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The Music Lover's Library 


The Music Lover's Library 

The Opera 
Past and Present 

An Historical Sketch 

William Foster Apthorp 

Author of " Musicians and Music-Lovers? Etc. 

With Portraits 

NEW YORK :::::::::::::::::::: 1910 


63 824 


Copyright, 1901, by 
Charles Scnimer's Sons 




FOR a History of Opera covering, as it 
does, over three centuries in four countries 
to be brought within the compass of a volume 
like this, it must be either one of two things : 
something little better than a time-table, an an- 
notated list of names and dates, or else a com- 
pendious sketch. The former plan might be 
excusably followed in a school text - book ; 
though some grave doubts of its advisability 
might be entertained, even there. But, in a 
book that hopes to be read otherwise than 
under compulsion, it would be a self-stultifying 
impertinence. The other plan, of making the 
History a compendious sketch, is the only one 
to the purpose. 

In writing the present Historical Sketch of 
the Opera, I have thrown the whole weight of 
my endeavour upon giving a clear and con- 
nected account of the first establishment and 
gradual evolution of this form of art, and upon 



pointing out the general quasi-philosophical 
rationale of the same. I have, accordingly, con- 
sidered different schools, composers and works 
far more with reference to the influence ex- 
erted by them in furthering, or retarding, this 
evolution than to their intrinsic excellence. I 
have let the historical scythe swing high, cut- 
ting off only the most significant heads ; and 
the most significant have not always been those 
the world calls greatest. 

Only in two instances have I departed from 
this general plan : in the cases of Mozart and 
Beethoven. The puissant genius of these men 
was too closely in harmony with the funda- 
mental idea of the Opera for them to be negli- 
gible, although they exerted infinitely little in- 
fluence upon either their contemporaries or 
their successors in this field of composition. 
Of two other men, again, Alessandro Scarlatti 
and Handel, I have said extremely, perhaps 
surprisingly, little. Though the greatness of 
their genius is beyond doubt, the part they 
played in the history of Opera was at once un- 
important and, as far as it went, antagonistic to 
the real evolution of the form. 

Far too much importance has, it seems to me, 
been hitherto attributed to Scarlatti, as what 



may be called an evolutionary force in Opera. 
He merely propagated the influence of Gia- 
como Carissimi as it had been transmitted 
to the seventeenth-century Venetians through 
Marc' Antonio Cesti, and through the Vene- 
tians to Francesco Provenzale in Naples. It 
may even be doubted whether the title of 
" Founder of the Neapolitan School," so often 
bestowed upon Scarlatti, do not properly be- 
long to Provenzale. And it may be well to say 
here, by the way of Scarlatti's continuing the 
Carissimi influence, tljat Remain Holland 
seems to have dealt rather a severe blow to the 
legend that he was Carissimi's pupil, in esta- 
blishing the fact that he studied under Proven- 
zale a man of extraordinary genius, whom 
Rolland may fairly be said to have redisco- 
vered for the benefit of a too forgetful world. 
For forty-six years Carissimi had been living 
without intermission in Rome, as Maestro di 
cappella at S. Apollinare, when he died there 
in 1674 ; Scarlatti was born only fifteen years 
before this, in 1659, at Trapani in Sicily. The 
proximity of these dates, and the distance 
between the two places, make it at least im- 
probable that the one man ever studied under 
the other ; at most, Scarlatti could only have 



begun his education under Carissimi. Fur. 
thermore, the hypothesis of his having been 
Carissimi's pupil is not needed to account for 
his spreading that master's influence ; for this 
influence was already the dominant one over 
Opera when Scarlatti first came upon the field. 
He may have transferred a remaining musical 
form or two, which had been established by 
Carissimi, from the Oratorio to the Opera ; but 
such transfers had been made so copiously by 
his Venetian predecessors, that not much, if 
anything, can have been left for him to do in 
that line. 

Succinctly stated, the main object of the 
present volume is this : To show how a ge- 
neral desire for some such form of dramatico- 
lyric art as the Opera was manifested in France 
and Italy considerably before any possibility 
existed of its coming into actual being ; how 
this possibility was at last realized by the de- 
vising of a style of artistic monodic composi- 
tion by the Florentine Music Reform, and how 
the Opera itself was among the first practical 
results of that Reform. That the theoretical 
principles in accordance with which the Opera 
was first established in Florence, in 1595, were 
essentially identical with those promulgated in 


the nineteenth century by Richard Wagner. 
That the Opera was first diverted from its 
original artistic purpose through the influence 
of Carissimi, and, from being an essentially dra- 
matic and scenic form of art, became a purely 
musical one. And finally, how this Carissimi 
influence continued to make itself felt, even 
through and in spite of the Gluck reaction 
against it, until Wagner at last gave it its 

In telling the story of this long warfare be- 
tween two opposite principles, the original 
Florentine dramatic one, and the Carissimi 
anti-dramatic, I have, with the two exceptions 
mentioned above, considered only such men as 
took a prominent active part in the fight, and 
more especially such as fought on the dramatic 
side. For the history of this conflict is real- 
ly the history of Opera. Looked at from this 
point of view, some of the greatest geniuses, 
like Scarlatti, and even Handel himself, who 
had it all their own way, their party being so 
much in the ascendant at the time that there 
was virtually no opposition, are seen to be of 
less importance than, say, a man like Rossini, 
who, after arrogantly fighting on the wrong 
side when he ought to have known (and did 


know) better, gave at least one mighty blow 
for the right, or even a mediocrity like 
Giovanni Pacini, who, in his mild way, did 
some fighting in the good cause. Of the men 
who dealt no blows on either side, or whose 
feeble strokes left no mark, nothing has been 

I should perhaps say a word or two in ex- 
planation of my dwelling so almost exclusively 
upon the tragic, or " high-romantic " forms of 
Opera, and saying so little about the comic. I 
had two reasons for this. In the first place, the 
comic forms opera buffa, optra-comique, Sing- 
spiel have everywhere been the distinctly na- 
tional ones throughout ; the tragic, or romantic 
forms, opera seria, trage'die-lyrique, and Grand 
Opera in general, the more universal, the more 
cosmopolitan. Then, the influence of the comic 
forms upon the development of the tragic, or 
romantic, has been generally but slight ; where- 
as the converse influence has often been very 
noteworthy. And I have taken the more in- 
fluential and cosmopolitan forms as the more 

For a similar reason I have omitted all con- 
sideration of the development of the Opera 
outside of Italy, France, Germany, and Eng- 



land. What developments it has had in Spain, 
Scandinavia, Russia, Hungary, or Bohemia 
have had no influence whatever upon the rest 
of the world. What these countries have done 
in Opera has, it is true, often reflected foreign 
influences, but has not exerted any frontier- 
crossing influence of its own in return. Per- 
haps, on this principle, all reference to Opera 
in England might have been omitted as well ; 
but we are Anglo - Saxons, and the subject 
touches us more near. 

I wish to express my deep obligation to the 
admirable articles on Monteverdi and Marco da 
Gagliano by E. VOGEL in the Leipzig Viertel- 
jahrsschrift fiir Musikwissenschaft (Vols. III. 
and V.), to the article in the same publication 
(Vol. VIII.) on Die venezianische Oper und die 
Werke Cavaltis und Cestts by HERMANN 
origines du thtdtre lyrique moderne ; histoire de 
V Optra en Europe avant Lully et Scarlatti (Paris, 
1895) for a great deal in the first two chapters 
of this volume. Vogel's and Rolland's careful 
and energetic research has, indeed, consider- 
ably topsy - turvied previous histories of the 
Florentine and Venetian periods of the Opera. 
For the rest of the volume, I have relied, 


partly upon older standard authorities, but 
mainly upon my own investigations especially 
in the matter of criticism. 

W. F.A. 

BOSTON, December 13, 1900. 




I. Beginnings 3 

II. The European Conquest 23 

III. Cluck 54 

IV. Mozart 73 

V. The Italians 92 

VI. The French Scnool . , 113 

VII. The Germans 134 

VIII. Wagner 153 

IX. The Development of the Art of the Opera- 

Singer 180 

X. The Present 193 


Peri's Preface to Euridice . , . ... 221 
Gluck's Preface to Alceste 227 


Lully .... . . 
Cluck . . . . . 


. . 46 
. 60 

Mozart . . * . . . 

. , 76 

Rossini . . . . . 

. . 98 

Verdi ... 

. 108 

Meyerbeer . . 

. . 126 

Weber ...... 

. 150 


Past and Present 

A truly princely spectacle, and delightful beyond all others, 
being one in which are combined all the most noble oblectations, 
such as contrivance and interest of plot, diction, s yle, mellifluous 
rhyme, musical art, the concert of voices and instruments, excel- 
lency in singing, grace in dancing and gesture ; and it may also 
be said that painting plays therein no unimportant part, in the 
matters of scenery and costume ; so that the intellect and every 
noblest sentiment are fascinated at one and the same moment by 
the most delectable arts ever devised by human genius. 

MARCO DA GAGLIANO, Preface to Dafne. 



LET us take the Egyptians and Assyrians for 
granted ; enough that the consociation of 
the arts of Poetry, Music, and Dancing in the 
Drama dates back at least to Thespis's cart. 
How intimate the union of these three arts 
may have been in the classic Greek Drama, 
and its later Roman imitation, is a question 
little to our present purpose ; for, though all 
three still had a place in what remained of the 
Drama in the Middle Ages, they were bound 
together by no intimate bond of union. Of that, 
so to speak, " chemical " union of this clover- 
leaf of arts, of that mutually helpful cooperation 
toward a common dramatic end, which is the 
essence of Opera, nothing was to be found. 
And, as just this cooperative union is the es- 
sence of Opera, as a special form of dramatic 
art, it is evident that the Opera could not come 
into being until such an union had been estab- 
lished, or supposing it really to have existed 
in the old Greek Drama re-established. 

The Opera Past and Present 

A drama with incidental music is not an 
opera ; such dramas were not uncommon long 
before anything like Opera was known. The 
type of Drama which we now know as vaude- 
ville a play interspersed with songs is to be 
recognized in the old French satire-plays and 
dramatic pastorals. A noteworthy example is 
Adam de la Halle's Li gieus de Robin et de Ma- 
rion, given at the court of Charles d'Artois in 
Naples, probably in 1285. This little pastoral 
play was long looked upon as the first opera in 
history, and the trouvere Adam de la Halle, 
as the first opera-composer. Unluckily for this 
time-honoured distinction, recent research has 
proved beyond a doubt that neither the music 
nor the text of the songs was written by Adam, 
but only the connecting dialogue. As was the 
fashion of the day, he took a certain number of 
popular ballads, constructed a dramatic story 
out of them, and bound them together into a 
play with spoken dialogue of his own invention. 
The thing can not be called an opera, but, at the 
very most, an operatic symptom. Neither was 
it the first nor last of its kind. 

That playwrights and musicians especially 
the latter had a vague premonition of some- 
thing like Opera long before they had the means 
of writing one, is more than likely. What may 
be called premonitory symptoms of Opera were 



not uncommon in the musical and dramatic 
life of the Middle Ages and the earlier Renais- 
sance period ; they became especially recogniz- 
able as symptomatic about the middle of the 
sixteenth century, both in France and Italy. 
One finds a distinct yearning after Opera, and 
manifold attempts to create something as nearly 
like it as possible. Furthermore, some of these 
attempts show plainly, not only a desire on the 
part of musicians to do something operatic, 
but also a total lack of adequate means of satis- 
fying this desire at the time. 

Leaving the Art of Dancing out of considera- 
tion, for the moment, as of secondary theoretic 
importance, we can see that nothing like Opera 
was possible, so long as the Art of Music was 
in no condition to fulfil, not only certain dra- 
matic, but also (and more especially) certain 
scenic requirements. Such scenic requirements 
were, to be sure, fulfilled to some extent by the 
folk-song or popular ballad ; but this form of 
music, as then practised, had no dramatic cha- 
racter. Moreover, the folk-song lay outside the 
then domain of what would be called artistic 
composition ; technically well-trained musicians 
who had an ambition to be recognized as com- 
posers would have nothing to do with it ; at 
best, they would take a folk-song, as they would 
a Gregorian chaunt, as material to be worked 


The Opera Past and Present 

up in strict counterpoint which latter was 
the only form of soi-disant " artistic " composi- 
tion known at the time. And counterpoint 
was essentially polyphonic in several inter- 
woven voices, or parts and, as such, abso- 
lutely unfit for all but an exceedingly limited 
range of scenic uses. In a composition for the 
concert-room a polyphonic or choral passage 
may, at a pinch, stand for the utterance of a 
single individual ; * but it can not do so on the 
dramatic stage. A single actor can not sing in 
four or five parts (" real" or otherwise), and to 
put a visible quartet or quintet of singers upon 
the stage, to impersonate a single individual, 
would be a slap in the face of dramatic realism 
against which even the most imaginatively dis- 
posed audience would protest. 

So composers who wished to write dramatic 
music counterpoint being the only known 
medium had perforce to forego actual drama- 
tic representation of their works, and content 
themselves with performances in the concert- 
room. But let no one think contrapuntal po- 
lyphony an impossible vehicle for dramatic ex- 
pression. True, strict vocal counterpoint in 
the old modal system, quite devoid of sighing 

* Modern instances of this sort of thing are not wanting. Men- 
delssohn, in his Paulus, makes the Lord speak in a four-part 
chorus of female voices. 



or yearning chromatics, does not seem a very 
poignantly expressive medium to us now ; but 
there resided in it at least some expressive 
potentialities, which the then composers were 
eager to make the most of ; in any case, the 
will was not wanting. Indeed, an ever-grow- 
ing tendency to lay stress upon the intentional 
expression of definite emotion is noticeable in 
the great contrapuntists of the fifteenth and six- 
teenth centuries, from old Josquin Despr6s 
(1450-1521) down; and from the emotionally 
expressive to the dramatic is but a step. 

The early madrigal-plays what we should 
call dramatic cantatas in France and Italy 
were really far more significant operatic sym- 
ptoms than the older stage-plays of the Robin 
et Marion sort, even though these latter were 
given with scenery, costumes, and dramatic 
action on a real stage. Although written for 
the concert-room, the madrigal-plays showed a 
distinct striving on the part of composers to do 
something more dramatic with music than had 
been done theretofore, which the vaudeville -\^&& 
stage-plays did not in the least. 

It is noteworthy that, especially in Italy, 
these madrigal-plays generally took a comic 
direction. Alessandro Striggio of Mantua 
(* 535" 1 584) writes a series of rustic scenes for 
four and five voices, carrying the listener 


The Opera Past and Present 

through the various occurrences of a village 
day : scenes of village gossip and scandal, ser- 
vants' complaints of their masters, bickerings 
and hand-to-hand fight of washerwomen, re- 
conciliation, kisses, and sunset. Giovanni Croce 
of Chioggia (1550-1609) sets the whole Vene- 
tian carnival to music, often with no little real- 
istic vis comica. At last we come to the comic 
cantatas of Orazio Vecchi of Modena (1551- 
1605) and his pupil, Adriano Banchieri of Bo- 
logna (1567-1634). These were sung on the 
stage by costumed singers ; the text was a regu- 
lar play, but there was no acting, and the music 
of each dramatis persona was for from three to 
five voices, quite in the traditional contrapun- 
tal madrigal style, but often overbrimming 
with picturesque suggestiveness and comic 
realism. These cantatas represent the dra- 
matic culmination of the old modal coun- 
terpoint, the last stage of the preliminary evo- 
lution which preceded the advent of Opera in 

Equally symptomatic, if in a different way, 
were some of the developments of the court 
ballet in France under the Valois. The ballet, 
as in favour at the French court about the mid- 
dle of the sixteenth century, was essentially 
what we should now call a ballet d* action; it 
was based on some timely theme, generally of 



a classico-mythological character, and this cen- 
tral idea was developed in recited verses, songs, 
choruses, dancing, and pantomime, often with 
the aid of very ingenious stage-machinery. The 
scheme was artless enough, the thing had little 
dramatic consistency ; but the elements of po- 
etry, music, dancing, and dramatic action were 
here associated together, and the bond of 
union between all four was not so loose but 
that a light touch of the magician's wand would 
suffice to turn the whole thing into Opera. The 
eye of History even descries something very 
like that magician in Balthasar de Beaujoyeulx, 
a Piedmontese violinist his real name was 
Baltazarini who came to Paris with a company 
of Italian fiddlers in 1577, being recommended 
by the mar6chal de Brissac to Catherine de 
Medicis ; she made him her valet de chambre. 
This Beaujoyeulx associated with himself se- 
veral court poets, musicians, and painters* in 
organizing a grand ballet called Circf, ou le bal- 
let comique de la Reme, which was given by 
Henri III in the salle des cariatides of the 
palais du Petit-Bourbon on Sunday, October 
15, 1581, in honour of the marriage of the due 
de Joyeuse and Marguerite de Vaudemont de 

* La Chesnaye, de Beaulieu, Maistre Salmon, Jacques Patin, 
Desportes, Baif, Ronsard, and Th. Agrippa d'Aubigne are men- 
tioned as having a hand in it. 


The Opera Past and Present 

Lorraine, the queen's sister.* The plot was of 
the simplest: a gentleman, hastening to an- 
nounce the reign of Peace and Plenty to His 
Most Christian Majesty, is waylaid by Circ6, 
and by her changed into a lion. Half the gods 
and goddesses of Olympus, not to mention other 
mythological personages, try to liberate him, 
but either return discomfited to whence they 
came, or are likewise transformed into beasts. 
At last the Royal Word does the business, and 
all ends happily. The whole is interspersed 
with harangues, distilling an amount of court 
holy-water suggestive of His Most Christian 
Majesty's having a fine stomach for adulation, 
songs, duets, choruses, instrumental intermez- 
zi, and two grand ballet-interludes.f The per- 

* BALTHASAR DE BEAUJOYEULX, Balet comyque de la Royne. 
Paris : Adrian Le Roy, Ballard et Mamert Pattison, 1582. 

BEAUJOYEULX, le Ballet comique de la Reine, etc., reconstitue 
et reduit pour piano et chant par J. -B. WECKERLIN. Paris : 
Theodore Michaelis, s. d. 

A copy of the former (the original full score) is now in the Bibli- 
otheque Nationale in Paris ; one of Weckerlin's pianoforte-score is 
in the Boston Public Library. 

t One little strain of the music has come down to our day : the 
last nine measures of ballet-music in the first interlude, taken from 
an old song, le Son de la clochette, which, under the name of 
Amaryllis, used to be a favourite at Mr. Thomas's concerts in 
New York and elsewhere, in an arrangement by one Ghys who 
wrongly attributed its composition to Henri III himself. The 
song is much older than the last of the Valois. 



formance was probably the most sumptuous on 
record, lasted from ten o'clock in the evening 
to a half after three in the morning, " without 
anyone's noticing its length," and cost over 
1,200,000 tens* The curious reader can find 
a detailed account of its scenic splendours of 
solid gold, silver, and real gems Circe's Gar- 
den, Golden Vault, Grove of Pan, Fountain 
of Glaucus, etc. its gorgeously attired court 
beauties and professional singers, in Celler.f 
The experiment was too expensive to be re- 
peated ! 

What differentiates the Ballet de la Reine from 
the many court ballets that preceded it under 
the Valois, and followed it under the Bourbons, 
is its superior consistency of dramatic plot; 
possibly also an occasional dramatic accent in 
the music. If not quite a full-fledged opera, 
Celler is a little over-anxious to accept it as 
one, it was more like an opera than anything 
that came before it in France. Call it at least 
an " opera in embryo," a noteworthy premoni- 
tory symptom of what was to come. As such, 
one of the most remarkable things about it was 

* If this means silver frus, the sum would be 3,600,000 francs ; 
if gold, 6,000,000 francs. Say, from $720,000 to $1,200,000 of 
our money. 

tLUDOVic CELLER, Les origines de V Optra ct le Ballet de la 
Reine. Paris : Didier et Cie., 1868. 


The Opera Past and Present 

the wholly unpremeditated way Baltazarini 
stumbled, as it were, upon a style of musico- 
dramatic entertainment so very like what 
French Opera was destined to become in after 
years; this seems to have been, with him, a 
matter of pure clairvoyant instinct. 

So far had matters been brought forward in 
the operatic direction by the last quarter of the 
sixteenth century ; all that opera-thirsty mu- 
sicians were still waiting for was a form of mu- 
sic that could be put to scenic uses. That form 
once found, the Opera would come of itself ! 

About the last decade of the century a coterie 
of Florentine nobles made a noteworthy disco- 
very. This was virtually that, though the 
Renaissance in Art and Literature was hard 
upon two centuries old, the Art of Music had 
been quite untouched by it. This isolated po- 
sition of Music during over a century and a 
half of the Renaissance may seem strange, but 
was really entirely natural, even unavoidable. 

The whole Renaissance movement was essen- 
tially a return to the Classic, a setting up of 
antique theory and practice as unquestioned 
guides in matters of Art and Literature. Now, 
it was comparatively easy for the promoters of 
the Renaissance to take up Painting, Sculpture, 
Architecture, Poetry, and Literature in general 
where the ancient Greeks and Romans had left 



them ; these arts had been lying fallow through 
the Middle Ages, utterly neglected ; the thread 
could be knotted together again, and the evolu- 
tion proceed almost as if there had been no 
break. But with Music this was impossible. 
The Art of Music had not shared the long 
torpid sleep of her sister arts during the Middle 
Ages, but, from the tenth century on, had been 
pursuing a course of evolution of her own, and, 
what is more, a course of evolution almost 
wholly uninfluenced by antique precept or ex- 
ample. By the time the Renaissance began, 
this evolution had made giant strides. So the 
promoters of the Renaissance, who found the 
other arts lying torpid and, like Rip Van 
Winkle, no farther advanced than when they 
had first gone to sleep, found Music very wide 
awake indeed, with four centuries of formal 
evolution already behind her. Moreover, as 
this evolution had been hardly influenced at all 
by classic principles, it was no wonder that the 
art had got into a condition which made classic 
precepts utterly inapplicable. The writings of 
Plato, Aristotle, and other ancient philosophers 
the infallible Bibles of the Renaissance aes- 
thetic creed were infinitely instructive about 
Painting, Sculpture, Architecture, and Poetry ; 
but they had nothing whatever to say about 
strict vocal counterpoint, the one musical form 


The Opera Past and Present 

which the four centuries of evolution had 
brought forth. Counterpoint was clearly irre- 
deemably un-Platonic and un-Aristotelian, and 
that was the self-evident long and short of it! 

That our Florentine friends should have 
waked up one fine morning to this damning 
fact damning, for to be un-Hellenic was to 
be inartistic is not surprising ; it would have 
been more astonishing, had they remained 
longer blind to it. But, once awake to this 
fact, they determined to act upon it forthwith. 
They instituted the so-called Florentine Music- 
Reform of the seventeenth century a move- 
ment of importance in history. The true gist 
of this reform was to bring the Art of Music for 
the first time under the sway of Renaissance 
principles ; it was the Renaissance of the art. 

These reformers were Giovanni Bardi, a di- 
stinguished Della-Cruscan and member of the 
Accademia degl' Alterati ; Piero Strozzi ; Vin- 
cenzo Galilei, father of " E pur si muove" ; and 
Jacopo Corsi. With these noblemen were 
associated Ottavio (or Ottaviano) Rinuccini, 
the poet, and two professional musicians : 
Jacopo Peri, nicknamed il Zazzerino from his 
fine shock of gold-red hair (" bellissima capella- 
tura fra bionda e rossa "), and Giulio Caccini, 
better known in his day, like his namesake the 
painter, as Giulio Romano. The coterie was 



collectively known as la Camerata " the 

The Reform was both destructive and con- 
structive. Destructively, it was war to the 
knife with counterpoint, and with all for which 
counterpoint stood. Rather a comprehensive 
program, in its way ; as much so as that whole- 
sale demand for " T arrest at ion des coquins et des 
Idches " in the French National Assembly. For 
the abolition of counterpoint meant nothing 
more nor less than wiping out the only form of 
music then known, and nullifying all the prac- 
tical technique in composition that had been 
acquired after four centuries of labour. Con- 
structively, the Reform meant the devising of 
a new form of composition, governed by the 
strictest and most uncompromising antique- 
Hellenic principles. Music was to do nothing 

* The dates of Peri's birth and death are not known ; he was 
a Florentine of humble birth, but seems somehow to have per- 
suaded himself that he could lay just claim to descent from the 
noble family of Peri. Caccini, several years his junior, was born 
in Rome between 1558 and 1560; when a young man, he came to 
settle in Florence, where he died in 1640. Peri was a very tho- 
roughly trained musician, decidedly more so than Caccini, who 
was, however, far enough from being the mere bungler some his- 
torians have called him. From the beginning, every pioneer in a 
new musical direction has been called a poor musician by his 
academic contemporaries. Both Caccini and Peri were famous 
singers ; Caccini was also noted as a teacher of singing. 


The Opera Past and Present 

but help to express the sentiments of the poetic 
text ; it was to take its whole plastic form from 
that text from the natural rhetorical accents 
of ordinary speech, the natural emotional rise 
and fall of the voice, from the metre of the 
verse, even from the very rhyme. All so-called 
purely musical freedom was to be denied it, it 
was to become the docile hand-maid of Poetry. 
In other words, an absolute tabula rasa was to 
be made of the whole Art of Music. 

As a matter of fact, this Florentine Reform 
was the dawn of "artistic" monodic composi- 
tion for a single voice with instrumental ac- 
companiment on principles which the reader 
must already have recognized as strictly Wag- 
nerian. The style of writing which the Came- 
rata thus originated was called the stile rap- 
presentativo, or " representative (i.e. expressive) 
style " ; something very like what we now call 

Kind Fortune smiled. What could, for in- 
stance, have been luckier we having made a 
tabula rasa of the Art of Music than the oppor- 
tune publication, in 1592, of Claudio Montever- 
di's third book of madrigals, an epoch-making 
volume, big with a whole new Tonal System, 
with " free dominant /ths " and other luxuries, 
unheard-of before? A most fitting novelty for 
a new era to begin with ! The point of depart- 



ure for all Modern Music, did we but know it ! 
Then, how well our new monodic style, quite 
dazzling in its Hellenic purity, fits in with that 
other great factor of the Renaissance : the 
growth of Individualism in Art. Really the 
prime product of the whole Renaissance move- 
ment, the wheat, of which our vaunted classi- 
cism is but the chaff. For our classicism is, in 
the end, but a blind, a manifesto, something to 
sign and swear to; but the Individualism is a 
natural, instinctive growth, and has more than 
the force of signed parchment. Painters and 
sculptors have, for the last half century and 
more, been forswearing their allegiance to the 
classic type, and limning the features of the 
woman most after their own heart; poets have 
sung what they themselves have seen and felt 
and let the Academy go hang. And now we 
composers can do likewise in our way : turn 
our backs upon the typical generalities of coun- 
terpoint, and put our inmost selves into har- 
mony and melody. You singers, too, can at 
last stand forth from the choir, and be your- 
selves alone. Here, if anywhere, is a free field 
for Individualism ; pity only that we have no 
working technique ready-made for the occa- 
sion ; for the old contrapuntal technique will 
surely not carry us far on our new road. But 
courage ! a technique has been developed once, 


The Opera Past and Present 

and can be developed again. We will enter 
upon our new era of the Art of Music with 
hearts undaunted, and put our forebears to the 
blush yet ! 

Strange, though, what ideals men in an inter- 
esting condition will set up for themselves, and 
how little the most ardent players see of the 
game. Here was the Camerata with a brand- 
new musical style (fondly believed by them to 
be authentically antique), eminently adapted to 
scenic use. And to what use, think you, did 
they purpose putting it ? To a revival of the 
Greek Drama, the crowning consummation of 
that Hellenic palingenesis which was the proud- 
est boast of the Renaissance ! Of all imaginable 
projects, probably the most hopeless in Italy 
in the last decade of the sixteenth century. 
Yet this was what the Camerata were bent upon 
bringing about, cost what it might ; and that 
they could do it they had never a doubt. That 
they did not do it, nor anything like it, need 
hardly be said ; they did better, they gave birth 
to the Opera. To think that this, of all forms 
of art, should owe its existence to a set of as 
arrant pedants as ever drew breath ! for that 
the members of the Camerata (always excepting 
Caccini and Peri) distinctly were, pedants to 
the finger-tips. 

The first high festival of the new musical cult 



was the performance of Dafne a favola in mu- 
sica, or opera, the libretto by Rinuccini, the 
music by Peri at Corsi's palace in 1595. This 
was the first opera on record, and so successful 
that it was repeated at several successive carni- 
vals. It was written in the stile rappresentativo ; 
yet hear what Pietro della Valle (a most com- 
petent witness) wrote afterwards about the 
singing of Vittoria Archilei, who took the part 
of Dafne : " She was no beauty, but the fore- 
most songstress of the time. She ornamented 
the written monody with long flourishes and 
turns (lunghi giri e grupfi) which disfigured 
it, but were much in fashion, and the singer 
Peri praises them highly."* So, at the very 
first dawn of Opera did the virtuoso singer 
have her share in the business, and have her 
" disfiguring" flourishes condoned by the com- 
poser! The fact is not without its signifi- 
cance, f 

The score of Dafne has been lost; all the 
performances were in private, before invited 
audiences. But the Opera made its official, 
public entry into the world five years later. 

* In a letter to Lelio Guidiccioni, January 16, 1640 forty and 
odd years after the performance ; but some men have tenacious 
memories. Note, too, that "the singer Peri" was the composer 

f Vide Peri's preface to Euridice in Appendix, page 221. 


The Opera Past and Present 

By order of the grand duke, Rinuccini wrote 
the libretto of Euridice ; it was set to music 
separately by both Caccini and Peri, each com- 
poser writing his own complete score. The 
opera was given, as part of the festivities in 
honour of the wedding of Henri IV, of France, 
and Maria de' Medici, in the Pitti Palace on 
October 6, 1600; at this first performance part 
of Peri's music and part of Caccini's were given. 
But both scores were published separately. 

In Caccini's and Peri's Euridices we have fair 
samples of what serious Italian Opera was in its 
first estate. There are some few choruses in 
the madrigal style ; the dialogue is all carried 
on in the stile rappresentativo. But many vocal 
flourishes are actually written down, especially 
in Caccini's score, so they can not be charged 
to any whim of the Archilei, who sang the part 
of Euridice, unless, indeed, she exerted some 
personal influence over the composers, who, 
between pedantic noble patrons, on the one 
hand, and an indispensable prima donna, on the 
other, may well have had moments of doubt 
as to which was the devil and which the deep 

Yet this personal influence, though quite sup- 
posable, is not necessary to account for the 
flourishes ; it is more than probable that Cac- 
cini and Peri would have written them in any 


event. They, men of original genius, must 
have felt that Music, as the idealizing element 
in Opera, ought to be treated with something 
of ideality. Now, it happens that the idealiz- 
ing power of this mysterious Art of Tones re- 
sides in its sensuous beauty of line and colour; 
and, owing to the primordial, amorphous con- 
dition into which the Reform had thrown 
Music, with counterpoint abolished, the or- 
chestra merely rudimentary, tonal harmony in 
its infancy, and true melody unborn, well-nigh 
the only sensuous appeal to the musical ear 
they had at command was that of florid vocali- 
zation by a beautiful voice. Those long " giri e 
gruppi" were the sacrifice they forced the stern 
stile rappresentativo to offer up at the altar of 
musical beauty and ideality. 

Thus was the Opera born : of a determined, 
if utterly foolish and futile, attempt to revive 
the classic Greek Drama in the last decade of 
the sixteenth century in Florence. It entered 
upon life with its dramatic side very perfectly 
developed, for Rinuccini was distinctly a man 
of genius, both as poet and dramatist ; far above 
the average of his day, one of the best librettists 
ever known, with its musical side in a merely 
embryonic condition. Yet the music, in one 
respect, quite fulfilled the demands of the most 
nineteenth-century aesthetics: in its absolute 


The Opera Past and Present 

subserviency to the emotional expression of the 
text, in its thoroughly scenic quality, its allow- 
ing the actor the completest practicable free- 
dom of dramatic action. In other words, the 
Opera began (in theory, at least) as a perfect 
exemplification of the art principles of the 
Wagnerian Music-Drama ; all that was lack- 
ing was a further musical development.* 

* Peri's claim to being the Father of the Opera has been dis- 
puted. It is known that Emilio del Cavaliere (or de' Cavalieri) 
a Roman nobleman (born about 1550, died before 1600) who came 
to Florence between 1570 and 1580, and held the post of In- 
spector-General of Art and Artists under Ferdinando de' Medici 
up to 1596 wrote music to three plays, two of which // Satiro 
and La disperazione di Fileno were given on the stage in 1590, 
that is, four years before Peri's Dafne. The whole question rests 
on the character of the music to these plays, the scores of which 
have been lost. Peri plainly refers to them in his preface to 
Euridice (vide Appendix), but in a way that is open to more than 
one interpretation. The expression "our Music (nostra Musica) " 
might be taken to mean the stile rappresentativo of the Camerata ; 
but it is known that del Cavaliere had no connection with the 
Camerata. Moreover, Peri's subsequent statement that he him- 
self (who certainly did write in the stile rappresentativo) had treated 
the text " in a different manner (in altra guisa) " contradicts this. 
Upon the whole, considering the fashions of the day, may not the 
"our Music," as well as the "with marvellous originality," have 
been sheer bits of conventional flattery, quite natural for an artist 
like Peri to use in referring to a nobleman of del Cavaliere's in- 
fluence in Florence, especially as that nobleman, not belonging to 
the Camerata, might be well worth propitiating ? In those days 
it was difficult to gather a man's real meaning from what he said 
in a dedicatory preface. 



The European Conquest 

THE first to follow the Florentine lead, and 
trump all the Camerata's aces, were Clau- 
dio Monteverdi and Marco da Gagliano.* 

Monteverdi was born at Cremona in May, 
1567, and studied under Marc' Antonio Ingegni- 
eri, maestro di cappella at the cathedral. From 
1590 to 1612 he was in the service of Vincenzo 
Gonzaga, duke of Mantua, at first as singer and 
violist, then as maestro di cappella and court com- 

* The first composer's name is spelt Monteverdo in the baptis- 
mal register. Of the title-pages of most of his published works 
it stands as Monteverde ; once as Monte Verde. But the 113 auto- 
graph letters that have come down to us are, without exception, 
signed Monteverdi. This plural termination is undoubtedly the 
right one. Vide VOGEL, Claudio Monteverdi, in Vierteljahrs- 
schrift fur Musikwissenschaft, III., 315. 

Da Gagliano's name is given wrong in most cyclopaedias. The 
error has been traced to F. - J. Fetis, who, seeing ' ' Marco di 
Zanobi da Gagliano "in an article by Picchianti in the Gazetta 
musicale di Milano (1844, No. i), mistook Zanobi for the family 
surname, and the di for a sign of noblesse. Zanobi was the Chris- 
tian name of Marco's father, and the family was so far from noble 
that its surname has never come to light. Vide Jb. t V. 


The Opera Past and Present 

poser ; from 1613 to his death, on November 29, 
1643, he was maestro di cappella at St. Mark's in 
Venice. He was one of the greatest geniuses, 
probably the very greatest pioneer, in the whole 
history of Music. We have already met him as 
the discoverer of the modern Tonal System a 
discovery which revolutionized the whole Art of 
Music; he developed the ponderous, unwieldy 
stile rappresentativo of the Camerata, with its 
leaden accompaniment in long-sustained notes, 
into the more vivacious and passionate stile con- 
citato (or " excited style "), letting the accompa- 
niment take its own rhythm and strike as many 
repeated notes to the measure as he pleased, 
thus establishing the basis for nearly all modern 
writing for a voice, or voices, with instrumental 
accompaniment. This repercussion of notes, 
pushed to the due degree of speed, became the 
string tremolo a device against which the play- 
ers kicked lustily at first, as physically impos- 
sible. He also invented the string pizzicato. 
The whole great Art of Instrumentation owes 
its origin to him. He and da Gagliano carried 
the Opera one stage farther in its musical de- 
velopment ; not a very long stage, perhaps, but 
none the less an important one. They threw 
Dramatic Music, already big with Melody, into 
her travail -th roes ; the whole dramatic style 
showed greater freedom and mastery. 


The European Conquest 

On May 28, 1607, Monteverdi's first opera, 
Orfeo (the libretto by Alessandro Striggio), was 
given with great success at the Accademia degV 
Invaghiti in Mantua. Toward the end of Janu- 
ary, 1608, it was followed by da Gagliano's 
Dafne (Rinuccini's old libretto, revamped for 
the occasion by the author), given in honour of 
the duke's youngest son, Ferdinando Gonzaga, 
being made cardinal. On May 28 of the same 
year came the most overwhelming success of 
all, Monteverdi's Arianna (the text by Rinuc- 
cini), given to celebrate the nuptials of Fran- 
cesco Gonzaga (the eldest son) and Margherita 
di Savoia. 

In Monteverdi's Orfeo we find Caccini and 
Peri left well behind. The monody has more 
musical independence, a freer dramatic fire ; 
the orchestration begins to assume an impor- 
tance of its own ; the harmony is richer and 
more appositely expressive ; in short, one feels 
a stronger hand at the bellows.* All that re- 
mains of Arianna is one monologue, Arianna's 
famous lament, " Lasciatemi morire /" after be- 
ing abandoned by Teseo. No single composi- 
tion was ever more famous in its day than this 
Lament o ; contemporary letters are rich in ac- 

* It is rather curious that, of all Monteverdi's opera-scores, 
only the first and last Orfeo (Mantua, 1607) and L> Incoronatione 
di Poppea (Venice, 1642) have been preserved. 


The Opera Past and Present 

counts of its pathetic beauty and of the over- 
whelming impression it made upon all listeners. 
Even to-day we can feel its enormous dramatic 
power, its wondrous truth and depth of pathos.* 
So far, the Opera had been distinctly aristo- 
cratic, a bonne bouche for cultivated cognoscenti ; 
but a change was soon to come. In 1637 the 
first public opera-house Teatro di San Cas- 
siano f was opened in Venice ; with it, the 
Opera was brought for the first time face to 
face with the great general public. Thence- 
forth the people together with, but quite as 
much as, crowned heads and affluent nobles 
were to be arbiters of its destiny. And, as Hans 
Sachs says, 

Wer Preise erkennt, und Preise stellt, 

der will am End' auch dass man ihm gefallt.J 

That the Opera must come down from its high 
perch of pseudo-Hellenic purism, and appeal to 
a taste quite other than that of a cultivated 
aristocracy, was evident enough. 

* It is printed entire, omitting the short choruses between the 
stanzas, in VOGEL, ubi sup., 445-450 ; unfortunately the accom- 
paniment is given only in figured bass. 

t Most Venetian opera-houses were named after the nearest 

t Freely Englished: " He who offers and awards prizes likes, 
upon the whole, to be pleased in his own way." Die Meister* 
singer von Niirnberg, Act III., scene 2. 


The European Conquest 

Accordingly we find, in this Venetian period 
of the Lyric Drama, a marked deterioration in 
the character of libretti. Classico-mythological 
subjects make way for classico-historical ones; 
historical only in title and in the names of the 
dramatis persona, for the whole social and moral 
atmosphere is seventeenth-century Venetian; 
high-buskinned Tragedy quits the field, to make 
room for the intrigues and loud fustian of Me- 
lodrama. Almost the only theme is intrigue : 
intrigue amorous, intrigue political, intrigue 
villainous; the favourite hinge to the plot is 
what the French call travestissement, disguise in 
somebody else's clothes ; all the characters, no- 
ble or base, virtuous or debauched, patriotic or 
traitorous, have, as Romain Rolland acutely 
remarks, one trait in common : they invariably 
seek to gain their several ends by lying ! Side 
by side with the most hair-raising sophistica- 
tions of rhetoric and metaphor, we find a naivete 
as of Navahoes and Zunis ; for ingenuous ana- 
chronisms, these opera-texts put Shakspere to 
the blush.* Last, but not least, the comic per- 
sonage, the low comedian dear to the gods, 
makes his way upon the stage, flouting heroes 

* For instance, Praxiteles accompanies Phryne to a "solemn 
fair " in Athens, where, after expatiating upon the products of 
"Asia, America (sic /), Europe, Africa, and the world," he buys 
her a "gold watch." 


The Opera Past and Present 

and demigods with his tart wit. The Opera is 
popularizing itself with a vengeance! 

And with this popular movement comes suc- 
cess ; for, as George Eliot says, " none but the 
ancients could be always classic." After the 
San Cassiano, opera-house upon opera-house is 
opened in Venice ; by the end of the century 
there are eleven, of them in full blast a gene- 
rous allowance for a population of about 140,000. 
What a cultivated aristocracy thought of the 
business is not reported ; but it probably did 
not kick over-hard, and may, in its heart of 
heart, have been not disinclined to welcome a 
respite from being " always classic." But that 
impressive spectre of a revived Greek Drama 
was sent back to limbo for good and all ! Upon 
the whole, whatever the Opera may have lost in 
dignity by thus tumbling down from its aris- 
tocratic-classical perch, it certainly gained in 
vigour and pithiness by becoming a frank ex- 
pression of the Spirit of the Age. 

The ruling individuality of this whole Vene- 
tian period of the Opera was Monteverdi's 
greatest pupil, Cavalli. Pier-Francesco Caletti- 
Bruni was born at Crema, near Venice, in 1599 
or 1600 ; his father was maestro di cappella at the 
church of Sta. Maria in Crema. He was taken 
to Venice by Federigo Cavalli, a Venetian no- 
bleman and podesta of the province of Crema, 


The European Conquest 

who lodged him in his own house and had him 
educated as a musician. The boy was soon 
popularly known as il Checo di Cd-Cavalli 
(Franky of the house of Cavalli), and his real 
name was gradually dropped. As composer, 
as organist (1665) and maestro di cappella (1668) 
at St. Mark's, he was always known as Fran- 
cesco Cavalli. 

Cavalli's was a rugged, passionate, wholly 
masculine nature ; with a lightning-flash of in- 
stinct he would dive to the bottom of a dra- 
matic situation, and, without any reflective pro- 
cess, crystallise out its gist in a few measures of 
matchless music. He was* fond of rapid, bril- 
liant strokes, hitting the nail upon the head and 
driving it home at a blow. There is some- 
thing Wagnerish in the heroic pomp of his 
style, in the laconic pithiness of an occasional 
trumpet-like theme; more Wagnerish still is his 
glowing picturesque imaginativeness. He for 
the first time brought something of the popular 
song into Opera ; his fondness for simple, con- 
cise melodic forms is conspicuous. He wel- 
comed the laughable personage upon the lyric 
stage, and treated him musically with consum- 
mate mastery. A born son of the people, he 
was just the man to give convincing expression 
to the popular spirit. 

Of Cavalli's thirty-nine operas, the first, Le 

The Opera Past and Present 

nozze di Teti e Peleo, was brought out at the San 
Cassiano in 1639; the last, a second version of 
Erismena, at the San Salvatore in 1670. His 
best and most famous works were probably 
Giasone (San Cassiano, 1649) an d Ercole (Paris, 
1662). He died in Venice on January 14, 1676. 

The introduction of the comic element into 
Opera which may be roughly dated with 
Cavalli's Doriclea (San Cassiano, 1645) was one 
of the most noteworthy features of the earlier 
part of the Venetian movement; it was, in the 
best sense, popular. Another innovation was 
less good : the gradual discarding of the chorus 
probably chiefly for financial reasons, the sala- 
ries of leading artists having much increased 
since the first opera-houses were opened. In 
other parts of Italy the comic and satirical 
Opera flourished almost to the exclusion of the 
more serious form. The opera buffa was fast 
coming into vogue. Nowhere, save in Mantua 
(and at first in Venice), was the ultra-classicism 
of the Camerata accepted ; either the purely 
comic and satirical variety was taken as the 
standard norm, or else the mixed serio-comic 
one, as developed in Venice by Cavalli. Espe- 
cially in Naples was this latter cultivated, with 
both the comic and the melodramatic elements 
pushed to artless exaggeration. 

The chief figure in the, so to speak, preli- 

The European Conquest 

minary period of Opera in Naples before the 
more characteristic " great " (or " beautiful ") 
Neapolitan period was Francesco Provenzale, 
one of the greatest and most forgotten geniuses 
in the history of Opera, suspected by Remain 
Rolland to be identical with the better-known 
Francesco della Torre. He was born about 
1610, and died no one knows when. His La 
Stellidaura vendicata (1670), // schiavo di sua 
moglie (1671), and if Holland's suspicion is 
right Alessandro Bala (1678) show him to have 
been a consummate master of the serio-comic 
style, with, however, a strong leaning toward 
the tragic. 

If the Venetian movement could but have 
continued longer in its original direction, the 
whole subsequent history of Opera might have 
been different ; the form might gradually have 
outgrown its melodramatic frivolities, and 
have become in time the highest and most na- 
tural sort of Lyric Drama. But this was not 
to be ; a new element was suddenly introduced, 
which straightway, and all but permanently, 
changed the whole face of the matter. 

Up to about the middle of Cavalli's career, 
the whole progressive development of the 
Opera had been of the musical sort ; consider- 
ing the dramatic perfection and musical pri- 
mitiveness of the form in its first estate, under 


The Opera Past and Present 

the Florentine Camerata, this was inevitable. 
But, as Mr. Runciman well says, no one learns 
how to do a thing best by trying to do some- 
thing else ; it is easy to see how a new musical 
evolution could be pushed forward more free- 
ly and rapidly by composers who did not write 
for the stage than by opera-writers who were 
unavoidably hampered by scenic considerations. 
To make Music musical is one thing ; to make 
it musical and scenic at the same time is a 
double task. No wonder, then, that the un- 
dramatic composers soon outstripped their 
opera- writing contemporaries. 

Giacomo Carissimi (born at Marino, near 
Rome, about 1604, died in Rome in 1674), un- 
questionably the greatest genius of his time in 
Music, had done mighty work in developing 
the Oratorio. Indeed, this wonderful man did 
virtually the work of a whole century in the 
matter of formal musical evolution ; he devel- 
oped and established wellnigh every form of 
vocal composition cultivated in Bach's and 
Handel's day. He never wrote for the stage ; 
and the musical forms he developed did not in 
any way take the stage into account. 

In 1649* his favourite pupil, Marc' Antonio 

* At least, Cesti's Orontea was given at the SS. Apostoli in that 
year; and composers usually superintended the production of 
their operas. 


The European Conquest 

Cesti (born in Arezzo, or Florence, about 1620, 
died in Venice in 1669), came to Venice, bring- 
ing the new Carissimi ideas, the new Carissimi 
technique with him. Cesti brought the Opera 
under the Carissimi influence ; and opera-com- 
posers, even Cavalli himself, were only too 
amenable to it. As a purely musical influence, 
it was nothing but good ; as a musico-dramatic 
influence, it was unspeakably bad. Not only 
did Cesti bring into Opera a number of highly, 
developed musical forms of absolutely unscenic 
character, forms developed without a thought 
of scenic requirements, and utterly unfit for 
scenic uses, but he turned the popular comic 
element out of doors, and brought the Opera 
back to its original estate of a form of art that 
appealed well-nigh exclusively to a cultivated 
aristocracy. With him came the severing of 
the opera buffa from the opera seria. With him, 
too, began the real dramatic decline of the lat- 
ter form, a decadence more intrinsic and of 
serious import than the mere change from 
Tragedy to Melodrama in the earlier part of 
the Venetian period. More to be lamented, 
because, in a form of art which is (or ought to 
be) nothing if not dramatic, a move in a poor 
dramatic direction is far less ruinous than a 
move in a distinctly undramatic direction. In 
a word, coming under the Carissimi influence 


The Opera Past and Present 

did more harm to the Opera than anything 
else that ever happened to it ; it led it into a 
no-thoroughfare from which no one succeeded 
in extricating it until Richard Wagner took 
the business in hand. 

The opera buffa was far less amenable to this 
influence than the opera seria ; this was natural 
enough. But the opera seria was not long in 
contracting every undramatic and unscenic 
vice that has marred it, as a form of art, almost 
to this day. Opera entered upon what may 
well be called its " Oratorio epoch," becoming 
nothing but Oratorio sung in costume, amid 
more or less appropriate scenery.* This epoch 
had best be passed over by us here in silence, 
as the black, shameful period in the history 
of Opera. Enough that the Oratorio style of 
Italian opera seria flourished all through the 
so-called "great" Neapolitan period roughly 
speaking, from 1684 to 1762 f up to the Gluck 
Reform, that is, through the Handel period, in 
which it culminated. It was illustrated by 
some of the grandest and most exquisite music 

* The term Oratorio is here used in its Handelian sense : as 
denoting a large form of vocal composition, not necessarily sacred, 
but of more or less dramatic character, intended for concert per- 

t These are the dates of the production in Naples of Alessandro 
Scarlatti's Pompeo, and of Gluck's Orfeo ed Euridice in Vienna. 


The European Conquest 

ever written; nothing can exceed the beauty 
of many things, for instance, in Handel's 
operas.* But this music, though often essen- 
tially dramatic in its expression, was so anta- 
gonistic to all true scenic conditions that the 
Opera of this epoch hardly deserves to be 
ranked as Lyric Drama at all. The Lyric 
Drama was virtually dethroned in this inter- 
regnum of Oratorio. 

One of the worst features of the business was 
that it played into the hand of the virtuoso 
singer as that worthy had never had it played 
into before even though Peri did condone the 
Archilei's " giri e gruppi" in the very beginning. 
Skilled singers knew well on which side their 
bread was buttered, and the opportunity to 
warble forth intoxicating roulades, without the 
accompanying fatigue of acting, was not to be 
despised ; the whole epoch was their Golden 
Age and happy hay-making time. The vocal 
virtuoso soon got to be cock of the walk, and 
composers themselves bowed down before him; 
now and then, to be sure, a grandee like Handel 
would try to throw a female of the species 

* No adequate estimate of the greatness of George Frideric 
Handel's genius can be formed from his oratorios; great as 
these are in their way, they fall behind his Italian operas for 
freshness of inspiration, originality of style, and poetic beauty of 


The Opera Past and Present 

bodily out of window, but such recalcitration 
was, upon the whole, rare. Not that the move- 
ment passed wholly without opposition. Mat- 
ters had even come to a baddish pass before 
it got under way. Benedetto Marcello (1686- 
1739) gave up the whole business as a bad job 
after two or three trials, turned his back upon 
the stage for good and all, and betook himself to 
Church Music and Consuelo's " I cieli immensi 
narranno." Niccolo Jommelli (1714-1774) threw 
over the da capo aria, and made his music as 
dramatic as the less unscenic forms of the day 
would permit. But the singers had the best of 
it, and, where a man like Handel was willing to 
accept the general convention, the barking of 
smaller dogs went unheeded by the crowd. It 
was a deplorable business, and Gluck came not 
a day too soon, to put an end to it. 

Meanwhile the comic form was faring better. 
It had long led a rather disreputable and un- 
recognized existence in many parts of Italy, 
haunting very minor theatres and other resorts 
of the proletariat ; from popular it became ple- 
beian. But, after a while, it began to show its 
face in good society again. At first in a small 
way, in the shape of one-act farces, often writ- 
ten by the singers themselves, given between 
the acts of grander operas ; thus did it worm 
its way into court theatres, and sun itself once 


The European Conquest 

more in aristocratic smiles. Then came Nic- 
colo Logroscino (born in Naples about 1700, 
died there in 1763) to make a reputable artistic 
form of it and get it recognized as a national 
institution. Pergolesi (1710-1736) and Pic- 
cinni (1728-1800) carried the form still farther 
upward in the artistic direction ; the opera buffa 
was an established fact. Pergolesi's Serva pa- 
drona (Naples, 1731) long stood as the recog- 
nized ne plus ultra of the genre. 

In Germany the Opera first made its appear- 
ance as an imported article of court luxury. 
The country was still down with the next-day's 
headache after its Thirty Years' War carouse, 
and princes and princekins had come to the 
conclusion that their most comfortable method 
of playing Saviour of Society would obviously 
be for each one to set up what best duodecimo 
Versailles of his own he could raise (on post- 
obit), and so put Hebrew cash to a Most Christian 
use. As anything wearing rouge was among 
the desirable appurtenances of such miniature 
Versailles, the Opera could not be unwel- 

Quasi-operatic entertainments, of the Italian 
madrigal-play or even of the vaudeville sort, 
given by imported Italians, were not unknown. 
Duke Albrecht V gave one in Munich, for his 
son's nuptials, as early as 1568; and his exam- 


The Opera Past and Present 

pie was imitated more than once in other parts 
of Germany. The first real opera given on 
German soil was also a direct imitation of the 
Italian model. Heinrich Schlitz (1585-1672) 
was commissioned by Elector Johann Georg II, 
of Saxony, to write music to Rinuccini's li- 
bretto of Dafne, the German translator, Martin 
Opitz, not having succeeded in making his 
translation fit Peri's ; this hybrid work was 
given in Dresden in 1627 (some say, in 1628). 
Though the score has been lost, there can be no 
doubt that the music was in the stile rappresen- 
tativo of the Camerata ; Schiitz had studied in 
Venice under Giovanni Gabrieli, but evidently 
found time to poke his nose into a good deal of 
the new Florentine and Mantuan music on the 
sly (his master not being disposed to favour that 
sort of thing), for his known compositions show 
the new influence. The earliest lyric drama of 
entirely Teutonic workmanship came seventeen 
years later, at Nuremberg in 1644; this was of 
an edifying, quasi-sacred character : Das geist- 
liche Waldgedicht oder Freudenspiel, genannt Seel- 
ewig, by Sigismund Gottlieb Staden, organist 
at the Sebalduskirche (1607-1655). But here, 
too, one finds an unconcealed spirit of Italian 

With Daphne and Seelewig German musical 
production for the stage seems to have gasped 


The European Conquest 

itself out for a while. With the middle of the 
century, Germany was thrown open to an Ita- 
lian invasion ; reigning sovereigns and rich no- 
bles imported only Italian operas, with Italian 
companies to sing them. Cavalli comes to Vi- 
enna in 1658 to conduct \\isAlessandro il grande, 
vincitor di se stesso ; Marchiati, Bernabei, Stef- 
fani, and a host of others flock to transalpine 
pastures, to fatten on German praise and pud- 

In 1678 the " first established German opera- 
house " was opened in Hamburg for the giving 
of operas in the German tongue. Der erschaf- 
fene,gefallene und aufgeric'htete Mensch, otherwise 
known as Adam und Eva, was given on the 
opening night ; a farrago of pseudo-philosophic 
Sunday-school religiosity, tempered with ballet- 
dancing, quite as astonishing as its title ; the 
text by one Richter (who seems to have been a 
sort of Holy Roman Empire laureate in his 
way), the music by Johann Theile (1646-1724; 
pupil of Schutz, and teacher of Zachau, Hasse, 
and Buxtehude). Works like this, and also se- 
cular ones, written by Nikolaus Adam Strungk 
(1640-1700), Johann Wolfgang Franck (1641- 
1688), and Johann Philipp Fortsch (1652-1708), 
formed the staple of the repertory for some 
years. The libretti were, for the most part, 
villainous adaptations of Italian or French 


The Opera Past and Present 

texts ; the music, written in the clumsiest Ita- 
lianizing vein. 

But a change was not far off. In 1697 Rein- 
hardt Reiser (1673-1739) came from the court 
of Braunschweig- Wolfenbiittel to settle in 
Hamburg; from that year, when his Irene was 
brought out, to 1734, the year of his Circe, his 
name was identified with the fortunes of the 
opera-house. Reiser stands in history as the 
great characteristic protagonist of German 
Opera in the first half of the eighteenth cen- 
tury. He gave up the Italianizing style of his 
predecessors, and wrote music that was essen- 
tially German in style and feeling. Unfortu- 
nately, his formula was none other than the 
Italian " Oratorio-Opera " formula of Scarlatti, 
Handel, and others of the Neapolitan school. 
So in Germany, too, do we find the trail of the 
Oratorio serpent over Opera, quite as much as 
in Italy.* Let Reiser's operas (well over a 
hundred of them, though the exact number is 
not known) remain in oblivion with Scarlatti's 
and Handel's. 

In one respect, the Opera met with much the 
same fortunes in Hamburg that it did in Venice, 
a century earlier. The Hamburg movement, 

* Let not this be deemed disrespectful to the (sometimes) sacred 
character of Oratorio. The serpent is mentioned in Holy Writ, 
and is, to that extent, a " sacred" animal. 


The European Conquest 

like the Venetian before it, was intrinsically a 
popular one : it meant Opera in the vernacular 
for the people ; and the comic element was 
taken largely into account, even in some of the 
earlier biblical works. Many of Fortsch's 
operas were actual Singspiele (with spoken dia- 
logue, like the French ope'ra-comique). But, with 
Reiser's advent, as with Cesti's in Venice, 
the aristocratic opera seria, of Oratorio cut, 
began more and more to oust the popular form, 
and soon reigned alone. Neither did this form 
flourish in the vernacular long after Reiser's 
death ; the Italian invasion swept over all Ger- 
many, and even native composers wrote to 
Italian texts. Up to Mozart, the only national 
form was the Singspiel* which had been so well 
killed by Keiser that it had to be virtually born 
again, by imitating not very good French optras- 
comiques and still poorer English musical farces. 
It did not attain to anything like maturity till 
the time of Josef Haydn (1732-1809). 

Upon the whole, the chief obstacle in the way 
of the establishment and maintenance of a na- 
tional form of Opera in Germany was a general 
lack of innate dramatic sense in the people ; their 
musical sense was fully as keen as that of the 
Italians, but their dramatic sense was weak and 

* Such of Gluck's serious operas as were given in German in 
Vienna, and elsewhere, were first written for Paris in French. 


The Opera Past and Present 

easily satisfied. In France it was just the other 
way: there the obstacle was the combination 
of a very highly developed and fastidious dra- 
matic sense with a merely rudimentary, but 
equally fastidious, musical sense. Where the 
Germans were ready to welcome Italian Opera 
with open arms, no matter how absurd the text 
and the relation of the music thereto, the French 
not only turned up their critical noses at the 
libretti offered them, but rejected much of the 
Italian music as beyond their comprehension.* 
They were disposed to be great sticklers for 
dramatic and scenic truth in the music of the 
Lyric Drama; but, as none but the very sim- 
plest musical forms appealed to them, they 
could see scenic appositeness in these only. 

Save for what have been called premonitory 
symptoms, of much the same sort as those al- 
ready noted in Italy, the introduction of Opera 
into France, as into Germany, was owing to 
Italian influence. In 1645 a company of Italian 
players gave the Festa teatrale della Finta pazza 
before the queen at the palais du Petit-Bour- 
bon : a five-act comedy with songs and decla- 

* Not that they admitted this ; like other half-musical people, 
they were rich in plausible- sounding criticism on the " un- 
natural" exuberance of passion and the too extensive develop- 
ments of Italian music. But the truth was that they had neither 
technical understanding of, nor temperamental sympathy with, it. 


The European Conquest 

mation, not to mention dances of bears and 
monkeys, drinking ostriches, and other mena- 
gerie items. In 1646 cardinal Alessandro Bichi, 
bishop of Carpentras and apostolic nuncio of 
Urban VIII, gave a musical tragedy in the 
hall of his episcopal palace : Achebar, roi du 
Mogol, text and music by his secretary, the 
abb6 Mailly. In 1647 cardinal Mazarin gave, 
at the Palais-Royal in Paris, a scenically sump- 
tuous performance of an Orfeo by Luigi Rossi. 
Other Italian and one or two French ventures 
followed; among the latter, the Pastorale en 
musique, or Optra cTIssy, of Lully and Cambert, 
in 1659, given (on Italian instigation) in private, 
and considered at the time to be quite in the 
Florentine Camerata vein. It was, however, 
only a quasi-dramatic cantata, not an opera ; 
but so successful that it had to be repeated in 
public. People began to talk of a " national " 
French form of Opera, fit to hold its own, and 
more, against anything of Italian importation. 
So wide awake had French chauvinism become 
that Cavalli (invited to Paris by Mazarin) made 
two downright fiascos with his Serse in 1660, 
and his Ercole amante in 1662. 

Shortly after the accession of Louis XIV to 
the throne, Pierre Perrin (1620-1675) obtained 
letters patent from the king (dated June 28, 
1669) to establish an Academy of Music " like 


The Opera Past and Present 

those in Italy " for twelve years. He associated 
with himself Robert Cambert (1628-1677), for 
the music, the marquis de Sourd6ac, for the 
scenery and machines, and Bersac de Cham- 
peron, for the financial part ; a company was 
formed, and, on March 19, 1671, the Acade*mie 
Royale de Musique was opened with Pomone, 
a pastoral in a prologue and five acts, the text 
by Perrin, the music by Cambert. Few insti- 
tutions destined to exert a potent influence 
over the world of Art have had so poor a be- 
ginning ; Pomone was about equally wretched 
dramatically and musically. But it broke the 
ice: the world-famous Academic de Musique 
was a realized fact. It first occupied the jeu 
de paume (tennis-court) de la Bouteille in the 
rue des Fosses-de-Nesle (now rue Mazarine) 
in the faubourg Saint-Germain.* 

* It will be not uninteresting to give here at least five of the 
thirteen houses successively occupied by this institution, and the 
principal composers associated with each. The premier Theatre 
du Palais-Royal in the rue Saint-Honore, between the rue de 
Valois and the rue des Bons-Enfans (1673-1763, Lully-Rameau 
period) ; the deuxitme Theatre du Palais-Royal, on the site of 
the foregoing (1770-1781, Gluck-Piccinni period); the Theatre de 
la R/publique et des Arts in the rue de la Loi, now rue de Riche- 
lieu (1794-1820, Spontini period); the Salle provisoire in the rue 
Lepelletier (1821-1873, Auber- Rossini- Meyerbeer period, cover- 
ing also the earlier years of Gounod) ; the present house in the 
place de 1'Opera (1875). All but the last were burnt. 


The European Conquest 

If Perrin and Cambert were its founders, 
they can hardly be called the true founders of 
French Opera. This glory belongs to the 
Italian, Lully. 

Giovanni Battista Lulli (Jean-Baptiste Lully 
after his naturalization in 1661) was born in 
Florence in 1633, and was taken by the cheva- 
lier de Guise to Paris, where he entered the 
service of mademoiselle de Montpensier as 
scullion. One day the comte de Nogent was 
attracted by his violin-playing, and he was pro- 
moted to a place among mademoiselle's musi- 
cians. Other promotions followed in time, 
with intermediate study of music under 
Metru, Roberdet, and Gigault, organists at 
Saint-Nicolas-des-Champs : positions at court, 
inspectorship of the "grande bande" conduc- 
torship of the " petits violons" posts of surin- 
tendant de la musique de chambre, maitre de mu- 
sique to the royal family, commissions to write 
ballets and divertissements for court festivities, 
even for Cavalli's operas. By intriguing with 
madame de Montespan he succeeded in jockey- 
ing Perrin and his associates out of their Aca- 
demic de Musique concession in 1672 and having 
the direction transferred to himself. For the 
next fourteen years he displayed incomparable 
genius, talent, and business ability as composer, 
director, ballet-master, machinist, conductor, 


The Opera Past and Present 

and even teacher of singers and dancers. A 
man of complete unscrupulousness and rascal- 
ity, he managed to make himself indispensable, 
and held his post in spite of all opposition, not 
to mention a sense of impudent humour quite 
out of keeping with a courtier's prudence.* 

After writing upwards of thirty ballets and 
divertissements (from 1658 to 1671, Moliere's 
Psych^ was the last) and twenty operas (1672- 
1686), beside no little instrumental and church 
music, this indefatigable " coquin tMbreux" (as 
Boileau called him) died in Paris on March 22, 
1687 of an abscess in the foot, brought on by 
accidentally hitting his toe with his baton while 

In establishing the form known as French 
Grand Opera, Lully had the advantage of the 
collaboration of the dramatic poet Philippe Qui- 
nault, the author of most of his libretti. His 
task was none of the easiest : to adapt what was 
essentially Italian Opera to the French taste ; 
with Quinault's aid, he performed it, not only 

* Once, when some trouble with the scenery delayed the raising 
of the curtain, word was brought him that the king was tired of 
waiting, and wished the performance to begin; "The king is 
master here," replied Lully like a shot, " le roi est bien le maitre, 
and is free to be as tired of waiting as he pleases ! " One can 
fancy the Grand Monarque's face when this was benevolently re- 
ported to him as it undoubtedly was, for Lully did not lack " kind 


The European Conquest 

with genius, but with surpassing cleverness and 
insight into the French character. He had the 
wit to let his Italian musical instinct be guided 
by those principles of the Drama on which the 
French have ever prided themselves, as the 
first dramaturgic nation of the world. Musi- 
cally his operas show the influence of Cavalli 
and other contemporary Venetians, which in- 
fluence was already tinged by that of Caris- 
simi and Cesti. But, in accepting the musical 
forms of Italian Opera, not blindly, as Reiser 
did in Hamburg, he wisely modified them in 
a way to make them appeal to the keen Gallic 
sense for dramatic fitness. He retained all 
that a half-musical, but dramatically fastidi- 
ous, audience could understand, among other 
things, the chorus, which the Venetians had 
banished, but eliminated everything that 
would have been thrown away upon his par- 
ticular public. His style is marked by great 
musical simplicity and a poignant truthfulness 
of dramatic expression ; his music seldom lacks 
a distinctly scenic quality, it is eminently fitted 
for the stage.* 

* Regarding this matter, it should be remembered that the scenic 
requirements of the classic French trag/dieto which class of 
Drama Lully's libretti for the most part belonged were not very 
great. There was more haranguing than dramatic action, in the 
Shaksperian sense, 


The Opera Past and Present 

The form of serious Opera established by 
Lully long remained the standard norm in 
France. What subsequent modifications it 
underwent at the hands of Gluck and others 
were more of the nature of natural progres- 
sive developments than of radical changes. 
Lully's works held the stage unrivalled, for he 
had no worthy immediate French successors, 
until the advent of Jean-Philippe Rameau (born 
at Dijon in 1683, died in Paris in 1764). 

Rameau was a far abler technical musician 
than Lully ; his fame as a musical theorist, as 
the first founder of a System of Harmony, need 
only be alluded to here. Indeed, so great was 
he as organist, clavecinist, and writer for those 
instruments, that nothing save the predesti- 
nation of his Gallic blood can explain his ever 
taking up Opera at all. As it was, he only be- 
gan to write for the stage in his fiftieth year. 

As a dramatic composer, Rameau compares 
with Lully very much as Cavalli does with 
Monteverdi. Both Monteverdi and Lully threw 
their whole weight upon dramatic truth of ex- 
pression, as a matter of well-grounded artistic 
principle ; they were consequently exceedingly 
fastidious about the character and quality of 
their libretti. Cavalli and Rameau cared not 
a whit what they set to music, and were dra- 
matic more by unconquerable instinct than by 


The European Conquest 

calculation. The influence they exerted upon 
the evolution of the Opera tended more in a 
musical than in a dramatic direction. And yet, 
such is the mysterious nature of the Art of 
Tones, one can not say that the results they 
achieved were less intrinsically dramatic than 
those obtained by Monteverdi and Lully, in 
spite of a certain evident inconsistency in the 
means employed. Rameau's Hippolyte et Aricie 
(1733), Dardanus (1739), and a few other operas 
held the stage well into the Gluck period. He 
closed what may be called the first epoch of 
French Grand Opera, a fqrm of Opera which, 
notwithstanding a certain rigid conventionality 
of style, never descended to the unscenic ab- 
surdities of the Italian " Oratorio " type. Side 
by side with it, however, the imported Italian 
article sung by Italians in Italian flourished 
more and more in France. The old chauvinism 
which had crushed Cavalli in 1660 gradually 
lost its grip, and, considerably before the ri- 
valry between the two great champions, Gluck 
and Piccinni, the French opera-going public 
was split up into two opposing parties : the 
Italophiles and the Nationalists. The Italian 
conquest swept over France, too, but not, as in 
Germany, to even a temporary extinction of 
native Opera. 
It has often been stated that the Opera was 


The Opera Past and Present 

developed in England from the Masque; but 
this is only partly true. As a gorgeous piece 
of poetic stage pageantry with incidental music, 
the Masque evidently needed but a magical 
touch like Baltazarini's in the Ballet de la 
Reine, giving more dramatic consistency to the 
scheme to turn it into something quite as like 
Opera as the French court ballet of 1581. The 
nearer the Masque approached the real Drama, 
the nearer would it, almost propter hoc, ap- 
proach the Opera. In 1617 Nicolo Laniere 
(born in London, of Italian parents, about 1590, 
died between 1665 and 1670) set the whole text 
of the masque by Ben Jonson that was given 
at Lord Hay's house to music in the "stile 
recitative " (clearly enough, the stile rappresen- 
tativo of the Camerata). This is the earliest 
known instance of the whole of a dramatic, or 
quasi-dramatic, text being set to music in Eng- 
land ; the model upon which it was evidently 
based, the original Florentine favola in musica, 
was then twenty years old. But this first at- 
tempt, like the French Ballet de la Reine, was a 
mere flash in the pan ; it found no imitators, 
and the music of the Masque fell back into its 
original incidental estate. 

A more germane source of the Opera in Eng- 
land is to be found in the long-familiar inci- 
dental music in the spoken Drama. This was 


The European Conquest 

developed by one man into something more 
closely resembling Opera than anything else 
known in the country before the Italian inva- 
sion of the first quarter of the eighteenth cen- 
tury on one occasion, into Opera itself. This 
man was Henry Purcell (born in London about 
1658, died there on November 21, 1695), the last 
genius of the first rank England ever gave to 
the Art of Music. Purcell studied composition 
under Pelham Humphries, who was a pupil 
of Lully's, and no doubt studied some of the 
French master's scores, possibly also one or two 
of Cavalli's, with considerable assiduity. He 
wrote music to masques and plays, some of 
which latter were even called operas on the title- 
page. But only one really was an opera.* Be- 
side what is commonly known as incidental 
music, overtures, interludes, and such instru- 
mental and vocal music as is indicated in the au- 
thor's stage-directions, Purcell would at times 
set the text of a scene, or part of a scene, quite 
in the operatic way. Such scenes thus became 
actual operatic fragments ; Purcell's setting of 

* The line of demarcation between a play with incidental music 
and an opera, like that between optra-comique and vaudeville, 
must be drawn somewhere. The small proportion of the music 
to the text, also the fact that the play begins as a spoken drama, 
the music only coming in later, should be enough to put all but 
one of Purcell's dramatic works out of the operatic category. * 

The Opera Past and Present 

them, not to mention the genius displayed, was 
so far in advance of anything- of the sort known 
in any part of Europe in his day, in point of 
dramatic and musical freedom and scenic qua- 
lity, that one can only regret his early death's 
preventing his taking to opera-writing on a 
larger scale. Leaving intrinsic genius out of 
the question, which would be largely on Pur- 
cell's side, some of his musical scenes come 
quite up to anything by Gluck ; the musical 
treatment is at once as free, as unhampered by 
convention, as essentially dramatic and scenic. 
Purcell wrote music to some forty and odd 
plays, the first being Nahum Tate's Dido and 
jEneas (1675),* and the last, Bonduca, altered 
from Beaumont and Fletcher (given posthu- 
mously in 1696). 

He had no worthy successor ; indeed, the 
decline of English Music may be said to have 
begun with his death. When George Frideric 
Handel (1685-1759) came to London, and his 
Rinaldo was brought out there in 1711, England 
was in just the condition to become the easiest 
sort of prey to the Italian invasion. In 1720 
came Giovanni Battista Bononcini (1660-1750), 
in 1721, Attilio Ariosti (1660-?), and Italian 

* This was his only real opera. The brevity of the text, if no- 
thing else, shows that the whole libretto was written especially for 
musical setting. 


The European Conquest 

Opera of the most pronounced " Oratorio " type 
had the whole field to itself. In Handel we 
descry the culmination of the fatal Carissimi 
influence upon the Opera ; with him the " Ora- 
torio" type attained to its fullest bloom in 
perfection of plastic and imaginative musical 
beauty, in utter dearth of scenic quality. 

But, though Italian Opera reigned for a while 
alone in England, it did not reign unopposed ; 
the English could not but feel the inherent ab- 
surdity of the form. In 1728 John Rich brought 
out at his theatre in Lincoln's Inn Fields The 
Beggar's Opera, the text by John Gay, the music 
arranged from popular ballads by Dr. Pepusch 
(born in Berlin in 1667, died in London in 1752). 
This was the beginning of the English Ballad 
Opera, the only form the English have since cul- 
tivated with success.* Charles Dibdin's (1745- 
1814) operas, even the Gilbert and Sullivan ope- 
rettas of our own day, all come from this stock. 

Thus did the Opera make the conquest of 
Europe; the Italian form carrying out a suc- 
cessful invasion, and native forms springing 
up in imitation of it, in France, Germany, and 

* Unless we except the operas of Michael William Balfe (1808- 
1870) and Vincent Wallace (1814-1865), which stagger about 
rather uncertainly between the Italian opera seria and the native 
Ballad model. 




IN the year 1741, when Handel's last opera, 
Deidamia,vr2iS given in London, Gluck's first, 
Artaserse, was brought out in Milan ; a coinci- 
dence to be deemed significant by the super- 
stitious. The grand autocrat of the old regime 
makes his parting bow just as the herald of the 
new comes upon the scene; le Roy est mort ! 
vive le Roy ! 

Christoph Willibald Gluck afterward fond 
of insisting upon his title of Ritter von Gluck 
(he was made cavaliere of the Order of the Sprone 
d'Oro in Rome in 1754) was born at the village 
of Weidenwang, near Neumarkt in the Upper 
Palatinate, on July 2, 1714. His parents were 
in the service of Prinz Lobkowitz, and he passed 
his childhood at the prince's castle of Eisenberg. 
His education was tolerably well cared for, ac- 
cording to the notions of the day ; at twelve he 
was sent to a Jesuit school at Kommotau in 
Bohemia; at eighteen, to Prag, where he studied 
music under Bohuslav Cernohorsky, and took 



to practising on the 'cello. In 1736, being then 
twenty-two, he entered the private band of 
prince Melzi in Vienna, soon following his pa- 
tron to Milan, where he finished his professional 
studies under Sammartini.* After four years' 
work at counterpoint and other forms of com- 
position, he felt himself ready to face the world 
as a composer " en gros" as Mendelssohn would 
have said, f 

He had rare good luck : some things he had 
written for prince Melzi's chamber-music got 
him the commission to write a grand opera for 
the court theatre. For his libretto he took 
Metastasio's Artaserse. Even in this, his first 
opera, he determined to cut loose from many of 
the traditions of the " Oratorio " school, and 
write music that should be at once more dra- 
matic and more scenic. But he told no one of 
his intention, and finished his score all but one 
aria to suit himself. With this one aria lack- 
ing, the opera was put into rehearsal, and every 
musical dabster present pooh-poohed the " new 
style " most contemptuously. This Gluck had 
counted on ; before the final rehearsal he wrote 

* Giovanni Battista Sammartini, who ran a good third to the tie 
between Boccherini and Josef Haydn in the legendary race for the 
"invention " of the string quartet. 

t"I am a wholesale pianist (engros Pianist); I can't play 
small things in public! " FELIX MENDELSSOHN, reported orally. 


The Opera Past and Present 

the missing aria wholly in the conventional 
style, and a still larger gathering of cognoscenti 
than had been at the first rehearsal praised it 
highly, even suspecting it of coming from the 
pen of Sammartini himself. The audience on 
the opening night straightway quashed this 
verdict, though, crying out that that particular 
aria was simply insipid and quite unworthy of 
the rest of the score. Thus did our young 
Oberpfalzer slyboots score one off his first 
judges ! 

So Gluck had from the first this ambition to 
make the Opera more dramatic than his prede- 
cessors and contemporaries had done. But he 
had as yet no definite formula ; his innovations 
were still evolutionary, rather than revolution- 
ary ; he did nothing that could be called radi- 
cal. Yet what he did was new enough to 
scare the critics, who, as academic policemen, 
guarded nothing more carefully than the invio- 
lable sacredness of traditional forms. But, if 
severely handled at times by the critics, Gluck 
would now and then get compensating sym- 
pathy from others. When a certain passage in 
the aria " Se mat senti spirarti sul volto" in his 
Clemenza di Tito (Naples, 1751), was scathingly 
criticised, it was shown to old Durante,* who 

* Francesco Durante (1684-1755), then, at the age of sixty- 
seven, the recognized supreme master of Neapolitan church music. 



said : "I do not feel like deciding whether 
this passage is entirely in accordance with the 
rules of composition ; but this I can tell you, 
that all of us, myself to begin with, would be 
very proud of having thought of and written 
such a passage ! " 

From 1741 on, Gluck continued writing Ita- 
lian operas ; with enormous success in Italy and 
Vienna, in spite of the critics, if with no success 
whatever in England. He travelled a good 
deal, and the hearing of some Rameau operas in 
Paris must have given him wholesome food for 
meditation. From about 1755 to 1761 he showed 
signs of lapsing into mere 1 conventionalism, and 
seemed to treat opera-writing as sheer practice- 
work, to gain technical facility. His mind was 
really filled with other matters ; he had been 
for some time applying himself with zeal to fill- 
ing out the gaps in his defective general educa- 
tion, studying aesthetics, languages, and lite- 
rature, and getting what good he could from 
frequenting the society of cultivated people. 
He had plainly become dissatisfied with the 
scope and efficacy of his dramatic innovations 
in Opera, and was meditating a more thorough 
and logically formulated reform. 

At last (about 1760) he met the right man to 
help him : the Italian poet Raniero de' Calza- 
bigi, of Leghorn, editor of Metastasio's works 


The Opera Past and Present 

in Paris, Counsellor at the Netherland Cham- 
ber of Accounts in Vienna, noted writer on 
aesthetics, etc., etc. With him he talked the 
problem over: the defects of the Italian opera 
seria, and how these defects were best to be 
cured. The two pitched upon the following 
items as lying at the root of the reigning evil : 
the irresponsible vanity of the virtuoso singer, 
and the flaccid conventionality of the Metasta- 
sio libretto full of poetic beauty (of a sort), but 
almost totally lacking dramatic quality, espe- 
cially such as could be intensified by music. 

The practical upshot was that Calzabigi wrote 
the text of Orfeo ed Euridice, and Gluck set 
it to music. One can not help smiling at the 
work's having first to be submitted to Meta- 
stasio, to avoid the foregone conclusion of a fia- 
sco ; the court poet's influence was not to be 
trifled with ! Still more must one smile at Me- 
tastasio's carrying his friendship for Gluck and 
Calzabigi to the point of " agreeing to offer no 
active opposition to the new work," sure in his 
good heart that the public would take the 
trouble of damning it off his hands ; he little 
dreamt that he was digging his own grave ! 

Orfeo, brought out at the Vienna Burgtheater 
on October 5, 1762, was the first cannon-shot of 
the new Revolution. It was no " Veni, vidi, 
vici" being considerably discussed at first ; but 



the public came to it gradually, and Gluc"k's 
campaign opened with a very palpable victory. 
Much the same was true of Alceste the libretto 
by Calzabigi, after Euripides given on Decem- 
ber 26, 1766. This work fairly separated the 
sheep from the goats in the Viennese public ; the 
more seriously inclined saw that it was on a 
still higher plane of tragic grandeur than Orfeo, 
but a large mass of opera-goers found it rather 
too much of a good thing. " If that is the sort 
of evening's entertainment the Court Opera is 
to provide, good bye ; we can go to church 
without paying two Gulden ! " Gluck had to 
find out that fighting long-established conven- 
tion is no bed of roses, and that impeccably at- 
tired patrons of aristocratic Opera are much in- 
clined to resent seriousness that has not been 
cured of its deformity by sweetly-warbling di- 
vinities of the virtuoso species. But unques- 
tionable success came with time, and Alceste 
established Gluck's position even more firmiy 
than Orfeo had done. 

Passing over Paride ed Elena a strong work, 
but ill received by the public and some other 
minor matters, we come to Gluck's meeting 
with the second poet who was to have a deter- 
mining influence upon his destiny : the bailli du 
Rollet, attach6 to the French legation in Vi- 
enna. Du Rollet encouraged Gluck's already- 


The Opera Past and Present 

formed wish to go to Paris, as the properest 
field for him. He had become dissatisfied with 
the executive means he found in Vienna, and 
longed for the Acad6mie de Musique, where 
there were " well skilled and intelligent actors, 
who combined a noble and soulful play of ges- 
ture with the art of song." Du Rollet took Ra- 
cine's Iphig/nie en Aulide and turned it into a 
libretto, Gluck setting to work forthwith upon 
the score; even before it was completed, it was 
pronounced to be just the thing for Paris. 

To wish to go to Paris was one thing ; to get 
officially invited thither, another. It seemed to 
French chauvinism that Paris had already quite 
foreigners enough to put up with in resident 
Italian musicians, and that the prospect of hav- 
ing to do with an admittedly strong German, 
and an aesthetic revolutionary to boot, was 
rather appalling. There was plotting and 
counterplotting galore, letter-writing without 
end. At last Marie Antoinette's influence car- 
ried the day, she had been Gluck's pupil in 
Vienna, before her marriage, and she suc- 
ceeded in doing more for her former teacher 
than crowned heads or rich patrons (who have 
troubles of their own) often do for those who 
need their help. But Marie Antoinette's get- 
ting Gluck his invitation was enough to set 
madame Dubarry tooth and nail against him 



.. ,J 


just to show the world that a king's particular 
Fair Perdition was not to be outdone in court 
influence by any woman alive, let alone a Dau- 
phine ! The Dubarry was really at the bottom 
of most of the anti-Gluck agitation in Paris. 

When Gluck came to Paris in 1773, with his 
Iphigtnie all ready for the boards, his expecta- 
tions of the personnel of the Acad6mie de Mu- 
sique were not wholly fulfilled. He found the 
acting as good as he had expected, but princi- 
pals, chorus, and orchestra had fallen into the 
most deplorable musical habits ; it took all his 
personal force, indomitable Teutonic pertina- 
city, and skill as a conductor, to whip them up to 
the mark. He succeeded, though, and Iphige 1 - 
nie en Aulide was brought to a satisfactory per- 
formance on April 19, 1774. It made a colder 
impression at first than any of his operas had 
in Vienna, but, like them, gradually made its 
way with the public. Then the storm broke 
loose ! 

The chief contestants in this famous Gluck 
controversy were, on Gluck's side, the abb6 
Arnaud and the " Anonyme de Vaugirard" (really 
Suard by name); on the opposing side, Mar- 
montel, La Harpe, Guingueni, d'Alembert, the 
chevalier de Chastilleux, Fram6ry, and Co- 
queau. Grimm held a dignifiedly neutral posi- 
tion, or tried to make believe he did ; two of 


The Opera Past and Present 

the most important of Gluck's favourers were 
Jean-Jacques and Voltaire, but neither of the 
two took any active part in the fight. La 
Harpe whose sharp wit fairly took the bit in 
its teeth, and got beyond his own or any one's 
control was the enfant terrible of the whole 
business, and did his own side as much harm as 
good ; the Anonyme de Vaugirard took an espe- 
cial delight in getting a rise out of him and 
prodding him to desperation. 

Upon the whole, with all the wit, acute 
thought, and literary ability brought to bear 
upon the matter, first and last, this once-great 
controversy is no very edifying reading now ; 
what controversialists on new aesthetic pro- 
blems most lack is originality, the new problems 
suggest to them no new arguments, neither 
does the world's past experience in similar 
cases stead them a jot. It is always the same 
old story, over and over again, this organized 
kicking against the Rising Sun. Read the dis- 
cussion between Monteverdi and Artusi in the 
first decade of the seventeenth century, the 
pen-and-ink tiffs between Wagnerians and anti- 
Wagnerians in the third quarter of the nine- 
teenth, and you will have read practically all 
that was urged for and against Gluck in Paris 
in the 'seventies of the eighteenth. It was, in 
the last analysis, merely a Wotan and Fricka 



business,* a volcanic conspuation of the New, 
" des Niedagewesenen" on the one hand, a firmly 
convinced championing of it, on the other. The 
anti-Gluck side of the controversy is well sum- 
marized by Schmidif "These criticisms had 
two different purposes : first, they tried to prove 
that the Ritter von Gluck lacked all power of 
song, and next, that he set things to music that 
were not appropriate to song." And, if the in- 
telligent reader knows of any " new light " in 
the whole history of Lyric Drama of whom 
this has not been said, he will confer a favour 
upon the present author by mentioning his 
name ! 

The impression produced by Iphigtnie en 
Aulide as the performances wore on was still 
strengthened by Orphte et Euridice, given in 
August, 1774, in a translation by Moline, with 
the part of Orphee, originally written for con- 


Wann ward es erlebt, 
dass, etc.? 


Heut' hast du's erlebt ! 
WAGNER, Die Walkure, Act II., Scene I. 

(Fricka Who ever lived to see that, etc.? Wotan To-day hast 
thou lived to see it !) 

t ANTON SCHMID, Christoph Willibald, Ritter von Gluck, page 
277. Leipzig: Friedrich Fleischer, 1854. 


The Opera Past and Present 

tralto, transposed for Legros's high tenor. Of 
rArbre enchante 1 (Versailles, February 20, 1775) 
and the three-act ballet Cythere assize (Acade- 
mic de Musique, August i, 1775), nothing need 
be said here. Gluck had returned to Vienna 
for a while, taking with him a remodelled ver- 
sion of the text of his Alceste by du Rollet and 
Quinault's libretto of Armide et Renaud, mean- 
ing to retouch the former score, and reset the 
latter text, for Paris. He was at work on both 
scores in Vienna when he got news of the 
latest trick of his opponents in Paris : the Ita- 
lian, Piccinni, had been invited, and was to set 
Quinault's Roland tor the Academic de Musique. 
Gluck's pride was bitten to the quick ; a flaming 
letter of his to du Rollet found its way (without 
his leave) into the Annte litte'raire, and only 
served still further to exasperate the opposi- 
tion. The Italophiles now had a champion of 
their own, and the Gluck controversy became 
the Gluck-Piccinni war, compared to which the 
old Handel-Bononoini business in London was 
a mere squabble. 

In 1776 Gluck came back to Paris, and Al- 
ceste was given at the Acad6mie de Musique on 
April 23. It was a bad night for the Gluckists ; 
the opera was roundly hissed, the disappointed 
composer whimpering out " Alceste est tombe'e / " 
upon a friend's shoulder. " Oui, tombe'e du del! " 



replied the latter, fain to seek consolation in an 
epigram. But the fiasco was only for a while ; 
Alcestes gradual success in Vienna was repeated 
in Paris, and Gluck once more ended by car- 
rying the day. 

On September 23, 1777, Armide was brought 
out ; the immediate result was about the same 
as usual, only that indifference took the place 
of hissing. For one thing, the anti-Gluckists 
could not howl at Gluck's " impudence " in 
daring to reset a text already set by the great 
Lully, as it had been feared they would ; for 
their own Piccinni had put them in a glass 
house by setting Quinault's Roland, of which 
Lully was also the original composer.* More- 
over, Gluck had paid French taste no mean 
compliment in taking Quinault's Armide et Re- 
naud exactly as it stood, without subjecting it 
to those modifications which he had had made 
in all his previous classical libretti. But the 
indifference with which Armide was greeted 
at first soon wore off, and by the time Piccin- 
ni was ready with his Roland Gluck's position 
was again very strong indeed. Piccinni, to 
say the truth, was rather a laggardly champion, 
taking an infinite time in coming up to the 
scratch ; which is partly to be accounted for 

* Piccinni did not, like Gluck, set Quinault's text as it stood, 
but in an adaptation by Marmontel. 


The Opera Past and Present 

by the poor man's not knowing a word of 
French when he first set to work upon his 
score. But on January 27, 1778, Roland was 
at last brought out, after endless trouble and 
squabbling at rehearsals ; as a first cannon-shot 
into the Gluckist camp, it did a certain amount 
of execution, at least, the controversy became 
doubly acrid after it. It remained at white 
heat until the final " duel " settled matters. 

It was agreed that both Gluck and Piccinni 
should write an opera, Iphige'nie en Tauride ; 
they could thus fight it out between them on 
the same ground. Gluck took a libretto by 
Guillard ; Piccinni, one by Dubreuil. This 
" duel," as usual, was rather a long one, Gluck's 
opera being given on May 18, 1779, Piccinni's 
not till January 23, 1781 some time after 
Gluck had left Paris for good. The result, 
however, was decisive ; Gluck's Iphige'nie capped 
the climax of his Paris successes, was indeed 
the first of his Paris operas that won unques- 
tionable public favour on the opening night, 
whereas Piccinni's had a mere succes d'estime 
even with its own party, the more eager of 
whom tried to explain its quasi-failure with 
the general public by the undeniable fact that, 
on the second night, the beauteous Laguerre 
(who sang Iphigenie) was hopelessly the worse 
for strong liquor " Ipkigtnie en Champagne!" 



said pert Sophie Arnould, who had sung 
Gluck's first Iphig6nie. 

It is quite plain that the success of Gluck's 
Iphige'nie en Tauride was thoroughly genuine, 
based on the quality of the work itself. No 
less strong an opera could have so utterly rout- 
ed Piccinni's as it did ; especially as Gluck, 
after his Iphige'nie, had had a palpable failure 
with his Echo et Narcisse on September 24, 
1779, thus leaving Paris with his latest opera 
on record as a fiasco. Piccinni was, in truth, 
no weakling at all ; he was even something of 
a dramatic reformer in Opera himself, quite as 
much as Gluck in his earlier Italian and Vien- 
nese days. But Gluck had far outstripped him 
since then, and had, moreover, as much greater 
force of innate genius than he as Handel had 
than Bononcini. Piccinni was swept from the 
stage into oblivion, not because he was weak, 
but because Gluck was stronger ; also because 
the Gluck idea was stouter and truer than his. 
Had he not been inadvisedly brought to Paris 
to take part in that unequal contest with the 
doughty Austrian, he might have gone comfort- 
ably down in history as a worthy forerunner of 
the Gluck Reform ; but, being thus brought 
face to face with and in opposition to it, he 
was crushed. 

Echo et Narcisse was Gluck's last work for 

The Opera Past and Present 

the stage ; with it he leaves the history of 
Opera.* He died of apoplexy in Vienna on 
November 15, 1787. 

As a reformer, Gluck was but little of a 
radical, hardly anything of a theorist. The 
best confession of artistic faith we have from 
his pen, his preface to Alcesteft stands in his- 
tory, with Peri's to Euridice and Victor Hugo's 
to Cromwell, as one of the most famous of its 
kind. But there is very little constructive 
theorizing in it; it is, for the most part, ne- 
gative in character, pointing out what is most 
to be avoided in opera-writing. It is a docu- 
ment of sheer sound artistic common sense, not 
a philosophico-scientific marshalling of princi- 
ples to a firmly based theory ; admirable as far 
as it goes, but not going far. Had Gluck's 
Reform rested with this document alone, there 
would have been little life in it. 

The real essence and mainspring of this 

* Les Danaides (text by du Rollet and Tschudi), which was 
brought out at the Academic de Musique on April 26, 1784, was 
advertised as "by Gluck and Salieri " ; but, after the thirteenth 
performance, Gluck announced that the score was entirely by Sa- 
lieri. The libretto was sent to Gluck in 1783, with the request to 
write the score ; but he did not feel in condition to undertake the 
work then, and handed over the text to his pupil "the foreigner 
who alone had learnt his manner of him, since no German cared 

t Vide Appendix, page 227. 



much-talked-of Reform was Gluck's own in- 
trinsic dramatic genius; his true strength as a 
reformer lay in his work, not in his doctrine. 
In him the old dramatic spirit of Peri, Monte- 
verdi, and Cavalli breathed fresh and strong 
again ; and it was the vigourous expression he 
gave to this spirit in his music that won him 
adherents, while his ruthless sacrifice of the 
time-honoured conventional operatic frippery 
to this expression made him enemies among 
those to whom old habits were dear. 

What was new in Gluck was his musico- 
dramatic individuality, his style ; for there was 
little really new in his principles. Not only did 
these date back, as far as they went, to the 
earliest days of Opera, but the artistic sins 
and abuses he stigmatized the slavish subser- 
viency of composers to the whims of the virtu- 
oso singer, the sacrifice of dramatic interest 
to irrelevant musical developments had been 
pointed out and deplored by more than one 
musician before him. 

Gluck's Reform did not lack precursory he- 
ralds ; the evils he set himself to cure had long 
been recognized as such, and he was not the 
first to attempt to cure them. But he was the 
first to strike the decisive blow, to go, if not 
quite to the root of the matter, at least as near 
to the root as was necessary for his purpose. 


The Opera Past and Present 

And, as for his lack of radicalism, note how, in 
his preface, all even of the negative theses have 
their conditioning if or when. He does not 
oppose vocal ornamentation, for instance, abso- 
lutely and along the whole line, but only when it 
becomes damaging to dramatic common sense. 
He showed the same lack of uncompromising 
radicalism in his practice : there is many a vocal 
show-piece in his operas, but brought in in the 
right place, not into the midst of an ardent 
dramatic action. 

Gluck is fairly to be regarded as the Father 
of Modern Opera ; a sufficient commentary on 
this is the very fact that his are the earliest 
operas that hold the stage to this day. He 
followed Philipp Emanuel Bach and Haydn in 
employing a standard composition of the or- 
chestra,* and banished the time-honoured cem- 
balo (harpsichord) from it ; he was thus the first 
opera-composer to write out his scores com- 
pletely, leaving nothing to be added by the 
cembalist. He was equally great in impas- 
sioned or pathetic melody and in every form of 
recitative ; his dramatic use of the chorus can 
hardly be surpassed in mastery. The opening 
scenes of the first and second acts of his Orfeo 

* Up to, and including, Handel, there had been no standard 
composition of the orchestra, the aggregations of instruments 
used by composers being exceedingly various. 



Euridice's funeral rites, and Orfeo's entrance 
into Hades are still unsurpassed masterpieces 
in this last particular. 

Like most "new" men, Gluck was terribly 
fastidious about the style in which his works 
were to be given. Concerning Orfeo's aria, 
" Che farb senza Euridice?" he writes to the 
duke of Braganza:* "Were one to make the 
slightest change in it, in the tempo or the mode 
of expression, it would become an air for the 
marionette stage. In a piece of this order, a 
more or less sustained note, a forcing of the 
tone, a neglect of the proper tempo, a trill, 
roulade, etc., can entirely destroy the effect of 
a scene." He was an inexorable rehearser, in- 
finitely hard to satisfy. 

In a specific sense, Gluck's great achievement 
was to fix the form of French Grand Opera for 
nearly a century, taking the form as already 
established by Lully and Rameau for a basis. 
What may be called the Gluck formula sub- 
sisted with but slight modification in France 
until Meyerbeer came above the horizon. 
From Orfeo ed Euridice to Iphige'nie en Tauride, 
his operas are distinctly grand operas ; to pro- 
duce their proper effect, they need not only fine 
acting and singing and a competent orchestra, 
but a vast, well equipped stage and the most 

* Preface to Paride ed Elena, 1770. 

The Opera Past and Present 

copious spectacular paraphernalia, especially a 
superb ballet. They are essentially spectacu- 
lar operas, and it is the prominence of this fea- 
ture in them that has most militated against 
their being adequately given in this country. 

Gluck united in an unparalleled degree 
warmth of temperament with a certain classic 
reserve in expression ; he was at home in clas- 
sical and mythological subjects, in the stately 
classic manner ; the true " romantic " strenuous- 
ness he had not, he would have made but a 
poor hand at it with a Shaksperian libretto. 
But it would be a dull ear that could not catch 
the poignancy that lurks behind his measured 
dignity of expression, a dull heart that did not 
beat responsively to the expansive force of his 
emotional heat. Perhaps he is at his most 
poignant in his musical pictures of perfect hap- 
piness ; in grief and pathos he is great, but in 
serene, unalloyed bliss, greater still. There is 
a deeper well of tears in the chorus of beati- 
fied spirits in his Orfeo, than in " Che farb senza 
Euridice?" or " Malheureuse IphigMe ! " Few 
men have produced such overwhelming effects 
on the lyric stage with so beautiful a simplicity 
of means ; let us part from him with his pet max- 
im (whether wholly true or not, matters little) 
on his lips : " Simplicity and Truth are the sole 
right principles of the Beautiful in works of art." 




A SHARPER contrast than that between 
Gluck and Mozart both of them men of 
surpassing genius, both great in very nearly 
the same line can hardly be found in History, 
which, like melodrama, is rather rich in sharp 
contrasts. Gluck, warm an,d impulsive in feel- 
ing, was a thinker, a man of ideas, a born cham- 
pion and espouser of causes ; keen of perception 
and instinct, he was yet well persuaded of the 
need of weighing his perceptions intellectually 
and rationally, that his championship might be 
efficacious. Inconspicuous as the Alceste pre- 
face is as a documentary statement of art prin* 
ciples, one can not but see that it represents 
an immense amount of solid thinking. In short, 
Gluck was a man who could be truly great 
only by seconding his native genius with a 
complete intellectual grasp of the why and 
wherefore of the business in hand ; and, having 
this grasp, he could claim entire responsibility 
for everything great he did. 


The Opera Past and Present 

Mozart was his direct antithesis, as irrespon- 
sible a person as can be found in the whole tale 
of opera-composers, Cavalli included. Gifted 
with vastly superior genius to Gluck's, he had 
in very truth nothing but this genius, and the 
unerring accuracy of immediate perception that 
went therewith. He was decidedly an ordinary 
man intellectually ; outside of his music, with- 
out a single intellectual taste. Where Gluck, 
impelled by a burning sense of the deficien- 
cies of his early education, studied literature 
and aesthetics, the whole literature, the whole 
aesthetic movement, of his day left Mozart 
absolutely untouched; were he alive to-day, 
he would read nothing but a newspaper. As a 
boy, he evinced a certain genial brightness of 
precocious wit and humour; his early letters 
may be accounted more than ordinarily good 
boy's letters. But this precocious intellectu- 
ality faded out of him with manhood ; his later 
letters show a certain hard-and-fast common 
sense, but of a quite conventional sort. 

What most makes Mozart remarkable is not 
so much the greatness as the unparalleled self- 
sufficiency (in a good sense) of his genius. By 
dint of sheer genius alone, backed up, to be 
sure, by an exceptionally fine special, technical 
education; for old Leopold, his father,, was the 
best of musical drill-masters, he did what 



hardly another man has done with command- 
ing" intellect, genius, and culture combined. 
To be sure, there must have been a profound 
intellectuality latent in him somewhere, for few 
men have written music which furnishes the 
listener and student with a greater wealth of 
food for thought. No intellectual problem, so 
to speak, was too high nor too deep for him to 
solve musically ; but his unerring dive to the 
heart of every matter was guided by sheer in- 
stinct ; he perceived immediately and intui- 
tively what other men had to get at by hard 
thinking. Pure genius, nothing but genius 
and an unsurpassed technique, was all he had in 
his armoury ; and with these weapons alone he 
showed himself fully up to the level of every 
emergency. His fellow is not to be found in 
the history of the Opera. 

No bad commentary on the man's purely in- 
stinctive and unreflective bent is the fact that, 
with the example of Gluck and his Reform 
fresh before his very eyes, he went to work 
with his opera-writing as if Gluck had never 
existed; he utterly ignored the Gluck move- 
ment. It were wholly wrong to suppose that 
Mozart began where Gluck left off; he did 
nothing of the sort, he began where Gluck 
himself began, and went his own way. Gluck 
had a formula of his own ; Mozart had (con- 


The Opera Past and Present 

sciously) none. Yet he raised the Lyric Drama 
to a height it had never attained before, which 
it has reached only once or twice since. For, 
hazardous as is every comparison between 
works of utterly different character, it is not 
too much to say that only Wagner's Tristan 
und Isolde and Die Meistersinger can rank with 
Mozart's Don Giovanni as completely great 
works of art; nothing else in all Lyric Drama 
maintains itself throughout on quite so high a 
plane intellectually, musically, dramatically. 

Mozart's life is not particularly interesting, 
nor, save that he travelled a good deal, very 
full of incident. He was born at Salzburg on 
January 27, 1756, and christened Johannes Chry- 
sostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus ; for a while, 
as a boy, he would add his confirmation name, 
Sigismundus, in his signature ; to history he has 
ever been Wolfgang Amadeus (the latter being 
the Latin for Theophilus). His father, Leopold 
Mozart, was an excellent violinist and a tho- 
rough musician, especially great as a teacher. 

Wolfgang's precocity and child-wonderhood 
have been much dwelt upon ; but, though cer- 
tainly remarkable in this respect, he is neither 
the only nor the most remarkable instance of 
precocious genius on record.* True, he was 

* Although Mozart had won a solid reputation as a composer 
at thirteen, up to seventeen or eighteen he had produced nothing 




only fifteen when his Ascanio in Alba eclipsed 
Hasse's Ruggiero in Milan ; but the old Sassone 
was seventy-one at the time, and had outlived 
his best powers. Wolfgang and his sister 
Marianne lived the life of infant prodigies from 
1762 to 1769, travelling much with their father, 
the boy doing quite as much composing as 
pianoforte- or violin-playing. He excited ad- 
miration everywhere, wrote his first opera, La 
finta semplice, in Vienna in 1768, was appointed 
Conzertmeister (without salary) to the Arch- 
bishop of Salzburg in 1769, and got the Sprone 
tfOro (" the same as Gluck's ") in Rome in 1770. 
Beside his father's teaching, he had studied 
also under Sammartini (Gluck's teacher) and 
the great Padre Martini ; in fact, in a technical 
educational way, he had the very best advan- 
tages, as indeed he has ever been recognized as 
one of the most complete masters of musical 
technics, form, and style. The rest of his too 
short life was a hardly intermittent struggle 
with poverty and the coarse misappreciation of 
ill-paying patrons. On August 16, 1782, he mar- 
ried the singer Constanze Weber (first cousin 
of Karl Maria von Weber), after being jilted 
by her elder sister Aloysia. He died of malig- 

fairly comparable, for maturity of ideas and style, to Mendels- 
sohn's E-flat major octet (written at sixteen), or Richard Strauss's 
F minor symphony (written at seventeen). 


The Opera Past and Present 

nant typhus in Vienna on December 5, 1791. 
For him, who had been chivied and put upon 
by grandees for the better part of his life, an 
unrecognized pauper's grave was perhaps as 
fitting a Requiescat as another. 

Mozart's position in the history of Opera 
is so unique that he can hardly be treated 
historically like other opera-composers. He 
founded no school, and left no imitators behind 
him ; indeed, there was nothing imitable about 
him. As has been said, he raised the Lyric 
Drama to an unprecedented and since unsur- 
passed height by sheer force of genius, without 
apparently giving the matter any thought at 
all certainly no original thought. It seems 
never to have entered his head that he might 
have a " mission " ; he was in no sense a re- 
former, like Gluck. It is not unsignificant that 
almost the last libretto he set to music was by 
Metastasio ! To be sure, he was no slavish 
follower of precedent, and wrote exactly as 
he pleased, often doing quite unprecedented 
things. The second finale of his Don Giovanni 
shows him with one foot thrust well over the 
wall of time into Beethoven's Eroica. But he 
evinced no set purpose to be off with the old 
or on with the new. Like Cavalli, he was by 
no means fastidious about his libretti, and took 
them pretty much as they came. 



What he did bring to bear upon the operatic 
problem little of a problem, though, to him ! 
was a wholly new individuality. Two new 
items he certainly did introduce into opera- 
writing. He was the first composer to strike 
unmistakably the " modern romantic " note in 
Opera ; he revived the long-dead art of musical 
character-drawing. He did not create it, for 
there are some rather surprising instances of 
sharp musical delineation of character to be 
found in Monteverdi and Cavalli, especially in 
the latter ; but the " Oratorio " school had 
pretty much done away with all that, and Mo- 
zart gave it due prominence again. Gluck 
can not compare with him in this matter ; as a 
creator of " living figures of flesh and blood " 
in Lyric Drama, Mozart has never been sur- 
passed, and equalled now and then only by 
Richard Wagner. 

It is not a little remarkable that this power 
of Mozart's, of putting thoroughly real-seeming 
and strongly individualized people upon the 
lyric stage, should have gone hand in hand 
with an unconquerable, one had almost said, an 
excessive bent toward ideality. True as he 
was to the core, he absolutely could not help 
idealizing; c'ttait plus fort que lui! As Hans- 
lick once said, the rascally little Cherubino in 
da Ponte's version of Caron de Beaumarchais's 


The Opera Past and Present 

Figaro turns into an actual cherub in his 
hands ; the pert little village coquette, Zer- 
lina, becomes absolutely angelic. Yet, such 
is the genius with which it is done, you ac- 
cept it all readily; you would not have it 

Perhaps as characteristic an example as an- 
other of this inveterate ideality of Mozart's, 
and of the astonishing way he made it go hand 
in hand with dramatic truth, is the little quin- 
tet, " Di scrivermi ogni giorno " in Cosl fan tutte. 
The situation is purely ludicrous : two young 
officers, secretly on forbidden pleasure bent, 
take leave of their sweethearts, on the pretence 
of going off to the war ; a cynical old peda- 
gogue, who is quite up to snuff as to the situa- 
tion, stands by and can hardly keep his counte- 
nance. Here we have sincere pathos on one 
side, mock-heroic bathos on the other, with 
sardonic derision in the middle. This little 
scene Mozart has set to just three pages of 
music (full score) which, while duly accentu- 
ating every emotion and doing the fullest 
justice to the humourous side of the situa- 
tion, is as divinely angelic as anything ever 
put upon paper ; on hearing it you simply feel 

. . . he on honey-dew hath fed, 
And drunk the milk of Paradise. 


" Angelic " is the only word for a good deal in 
Mozart's music ; yet you never feel any lack of 
a good solid foundation of warm human flesh 
and blood. 

As the due psychical counterpoise to this 
idealizing bent, Mozart had a practical clear- 
headedness that almost seeks its fellow in his- 
tory ; and, like most thoroughly clear-headed 
men, he had a phenomenally retentive and ac- 
curate memory. Immediate decision and the 
consequent retention of a perfectly distinct 
mental picture of what he had decided upon 
were perhaps his most prominent mental traits. 
His peculiar method of composing shows this. 
When about to compose a movement, he would 
rule off page after page of score-paper with 
bars ; then he would write down (either com- 
pletely or sketchily, as the case might be) some 
sixteen, eighteen, or twenty-four measures of 
music, then skip a certain number of measures 
(always carefully counted) and go on from 
there. His first draft would thus be full of la- 
cunae ; and, in afterwards filling these out, he 
would seldom have to add or subtract a single 
measure of this skeleton, nor would the pas- 
sages already written undergo any alteration. 
What had been the first draft would become 
the finished copy ; he seldom made another. 

The story that he wrote a large part of Don 

The Opera Past and Present 

Giovanni on a table in a public beer-garden, be- 
tween turns at bowling, is probably true, cer- 
tainly characteristic. The fact is that Mozart 
hardly ever made what other composers would 
call a preliminary sketch ; he would elaborate 
a whole composition in his head before putting 
pen to paper at all, so that his actual writing 
was little more than copying from memory. 
And this he could very well do under circum- 
stances that would have been utterly unfavour- 
able to thinking out a composition.* 

Mozart wrote, first and last, some twelve 
Italian and five German operas and operettas. 

* This habitual method of composing is a far stronger proof of 
the power of Mozart's musical memory than the oft-told story of 
his writing the horn, trumpet, and kettle-drum parts of the over- 
ture to Don Giovanni after sending of the MS. score, containing 
only the string and wood- wind parts, to the copyist. A tolerable 
feat of memory this certainly was, especially as the whole over- 
ture was written in a single night, and so hurriedly that he h?.d 
no time to look over the first section of the score before sending 
it off. But it sinks into insignificance beside Wagner's ruling off 
the bars for his clean copy of the whole first act of the Meister- 
singer, without once referring to his first copy, and finding that 
he had allowed just the right amount of space for the notes of 
every measure in the whole act. Neither was Mozart's memory 
quite so accurate in the case mentioned ; for just before the first 
performance, there having been no time to rehearse the overture, 
he had to say to the orchestra: "Gentlemen of the brass and 
drums, at one point you will find in your parts either four meas- 
ures too many, or four too few, I can't now remember which ; but* 
if you follow my beat, all will come right ! " 



The first performed was Bastien und Bastienne, 
a one-act piece, the text of which was adapted 
by Anton Schacht from Weiskern's translation 
of a parody on Jean-Jacques's Devin du village 
written by madame Favart rather a compli- 
cated authorship. This little Singspiel was 
given in Vienna in the summer-house of Mo- 
zart's friends, the Missmers, in 1768, the com- 
poser being then twelve years old.* His last 
opera, Die Zauberflote, the libretto by Ema- 
nuel Schikaneder, manager of the theatre, was 
brought out at the Theatre an der Wieden on 
September 30, 1791, the year of the composer's 
death. Thus Mozart's career as an opera-com- 
poser began and ended with German works. 

This fact has, however, no real significance ; 
he did his greatest work in Italian Opera. 
There was, upon the whole, a great deal of the 
Italian in Mozart, as a musician, even more 
than in Handel. He had the German depth of 
Gemiith, the Teutonic seriousness and artistic 
conscientiousness ; but in all else he was (mu- 
sically) Italian to the core. His caste of me- 

* Curiously enough, the principal theme of the overture is, 
note for note, the same as the opening theme of Beethoven's 
Eroica symphony only, in G major instead of E-flat major. 
Was this a mere coincidence, or had Beethoven seen a score of 
Bastien und Bastienne ? At all events, the Thunderer had a 
way of taking his own wherever he found it. 


The Opera Past and Present 

lody is distinctly Italian ; nothing in all Opera 
is more foreign to what is known as " German 
singing " than his music whether to German 
or Italian words. And what is true of his 
vocal writing is true of his instrumental com- 
positions.* Notably Italian was his complete 
and facile mastery in recitative secco, that free 
form of colloquial recitative that is accompa- 
nied by a 'cello and double-bass, with a few im- 
provised chords struck by the cembalist ; no 
Italian, not even Rossini himself, could beat 
him in this line. It may have been a keen ap- 
preciation of the perfection of this style as a 
musical medium for familiar dialogue, and of 
the utter inadaptability of the German language 
to anything of the sort, that induced him to 
accept the conventional bastard form of the 
German Spieloper set musical numbers con- 
nected by spoken dialogue for his German 
operas. That he made no attempt to develop 
a corresponding form of German recitative is 
a fact. 

That Mozart came into the world without a 
manifesto, and quitted it leaving none behind 
him, that he showed on occasion a singularly 

* Hans von Billow was once heard to say : "I had rather hear 
an average first-rate Italian or French violinist play the first vio- 
lin part in a Mozart quartet than any but two or three of my re- 
spected fellow-countrymen." 



easy-going contentedness with even the worst 
conventions of his day, should not be taken as 
evidence that he did nothing new ; in principle 
he may have done little, but in fact he did a 
good deal. His enormous development of the 
act-finale, the only item in which the Opera in 
his hands approached the character of the Wag- 
nerian Music-Drama, was in itself something 
unprecedented. In general, however, what may 
be called his musical formula was as unlike 
Wagner's, or that of the old Florentines, as pos- 
sible ; it has been found no little fault with of 
late years, and people have marvelled at his 
achievement of such stupendous results with 
so poor a tool. 

But his formula was really not quite so poor 
as all that ; it suited his artistic purpose to a T. 
And we should not forget that Mozart's task, in 
other words, the class of libretti he had to deal 
with, was radically different from Wagner's. 

Wagner, notably in his later works, had to 
deal with the Drama of Continuous Develop- 
ment; the action goes on continuously from 
the beginning to the end of an act ; nothing is 
omitted, there are no lacunae in its logic ; either 
it rises by gradual climax to a culminating point 
at the close of the act, or else this culmination 
comes earlier, to be followed by a period of 
subsidence which in turn leads over to the point 


The Opera Past and Present 

of departure for a fresh climax. In either case, 
there is no breach of continuity. 

In the texts of Mozart's best operas, on the 
other hand, we find nothing of the sort. The 
libretto presents a mere succession of situations 
the logical connection between any two of which 
is either but summarily hinted at in the dia- 
logue, or else, left wholly to the spectator's 
perception. The dramatic development is no- 
where continuous, but proceeds by fits and 
starts, until we come to a short period of con- 
tinuity near the end of an act. No doubt 
the several situations in the above-mentioned 
succession are culled from an ideal continuous 
climax, and each one comes in in its proper 
order; but the logical connection is omitted. 
Whereas, in the Wagnerian Drama, the ac- 
count given of the action is fully itemized, like 
that in a business man's day-book, that given in 
the Mozart libretti is like the one to be found 
in the second column of a ledger, consisting of 
a series of partial results, with most of the se- 
parate items omitted. Nevertheless, by supply- 
ing the logical connection for himself, the spec- 
tator can obtain a certain sense of climax, much 
as the listener to pianoforte-playing can get a 
sense of sustained melody from what is really 
nothing more than a series of well-ordered ac- 
cents, without sustained musical tone. But, for 



him to obtain this sense of essential climax, the 
succession must be rapid ; and this indispensa- 
ble rapidity we surely do find in the Mozart li- 
bretti, as we do also in Shakspere's plays. 

Now, Mozart's musical formula a succession 
of set musical numbers (solos, duets, ensemble- 
pieces, etc.), with intervening stretches of secco 
recitative corresponds exactly to the dramatic 
formula of his librettists. Such a formula would 
be ridiculous if applied to texts like Tristan und 
Isolde or the Meister singer, as much out of place 
as the Wagnerian formula would be with such 
libretti as Figaro or Don Giovanni ; but with 
these latter libretti it wo>rks to perfection, the 
sense for artistic fitness is completely satisfied. 

Mozart's greatest opera is unquestionably 
Don Giovanni (the text adapted by the abbate 
Lorenzo da Ponte from Moliere's Festin de 
pierre, first given, under the composer's per- 
sonal direction, at Prag on October 29, 1787). 
Die Zauberflote is pulled down from this high 
plane by its weak text of which no one but a 
Free Mason can make head or tail while Le 
nozze di Figaro (the libretto also by da Ponte, 
after Beaumarchais, brought out at the Vienna 
Burgtheater on May i, 1786) lapses nearly as 
far by reason of a certain failure on the com- 
poser's part to enter fully and sympathetically 
into the "tone" of his subject. Mozart was 


The Opera Past and Present 

great, but not quite universal ; keen as was his 
sense of humour, Beaumarchais's spirit of ma- 
licious raillery was not \in his nature, he could 
not twist his features into that sardonic, scha- 
denfrohe smile.* 

Curiously enough, Don Giovanni, though long 
one of the most popular, f is nowadays one of 
the least correctly appreciated of operas. Few 
operas are habitually given so radically and ruin- 
ously wrong. Both in Europe and this country 
Don Giovanni'^ usually given in vast court or me- 
tropolitan opera-houses, with orchestras double 
or treble the size intended by Mozart (a most 
necessary evil, this last, for Mozart's orchestra 
would be utterly lost in a large theatre). To 
counteract these two false conditions, the music 
is sung, for the most part, with all the stress of 
voice, all the flamboyant vociferation that be- 

* In this respect, and this respect alone, Rossini's Barbiere is 
far better in tune with the Beaumarchais original than Mozart's 

\ " Let me tell you that the ' Don Giovanni ' had the greatest suc- 
cess of any opera which has been brought forward, in my time, in 
America." MAX MARETZEK, Crotchets and Quavers, page 102. 
New York, 1855. 

\ At Covent Garden in London, Sir Michael Costa used to add 
trombones, tuba, and bass-drum and cymbals in the stretto of the 
first finale ; and doubling the solo voices with a chorus in some 
portions of this same finale is customary everywhere, save at one 
theatre in Germany. 



long to " grand " Opera. That certain scenes 
may be set effectively, the original two acts 
have been cut up into three and four, and long- 
ish waits come between some scenes, thus de- 
stroying that rapidity of succession which is 
indispensable to the sense of climax. Indeed, 
the vast opera-houses, big orchestras, the ge- 
neral style of singing, and the tragic grandeur 
of the closing statue-scene, have all united to 
give many, perhaps most, opera-goers the im- 
pression that Don Giovanni is a grand opera. 

This impression is radically wrong; up to 
the last scene, Don Giovanni is an opera buff a 
it is styled " dramma giocoso" on the title-page. 
It is comedy of the most intimately subtile sort, 
requiring a very small house and orchestra, that 
no deft play of feature, no nimbly significant 
gesture, no delicately expressive shading of the 
voice may be lost upon the audience. Its gist, 
as Verlaine would say, lies in the nuance, not in 
the colour ; it is a work of the finest subtlety, 
not of hammer-and-tongs. Then, the original 
cut of acts and scenes must be scrupulously 
preserved, and one scene follow hard upon the 
heels of another ; the iron must never be allowed 
to cool off, the audience, never be given a mo- 
ment's breathing-time. Only at the little Resi- 
denztheater in Munich is Don Giovanni so given 
nowadays, with all the librettist's and com- 


The Opera Past and Present 

poser's intentions scrupulously carried out 
only, what must the singing be ? 

In Don Giovanni Mozart's power of character- 
drawing shows itself in all its glory. If, in 
Figaro, he has idealized some of the characters 
out of all semblance to their original selves, in 
Don Giovanni this idealizing process has been 
carried on on lines exactly parallel with the 
original bent of the several dramatis persona, 
and serves but more highly to potentize their 
individuality. Without losing a whit of their 
identity, without being one jot less sharply in- 
dividualized, they rise to the stature of univer- 
sal and eternal types. 

To take but one example from out of several, 
think what it means for a composer to reflect 
the whole of so profoundly and eternally sig- 
nificant a character as Don Juan to the very 
heart of his heart, and to the marrow of his 
bones in that elusive mirror we call Music ! 
And this, too, in the jaunty, lightly-tripping 
dialect of opera buffa ! This miracle Mozart 
works through nearly two long acts ; then, with 
sudden flight, he soars up to the loftiest sublime 
of awful grandeur when, wrong and retribution 
having met face to face to try conclusions with 
each other, his hero, long the incarnation of 
tragedy to fellow-mortals, has at last become 
tragic to himself. 



In this second finale Mozart shows whither 
his genius could lead him on an emergency ; 
here he suddenly discards his familiar methods 
and instinctively takes to be sure, in his own 
way and style to the Wagner method. One 
foot thrust over the wall of the Future into the 
midst of Beethoven's Eroica, is it? Aye, and 
more than that, into the midst of the Wagnerian 

So far did Mozart bring it in Opera ; with a 
mighty outstretch of his arms, he clasped hands 
with Handel and Wagner. But, save for the 
richness of the legacy he left the world, he 
really affected the history of Opera not a whit. 
After his death, the opera-writing world went 
its own way, as if he had not been. After 1787, 
the year of Don Giovanni, nothing so essentially 
"modern " in conception and style as the statue- 
scene made its appearance on the lyric stage 
until 1865, the year of Wagner's Tristan und 

The Italians 

THE typical opera-composer in Italy during 
the last quarter of the eighteenth century 
was Domenico Cimarosa born at Aversa, near 
Naples, on December 17, 1749, died in Venice 
on April 5, 1801. Every inch a musical dra- 
matist born and bred, a consummate master of 
musical form, Cimarosa may be said to have 
summed up in himself Italian opera seria and 
opera buffa from the fading out of the last rem- 
nants of the Scarlatti school up to the advent 
of Rossini. 

The general aspect of Cimarosa' s work is 
very like that of Mozart's ; his style is simpler, 
his musical developments are less extended, 
his forms less varied, his use of the orchestra is 
less poetic and picturesque ; but the general 
physiognomy of his operas is much the same. 
His fame was universal ; his Matrimonio segreto 
(given first in Vienna in 1792, a year after Mo- 
zart's death) was, in the opinion of the time, the 
first opera buffa to dispute the thitherto unques- 


The Italians 

tioned supremacy in that field of Pergolesi's 
Serva padrona. For over a generation, Ilmatri- 
monio segreto was regarded as incarnating the 
highest ideal of opera buffa. Cimarosa was 
great, too, in opera seria ; his Gli Orazj e Curiazj 
(Venice, 1794) can stand as one of the strongest 
heroic operas of its day. 

But, upon the whole, Cimarosa is chiefly in- 
teresting now as a type of his epoch ; he had 
not, like Mozart, the genius that survives, his 
operas could not long outlive the changes of 
fashion. Rossini fairly blew his light out. 

In passing from Cimarosa to the next genera- 
tion of composers in Italy, ,we are struck with 
what seems very like a disruption of continu- 
ity in the evolution of Italian Opera ; with 
Rossini's arrival upon the stage its general as- 
pect, its whole physiognomy, seem to undergo 
a sudden transformation. The fact is that, even 
before Rossini, the great Italian musical deca- 
dence of the first half of the nineteenth century, 
destined soon to acquire a terrific momentum, 
was already setting in. Instrumental composi- 
tion had for some time been entirely neglected 
in Italy, save in the one matter of the opera 
overture, or sinfonia;* the old glory of Italian 

* So exclusively had this term become associated with the opera 
overture in Italy that, when the present Societd, del Quartette be- 
gan its symphony concerts in Florence, the only intelligible way it 


The Opera Past and Present 

Church Music was still upheld by the cheva- 
lier Sard (1729-1802) alone; after him it went 
pretty well to the dogs.* The only form cul- 
tivated with any enthusiasm was the Opera. 
The Italian operatic conquest of the then musi- 
cal world was complete; Italian Opera, sung 
by Italian singers, was an established fact in 
France, Germany, and England, and held its 
own well in competition with the home-made 
article. Italy had become authorized operatic 
purveyor to the world, especially to the aristo- 
cratic, fashion-setting part thereof. But, with 
all this enormous production and exportation 
of operas, Italy had stopped importing any- 
thing whatsoever of the musical sort ; even 
musical ideas were stopped at the frontier. 
Italy held herself absolutely aloof from the 
great new musical development then going for- 
ward with giant strides in Germany, shut her- 
self up within her own boundaries, and de- 
pended wholly upon her own resources. The 
result was a sort of musical in-breeding that 
made a disastrous drain upon the artistic sta- 
mina of the nation, utterly uncompensated for 

could find to describe a Haydn symphony on its programs was : 
" sinfonia classica in quattro pezzi. " 

* Fetis called Sarti "the last of the great Italian contrapunt- 
ists;" to which his bosom friend, and Sarti's pupil, Cherubini 
may be fancied as muttering " last but one/" 


The Italians 

by the introduction of any fresh foreign strain. 
The country was sapping its musical strength 
with a vengeance ! 

Everything suffered ; Italian musical instruc- 
tion deteriorated, neither was it much heed- 
ed ; for the younger generation began running 
away from conservatories before its technical 
education was half completed, so that the whole 
musical production of the country soon began 
to labour under the most terrible handicap that 
can be set upon any kind of creative art, a de- 
fective and inadequate technique. It did not 
take a generation for the Italians to fall, as mu- 
sical craftsmen, immeasurably behind the Ger- 
mans, whom they had once taught. The whole 
musical standard was lowered, and the land 
which had once produced such unsurpassed ex- 
perts in technics as Palestrina, Giovanni Ga- 
brieli, and the Naninis, plunged down into the 
ignominy of looking upon poor Saverio Mer- 
cadante as (heaven save the mark!) a "graft 
contrappuntista" Let no one rant about the 
glory of pure genius and Music's speaking to 
the heart ; the truth that can not be got round 
is that a general deterioration in technical abi- 
lity, in the ability to do, in any nation is a sure 
diagnostic symptom of artistic decay. 

One finds in the generation of Italian com- 
posers that came after Cimarosa a marked tech- 


The Opera Past and Present 

nical falling off, evinced in a general impover- 
ishment and stunting of the musical forms 
employed. Especially noteworthy is the mo- 
notonous paucity of these forms. The only 
thorough technical mastery shown is an ad- 
mirable skill in treating the human voice, and 
in handling the orchestra so as to make the 
voice effective. Save for this, the best that 
can be said of these composers, technically 
speaking, is that, with the keen practical in- 
stinct of genius, they adapted themselves won- 
derfully well to the situation, and attempted no 
tasks beyond their powers. Genius surely was 
not lacking ! But with this generation came 
about the great split between Italian and Ger- 
man Music operatic and otherwise ; up to and 
including Cimarosa, the difference between the 
two schools had been one of national tempera- 
ment mainly ; now it grew into a wider and 
wider divergence of artistic aim and style. 
Before long, German Music got to be utter- 
ly unintelligible to the average Italian, who, 
whether it was a drinking-song, a symphony, 
or an opera finale, shrugged his shoulders 
and lumped it all indiscriminately together as 
" musica di chiesa (church-music)." 

The period we now come to was illustrated 
by several composers of high genius, of whom 
let the following five be mentioned : 


The Italians 

Gioacchino Rossini, born at Pesaro in the Ro- 
magna on February 29, 1792. 

Saverio Mercadante, born at Altamura, near 
Bari, on December 17, 1795. 

Giovanni Pacini, born at Catania in Sicily on 
February 19, 1796. 

Gaetano Donizetti, born at Bergamo on No- 
vember 29, 1797. 

Vincenzo Bellini, born at Catania on Novem- 
ber 13, 1802. 

Rossini was the head and front of the whole 
movement. Pacini, Donizetti, and Bellini were, 
in one sense, followers of ^his, in another, reac- 
tionaries against his dominant tendency.* This 
last fact has too often been overlooked. 

What Rossini chiefly did was to perpetuate 
far into the nineteenth century and with im- 
mense genius, too every deplorable vice the 
Opera had contracted in its Venetian and Nea- 
politan periods. True, he dressed up these 
vices, with inexhaustible originality, in a new 
garb, but he did not cure them of their deform- 
ity. The opera buffa was a thing too much after 
his own heart for him not to enter naturally 
and sympathetically into its spirit ; but in opera 

* Mercadante deserves mention only honoris causa, as ulti- 
mately the dean of the school ; he outlived the others, dying at 
the age of seventy. five in 1870. 


The Opera Past and Present 

seria he let all dramatic and scenic considera- 
tions go hang with a reckless insouciance that 
seeks its fellow, and played into the virtuoso 
singer's hand with a frankness that left nothing 
to be desired. 

A man of the most fertile melodic inventive- 
ness, of incomparable brilliancy, gifted with 
a facility that can fairly be called damnable, 
Rossini enthroned graceful Frivolity in the 
centre of the lyric stage, to rule autocratically 
over singers and orchestra. Cavalli was no- 
thing to him ! His serious Italian operas have, 
to be sure, the advantage of greater superficial 
variety over those of the older Scarlatti- Han- 
del school; instead of an unbroken string of 
recitatives and arias, they present a motley 
succession of airs, duets, concerted pieces, and 
finales. But in intrinsic dramatic and scenic 
quality they hardly excel those of the Neapo- 
litan school of the first half of the eighteenth 
century, while their musical style is far less 
distinguished. Semiramide (Venice, 1823) is lit- 
tle better than a two-act concert in costume ; 
and staid choral societies in this country found 
no difficulty, in the 'forties and 'fifties, in mak- 
ing Most in Egitto (Naples, 1818) go down as an 
oratorio. No doubt the lack of dramatic qua- 
lity in the Rossini opera seria is not quite so 
total as some people nowadays would make it 


The Italians 

out to be ; much depends upon the style of 
singing, and the old " grand " style of coloratura- 
singing not over-fast, with full voice and dra- 
matic stress of accent virtually went out a 
good many years ago.* It is a fact that Semi- 
ramide used to rank in its day as a strong dra- 
matic soprano part. 

Rossini simply ran coloratura, fioritura, the 
trill, roulade, and every form of vocal orna- 
mentation into the ground ; even his recitatives 
are full of such things. He had, upon the 
whole, greater fondness for bright and sprightly 
rhythms than for sustained, expressive canti- 
lena; true, he gave to the'world some exquisite 
masterpieces of broadly-phrased melody, the 
once-famous swan-song, " Assisa al pti (Tun sa- 
lice" of Desdemona in Otello (Naples, 1816) 
among them, but he preferred the nimbler 
tempi, and often reduced the cavatina of an 
aria to the dimensions of a mere introduction 
to the closing rondo. 

It was, however, in opera buffa that Rossini 
was most royally at home and did his greatest 

* Some of the present older generation can still remember 
sporadic instances of it : Euphrosyne Parepa, Therese Tietjens, 
Gabrielle Krauss ; its last living exponent is Lilli Lehmanrr. The 
break-neck vocal agility of the strings-of-pearls, canary-bird style 
of warbling came in with Maria Piccolomini and Angiolina Bosio 
in the 'fifties, and has thriven to the detriment of the other since. 


The Opera Past and Present 

work. Of the delicate Mozartian subtlety he 
had little, he laid on the colours thicker. But 
the true comic verve he had to perfection ; a 
deal of what the French call " malice;' too ; Of- 
fenbach himself is not cuter. The sparkle of 
his melodies, the overbrimming humour of his 
recitatives, the brilliancy of his orchestra, with 
the champagne-fizzing of its violin triplets and 
the irresistible dash of its crescendo* all place 
him in the very foremost rank of buffo compos, 
ers. After all and with all his faults, he was 
the greatest musical genius Italy had produced 
since Alessandro Scarlatti. 

It seems strange now that his Barbiere di Si- 
viglia, surely the most sparkling opera buffa ever 
written, if not the greatest, was damned out- 
right by the public when it was brought out at 
the Argentina in Rome in 1816; but this has 
ever been the way with entirely great works. 
Perhaps, of Rossini's whole bag and baggage, 
this Barbiere is the one opera that is destined 
to live into this century ; in it he shows him- 
self at his very best. In Don Basilio's "La 
calunnia t un venticello" he rises to a pitch of in- 

* The famous "Rossini " crescendo two measures in the tonic, 
repeated in the dominant, the whole gone over three times with 
ever-increasing force was not really his invention. The earliest 
instance of it known to the present author is in Beethoven's over- 
ture to Leonore (so-called) No. I, written in 1807. 

The Italians 

trinsic dramatic force that is hardly outdone 
by anything in Guillaume Tell* The Bar bier e 
may fairly be called immortal ; its brilliance has 
certainly suffered no tarnish yet. Rossini died 
in Paris on November 13, 1868; for brilliancy, 
dash, and a certain easy-going, ingenuous artis- 
tic rascality (not a deeply premeditated ras- 
cality, like Meyerbeer's), the world will pro- 
bably never look upon his like again ! f 

No composer goes to such extremes in any 
one direction as Rossini did, without a reaction 
setting in sooner or later. In his case, the re- 
action came soon enough, even before his career 
was over. A form of art -like the Opera has a 
hard time of it ridding itself of the influence of 
tradition ; the Italian Opera, in especial, had 
traditions enough of its own. Two of the old- 
est of these, indeed they dated back to the very 
inception of the form, were expressive melo- 
dy and vocal ornamentation. \ It was, accord- 

* As is usual with such gems, the authenticity of the " Calun- 
nia " has been called in question ; the only answer to which doubt 
is the counter-question : Who else under the sun could have writ- 
ten it? 

t All consideration of Guillaume Tell, generally accepted as 
Rossini's greatest work, must come in the chapter devoted to the 
French School. 

\ If what we now call melody was considerably lacking in the 
first Florentine operas, it was simply because melody, in our sense 
of the word, had not then been developed ; but emotionally ex- 


The Opera Past and Present 

ingly, no wonder that Rossini's younger con- 
temporaries, who, after all, based their style 
mainly upon his, noting his florid excesses, 
should have felt 

Of two such lessons, why forget 
The nobler and the manlier one ? 

The first to react against the over-floridness 
of Rossini's style was Pacini. He preached and 
practised a return to the " grand old Italian 
tradition " of expressive cantilena. A man of 
high repute in his day, he is totally forgotten 
now ; the stronger dramatic genius of Doni- 
zetti and Bellini gradually threw him into the 
shade, and his works soon grew old-fashioned. 
Of his seventy-five operas, Saffo (Naples, 1840) 
held the stage longest. It was more by his ar- 
tistic attitude than by his genius that he won a 
lasting place in history. 

After Rossini, the strongest men of the peri- 
od were unquestionably Donizetti and Bellini. 
Their contemporary fame was by no means 
equal to his Rossini's world-conquest was im- 
pressive vocal writing was the back-bone of the form from the 
first, and the then composers made it as melodious as they knew 
how just as the early Florentine painters copied Nature as 
closely as they knew how. As for vocal ornamentation, only re- 
member the Archilei's " gruppi e lunghi giri, " mentioned by Peri 
in his Euridice preface. 


The Italians 

mediate and overwhelming; the slow rise of 
Richard Wagner in our time, was as nothing, 
compared to his " Veni, vidi, vici!" but they 
still held their own well, side by side with him, 
and eventually showed a greater power of sur- 
vival. Their genius was more essentially dra- 
matic than his. Perhaps it were wrong to say 
that they had more dramatic power than he 
could show, at a pinch ; but the dramatic in- 
stinct, the dramatic mood, was more habitual 
with them. They were men of constitutionally 
warmer feeling than he. 

One can hardly find another pair of compos- 
ers whose artistic nature^and work exhibit such 
curious inconsistencies. In this respect, they 
are far more characteristic types of the Italian 
Opera of their period than Rossini himself. 
From whatever point of view they may be con- 
sidered, it must be owned in the end that their 
genius was distinctly emotional and dramatic ; 
they had the reddest of blood in their veins, and 
a very poignant faculty of expression. Yet the 
musical forms in which they worked were, for 
the most part, quite as undramatic and unsce- 
nic as Rossini's. Their succeeding in being 
dramatic in spite of it all, is perhaps the best 
proof of the quality of their genius. Then, 
take their style. In one sense, it was simplicity 
and naturalness itself, even verging, in Bellini's 


The Opera Past and Present 

case, dangerously on niaiserie.* But, in another 
sense, it was as sophisticated, as full of what the 
French call rajftnement, as any known to history ; 
especially so in the matter of expression, in 
which it often pinched itself to absolute preci- 
osity. With them, the frankest outpouring of 
genuinely warm emotion went hand in hand 
with a calculated appeal to a highly cultured 
taste. But their passion was none the less real 
for all this super-refined preciosity of expres- 
sion; all the rose-water they poured upon it 
could not quench its flame. 

Of the two, Donizetti had the larger scope, 
the more virile nature. He was also the more 
careless and unequal. But, at his best, he had 
no mean power. Few things on the lyric stage 
are more admirably brilliant in the way of dra- 
matic characterization than the prologue of his 
Lucrezia Borgia (Milan, 1834) ; the music gives 
you the very quintessence of the Venetian life of 
the period its luxurious insouciance, its atmo- 
sphere of intrigue, its undercurrent of hot pas- 
sion ; it is Paolo Veronese in Music! Light 
music enough, if you will, but full of matter. 
Lucrezia is probably his best opera, though 
Lucia di Lammermoor (Naples, 1835) has had 

* It was in reference to Bellini that the late Julius Eichberg 
once said: " Clarity is a precious thing; but there is no artis- 
tic need of music's being clearer than crystal ! " 


The Italians 

more recognition outside of Italy ; but in Lucre- 
zia he strikes and sustains a more original note, 
there is more brilliancy and snap, a fiercer 
dramatic blaze. For one thing, as a piece of 
musical character-drawing, in the Mozart and 
Wagner sense, Maff eo Orsini (in Lucrezia) 
overtops anything else of the sort done in the 
whole period; the elegant, devil-may-care 
young rake lives and breathes before you ! 

Donizetti also did admirable work in opera 
buffa; his Don Pasquale (Paris, 1843), though by 
no means quite in the Rossini vein, can rank 
with any of Rossini's, save the Barbiere alone. 

But there was not a spark of fun in Bellini ; 
he was great only in opera seria. Despite a cer- 
tain besetting effeminacy of sentiment, too, too 
naive at times, he rises now and then to an im- 
pressive grandeur of which one finds little in 
Donizetti. Norma (Milan, 1831) has generally 
been accounted his masterpiece,* and it is per- 
haps the opera in which he most rose out of 
his ordinary self. But La sonnambula is more 
characteristic, in a more congenial vein ; it is a 
chef-d'oeuvre of sensibility. In this charming 
opera (brought out in Milan in the same year 
as Norma) Bellini best shows his peculiar melo- 

* Schopenhauer has brought forward the libretto of Norma (by 
Felice Romani) as an unsurpassed example of the dramatic treat- 
ment of a tragic subject. 


The Opera Past and Present 

die power ; few melodies give a stronger pluck 
to the heartstrings yet wholly without pas- 
sionateness ; expressing merely the vibrant joie 
de vivre of innocent, love-struck sweet sixteen 
than Amina's " Come permesereno oggi rinacque 
il dl ! " Here, as also in the foregoing recita- 
tive, " Care compagne" we have something of 
Gluck's tear-provoking power of expressing 
perfect happiness. 

Of course, in Donizetti's and Bellini's day, 
no composers in their senses would have bitten 
their own noses off by reacting too radically 
against Rossini's florid style ; these two Ita- 
lians were no Richard Wagners, and knew 
enough not to set the whole race of singers 
against them by a too ascetic return to merely 
expressive cantilena. They wrote vocal flour- 
ishes galore ; but theirs were, for the most 
part, the natural efflorescence of an originally 
simple melody, which, in their hands, blos- 
somed out into flowery bedizenment, like the 
apple-branches in spring ; the fioritura is pure- 
ly ornamental, not the main business in hand, 
as it was too often with Rossini. 

Upon the whole, though, it was rather a de- 
bilitating business, this Opera of sweet senti- 
ment, beautiful melody, and ear-tickling; a 
matter of exquisite taste rather than of sturdy 
artistic vitality. For one thing, it eventually 


The Italians 

became the theme of probably the worst mu- 
sical literature (written by amateurs) the world 
has ever had to blush for. 

Into the midst of all this rose-water preci- 
osity suddenly sprang Giuseppe Verdi ! 

No man ever came into the world at a fitter 
moment ; everything was just ready for him. 
Even the most delicate palates had begun to 
cloy with the Donizetti-Bellini syrup, and to 
yearn for a tarter fillip ; and Verdi, of all men 
in the world, was the one to give it them. A 
born son of the people, his parents were inn- 
keepers in the smallest of ways at the little 
hamlet of Roncole, near fiusseto in Parma, 
the hottest-blooded man of passion the Art of 
Music had known since Beethoven, Verdi came 
into Italian Opera as a veritable sansculotte. 
His was a voice from the nether stratum, frank, 
fierce, lurid, unheard before on the lyric stage ; 
he brought into over-sophisticated Opera the 
popular song (or something very like it), and 
turned its siren warblings to passionate utter- 
ance, his detractors said, to screaming. His 
volcanic heat fairly singed the boards ; people 
began to wake up, and say : Here verily is a 
man ! 

Verdi was no better technician than the oth- 
ers, no more inclined to be squeamish about 
old conventions. He took the Opera quite as 

The Opera Past and Present 

he found it ; only, he breathed into it a new 
spirit. The most hopelessly reticent man in 
private life, the despair of prying reporters, 
in his art Verdi unbuttoned freely, was out- 
spokenness itself; what he said was unmis- 
takable, no composer in the whole list ever 
had less reserve. He was absolutely fearless 
in going to all lengths, had no respect at all 
for any sort of Mrs. Grundy, and, at first, little 
disposition to be self-critical ; his genius, always 
of a rather sombre cast, carried him by fits and 
starts from majestic dignity or courtly ele- 
gance to the depths of triviality and vulgarity ; 
to one thing alone was he ever constant : to his 
own genuineness. In time he became at once 
the most popular and the most decried opera- 
composer alive ; the musical plebs swore by 
him, while to musicians (especially outside of 
Italy) his name was a by- word for everything 
artistically reprehensible. To sum him up in 
a sentence, he was the diametrical antithesis of 
Felix Mendelssohn. 

Apart from the force of his genius, the most 
noteworthy thing about Verdi has been his in- 
comparable and never-flagging power of artis- 
tic growth. He was born on October 9, 1813, 
and is still living. This length of life has given 
him the opportunity, which surely few would 
have exploited as well as he, to have four di- 



The Italians 

stinct periods, or manners most great compos- 
ers stop at their third ! In his earlier operas 
Nabucco (Milan, 1842), / Lombardi alia prima 
crociata (ib., 1843), Ernani (Venice, 1844), I due 
Fascari^Rome, 1844), up to Lutsa Miller (Naples, 
1849) he shows, with all his melodic power, a 
certain formal stiffness; as good an example of 
this as another is Zaccaria's aria with chorus, 
" U Egitto la sui lidi" in Nabucco, a grandly 
broad melody, not without impressive majesty, 
but still breathing something of well-starched, 
" official " formalism ; it is a little academic. 
With Rigoletto (Venice, 1851) his style grows 
more elastic, his melody freer and more ori- 
ginal, his passion and dramatic fire burn at their 
hottest. In this second period come his most 
popular, as well as, in one sense, his most cha- 
racteristic operas : // trovatore (Rome, 1853), La 
traviata (Venice, 1853), Un ballo in maschera 
(Rome, 1859), and a few others of less note. 
Strangely enough, this second manner of Ver- 
di's has none of those transitional characteris- 
tics that mark the second period of most com- 
posers ; his style is individual and fully formed, 
his technique, if not conspicuous by any high 
standard, is yet his own and entirely adequate 
to its task. Noteworthy is a certain relaxing 
of the curb of strict form, perhaps due in some 
measure to the Meyerbeer influence, which 

The Opera Past and Present 

had by that time well made the round of Eu- 
rope ; in the last scene in the Trovatore (surely 
one of the greatest he ever wrote) we already 
find the musical form conditioned by hardly 
anything save a dramatic conception of the text ; 
in this respect, the scene was twenty years in 
advance of all else done in Italy at the time. 

The apparent finality of Verdi's second man- 
ner was, however, deceptive ; the man had by 
no means got to the end of his tether yet! His 
third was really his transition period La forza 
del destino (St. Petersburg, 1862), Don Carlos 
(Paris, 1867), A 'ida (Cairo, 1871). Here we find 
distinctly French influence at work, also a 
touch of the "new romantic" Liszt-Berlioz- 
Wagner eleutheromania. A'ida may well be 
compared, as a transitional work, with Wag- 
ner's Lohengrin ; side by side with much that is 
conventional, the final (fourth) manner is more 
than foreshadowed in it. In this period Verdi's 
style becomes vastly more complex ; you find 
him taking unwonted pains with himself, with 
his orchestra, with larger and more complex 
musical developments, with the finer subtleties 
of dramatic expression and local colour. In a 
word, though still thoroughly an Italian, Verdi 
evinces a determination not to lag behind with 
the rest of his countrymen, but to show himself 
as well abreast of the age. 


The Italians 

With A'ida we must now leave Verdi for a 
while ; his fourth manner belongs to the pres- 
ent, probably still more to the future. He has 
been considered here as a man of the Donizetti- 
Bellini epoch, and as the bridge that led over 
therefrom to the Italian Opera of to-day. 

One thing is, however, important to esta- 
blish : no matter how intrinsically unscenic 
were the forms of Italian Opera from Rossini to 
the " younger " Verdi, the music was distinctly 
written to be sung with the intensest dramatic 
stress; herein it differs most fundamentally 
from that of the old Scarlatti-Handel Opera. 
Then, a certain amount of dramatic action is 
not only possible but, so to speak, inevitable in 
Donizetti's, Bellini's, and Verdi's operas ; with 
a Handel aria it is simply inconceivable. So 
much scenic quality the music undeniably had. 
With all its conventional formality, it was re- 
ally dramatic in its essence. Some very strik- 
ing examples may be adduced: the quartet, 
" Bella figlia" in Rigoletto, where three, aye, four 
different emotions are expressed simultane- 
ously, and with perfect truth to nature a feat 
unparalleled in the annals of Opera! Take, 
again, the final terzet, " Ferma, crudele" in Er- 
nani, where the music, though of perfectly re- 
gular construction, never for a moment relaxing 
the strictness of its dance-rhythm, lends itself 

The Opera Past and Present 

to every subtle change of expression in the 
text, and gradually swells to a lava-stream of 
dramatic impetuosity. Upon the whole, it is 
quite significant of the fitness of this music for 
the stage that it loses more than half its zest, 
and well-nigh collapses, in the concert-room. 
How and why it fits the stage is not so easy to 
show, but it certainly does fit it wondrous well 
in its way.* 

* Some points omitted in this chapter to economize space are 
brought up in Chapter VIII. Vide foot-note on page 158, con- 
cerning the act-finale, and also page 167. 



The French School 

IF any nation has done its full share toward 
proving the truth of the saying that, in 
Opera, the comic is everywhere the more di- 
stinctively national form, France has. French 
optra-comique has been illustrated almost exclu- 
sively by native composecs, around the heads 
of many of whom Fame has drawn the aureola 
of immortality no matter how perishable Time 
may have proved their works to be. But, in 
the list of composers who, for hard upon two 
centuries, supplied the Acad6mie de Musique 
the chosen home of Grand Opera in France 
with works, the greatest and most /world- 
famous names are, with one or two excep- 
tions, not French. Rameau may fairly be rated 
as a first-class man ; but the two Bertons (old 
Pierre-Montan and his son, Henri-Montan), 
Lesueur, M6hul, Kreutzer, Persuis, Catel, Ha- 
levy, and others of less note can not stand in 
history on a level with Lully, Gluck, Cheru- 
bim, Spontini, Rossini, and Meyerbeer. Even 


The Opera Past and Present 

Auber, whose Muette de Portici might be taken 
as a fairish claim to fellowship with these great 
foreigners, did his best and most characteristic 
work for the Opera-Comique, as did also se- 
veral of his above-mentioned compatriots. 

But, such has been the inflexibility of French 
taste, of French ideas, so irresistible the force 
of French influence, when exerted near-to and 
at home, that, with and in spite of all the fo- 
reign genius that has been welcomed, first and 
last, to the Acad6mie de Musique, the school of 
Grand Opera is indefeasibly French. What 
may be called the French idea has ruled 
throughout. Nevertheless, the high-sweeping 
scythe of cursory History will cut off, for the 
most part, un-French heads ! 

Gluck's first successor in Paris was his pupil, 
Antonio Salieri, born at Legnano in Venetia on 
August 19, 1750, died in Vienna on May 7, 
1835. What may be called a first-rate second- 
class man, Salieri founded himself entirely upon 
Gluck ; his Les Dana'ides (1784), Les Horaces 
(1786), Tar are (1787), and a few other operas 
served to keep the Gluck tradition fresh for 
a while. Cherubini, who, unlike most of the 
great foreigners, did better work for the Op6ra- 
Comique than for the Academic de Musique, 
may still be mentioned here as filling up the 
gap between Salieri and Spontini with his 


The French School 

Dtmophon (1788), Anacrton (1807), and a few in- 
tervening operas. Cherubini, however, made 
something of a temporary break in the Gluck 
tradition, for he held more by Mozart than by 
the Viennese reformer. 

The thread of the tradition is, however, 
knotted again by Spontini. Gasparo Spon- 
tini (afterwards conte di Sant' Andrea) was 
born at Majolati in the Marches of Ancona on 
November 14, 1774, and died there on January 
24, 1851. After writing a number of Italian 
operas of the conventional sort in his native 
country, he came to Paris in 1803 ; here he sub- 
mitted himself willingly to French influence, 
and his style soon underwent a noteworthy 
change ; it was in Paris that his great, indeed 
his only considerable, period began. He ac- 
cepted the Gluck formula in toto ; temperamen- 
tally, too, there was no little resemblance be- 
tween him and the Vienna master: he had a 
similar poignancy of feeling, a similar noble 
reserve in expression, the same at-homeness in 
the classic atmosphere. His music, however, 
strongly reflects native Italian influence ; in 
some of his melodies, still more in some of his 
orchestral passage-work, he even foreshadows 
Rossini. Upon the whole, he can stand as a 
very Italian Gluck. He was immeasurably 
the strongest figure in French Grand Opera 

The Opera Past and Present 

between Gluck and the romantic movement of 
1830; his Vestale (1807), Fernand Cortez (1809), 
and Olympie (1819) lived well into the second 
half of the century both in France and in Ger- 
many. He was the last of the great "classi- 
cists " of the lyric stage ; a man of no mean 
grandeur, sombre sublimity, and dramatic 
force, one who could be at white heat with 
seemingly unmoved countenance. With an 
ounce more of genius, of the genius that sur- 
vives, his works might even now be as viable 
as Gluck's own ; but, like his older fellow- 
countryman, Cimarosa, he fell just short of 
this mark, and the romantic movement of 1830 
was the beginning of his end. 

A form which has stood for over a century 
and a quarter with its chief traditions unbroken 
for the Gluck Reform was an enlarging and 
consolidating, rather than a breaking, of the 
Lully-Rameau traditions may fairly be re- 
garded as settled. The form of French Grand 
Opera, as we find it firmly established in Spon- 
tini's time, was, in the main, this : a five-act 
libretto, set in musical numbers (airs, duets, 
concerted pieces, finales) with the connecting 
dialogue in stately accompanied recitative (not 
the more glib recitative secco of the Italians), 
and with grand ballet-divertissements in the 
second and fourth acts. This was the standard 


The French School 

norm, and departures from it were few and 
insignificant; at the Academic de Musique 
it was as the law of the Medes and Per- 

If the Grand Opera called tragtdie-lyrique 
when the libretto conformed to the rules of the 
classic French tragtdie was, in the end, but a 
quasi-academic adaptation of the Italian opera 
seria to French taste, the optra-comique may be 
called the natural growth, in French soil, of 
a slip cut from the Italian opera buffa. The 
Grand Opera exemplified French taste ; the 
ope'ra-comique was a perfectly natural and frank 
expression of French feeling and instinct. It 
even came only in part from the Italian opera 
buffa; its other parent was the native French 
vaudeville. Its distinctive feature was the spo- 
ken dialogue connecting the set musical num- 
bers ; and this owed its origin partly to the vau- 
deville, partly also to the impossibility at the 
time of finding a viable French equivalent for 
the Italian recitative secco. In French stage 
terminology, any opera with spoken dialogue 

* Such a tradition dies hard, and may, moreover, acquire a con- 
siderable social importance. The fiasco of Tannhauser at the 
Academie de Musique in 1861 was chiefly owing to the rage of the 
more influential class of patrons at the ballet's coming in the first, 
instead of in the second act thus interfering with their precious 
dinners ! 


The Opera Past and Present 

is an optra-comique, no matter what the cha- 
racter of its subject. 

Two different sorts, or styles, of optra-comique 
are to be distinguished : the older and the 
newer. The one was but a higher develop- 
ment of the vaudeville^ the other tended more 
in the direction of Grand Opera. Up to with- 
in, roughly speaking, twenty years of the end 
of the eighteenth century, the works of Phili- 
dor (1726-1795), Monsigny (1729-1817), Gretry 
(1741-1813), Dalayrac (1753-1809), and others 
of their school were, in general, characterized 
by exceeding musical simplicity ; it was often 
only by the greater proportion of music in them 
that they were distinguishable from vaude- 
villes ; they were strongly imbued with the 
French chanson spirit. With Mehul ( 1 763- 1817), 
Gluck's pupil and ardent follower, larger musi- 
cal developments came in ; some of the musical 
numbers, notably the act-finales, might have 
shown their faces without discredit in Grand 
Opera.* This tendency was carried farther 
by Boieldieu (1775-1834) whose Dame blanche 
(1825) is probably the only optra-comique of the 
first quarter of the nineteenth century practi- 

* It is significant that, some years ago, there was talk in Paris 
of the Academic de Musique making an exchange with the Opera- 
Comique, the former to exchange Auber's Le philtre (which was 
its property) for Me'hul's Joseph (owned by the Opera-Comique). 


The French School 

cally known to most readers of this book and 
reached its culmination (that is, without over- 
stepping the bounds of the style) with Auber 
(1784-1871) and Herold (1791-1833). There are 
many things in works like Auber's Fra Diavolo 
(1830), Les diamants de la couronne (1841), or 
Hayde'e (1847), or He*rold's Zampa (1831) or Le 
prt aux clercs (1832) that would not be out of 
place at the Acad6mie de Musique. 

After 1791 these two styles of ope'ra-comique 
were respectively represented by two rival 
theatres : the Th6atre Favart (now the Theatre 
del'Ope'ra-Comique) cultivating the older, clas- 
sical style, the Theatre-Feydeau, the newer, 
more elaborate one. To be sure, no very sharp 
line of demarcation can be drawn between the 
two styles; you can find hints at the newer 
even as far back as Gr6try, and many operas 
savour of both. Probably the composer most 
on the fence between them was Luigi Cheru- 
bini (1760-1842), whose Me'de'e (1797), though 
given at the Feydeau, is virtually a grand 
opera, and whose Les deux journe'es known 
here as The Water Carrier, and admittedly his 
masterpiece carries the old style to almost 
vaudeville simplicity in all the music but the 
act-finales, and in these presents developments 
of an extent and complexity quite worthy of the 
most elaborate form of Grand Opera. Indeed 

The Opera Past and Present 

it is probably owing-, as Hanslick shrewdly 
surmised, to Cherubini's pushing both princi- 
ples to such extremes, thus showing the con- 
trast between them as so glaring, that a work 
of the exquisite genius of Les deux journtes has 
failed to hold the boards all over the musical 
world to this day. It fell down between two 
stools ! 

The change destined to be worked in French 
Grand Opera by the romantic ideas, generally 
known as of 1830, began in 1828, when Auber's 
La muette de Portici (better known here as 
Masaniello) was brought out at the Academic 
de Musique on February 29. This in every 
sense epoch-making work came like a thunder- 
clap out of the blue. Auber, who had hither- 
to written only for the Opera-Comique, now 
brought all the brisk, nimble dash of his style 
to bear upon a tragic subject, and a subject, 
too, taken straight from the heart of the people 
as Wagner, somewhat too satirically, said : 
" a revolution of fishermen and costermon- 
gers " with no halo of classic grandeur about 
it, but white hot with the breath of the pro- 
letariat. And his treatment fitted the subject 
to a T ; he outdid himself, showing unwonted 
dramatic fire, picturesqueness in his orchestra, 
and a skilful handling of choral masses (that 
is, dramatically) worthy of the ablest Italians 


The French School 

of the seventeenth century. The old regular 
forms of air, duet, etc., are still there ; but ma- 
naged with such deftness, so full of dramatic ap- 
positeness, that they are hardly noticed as such. 
Eminently the most brilliant work the stage of 
the Acade*mie de Musique had ever known. 

Hard upon the heels of La muette followed, 
on August 3, 1829, Rossini's Guillaume Tell, an 
opera which may aptly be described as the ef- 
fort of the composer's life. Effort is the word ! 
Here, too, was a romantic subject, taken from 
the life of the people, or at least, from popular 
(not antique) Legend, the dramatic form bor- 
rowed from Schiller's Wilhelm Tell. For his 
musical treatment of this theme Rossini surely 
needed no more brilliancy than he had by na- 
ture ; but, after thrilling the public of the Aca- 
d6mie de Musique with revamped versions of 
two of his harum-scarum Italian operas, Le 
stige de Corinthe (1826) and Mo'ise en Egypt e 
(1827),* he now took himself more seriously, 
came over to the French school as far as lay 
within his Italian nature, took infinite pains 
with all he had hitherto been careless about, 
and produced a work worthy of a great genius. 
Like Auber before him, he outdid himself, if 
not quite in the same way. 

* Respectively, remodelled versions of Maometto II (Naples, 
1820) and Most in Egitto (ib., 1818). 

The Opera Past and Present 

The effort seems to have been somewhat too 
much for him. At least, how else explain the 
singular course he pursued after it, a course 
absolutely without parallel in history ? When 
he wrote Guillaume TV//, Rossini was thirty- 
seven, a strong man in perfect health and 
spirits ; he lived thirty-nine years longer, to the 
age of seventy-six, and Tell was his last opera, 
almost his last composition of any sort! His 
thus throwing up an incomparably brilliant 
career, at a time when he hardly can be said to 
have attained to the full development of his 
powers, can not possibly have been owing to 
Louis-Philippe's government refusing to ratify 
a contract he had made with Charles X ; no 
man of his flibbertigibbet humour could have 
stuck to his huff so long as all that ! The only 
plausible explanation is that, after TV//, his pride 
would not allow him to return to his earlier 
Italian manner, he had a keen eye for signs of 
the times, and these were not consoling, while 
the prospect of the hard work needed to pro- 
duce more Tells was more than his laziness 
could stomach. He is the only great composer 
on record who ever abdicated in the prime of 
life ; he preferred not writing at all to not writ- 
ing easily. 

Unfortunately for both La muette and Guil- 
laume Tell, they were, with all their force of 


The French School 

genius, all their come-outer boldness, merely 
transitional works ; moreover, the particular 
march of progress they had set in motion so 
soon acquired speed and momentum that they 
found it doubly hard to hold their own against 
it. It is no mean testimony to their intrinsic 
strength that they held out as long as they did ; 
they have not quite lapsed from the repertory 
yet. But they were quick in growing old- 
fashioned. Before the next decade was out (it 
had even hardly begun !), there came along a 
man to sum them both up, as far as regarded 
novelty of matter or manner, and outdo them 
quite. This man was Meyerbeer. 

Wagner's sarcastic account of the matter was 
received with outraged scorn when it first ap- 
peared, but is now seen to be substantially 

" Meyerbeer composed operas h la Rossini in 
Italy only till the great wind began to veer 
about in Paris, and Auber and Rossini blew the 
new gale to a hurricane with the * Muette ' and 
' Tell.' How soon Meyerbeer was in Paris ! But 
there he found, in the Gallicised Weber (remem- 
ber l Robin des bois') * and thebe-Berliozed Beet- 
hoven, active forces which neither Auber nor 

* Robin des bois was what Berlioz quite rightly called an "in- 
famous pasticcio " on Weber's Freischiitz, cooked up by Castil- 
Blaze, and brought out at the Odeon in Paris in 1824. 

The Opera Past and Present 

Rossini had noticed, as too far removed from 
their purpose, but which he, with his all-the- 
world's capacity, knew very well how to value 
aright. He accordingly grasped together all 
that thus offered itself to him into a mon- 
strously variegated, composite phrase, before 
the shrill outcry of which Auber and Rossini 
suddenly became inaudible ; the grim devil 
' Robert' fetched them both together." * 

Meyerbeer's genius has been variously esti- 
mated ; forty or fifty years ago, it was rated 
very high in France ; now time has consider- 
ably tarnished its fabled brilliancy. But, what- 
ever his genius, his influence upon the Opera, 
not in France alone, but all over Europe, was 
stronger and farther-reaching than that exert- 
ed by any other man in the nineteenth century, 
save Richard Wagner. He alone can rank 
with Lully and Gluck in having ushered in a 
new epoch of French Grand Opera ; of such 
well-differentiated epochs French Grand Opera 
as yet counts only three : the Lully, the Gluck, 
and the Meyerbeer. To be sure, in comparing 
him with Gluck, there is a certain notable 
moral difference to be got over; Gluck was 
essentially a reformer, a worshipper of eternal 
Truth, while Meyerbeer was no reformer (in 

* RICHARD WAGNER, Gesammdte Schriften und Dichtungen, 
III, 364- 


The French School 

the Gluck sense) at all, and worshipped no- 
thing but the everlasting Get-There. 

Jakob Meyer Beer, known to the world as 
Giacomo Meyerbeer, was born in Berlin on 
September 5, 1791 (1794?), and died in Paris on 
May 2, 1864. His father was a Jew, of the rich 
banker sort. He studied under Franz Lauska, 
Muzio Clementi, old Zelter (Mendelssohn's 
master), and finally under the abbe* Vogler. 
As an opera-composer, he at first imitated 
Weber, then (after studying vocal writing in 
Italy, by Salieri's advice) took up with the ex- 
treme Rossini style ; his Crociato in Egitto (Ve- 
nice, 1824) may be called as good a reproduction 
of the Rossini manner as exists. But his ear- 
lier operas (in his first and second manners) 
are historically unimportant. 

In 1826 he went to Paris.* Here he stopped 
composing for a while, and began to make a 
careful study of French literature and art, 
above all, of the French character ; these four 
years, 1826-30, marked the turning-point in his 
career. He was eminently a man of enterprise, 
a born eclectic, unsurpassed in his faculty for 
turning every opportunity to account ; Paris 
gave him food for thought. There were La 
muette and Guillaume Tell ; there was the new 

* That is, before, not, as Wagner implies, after the production 
of La muette and Tell. 


The Opera Past and Present 

Berlioz orchestration, vehemently discussed 
at the time, but descriable by the discerning eye 
as big with a whole great future for the Art of 
Music, not yet applied to the Lyric Drama ; 
there were, in churches and conservatories, end- 
less old contrapuntal subtleties, long neglected 
by composers for the stage ; best of all, there 
was, as Wagner has said, a new wind blowing, 
it was good weather for inventive audacity ! 

Meyerbeer plodded quietly on, catching idea 
after idea, and silently perfecting a whole new 
scheme of Opera ; he was plainly not satisfied 
until he had the plan complete in his brain, 
well thought-out in every detail. For, when he 
took to active composition again, we find his 
third, or " grand," manner fully formed ; he 
had no transition period. 

The work in which he embodied the results 
of those four years of thinking and study was 
Robert le Diable, brought out at the Academic 
de Musique on November 21, 1831. The man- 
ner was quite new ; a most composite style, if 
you will, a mosaic style, made up of bits taken 
from about every composer who had anything 
worth taking, but and here is the miracle ! 
thoroughly personal and individual. No mat- 
ter how great or how small a genius, there 
was one force which Meyerbeer indisputably 
possessed : the force of sharply defined indi- 



The French School 

viduality; whencever he may have got an idea, 
once it had passed through his brain, it came 
out bearing his mark. No musical style was 
ever more composite than his ; none more un- 
mistakably the composer's own. 

No doubt, other folk's ideas got more or less 
distorted in the process, and perverted from 
their original meaning. Often, what had been 
an irrepressible expression of a composer's in- 
most self was turned into a mere bid for effect. 
Meyerbeer was a man of no artistic conscience, 
and his artistic honesty was more than du- 
bious ; take him in the most charitable way, if 
Effect was really his god', he served that god 
with perfect single-heartedness. 

Few operas have made so strong a first im- 
pression upon any public as Robert le Diable 
made in Paris in 1831. Success is not quite 
the word for it ; cela faisait explosion, it made a 
tremendous noise in the world, was discussed, 
pro and con, with a vigour that left no one in 
doubt as to the work's being, at least, some- 
thing ! Whether great or puny, admirable or 
outrageous, it was clearly no nothing -at -all. 
The style was so new, and hence so incompre- 
hensible at first, that everyone connected with 
the rehearsals singers, players, conductor 
predicted a flat failure. But, when the open- 
ing night came, the excitement of the audience 


The Opera Past and Present 

was so irrepressible and contagious that, after 
the duet, "Sifaurai ce courage?" in the third 
act, Adolphe Nourrit, who sang the part of 
Robert, lost head completely and, from sheer 
madness of nervous tension, took a desperate 
header down a trap - door that was open by 
mistake luckily falling upon a mattress, and 
so saving his neck.* 

Jt is difficult for us now to appreciate how 
new Robert was in 1831. It seems old-fashioned 
enough to-day ! But look at the duet between 
Alice and Bertram, " Mais Alice, qu'as-tu done?" 
in the third act, and think of what an audacity 
of originality it took to offer those suppressed 
intermittent whisperings, strung on the barest 
thread of a melodic idea, to a public brought up 
on Spontini, Cherubini, Auber, and Rossini ! It 
must have seemed the very impudence of crass, 
unacademic realism. Take the unaccompanied 
terzet, "Fatal moment ', cruel my stir e" in the same 
act, where a parody on the four-voice cadenza in 
Beethoven's ninth symphony compelled a whole 
public to applaud to the echo what, in Beet- 
hoven, they had scouted as incomprehensible.f 

* The author has never seen this anecdote in print ; it comes 
orally from an eye-witness. 

t At a rehearsal of the ninth symphony in Boston, some years 
ago, a certain musician was overheard muttering, after the famous 
quartet-cadenza, " There goes one of Meyerbeer's strongest claims 
to originality ! " 


The French School 

Robert is, after all, Meyerbeer's freshest and 
most original work. In Les Huguenots (1836) the 
style is more matured, there are moments of 
deeper inspiration passages in the duet, " O 
del! ou courez-vous ? " between Raoul and Valen- 
tine, in the fourth act, have won sincere homage 
even from Wagner but the first bloom is wiped 
off. In Le Prophlte (1849) maturity of style 
already degenerates into mannerism ; it out- 
Meyerbeers Meyerbeer. All that can be said 
of LAfricaine, his last opera (1864), is that, if 
no less mannered than the Prophtte, it shows 
greater heartiness of inspiration. In Robert le 
Diable there is a superior freshness of melodic 
invention, more genuine dash and brilliancy. 

With all his deplorable elasticity of artistic 
conscience, his flirting, now with grandeur, 
now with courtly elegance, and anon with down- 
right vulgarity, Meyerbeer did the Opera no 
little good technical service. He loosened the 
bonds of musical form, and, though not quite 
obliterating the old landmarks, did much to 
render traditional forms more scenic. What 
most composers before him had done only in 
the act-finale he did at any point in an act 
where he saw a chance of making the music go 
hand in hand with a continuous dramatic de- 
velopment, no matter how brief. He obtained 
many of his dramatic and scenic results, to be 

The Opera Past and Present 

sure, more by an extension than by a sacrifice 
of the old forms ; but this was, after all, what 
most of his predecessors had done in the act- 

His style, composite as it was, was in the 
main essentially dramatic ; nevertheless he did 
not discard the Rossini coloratura, over which 
his early Italian studies had given him a certain 
mastery. He was particularly fond of giving 
his second soprani generally queens or prin- 
cesses, of but secondary dramatic importance - 
intrinsically florid parts ; his dramatic heroines, 
on the other hand, seldom have anything purely 
ornamental to sing, save in closing cadenzas; 
he seems to have felt that he could ill afford 
to withhold this concession to the vanity of 

Meyerbeer also did noteworthy work in 
optra-comique, though he could never quite rid 
himself of a certain ponderousness, not wholly 
in accord with the genre. But nothing he did 
was in vain ; and, if there had been no Etoile du 
Nord (1854) or Pardon de Ploermel (1859), there 
surely would never have been a Bizet's Carmen. 

In the last analysis, the Meyerbeer Opera 
was just as characteristic an expression of the 
romantic spirit of 1830 as Victor Hugo's and 
Dumas's dramas, Alfred de Musset's poetry, 
Dekcroix's canvases, Berlioz's symphonies, or 

The French School 

Chopin's pianoforte -music. It was virtually 
the Durnas Drama set to music,* and had all 
the flaunting virtues and unnatural vices of that 
school. If it was something very different from 
the Wagnerian Music-Drama, this was simply 
because nothing like the Wagnerian Music- 
Drama could possibly have sprung from the 
order of ideas which formed the point of 
departure for the 1830 movement in France. 
The most that can be expected of a tree is to 
bear its own fruit ! 

Meyerbeer's chief follower was Jacques- 
Fromenthal Halevy (1799-1862), a man of far 
greater sincerity and warmth of feeling, but of 
considerably less force. His reputation was 
very high in his time, both in and out of France, 
but only his La Juive (1835) remains on the ac- 
tive list to-day, f 

* Eugene Scribe happens to have been Meyerbeer's librettist, 
but that does not matter. 

t Wagner tells a significant and instructive anecdote about La 
Juive (the great Richard was a man of imagination, and one 
never knows quite how far to trust him in matters of fact ; but 
this story bears all due internal evidence of truth). When Du- 
prez was to succeed Nourrit in the part of ^leazar, he asked 
Halevy one day at rehearsal if he might not hold back the tempo 
a little in his great phrase, " O ma fille chfrie," in the first finale, 
as he found that he could make no effect with it at the general 
tempo of the movement (Allegro brillante). Halevy willingly 
granted his request ; the news of this concession made by com- 


The Opera Past and Present 

The first native-born Frenchman, since Ra- 
meau, to win a higher reputation at the Acade- 
mic de Musique than at the Op6ra-Comique 
was Charles Gounod, born in Paris on June 17, 
1818, died there on October 19, 1893. Formally 
and technically, he did nothing new ; in these 
matters he was purely and simply a follower of 
Meyerbeer, as none but the mightiest original 
genius could well have helped being in his 
time ; for the Meyerbeer cult in France from 
1840 to 1880 was as general and enthusiastic as 
the Mendelssohn cult in England ; Meyerbeer 
ruled unquestioned and supreme. But Gou- 
nod did bring in a new personal temperament ; 
he was the great love-poet of the French lyric 
stage in the nineteenth century. Not particu- 
larly profound in feeling, but none the less ge- 
nuine, well-nigh fanatical in his sincerity, he 
could mirror in his music all the dreamy ecstasy 
of a refined sensual passion purely sensual, 
but thoroughly refined. 

Gounod was really a one-work man, though 
box-office keepers may tell you another story ; 
all he really had to say he said in his Faust (first 
given at the Theatre - Lyrique on March 19, 

poser to singer was soon bruited abroad, with the result that, be- 
fore long, this phrase was dragged out to a slow Andante in every 
opera-house in Europe. Many, if not most, operatic "tradi- 
tions " have a very similar origin. 


The French School 

1859, then, after making the round of the world, 
at the Academic de Musique on March 3, 1869, 
as a grand opera, with added ballet in the 
fourth act). His other surviving opera, Rome'o 
et Juliette (Academic de Musique, 1867), needs 
only to be compared with Faust to show the 
limitations of the man's genius. In a discon- 
nected succession of dramatic situations, with 
few characters (Faust), he was completely at 
home ; in a strenuously developed drama, like 
Rome'o et Jidiette, with multitudinous opportu- 
nities for drawing character, he was out of his 
element ; out of his element, too, with the 
heavier orchestration demanded by the Acade*- 
mie de Musique for remember, Faust was 
originally written for the smaller Theatre-Ly- 
rique. A small, tenuous voice, not devoid of a 
certain searching sweetness, Gounod has been 
listened to with delight for hard upon half a 
century ; he even managed to make a sort of 
epoch of his own in a small way. But, save for 
his individual temperament, he left no mark 
upon the history of Opera; his formula was 
still the Meyerbeer formula, if somewhat re- 
laxed as formulae have a way of relaxing, with 
the course of time. Gounod did not add a 
fourth to the trio of men who left the deepest 
impress on French Grand Opera : Lully, Gluck, 
and Meyerbeer. 



The Germans 

EIGHTEEN years after the production of 
C Mozart's Don Giovanni in Prag, there 
came in Vienna another notable first perform- 
ance : that of Beethoven's Fidelio at the The- 
ater an der Wien on November 20, 1805. 

If Beethoven (1770-1827) wrote only one 
opera, he was clearly determined that that one 
should be a lion ! Probably no other opera 
in the whole list was ever so worked over by 
its composer as this Fidelio, oder die eheliche 

The text was originally adapted by Joseph 
Sonnleithner from Jean-Nicolas Bouilly's Lto- 
nore, ou r amour conjugal, which had been twice 
set to music : first, in the original French, by 
Pierre Gaveaux (1761-1825), and brought out 
at the Feydeau in Paris on February 19, 1798; 
then in an Italian translation, by Ferdinando 
Pae'r (1771-1839), and given in Dresden on Oc- 
tober 3, 1804. By no means a great text, of 
eternal significance, like that of Don Giovanni, 


The Germans 

but a mere bit of sentimental-heroic Melo- 
drama, thoroughly bourgeois, a play for mon- 
sieur Poirrier to weep delicious tears over. 
The best that can be said of it is that it is good 
of its kind. 

As at first given, Beethoven's opera was in 
three acts, the overture being the one gene- 
rally known as the " Leonore No. 2 " ; it was 
withdrawn after three performances. The li- 
bretto was next given to Stephen Breuning to 
work over ; he reduced it to two acts, and the 
opera was given in this remodelled shape, with 
a new overture, known as the " Leonore No. 3," 
at the Imperial Privat-Theater on March 29, 
1806; it was again withdrawn, after two per- 
formances. There was some talk of giving the 
opera in Prag in 1807, and Beethoven wrote the 
overture known as the " Leonore No. I " for the 
purpose ; but the plan came to nothing. At 
last the libretto was given to Friedrich Treitsch- 
ke for a second revision, Beethoven also re- 
modelling his score; in this final shape the 
opera was given, with the overture known 
as "to Fidelia" (in E major), at the Karnthner- 
thor-Theater on May 13, 1814. 

Fidelio was the second great opera in the 

form of the German Singspiel (that is, with 

spoken dialogue), Mozart's Zauberflote being the 

first. If Beethoven showed little distinction of 


The Opera Past and Present 

taste in his choice of libretto, he certainly made 
up for it in his treatment ; Fidelio is unquestion- 
ably the greatest German opera between Mo- 
zart and Wagner. It is as idle to compare the 
music with that of Don Giovanni though this 
has too often been foolishly done as to com- 
pare the two libretti. Fidelio is as thoroughly 
German as Don Giovanni is Italian. But its 
falling short of the Don Giovanni mark is chief- 
ly owing to the composer's well-nigh fanatical 
fidelity to his libretto : of that unvarying level 
of the highest sort of opera buffa, suddenly ris- 
ing at the close to the sublimest heights of 
Lyric Tragedy, which characterizes Mozart's 
masterpiece, we find nothing; Beethoven lets, 
not only his expression, but his very style fol- 
low the text, step by step ; the music accord- 
ingly keeps oscillating between good, comfort- 
able ope'ra-comique and the most impassioned 
tragedy for, when the strenuous moments 
come, Beethoven takes his melodramatic text 
quite seriously, and writes music on a level 
with any greatest lines you please in ^Eschylus, 
Sophocles, or Shakspere. Then, at the end, 
when all is over, he suddenly throws off the 
stage shackles really shackles to him, as they 
never were to Mozart and launches out into a 
jubilant cantata (you can call it nothing else, it 
can not be acted to) in the ninth symphony 

The Germans 

vein,* as if fairly drunk with the joy of being 
once more on his own ground. 

It is in its music, and in that alone, that 
Fidelio is great ; and, compared with the ex- 
quisite finish of vocal and orchestral writing in 
Don Giovanni, this music is as if hewn out with 
a broad-axe. Of Mozart's admirable science in 
writing for the human voice Beethoven had 
little ; he is known to have said once : " Singers 
ought to be able to do anything, except bite 
their own noses ! " But, in spite of its lack of 
homogeneity of style, there is not a moment 
in the music that is not great in its way ; for 
one thing, the outburst,*"^ schlagt der Rache 
Stunde" near the close of the " Pistol "-quartet 
in the second act (after the trumpet-calls), is 
probably the most overwhelming moment of 
sheer unbridled fury in all Opera. When it 
came to passion, Beethoven could make the 
best of them look small. With all its shortcom- 
ings, this uncouth cub of a Fidelio is still a lion ! 

It is, after all, only because of its intrinsic 
greatness that Fidelio has any historical im- 
portance ; there was nothing new in it, save 

*The librettist has even paraphrased the lines, " Wer ein 
holdes Weib errungen, mische seinen Jubel ein ! " in Schiller's 
Ode an die Freude, which Beethoven afterwards set in his ninth 
symphony, changing them to " Wer ein holdes Weib errungen, 
stimm' in unsern Jubel ein" 


The Opera Past and Present 

the Beethoven temperament ; it marks no 
epoch. It is only eternal. 

But something new was soon to come ; the 
German Romantic Movement was in the wind. 
This new departure in German Music, and espe- 
cially in German Opera, should not be con- 
founded with the so-called movement of 1830 
in France. This latter, which embraced all the 
fine arts and belles-lettres generally, was, in the 
last analysis, a revolt against the classic; not 
only against the formal principles of classic 
Art, but against well-nigh all classic artistic 
habitudes and points of view. For the Renais- 
sance revival of the Antique, it substituted a 
modern revamping of the Middle Ages ; the 
traditional themes of the Drama, in particular, 
were transformed, and its ethical gist, as Nie- 
tzsche would say, transvalued. The inexorable- 
ness of Fate could, to be sure, hardly die out 
as a dramatic mainspring; but Patriotism and 
Duty after Fate, the most important themes 
of the classic Drama were superseded by 

Of all this, little is to be found in the Ger- 
man romantic Opera ; in Germany the Roman- 
tic Movement meant merely a discarding of 
traditional tragico-heroic subjects in favour of 
subjects taken from national, or even local, folk- 
lore. Practically the most conspicuous item in 


The Germans 

it all was the prominent part played by the 
supernatural element; without the superna- 
tural, folk-lore is no longer folk-lore ! 

The heads of the new romantic school were 
Weber and Spohr.* 

Louis Spohr was born in Brunswick on April 
5, 1784, and died in Cassel on November 22, 
1859. With his reputation as a great master of 
the violin we have nothing to do here ; he in- 
terests us simply as an opera-composer, and, in 
this field, his reputation equalled any in Ger- 
many in his time. After writing three operas 
which were still-born, he brought out Der Zwei- 
kamph mit der Geliebten in Hamburg in 1811. 
Of his eleven operas, Faust (1818) and Jessonda 
(1823) are the most famous ; his last, Die Kreuz- 
fahrer, was given in Cassel in 1845. 

Karl Maria, Freiherr von Weber, was born at 
Eutin in the grand-duchy of Oldenburg on 
December 18, 1786, and died in London on 
June 5, i826.f After passing from one teacher 

* Weber was, at first, unhesitatingly credited with originating 
the movement; later, this credit was given to Spohr, because his 
Faust (produced in 1818) antedated Weber's Freischutz (1821). 
But this specious argument is stultified by the fact that, though 
Spohr 's Faust was completed five years before its production (that 
is, in 1813), Weber had written his Rubezahl (unfinished and 
never brought out) for a theatre in Breslau as early as 1806. 

t It has already been mentioned that Weber was first cousin to 
Mozart's wife ; it may also be of interest that, with the exception 

The Opera Past and Present 

to another (Michael Haydn was among them), 
he, like Meyerbeer, completed his musical 
studies under the abb6 Vogler. After writing 
(more or less completely) three operas which 
never saw the foot-lights, he brought out his 
Sylvana in Frankfort-on-the-Main in 1810 a 
year before Spohr's Zweikampf. But his repu- 
tation could not fairly be called national before 
the production of Der Freischiitz in Berlin in 
1821, and its subsequent triumphal progress all 
over Germany. This was followed by Euryan- 
the (Vienna, 1823) and Oberon (London, 1826). 

Der Freischiitz was in every sense an epoch- 
making work ; it marked the first unquestion- 
able victory scored by the new romantic school. 
To understand the impression it produced in 
Germany, we must appreciate what had been 
the operatic conditions in that country when 
Weber and Spohr came upon the scene, and 
what those conditions were in their day. 

Up to the close of the eighteenth century, 
native operatic production in Germany was in 

of the Bachs, he had the longest musical pedigree of any note- 
worthy composer on record. Philipp Emanuel Bach and his 
brothers belonged to the fifth consecutive generation of profes- 
sional musicians in the direct line of descent. Karl Maria von 
Weber belonged to the fourth generation of musicians in his fa- 
mily the first two of these being, however, represented by ama- 


The Germans 

much the same case as in France : it had only 
one foreign rival to compete with, the imported 
Italian article. But the difficulty of this com- 
petition was far more serious in Germany than 
in France ; the Italian composers who came to 
Germany did not turn German in their music, 
as Gluck, Cherubini, Spontini, Rossini, and 
others turned French in Paris ; and, with the 
beginning of the new century, a fresh set of 
rivals sprang up the French themselves. The 
importation of French operas began, while that 
of Italian operas in no wise diminished. 

Among a host of more or less important fo- 
reign names may be mentioned Ferdinando Pae'r 
(1771-1839),* who, as court Kapellmeister to the 
Elector of Saxony, ruled over the Hofoper in 
Dresden from 1801 to 1806; Cherubini (who, 
though Italian by birth, must count as half- 
German, half-French as a composer) was in 
Vienna from 1805 to 1808, where his Faniska 
(Karnthnerthor-Theater, 1806) made such a suc- 
cess that it was deemed excessive praise to 
Beethoven's Fidelia to predict, as someone did, 
that, one day, it would " rank as high as Cheru- 
bini's Faniska" and Beethoven himself recog- 
nized Cherubini as the leading opera-composer 
of the day. Spontini was called in 1820 to the 

*He Teutonized himself to the extent of signing his name 
" Par " while in Germany. 


The Opera Past and Present 

Hofoper in Berlin, and brought his Vestale and 
Cortez with him.* Beside the personal pres- 
ence of these crowned representatives of the 
Acad6mie de Musique and the Opera.-Comique, 
the importation of French operas soon began 
to assume very considerable dimensions. What 
with having to compete with both Italians and 
French, and in vernacular translations, too, 
to be understood by the vulgar, German com- 
posers were hard put to it. 

There was nothing to offend or unsettle Ger- 
man habits in the French ope'ra-comique , for its 
form (with spoken dialogue) was the same as 
that of the native Spieloper. This was not quite 
true of Italian Opera, when sung in the original 
tongue ; but the Germans adapted both the 
opera seria and the opera buffa to their taste 
easily enough in translated versions, by sub- 
stituting spoken dialogue for the "unaccom- 
panied " recitativo secco. But French Grand 
Opera in which all the recitative was of the 
" accompanied " sort, for which no spoken dia- 
logue could be substituted with any semblance 
of fidelity to the original was a new and unac- 
customed form to the German public ; for the 

* The operas he wrote especially for Berlin Nurmakal, oder 
das Rosenfest zu Kaschmir (1822) and Agnes von Hohenstauf- 
fen (1829) fall after the Weber period at least, after his 


The Germans 

old Reiser school was long since a thing of the 
past, and forgotten. An opera in which every- 
thing was sung presented a new problem for 
German perspicacity to struggle with ; for, 
whether naturally gifted with a keen dramatic 
sense or not, this public had formed the habit 
of at least wishing to understand what it heard 
in the vernacular, and singing was not favour- 
able to easy comprehension.* It is probably 
owing to this insatiate thirst for understanding 
on the part of the public that the form of the 
German Spieloper was as long-lived as it was ; 
a form bastard in itself, and especially, even 
ludicrously unfit for the treatment of heroic 
or highly poetic subjects. In France it never 
rose higher than the optra-comique. 

This unfitness which seems to have escaped 
Mozart's perception completely, as it did also 
Beethoven's was felt keenly by both Spohr 
and Weber, especially as they had the better 
French example under their very noses in 

* It is characteristic at once of German economy and of the Ger- 
man desire to understand things that the opera-libretti published 
in Germany (for the benefit of opera-goers) contain, as a rule, only 
the text of the musical numbers and recitatives, but not that of 
the spoken dialogue which everyone is expected to understand 
without following, book in hand. The standard formula on the 
title-page is, not the title of the opera, as with us, but " Lieder 
und Gesange aus (Songs and Vocal Pieces from) " whatever the 
opera may be. 


The Opera Past and Present 

Gluck's operas and others still more French. 
No doubt the Freischutz owed part of its suc- 
cess to its Spieloper form ; Weber's genius, the 
homelike quality of the legend on which the 
text was based, the general sylvan atmosphere 
of both text and music,* were also for much in 
this success ; but it was nevertheless the putting 
of these familiar things in the familiar way that 
unfailingly brought the work home to the popu- 
lar heart. Still, Weber was not blind to the 
imperfection of the form. Both he and Spohr, 
apparently without collusion, determined to 
remedy it. In the year 1823 were brought out 
the first two entirely " durchcomponierte " (set to 
music all through) German operas since Keiser : 
Spohr's Jessonda, in Cassel on July 28, and 
Weber's Euryanthe,in Vienna on October 25. f 
Neither experiment was a success with the 
public, who, though willing enough to forgive 
that sort of thing in foreign operas (as an 
irremediable product of Gallic perverseness), 
kicked lustily against it in a work of native 

This matter of recitative vs. spoken dialogue 
was really of no small importance ; and it is 
highly probable that the German objection to 

* The average German can be brought to the verge of tears by 
the mere mention of the word Wald ! 

t Here, at least, Spohr has the priority by three months ! 

The Germans 

giving up the latter was not based solely upon 
its being more easily understood by the listener. 
To go to the root of the business, we must re- 
member that the so-called "accompanied" re- 
citative (recitativo stromentato) was a common 
property of every form of Opera, in Italy, 
France, and Germany, whereas the recitativo 
secco was purely Italian. The Italians were the 
only people who had devised an appropriate 
style for the musical setting of familiar, collo- 
quial dialogue ; and this style was the ra- 
pid, flexible recitativo quasi-parlando (or almost 
spoken recitative), which was free from all re- 
straint from musical rhythm, and had become, 
by long convention, less bound by considera- 
tions of tonality than any other known form of 
composition.* In the delivery of this sort of 
recitative, rhythm and emphasis depended 
solely upon the rhetorical sense of the text, the 
singer was free to use the same diction (as the 
French say) that he would in ordinary speech. 
The accompanied recitative, on the other hand, 
was a much more heroic business ; all opera- 
writing nations seem to have agreed, as by 
common consent, that it was applicable only in 

" It is significant that, as far back as Handel, one seldom finds 
any "signature " (indication of key) at the beginning of a secco 
recitative ; the composer set out with the expectation of changing 
key frequently and at short notice. 


The Opera Past and Present 

the "grand style"; there was nothing collo- 
quial about it. 

The (real or supposed) incompatibility of the 
French and German languages with anything 
like the Italian recitative parlando which, after 
all, only carried the natural sing-song of South- 
Italian (Neapolitan or Sicilian) speech an inch 
farther in the musical direction was one of the 
reasons why the French took to the make-shift 
of spoken dialogue in their optra-comique, and 
the Germans, in every sort of Opera. Both 
felt that there were many situations in Opera 
where the more magniloquent accompanied 
recitative would be out of place ; and for the 
homelier Italian form they could find no better 
substitute than bare spoken dialogue. More- 
over, as time wore on, and traditions crystallized 
into habits, French and German singers, having 
had to do only with accompanied recitative, got 
to associate a certain grandiosity of manner 
with every sort of musically set dialogue or 
monologue ; so that, had composers sought to 
introduce a more colloquial style, there would 
have been little chance of their having it fitly 

* Particularly instructive on this head is what Berlioz writes 
about his experience with the recitatives he had written to take 
the place of the spoken dialogue in Weber's Der Freischiitz, for 
the production of that opera in French, under his direction, at the 


The Germans 

Now, the German public, being accustomed 
to have nearly all the important part of the 
story of the opera told them in (generally ra- 
ther homely) spoken dialogue, naturally re- 
sented having it told them in stately recitative, 
which, beside rendering the text less easy to 
understand, was often too evidently grandiosely 
out of place, and took up an unwarrantable 
amount of time. For neither Spohr nor Weber 
gave them anything corresponding to the Ita- 
lian parlando, but followed the more orotund 
French model. 

Still other causes, too, militated against the 
experiment's being accepted as successful. 
Spohr, with all his virtues, was not a genius of 
the epoch-making sort, not a man to shake the 

Academic de Musique in 1841 spoken dialogue being against 
the rules of the house. " I never could get the singers to aban- 
don their slow, heavy, bombastic way of singing recitative ; 
especially in the scenes between Max and Caspar did their deli- 
very of the essentially simple and familiar conversation have all 
the pomp and solemnity of a scene of Lyric Tragedy." (Mtmoires, 

Wagner (Ges, Schr. u, Dicht., I., 287) writes of this perform- 
ance: " The way in which the recitatives were sung increased in 
no small degree the weight of blame cast upon them ; all the sing- 
ers thought to have to do with Norma or Moses, they brought in 
throughout portamenti, tremolo-nuances, and such like noble 

These recitatives of Berlioz's, by the way, were probably the 
first attempt at doing anything colloquial in that line in French. 


The Opera Past and Present 

world out of old habits ; and Weber, who cer- 
tainly was, had the ill luck to find, in Euryanthe, 
about the most deplorable libretto that can 
be imagined. If Mozart's music could float 
Die Zauberflote, Weber's certainly could not 
float Euryanthe ; the self-complacent Helmine 
von Chzy had hardly put worse balderdash 
upon paper when she cooked up the book of 
Rosamunde, in five days, for Franz Schubert. 
Neither was the text the only trouble ; Weber 
betrayed something of the 'prentice hand in 
his recitatives, he did not fall easily and na- 
turally into the vein, and gave little evidence 
of that dramatic power which he showed in his 
grand scenas in the Freischutz and Oberon. The 
best that can be said of his experiment is that 
it was a well-meant, if rather blundering, move 
in an artistic direction. 

But, if, in this instance, the will was some- 
what better than the deed, Weber's service to 
Opera in other ways was none the less conspi- 
cuous. He brought as Cavalli did before 
him, in Venice, if not quite in the same way the 
popular element into serious Opera, and the 
form itself closer to the hearts of the German 
people. This Mozart, one of the most intrinsi- 
cally aristocratic geniuses in all Music, had 
never done ; neither had Beethoven notwith- 
standing the bourgeois quality of the Fidelio-text 

The Germans 

done it much more than he. But in Weber's 
melody, no matter how broad in style or ela- 
borately ornamented, you get all the romantic, 
out-of-door freshness of the Suabian folk-song, 
the peculiarly Teutonic sentimentality in its best 
expression ; one might almost say he wrote in 
dialect. And if, in this, he did the Opera good 
service in Germany, he did other things, of a 
technical sort, the influence of which was far- 
ther-reaching. He effected a sort of inter- 
weaving of the scena * with the aria that did 
much to relax strictness of conventional form, 
and rendered the form more scenically plastic. 
The so-called Incantation - scene in the Frei- 
schiitz even reaches out toward the Wagnerian 
Music-Drama, almost as much as the Statue- 
scene in Don Giovanni. It positively terrified 
contemporary pedants ; but, when someone 

* The term scena is applied to an accompanied recitative of 
more than usual length and dramatic quality, often (but not ne- 
cessarily) containing passages in the arioso style. Donna Anna's 
recitative " Era gia alquanto avanzata la notte," which debouch- 
es into the aria, " Or sat chi Ponore" in the first act of Don Gio- 
vanni, is a transcendent example of the older form of scena. 
Leonore's " Ascheulicher ! wo eilst du hin?" in Fidelia, is an- 
other. Of Weber's intermingling of the scena with the aria, 
Max's " Nein ! Idnger trag' ich nicht die Qualen," and Agathe's 
" Nie nahte mir der Schlummer," in Der Freischutz, and Rezia's 
"Ocean ! thou mighty monster," in Oberon, are conspicuous ex- 


The Opera Past and Present 

showed it to Beethoven, that appreciative great 
man said : " If the scene was to be set to 
music, I don't see how it could have been done 
in any other way." In this scene Weber shows 
all his romantic deviltry ; probably no other 
composer in the whole list ever supped with 
the Devil with so short a spoon. Upon the 
whole, the supernatural was an element very 
congenial to him ; few composers have treated 
it so to the manner born, with so little of the 
melodramatic, as he. The fairy music in Obe- 
ron stands unapproached ; well might Wagner 
exclaim : " Compared with those fairies, Men- 
delssohn's* are, at best, flies!" As a mere 
matter of record, perhaps not uninteresting as 
such to Anglo-Saxons, be it said that Weber, 
the German, wrote the only modern English 
opera that can in any way stand in the first 
class : Oberon ; or, The Elf - King s Oath (to a text 
by James R. Planche, brought out at Covent 
Garden in London on April 12, 1826, not two 
months before the composer's death). 

It is, after all, more by his interweaving of 
the scena with the aria than by his banishing 
spoken dialogue that Weber did the best service 
to the Opera in Germany, and elsewhere. In 
this dramatic extension of the aria and of cog- 
nate ensemble forms he was most especially 

* In A Midsummer Nighfs Dream. 


The Germans 

imitated by Meyerbeer in France ; indeed, this 
sort of thing was one of the chief items in the 
Meyerbeer formula. 

If Euryanthe, in spite of much admirable mu- 
sic, was a failure, Der Freischiitz was surely not ; 
it made an epoch in German Opera, and imi- 
tators were not wanting. Among Weber's 
followers, two are important : Heinrich Marsch- 
ner (1796-1861) and Peter von Lindpaintner 
(1791-1856). These were men of a certain 
amount of genius ; though their works hardly 
crossed the German frontier, they held the 
stage long and prosperously throughout Ger- 
many ; their operas were not mere " Kapell- 
meister work." Marschner was decidedly the 
stronger of the two ; his Der Vampyr (Leipzig, 
1828), Der Templer und die Jildin (the libretto 
after Scott's Ivanhoe ; ib., 1829), and especially 
his masterpiece, Hans Heiling (Berlin, 1833), 
must rank not far below Weber's operas. 
Lindpaintner's talent was of a more ordinary, 
showier cast; his best-known works are Der 
Vampyr (Vienna, 1829) and Lichtenstein (the 
text after Wilhelm Hauff's novel ; Stuttgart, 

* In a book like the present, many a subject of secondary im- 
portance must perforce be treated summarily ; such a subject is 
the German comic Opera, or Singspiel. Although filling quite an 
enormous place in the national artistic life, it has been absolutely 


The Opera Past and Present 

without influence upon anything outside of Germany, or upon the 
higher forms of classic and romantic Opera in Germany itself. 
With the exception of Mozart's thrice-admirable Entfiihrung aus 
dem Serail (Vienna, 1782), Otto Nicolai's Die lustigen Weiber 
von Windsor (Berlin, 1849), and Ignaz Briill's Das goldene Kreuz 
(ib., 1875), exceedingly few works of this order are known outside 
of Germany ; most of the older ones of the school have passed 
into the antique-curiosity stage, and are more than dead now. 

Let the following list of composers and characteristic operas do 
duty for anything further on the subject : 

Josef Haydn (1732-1809), Der neue krumme Teufel (Vienna, 
1752) ; Johann Adam Hiller (1728-1804), Der Teufelist los (Leip- 
zig, 1766), Der Dorfbarbier, Die Jagd (ib., 1772); Karl Ditters 
von Dittersdorf (1739-1799), Doktor und Apotheker (Vienna, 
1786); Johann Friedrich Reichardt (1752-1814), Hanschen und 
Gretchen (Konigsberg, 1772), Das Zauberschloss (Berlin, 1802); 
Peter von Winter (1754-1825), Das unterbrochene Opferfest (Vi- 
enna, 1796) ; Joseph Weigl (1766-1846), Die Schiveizerfamilie 
(Vienna, 1809); Konradin Kreutzer (1780-1849), Jery und 
Bdthely (Vienna, 1810), Das Nachtlager in Granada (ib., 1834); 
Franz Schubert (1797-1828), Der hausliche Krieg (Vienna, 1861) ; 
Albert Lortzing (1803-1851), Czar und Zimmermann (Leipzig, 
1837), Der Wildschutz (ib., 1843), Der Waffensc hmied zu Worms 
(Vienna, 1846); Ignaz Briill (1846 still living), Das steinerne 
Herz (text after Hauff ; Prag, 1888). 




AFTER Scarlatti and Handel, Gluck ; after 
Donizetti and Meyerbeer, Wagner born 
in Leipzig on May 22, 1813, died in Venice on 
February 13, 1883. 

He began as anything but a reformer; his 
first viable opera, Rienzi (brought out in Dres- 
den in 1842), was nothing but an Acad6mie de 
Musique grand opera in five acts. Indeed^ it 
was written especially for the great Paris 
house, though never accepted there ; and the 
style of its music is closely modelled upon that 
of the then reigning Grand Opera favourites in 
France : Spontini, Meyerbeer, and Donizetti.* 

* Donizetti's Les martyrs and La favorite were produced at the 
Academic de Musique in 1840; the latter is still in the repertory 
to this day. 

Wagner's two earlier operas Die Feen (written in 1833, but 
only brought out posthumously in Munich in 1888) and Das Liebes- 
verbot (Magdeburg, 1836) have no historical importance. A 
certain biographical importance they surely have, if only in show- 
ing how unsettled Wagner's artistic convictions were in his youth ; 
Das Liebesverbot is written mainly in imitation of Bellini of all 
men in the world ! 


The Opera Past and Present 

It is virtually a Meyerbeer grand opera, writ- 
ten with more sincerity, full of youthful exces- 
siveness in every direction, but lacking the 
highly-developed Meyerbeer technique. It was 
Wagner's first and last work of the sort. 

In his next opera, Der fliegende Hollander 
(Dresden, 1843), he quite abandoned the French 
model, and turned back to Germany and 
Weber. To be sure, he gave up spoken dia- 
logue, a far safer experiment in the 'forties 
than in the 'twenties, but, if there had never 
been a Freischutz, there never would have been 
a Hollander. Yet, notwithstanding the strong 
Weberish streak in this opera,* there is less 
homogeneity of style in the music than in any 
other of Wagner's works; beside the Weber 
influence, there is, at times, distinctly that of 
French opera-comique.\ All these borrowings 
are, however, recognizably coloured with Wag- 
ner's own individuality; now and then you 

* There is an almost perplexing variety of Weber in it : Weber 
very nearly pure and simple, only slightly Wagnerized ; Weber 
Spontinified and Meyerbeerized (Senta's and Hollander's duet, 
" Wie aus der Feme langst vergang 1 ner Zeiten," in the second 
act); Weber Donizettified (Erik's cavatina, " Willst jenes Tag's 
du nicht dick mehr entsinnen ? ") ; and what not else. 

t The spinning chorus, the chattering little chorus of girls, 
" Ste sind daheim!" and, above all, Daland's air, ll Mogst du, 
mein Kind" which last may be described as indifferent good 



even get Wagner pure and simple.* Tech- 
nically speaking, the musical forms are very 
considerably relaxed ; more, upon the whole, 
than in any opera of Meyerbeer's. The sepa- 
rate numbers are often, so to speak, ravelled out 
at the ends, that they may be woven together 
into some semblance of a continuous whole ; 
only a semblance as yet, but Wagner is plainly 
coming to himself. 

He took a good while to do it, though ; in 
his next opera, Tannhduser und der Sdnger- 
krieg auf Wartburg (Dresden, 1845), ne makes a 
new experimental throw of the dice. Wagner 
was essentially a man of- vast ideas, most com- 
fortably at home in "large frames," as the 
French say. In Tannhduser we have what is 
intrinsically a romantic opera masquerading 
in the guise of Grand Opera ; although only in 
three acts, it is on the largest French scale. 
Shortly before his death, Wagner called it: 
" meine schlechtste Oper (my worst opera) " ; and 
not wholly without justice. The musical style 
is more homogeneous than in the Hollander, 
but Weber still stands largely in the fore- 

* Notably in Senta's ballad, " Traft ihr das Schiff im Meere 
an?" though with the last outburst (Allegro con fuoco\ " Ich 
set 'j, die dick durch ihre Treu' erlose /" Weber stands out more 
prominently than ever. A comparison of this passage with 
Agathe's "Air meine Pulse schlagen," in Der Freischiitz, will 
leave no doubt on this head. 


The Opera Past and Present 

ground. A most strangely transmogrified 
Weber, however: at times pretty thoroughly 
Wagnerized,* but, for the most part, washed 
over with a coat of the most bourgeois sort of 
German thoosy-moosy, redolent of the merely 
Bdnkelsdnger spirit of men like Franz Abt and 
F. W. Kiicken ! Never before nor since did 
Wagner strike so essentially vulgar a vein of 
melody. What saves Tannhduser is the beau- 
ty of the story, the complete sincerity of the 
music, and Wagner's unerring dramatic touch 
which last he had by nature. The technique, 
however, is still rather feeble, except in the 
matter of a skilful handling of material means 
the orchestra and choral masses ; the score is 
defaced by some mere school-boy clumsinesses, 
which were called Wagnerish at the time, but 
are now seen to be anything but that. Yet in 
Tannhduser we do descry at times the beginning 
of Wagner's third manner ;f developed with 

* As in Tannhauser's song to Venus, and in one or two of the 
songs in the Singing-Contest (Walther's and two of Tann- 

t Especially in Tannhauser's Narrative, ' ' Inbrunst im Herzen," 
in the third act, and all the ensuing struggle between him and 
Wolfram before the opened Venus Mountain. Remember, by the 
way, that the now authorized " Paris " version of the first Bac- 
chanale and the scene between Tannhauser and Venus was written 
some fifteen or sixteen years later (after Tristan) and is no crite- 
rion of the style of the original opera. 



no very conspicuous technical skill, but already 
wiping out all traditional musical forms ; here 
the plastic form of the music is based upon 
nothing but the dramatic development of the 

With Lohengrin (Weimar, 1850) comes a mag- 
nificent change. It is still romantic Opera pa- 
rading as Grand Opera ; but of the Abt-Kiicken 
melodic roture there is no longer a trace ; the 
musical style is distinction itself. Weber al- 
most disappears ; what there is left of him is no 
more than the little occasional touch of Haydn 
to be found in the works of Beethoven's second 
period. For the first time, Wagner succeeds in 
raising his music to the full level of his poetic 
conception ; the vehicle is worthy of the load ! * 
The third manner crops up, too, in a far more 
developed condition in the opening scene of 
the second act (Ortrud and Telramund on the 
church steps by night). Lohengrin was em- 

* The score of Lohengrin is, in one particular, an interesting 
commentary on the absolute naivete of Wagner's mental attitude 
toward old conventions. A convention was never bad in his eyes 
because it was conventional, but merely because it was intrinsically 
bad. One of the old fashions most laughed at by the come-outers 
of Wagner's time by Berlioz, Liszt, and himself was the fre- 
quently recurring perfect authentic cadence. Yet Lohengrin may 
be called a very apotheosis of the perfect cadence ; there are nearly 
as many perfect cadences in it as in a Handel oratorio, or an opera 
by Cimarosa. 


The Opera Past and Present 

phatically Wagner's transition opera ; after it, 
he left the " Opera " entirely for the Music- 

It was Lohengrin that fully opened Wagner's 
eyes to what he wanted. And, now that we 
have followed him so far in his career, we can 
see how very purblind his vision in this matter 
had been. Taking the ground, both by instinct 
and rational conviction, that the Opera must 
be primarily a form of Drama, and only se- 
condarily a form of Music, he was some time in 
discovering the way in which he personally 
could best make it a worthy form of Drama ; 
Rienzi, the Hollander, Tannhduser, and Lohengrin 
were but experiments to this end, and experi- 
ments, too, guided by no particularly definite 
theoretical hypothesis.* 

* One point in all these operas is exceedingly hard to explain, 
unless it be explicable by the strong hold convention and example 
still had upon Wagner. He wrote all his own libretti, and so 
could not fall back upon his text as an excuse for any dramatic 
shortcoming. It is accordingly very curious that, even up to 
Lohengrin, he should so frequently have followed one of the least 
commendable Italian examples : in what may be called the de- 
dramatization of the act-finale. In Rossini, Donizetti, Bellini, 
and the younger Verdi is often to be found a most signal falling-off 
from the high standard set by Mozart in this matter. Instead of 
that extended period of continuous dramatic development which 
we find, say, in both the finales in Don Giovanni, these Italians 
give us, for the most part, act-finales built on the aria plan : con- 
sisting, after some essentially dramatic preluding, of a concerted 



But between the productions of Tannhduser 
and Lohengrin came his exile, for participating 
in the revolutionary business of 1848, and flight 
to Switzerland. Here he had leisure to think, 
to account to himself for those artistic instincts 
for which he had hitherto found no adequate 
form of expression, and to formulate his theory 
of the Music-Drama. In this period fall the 
writing and publication of Das Kunstwerk der 
Zukunft and Oper und Drama, his principal 
theoretico-controversial works. But what best 
helped to open his eyes was what he had done, 
and left undone, in writing Lohengrin. 

What his opened eye's saw clearly was, up- 
slow movement, followed by a quick one, with just enough dra- 
matic business intervening, logically to explain the change of 
tempo. It is like the confidante's consolatory philosophical reflec- 
tions'after the prima donna's cavatina, that give her the desired cue 
for her cabaletta. During neither slow movement nor stretto does 
anything dramatic happen ; these two movements are intrinsically 
nothing but concert -pieces sung in costume. Now, for just this 
undramatic sort of act-finale Wagner shows a considerable fond- 
ness in his "operas." Characteristic instances are the second 
finale in JRienzi, the first and second in Tannhduser, and the first 
in Lohengrin. He does this sort of thing decidedly oftener than 
Meyerbeer. To be sure, he also follows the better Mozart model 
say, in the fourth and fifth finales in Rienzi, the third in both 
Tannhduser and Lohengrin and even his undramatic finales can 
not truly be said to be " out of situation " ; they are amply justified 
by the text. But it seems nevertheless strange that a man of his 
dramatic aspirations should have given himself the opportunities 
he did to write them at all. 


The Opera Past and Present 

on the whole, this.* Ever since Marc* Antonio 
Cesti, emulating his master Carissimi's exploits, 
had driven the operatic chariot into that Orato- 
rio no-thoroughfare (in Venice, about 1649), no 
composer had had the radical insight and skill 
to back the hapless vehicle out again. Man 
after man had sprung to the horses' heads and 
tried to turn them back, to make an exit in that 
dignified fashion. But there was not room 
enough to turn round in ; there the chariot 
stood, a stone wall across the end of the pole, 
musical haberdashery shops on either side, ad- 
vance and retrogression alike impracticable ; 
for, with the heavy load accumulated while in 
the cul-de-sac, backing was out of the question. 
Then came Gluck, who, after lightening the 
load a bit, throwing out ornamental frippery, 
four-times-repeated words, needless ritornelli, 
and the like, gave such a sturdy tug at the 
reins that his team really did back half-way 
out ; but there he stuck fast. The Opera still 
remained virtually what Cesti had made it : not 
a Drama with auxiliary Music, but a Dramma 
per music a a Drama for (the sake of) Music. 

Wagner was the first to see clearly what the 
true state of the case was : that there was no- 
thing for it but to throw out the whole load that 

* It may be as well to say at once that this is the author's, not 
Wagner's own, statement of the case. 



had been accumulated during two centuries' 
lingering in that hopeless no-thoroughfare 
all, save one thing alone ! and then back the 
lightened chariot the whole way out. Throw 
to the four winds of Orcus well-nigh all that 
had been gained in two centuries, and start 
afresh on the open highway from what point, 
think you ? From precisely the point whence 
the Florentine Camerata and Peri and Caccini 
had set out in 1595. With this important dif- 
ference, however: whereas Caccini and Peri 
had the whole Art of Music lying before them 
in the problematical condition of a new-made 
tabula rasa, with no technique at their beck at 
all adequate to grapple with the problem, Wag- 
ner had a whole two centuries' development of 
technique ready-made to his hand which tech- 
nique, moreover, he purposed considerably 
augmenting for his own behoof. The Wagner 
Reform was, as Carlyle said of the French 
Revolution, a sudden return to primordial con- 
ditions, but with all the appliances of civiliza- 

When it takes a book of over four hundred 
pages to expound a theory of the Music-Drama, 
that theory is not easily epitomized in a few 
paragraphs. Yet the task is not quite so 
impracticable as it looks. Oper und Drama, 
Wagner's theoretical magnum opus, is full of 

The Opera Past and Present 

redundancies, of poetico-philosophical specula- 
tions, hair-splitting- meticulosities, and hazy 
dreams. With due insight for a reagent, an 
enormous mass of useless matter can be pre- 
cipitated out from it, leaving a clear solution of 
artistic principles, not over-hard to deal with. 
Upon the whole, Oper und Drama is the work of 
a man who had not got over the first splenetic 
teeth-gnashing at his exile, who, for the first 
time in his life, had set himself to think out his 
problem to the bitter end, and, being by nature 
more poet than philosopher, had the nimblest 
faculty for taking pregnant hints from every- 
thing that caught his notice, and that un- 
quenchable, na'if enthusiasm which impels the 
amateur logician to swear by every wildest de- 
duction he may have drawn from his premisses. 
Wagner gave ample evidence, in after life, of 
how little finality he imputed to his Oper und 
Drama ; the book really marks but one stage 
in his mental and artistic growth, and takes 
points of view which he considerably outgrew 

* Compare, for instance, the dogged obstinacy with which he in- 
sists, in Oper und Drama, upon the popular Myth, or Legend, 
being the only fit material for a drama, with the frank ebulliency 
of his reply (at Bayreuth, in 1882, the first Parsifal year) to a cer- 
tain musician who had expressed a preference for his Meistersing- 
er over all his other works: "Yes!" cried he, "you maybe 



Stripped of its dialectic trappings, and with 
its metaphysical convolutions straightened out, 
Wagner's theory is briefly this. In any sort 
of Drama, whether musical or otherwise, the 
play's the thing ; and, in the Music-Drama, 
the music must lend itself unreservedly and 
continuously to intensifying the emotional ex- 
right, there; you see, the Meistersinger was, after all, an inspira- 
tion, it came straight out of the blue ; no rummaging about among 
musty old myths was needed to make that ! " 

Again, as a fair example of the amateurish futility of much of his 
reasoning, take his theory of the Supernatural in the Drama. His 
argument (much condensed) is this. In real life, every act of 
ours is the result of a well-nigh 'endless chain of causes, and is 
hence not thoroughly comprehensible until all these causes and 
their interconnection are known. For setting forth such a causal 
chain to explain the actions of his dramatis persona the drama- 
tist has no time ; the novelist can do it, but the dramatist can 
not. Yet a work of art must be able to make itself understood im- 
mediately and through and through ; nothing in it must seem un- 
accountable. So the dramatist has to condense the whole chain of 
hidden causes into one immediately visible and comprehensible 
cause, which, from this very process of potentization, must needs 
appear as supernatural. An excellent explanation of the function 
of the Supernatural in the Drama, if you will ; but so utterly need- 
less ! Everyone in his senses knows, unless he be an impenitent 
realist, that the Supernatural (in modern romantic Drama, at least) 
is always symbolical ; and most of us are perfectly ready to recog- 
nize its symbolism. But Wagner, who, with all his romanticism, 
was a pretty hard-and-fast realist at bottom, could not rest content 
with his equally inborn fondness for the Supernatural until he had 
argued himself into the paradox of recognizing it as a realistic 


The Opera Past and Present 

pression of the text, and to giving an illustra- 
tive colouring to the dramatic action. In the 
end, aye, and even down to minute details, 
it is the theory of the old Florentine Camerata, 
and nothing else under the sun. 

As to the practical means by which Music 
can best fulfil this its allotted mission, two 
points in Wagner's theory are noteworthy ; 
the first fundamental, the second more adven- 
titious. The first point is that Music must 
abandon all those forms which were devel- 
oped, not so much from its own intrinsic na- 
ture as from its first application to human uses 
that is, from the Dance and assume only 
such plastic forms as spring naturally and free- 
ly from the nature of the dramatic subject it 
seeks to illustrate. The second point is what 
is known as the Leitmotiv. 

Be it said at once that the Leitmotiv idea 
the association of a theme, or musical phrase, 
with a particular personage, idea, or incident 
in a drama was not original with Wagner; 
neither do we find anything new in his use of 
it until we come to his third manner.* 

* Manifold attempts have proved the hopelessness of trying to 
discover the first appearance of the Leitmotiv in dramatic music. 
Let only two pre-Wagnerian instances of it be mentioned here. 

In Mozart's Don Giovanni, the duel between the Don and the 
Commendatore is accompanied in the orchestra by a series of 


The episodic use of the Leitmotiv was no new 
thing ; and all that distinguishes Wagner's use 
of it in his earlier operas from Rienzi to Lo- 
hengrin is that it is more frequent than is to 
be found in other composers. But, in the last 
struggle between Tannhauser and Wolfram (in 
the third act of Tannhauser), still more, in the 
scene on the church steps between Ortrud and 
Telramund (in the second act of Lohengrin), we 
begin to find something of the use Wagner 
makes of the Leitmotiv in his later music- 
dramas. This use is no longer merely episodic, 
but distinctly functional. In Wagner's third 
manner, almost the whole web of the music is 
woven out of Leitmotiven ; they come either 

rapid ascending scales, alternately in the first violins and the 
basses ; these scales suggest the quickly-alternating sword-thrusts. 
In the closing scene of the opera, when the statue of the dead 
Commendatore has got the libertine hero by the hand, and is urg- 
ing him to repent, these same scales return in the orchestra but 
now only in the basses, the violins (Don Giovanni's sword) being 
silenced, showing this second, ideal struggle between the two 
combatants to be merely one-sided. 

Again, in Meyerbeer's Robert le Diable, when Alice, Robert's 
foster-sister, calls his attention to the likeness between his friend 
Bertram and the Fiend's face in the picture of St. Michael and the 
Dragon in the old church in her native village, the orchestra takes 
up the theme of Raimbaut's ballad, " Jadis rjgnait en Norman- 
die ," in which the young pilgrim had previously told the story of 
Robert's birth and infernal parentage. The listener sees at once 
that Bertram is the Evil One in person, and Robert's father. 

The Opera Past and Present 

singly and in succession, or else simultaneously 
and interwoven.* There is no melodic con- 
stituent of the music that is not a Leitmotiv- 
This gives the music, if not greater dramatic 
force, at least an unflagging dramatic sugges* 

Such was Wagner's theory in its main out- 
lines ; of details like alliterative verse, infi- 
nite melody, and das Reinmenschliche in general, 
nothing need be said here.f This theory he 
applied fully in all the works of his third pe- 
riod the Nibelungen tetralogy, Tristan und 
Isolde, Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg, and Par- 

* A particularly complex example is the closing stretto in C 
major of the great love-scene between Siegfried and Briinnhilde, 
in the third act of Siegfried. Here the music is woven out of five 
distinct Leitmotiven. 

t The elaborate treatise on the Stabreim (alliterative rhyme) in 
Oper und Drama is but another proof of how much more Wag- 
ner had the artistic than the philosophico-critical temperament, in 
his readiness to elevate any passing fad into an eternal truth. He 
was already at work on the text of Der Ring des Nibelungen ; 
and the appropriateness of the old Teutonic Stabreim to the poetic 
treatment of a subject taken from the folk-lore of the race would 
naturally not escape him. But he used the Stabreim only in the 
Ring ; his other texts (on Romance subjects) are in ordinary 
rhymed verse, occasionally in blank verse. 

As for "das Reinmenschliche (the Purely Human)" about 
which he talks so much, one may agree with Immanuel Flohjager 
that, in Wagner's conception, it differed little, in the last analysis, 
from Don Giovanni's " sostegno e gloria d'umanita." (Don Gio- 
vanni, Act II., scene 14.) 



sifal; the practical artistic expression of it 
was his third manner. 

And now, apart from all considerations of 
theory, also apart from all questions of indivi- 
dual style, exactly what was the fundamental 
principle of this third manner of Wagner's, as 
a musico-dramatic method ? Considered from 
this point of view, we find the third manner 
to be little else than a higher development of 
something quite old, of a method largely em- 
ployed by the Italians of the first half of the 
nineteenth century, and traceable back at least 
as far as Mozart if not considerably farther. 

Both Mozart and the Italians who came after 
him often wrote passages in which the musical 
development was carried on entirely by the 
orchestra, while the text was delivered by the 
singers in a style which ran (according to the 
nature of the sentiments to be expressed) all 
the way from the bald rhetorical colloquialism 
of the recitative secco to the more dramatic stress 
of " grand " recitative, and even to the poignant 
expressiveness of distinctly melodic phrases. 
Considered from a purely musical point of 
view, the only connection between the voice- 
parts and the orchestra was that the two went 
well together ; but what the orchestra played 
was a self-consistent musical development, not 
in any true sense an accompaniment ; the voice- 

The Opera Past and Present 

parts oscillated between the purely rhetorical 
and the musically significant. The prototype 
of the Wagnerian method is to be found in the 
first part (Allegro) of Leporello's " Madamina, il 
catalogo % questo" and Don Giovanni's " Meta 
di voi qua vadano" * Of course, the musical 
style is very different indeed ; but the musico- 
dramatic method is essentially the same. The 
whole business is but a higher musical develop- 
ment of the old recitative stromentato ; a higher 
dramatic development was hardly possible. 

If Wagner's third manner is found fully de- 
veloped in Das Rheingold (the first of the Ring 
dramas, written in 1853-54), we do not find his 
style completely matured and individualized, 
nor his technique fully grown, until we come to 
Siegfried (the third drama of the Ring tetra- 
logy, begun in i857).f Completely Wagnerian 

* Other examples of this sort of thing are : nearly the whole of 
the first part of the finale (No. 9) to the second act of Donizetti's 
Lucia di Lammermoor (up to the beginning of the sestettino, 
" Chi mi frena ? ") ; the first few pages of the final quartet (No. 
23) in Verdi's // trovatore (up to Leonora's " Prima che d'altrui 
vivere"). Such passages are common enough with composers of 
that school. 

^ It has generally been deemed convenient to date the full devel- 
opment of Wagner's musical individuality and technique with 
Tristan (begun in 1857, after stopping short half-way through 
the second act of Siegfried) ; but the full development of style 
and individuality stares one in the face from the very first page of 


though the method may be, there is not a little 
in Das Rheingold and Die Walkure that is not 
wholly Wagner's; not only are some of the 
themes appropriated from other composers, 
having not quite the true later-Wagner ring, 
but even up to far on in Die Walkure does one 
find now and then a distinctly Meyerbeerish 
detail.* Wagner, like other great men, had a 
way of taking his own where he found it ; but, 
with Siegfried, he began to find it only in him- 

Siegfried. Not the faintest difference in style is to be detected 
between the first and second halves of Act II. (the second half was 
not begun till 1865 ; that is after the whole of Tristan und Isolde 
and most of the Meistersinger had been written); whereas a 
marked difference in style is to be noted between the third act of 
Die Walkure and the first of Siegfried. 

As a matter of mere technique, compare the whole musical de- 
velopment of the scene between Brunnhilde and Siegmund (Die 
Walkiire, Act II., sc. 4) with that of the very similar scene be- 
tween The Wanderer and Mime (Siegfried, Act I, sc. 2), and see 
how vastly more secure is the technical skill shown in the latter. 

* One of the Rhine-daughter themes is taken from Men- 
delssohn's Schone Melusine ; the theme beginning at Siemund's 
" Der dir nun folgt^ -wohin fuhrst du den Helden?" (Walkure, 
Act II., sc. 4) comes from Marschner's Der Vampyr. The sob- 
bing figure in the 'celli under Briinnhilde's " War es soehrlos, was 
ich beging, dass mein VergeWn nun die Ehre mir raubt?" (Wai- 
kiire, Act III., sc. 3) is nothing if not very familiar and character- 
istic Meyerbeer. Wagner owed much to Meyerbeer from the first, 
and only succeeded in ridding himself entirely of his influence 
with the beginning of Siegfried. 


The Opera Past and Present 

Not the least merit of Wagner's third man- 
ner is its wondrous flexibility and adaptability. 
It can lend itself to every conceivable kind of 
drama, from the most exalted tragedy to the 
broadest farce. In its more colloquial phase it 
becomes the first German substitute for the 
Italian recitative quasi-parlando ever discovered, 
a fit musical vehicle for homely dialogue. Nor 
does it lose caste amid the grandest and most 
elaborate musical developments. It is at once 
thoroughly dramatic and thoroughly musical. 

The general consensus of the world seems 
to be to-day that Wagner's greatest works are 
Tristan und Isolde, the infinite tragedy (brought 
out in Munich in 1865), and Die Meister singer von 
Niirnberg, the homely comedy (originally con- 
ceived as a satirical counterpart to Tannhduser, 
brought out in Munich in 1868). These two 
are probably the only works for the lyric stage 
which, for poetry and intellectuality of concep- 
tion, perfection of execution, vividness of cha- 
racter-drawing, and general wealth of genius at 
its highest, can justly be ranked with Mozart's 
Don Giovanni. Of the two, Tristan may be 
deemed the more temporal and evanescent, it 
sums up the whole nineteenth century, the 
whole " Now " of artistic feeling ; Die Meister- 
singer has more of the monumental, of the eter- 
nally valid. 



If it is difficult to determine which was the 
dominant bent of Wagner's genius, the musi- 
cal, the dramatic, or the poetico-picturesque, 
one can hardly escape recognizing the domi- 
nant trait of his character to have been com- 
bative energy. He was a born fighter; with 
his well-nigh excessive craving for human sym- 
pathy, his character was distinctly militant. 
Adverse criticism hurt him sorely ; it seemed 
to him a wanton refusal of that sympathy 
which, his whole nature told him, he had a 
right to demand of the world. But it spurred 
him on, was the stimulant which his militant 
genius most needed. Indeed, one can hardly 
help suspecting that the opposition he met with 
during the better part of his life may have been 
for something in shaping his work, and that 
much therein might have been different with- 
out it.* He was not in the least an intellectual 
hermit, could not live happily out of commu- 
nion with the rest of mankind. Not that his 
thirst for sympathy ever led him to alter his 
course by an iota for the sake of winning it, 
there was not a grain of diplomacy in his com- 
position, and he carried firmness to the pitch of 
obstinacy, but that, he looking instinctively 
upon sympathy as his natural right, it set his 

* In this respect, Wagner was very like another militant genius, 
who, in most others, is his diametrical opposite : Emile Zola. 

The Opera Past and Present 

moral teeth on edge to find that, where he had 
asked for bread, he was offered a stone. He 
found the whole world out of joint, and was 
fully persuaded that he was the predestined 
man to set it right. Opposition was but fuel 
to his energy. With every successive work he 
brought forth, he seemed to say to the world : 
You found that, in my last work, I had gone 
too far in my chosen direction ; well, here you 
will see that I have gone still farther ! * 

Probably the finest practical illustration of 
Wagner's indomitable energy and faith in him- 
self was his conception and carrying-out of the 
Bayreuth scheme. This was to be the setting 

* Nothing could have shown more characteristically Wagner's 
craving for sympathy, his inflexibility in face of opposition, and 
also a certain naive inability of his to look at things otherwise than 
from his own point of view, than his writing Tristan und Isolde 
in 1857. He was half-way through the score of his Nibelungen- 
Ring, and interrupted his work because he felt an imperative need 
of renewing his relations with the general public, which had been 
severed ever since Lohengrin ; and the completion, let alone the 
production, of the Ring seemed then in a very dim and distant 
future. He accordingly set to work upon something which he 
thought would easily renew his relations with the public at large, 
something "simple and easily brought-out," not even requiring 
the paraphernalia of a court opera-house. And this work was 
Tristan, which was given up in despair, as "impossible," after 
nearly sixty rehearsals at the Vienna Hofoper, and, when at last 
produced in Munich, called forth a shriek of utter dismay from all 
but a few determined adherents. It was probably the direst dis- 
appointment of his life. 



right of a disjointed world, as thorough a de- 
struction and reorganization of social operatic 
conditions as his Music-Drama itself was of the 
artistic form of the Opera an event quite 
unique in the history of that form of art ! * 
Seemingly wild as this Bayreuth scheme was, 
Wagner's energy made it a success at least, 
in so far as he actually brought the Festspiel- 
haus and the performances into being. Well- 
nigh everything at Bayreuth was new : a new 
form of Lyric Drama was there to be given 
under new conditions ; it was to be the death- 
knell, not only of the old Opera, but of the old 
Opera-House as well. * 

In speaking of Bayreuth, one enters upon 
delicate, quasi-political ground. The institu- 
tion already has a history, but does not quite 
belong to history ; it is still active. Yet Bay- 
reuth has been so important a factor in the ar- 
tistic life of the world for hard upon a quarter 
of a century, that it is impossible not to try to 
sum up the main results of the experiment 
so far. 

* Unique, yes as a whole. But how old some details are ! 
Remember how, at Bayreuth, the beginning of every act is an- 
nounced by apposite Leitmotiven, played on brass instruments. 
Well, at the performance of Monteverdi's Orfeo, in Mantua in 
1607, the signals for raising the curtain were every time given 
by trumpets. 


The Opera Past and Present 

Like the only other institution in the world 
which at all resembles it (if with some impor- 
tant differences), the Come'die - Franchise in 
Paris, Bayreuth has helped teach one valuable 
lesson : that the first principle of all dramatic 
performance whatsoever is infinite painstaking 
and sinking the individual in the cooperative 
mass. To this principle Bayreuth has been 
unswervingly true from the first ; this, too, has 
been the prime element in what artistic success 
it has had. 

As a repository for firmly-established, au- 
thentic, and authoritative traditions, on the 
other hand, Bayreuth has been considerably 
a failure. Yet such a repository Wagner in- 
tended it primarily to be ; this was perhaps 
the part of his dream he had most at heart. 
That he, of all men, should have thought such 
a dream realizable seems strange ; for, of all 
men, he best knew how traditions are formed, 
and how they are (not) perpetuated. But the 
thing seemed to him so indispensable that he 
could not but believe it possible. 

If anything in this world is perishable, liable 
above all else to. deterioration and falsification, 
that thing is what is called a " tradition of per- 
formance." No true artist feels himself legiti- 
mately bound by it ; and, in this matter, true 
and sham artists unfortunately agree. A work 


of art may be what we call " eternal," good for 
a very considerable time ; but a style of per- 
formance, no matter how authentic, is in its 
very nature transitory; the world, sooner or 
later, outgrows its validity. A style of per- 
formance which is really admirable always 
reflects something of the spirit of its own time ; 
in this way only can it be fully intelligible, 
comprehensible. And it may truly be said 
that the surest test of a work of art's having 
some of the eternal essence in it is its power of 
adapting itself, in its voyage down the centu- 
ries, to successive, ever-changing styles of per- 
formance. If a work of art reflect, or embody, 
nothing more than the special spirit of its own 
time, then is its span of life measured ; for it is 
only by being ever fresh and new that it can 
hope to live. And, if it does so keep itself 
new, the new style will fit it as well as the old ; 
nay, better, for it will be the most faithful 
mirror of its newness. Not anchylosed tradi- 
tion, but keen, profound, vital understanding is 
the surest guide to the correct performance of 
such works as Wagner's music-dramas. And, 
if authentic traditions are no sure guide, what 
shall be said of unauthentic, or falsified ones? 

In so far as regards the establishment of 
authentic traditions, Bayreuth may well be 
said to have been a failure from the beginning. 

The Opera Past and Present 

Only through Wagner's succeeding in com- 
pletely realizing his ideal could it have been in 
any degree a success. And, even in the per- 
formances given in his own lifetime at Bay- 
reuth, Wagner really fell considerably short of 
his ideal.* With a few distinguished excep- 
tions, he was absolutely unable to get the exe- 
cutive forces he needed ; they did not exist ! 
All he could do was the best he could. The 
result was that the Ring performances in 1876, 
and those of Parsifal in 1882, were by no means 
impeccable models; together with much that 
was admirable, there were many serious ble- 
mishes. And, as years went by, some of the 
worst blemishes were allowed to crystallize 
into " traditions," while much that was authen- 
tically good was more and more forgotten.f 

* Remember that sharply-criticised item in his speech at the 
congratulatory banquet : "So far have we brought it ; it now 
remains for you to complete the work, then we shall have a 
German Art ! " 

t Lapses even from the standard of 1876 and 1882 crept in 
almost immediately. As early as 1884 (under Scaria's stage- 
management, too!) the author saw with his own eyes Winkel- 
mann- Parsifal do a thing on the stage fit to make Wagner turn in 
his grave. After Gurnemanz's first rebuke for killing the swan, 
Mr. Winkelmann coolly nodded to someone behind the scenes, 
and then, without the faintest attempt at concealment, tossed his 
bow off the stage, to be caught in the wings. Der Ungliick- 
lie he f as Mr. Carl Armbruster exclaimed, on hearing the story. 



In a word, Bayreuth fell, little by little, into 
incompetent hands. 

The principle of starting where the original 
authority (the composer) left off, and then pro- 
ceeding thence in your own way, according to 
the dictates of your own artistic sense, is excel- 
lent in itself ; upon the whole, the only sound 
principle. But, as Captain Bunsby would say, 
the virtue of it lies in its application. When 
applied by highly cultivated, that is, compe- 
tent, professional musicians, it is one thing; 
when applied by strenuous amateurs, no matter 
how sincere or gifted, it is quite another. And 
the trouble at Bayreuth has been that the man- 
agement of the performances there has fallen 
more and more into the hands of amateurs ; the 
thoroughly competent musicians, who knew 
what they were about, have been more and 
more compelled to quit the field in disgust to 
save their own artistic dignity. The practical 
upshot of all of which is that the only reason of 
being to which Bayreuth can still lay just claim 
is that infinite pains-taking, which has never 
once been intermitted. If Bayreuth has gone 
wrong, it has gone carefully and most labori- 
ously wrong. But only in this one matter of 
pains-taking can it still stand before the world 
as a model. 

To take up but one instance of the formation 

The Opera Past and Present 

and perpetuation of a bad tradition, it is worth 
noting that the very worst defects of German 
singing have been actually raised to the dignity 
of an authoritative " school " at Bayreuth. The 
world is told, and in no faltering voice, that 
a style of singing which Wagner abhorred, 
against which he protested, detail by detail, in 
his writings, with all the force of his indig- 
nant and scornful dialectics, and the direct op- 
posite of which he advocated the world is told 
that this style is the authentic standard norm 
for Wagnerian singing.* 

Upon the whole, Bayreuth is no longer a 
trustworthy guide. If the world is henceforth 
to look anywhere for guidance in the matter of 
performing Wagner's music-dramas, it must 
look where it always has looked in similar 
cases: to competent, educated, and experienced 
professional musicians, even though they wear 
no " official " badge of authority ; the strenuous 
amateur can have no word to say. If the Bay- 

* One strongly suspects the advocates of this abominable style 
of making a virtue out of necessity. When we hear, for instance, 
a man like Mr. Ernest van Dyck openly proclaim it to be authen- 
tically Wagnerian, we are reminded of what the late Robert Franz 
once wrote of Dr. Philipp Spitta's "Defense" of his harshly-criti- 
cised accompaniments to Frederick the Great's flute works: "The 
whole scribble is an oratio pro domo, delivered by a thoroughly in- 
competent man upon himself ! " Vide also on this head Mr. W. 
J. HENDERSON, in The Score for September, 1900. 



reuth idea is ever worthily to be incarnated, 
and there can be no doubt that the idea was 
very dear to Wagner, it can be so incarnated 
only through the efforts of practical musicians, 
who know what is artistic and what absurd. 
Will it ever be wholly incarnated? Probably 
not ; at least, not until all our old social ope- 
ratic conditions shall have been destroyed and 
reorganized, and a disjointed world set right 
in Wagner's way and then Bayreuth's occu- 
pation will be gone, for the incarnation will be 

The world accepts an artist's work, not on his 
terms, but on its own. 'And, if the conditions 
under which it accepts it are inadequate or ant- 
agonistic, they can be changed for the better 
only by the work itself ; by a better and com- 
pleter understanding of it forcing the appreci- 
ation and conviction of their inadequacy and 
antagonism upon the world at large, and its 
rising to the emergency, and curing them. 



The Development of the Art of the 

THE opera-singer is at once a singer and an 
actor ; herein lies the difficulty of his artis- 
tic problem. The difficulty, but hardly the pe- 
culiarity ; for, as, ever since the establishment 
of the Opera, nearly all the greatest singers of 
the world have been opera-singers, that is, 
artists whose task of singing was more or less 
complicated by the task of histrionic action, 
the influence which their example has exerted 
upon the Art of Singing in general has been to 
a greater or less extent affected (if only medi- 
ately, or by ricochet) by the histrionic side of 
their professional work. By this no more is 
meant than that the great opera-singers, being 
both in the majority and in a more prominent 
position before the public than the merely con- 
cert-singing minority, have at all times set the 
standard of artistic singing ; and, in so far as 
their own singing was affected by the fact of 
their acting, the standard they set must have 
been to some extent affected by it, too. 


The Art of the Opera-Singer 

As the Art of Singing, as we now know it, 
has been developed mainly on the operatic stage, 
one can see that its development must necessa- 
rily have gone forward under conditions many 
of which were unfavourable, even antagonistic. 
Conditions which render the perfect exercise of 
any art more difficult than it is in its own na- 
ture are nothing if not unfavourable ; and, to the 
Art of Singing, histrionic action is one of these. 
The easiest situation for the singer is one in 
which he has to think of nothing but his sing- 
ing, in which he has to make no physical nor 
mental effort beside that of singing. The bo- 
dily exercise of acting, the mental exercise of 
having to deal with musical difficulties, com- 
plexities of structure, rhythmic anomalies, or 
hazardous intonations, even the mere fact of 
having to specialize his expression of the poetic 
text, all these place difficulties in the singer's 
path. And the opera-singer has always had, in 
greater or less degree, to face and conquer one 
or more of these. It may even be said that, 
ever since the first period of great singing of 
which we have any definite knowledge, these 
difficulties in the singer's path have been pretty 
steadily on the increase. 

Taking the arts of singing and of acting se- 
parately, and looking at them from the psychical 
point of view, we find that the general course 

The Opera Past and Present 

of development which the Art of Singing has 
pursued has been, either steadily or intermit- 
tently, from the comparatively mechanical to- 
ward the more expressive, from the apathetic 
toward the emotional ; that the general course 
pursued by the Art of Acting has been from 
the conventional toward the realistic, from the 
more or less vivid exposition of character to- 
ward the real-seeming impersonation of charac- 
ter that is, from mere impressiveness toward 
verisimilitude. And both these propositions 
hold good with the gradual development of 
that combination of the two arts which is the 
opera-singer's business. It will be well to bear 
this in mind. 

Of what the Art of Singing was before 1700 
we have no exact knowledge ; we know, to be 
sure, that there was the Archilei in 1595 with 
her " giri e gruppi" and can surmise that she 
was neither the first nor the only one of her 
kind ; but of how she sang her flourishes we 
know nothing at all. The earliest source to 
which the bel canto as we now know it from 
singers like Marcella Sembrich, Nellie Melba, 
Jean de Reszke, and (alas ! ) too few others has 
been authentically traced is the singing-school 
founded at Bologna, about 1700, by Francesco 
Antonio Pistocchi (1659-?). He and his pupil 
Antonio Bernacchi (1690-1756) have commonly 


The Art of the Opera-Singer 

been regarded as the Fathers of Italian singing. 
They probably were not quite that ; but, in 
lack of earlier documents, one must risk the 
"make-believe of a beginning" somewhere. 
At all events, it is safe to assume that the Art 
of Singing pure and simple, in its most highly 
perfected form, what we know as the Arte del 
b el canto, originated in Italy. It has been cul- 
tivated all over the musical world ; but, wher- 
ever it has been cultivated well, it has been cul- 
tivated on Italian principles. With a regard 
for truth rather than for the amour propre of 
other nations, we can take the best Italian sing- 
ing as the standard norm. 

So it will be well to begin our study of the 
history of the opera-singer's art with a critical 
examination of Italian examples. Italian sing- 
ing has had two great culminating periods, two 
zeniths, each of which was illustrated by a 
group of great singers ; let us, for the nonce, 
confine our examination to these.* 

* Of course, to believe contemporary accounts, there never was 
a time when the Art of Singing was not going headlong to the 
dogs ; neither, to believe the same accounts, was there ever a time 
when some few supreme artists had not brought it to a higher 
pitch of perfection than it had ever reached before, or would ever 
realize again thus making the favoured listener's grandparents 
and grandchildren equally worthy objects for pity. But, between 
these two contradictory extremes, patient History must pursue her 
sane middle course. 


The Opera Past and Present 

The first group is made up of pupils of 
Pistocchi, Bernacchi, and other contemporary 
teachers.* Note, as significant, that it be- 
longs to the Handel, or " Oratorio " period of 
Opera, to the period when the Opera had 
drifted farthest away from the Drama, when 
its music was least dramatic and scenic, and 
admitted of the least accompanying histrionic 
action ; that is, to the period when conditions 
were most favourable to pure singing. 

There is no reason for doubting that these 
great singers of the Handel period brought the 
bel canto to as high a pitch of perfection as has 
ever been known, that, in matters of artistic 
melodic phrasing and vocal technique (includ- 
ing production of tone, command of breath, 
pure intonation, and smooth agility of vocali- 
zation) they have hardly, perhaps never, been 
surpassed. But remember the conditions under 
which they sang. " In the days of the Schools 
of the Arte del bel canto, the masters did not 
have to take truth of expression (T expression 
juste) into account, for the singer was not re- 
quired to render the sentiments of the drama- 
tis persona with verisimilitude ; all that was 

* Nicolini (1673-?), Senesino (1680-?), Francesca Cuzzoni 
(1700-1770), Faustina Hasse (1700-1783), Caffarelli (1703-1783), 
Farinelli (1705-1782), Carestini (1705-?), Gizziello (1714-1761), 
Pacchiarotti (1744-?), and others. 


The Art of the Opera-Singer 

demanded of him was harmonious sounds, the 
bel canto." * In other words, beauty of vocal 
tone and beauty of musical plastics were the 
only recognized elements of emotional expres- 
sion in singing, beyond that general fervour of 
delivery which may best be described as an 
absence of apathy ; the emotions themselves 
were not to be differentiated, the psychical 
character of the dramatis persona was not to be 
taken into account, all the singer had to do was 
to sing and nothing else.f And, to interfere 
with the perfection of his singing, he had little 
or no acting to do; at most, a conventional 
oratorical gesture or tWo, such as it would 
often be more of an effort for an Italian to omit 
than to perform. The only item to interfere 
with the singer's devoting his whole attention 
to his production of tone, melodic phrasing, and 
coloratura was a certain undeniable complexity 
in the structure of the music he sang; such airs 

* VICTOR MAUREL, Dix ans de carrtire, 171. Paris: Paul 
Dupont, 1897. 

t Let this not seem improbable to the sentimentally disposed. 
A noteworthy example of this sort of thing is still fresh in the 
memory of the present older generation : Pasquale Brignoli. This 
admirable singer never even tried to throw emotion into his sing- 
ing, any more than he tried to act ; yet he would often arouse 
audiences to the frenetic pitch of excitement, and coolly draw 
tears from many an eye by sheer beauty of tone and perfection 
of musical plastics. 


The Opera Past and Present 

as Handel's do not quite sing themselves, they 
often contain purely musical difficulties, espe- 
cially in the relation of the voice-part to the 
accompaniment, such as only a trained musi- 
cian can master with ease. And the great 
singers of this period were, as a rule, good 
enough musicians to prevent such musical diffi- 
culties being an obstacle to the excellence of 
their singing. 

The second culminating period of Italian 
singing coincides with the Rossini-Donizetti- 
Bellini period of Opera in its hey-day, and is 
best represented by the group of artists who 
sang at the Th6atre-Italien (salle Ventadour) in 
Paris in the 'thirties and 'forties of the nine- 
teenth century.* 

Here we find the conditions considerably 
altered. The music is at once more dramatic 
and more scenic ; it gives larger opportunity 
for differentiating and specializing the emo- 
tions, larger scope for histrionic action. The 

* Luigi Lablache(i794-i858), Giovanni Battista Rubini (1795- 
1854), Antonio Tamburini (1800-1876), Maria Felicita Malibran 
(born Garcia, 1808-1836), Giuseppe Mario (1810-1883), Giorgio 
Ronconi (1810-1890), Giulia Grisi (1811-1869), Fanny Persiani 
(1812-1867), and Marietta Alboni (i823~still living). Alboni 
came a little late into the group, in 1847 ; Malibran was the first 
to die out of it, in 1836, and Rubini retired in 1843. As another 
surpassingly fine representative of the style may be mentioned 
Jenny Lind (1820-1887). 


The Art of the Opera-Singer 

old alternation between secco recitative and set 
aria has been much modified, and the dramatic 
scena invented. The singing- must still be the 
bel canto, but great intensity of dramatic stress 
of accent is demanded ; furthermore, Rubini 
has introduced the vibrato, the full stress of 
vocal energy that stops just short of being a 
tremolo, or " wobble." The opera-singer of this 
period has more to do than his predecessor of 
Handel's time : he must sing not only well but 
dramatically, he must do at least something in 
the way of histrionic action. Yet there is no 
reason for doubting that this great group of 
singers sang fully as well, in all matters of 
vocal technique and melodic phrasing, as the 
Handelians did. 

How is this to be accounted for? Princi- 
pally by the well-nigh child-like simplicity of 
the music, and the enormous skill with which 
the composers of the period adapted it to the 
human voice. In Handel's day, the musical 
structure was essentially contrapuntal, that is, 
an harmonious interweaving of several interde- 
pendent parts (or " voices "), of which the 
voice -part was, like the Pope among the 
bishops, but "primus inter pares." In singing 
music of this sort, the singer has to mind his 
P's and Q's, to bear constantly in mind that 
what he sings is no independent entity in itself, 


The Opera Past and Present 

but only one strand in a complex fabric ; for the 
performance not to come to grief (especially 
in the absence of an orchestral conductor), 
such music must be sung strictly in time ; only 
in free cadenzas and closing cadences can the 
singer venture safely upon modifications of the 
rhythm. But, under Rossini, Donizetti, and 
Bellini, the voice -part had become entirely 
liberated from its contrapuntal interconnection 
with the orchestral parts. The voice-part was 
absolutely and unreservedly "primus" and 
there were no "pares" left; the orchestral 
parts had resolved themselves into a subordi- 
nate accompaniment, the chief object of which 
was to support and buoy up the singer. More- 
over, the orchestral conductor had come into 
existence, and his business was to see to it that 
the accompaniment followed the singer, who 
was accordingly quite free to take his own 
time, commit what rhythmic indiscretions he 
found convenient, and so make things easy for 
himself. The general structure of Rossini's, 
Donizetti's, and Bellini's music is clarity itself, 
a clarity " clearer than crystal " ; were it not 
for the coloratura, a child might sing it. And, 
though this coloratura can be mastered by 
nothing short of an enormous vocal technique, 
it is in one important respect intrinsically 
easier than Handel's, inasmuch as the vocal 


The Art of the Opera-Singer 

" effects " are purely and simply vocal effects, 
written with sole regard for graceful and ele- 
gant performance by the human voice, and not 
in the least influenced by structural considera- 
tions. The Rossini-Donizetti-Bellini coloratura 
is, for the most part, purely ornamental, a sort 
of efflorescence of the melody ; it plays no real 
part in the musical development, is not the- 
matic, as Handel's is. 

It is important to recognize that, in this 
period, although the demand for emotional 
expression, intensity of dramatic accent, and 
at least something of histrionism, made the 
singer's task harder and more complicated 
than it had been before, these untoward condi- 
tions were more than compensated for by en- 
tirely favourable musical ones. So the opera- 
singer's vocal art suffered no real prejudice. 

A comparison of these two great periods of 
Italian singing indicates the direction matters 
have taken with the opera-singer from Handel's 
time down to our own. From then to now, he 
has had to face an ever-increasing accumulation 
of untoward conditions ; his professional work 
has become more and more complicated. From 
Rossini's time down to this, the purely musical 
difficulties he has had to face have been con- 
stantly on the increase complexity of musical 
structure, rhythmic complications, hazardous 

The Opera Past and Present 

intonations ; he has had to fight against a more 
and more brilliant style of instrumentation, 
often pushed to a point where the greatest 
stress of vocal effort is required of him, to 
make himself heard above the orchestral din ; 
more and better acting is demanded of him, he 
finds the vague generalities of histrionism no 
longer of avail, for these must make way for a 
highly specialized, real-seeming dramatic im- 
personation; intellectually and physically his 
task has been doubled and trebled. Above all, 
the sheer nervous tension of situations and 
music has so increased as to make due self-con- 
trol on his part less and less easy.* The 
opera-singer's position to-day is verily no joke ; 
he has to face and conquer difficulties such as 
the great bel-cantists of the Handel period 
never dreamt of. And, to equip himself for 
holding his own, as a singer, amid all these ant- 
agonistic conditions, it must be admitted that 
he has, for the most part, taken little pains. 

If ever there were human mortal who, for 
the last fifty years or so, had steadfastly refused 

* The late Max Alvary once said that, considering the emotional 
intensity of music and situations, the constant coSperation of the 
surging orchestra, and, most of all, the unconquerable feeling of 
the reality of it all, it was a wonder that singing actors did not go 
stark mad, before the very faces of the audience, in parts like 
Tristan or Siegfried. 


The Art of the Opera-Singer 

to look his peculiar situation squarely in the 
face, and size it up wisely for his own artistic 
good, that mortal is the average opera-singer. 
The one fact that florid coloratura has been 
steadily on the decline in vocal writing, and is 
now virtually obsolete, has led foolish singers 
to believe that the old perfection of vocal tech- 
nique is no longer indispensable ; and they have 
acted accordingly. A generation after Rossini 
and his Italian contemporaries had begun run- 
ning away from conservatories before their 
musical education was half finished, budding 
Italian singers began to imitate them ; the same 
has been, to a great extent', true in France also. 
And, as for the Germans, they have, for the 
most part, but added stronger and stronger em- 
phasis to their inborn and carefully nurtured 
contempt for vocal technique in all its phases. 
Here is a spectacle for the world to gape at : 
the spectacle of a race of born and bred musi- 
cians, intellectually, emotionally, and poetically 
gifted, on the average, far beyond their col- 
leagues in other countries, filled with the pro- 
foundest love and respect for their art, yet 
fondly expecting to do the greatest things in 
dramatic singing without even the rudiments 
of a special technique that is, absolutely 
without the power of doing ! No doubt there 
have been, and still are, great German singers, 

The Opera Past and Present 

especially women ; but, when really great, they 
have sung in the Italian, not in the German, 

The solemn truth and too few appreciate 
how solemn is that the opera-singer to-day 
needs ten-fold the vocal technique that he ever 
needed before. The banishment of coloratura 
is but one jot in his favour, all the other condi- 
tions are cumulatively against him ; moreover, 
their antagonism to pure singing is augment- 
ing in an ever-increasing ratio. The old times 
when a singer, who did not know a note of 
music and could not count four to the measure 
to save his life, could yet " sing like a god " are 
gone, never to return. The singer of to-day 
must be a musician to boot, or he has a sorry 
chance of doing great work; but he must also, 
and even primarily, be a singer which last too 
many are prone to forget. 


The Present 

OINCE Wagner's death, in 1883, the most in- 
O teresting fact in the history of the Opera 
has been the gradual spread of his influence. 
And, in this connection, it may be well to spe- 
cify at once exactly what is meant by Wagner's 

Wagner's style, or manner, has, upon the 
whole, been little imitated. Some composers, 
even among those of note, have at times writ- 
ten themes which, without actual plagiarism, 
more or less resemble certain Leitmotive in his 
music-dramas ; * yet no more than some of Wag- 
ner's own recall those of other composers. But 
Wagner's themes are, after all, not always so 
inveterately individual as his general style 
his harmony, modes of development, and musi- 

* Some themes in Anton Bruckner's fifth symphony, in E major, 
for instance, so strongly recall Wagner that a certain musician 
once exclaimed, on hearing the symphony, that it sounded "as if 
the composer had been to Bayreuth in too dazed a mental condi- 
tion to remember the themes aright." 


The Opera Past and Present 

cal structure ; and this style of his is so abso- 
lutely his own that it could hardly be success- 
fully imitated, save in the way of parody. If 
by Wagner's influence is meant the influence of 
his musical individuality, it may fairly be said 
to have been null. In this respect, Wagner 
has had no more followers than Mozart or 
Beethoven ; he has founded no " school." * 

But, on the other hand, the influence of 
Wagner's ideas concerning the Lyric Drama, 
as a form of art, has been very potent and far- 
reaching indeed ; and none the less so for being 
seldom responded to en bloc. Hardly a com 
poser has reflected the influence of all Wag- 
ner's principles at once ; some of them seem to 
have appealed to one, others to another. The 
too commonly applied test the more or less 
extensive, use of the Leitmotiv is fallacious; 
for hardly a single composer since Wagner has 
used the Leitmotiv quite in his way : as the sole 
thematic material out of which the musical 
fabric is woven. And, as has been pointed out 
in Chapter VIII., the merely episodic use of the 
Leitmotiv, no matter how frequent, is not essen- 
tially Wagnerian. In fine, what is here meant 

* Of the few quasi-imitators Wagner has had may well be said, 
as Mendelssohn said of the handful of men who tried to write & la 
Beethoven in his time : "They clear their throats as he did, and 
cough his cough; but that is as far as they get !" 


The Present 

by the spread of Wagner's influence is the im- 
mense effect the prime gist of his doctrines has 
had upon opera-writing in general since the 
publication of Das Kunstwerk der Zukunft and 
Oper und Drama, and, most especially, since his 
operas and music-dramas have come to be per- 
formed outside of Germany. This prime gist 
is the abandoning of such musical forms as are 
not directly determined by the text and dra- 
matic action, and the recognition of text and 
action as the sole musical form-determining 
principles in the Lyric Drama. Though few 
composers have gone to such lengths in the 
practical application of "this principle as Wag- 
ner, the tendency to apply it less and less 
partially has been strongly marked well-nigh 

Beside this fact of the spread of the Wagner 
influence, two others now claim our attention : 
the operatic premiership of Giuseppe Verdi, 
and the recent musical renascence in Italy. All 
three are curiously interconnected. 

As the musical decadence in Italy, which 
set in shortly after Cimarosa,* was the result 
of over -exportation, with no importation to 
counterbalance it, and of a consequent course 
of musical in-breeding, no musical renascence 
could have come about without a cessation of 

* Vide Chapter V., pages 93-96. 

The Opera Past and Present 

these conditions. That the nation should go on 
forever as it had been going for well over half 
a century was impossible ; that way ruin lay. 
That its eyes would, sooner or later, be opened 
to the folly of its course was highly probable. 
And Italy did at last awaken to a consciousness 
of the baneful effects of her long attempt to live 
wholly on her own musical resources, almost to 
their total exhaustion. About the middle 'six- 
ties, Italy began to come to a realizing sense 
of having fallen behind in the race for musical 
glory. A keen-eyed Chesterfield might have 
detected premonitory symptoms of an impend- 
ing revolution ; the musical atmosphere was 
plainly growing electric, and any more than 
usually violent disturbance might produce the 
spark, and with it a momentous shock. 

The disturbance came in the shape of the per- 
formance, under Angelo Mariani, of Wagner's 
Lohengrin in Bologna in 1868. Young musical 
Italy (or North Italy) felt the shock, and put 
on its thinking-cap. The revolution came, its 
focus being Milan. As with other revolutions, 
its first practical expression was negative and 
destructive ; its next, positive and constructive. 
Naturally enough, the first bolt of protest 
struck Verdi ; from being the acknowledged 
crowned head and demigod, he suddenly 
possibly to his surprise, but certainly not at all 

The Present 

to his dismay found himself hooted at as the 
crying shame of Italian Music as the " hand- 
organ man!" But a positive, constructive 
movement was at hand. 

" Verdi's gleaming star seemed near extinc- 
tion, about the early 'seventies. At least, so 
said the young Milanese Hotspurs. To be 
sure, his last two operas, La forza del destino 
and Don Carlos, first produced abroad and after- 
wards more or less adversely criticised in Italy, 
had been followed by a third, which brought 
Verdi's genius fully to light again ; still, the 
popularity of A'ida was really not much be- 
lieved in in Italy. Verdi had written it for 
the then Khedive, Ismail Pasha, for the open- 
ing of the Suez Canal and the accompanying 
festivities, and had won an enormous success 
with it in Cairo. But Milanese musical youth 
i progressisti agreed, all the same, that the 
Busseto master was completely written out, and 
that it was high time for ' another and a wor- 
thier ' to come and mount the musical throne of 
Italy. The first waves of Wagnerian enthusi- 
asm were beginning to swell; a threatening 
storm threatening the fragile edifices of mo- 
dern Italian Music was blowing across the 
Alps, and premonitory revolutionary symptoms 
were diagnostically observable. A mutinous, 
hot-blooded element, made up mostly of Conser- 


The Opera Past and Present 

vatory pupils in their l storm-and-stress period,' 
with the advantage of a solid musical educa- 
tion, summoned up all its subtlety to prove 
to the astonished older generation that it had 
hitherto been the victim of a degenerate musi- 
cal Baal-worship, and that all music from Ros- 
sini down to his last follower, Verdi, had no- 
thing in common with the true, uncounterfeited 
Art of Tones ; that the true Evangel was now, 
for the first time, preached in the timid at- 
tempts to introduce Wagner's operas, and that 
everyone's eyes would be opened ! 

" Bach, Beethoven, and Schumann, who had 
hitherto been known only by name in Italy, 
especially as regards their larger works, then 
formed the firm classical foundation of Milan- 
ese musical youth, thanks to an enlightened 
body of teachers ; and they thought that, armed 
with these weapons, they might fearlessly give 
battle to the bear-baiting Philistines. If you 
observed the long-haired Conservatory folk in 
the streets, you could see that the times were 
mightily changed, and that, instead of piano- 
forte-scores of the ' ever-young ' Sonnambula, 
Nor ma, Lucia, Lucre zia, Trovatore, and Traviata, 
they now carried fat volumes of Bach's B mi- 
nor Mass, Don Giovanni, The Seasons, Freischiitz, 
Schubert's and Schumann's symphonies, Lohen- 
grin, and Tannhduser under their arms. Even 


The Present 

Mendelssohn and Spohr were an * uberwundener 
Standpunkt ' in their eyes." * 

But, when A'ida came to be better known in 
Italy, and the Manzoni Requiem was brought 
out (in 1874), the " young Hotspurs " found that 
Verdi had really been beforehand with them ; 
that the new formula, which he had but stam- 
mered in La forza and Don Carlos, was here 
uttered with unmistakable distinctness, and 
that Verdi was surprisingly abreast of the 
times ; nay more, that a patient study of Sebas- 
tian Bach f had given him a technique such as 
need not blush to face any judge in Europe. 
Verdi was reinstated on the Italian musical 
throne, and, having now doffed his hand-organ 
manhood, led the revolution. 

When Otello was produced in 1887, it showed 
that A'ida had been by no means Verdi's last 
word in Opera, and that, notwithstanding the 
fact that Wagner's Tristan, Meister singer, and 
Nibelungen-Ring had come up in the interim, old 
Verdi was still well up with the age. J And, 

* Abridged from MARTIN ROEDER, in the Program-Books of 
the Boston Symphony Orchestra, 1894-95, pages 54-57- 

t Open volumes of Bach's works had long covered the piano- 
forte and all available table-room in Verdi's study. 

t Tristan und Isolde and Die Meistersinger von Niirnberg were, 
to be sure, brought out in Munich in 1865 and 1868 respectively. 
But neither made much headway in the world, especially outside 


The Opera Past and Present 

if Otello failed to convince everyone ot this, 
Falstaff (brought out in 1893) carried full con- 
viction with it. 

In Otello, and especially in Falstaff, Verdi 
spoke the newest word yet spoken in Italian 
Opera; Falstaff is still miles ahead of his later 
followers. Much has been said both affirming 
and denying the influence of Wagner ; and it 
may be admitted at once that the two men's 
styles are utterly different. Verdi is as tho- 
roughly Italian as Wagner is German ; but this 
is not the point. In Falstaff 'we find the plastic 
form of the music conditioned by nothing but 
the text and the dramatic action ; and, no 
matter what this form may be, this one fact 
is, of itself, enough to stamp the formula of 
Falstaff as essentially Wagnerian. Moreover, 
Verdi has gone to greater lengths in his ap- 
plication of this Wagnerian principle than any 
other opera-composer before 1893, save Wagner 
alone ; * he has even gone to as great lengths 
as Wagner himself. Had he not done so, we 

of Germany, till after the first and second Bayreuth years 1876 
and 1882. Tristan in particular long hung fire with the public. 
It will be noticed that Roeder makes no mention of anything by 
Wagner later than Lohengrin being studied in Milan in the early 

* Mere flashes in the pan, like Adalbert von Goldschmidt's He- 
HanthuS (Leipzig, 1884), do not count. 

The Present 

should hardly hear hard-and-fast Shaksperians 
(not even making allowance for the difference 
between Opera and spoken Drama) call Mr. 
Victor Maurel the greatest lago and Falstaff 
they ever saw on any stage. Had Verdi's for- 
mula not been intrinsically Wagnerian, or his 
practice not true to his formula, no singing 
actor under the sun could have done in these 
parts what Maurel did. 

For years Verdi's chief follower in Italy was 
Amilcare Ponchielli (born at Paderno Fasolaro, 
near Cremona, in 1834; died in Milan in 1886). 
Ponchielli died too early to follow Verdi in his 
latest direction, as he doubtless would have 
done ; he reflected rather the influence of the 
works of the master's third period, La forza 
del destine, Don Carlos, which influence, in so 
far as it was specific, was mainly French. His 
creative power was considerable, he was de- 
cidedly a man of genius, if of the second rank ; 
if he lacked Verdi's vigour of temperament,* 
he had a fine dramatic gift, and his technical 
musicianship was rather in advance of his day 

* In this one respect, Ponchielli fell behind Errico Petrella 
(born in Palermo in 1813 ; died in Genoa in 1877), in all others, 
markedly his inferior. Petrella was Verdi's most noteworthy im- 
itator in his earlier period ; his lone, ossia l> ultimo giorno di Pom- 
peji (Milan, 1855) crossed the Italian frontier and even made its 
way to this country 


The Opera Past and Present 

in Italy. Of his ten completed operas, La Gio- 
conda (the libretto by Arrigo Boi'to ; Milan, 
1878) was best known outside of his native 
country ; it made the round of the musical 
world thanks partly to the music, partly to 
Boito's admirable text. 

Next to Verdi's latest operas is to be men- 
tioned the Mefistofele of Arrigo Boi'to the li- 
brettist of Otello and Falstaff (born in Padua in 
1842). This work (first produced in Milan in 
1868, then, largely rewritten, in Bologna in 
1875) already shows a decided advance in the 
modern direction over Verdi's A'ida ; there are 
scenes in it which anticipate a good deal in 
Otello and Falstaff in the way of purely dra- 
matic writing.* 

Of the latest developments of Italian Opera 
little that is definite can be said yet ; Verdi's 
last manner is recognizably the model, but this 
whole neo-Italian movement is still too young, 
too contemporary, to be summed up with any 
approach to finality. Probably the man whom 
the Italians themselves look upon as their 
strongest to-day is Giacomo Puccini (born at 

* It is, upon the whole, not easy to determine Boito's place as 
an Italian Wagnerian ; since Mefistofele, he has produced nothing, 
and Mefistofele reflects the Wagner influence only up to Lohen- 
grin. One anxiously awaits the production of his long-promised 
Nero to show where he really stands to-day. 


The Present 

Lucca in 1858). After producing several ope- 
ras with varying success, he became known 
outside of Italy by his La Bohtme (the text after 
Henri Murger's play; Turin, 1896); how well 
the success of this work has been followed up 
by his La Tosca (after Sardou ; Rome, 1900) 
it is now too early to judge. Indisputably a 
man of no ordinary talent, Puccini can cer- 
tainly rank with the best in Italy as a mu- 

Worthy of mention also, as among the new- 
est of the new whose works have crossed both 
Alps and ocean, are Nicola Spinelli (born in 
Turin in i865)f and Umberto Giordano (born 

* Up to 1896, Puccini's career was unduly overshadowed by 
the flaming European success of Mascagni and Leoncavallo ; a 
circumstance at which Italian musicians of the better class were 
considerably scandalized. Not many years ago, the author heard 
one of them say : " It is a disgrace to our reputation abroad that 
immature and absolutely second-rate talents, like Mascagni and 
Leoncavallo, should be taken all over Europe as the foremost re- 
presentatives of Italian Music to-day, while solid musicians, like 
Puccini and one or two others, are utterly unknown outside of 
their native country. 

t Labilia (second Sonzogno prize in Milan, 1890, Mascagni's 
Cavalleria taking the first) ; A basso porto (first brought out in 
German at Cologne in 1894 ; then in the original Italian in several 
Italian cities ; then in German in Leipzig, 1899; in English, New 
York, 1900 judging from accounts, the most blood-thirsty piece 
on record !). Vide Mr. W. J. HENDERSON, in The Musical Re- 
cord for March, 1900, page 107. 


The Opera Past and Present 

in Naples in 1869?) ;* but these are too young 
for their talent and standing to be estimated at 

In Germany no such prominent instance of 
surrender to the Wagner influence as Verdi is 
yet to be noted. Some few of the younger 
men Engelbert Humperdinck (born in 1854), 
Eugen d' Albert (1864), Richard Strauss (1864), 
etc. have gone rather tentatively to consider- 
able lengths in the Wagnerian direction; but 
none of them can fairly be said to have fully 
made his mark yet in Opera. On the other 
hand, a certain pseudo- Wagnerian influence 
really nothing more than a Nibelungen influ- 
ence has made itself felt at times, in the way 
of inciting composers to write series of con- 
nected operas ; August Bungert (born at Mu'hl- 
heim-on-the-Ruhr in 1846), for instance, has laid 
out and partly written a hexalogy, Homerische 
Welt, several of the separate "evenings" of 
which have already been given.f But, judg- 
ing from what accounts have come to this 

* Mala vita (Rome, 1892 ; reproduced with great success, as 
// vote, Milan, 1897); Andrea Chenier (Milan, 1896; New 
York, 1897); Fedora (after Sardou ; Milan, 1898). 

t This work consists of two main parts, Die Ilias and Die 
Odyssee. The former comprises the operas Achilles and Klytem- 
nestra ; the latter, the operas Kirke, Nausikaa, Odysseus Heim- 
kekr, and Odysseus Tod. Die Odyssee was finished in 1896 ; Die 
Ilias is still unfinished. 


The Present 

country, the serial idea is all that is in any way 
Wagnerian in the work.* 

The most successful men in Germany have 
gone over from Weber to Meyerbeer, rather 
than to Wagner ; in Grand Opera of a rather 
modernized Meyerbeer type some brilliant 
things have been done. In this vein at least 
two men have made their mark : Anton Rubin- 
stein (1830-1894) and Karl Goldmark (1830- 
still living). To be sure, Rubinstein's reputa- 
tion as an opera-writer has never been more 
than d'estime ; but his Der Thurm zu Babel 
(Konigsberg, 1870), Nero (Hamburg, 1879), an d 
one or two others have made the round of 
Germany, or even crossed the frontier. Gold- 
mark's success has been decidedly more ge- 

* The serial opera mania broke out with some virulence in Ger- 
many shortly after the first Bayreuth year, 1876, but never came 
to much in the way of practical results. Mr. Arthur Nikisch used 
to tell hair-raising stories of MS. scores of tetralogies, pentalogies, 
and even a heptalogy, that were sent in for his approval when he 
was conductor at the Leipzig Stadt-Theater (before coming to Ameri- 
ca in 1889), "with interlude-music on Leitmotiven all written out 
for brass instruments, a la Bayreuth." He said, too, that he was 
by no means the only conductor in Germany who had been sub- 
jected to this infliction. None of those wonderful scores seems, 
however, to have seen the light of the lamps. 

After all, the serial idea is not distinctively Wagnerian ; Berlioz 
wrote his Les Troyens a serial work, consisting of two connected 
operas, La prise de Troie and Les Troyens a Carthage as early 
as 1856-63. 


The Opera Past and Present 

nuine ; his Die Konigin von Saba (Vienna, 1875) 
still outranks all but Wagner's operas in point 
of popularity and general esteem. His Mer- 
lin (1888) was not quite so well received. Still, 
Goldmark is unquestionably the most no- 
table opera-composer in Germany to-day. It 
would, however, be a bold man who should 
predict that either Nero or Die Konigin von 
Saba would ever work itself into so warm a 
place in the hearts of the German people, or 
have as long a life on the stage, as Marsch- 
ner's Tempter und Judin or Hans Heiling- 
both of which are pretty nearly dead by this 

If Verdi came to Wagner through Meyer- 
beer, this is doubly true of the present French 
composers. The progress of Opera in France, 
since Gounod, has been marked by a gradual 
stretching of the Meyerbeer formula in the 
Wagnerian direction. Until very recently it 
had not reached the snapping-point ; but it had, 
for years, been stretched and stretched until lit- 
tle of its original semblance was left. Exactly 
how far this or that French composer may have 
carried the process is hard to tell. No ade- 
quate idea of a modern opera can be formed 
from a pianoforte-score ; one must either hear 
the work itself, or study the full score. Ex- 
ceedingly few modern French operas have been 

The Present 

given in this country ; and full scores are all but 
impossible to procure.* Even contemporary 
French accounts are confusing ; the term 
" Wagnerian " is used very loosely; it may 
mean this or that, according to the writer. 
Moreover, the French operatic movement of 
the last two decades has led to such very new 
developments that its true value, even its true 
character, can hardly be justly estimated to- 
day, even in France. 

This much may, however, be plausibly 
evolved : that the French have, as usual, been 
considerably theory-bound in their operatic do- 
ings for the last quarter of a century ; far more 
so than the Germans or Italians. Their racial 
infatuation for Logic, their profound respect 
for a scheme, or plan, have stood much in the 
way of their going to work naively and in- 
stinctively in their recent musical production. 

* Few persons, outside the musical profession, have any idea of 
the difficulty of procuring modern opera-scores, especially French 
and Italian ones. Publishers hang on to them like grim Death. 
Some notion of this difficulty may be formed from the fact that the 
full score of Bizet's L'Arltsienne (the first orchestral suite) is not 
to be bought to-day for love or money, but only hired. A few years 
ago, a French publisher offered a collector note, a collector; 
not a conductor or manager twenty-five full scores of modern 
French operas for 12,500 francs ($2,500), and would not hear of 
letting anything less than the whole collection of twenty-five go ! 
Even opportunities like this are rare. 

The Opera Past and Present 

Nearly everything they have done has been 
done with a fixed intent, and, especially of late 
years, have the Opera and Music in general 
been to them problems to be solved intellec- 
tually. One is almost forced to the conclusion 
that no man of really commanding musical 
genius has appeared in French Music since 
Berlioz ; * no man who, by simply following his 
star, could find himself in a new path, without 
preconceived plan. No doubt the same may 
be said of Germany and Italy ; but neither of 
these countries has been so fruitful in brand-new 
developments in Opera as France has of late. 
Ever since the Wagner influence began to 
tell, France has evinced a burning thirst for 
progress in Music ; but it has tried to slake 
this thirst with pure inventiveness, by seek- 
ing to discover new paths with malice pre- 
pense, and, as it were, by precalculating ori- 

Since Gounod, French opera-composers may 
roughly be divided into two classes : those who 
try to be as Wagnerian as they can, and still 
remain French ; those who try to be as pro- 
gressive as they can, without being Wagnerian. 

* Cesar Franck alone is probably to be excepted here ; but he 
does not come within the pale of a history of Opera. Further- 
more, Franck was a Belgian ; having, to be sure, many affilia- 
tions with the French school, but of un-Gallic, Flemish blood. 

The Present 

One might think these two aims very like two 
stools, between which a national Art was in 
some danger of coming to the ground. Wag- 
ner is, after all, at the heart of the matter ; to 
get at the Future by steering round him, or by 
working a passage through him and out on the 
other side these are the problems that have 
occupied musical France for the last two de- 
cades, and longer. 

Since Gounod died, in 1893, the potentate of 
French Grand Opera, the " King of the Aca- 
demic de Musique," has been Jules Massenet 
(born at Montaud, Loire, in 1842).* Camille 
Saint-Saens (born in Paris in 1835) may be 
said to run him hard, but has never quite won 
his popularity and influence.f Among the 
more determined Wagnerians at the Academic 
de Musique may be mentioned Ernest Reyer 
(born in Marseilles in 1823), Gervais-Bernard 
Salvayre (born at Toulouse in 1847) an d Em- 
manuel Chabrier (born at Ambert, Puy-de- 
D6me, in 1841 ; died in Paris in 1894). J 

* Massenet's grand operas have been : Le Roi de Lahore (Paris, 
1877), Hfrodiade (Brussels, 1881), Le Cid (Paris, 1885), Le Mage 
(ibid., 1891), and Tha'is (ibid., 1894). 

t Saint-Saens has produced in Grand Opera : Samson et Dali- 
la (Weimar, 1877), Etienne Marcel (Lyons, 1879), Henry VIII 
(Paris, 1883), and Ascanio (ibid., 1890). 

\ Reyer's Sigurd was brought out at the Acade'mie de Musique 

The Opera Past and Present 

But more interesting than any recent devel- 
opments in Grand Opera is the course pursued 
by French optra-comique since this eminently 
" national " form received its first hard blow 
from Offenbach optra-bouffe in the 'fifties.* The 
first effect was to throw optra-comique into a 
more serious path, thus veiling all semblance 
of competition between it and its jaunty young 
rival. With Meyerbeer's Etoile du Nord (1854) 
and Le Pardon de Ploermel (1859), ^ had already 
begun to approach the form of Grand Opera 
in extensive musical developments, in reducing 
the spoken dialogue to the smallest practica- 
ble proportions. This tendency was equally 
marked in Gounod's Mireille (1864), Ambroise 
Thomas's Mignon (1866), and Georges Bizet's 
matchless Carmen (i8;5).t Indeed, Meyerbeer, 
Gounod, Thomas, and Bizet brought French 
optra-comique as far as regards scheme, or plan 

in 1885 ; Salvayre's La Dame de Monsoreau, in 1888; Chabrier's 
Gwendoline, in 1893. The latter work was first given in Brussels 
in 1886, and has since been given in Carlsruhe (1889), Munich 
(1890), and Leipzig (1893, under Emil Paur). 

* Offenbach, his works, and imitators form no part of our pres- 
ent subject ; suffice it that opera- bouffe did deal opera-comique a 
severe blow, distracting public attention from the more "legiti- 
mate " form for a time, not only in Paris, but all over France. 

t Thomas was born at Metz in 1811, and died in Paris in 
1896; Alexandre-Cesar-Leopold (dit Georges) Bizet was born in 
Paris in 1838, and died at Bougival in 1875. 

The Present 

up to the level of the larger forms of the 
German Spieloper, as treated by Beethoven, 
Spohr, and Weber. The spoken dialogue is 
the merest indispensable connecting thread be- 
tween the musical numbers, which latter occu- 
py the first place, and are often developed in a 
way, and to an extent, that would do no shame 
to Grand Opera. 

This direction has been pursued still farther 
by Leo Delibes, in his Jean de Nivelle (1880) 
and #/#/ (1883) ; Victor Masse, in Une nuit de 
Cttopdtre (1885) ; Victorin de Jonci&res, in Le 
Chevalier Jean (1885); Massenet, in Manon 
(1884), Esclarmonde (1889), Werther (1893), and 
Sapho (1897) ; Benjamin Godard, in Dante (1890) ; 
Saint -Saens, in Proserpine (1887) and Phryne 1 
(1893) ; and, above all, by Edouard Lalo, in his 
Le Roid'Ys (1888), which last work probably 
reaches the highest level of modern ope'ra- 
comique* In some of these operas the spoken 
dialogue disappears entirely ; when we come to 

*Leo Delibes was born at Saint-Germain-du-Val, Sarthe, in 
1836, and died in Paris in 1891. 

Victor Masse was born at Lorient, Morbihan, in 1822, and died 
in Paris in 1884. 

Victorin de Joncieres was born in Paris in 1839. 

Benjamin Godard was born in Paris in 1849, and died at Cannes 
in 1895. 

Edouard Lalo was born at Lille in 1823, and died in Paris in 


The Opera Past and Present 

the extreme modern men (of whom more later), 
we find that this is the rule. The distinction 
between Grand Opera and optra-comique is no 
longer one of plan.* 

If the Wagner influence has been more or less 
fruitfully felt everywhere, one reaction against 
it or rather against one phase of Wagner's 
example is noteworthy. This is the reaction 
against what might be called "sea-serpent" 
operas.f The writing of exceedingly long ope- 
ras was not begun by Wagner; he only out- 
did most of his predecessors in that line. The 
original sinners were the composers for the 
Academic de Musique in Paris, Meyerbeer be- 
ing, if not the first, certainly the chief of them. 
Opera-goers in this country can hardly have a 
notion of the length of such works as Les Hugue- 
nots or LAfricaine, when given without cuts ; 
even when given as they are in Paris, with far 
fewer cuts than here. Wagner excused the in- 

* It should be said that the term optra-comique is not used on 
the title-pages of many of the more modern works ; the designa- 
tions drame-lyrique, or com4die-lyrique t are quite as common. 
But it has been thought best, for the sake of simplicity, to retain 
the older term here, as indicating an opera written for, and 
brought out at, the Theatre de POpera-Comique in Paris. It will 
be remembered that, for many years, this term has not necessarily 
implied anything of a comic character. 

t "Composers nowadays write veritable sea-serpent concertos, 
of enormous length ! " HANS VON BULOW. 


The Present 

ordinate length of his Rienzi on the ground of 
its having been originally written for Paris, 
" for a public that did not take supper." * But 
the Meistersinger is fully as long as Les Hugue- 
nots (if not still longer), and has no Parisian 
excuse to show for it ! And, when we come to 
the four days of the Nibelungen, or Bungert's 
Odysseus, we have the " sea-serpent Opera " in 
its fullest bloom. 

The first reaction, or protest, came from Italy 
where Wagner's Ring had become sufficiently 
known by that time in 1890, in the shape of 
Mascagni's Cavalleria rusticana. This short 
two-act opera, with an orchestral intermezzo 
that makes the two acts go at a single sitting, 
had what managers call a phenomenal success; 
it flew all over Italy and Germany in a jiffy, 
and the thitherto unknown Mascagni became 
suddenly a seven-days' wonder, the hero of 
the hour. The Cavalleria was followed, and 
its success capped, in 1892, by Leoncavallo's 

* When Wagner used to conduct this opera, as court Kapell- 
meister, in Dresden in the 'forties, the first two acts were given on 
one evening, and the third, fourth, and fifth on the next. 

The French mania for very long theatrical and musical enter- 
tainments is verily fit to make one stare ! What think you of this 
program of a Conservatoire concert? Mozart's G minor sym- 
phony, the whole of Saint-Saens's Deluge (an oratorio in three 
parts), and Beethoven's C minor symphony. The author sat 
through this, one Sunday afternoon in 1891. 


The Opera Past and Present 

Pagliacci, another work of the same dimen- 

Cavalleria rusticana and Pagliacci soon made 
the round of the musical world. Of course the 
composers were hailed at first as epoch-making 
geniuses ; then (though not necessarily of 
course) they turned out to be mere flashes in 
the pan. Both men seem to have written them- 
selves out at the first dash ; for neither has been 
able to renew his maiden success.f What at 
first seemed genius was afterward found to be 
little, or nothing, more than that hap-hazard in- 
spiration under which very third-rate men have 
at times produced one supremely good thing of 
its kind, and then flickered out in their sockets.:): 
There can be no doubt that the music of Caval- 
leria rusticana and Pagliacci is thoroughly genu- 
ine, if not particularly well-written, stuff ; then, 
both libretti are admirable in their straightfor- 
ward naturalism, though dripping with the rud- 
diest of gore. 

The success of these two works was so over- 

* Pietro Mascagni was born in Leghorn in 1863 ; Ruggiero 
Leoncavallo, in Naples in 1858. 

t The report that Mascagni wrote the Cavalleria hurriedly, on 
the spur of the Sonzogno prize, turned out to be a canard ; the 
opera may have been quickly put together, but was largely a pas- 
ticcio of music which Mascagni had been years in writing. 

\ Rouget de Lisle's La Marseillaise and, in a less degree, Karl 
Wilhelm's Die Wacht am Rhein are instances of this. 

The Present 

whelming, moreover, their shortness was so 
clearly an element of it, that Germany could 
not be long in following the Italian lead Ger- 
many, a supper-eating country that could tell 
Italy the most pitiful tales of "sea-serpent 
operas" interfering with its favourite indul- 
gence ! But the blood-curdling atrocities of 
Cavalleria and Pagliacci were not to be repeated 
by a nation possessed of a sense of humour ; if 
Germany was to chime in with Italy's reaction- 
ary protest against four- and five-hour operas, 
she must at least show the originality of herself 
reacting against the sensational blood-thirsti- 
ness of the Italian example. So, for carnal ex- 
uberance and murder, Germany would substi- 
tute the charm of her own Mdhrchen folk-lore ; 
a fertile field which Opera had, somehow, long 
forgotten to exploit. In December, 1893, n t 
quite two years after Pagliacci, Engelbert 
Humperdinck (born at Siegburg-on-the-Rhine, 
near Bonn, in 1858) came out triumphantly 
with his Hansel und Gretel ; which lead was 
followed two years later, in 1896, by Goldmark 
in Vienna with his Das Heimchen am Herd (the 
libretto adapted from Dickens's Cricket on the 
Hearth). These two little operas also made the 
rounds of musical Europe ; the opera-going 
world is awaiting more of the same sort. 

Two still newer departures in Opera, and of 

The Opera Past and Present 

quite another character, are to be noted in 
France. The first of these was made almost 
simultaneously by Alfred Bruneau (born in 
Paris in 1857) an d Vincent d'Indy (born ibid, in 
1851); it was nothing more nor less than writ- 
ing an opera to a prose libretto.* In 1897 
Bruneau's Messidor, the prose text by fimile 
Zola, was brought out at the Acad6mie de Mu- 
sique; it was followed in 1898, at the Ope*ra- 
Comique, by d'Indy 's Fervaal, the last word, 
so far, of French Wagnerianism, the text in 
" rhythmic prose." f In how far this example, 
which has certainly something to be said for it, 

* Native French composers had long felt the difficulty of fitting 
music, with its infinite variety of rhythms, to the regular iambic or 
trochaic metre of French verse a matter which gave that Galli- 
cized German, Offenbach, no qualms of conscience whatever. As 
far back as 1820, Castil-Blaze came out with a pamphlet arraign- 
ing composers for the liberties they took with French verse in 
their vocal writing ; Berlioz, on the other hand, sharply called the 
poets to account for writing verse that was unfit for good musical 
setting ; no French poet, not even the finical Racine, making any 
bones of an ear-scorching hiatus between the last syllable of aline 
and the first of the next, which hiatus would become perfectly ap- 
parent in the midst of musical phrase. 

tThis "rhythmic prose" is something like what Jean Paul calls 
the Streckvers, or blank verse of indefinite length. John Bunyan 
falls into much the same vein in parts of his Pilgrim's Progress, 
as does also Dante in the Vita nuova. Probably the finest mo- 
dern examples of this sort of thing are to be found in Gustave 
Flaubert's Salammb$ and La Tentation de Saint- Antoine. 

The Present 

will be followed in future, remains to be seen. 
Bruneau has shown himself a come-outer in 
other ways, too ; it is to him that the world 
owes the conception of the Optra naturaliste, as 
exemplified in his LAttaque du Moulin (Opra- 
Comique, 1893); a work in which the naturalis- 
tic idea does not, however, seem to be pushed 
essentially farther than in Mascagni's Caval- 
leria or Leoncavallo's Pagliacci. 

The other, and newest, departure has just 
been made by Gustave Charpentier (born at 
Dieuze, Lorraine, in 1860) in his Louise (Op6ra- 
Comique, 1900) ; here the composer turns over 
an entirely original leaf. Unlike Wagner, who 
avowedly made his orchestra give a sort of 
running emotional commentary on the action 
and incidents of the drama (like the ancient 
Greek chorus), Charpentier confines his orches- 
tra to a suggestive painting of the milieu, or 
surroundings, in which the action takes place. 
As the action of Louise passes in the Mont- 
martre district of Paris, Bruneau has "put 
all Montmartre, all Paris into his orchestra " 
hawkers' cries, the tunes played by itinerant 
venders on shrill-piping instruments, familiar 
street-noises, and what not else. Of what the 
dramatis persona themselves are doing, the or- 
chestra takes comparatively little heed. This 
may be regarded as the last-spoken word in 

The Opera Past and Present 

modern Opera; what weight it may have, 
what echoes it may evoke in the future, heaven 
only knows.* 

* Concerning this Louise of Charpentier's, vide Miss IRENE 
DAVIS, in The Musical Record for March, 1900, page no. 






Before offering you (kind Readers) this music of 
mine, I think proper to make known to you what 
led me to invent this new kind of vocal writing ; 
since reason must be the beginning and source of all 
human doings, and he who can not give his reason 
at once lays himself open to the suspicion of having 
worked at hap-hazard. Although our music was 
brought upon the stage by $ig. Emilio del Cavaliere, 
with marvellous originality, before anyone else I 
know of, it nevertheless pleased Signori lacopo 
Corsi and Ottavio Rinuccini (in the year 1594) to 
have me set to music the play of Dafne, written by 
Sig. Ottavio Rinuccini, treating it in another man- 
ner, to show by a simple experiment of what the 
song of our age is capable. Wherefore, seeing that 
I had to do with Dramatic Poetry, and must accord- 
ingly seek, in my music, to imitate one who speaks 
(and doubtless no one ever yet spoke in singing), it 
seemed to me that the ancient Greeks and Romans 
(who, in the opinion of many, sang the whole of 
their tragedies on the stage) must have made use of 
a sort of music which, while surpassing the sounds 
of ordinary speech, fell so far short of the melody of 
singing as to assume the shape of something inter- 



mediate between the two. And this is why we find 
in their poems so large an use made of the Iambic 
Metre, which does not rise to the sublimity of the 
Hexameter, albeit it is said to overstep the bounds 
of ordinary speech. Therefore, abandoning every 
style of vocal writing known hitherto, I gave myself 
up wholly to contriving the sort of imitation [of 
speech] demanded by this poem. And, considering 
that the sort of vocal delivery applied by the an- 
cients to singing, and called by them vox diastematica 
(as if held in check and kept in suspense), could be 
somewhat accelerated, so as to hold a mean course 
between the slow and deliberate pace of singing and 
the nimble, rapid pace of speaking, and thus be made 
to serve my purpose (as they, too, adapted it to the 
reading of poems and heroic verse) by approaching 
the speaking voice, called by them vox continuata, as 
has also been done by our modern composers (if 
perhaps for another purpose) ; considering this, I 
also recognized that, in our speech, some sounds are 
intoned in such a way that harmony can be based 
upon them,* and that, in the course of conversation, 
we pass through many others which are not so 
intoned, until we return to one which is capable of 
forming a new consonance. And, having regard for 
the accents and modes of expression we use in 
grief, rejoicing, etc I have made the bass move at 

* It will be seen that Peri here has in mind that sort of sing- 
song which is a prominent characteristic of ordinary Italian 


Peri's Preface to Euridice 

a rate appropriate to them, now faster, now slower, 
according to the emotions to be expressed, and have 
sustained it through both dissonances and conso- 
nances (tra le false, e tra le buone proporziont), until the 
speaker's voice, after passing through various de- 
grees of pitch, comes to those sounds which, being 
intoned in ordinary speech, facilitate the formation 
of a new consonance. And I have done this not 
only to the end that the vocal delivery shall neither 
wound the ear (as if stumbling in meeting with 
repeated chords or too frequent consonances) nor 
seem, as it were, to dance to the movement of the 
bass, especially in sad or grave passages which 
naturally call for others in a more lively and rapid 
movement, but also to the end that the employment 
of dissonances shall diminish, or conceal that ad- 
vantage* which is increased by having to intone 
every note an advantage of which ancient music 
may perhaps have had less need. And finally 
(though I dare not assert that this was the sort of 
singing done in the Greek and Roman plays), I have 
deemed it the only sort that can be admissible in 
our music, by adapting itself to our speech. 

For this reason I communicated my opinion to 
those Gentlemen ; I showed them this new manner 
of singing, and it pleased them most highly not 
only Sig. lacopo, who had already composed very 
beautiful airs for the same play, but Sig. Pietro 
Strozzi, Sig. Francesco Cini, and other gentlemen 

* I.e., the advantage of having a bass to sing to. 


well up in the subject (for music flourishes amongst 
the nobility to-day), as well as that famous artist 
who may be called the Euterpe of our age, Signora 
Vettoria (sic) Archilei, one who has always made my 
music worthy of her singing by adorning it, not only 
with those turns and long vocal flourishes (di quei 
gruppi, e di quei lunghi giri di voce\ both simple and 
double, which are at all times devised by the activity 
of her genius, more in obedience to the fashion of 
our time than because she thinks they constitute 
the beauty and strength of our singing, but also 
with those charms and graces which can not be 
written down, and, when written, are not to be 
learnt from the writing. It was heard and com- 
mended by Messer. Giovanbattista Jacomelli, who 
excels in every department of music, and has 
almost exchanged surnames with the Violin,* on 
which instrument he is admirable. And, for the 
three successive years that it was given in Carnival- 
time, it was heard with the greatest delight and 
received with universal applause by everyone pres- 
ent. But the present Euridice had even better for- 
tune ; not because it was heard by the Gentlemen, 
and other men of worth, whom I have named, and 
also by Sig. Conte Alfonso Fontanella and Sig. 
Orazio Vecchi, most noble witnesses to my idea, but 
because it was performed before so great a Queen 
and so many famous Princes of Italy and France, 
and was sung by the most excellent musicians of 

* He was known as Giovanbattista dal Violino. 


Peri's Preface to Euridice 

our time ; of whom Sig. Francesco Rosi (V), a 
nobleman of Arezzo, took the part of Aminta * ; Sig. 
Antonio Brandi, that of Arcetro ; and Sig. Melchior 
Palantrotti, that of Plutone ; and, behind the scenes, 
the music was played by gentlemen illustrious for 
nobility of blood or excellence in music : Sig. lacopo 
Corsi, whom I have so often mentioned, played a 
gravicembalo ; Sig. Don Grazia Montalvo, a chitar- 
rone ; Messer. Gio. Battista dal Violino, a lira 
grande ; Messer. Giov. Lupi, a liuto grosso. And, 
although I had then written it exactly in the shape 
in which it is now published, nevertheless Giulio 
Caccini (called Romano), whose supreme worth is 
known to the World, wrote ,the air of Euridice and 
some of those of the Pastore and the Ninfa del Coro, 
beside the choruses " Al canto, al ballo" " Sospirate" 
and " Poicht gli eterni imperi" ; and this because 
they were to be sung by persons dependent upon 
him. Which airs may be read in his score, com- 
posed, however, and printed after this of mine had 
been performed before Her Most Christian Majesty. 
Receive it, therefore, kindly, courteous readers, 
and, though I may not, this time, have reached the 
point I thought myself able to reach (regard for 
novelty having been a curb on my course), accept it 
graciously in every way. And perhaps it will come to 

* Francesco Rasi was a singer attached to Vincenzo Gonzaga 
in Mantua ; this, and his taking part in the performance of Eu- 
ridice, may account for the Florentine operatic lead being first 
followed at the Mantuan court. 


pass on another occasion that I shall show you some- 
thing more perfect than this. Meanwhile, I shall 
think to have done enough if I have opened the 
path for the talent of others, for them to walk in my 
foot-steps to that glory to which it has not been 
given to me to attain. And I hope that my use of 
dissonances, played and sung discreetly, yet without 
timidity (having pleased so many and worthy men), 
will not trouble you ; especially in the sad and 
grave airs of Orfeo, Arcetro, and Dafne which part 
was taken with much grace by lacopo Giusti, a 
young boy from Lucca. And may you live happy. 

FLORENCE, February 6, 1600. 



When I undertook to compose the music to Al- 
ceste, my intention was to rid it of all those abuses 
which, introduced either through the mistaken vanity 
of singers or the over-indulgence of composers, have 
so long disfigured Italian Opera, and turned the fin- 
est and most pompous spectacle into the most ridi- 
culous and tedious. I wished to reduce music to its 
true function, which is to second poetry in express- 
ing the emotions and situations of the play, with- 
out interrupting the action nor chilling it with use- 
less and superfluous ornaments, and I believed that 
music ought to be to poetry what vividness of colour- 
ing and well-managed contrasts of light and shade 
are to a correct and well-composed drawing, serv- 
ing to animate the figures without marring the out- 
line. I accordingly have wished neither to stop an 
actor where the dialogue is at its warmest, in order to 
let the orchestra play a tedious ritornello, nor to hold 
him back on a favourable vowel in the middle of a 
word, that he may either show off the agility of his 
fine voice in a long roulade or wait for the orchestra 
to give him time to take breath for a cadenza. I 
have not thought proper to pass rapidly over the 


second part of an air, even when it is the more 
important and passionate, so as to repeat the words 
of the first part the regulation four times, and end 
the air where the sense perhaps does not end, to 
give the singer an easy opportunity to show that he 
can capriciously vary a passage in as many differ- 
ent ways ; in fine, I have sought to banish all those 
abuses against which common sense and reason have 
so long protested in vain. 

I have deemed that the overture ought to apprize 
the spectator of the action to be represented, and, 
so to speak, constitute itself the argument ; that the 
cooperation of the instruments should be determined 
proportionately to the interest and passion [of a 
scene], and that no sharp contrasts between air and 
recitative should be left in the dialogue, so as not 
to stunt the period out of all reason, nor inappro- 
priately interrupt the vigour and warmth of the 

I have believed, furthermore, that my greatest 
efforts should be reduced to seeking for a beautiful 
simplicity, and have avoided making a display of 
difficulties, to the prejudice of clearness ; the dis- 
covery of a novelty has not seemed admirable in my 
eyes, except in so far as it was naturally suggested 
by the situation, or helpful to the expression ; and 
there is no rule of form which I have not thought 
best willingly to sacrifice to the effect. 

Such are my principles. Fortunately the libretto 
lent itself marvellously well to my purpose ; the 


Gluck's Preface to Alceste 

celebrated author, having imagined a new scheme 
for the drama, had substituted the language of the 
heart, strong passions, interesting situations, and an 
ever-varied spectacle for flowery descriptions, super- 
fluous metaphors, and cold and sententious moral- 
izing.* Success has already vindicated my maxims, 
and the universal approbation of so enlightened a 
city has shown clearly that simplicity, truth, and 
naturalness are the prime principles of beauty in all 
productions of art. Still, notwithstanding repeated 
urging from most respectable persons, seeking to 
induce me to publish my work in print, I have felt 
all the risk one runs in combating such general and 
deeply - rooted prejudices, and have found myself 
under the necessity of being assured of Your Royal 
Highness's most powerful patronage, imploring the 
favour of engraving, at the head of my work, your 
August Name, which unites the suffrages of enlight- 
ened Europe with so much reason. The great Pro- 
tector of the fine-arts, reigning over a nation which 
has had the glory of raising them up from under 
universal oppression, and of producing in each of 
them the greatest models, in a city which has always 
been the first to cast off the yoke of vulgar preju- 
dice, to open for itself a way leading to perfection, 
He alone can undertake the reformation of that 
noble spectacle in which all the arts have so large a 

* Shades of the Camerata! and this is how Gluck treats your 
sacrosanct Euripides ! W. F. A. 


share. If You succeed in this, the glory of having 
laid the first stone will remain to me, and also this 
public testimony to Your high Protection ; for 
which favour I have the honour to declare myself 
with the most humble respect, 

Y. R. H.'s 
Most humble, Most devoted, Most obliged 



* This preface is addressed to Leopold II., Grand-Duke of 



ABT, F., 156 

Academic Royale de Musique, 44 

Achtbar, roi du Mogol, 43 

Adam und Eva, 39 

Africaine, Z,', 129 

Agnes von Hohenstauffen, 142 

A'ida, 1 10, 197 

Alboni, M., 186 

Alceste, 59, 227 

Alessandro Bala, 31 

Alvary, Max, 190 

Anacrton, 115 

Andrea Chenier, 204 

Anonyme de Vaugirard, 1', 61 

Arbre enchante, L,', 64 

Archilei, Vittoria, 19, 20, 224 

Arianna, 25, 26 

Ariosti, A., 52 

Armide, 65 

Arnaud, the Abbe\ 61 

Arnould, Sophie, 67 

Artaserse, 54, 55, 56 

Artusi, 62 

Ascanio, 209 

Ascanio in Alba, 77 

Attaque du moulin, L', 217 

Auber, 118, 119, 120 

BACH, J. S., 198, 199 

C. P. E.,140 

Balfe, M. W., 53 
Ballet-music, 8, 9 
Ballo In maschera, /, 109 

Baltazarini, see Beaujoyeulx 
Banchieri, Adriano, 8 
Bar bier e di Siviglia, II, 100, 101 
Bardi, Giovanni, 14 
Bastien und Bastienne, 83 
Bayreuth scheme, the, 172 et seq. 
Beaujoyeulx, Balthasar de, 9 
Beethoven, i^etseq., 194 
Beggars Opera, The, 53 
Bellini, V., 97, 102, 103, 104, 105, 

Berlioz, H., 146, 147, 205, 208, 


Bernacchi, A., 182 
Berton, H.-M., 113 
Berton, Pierre-M., 113 
Bizet, G., 207, 210 
Bohtme, La, 203 
Boieldieu, 118 
Boito, A. , 202 
Bonduca, 52 
Bononcini, G. B., 52 
Bosio, A. , 99 
Brignoli, P., 185 
Bruckner, A., 193 
Brull, L, 152 
Bruneau, A. , 216, 217 
Bulow, H. von, 84, 212 
Bungert, A. , 204, 213 

CACCINI, Giulio, 14, 15, 20, 225 
Caffarelli, 184 
Caletti-Bruni, see Cavalli 



Calzabigi, R. de', 57, 58 
Cambert, R. , 44 

Camerata, the, 12, 15, 16, 18, 22 
Carestini, 184 
Carissimi, G., 32, 160 
Carmen, 210 
Castil-Blaze, 123, 216 
Catherine de Medicis, 9 
Cavaliere, Emilio del, 22, 221 
Cavalleria rusticana, 213, 214, 


Cavalli, F., 28 et seq. 

Celler, Ludovic, n 

Cesti, M. A., 32 etseq., 160 

Chabrier, E., 209 

Charles d'Artois, 4 

Charpentier, G., 217 

Cherubini, L., 94, 114, 115, 119, 

120, 141 

Chevalier Jean, Le, 211 
CM, Le, 209 
Cimarosa, D., 92 et seq. 
Circe, 40 

Circ6, Ballet de la Reine, 9 etseq. 
Clemenza di Tito, La, 56 
Corsi, Jacopo, 14, 19, 221 
Cortez, Fernand, 116, 142 
Costa, Sir M., 88 
Croce, Giovanni, 8 
Crociato in Egitto, II, 125 
Cuzzoni, F., 184 
Cythlre assilgle, 64 
Czar und Zimmermann, 152 

DAFNE, 19, 25, 38, 221 

Dalayrac, 118 

D'Albert, E., 204 

Dame Blanche, La, 118, 119 

Dame de Monsoreau, La, 210 

Danaides, Les, 68, 1x4 

Dante, 21 X 

Da Ponte, L M 87 

Davis, Irene, 218 

Deidamia, 54 

Delibes, L., 211 

Demophon, 115 

Der Teufel ist los, 152 

Despres, Josquin, 7 

Deux journles, Les, 119 

Diamants de la couronne, Les, 


Dibdin, C., 53 
Dido and Aeneas, 52 
Dittersdorf, K. D. von, 152 
Doktor und Apotheker, 152 
Don Carlos, no 
Don Giovanni, 82, 87 et seq. , 164 

et seq. 

Don Juan, 90 
Don Pasquale, 105 
Donizetti, G., 97, 102, 103, 104 

et seq. 

Dorfbarbier, Der, 152 
Doriclea, 30 
Dubarry, Mme., 60 
Due Foscari, I, 109 
Durante, F. , 56, 57 


Eichberg, J., 104 

Entfuhrung aus dem Serail^ Die, 


Ercole amante, 30, 43 
Erismena, 30 
Ernani, 109, in 
Esclarmonde, 211 
Etienne Marcel, 209 
Etoile du Nord, L , 130, 210 
Euridice, 20, 221 et seq. 
Euryanthe, 140, 148 




Farinelli, 184 

Faust (Gounod), 133 

Faust (Spohr), 139 

Fedora, 204 

Feen, Die, 153 

Fcrnand Cortex, Il6, 142 

Fervaal, 216 

Festa teatrale della Finta Paxza, 

La, 42 

Fidelia, 134 et teg. 
Finta semplice, La, 77 
Fliegende Hollander, Der, 154, 


Fortsch, J. P. , 39, 41 
Forza del destine, La, no 
Fra Diavolo, 119 
Franck, C, 208 
Franck, J. W., 39 
Franz, R., 178 
Freischutz, Der, 140 et seq. , 149, 

ISO, 151 


Gagliano, Marco da, 23 

Galilei, V., 14 

Gay, John, 53 

German Comic Opera, 151-152 

German Romantic Opera, 140 et 

Giasone, 30 

Gioconda, La, 202 

Gilbert and Sullivan operas, 53 

Giordano, U., 203 

Gizziello, 184 

Gluck, C. W., birth and educa- 
tion, 54, 55 ; first opera, 55, 56 ; 
travel and literary studies, 57 ; 
production of Orfeo edEuridice, 
58 ; Alceste, 59 ; visit to Paris, 

60 et seq. ; Iphigtnie en Aulide, 
6 1 ; controversy with Piccinni, 

61 et seq. ; return to Vienna, 
64 ; back in Paris, 64 ; Artnide, 
Iphigenie en Tauride, and Echo 
et Narcisse, 67 ; reforms in 
opera, 68 et seq. ; the father of 
modern opera, 70 ; character- 
istics of his operas, 70 et seq. ; 
compared with Mozart, 73 ; 
compared with Meyerbeer, 
124 ; preface to Alceste, 227 

Godard, B., 211 
Goldene Kreuz, Das, 152 
Goldmark, Karl, 205, 206, 215 
Gounod, C., his place in Opera, 

132-133 I Faust, 133 ; Romto et 

Juliette, 133 
Greek Drama, 3, 18 
Gretry, 118, 119 
Grimm, 61 
Grisi, G., 186 
Guillaume Tell, IOI, X2I 
Gwendoline, 210 

HALBVY, J.-F., 131 
Halle, Adam de la, 4 
Handel, G. F. , 35, 52, 53 
Hans Heiling, 151, 206 
Hanschen und Crete hen, 152 
Hansel und Gretel, 215 
Hanslick, .,79 
Hasse, F., 184 
Hasse, J. A., 77 
Hausliche Krieg, Der, 152 
Haydn, J., 152 
Heimchen am Herd, Das, 215 
Henri III. , 9 et seq. 
Henry F///..2O9 
Herodtade, 209 



Herold, 119 
Hiller, J. A. , 152 
Homerische Welt, 204 
Horaces, Les, 114 
Huguenots, Les, 129 
Humperdinck, E. , 204, 215 

/LIAS, DIE, 204 

Incoronatione di Popped, L' , 25 

Individualism in Music, 17 et seq. 

Indy, V. d f , 216 

lone, ossia I'ultimo giorno di 

Pompeji, 201 
Iphigtnie en Aulide, 61 
Iphigtnie en Tauride, 66 
Irene, 40 
Italian Opera, 93 et seq. 

Jean de Nivelle, 211 
jfery und Bathely, 152 
Jessonda, 139 
Jommelli, N., 36 
Joncieres, V. de, 211 
Joseph, 118 
Juive, La, 131 

KBISER, R., 40, 41 
Konigin von Saba, Dit, 206 
Krauss, G. , 99 
Kreutzer, K., 152 
Kreuzfahrer, Die, 139 
Kucken, F. W., 156 

LABLACHB, L., 186 
Laguerre, 66 
La Harpe, 61, 62 
Lakml, 211 
Lalo, ., 211 

Laniere, N., 50 
Lehmann, Lilli, 99 
Leitmotiv idea, 164 tt seq., 194 
Leoncavallo, 203, 213, 2x4 
Leopold II., 227-230 
Leporello, 168 
Lichtenstein, 151 
Liebesverbot, Das t 153 
Lind, Jenny, 186 
Lindpaintner, P. von, 151 
Logroscino, N., 37 
Lohengrin, 157 et seq. 
Lombardi alia prima crociata, /, 


Lortzing, A., 152 
Louise, 217 

Lucia di Lammermoor, 104 
Lucrezia Borgia, 104, 105 
Lully, J.-B., 45 et seq. 
Lustigen Weiber von Windsor, 

Die, 152 

MADRIGAL plays, 7 
Mage, Le, 209 
Mala vita, 204 
Malibran-Garcia, M. F. , 186 
Manon, 21 1 
Maometto II, 121 
Marcello, B., 36 
Maria de' Medici, 20 
Marie Antoinette, 60 
Maretzek, Max, 88 
Mario, G., 186 
Marschner, H., 151, 206 
Masaniello, 120 
Mascagni, 203, 213, 214 
Masse, V., 211 
Massenet, Jules, 209 
Matrimonio segreto, II, 92 
Medee, 1x9 



Mefistofele, 202 

Mehul, 113, 118 

Meistersinger von Niirnberg, 
Die, 170, 199, 200 

Mendelssohn, 194 

Mercadante, S., 97 

Merlin, 206 

Messidor, 216 

Metastasio, 57, 58 

Meyerbeer, G., Wagner's criti- 
cism of, 123-124; influence upon 
the opera, 124 ; compared with 
Gluck, 124 ; birth and early 
career, 125 ; Robert le Diable, 
126 et seq. ; later operas, 129 ; 
operatic style, 129-130 

Mignon, 210 

Mireille, 210 

Moise en Egypte, 121 

Monsigny, 118 

Monteverdi, C., 16, 23 et seq., 


Mosl in Egitto, 98, 121 

Mozart, Leopold, 76 

Mozart, W. A., compared with 
Gluck, 73 et seq. ; influence on 
operatic development, 75, 76 ; 
birth and childhood, 76, 77 ; 
death and burial, 78 ; power of 
character - drawing, 79, 80 ; 
ideality of, 79, 80 ; remarkable 
memory of, 81-82 ; method of 
composing, 82 ; his various 
operas, 82-83 \ his Italian style, 
83-84 ; development of the act- 
finale, 85 ; his musical formula, 
84-86 et seq. ; analysis of his 
Don Giovanni, 87 et seq. ; effect 
of his work on history of Opera, 

Muette de Portici, La, 114, 120, 
121 et seq. 


Nachtlager in Granada, Das, 152 
Nero, 205 

Neue krumme Teufel, Der, 152 
Nicolai, Otto, 152 
Nicolini, 184 
Nikisch, A., 205 
Nor ma, 105 
Nourrit, A., 128, 131 
Nozze di Figaro, Le, 87, 88 
Nozze di Teti e Peleo, Le, 29, 30 
Nuit de Cleopdtre, Une, 211 
Nurmahal, oder das Rosenfest zu 
Kaschmir, 142 

OBERON, 140, 150 

Odyssee, Die, 204 

Odysseus, 213 

Offenbach, 210, 216 

Olympic, 116 

Opera-comique, 117 et seq. 

Optra d'Issy, L\ 43 

Opera scores, difficulty of ob- 
taining, 207 

Operatic singers, early school of, 
182 et seq. ; later school, 186 et 
seq.; present day difficulties of, 
189 et seq. 

Opitz, M., 38 

Oratorio style of Opera, 34 et seq., 


Orazj e Curiatj, Gli, 93 
Orfeo, as, 173 
Orfeo ed Euridice, 58, 59 
Orontea, 32 
Orphee et Euridice, 63 
Orsini, Maffeo, 105 



Otello (Rossini), 99 
Otello (Verdi), 199 


Pacini, G. , 97, 102 

Paer, F., 141 

Pagliacci, 214, 215 

Pardon de Ploermel, Le, 210 

Parepa, E., 99 

Paride ed Elena, 59 

Pastorale en Musique, La, 43 

Pepusch, Dr., 53 

Pergolesi, 37 

Peri, Jacopo, 14, 15, 19, 20, 22, 

221 el seq. 

Perrin, P., 43, 44, 45 
Persiani, F., 186 
Petrella, E. , 201 
Philidor, 118 
Philtre, Le, 118 
Phrynt, 211 

Piccinni, 37, 64, 65 et seq., 67 
Piccolomini, Maria, 99 
Pistocchi, A., 182 
Planche, J. R. , 150 
Polyphonic music in Opera, 5 et 


Pompeo, 34 
Ponchielli, A., 201 
Prd aux clercs, Le, 119 
Prise de Troie, La, 205 
Prophete, Le, 129 
Proserpine, 211 
Provenzale, F., 31 
Puccini, G., 202-203 
Purcell, H., 51 et seq. 


RAMBAU, J.-P., 48 et seq. 

Reichardt, J. F. , 152 

Renaissance in Italy, 12 et seq. 

Reyer, E., 209 

Rheingold, Das, 168 

Rienzi, 153, 154 

Rigoletto, 109, in 

Rmuccini, Ottavio, 14, 19, 21, 25, 


Robert le Diable, 126 et seq. , 165 

Robin et Marion, 4, 7 

Roeder, M., 199, 200 

Roi de Lahore, Le, 209 

Roid'Ys, Le, 211 

Roland, 65, 66 

Rollet, le bailli du, 59, 60 

Romeo et Juliette, 133 

Ronconi, G., 186 

Rosamunde, 148 

Rossi, L. , 43 

Rossini, G., characteristics of his 
style, 97 et seq.; his Barbiere 
diSiviglia, 100-101; Guillaume 
Tell, 121 ; unproductiveness in 
later life, 122 

Rouget de Lisle, 214 

Riibezahl, 139 

Rubini, G. B., 186 

Rubinstein, A., 205 

Ruggiero, 77 

Runciman, J. F., 33 

SAFFO, 102 

Saint-Saens, C, 209, 211 

Salieri, A., 68, 114 

Salvayre, G.-B., 209 

Sammartini, G. B., 55, 77 

Samson et Dalila, 209 

San Cassiano Opera House, 36, 

Sapho, 21 X 

2 3 6 


Sarti, G., 94 

Scarlatti, A., 34 

Schiavo di sua moglie, II, 31 

Schmid, Anton, 63 

Schopenhauer, 105 

Schubert, F., 152 

Schutz, H. , 38 

Schweizerfamilie, Die, 152 

Seelewig, 38 

Semiramide, 98 

Senesino, 184 

Serial opera mania, 205 

Serse, 43 

Serva padrona, La, 37 

Silge de Corinthe, Le, 121 

Siegfried, 168, 169 

Sigurd, 209 

Sinfonia, 93-94 

Singing as an art, 180 et seq. 

Singing in Opera, 183 et seq. 

Societd del Quartette, the, 93 

Sonnambula, La, 105 

Spinelli, N., 203 

Spitta, P., 178 

Spohr, L., 139, 143, 144, 147 

Spontini, G., 115, 116, 141, 142 

Stabreim, the, 166 

Steinerne Herz, Das, 152 

Stellidaura vendicata, La, 31 

Strauss, Richard, 204 

Sylvana, 140 


Tannhduser, 117, 155 et seq. 

Tar are, 114 

Tate, N., 52 

Templer und die Jiidin, Der, 

151, 206 
Thais, 209 
Theatre-Favart, 119 

Theatre-Fey deau, 119 

Theile, J., 39 

Thomas, A., 210 

Thurm zu Babel, Der, 205 

Tietjens, T., 99 

Tosca, La, 203 

Traviata, La, 109 

Tristan und Isolde, 170, 172, 199 

Trovatore, II, 109, no, 198 

Troyens a Carthage, Les, 205 

DAS, 152 

VALLE, Pietro della, 19 

Vampyr, Der, 151 

Van Dyck, Ernest, 178 

Vaudeville, 4 

Vecchi, Orazio, 8 

Verdi, G., a new force in opera, 
107-108; power of artistic 
growth, 108-109 ; various 
periods of composition, 109- 
no; A'ida, 197; Italian reaction 
against, 196 et seq. ; Otello, 
199, 200 ; Falstaff, 200, 201 

Ve stale, La, 116, 142 

Voto, II, 204 

DER, 152 

Wagner, R., remarkable mem- 
ory of, 82 ; compared with 
Mozart, 85, 86 ; earlier operas, 
153 ; opera of Rienzi, 153 ; Der 
fliegende Hollander, 154-155 ; 
Tannhduser, 155 et seq. ; Lohen- 
grin, 157 ; attitude toward 
operatic conventions, 157 ; un- 
dramatic act-finales in early 
operas, 158-159; exile and 



theoretical works, 159 ; Oper 
und Drama, 161-162 ; reforms 
in operatic writing, 160 et seq. ; 
theory of the supernatural in 
the Drama, 163 ; theories of the 
music-drama, 163 et seq. ; the 
Leitmotiv idea, 164 et seq. ; 
fundamental principles of his 
third manner, 167 et seq. ; the 
Ring des Nibelungen dramas, 
168 et seq. ; Tristan und Isolde, 
170, 172; Die Meister singer 
von Nurnberg, 170; militant 
character, 171-172 ; craving 
for sympathy, 171-172 ; the 
Bayreuth scheme, 172 et seq. ; 
failure of Bayreuth traditions, 
174 et seq. ; imitators and fol- 
lowers, 193-194 ; spread of his 
ideas, 194-195 

Wallace, V., 53 

Water Carrier, The, 119 

Weber, Aloysia, 77 

Weber, Constanze, 77 

Weber, K. M. von, birth and pe- 
digree, 139-140 ; early operas, 
140 ; Der Freischiitz, 140 ; his 
influence on German romantic 
opera, 140 et seq., 147 et seq. ; 
services to the opera, 148-149 ; 
characteristics as a composer, 
149 et seq. ; influence on Wag- 
ner, 154 

Weigl,J.,i 5 2 

Werther, 211 

Wildschiitz, Der t 152 

Wilhelm, K., 214 

Winkelmann, H., 176 

Winter, Peter von, 152 

ZAMPA, 119 
Zauberflote, Die, 83 
Zauberschloss. Das, 152 
Zweikampf mit der Geliebten. 
ZVr, 139 


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