss of physical power, while her

nervous force appeared to have increased. The last time she ever sang,

she executed the duet from Andronico, with Madame Caradori, who, by a

very natural sympathy, appeared herself to have received something of

that almost supernatural fire which was burning within the breast of

Malibran, and which was now fast consuming her. The public applauded

with ecstacy, and as the general excitement increased, the marvellous

vocalisation of the dying singer became almost miraculous. She

improvised a final cadence, which was the climax of her triumph and of

her life. The bravos of the audience were not at an end when she had

already sunk exhausted into the arms of Madame Alessandri, who carried

her, fainting, into the artist's room. She was removed immediately to

the hotel. It was now impossible to save her, and so convinced of this

was her husband, that almost before she had breathed her last, he was on

his way to Paris, the better to secure every farthing of her property!



* * * * *



[Sidenote: RUBINI.]



Rubini, though he first gained his immense reputation by his mode of

singing the airs of Il Pirata, Anna Bolena, and La Sonnambula,

formed his style in the first instance, on the operas of Rossini. This

vocalist, however, sang and acted in a great many different capacities

before he was recognised as the first of all first tenors. At the age of

twelve Rubini made his début at the theatre of Romano, his native town,

in a woman's part. This curious prima donna afterwards sat down at the

door of the theatre, between two candles, and behind a plate, in which

the admiring public deposited their offerings to the fair bénéficiare.

She is said to have been perfectly satisfied with the receipts and with

the praise accorded to her for her first performance. Rubini afterwards

went to Bergamo, where he was engaged to play the violin in the

orchestra between the acts of comedies, and to sing in the choruses

during the operatic season. A drama was to be brought out in which a

certain cavatina was introduced. The manager was in great trouble to

find a singer to whom this air could be entrusted. Rubini was mentioned,

the manager offered him a few shillings to sing it, the bargain was

made, and the new vocalist was immensely applauded. This air was the

production of Lamberti. Rubini kept it, and many years afterwards, when

he was at the height of his reputation, was fond of singing it in memory

of his first composer.



In 1835, twenty-three years after Rubini's first engagement at Bergamo,

the tenor of the Théâtre Italien of Paris was asked to intercede for a

chorus-singer, who expected to be dismissed from the establishment. He

told the unhappy man to write a letter to the manager, and then gave it

the irresistible weight of his recommendation by signing it "Rubini,

Ancien Choriste."



After leaving Bergamo, Rubini was engaged as second tenor in an operatic

company of no great importance. He next joined a wandering troop, and

among other feats he is said to have danced in a ballet somewhere in

Piedmont, where, for his pains, he was violently hissed.



In 1814, he was engaged at Pavia as tenor, where he received about

thirty-six shillings a month. Sixteen years afterwards, Rubini and his

wife were offered an engagement of six thousand pounds, and at last the

services of Rubini alone were retained at the Italian Opera of St.

Petersburgh, at the rate of twenty thousand pounds a year.



[Sidenote: RUBINI.]



Rubini was such a great singer, and possessed such admirable powers of

expression, especially in pathetic airs (it was well said of him,

"qu'il avait des larmes dans la voix,") that he may be looked upon as,

in some measure, the creator of the operatic style which succeeded that

of the Rossinian period up to the production of Semiramide, the last

of Rossini's works, written specially for Italy. The florid mode of

vocalization had been carried to an excess when Rubini showed what

effect he could produce by singing melodies of a simple emotional

character, without depending at all on vocalization merely as such. It

has already been mentioned that Bellini wrote Il Pirato with Rubini at

his side, and it is very remarkable that Donizetti never achieved any

great success, and was never thought to have exhibited any style of his

own until he produced Anna Bolena, in which the tenor part was

composed expressly for Rubini. Every one who is acquainted with Anna

Bolena, will understand how much Rossini's mode of singing the airs,

Ogni terra ove, &c., and Vivi tu, must have contributed to the

immense favour with which it was received.



Rubini will long be remembered as the tenor of the incomparable quartett

for whom the Puritani was written, and who performed together in it

for seven consecutive years in Paris and in London. Rubini disappeared

from the West in 1841, and was replaced in the part of "Arturo," by

Mario. Tamburini was the next to disappear, and then Lablache. Neither

Riccardo nor Giorgio have since found thoroughly efficient

representatives, and now we have lost with Grisi the original "Elvira,"

without knowing precisely where another is to come from.



[Sidenote: RUBINI'S BROKEN CLAVICLE.]



Before taking leave of Rubini, I must mention a sort of duel he once had

with a rebellious B flat, the history of which has been related at

length by M. Castil Blaze, in the Revue de Paris. Pacini's Talismano

had just been produced with great success at la Scala. Rubini made his

entry in this opera with an accompanied recitative, which the public

always applauded enthusiastically. One phrase in particular, which the

singer commenced by attacking the high B flat without preparation, and,

holding it for a considerable period, excited their admiration to the

highest point. Since Farinelli's celebrated trumpet song, no one note

had ever obtained such a success as their wonderful B flat of Rubini's.

The public of Milan went in crowds to hear it, and having heard it,

never failed to encore it. Un 'altra volta! resounded through the

house almost before the magic note itself had ceased to ring. The great

singer had already distributed fourteen B flats among his admiring

audiences, when, eager for the fifteenth and sixteenth, the Milanese

thronged to their magnificent theatre to be present at the eighth

performance of Il Talismano. The orchestra executed the brief prelude

which announced the entry of the tenor. Rubini appeared, raised his eyes

to heaven, extended his arms, planted himself firmly on his calves,

inflated his breast, opened his mouth, and sought, by the usual means,

to pronounce the wished-for B flat. But no B flat would come. Os habet,

et non clamabit. Rubini was dumb; the public did their best to

encourage the disconsolate singer, applauded him, cheered him, and gave

him courage to attack the unhappy B flat a second time. On this

occasion, Rubini was victorious. Determined to catch the fugitive note,

which for a moment had escaped him, the singer brought all the muscular

force of his immense lungs into play, struck the B flat, and threw it

out among the audience with a vigour which surprised and delighted them.

In the meanwhile, the tenor was by no means equally pleased with the

triumph he had just gained. He felt, that in exerting himself to the

utmost, he had injured himself in a manner which might prove very

serious. Something in the mechanism of his voice had given way. He had

felt the fracture at the time. He had, indeed, conquered the B flat, but

at what an expense; that of a broken clavicle!



However, he continued





The Origin Of The Opera In Italy And Its Introduction Into Germany French Opera From Lulli To The Death Of Rameau facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

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