Imágenes de páginas

are so heavy as to entail a great loss upon the manager who shall attempt to give opera at theatre prices. The problem has been tried over and over again, both in England and elsewhere, and a very few words are needed to explain why it is impossible. Among the many lessons taught by the lamentable failure of the Royal English Opera House was one which throws a good deal of light on this. It is out of the question to mount grand opera 'for a run,' that is to say, to attempt to recoup the original outlay in putting it on the stage by keeping it in the bills for six weeks or longer, as the theatrical managers are wont to do. Yet audiences have been so accustomed to seeing plays gorgeously produced that they expect far more from operatic mounting than can possibly be given them apart froin operatic prices. In the second place, the salaries of the singers must needs come to a sum far in excess of the earnings of the heaviest cast in London, to say nothing of the orchestra and chorus, two sources of expenditure of which the play-producer is scarcely conscious. By exercising a rigid economy in the department of the orchestra during provincial tours it is no doubt possible to give even grand opera in London for a few weeks at a time at theatre prices, if a large enough theatre is available; but then the company must be formed of singers so fitted for a large theatre that their voices can be trusted to fill it in one sense and their names in another. Such a company is a far more expensive luxury than a troupe of comic-opera performers, who are at home in a small theatre, but would be utterly lost in Covent Garden or a house of similar size. It may be taken as proved, without further demonstration, that an attempt which has reduced some hundreds of enthusiastic managers to beggary must be ranked with the many chimerical schemes of which musical people are so very fond. Yet the solution of the whole question, a solution which has been adopted in every capital of Europe, is only just beginning to be suggested here as a brand new idea. Some kind of grant or subvention from without is absolutely essential if opera as an institution is to do a really useful work, or to take a place among national enterprises. A great many Englishmen look askance upon any suggestion of a State subsidy for theatres of any kind, partly from a remnant of the puritanical feeling that all such places are in themselves evil, partly because they cannot dissociate the idea of theatrical art from the notion of frivolous amusement, and partly because they dread an increase in the rates. But the general principle of State or municipal aid for various things lying outside the domain of practical business life, is already acknowledged in many ways, and accepted as a fact of our national existence. It would require a very bold politician indeed to bring in a Bill for the abolition of the grant to the National Gallery or the British Museum, yet in truth these are not more strictly educational in their intention than such institutions as the great VOL. XLIII.- No. 256

3 T

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

opera houses of the Continent. Even in theatrical matters the idea of municipal aid is slowly but surely making advances towards realisation ; yet the opera, if it is to exist at all as a permanent institution for the nation at large, stands in far greater need of external help than does any non-operatic theatre. There is a want of logic about a system such as that which allows grants to be made to the two principal institutions for teaching music in London, without practically recognising the need for kindred help for the young musicians who are being turned out of these seminaries every year into a profession which is rapidly being overstocked beyond all remedy. At present the demand for the raw material to educate in one or other of the great music schools is a very large one, and every inducement is held out to promising students, but only during their career as students. All the tedious time that must elapse before even a musician with a certainty of ultimate success can begin to make his mark on the great world of London musical life is quite unprovided for; and many are the cases of absolute penury that come to the knowledge of those who are familiar with the seamy sides of the musical profession. Some means might well be devised for hindering, rather than encouraging, the entrance into the profession of all classes of incompetent performers, and at the same time of providing help for those whose education in music is finished, and whose chances of making an income are very remote.

The establishment of a permanent opera house in London would mean a great deal more than the existence of a single institution where native talent could be allowed to display itself. The principle of decentralisation has lately been illustrated in a very striking way by the success which has attended the erection of various theatres in the suburbs of London, and there are signs that the whole aspect of our theatrical life is shortly about to undergo a change. If an endowed opera became an accomplished fact in London, there is little doubt that the example of the capital would soon be followed in the chief cities of the Empire, so that that part of a liberal education which consists in hearing good operas would be brought within the reach of the large majority of English people. A whole group of permanently established operatic theatres would make a very sensible difference in the financial condition of the musical profession generally, and the elevation of the standard of excellence required by the classes thus educated would of itself obviate the danger of a Klondyke rush into a profession where such inducements were held out. In ordinary parlance, the position of music as an inferior member of the circle of the arts is curiously recognised by the English usage of the word · Art,' as meaning only the art of painting or sculpture. Music has often been called the Cinderella of the Arts, in reference to her youth as compared with the other members of the family. In England she has for long been the most despised as well as the

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

youngest of the sisterhood, but there are plenty of signs that she will not much longer be contented with her present humble position. She is apparently waiting for the fairy godmother to appear, and give her her opportunity by providing her with a suitable equipage. There is, perhaps, not much competition for the post at present, but there are several quarters from which the kindly support might come. An actual Government subsidy may for the present be too much to hope for, but either the Corporation of London or the London County Council could well afford to earn the gratitude of the cultivated part of the nation by providing a suitable home for opera, and the funds wherewith London might be placed on an equality with some of the less luxurious of European towns. Recent investigations into the statistics of the subject have shown that for an annual grant of 15,0001. an opera could be maintained in such a way that the public need not pay at a higher rate than for the theatre, while artists of the highest class would be engaged. 5,000l. of this would represent either the rent of a theatre already existing, or interest on the loan of a sum sufficient to build a proper theatre; the sum of 10,0001. would then represent the sum needed to meet the deficit on a season lasting from October to Easter in each year, leaving the height of the season free for the fashionable


the success of which need, therefore, not be affected, even though public taste were to make the new undertaking fashionable as well as popular. Now 15,0001. may seem a large sum as the income of a private individual, or as the annual cost of an establishment; but if it is compared with the sums expended by the nation on things of which the practical utility is extremely doubtful, it is a mere nothing. It is not necessary to face the question of a national opera coming upon the rates, for it is certain that it could be contrived by other means; but if it did come on the rates, it is worth while to point out that a rate of one-tenth of a penny in the pound on the rateable value of London would be enough to raise the sum required. As the Free Library rate is one farthing in the pound, it will be seen that this latter luxury represents just two and a half times the cost of an opera.

Supposing the principle of a subvention, from whatever quarter, to be admitted, there are naturally a good many points to be considered in regard to the policy of the institution, the principles on which it should be managed, and the nature of the ideals which it is desirable to realise. Here there is no lack of examples and warnings to be got from the experience of foreign nations. Unless it be founded on the widest possible basis-a basis of devotion to no particular school, but to all schools of excellence of whatever date and country—the scheme must fail, though never so kindly a fairy godmother were to come down the kitchen chimney. For a time the dictates of fashion must be disregarded ; the classical repertory must be kept steadily before the public, rather than the works which

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

come into vogue for a year or two and are then forgotten; the language employed must be English, and the performers, as far as possible, must be chosen from among English artists. There is, of course, a danger of favouritism, and a certain opening for the elements of intrigue which have already wrecked so many hopeful schemes; but if a large enough body were elected or appointed to govern the institution, and if the impresarios and managers were paid servants of the governing body, not persons with interests of their own to serve, there is no reason why a subsidised opera house should not be conducted on principles of absolute rectitude and honesty. The reins of government must, of course, be in the hands of persons who should represent, not merely the business side of the scheme as a pecuniary speculation, but the various schools of thought in music. And not only these should have a voice in the control, but the claims of the many arts that are associated with opera must be fairly represented, and nothing must be omitted that can make for the maintenance of a high standard in all departments. For example, literary skill in the supervision of new librettos, or in the all-important point of providing decent translations of the words of classical foreign operas, must go hand in hand with artistic taste applied to the mounting of the works chosen for representation. And due encouragement must be given to that school of British composers which has now been in existence for the last quarter of a century, and to which the revival of musical culture in this country is mainly due. That series of fine operas which Mr. Carl Rosa was mainly instrumental in bringing before the English public as the typical work of Englishmen, must be brought once more from the retirement where they have been left by so many managers, and the younger men in the English musical world must be encouraged to undertake the composition of operas by the knowledge that every worthy work will in time be produced at a national theatre. Those who best know the musical life of England in the present day have the most confidence in the powers of these younger men who are only waiting for opportunities which, under the present régime, can never come to them. There is no doubt that Cinderella must soon get her chance; the only question is, Who will be the fairy godmother?





It was with a feeling of the keenest interest that I took up the April number of this Review, containing, as it did, a paper on 'Deaths under Chloroform,' from the pen of a great medical authority, written as a reply to my paper that appeared in the March number. At last, then, I was to learn the reason for employing the painful method of giving chloroform, from which I and others had suffered ; at last I should hear why this method was practised by some anæsthetists in preference to the pleasanter method practised by others.

It was consequently with a feeling of surprise, deepening gradually into profound disappointment, that I read on and on to the end, only to find that this point of vital interest was not so much as touched upon, far less defended. The paper might, in fact, have been intended for a medical journal, dealing as it does almost wholly with the physiological dispute as to whether death under chloroform may not be caused, under certain circumstances, by cardiac syncope, independent of any suffocation. Dr. Buxton says it is an unjust and unsupported charge to say that all deaths under chloroform are deaths from asphyxia; but he does not say what percentage of such deaths can be attributed to other causes; and his assertion would be true if the proportion were only a minute fraction in a hundred.

Another great authority, Dr. Lauder Brunton, writing in the British Medical Journal of the 5th of March, states that out of 571 experiments made at Hyderabad, death resulted in every case from asphyxia ; and to the ordinary lay mind, not accustomed to the extreme accuracy required by scientific research, this is sufficiently conclusive as to, at least, the paramount danger of suffocation.

But I am aware that the medical world is not unanimous in accepting the conclusions arrived at by Dr. Lauder Brunton, and a perpetual domestic war on the subject is decorously waged in the medical press without either side obtaining a decisive victory. It is not, however, a matter on which the lay world has anything to say.

The rest of Dr. Buxton's paper is devoted to showing that the principle of allowing the free admixture of air with the vapour of

« AnteriorContinuar »