Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 1.djvu/392
(vaudeville-wise) they had been written, took on themselves this portion of the dumb actors' duties—doubtless with sufficient spirit and intensity. The popularity of these performances, which, in spite or because of the restrictions upon them, increased day by day, eventually brought about a treaty of peace between the would-be monopolists of speech and song and the 'marionettes.' In 1716 Catherine Vanderberg, then directress, obtained a licence for the presentation of dramatic pieces interspersed with singing and dancing, and accompanied by instruments, to which the name 'opéra comique' was given, and has since in France always been applied.
Meanwhile the numerous alumni of the Neapolitan school, of whose existence the Abbé Raguenet had first made his countrymen aware, had been continuing the important work, initiated by the Florentine Academy a century earlier, of cultivating and refining musical expression—the widest sphere for whose exercise is unquestionably the musical drama. As among the French 'opera comique,' so among the Italians 'opera buffa,' took root and flourished, though restricted for a long time to short pieces of one act only, which were given (as 'divertissements' continued to be till our own time) between the acts of 'opere serie.' One of the most successful of these (it still keeps the stage), the 'Serva Padrona' of Pergolesi, was produced in Paris by French performers in 1746—ten years after the untimely death of its composer—with favour, but without any perceptible effect on the French taste. But its second production, in 1752, resulted in bringing the new Italian and the old French tastes into direct and fierce antagonism. Among the leaders in this war, of which that of the Gluckists and Piccinnists was but a continuation, one of the most distinguished was Jean Jacques Rousseau, who indulged his love of paradox to the extent of endeavouring to prove that, the French language being incapable of association with music, French music was and always must be non-existent. Rousseau's practical commentary on this thesis was the subsequent and very successful production of 'Le Devin du Village.'Since the beginning of the 18th century comic opera has everywhere divided with serious the attention and affection alike of composers and audiences. Among every people cultivating musical drama it has had its creators and admirers. The conditions of comic opera in Italy and France, where it has as yet taken the deepest root and branched out most luxuriantly, have remained unchanged since its first growth in either country. In the former the dialogue of opera is still uttered musically; in the latter it is for the most part spoken. A class of comedian has consequently been formed, and indeed brought to perfection, in France, which has no existence in Italy—a class formed of actors, and therefore on the French stage speakers, who are also not unfrequently singers of considerable, and indeed very considerable, skill. On the Italian stage the singing actor never speaks. The progress therefore of comic opera in the direction it has taken in France has in Italy been impossible; and whether from this or some other cause productiveness in this delightful form of art on the part of Italian composers may be said to have come to an end. More than sixty years have elapsed since the production of 'Il Barbiere,' thirty since that of 'Don Pasquale.' Moreover some of the best modern works of this class, whether by Italian or other composers, have been formed on the French model and first produced on the French stage. 'Le Comte Ory' of Rossini, and 'La Fille du Regiment' of Donizetti, are to all intents and purposes French operas. The present undisputed representative of Italian musical drama, Verdi, made some experiments in opera buflfa at the outset of his career; but with such small success as to have discouraged him from renewing them.
[ J. H. ]
COMMA. A comma is a very minute interval of sound, the difference resulting from the process of tuning up by several steps from one note to another in two different ways. There are two commas.
1. The common comma is found by tuning up four perfect fifths from a fixed note, on the one hand, and two octaves and a major third on the other, which ostensibly produce the same note, thus—
or by multiplying the number of the vibrations of the lowest note by ⅔ for each fifth, by 2 for each octave, and by 5⁄4 for the perfect third. The result in each case will be found to be different, and the vibrations of the two sounds are found by the latter process to be in the ratio of 80:81. The difference between the two is a comma.
2. The comma maxima, or Pythagorean comma, is the difference resulting from the process of tuning up twelve perfect fifths on the one hand, and the corresponding number of octaves on the other; or, by multiplying the number of vibrations of the lowest note by 3/2 for every fifth, and by 2 for every octave. The difference will appear in the vibration of the two notes thus obtained in the ratio of 524,288:551,441, [App. p.595 "531,441"] or nearly 80:81.0915.Other commas may be found by analogous processes, but the above two are the only ones usually taken account of.
[ C. H. H. P. ]
[ J. M. ]
- Comic opera is the opera of comedy, not 'comic' in the vulgar English sense.