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natural consequence of the success of some late attempts to difplay that undoubted union which subsists between the powers of Music and Poetry. Why an Opera also might not be made as rational entertainment as a tragedy, a comedy, or a farce, we confels is not in our power to discover. On the contrary, we conceive the representation of a fine piece of dramatic poely, set in a proper and nasterly manner to music, would constitute one of the most perfect and refined of all theatrical representations.

The great difficulty of making sound a proper companion to Tense, seems to be the only obstacle to the improvement of this 1pecies of dramatic exhibition. But as the subject feems in a peculiar manner to engage the attention of the Critics, we may possibly hope to see some professed treatise on the means of oba viating this difficulty.

Favourably as some English Operas have been lately received, certain it is, that their success hath been altogether owing to the merit of the instrumental music accompanying their recital. There does not seem, indeed, to be a proper distinction made between the effects of the vocal and instrumental parts of an Opera, in judging of the whole representation : and yet there is undoubtedly a wide difference between them. The influence of the ancient vocal music, was, by all accounts, as much superior to that of the moderns, as the instrumental of the moderns is allowed superior to that of the antients. The reason also is plain, the antients cultivated the arts of elocution, their common discourse being altogether melodious and expressive: the moderns, having, since the invention of printing, less need to ftudy or practise oratory, have neglected the graces of speech, and have improved those of simple melody, into a more refined and complicated system of instrumental harmony. It is the bufiness of a Composer of Operas, to reconcile, if possible, the vocal me dy of the antients, to the instrumental harmony of the moderns. This it is impossible he should do, if he is either ignorant or careless of the poetical merit of the production to which he endeavours to adapt his mufic.

Much hath been written, and to very little purpose, about the connection and affinity betiveen poetical and musical harmony: none of the Writers who have attempted to illustrate their union, having thrown any fatisfactory light on the subject. The Muficians that have endeavoured at the practical reconciliation of them in their compositions, have succeeded much better; as might be instanced in many of the favourite airs of Purcel, Havdel, Arne, and others. "We must not attribute the merit of vocal music, however, to every favourite air, or fine piece of musical composition, merely because it is annexed to certain

words,

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words, and sung by a vocal Performer. We have many noble
pieces of church-music, as well as of other kinds, in the exe-
cution of which, the words are as useless and indifferent as sol,
fa; la; the voice of the Singer contributing no more to the
musical expression, than the found of a bassoon, a haut boy, or
a flagellet.

The art of a Composer of vocal music, therefore, lies, first,
in adapting his subject to that of the Poet. This, indeed, may
be effected in a certain degree, by making the sounds in general
accord with the sense; as by adapting quick time, and sprightly
notes, to lively expressions, and chearful sentiments; by setring
words of grave and folemn import; to now and solemn tunes,
and fo forth. All this, however, is making but a small pro-,
gress toward the union of musical and poetical harmony. The
famous rule in poetic composition, of making the found an echo
to the sense, fhould be carried much farther, and applied more
particularly, in vocal music: for it is not sufficient in this, that
the expressions of sound accord in general. They may do this,
and the Singer be all the while totally unintelligible ; as is fre-
quently, we may say almost always, the case at our oratorios
and operas ; where not one Auditor in twenty would know
what was said or done upon the stage, were it not for the printed
books. The Connoisseurs and Lovers of musical harmony, may
think this a small inconvenience; and, indeed, as matters ftand
at present, it is no great matter, the demerit of the vocal part
of the music destroying the effect of the instrumental; fo that a
musical ear would be better pleased without hearing the words
than with it. But, why then the farce of written operas and
oratorios ? Why not confine the name of our entertainment to
what it really is, a Concert of instrumental music?- The words
are calculated for the multitude, and these can very readily con-
ceive, that if they do not understand the Singer, it is his fault,
he does not speak plain. But when the Singer is a native, not
totally illiterate, and does not affect to be inarticulate, the fault
is most frequently either in the Composer or the Writer. It is
the fault of the Composer when, in adapting his notes, he ne-
glects the preservation of the due emphasis to be placed on the
words, and the proper accent and length of the syllables. It is
the fault of the Writer, when the numbers of his verse are so
Novenly and careless, that the syllables do not flow in easy. fucs
ceffion, so that the Composer may reduce them per arsin et thefin,
without altering their natural length. A Boyce, a Stanley, or
a Batcithall, might compose, indeed, a fine piece of music for
the first chapter of Matthew, or the tenth of Neheiniah; but
it could have no pretensions to expression as vocal music. In
like manner å foreigner, ignorant of the pronunciation of our

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anguage,

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language, yet being told the general tenour and meaning of a song, might set it to very fine music, but it would be the greateft chance in the world, if such mufic would not be, after all, chiefly instrumental. For the Singer's pipe is a mere inftrument, unless the voice issuing from it be, articulate and expressive. Now, expressive it cannot be, if its articulation be false or imperfect : hence the most expressive and pathetic Italian opera that ever was exhibited, losos all its merit of vocal music on a mere English audience the eunuch's throat being to them as very an haut-boy as any in the orchestra.

: The effect of the Composer's neglect of prosody, accent, and emphafis, is very evident in the recitative of most of our operas, which are, in general, fet so very carelessly, as to be quite intolerable to those who sit near enough to hear what the Performer is intended to say.

As to the first defect, it regards principally the time or length only of the notes and syllables. On this head it is judiciously remarked by Malcolm, that“ in setting music to words, the thing principally to be minded, is to accommodate the long and fhort notes to the syllables, in such a manner, as that the words may be well separated, and the accented syllable of every word be lo conspicuous, that what is fung may be distinctly understood.” And, indeed, if one of the principal ends of vocal music, be not to make what is sung intelligible, we fee no manner of use the words are of, unless it be to disturb the harmony of the voice and instruments. Now nothing is more common, even in our best performances of this kind, than to find a great incongruity between the quantities or lengths of the musical notes, and the words to which they are adapted. Hence the objection which Pancirollus formerly made, is fully justified, when he affirmed, that in attending to modern finging, we hear sounds only, without words ; by which, tho' the external ear is a little tickled, the internal sense, or the understanding, meets with no entertainment.

Let us suppose, for instance, the following line in the opera before us, set to music with long notes adapted to the short TylJables, and short notes to the long :

ị crembie Princess, to pronounce thy fate. the absurdity would be apparent, and the line absolutely unin. telligible.

It would, indeed, be difficult for an English Singer to utter the words in fo faulty a manner; but a foreigner might, and would, if the syllables marked long were adapted to minims, and these marked short to crochets. And tho' so glaring an

instance contract,

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instance of erroneous composition might not pass on a discern-
ing audience, there are a thoufand others almost as absurd, that
daily pass uncensured, and even applauded. There are very few
airs set to ballad-measures, (that is, where r'je stanzas are re-
peated to the fame tune) wherein this impropriety of adapting
long or sort notes to the contrary syllables, is not egregiously
manifeft. We do not remember whether the two stanzas of
the following air in the present opera, go to the same tune or
not; but certain it is, that the numbers of the last are lo stiff
and uncouth, as with difficulty to be uttered even in common
speech : the Reader may judge whether any thing that cannot
well be said, can ever be melodiously sung.

1.
In hope to recompense his toil,
The lab'ring peasant tills the soil :
In hope the mariner will brave

The dangers of the Caspian wave.
After repeating these verses, which run tolerably smooth off
the tongue, how diffonant, harth and rugged are the following!

II.
Hope chears the flave that digs the mine,
And makes him figh for Freedom's thrine :
For Hope, when Justice left mankind

Soothing our cares, remain'd behind.
One great cause of the error here pointed out, is, that the
Compofer generally wants a poetical ear, as much as the Writer
a musical one ; and it is very seldom that either of them are ca-
pable of reading, or declaiming, with tolerable propriety. A
Dancing-master, who should not be able to stand or walk,
would doubtless be a droll professor of his art ; and yet we have
Singers, Singing-masters, and Composers of vocal music, who
are much in the same circumstances with regard to their own
profession: that is, they cannot either read or speak *. How
far persons so unqualified are likely to display the union of musi-
cal and poetical harmony, we presume not to determine.

Next to the preservation of the due length of the syllables, the attention of the Composer is required to that of the proper accent, as laid on the words in speaking; which should be ever distinctly marked, either by a longer or a higher note, according as the accent is grave or acute. Without this, the words, when fung, will either not be understood at all, or convey a dirferent meaning from the true one. Thus, in secting the word

And here we cannot help taking notice, by the way, that one of the principal Performers in this opera, constantly locks the ears of the qudience, with moy and rhoy, instead of my and ibr.

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contralt, when used as a noun, and when used as a verb.; the impropriety would be very palpable in adapting it in both cafés to the same notes ; as in the one, the first syllable is accented, and in the other the last.

Again, those words on which the sense requires an emphasis to be laid in ipeaking, should be strongly marked in singing; as on this the whole expression and pathos of the composition der pends. The Composer, indeed, may leave this distinction, as he generally does, to the Performer, as it is in writing left to the Reader; but then he should take care never to put it out of the Performer's power (as the Poet frequently does out of the Reader's) to lay the stress of the voice in the proper plade. Thus, if an emphatical syllable be adapted to a shorter, or lower, note, than those syllables which are not emphatical in the same sentence, it is impossible for the Performer to sing with proper expreffion.

From these confiderations it is plain, that a mere musical Genius, how great an adept foever he might be in the Contrappunto, would be incapable of giving expression to vocal music, or of uniting sense and sound, without other qualifications. It is necessary that he should perfectly understand the prosody of the language he adopts; and that he should be capable of entering into all the spirit and meaning of the Writer, word, a good Composer of vocal mulic, should be a Critic in the beauties of style, and in the numerous composition both of the Orator and of the Poet.

On the other hand, with regard to the Poet, he should, in writing for music, not only aim at strength and precision of thought, but at the melodious succession, or flow, of his words and syllables: he should study not only the language of the pasficns, but also that of the ear.

By the melody or flow of his style, it is to be observed also, that we do not mean to confine him to the alternate succession of long and short fyllables, or to those mechanical rules by which our verses are usually divided. Some of these indeed are well enough adapted to music, the others, particularly the longer kinds of verfcs are not so. The ingenious author of Elfrida, says that the measures and cadences of modern poetry, are by no means adapted to those of music. · If he meant the artificial measures and cadence, dependent on the long-winded periods of the heroic couplet and blank verfe, he is certainly very right; but we have fufficient proof that the short, natural and easy flowing periods of our stanzas and short couplets, are capable of being very succcfsfully set to music. To be convinced of this we need only recollect the scveral delightful and expressive airs, composed by

Handel,

In a

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