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? From my own apartment near Charing-Cross.
Honoured Sir, HAVING heard that this nation is a great encourager of ingenuity, I have brought with me a • rope-dancer, that was caught in one of the woods • belonging to the Great Mogul. He is by birth a " monkey, but swings upon a rope, takes a pipe of to
bacco, and drinks a glass of ale, like any reasonable creature, He gives great satisfaction to the quali
ty; and if they will make a subscription for him, I 6 will send for a brother of his out of Holland that is (a very good tumbler; and also for another of the
same family, whom I design for my Merry-Andrew, " as being an excellent mimic, and the greatest droll s in the country where he now is. I hope to have o this entertainment in a readiness for the next winter; ( and doubt not but it will please more than the opera
or puppet-show. I will not say that a monkey is a ( better man than some of the opera-heroes; but cer
tainly he is a better representative of a man, than 6 the most artificial composition of wood and wire. If • you will be pleased to give me a good word in your spaper, you shall be every night a spectator at my s show for nothing.
"I am, &c.'
No. XXIX. TUESDAY, APRIL 3.
.........Sermo lingua concinnus utraque
Both tongues united sweeter sounds produce,
THERE is nothing that has more startled our English audience, than the Italian Recitativo at it's. first entrance upon the stage. People were wonderfully surprised to hear generals singing the word of command, and ladies delivering messages in music. Our countrynien could not forbear laughing when they heard a lover chanting out a billet-doux, and even the superscription of a letter set to a tune. The famous blunder in an old play of « Enter a king and two fidlers solus,' was now no longer an absurdity; when it was impossible for a hero in a desert, or a. princess in her closet, to speak any thing unaccom-. panied with musical instruments.
But however this Italian method of acting in Recitativo might appear at first hearing, I cannot but think it much more just than that which prevailed in our English opera before this innovation; the transition from an air to recitative music being more natural, than the passing from a song to plain and ordie. nary speaking, which was the common method in Purcell's operas.
The only fault I find in our present practice is the making use of the Italian Recitativo with English: words.
To go to the bottom of this matter, I must observe, that the tone, or, as the French call it, the accent of every nation in their ordinary speech is altogether different from that of every other people; as we may see even in the Welsh and Scotch, who border so near: upon us. By the tone or accent, I do not meaan the pronunciation of each particular word, but the sound of the whole sentence. Thus it is very common for an English gentleman, when he hears a French tragedy, to complain that the actors all of them speak in a tone; and therefore he very wisely prefers his own countrymen, not considering that a foreigner complains of the same tone in an English actor.
For this reason, the recitative music, in every language should be as different as the tone or accent of each language; for otherwise, what may properly express a passion in one language, will not do it in another. Every one who has been long in Italy knows very well, that the cadences in the Recitativo bear a reinote affinity to the tone of their voices in ordinary couversation, or, to speak more properly, are only the accents of their language made more musi. cal and tuneful.
Thus the notes of interrogation, or admiration, in the Italian music, if one may so call them, which resemble their accents in discourse on such occasions, are not unlike the ordinary tones of an English voice when we are angry ; insomuch that I have often seen our audiences extremely mistaken as to what has been doing upon the stage, and expecting to see the hero knock down his messenger, when he has been asking him a question; or fancying that he quarrels with his friend, when he only bids him good-morrow, · For this reason the Italian artists cannot agree with our English musicians, in admiring Purcell's compositions, and thinking his tunes so wonderfully adapted to his words; because both nations do not always express the same passions by the same sounds.
I am therefore of opinion, that an English compo. ser should not follow the Italian recitative too servilely, but make use of many gentle deviations from it, in compliance with his own native language. He
may copy out of it all the lulling softness and Dying Falls, as Shakspeare calls them, but should still remember that he ought to accommodate himself to an English audience; and by humouring the tone of our voices in ordinary conversation, have the same regard to the accent of his own language, as those persons had to theirs whom he professes to imitate. It is observed that several of the singing birds of our own country learn to sweeten their voices, and mellow the harshness of their natural notes, by practising under those that come from warmer climates. In the same manner I would allow the Italian opera to lend our English music as much as may grace and soften it, but never entirely to annihilate and destroy it. Let the infusion be as strong as you please, but still let the subject-matter of it be English.
a composer should fit his music to the genius of the people, and consider that the delicacy of hearing, and taste of harmony, has been formed upon those sounds which every country abounds with ; in short, what is harmony to one ear, may be dissonance to another.
The same observations which I have made upon the recitative part of music, may be applied to all our songs and airs in general.
Signior Baptist Lully acted like a man of sense in this particular. He found the French music extremely defective and very often barbarous: however, knowing the genius of the people, the humour of their language, and the prejudiced ears he had to deal with, he did not pretend to extirpate the French music and plant the Italian in it's stead; but only to cultivate and civillize it with innumerable graces and modulations which he borrowed froin the Italian. By this means, the French music is perfect in it's kind; and when you say it is not so good as the Italian, you only mean that it does not please you so well; for there is scarce
a Frenchman who would not wonder to hear you give the Italian such a preference. The music of the French is indeed very properly adapted to their pronunciation and accent, as their whole opera wonderfully favours the genius of such a gay airy people. The chorus in which that opera abounds gives the parterre frequent opportunities of joining in concert with the stage. This inclination of the audience to sing along with the actors, so prevails with them, that I have sometimes known the performer on the stage do no more in a celebrated song, than the clerk of a parish-church, who serves only to raise the psalm, and is afterwards drowned in the music of the congregation. Every actor that comes on the stage is a beau. The queens and heroines are so painted, that they appear as ruddy and cherry-cheek'd as milk-maids. The shepherds are all embroider'd, and acquit themselves in a ball better than our English dancingmasters. I have seen a couple of rivers appear in red stockings; and Alpheus, instead of having his head covered with sedge and bull-rushes, making love in a fair full-bottomed perriwig, and a plume of feathers, but with a voice so full of shakes and quavers, that I should have thought the murmurs of a country brook the much more agreeable music.
I remember the last opera I saw in that merry nation, was the rape of Proserpine, where Pluto, to make the more tempting figure, put himself in a French equipage, and brings Ascalaphus along with him as his Valet de Chambre. This is what we call folly
and impertinence; but what the French look upon as · gay and polite.
I shall add no more to what I have here offered, than that music, architecture, and painting, as well as poetry and oratory, are to deduce their laws and rules from the general sense and taste of mankind, and not from the principles of those arts themselves; or in