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VoI.TAIRE marks it as a singular concurrence that the tragedy and the opera of France owe their existence each to a cardinal: “Corneille,” says he, “served an apprenticeship under Richelieu, “ with other authors who worked as amanuensises at those dra“matic plans which were invented by the cardinal, and in which “ he introduced some very bad lines. Cardinal Mazarine was the “ first who introduced operas, which was a bungling business “ however—a circumstance the more extraordinary, as that mi“nister did not write any part of them.
“. In 1767 a troop of Italian singers and decorators, together “ with an orchestra, arrived from Italy. In the Louvre they per“ formed the tragedy of ORPHEUs, in Italian verse, set to music. “The performance set all Paris asleep. Very few understood “ Italian; fewer had a taste for music; and every body hated the “ cardinal. The piece was hissed, the cardinal ridiculed, and the “French grew outrageous against a man who had presumed to “ use an endeavour to please them.
Vol. IV. I
“ In the beginning of the sixteenth century, however, they had « ballets in France; and in these ballets some vocal music, relieved “ by choruses, which indeed were little more than the plain“ Gregorian chaunt. Nay, there are accounts of sirens, who sang " at the wedding of the Duc de Joycose so early as the year 1582; “ but I am afraid they were strange sirens.
“ Cardinal Mazarine was so little discouraged at the bad success “ of his Italian opera that, as soon as he came into full power, he “ sent again for a troop from his own country, who performed Le “ Nozze de Peleo et de Thetide, in three acts; and, to make all
sure, Lewis the Fourteenth danced at this wedding. The French “ were charmed to see their youthful king, of a figure at once • graceful and lovely, after he had been hunted from his capital, * dancing as if nothing had happened.
“ Although the cardinal and his Italians pleased as little on re“petition as at first, Mazarine still persisted. He sent for signor
Cavalli, who brought out in the gallery of the Louvre the opera “ of Xerxes, in five acts; but unfortunately the French fell asleep “ faster than ever; and all the consolation left them was, that they " should be relieved by the death of the cardinal, who indeed “ drew on himself a thousand ridiculous sarcasms, and gave occa5 sion to almost as much satire after his death as had been levelled " at him during his life.
“The French had some taste for the opera; but they were deter« mined that it should be in their own language, and performed by “ their own countrymen. The latter, however, was pretty difficult: s for there was but one passable violin in Paris. However, in 1659, " a certain abbe Perrin, who took it in his head he could write “ poetry, and one Cambert, leader of the queen's twelve fidlers, 6 who were called “the music of France," produced a tiresome “pastoral, which however stole the palm from l'Hercole and Le "Nozze de Peleo.
" In 1669, the same Perrin and the same Cambert associated us themselves with the marquis de SOURDEAU, a great mechanist, “not absolutely mad, but little short of it, for he ruined himself in - the enterprise.
“ Their first opera was Pomona, in which they introduced a - great deal about apples and artichokes. After this they represent» ed the Pains and Pleasures of Love; and at length Lully, who " now became superintendent of the king's music, repaired the
“tennis-court, which had ruined the marquis de Sourdeau. The