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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

66

“ 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

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“tennis-court, which had ruined the marquis de Sourdeau. The
“ abbe Perrin, who did not choose to be ruined, consoled himself
“with writing elegies and sonnets, and translating the AEneid of
“Virgil into what he called heroic verse. As to Cambert, he left
“France in dudgeon, and went to perform his detestable music
“among the English, who thought it excellent.
“Lully, in conjunction with Quinault, brought out Fetes de
”.Amour ct de Bacchus; but neither the words nor the music were
“worthy of the reputation the piece acquired. Connoisseurs, how-
“ever, vastly admired a translation of that charming ode of Horace,
Donec gratus eram tibi, which is, to own the truth, finely render-
“ed into French; but the music is extremely dull. There were
“buffooneries in plenty in these operas, and indeed they were full
“of harlequinades; and Quinault, to his shame, did not disdain, as
“a man of genius ought, to lend his helping hand to these puerili-
“ties: yet in those very operas, part of which were a reproach to
“him, there were many choice and beautiful passages.
“As for Lully, he knew pretty well how to accommodate his
“music to the French language; and, as he was a pleasant com-
“panion, very debauched, and an excellent flatterer, and, in conse-
“quence, admired by the great, he found no difficulty in carrying
“away all the applause from Quinault, who was a very contrary
“character, being naturally modest, diffident, and unassuming.
“Lully made the world believe that Quinault was his amanuensis,
“for that all the ideas were his, and that Quinault only clothed
“ them in better French than he could; in fact, that but for him
“this admirable poet would have been known by nothing but the
“satires of Boileau: and thus Quinault, with all his merit, became
“ the prey of a malicious satirist and an impudent musician.
“Thus the beauties, whether simple, delicate, or grand, which
“were scattered through Attis and his other pieces, and which
“ought to have established the reputation of Quinault, procured
“no credit for any one but Lully, who was considered as another
“Apollo.”
Such was the commencement of the opera, as it is described by
Voltaire, with his accustomed force, naivete, and acumen. The
works of this captivating writer are in all things to be taken cum
grano salis, as the saying is; for he viewed every thing that became
the subject of his contemplation in so ludicrous an aspect, and in
some way or other contrived, either from pride or ill nature, so to

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