Page images

ance as Othello. She is in a vest and turban, her face rather swarthy than black. She halts in front of the lamps ; smiles with a beautiful mixture of emotion and self-resumption on her friends; and opening her arms gradually, and bending her head, receives the rędoubled shower of applause with the utmost grace of acknow. ledgment, indir, En j a, diet," oj It is not our intention to criticise the performance of this evening. We were present too short a time. We did but snatch an opportunity of seeing Pasta again, and getting a taste of the new singer Mademoiselle Sontag., The papers however say, that Pasta surpassed herself (a phenomenon which we are sorry we could not witness), and that the new singer, who was expected to fail in Desdemona, surprised the audience with turning out to be a good tragic actress. Desdemona is a favourite part of her friend's; and yet; they say, she completely acted up to her; and that the Othello and Desdemona of the Opera House, besides being beautiful sing, ing, is worth going to see, in both performers, as a tragedy. „.We can very well, believe this, notwithstanding the difficulty we feel, in consequence perhaps of not having stopped long enough, in regarding Mademoiselle Sontag as a person tragical. Nor let it be any disparagement to that charming singer, for charming she is. All the outrageous flourishes of trumpets with which her appearance in this country was preceded, and the downfall with which she was threatened for it in public opinion, do not hinder us from feeling this truth, and from recognising in her something very different from the mere musical instrument, however perfect, which she was pronounced to be by the “indignant blind.” But charming singers are of various descriptions; and it follows as little that Mademoiselle Sontag should be a mere flageolet or warbling image, because those trumpets went before her, as it does that she should be a tragic actress, because she made a suitable impression in Desde mona. The truth we suspect to be this, that she made a good Desdemona in her way, not because she brought any particular stock of tragedy to the part, or could make it a thing fine for its own sake, as Pasta does, but because she is not a tragic person, but (singing apart) a mere lovely, feminine creature, with more archness than gravity in her nature, and therefore (as Desdemona

[ocr errors]

was) the more touching for getting into those tragic circumstances, On this account we are not sure that we should not prefer her Desdemona to Pasta's ; not because it had so much genius in it, but because it was more passive, less prominent, and in touching us more on the side of gentleness, affected us with a balmier pity. We have been told, that when Pasta sees the dagger upheld to kili her, she fairly seizes her petticoats, and shrieks, and runs for it. This is one of those great strokes of nature, by which she drives at once into the heart of the multitude ; and nothing, as a thing tragic, can surpass it. Desdemona is here made human to us all; and does as any female would do, who, suddenly threatened with death, forgets every circumstance but that one, and the horror of its infliction. Perhaps Mademoiselle Sontag may imitate her in this passage ;-<if not, she has most likely had tắe benefit of her co-operation during rehearsals ;which is a remark intended to the honour of both parties. But we should guess of her Desde mona, that it is a thing less unsophisticate to the many, than touching to the other sex; that she looks more passive throughout,

less able to conflict with circumstances, or to fly from them; less agitating out of a certain dark, Italian ripeness for tragedy, than affecting for its total unsuitableness to her fair delicacy and bring ing up ;-in short, that she is n ow. "I!!. 13 A

-- "The gentle lady married to the Moor;" in not the representative of all married and murdered womankind. It may be thought presumptuous in us to make this criticism upon a catastrophe we have not seen; and we grant that it can only be excused as an avowed speculation, not injurious to either party. But we think we have grounds for it; and these are neither more nor less than the faces of the two performers. Madame Pasta's is too well known, and we have said too much about it, to need description. It is the mirror of impassioned truth. Mademoiselle Sontag is neither such a paragon of beauty as her foreign harbingers announced, nor on the other hand has she so little of it as some of the “ blind ” aforesaid would have made out. For our parts, we have rather a dread of your paragons of beauty, who are apt to be perfections of form and colour without a soul. When we first heard of Mademoiselle Sontag, we wondered how she could


have the soul as well as the beauty; and when we found how she was depreciated as a singer of soul, we could not-but fancy that she must be a waxen beauty of the first order. The fact is, she is a proper womanly creature, both face and figure, the figure buxom without grossness, and well turned; the face more interesting than beautiful, with a genial mouth, a nicely-turned oval cheek, and a pair of eyes, of whose efficiency she is as well aware as any one else. How can it be otherwise ?.. Twenty thousand German students have conspired to tell her she has them; and all women who have fine eyes, know it, and reasonably value them as much, though they may not equally show us they, do 'so. Singers and performers are so praised and worshipped, that the wonder is they retain any modesty of pretension; not that they occasionally roll their eyes a little too consciously, or turn round as if they took qurs along with them. There is a lurking archness at the corners of Mademoiselle Sontag's mouth, which looks more comic than tragic; and we have been told on good authority, that comedy is her forte. Upon the whole, we should sum up the description of her person and manners, at first blush, as those of a domestic charmer, by no means unconscious of her powers of pleasing, but deserving and desirous to be pleased; and we doubt not, that a persuasion to this effect, in addition to her power of singing, is the secret of the uproar she has made abroad, and the passion she is said to have caused in a German prince. There are two things beyond all others that put men in a state of transport with a woman; one is, the power of pleasing, united with a great readiness to be pleased; the other, such truth of nature, that where pleasure is evinced, you can be certain of every particle of it. In these two things, we should say, consist the charm which multitudes feel without being able to define it, when they speak of Sontag and Pasta as women.

But Mademoiselle Sontag is also a fine singer. Her singing (though from what we heard of it, is not so true to the heart as Pasta's) is a great deal more true to the senses, than any instrumental warbling can be. Clear, correct, and voluble, she rains, it is true, thick showers of pearl; but a soul tinges and swells them, when she likes. She threw forth, the other night, a set of notes,

[ocr errors]

one after the other, in such a way, that she seemed to push them as they went, and make each of them speak a double and a ten; derer note.

We do not like to say more, till we see her again ; which we mean to do in spite of our abjurations of theatres and late hours. There is no rule, it is said, without an exception; and far be it from us to do a rule a disservice, and deprive it of its property, .ro

MUSICAL RAMBLE. oficiali [" A Ramble among the Musicians of Germany, giving some Account of the

Operas of Munich, Dresden, Berlin, &c. with Remarks upon the Church Music, * Singers, Performers, and Composers ;" and upon the surface of society in that

country. By a Musical. Professor. ] We have no hesitation in recommending this book to our readers, though written by a friend, and published by others. It would be hard indeed if we could not recommend a good book for those very reasons; and as we know that it is not in us to speak what we do not think, we have the pleasure of discharging at once an office of friendship and a duty to the public.

The reader will find novelty in this book, for the subject has not been handled these fifty years; and he will find truth in it, and gusto. The writer, like a proper musician, is inclined to relish all things harmoniously, whether music,or painting, or society, or a green solitude, or his “ease at his inn;" and the south of Germany rewards him. He gives a very pleasant, and to us in great measure unexpected picture of the lively state of existence in that country, with its social and enthusiastic inhabitants, its population, who learn music as they do their A B C, and its celebrated composers living in green neighbourhoods of their chapels, with a competent salary from some good-. natured prince, and no compulsory lessons to give to little misses. Something of the colour given to all this may be attributed to his own enthusiasm; and there is also the Rhenish wine, a thing. highly conducive to satisfactory observations; and our author, though old enough to be a good critic, and to know that truth is the great relish of what one writes, is not past the enthusiastic period of life. It is however, if we mistake not, is an enthusiasm

likely to last. He has informed us of some points, which besides the musical education they receive, go very materially to account for the liyeliness of the southern Germans; to wit, that they are early risers, and great livers in the open air. The cheapness of living is another, and none of the least; - a consideration, which ought to make our exemption from being the seat of war very precious to us, seeing what a load of poverty, over-taxation, and bad spirits, we have consented to bear, in order to dictate to our neighbours. Having secured our melancholy thus far, we take all the remaining methods of completing it, which late hours and in-door habits can supply; and then wonder that our freedom (which was none of our getting, but our ancestor's) does not enable us to be more comfortable than these subjects of petty despots. Now freedom is only a means by which we could make all the world more comfortable, not the end of that means, nor a licence for brow-beating and thinking ourselves better than everyone else. But we must not introduce gloomy reflections in the midst of this musical paradise; or we shall be falling, like proper Englishmen, into the fault we cut up. Our author writes a style remarkably scholar-like, for a man who may be detected to be no scholar. He sometimes reminds us in that respect (and one other) of a real scholar, who wrote the other day that book fuil of wit and pleasantry, the Two Hundred Days on the Continent. · But the spirit of scholarship is in him, and he is bound to complete the letter of it, and not let the real enjoyment he takes in the use of eclectic words and other learned pamperings of a joke be confounded with an affectation, which it certainly is not. He relishes it as truly as he does his music and his glass. He has been accused of being too learned in his musical taste, and redolent of the dust of cathedrals. We apprehend something of this kind ourselves, and yet hardly know why; except that musical professors, whatever they may feel, seem to think themselves bound to be supra-learned, when they come to criticise; but it was an agreeable surprise to us to find that he did so much justice to fancy and feeling as well. Indeed it would have been unnatural in one of his temperament, had he not done so; and the respect he has for science and Sebastian Bach will do him no harm, supposing even this Bach is only what he is taken to be by the unlearned, and that

« PreviousContinue »