Introduction Of The Opera Into France And England





French Opera not founded by Lulli.--Lulli's elevation from the

kitchen to the orchestra.--Lulli, M. de Pourceaugnac, and Louis

XIV.--Buffoonery rewarded.--A disreputable tenor.--Virtuous

precaution of a prima donna.--Orthography of a stage Queen.--A

cure for love.--Mademoiselle de Maupin.--A composer of sacred

music.--Food for cattle.--Cambert in England.--The first English

Opera.--Music under Cromwell.--Music under Charles II.--Grabut and

Dryden.--Purcell.





[Sidenote: ORFEO AND DON GIOVANNI.]



In a general view of the history of the Opera, the central figures would

be Gluck and Mozart. Before Gluck's time the operatic art was in its

infancy, and since the death of Mozart, no operas have been produced

equal to that composer's masterpieces. Mozart must have commenced his

Idomeneo, the first of his celebrated works, the very year that Gluck

retired to Vienna, after giving to the Parisians his Iphigénie en

Tauride; but, though contemporaries in the strict sense of the word,

Gluck and Mozart can scarcely be looked upon as belonging to the same

musical epoch. The compositions of the former, however immortal, have at

least an antique cast. Those of the latter have quite a modern air; and

it must appear to the audiences of the present day that far more than

twenty-three years separate Orfeo from Don Giovanni, though that is

the precise interval which elapsed between the production of the opera

by which Gluck, and of the one by which Mozart, is best known in this

country. Gluck, after a century and a half of opera, so far surpassed

all his predecessors that no work by a composer anterior to him is ever

performed. Lulli wrote an Armide, which was followed by Rameau's

Armide, which was followed by Gluck's Armide; and Monteverde wrote

an Orfeo a hundred and fifty years before Gluck produced the Orfeo

which was played only the other night at the Royal Italian Opera. The

Orfeo, then, of our existing operatic repertory takes us back through

its subject to the earliest of regular Italian operas, and similarly

Gluck, through his Armide appears as the successor of Rameau, who was

the successor of Lulli, who usually passes for the founder of the Opera

in France, a country where it is particularly interesting to trace the

progress of that entertainment, inasmuch as it can be observed at one

establishment, which has existed continuously for two hundred years, and

which, under the title of Académie Royale, Académie Nationale, and

Académie Impériale (it has now gone by each of those names twice), has

witnessed the production of more operatic masterpieces than any other

theatre in any city in the world. To convince the reader of the truth of

this latter assertion I need only remind him of the works produced at

the Académie Royale by Gluck and Piccinni immediately before the

Revolution; and of the Masaniello of Auber, the William Tell of

Rossini, and the Robert the Devil of Meyerbeer,--all written for the

said Académie within sixteen years of the termination of the Napoleonic

wars. Neither Naples, nor Milan, nor Prague, nor Vienna, nor Munich, nor

Dresden, nor Berlin, has individually seen the birth of so many great

operatic works by different masters, though, of course, if judged by the

number of great composers to whom they have given birth, both Germany

and Italy must be ranked infinitely higher than France. Indeed, if we

compare France with our own country, we find, it is true, that an opera

in the national language was established there earlier than here, though

in the first instance only as a private entertainment; but, on the other

hand, the French, until Gluck's time, had never any composers, native or

adopted, at all comparable to our Purcell, who produced his King

Arthur as far back as 1691.



Lulli is generally said to have introduced Opera into France, and,

indeed, is represented in a picture, well known to Parisian opera-goers,

receiving a privilege from the hands of Louis XIV. as a reward and

encouragement for his services in that respect. This privilege, however,

was neither deserved nor obtained in the manner supposed. Cardinal

Mazarin introduced Italian Opera into Paris in 1645, when Lulli was only

twelve years of age; and the first French Opera, entitled Akébar, Roi de

Mogol, words and music by the Abbé Mailly, was brought out the year

following in the Episcopal Palace of Carpentras, under the direction of

Cardinal Bichi, Urban the Eighth's legate. Clement VII. had already

appeared as a librettist, and it has been said that Urban VIII. himself

recommended the importation of the Opera into France; so that the real

father of the lyric stage in that country was certainly not a scullion,

and may have been a Pope.



[Sidenote: THE ACADEMY OF MUSIC.]



The second French Opera was La Pastorale en musique, words by Perrin,

music by Cambert, which was privately represented at Issy; and the third

Pomone, also by Perrin and Cambert, which was publicly performed in

Paris in 1671--the year in which was produced, at the same theatre,

Psyché, a tragédie-ballet, by the two greatest dramatic poets France

has ever produced, Molière and Corneille. Pomone was the first French

Opera heard by the Parisian public, and it was to the Abbé Perrin, its

author, and not to Lulli, that the patent of the Royal Academy of Music

was granted. A privilege for establishing an Academy of Music had been

conceded a hundred years before by Charles IX. to Antoine de Baif,--the

word "Académie" being used as an equivalent for "Accademia," the

Italian for concert. Perrin's license appears to have been a renewal, as

to form, of de Baif's, and thus originated the eminently absurd title

which the chief operatic theatre of Paris has retained ever since. The

Academy of Music is of course an academy in the sense in which the

Théâtre Français is a college of declamation, and the Palais Royal

Theatre a school of morality; but no one need seek to justify its title

because it is known to owe its existence to a confusion of terms.



Six French operas had been performed before Lulli, supported by Madame

de Montespan, succeeded in depriving Perrin of his "privilege," and

securing it for himself--at the very moment when Perrin and Cambert were

about to bring out their Ariane, of which the representation was

stopped. The success of Lulli's intrigue drove Cambert to London, where

he was received with much favour by Charles II., and appointed director

of the Court music, an office which he retained until his death. Lulli's

first opera, written in conjunction with Quinault, being the seventh

produced on the French stage, was Cadmus and Hermione (1673).



[Sidenote: LULLI'S DISGRACE.]



The life of the fortunate, unscrupulous, but really talented scullion,

to whom is falsely attributed the honour of having founded the Opera in

France, has often been narrated, and for the most part very

inaccurately. Every one knows that he arrived from Italy to enter the

service of Mademoiselle de Montpensier as page, and that he was degraded

by that lady to the back kitchen: but it is not so generally known that

he was only saved through the influence of Madame de Montespan from a

shameful and horrible death on the Place de Grève, where his accomplice

was actually burned and his ashes thrown to the winds. Mademoiselle de

Montpensier, in one of her letters, speaks of Lulli asking for his

congé; but it is quite certain that he was dismissed, though it would be

as impossible to give a complete account of the causes of his dismissal

as to publish the original of the needlessly elaborate reply attributed

to a certain French general at Waterloo.[4] We may mention, however,

that Lulli had composed a song which was a good deal sung at the court,

and at which the Princess had every right to be offended. A French

dramatist has made this affair of the song the subject of a very

ingenious little piece, which was represented in English some years

since at the Adelphi Theatre, but in which the exact nature of the

objectionable composition is of course not indicated. Suffice it to say,

that Lulli was discharged, and that Louis XIV., hearing the libellous

air, and finding it to his taste, showed so little regard for

Mademoiselle de Montpensier's feelings, as to take the young musician

into his own service. There were no vacancies in the king's band, and it

was, moreover, a point of etiquette that the court-fiddlers should buy

their places; so to save trouble, and, perhaps, from a suspicion that

his ordinary players were a set of impostors, his majesty commissioned

Lulli to form a band of his own, to which the name of "Les petits

violons du roi" was given. The little fiddles soon became more expert

musicians than the big ones, and Louis was so pleased with the little

fiddle-in-chief, that he entrusted him with the superintendence of the

music of his ballets. These ballets, which corresponded closely enough

to our English masques, were entertainments not of dancing only, but

also of vocal and instrumental music; the name was apparently derived

from the Italian ballata, the parent of our own "ballad."



Lulli also composed music for the interludes and songs in Molière's

comedies, in which he sometimes appeared himself as a singer, and even

as a burlesque actor. Once, when the musical arrangements were not quite

ready for a ballet, in which the king was to play four parts--the House

of France, Pluto, Mars and the Sun--he replied, on receiving a command

to proceed with the piece--"Le roi est le maitre; il peut attendre tant

qu'il lui plaira." His majesty did not, as I have seen it stated, laugh

at the facetious impertinence of his musician. On the contrary, he was

seriously offended; and great was Lulli's alarm when he found that

neither the House of France, nor Pluto, nor Mars, nor the Sun, would

smile at the pleasantries with which, as the performance went on, he

endeavoured to atone for his unbecoming speech. The wrath of the Great

Monarch was not to be appeased, and Lulli's enemies already began to

rejoice at his threatened downfall.



[Sidenote: LULLI A BUFFOON.]



Fortunately, Molière was at Versailles. Lulli asked him at the

conclusion of the ballet to announce a performance of M. de

Pourceaugnac, a piece which never failed to divert Louis; and it was

arranged that just before the rise of the curtain Molière should excuse

himself, on the score of a sudden indisposition, from appearing in the

principal character. When there seemed to be no chance of M. de

Pourceaugnac being played, Lulli, that the king might not be

disappointed, nobly volunteered to undertake the part of the hero, and

exerted himself in an unprecedented manner to do it justice. But his

majesty, who generally found the troubles of the Limousin gentleman so

amusing, on this occasion did not even smile. The great scene was about

to begin; the scene in which the apothecaries, armed with their terrible

weapons, attack M. de Pourceaugnac and chase him round the stage. Louis

looked graver than ever. Then the comedian, as a last hope, rushed from

the back of the stage to the foot lights, sprang into the orchestra,

alighted on the harpsichord, and smashed it into a thousand pieces. "By

this fall he rose." Probably he hurt himself, but no matter; on looking

round he saw the Great Monarch in convulsions of laughter. Encouraged by

his success, he climbed back through the prompter's box on to the stage;

the royal mirth increased, and Lulli was now once more reinstated in the

good graces of his sovereign.



Molière had a high opinion of Lulli's facetious powers. "Fais nous

rire, Baptiste," he would say, and it cannot have been any sort of joke

that would have excited the laughter of the greatest of comic writers.

Nevertheless, he fell out with Lulli when the latter attained the

"privilege" of the Opera, and, profiting by the monopoly which it

secured to him, forbade the author of Tartuffe to introduce more than

two singers in his interludes, or to employ more than six violins in his

orchestra. Accordingly, Molière entrusted the composition of the music

for the Malade Imaginaire, to Charpentier. The songs and symphonies of

all his other pieces, with the exception of Mélicerte, were composed

by Lulli.



The story of Lulli's obtaining letters of nobility through the

excellence of his buffoonery in the part of the Muphti, in the

Bourgeois Gentilhomme has often been told. This was in 1670, but once

a noble, and director of the Royal Academy of Music, he showed but

little disposition to contribute to the diversion of others, even by the

exercise of his legitimate art. Not only did he refuse to play the

violin, but he would not even have one in his house. To overcome Lulli's

repugnance in this respect, Marshal de Gramont hit upon a very ingenious

plan. He used to make one of his servants who possessed the gift of

converting music into noise, play the violin in Lulli's presence. Upon

this, the highly susceptible musician would snatch the instrument from

the valet's hands, and restore the murdered melody to life and beauty;

then, excited by the pleasure of producing music, he forgot all around

him, and continued to play to the great delight of the marshal.



Many curious stories are told of Lafontaine's want of success as a

librettist; Lulli refused three of his operas, one after the other,

Daphné, Astrée, and Acis et Galathée--the Acis et Galathée set

to music by Lulli being the work of Campistron. At the first

representation of Astrée, of which the music had been written by

Colasse (a composer who imitated and often plagiarised from Lulli),

Lafontaine was present in a box behind some ladies who did not know him.

He kept exclaiming every moment, "Detestable! detestable!"



[Sidenote: LAFONTAINE'S IMPARTIALITY.]



Tired of hearing the same thing repeated so many times, the ladies at

last turned round and said, "It is really not so bad. The author is a

man of considerable wit; it is written by M. de la Fontaine."



"Cela ne vaut pas le diable," replied the librettist, "and this

Lafontaine of whom you speak is an ass. I am Lafontaine, and ought to

know."



After the first act he left the theatre and went into the Café Marion,

where he fell asleep. One of his friends came in, and surprised to see

him, said--"M. de la Fontaine! How is this? Ought you not to be at the

first performance of your opera?"



The author awoke, and said, with a yawn--"I've been; and the first act

was so dull that I had not the courage to wait for the other. I admire

the patience of these Parisians!"



* * * * *



Compare this with the similar conduct of an English humourist, Charles

Lamb, who, meeting with no greater success as a dramatist than

Lafontaine, was equally astonished at the patience of the public, and

remained in the pit to hiss his own farce.



* * * * *



Colasse, Lafontaine's composer, and Campistron, one of Lulli's

librettists--when Quinault was not in the way--occasionally worked

together, and with no very favourable result. Hence, mutual reproaches,

each attributing the failure of the opera to the stupidity of the other.

This suggested the following epigram, which, under similar

circumstances, has been often imitated:--



"Entre Campistron et Colasse,

Grand débat s'émeut au Parnasse,

Sur ce que l'opéra n'a pas un sort heureux.

De son mauvais succès nul ne se croit coupable.

L'un dit que la musique est plate et misérable,

L'autre que la conduite et les vers sont affreux;

Et le grand Apollon, toujours juge équitable,

Trouve qu'ils ont raison tous deux."



Quinault was by far the most successful of Lulli's librettists, in spite

of the contempt with which his verses were always treated by Boileau.

Boileau liked Lulli's music, but when he entered the Opera, and was

asked where he would sit, he used to reply, "Put me in some place where

I shall not be able to hear the words."



[Sidenote: THE FIDDLE IN THE SEVENTEENTH CENTURY.]



Lulli must have had sad trouble with his orchestra, for in his time a

violinist was looked upon as merely an adjunct to a dancing-master.

There was a king of the fiddles, without whose permission no cat-gut

could be scraped; and in selling his licenses to dancing-masters and the

musicians of ball-rooms, the ruler of the bows does not appear to have

required any proof of capacity from his clients. Even the simple

expedient of shifting was unknown to Lulli's violinists, and for years

after his death, to reach the C above the line was a notable feat. The

pit quite understood the difficulty, and when the dreaded démanchement

had to be accomplished, would indulge in sarcastic shouts of "gare

l'ut! gare l'ut!"



The violin was not in much repute in the 17th, and still less in the

16th, century. The lute was a classical instrument; the harp was the

instrument of the Troubadours; but the fiddle was fit only for servants,

and fiddlers and servants were classed together.



"Such a one," says Malherbe, "who seeks for his ancestors among heroes

is the son of a lacquey or a fiddler."



Brantôme, relating the death of Mademoiselle de Limeuil, one of the

Queen's maids of honour, who expired, poor girl, to a violin

accompaniment, expresses himself as follows:--



"When the hour of her death had arrived, she sent for her valet, such as

all the maids of honour have; and he was called Julien, and played very

well on the violin. 'Julien,' said she, 'take your violin and play to me

continually, until you see me dead, the Defeat of the Swiss,[5] as

well as you are able; and when you are at the passage All is lost,

sound it four or five times as piteously as you can; which the other

did, while she herself assisted him with her voice. She recited it

twice, and then turning on the other side of her pillow said to her

companions, 'All is lost this time, as well I know,' and thus died."



These musical valets were as much slaves as the ancient flute players of

the Roman nobles, and were bought, sold, and exchanged like horses and

dogs. When their services were not required at home, masters and

mistresses who were generously inclined would allow their fiddlers to go

out and play in the streets on their own account.



* * * * *



Strange tales are told of the members of Lulli's company. Duménil, the

tenor, used to steal jewellery from the soprano and contralto of the

troop, and get intoxicated with the baritone. This eccentric virtuoso is

said to have drunk six bottles of champagne every night he performed,

and to have improved gradually until about the fifth. Duménil, after one

of his voyages to England, which he visited several times, lost his

voice. Then, seeing no reason why he should moderate his intemperance at

all, he gave himself up unrestrainedly to drinking, and died.



[Sidenote: OPERATIC ORTHOGRAPHY.]



Mdlle. Desmâtins, the original representative of Armide was chiefly

celebrated for her beauty, her love of good living, her corpulence, and

her bad grammar. She it was who wrote the celebrated letter

communicating to a friend the death of her child, "Notre anfan ai

maure, vien de boneure, le mien ai de te voire." Mlle. Desmâtins took

so much pleasure in representing royal personages that she assumed the

(theatrical) costume and demeanour of a queen in her own household, sat

on a throne, and made her attendants serve her on their knees. Another

vocalist, Marthe le Rochois, accused of grave flirtation with a bassoon,

justified herself by showing a promise of marriage, which the gallant

instrumentalist had written on the back of an ace of spades.



The Opera singers of this period were not particularly well paid, and

history relates that Mlles. Aubry and Verdier, being engaged for the

same line of business, had to live in the same room and sleep in the

same bed.



Marthe Le Rochois was fond of giving advice to her companions. "Inspire

yourself with the situation," she said to Desmâtins, who had to

represent Medea abandoned by Jason; "fancy yourself in the poor woman's

place. If you were deserted by a lover, whom you adored," added Marthe,

thinking, no doubt, of the bassoon, "what should you do?" "I should look

out for another," replied the ingenuous girl.



But by far the most distinguished operatic actress of this period was

Mlle. de Maupin, now better known through Théophile Gauthier's

scandalous, but brilliant and vigorously written romance, than by her

actual adventures and exploits, which, however, were sufficiently

remarkable. Among the most amusing of her escapades, were her assaults

upon Duménil and Thévenard, the before-mentioned tenor and baritone of

the Academie. Dressed in male attire she went up to the former one night

in the Place des Victoires, caned him, deprived him of his watch and

snuff-box, and the next day produced the trophies at the theatre just as

the plundered vocalist was boasting that he had been attacked by three

robbers, and had put them all to flight. She is said to have terrified

the latter to such a degree that he remained three weeks hiding from her

in the Palais Royal.



Mlle. de Maupin was in many respects the Lola Montes of her day, but

with more beauty, more talent, more power, and more daring. When she

appeared as Minerva, in Lulli's Cadmus, and taking off her helmet to

the public, showed all her beautiful light brown hair, which hung in

luxuriant tresses over her shoulders, the audience were in ecstacies of

delight. With less talent, and less powers of fascination, she would

infallibly have been executed for the numerous fatal duels in which she

was engaged, and might even have been burnt alive for invading the

sanctity of a convent at Avignon, to say nothing of her attempting to

set fire to it. Perhaps it would be more correct to say that Lola Montes

was the Mlle. Maupin of her day; a Maupin of a century which is

moderate in its passions and its vices as in other things.



[Sidenote: A COMPOSER OF SACRED MUSIC.]



Moreau, the successor of Lulli, is chiefly known as having written the

music for the choruses of Racine's Esther, (1689). These choruses,

re-arranged by Perne, were performed in 1821, at the Conservatoire of

Paris, and were much applauded. Racine, in his preface to Esther,

says, "I cannot finish this preface without rendering justice to the

author of the music, and confessing frankly that his (choral) songs

formed one of the greatest attractions of the piece. All connoisseurs

are agreed that for a long time no airs have been heard more touching,

or more suitable to the words." Nevertheless, Madame de Maintenon's

special composer was not eminently religious in his habits. The musician

whose hymns were sung by the daughters of Sion and of St. Cyr sought his

inspiration at a tavern in the Rue St. Jacques, in company with the poet

Lainez and with most of the singers and dancers of the period. No member

of the Opera rode past the Cabaret de la Barre Royale without tying his

horse up in the yard and going in for a moment to have a word and a

glass with Moreau. Sometimes the moment became an hour, sometimes

several. The horses of Létang and Favier, dancers at the Académie, after

being left eight hours in the court-yard without food, gnawed through

their bridles, and, looking no doubt for the stable, found their way

into a bed-room, where they devoured the contents of a dilapidated straw

mattrass. "We must all live," said Lainez, when he saw a mattrass

charged for among the items of the repast, and he hastened to offer the

unfortunate animals a ration of wine.



* * * * *



[Sidenote: FRENCH MUSIC IN ENGLAND.]



When Cambert arrived in London he found Charles II. and his Court fully

disposed to patronise any sort of importation from France. Naturally,

then, the founder of French Opera was well received. Even Lock, in many

of his pieces, had imitated the French style; and though he had been

employed to compose the music for the public entry of Charles II., at

the Restoration, and was afterwards appointed composer in ordinary to

His Majesty, Cambert, immediately on his arrival, was made master of the

king's band; and two years afterwards an English version of his

Ariadne was produced. "You knew Cambert," says de Vizé, in Le Mercure

Galant; "he has just died in London (1677), where he received many

favours from the King of England and from the greatest noblemen of his

Court, who had a high opinion of his genius. What they have seen of his

works has not belied the reputation he had acquired in France. It is to

him we owe the establishment of the operas that are now represented. The

music of those of Pomona, and of the Pains and Pleasures of Love, is

by him, and since that time we have had no recitative in France that has

appeared new." In several English books, Grabut, who accompanied

Cambert to England, is said to have arranged the music of Ariadne, and

even to have composed it; but this is manifestly an error. This same

Grabut wrote the music to Dryden's celebrated political opera Albion

and Albanius, which was performed at the Duke's Theatre in 1685, and of

which the representations were stopped by the news of Monmouth's

invasion. Purcell, who was only fifteen years of age when Ariadne was

produced, was now twenty-six, and had written a great deal of admirable

dramatic music. Probably the public thought that to him, and not to the

Frenchman, might have been confided the task of setting Albion and

Albanius, for in the preface to that work Dryden says, as if

apologetically, that "during the rehearsal the king had publicly

declared more than once, that the composition and choruses were more

just and more beautiful than any he had heard in England." Then after a

warm commendation of Grabut Dryden adds, "This I say, not to flatter

him, but to do him right; because among some English musicians, and

their scholars, who are sure to judge after them, the imputation of

being a Frenchman is enough to make a party who maliciously endeavour to

decry him. But the knowledge of Latin and Italian poets, both of which

he possesses, besides his skill in music, and his being acquainted with

all the performances of the French operas, adding to these the good

sense to which he is born, have raised him to a degree above any man who

shall pretend to be his rival on our stage. When any of our countrymen

excel him, I shall be glad, for the sake of Old England, to be shown my

error: in the meantime, let virtue be commended, though in the person of

a stranger."



Neither Grabut nor Cambert was the first composer who produced a

complete opera in England. During the Commonwealth, in 1656, Sir William

Davenant had obtained permission to open a theatre for the performance

of operas, in a large room, at the back of Rutland House, in the upper

end of Aldersgate Street; and, long before, the splendid court masques

of James I. and Charles I. had given opportunities for the development

of recitative, which was first composed in England by an Italian, named

Laniere, an eminent musician, painter and engraver. The Opera had been

established in Italy since the beginning of the century, and we have

seen that in 1607, Monteverde wrote his Orfeo for the court of Mantua.

But it was still known in England and France only through the accounts,

respectively, of Evelyn and of St. Evrémond.



[Sidenote: THE FIRST ENGLISH OPERA.]



The first English opera produced at Sir William Davenant's theatre, the

year of its opening, was The Siege of Rhodes, "made a representation

by the art of perspective in scenes, and the story sung in recitative

music." There were five changes of scene, according to the ancient

dramatic distinctions made for time, and there were seven performers.

The part of "Solyman" was taken by Captain Henry Cook, that of "Ianthe"

by Mrs. Coleman, who appears to have been the first actress on the

English stage--in the sense in which Heine was the first poet of his

century (having been born on the 1st of January, 1800)[6] and

Beaumarchais the first poet in Paris (to a person entering the city from

the Porte St. Antoine).[7] The remaining five parts were "doubled." That

of the "Admiral" was taken by Mr. Peter Rymon, and Matthew Lock, the

future composer of the music to Macbeth; that of "Mustapha," by Mr.

Thomas Blagrave, and Henry Purcell, the father of the composer of King

Arthur, and himself an accomplished musician. The vocal music of the

first and fifth "entries" or acts, was composed by Henry Lawes; that of

the second and third, by Captain Henry Cook, afterwards master of the

children of the Chapel Royal; that of the fourth, by Lock. The

instrumental music was by Dr. Charles Coleman and George Hudson, and was

performed by an orchestra of six musicians.



The first English opera then was produced, ten years later than the

first French opera; but the Siege of Rhodes was performed publicly,

whereas, it was not until fifteen years afterwards (1671) that the first

public performance of a French opera (Cambert's Pomone) took place.

Ordinances for the suppression of stage plays had been in force in

England since 1642, and in 1643, a tract was printed under the title of

The Actor's Remonstrance, showing to what distress the musicians of

the theatre had been already reduced. The writer says, "But musike that

was held so delectable and precious that they scorned to come to a

tavern under twenty shillings salary for two hours, now wander with

their instruments under their cloaks (I mean such as have any) to all

houses of good fellowship, saluting every room where there is company

with 'will you have any musike, gentlemen.'" In 1648, moreover, a

provost-marshal was appointed with power to seize upon all ballad

singers, and to suppress stage plays.



Nevertheless, Oliver Cromwell was a great lover of music. He is said to

have "entertained the most skilful in that science in his pay and

family;" and it is known that he engaged Hingston, a celebrated

musician, formerly in the service of Charles, at a salary of one hundred

a-year--the Hingston, at whose house Sir Roger l'Estrange was playing,

and continued to play when Oliver entered the room, which gained for

this virtuoso the title of "Oliver's fiddler." Antony à Wood, also

tells a story of Cromwell's love of music. James Quin, one of the senior

students of Christ Church, with a bass voice, "very strong and exceeding

trouling," had been turned out of his place by the visitors, but, "being

well acquainted with some great men of those times that loved music,

they introduced him into the company of Oliver Cromwell, the Protector,

who loved a good voice and instrumental music well. He heard him sing

with great delight, liquored him with sack, and in conclusion, said,

'Mr. Quin, you have done well, what shall I do for you?' To which Quin

made answer, 'That your highness would be pleased to restore me to my

student's place,' which he did accordingly." But the best proof that can

be given of Oliver Cromwell's love for music is the simple fact that,

under his government, and with his special permission, the Opera was

founded in this country.



[Sidenote: CROMWELL'S LOVE OF MUSIC.]



We have seen that in Charles II's reign, the court reserved its

patronage almost exclusively for French music, or music in the French

style. When Cambert arrived in London, our Great Purcell (born, 1659)

was still a child. He produced his first opera, Dido and Æneas, the

year of Cambert's death (1677); but, although, in the meanwhile, he

wrote a quantity of vocal and instrumental music of all kinds, and

especially for the stage, it was not until after the death of Charles

that he associated himself with Dryden in the production of those

musical dramas (not operas in the proper sense of the word) by which he

is chiefly known.



In 1690, Purcell composed music for The Tempest, altered and

shamefully disfigured by Dryden and Davenant.



[Sidenote: PURCELL.]



In 1691, King Arthur, which contains Purcell's finest music, was

produced with immense success. The war-song of the Britons, Come if you

Dare, and the concluding duet and chorus, Britons strike Home, have

survived the rest of the work. The former piece in particular is well

known to concert-goers of the present day, from the excellent singing

of Mr. Sims Reeves. Purcell died at the age of thirty-six, the age at

which Mozart and Raphael were lost to the world, and has not yet found a

successor. He was not only the most original, and the most dramatic, but

also the most thoroughly English of our native composers. In the

dedication of the music of the Prophetess to the Duke of Somerset,

Purcell himself says, "Music is yet but in its nonage, a forward child,

which gives hope of what it may be hereafter in England, when the

masters of it shall find more encouragement. 'Tis now learning Italian,

which is its best master, and studying a little of the French air to

give it somewhat more of gaiety and fashion." Here Purcell spoke in all

modesty, for though his style may have been formed in some measure on

French models, "there is," says Dr. Burney, "a latent power and force in

his expression of English words, whatever be the subject, that will make

an unprejudiced native of this island feel more than all the elegance,

grace and refinement of modern music, less happily applied, can do; and

this pleasure is communicated to us, not by the symmetry or rhythm of

modern melody, but by his having tuned to the true accents of our mother

tongue, those notes of passion which an inhabitant of this island would

breathe in such situations as the words describe. And these indigenous

expressions of passion Purcell had the power to enforce by the energy of

modulation, which, on some occasions, was bold, affecting and sublime.

Handel," he adds, "who flourished in a less barbarous age for his art,

has been acknowledged Purcell's superior in many particulars; but in

none more than the art and grandeur of his choruses, the harmony and

texture of his organ fugues, as well as his great style of concertos;

the ingenuity of his accompaniments to his songs and choruses; and even

in the general melody of the airs themselves; yet, in the accent,

passion and expression of English words, the vocal music of Purcell

is, sometimes, to my feelings, as superior to Handel's as an original

poem to a translation."





Introduction Of Italian Opera Into England Manners And Customs At The London Opera Half A Century Since facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

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