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PUBLIC AMUSEMENTS FOR JANUARY.
THIS celebrated singer (a correct likeness of whom, in the dress of her favourite character, Semiramis, is given in our present Number), has performed only twice during the last month, on account of indisposition. It is our purpose to enter into some detail of criticism with respect to the powers of this lady.
Madame Catalani has certainly hitherto experienced in this country very flattering, and in some measure, very just encomiums. In England, however, by a little dexterity of management in exciting that curiosity for which we are remarkable, it is easy to create momentary enthusiasm upon a first appearance. We entertain too modest a sense of our progress in accomplishments; and our diffidence in this respect creates a reluctance in each individual to exercise at first his own judgment. There is also inherent in our disposition a spirit of fairness and good nature, which induces us always to greet foreign performers, on their arrival in this country, with -applause.
We shall endeavour to consider the excellence of Madame Catalani, and her defects, as a theatrical performer, with a view to prevent the public, under such circumstances, from being misled, or forming a false estimate; at the same time it will be our wish to avoid any remarks which may not be authorised by the principles of true and impartial criticism.
indiscreet conduct of her enthusiastic panegyrists compels the notice of many defects in this great performer. The public will judge, by their own feelings and observation, whether the following
remarks be fair and accurate :
As a singer, Mad me Catalani's principal claim is founded upon the peculiar compass of her voice, which is said to extend through three octaves; and ia an admirable facility of execution. It may be submitted, however, whether the astonishing compass of notes, which she can command with such extraordinary ease, be not counterbalanced in its effect by considerable disadvantages? Her voice does not seem always proportionably powerful on those notes which most generally occur in the composition of noble and affecting music. She sings frequently out of tune, and does not even appear sensible of the circumstance. Whether her imperfection may proceed from any natural defect of ear, or from the want of elementary instruction, it is not easy to ascertain. If conjecture be indulged, one might be inclined to think, either that she had already impaired the main strength of her voice by forcing too often its extreme notes-as is fiequently done by young performers, to procure violent, but transitory applause; or, that she has never adopted the course in Italy so rigidly observed in musical education, as indispensibly necessary to render her voice firm and equal upon every note.
It appears to us that her voice is not generally equal, that it is frequently false; and it is observ. able, that, however rapid her execution, she seems in every slow movement to have a certain apprehension and difficulty in producing the exact note. Her voice flutters for a moment, in such movements, like the young bird of the grove meditating its flight in fear.
Madame Catalani has certainly the advantages of an elegant well-proportioned figure; and a voice, perhaps the most extensive in its compass of any that has existed within the memory of the present generation. Her countenance is agree. able, even interesting, and nature seems to have endowed her with a variety of qualities, calculated to place her on a very exalted eminence in her profession. She certainly is entitled to rank with the first singers of the day. It would therefore have been, perhaps, more judicious in the friends of this lady, with a view to promote as weli her present professional reputation as her future excellence, for her youth will allow her opportunities of acquiring still greater attainments than she actually possesses, had they contented themselves with endeavouring to procure full justice to her talents, and not adopted an ex-regions-she returns to the spot from whence ske aggerated style of commendation, excluding the took her flight, we are struck with a certain tenuity merits of other performers, and demanding, as a which was never expected in the object by the matter of right, the admiration of the public be- splendor of which in its glittering transit we had yond the limits of all reasonable allowance. The been previously dazzled. Her voice, on the notes
With respect to the quality of her voice, however brilliant, it has occasionally a certain sharp. ness. It is sometimes harsh; and it wants a sweetness and majesty proportionate to its extent. This disproportion occasions frequently the most mortifying disappointment ;-and when, to continue the comparison-after indulging an airy excursion with wings, perhaps, never bestowed upon the human race, through new and untired
within the ordinary compass, leaves no dying sounds long lingering on the ear behind, nor does memory cherish with fond attachment, the recollection of any impression they might have made. There appears no peculiar excellence in her Intonation, which inseparably unites the passage and the Performer in a manner to render the same air insupportable in any other singer. If this be the fact, it must necessarily follow, that however extraordinary the compass of Madame Catalani' voice, it is inferior in its effect to the voices of many other Performers; and that it has not in itself any peculiar charm.
Sir David Gayland, married to an amiable woman, through mere fashionable levity professes an attachment to Caroline Sedley, whom he had met at a masquerade, a young lady of great vivacity, who had been, unknown to the Baronet, the school companion of his wife. Between these two females a plot is formed to bring back the wanderer to a proper sense of his domestic character, as a part of which Caroline assumes the habit of a dashing young Officer, who pretends to make love to Lady Gayland: this has ultimately the desired effect, by exciting the jealousy of Sir David, and the married couple are, in consequence, reconciled, but not till the
offender has been completely made ashamed of his conduct. Caroline gives her hand to a worthy Hibernian Officer, Lieutenant M'Leary; and Edgar, the son of the Baronet, after several equivoques and difficulties thrown in the way by Tom Surfeit, an insignificant coxcomb of broken fortune, is married to Emily, the ward of Plod, a rich old potatoe merchant, with the consent of Sir David, extorted by the lively Caroline. A learned Lady, the Governess of Emily, a German servant in the family of the Baronet, and his wife, an intriguing Abigail, are introduced, as adding to the comic effect of the piece.
This Opera, as we have said, is from the pen of Mr. Kenny, whose early pieces, Raising the Wind, and Matrimony gave a promise of greater excellence. The town had encouraged expectations of some improvements in our drama from the youthful efforts of this gentleman; and if they looked forward to nothing very solid, or elevated, they still hoped to find a material amendment in that which the labours of contemporary dramatists had served to degrade.
Our hopes, however, have been disappointed, and False Alarms, instead of adding another feather to the cap of Mr. Kenny, plucks the single, solitary leaf of laurel from his brow.
The plot is such as we read in a novel, and the management is not a bit more artificial, the incidents are hacknied; and the characters, with the necessary variations, are mere transcripts from other dramatists.
The success of this piece, however, did not depend upon any pretensions of this kind; it was fixed in popularity by the music of Braham and King. The song of the Smile and the tear, by the former, is a most extraordinary effort of simple and unaffected harmony. Indeed this master has a power beyond any we ever heard, of giving to the fewest and most simple notes, the most exquisite melody, and finished taste. The contributions of Mr. King are not to be overlooked; they are such as tend still farther to root him in popular esteem.
NOTHING new has been produced at this house since that most popular and amusing Pantomime, entitled Mother Goose,
A Parisian Tody in a that Walkery Prefs. Engraven for La Belle Assemblie J Jan 7. 1857. Published for For Bell Wally. A sings "fin