Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 1.djvu/424

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
412
COVENT GARDEN THEATRE.
COUSSEMAKER.

(Paris, 1873). At the time of his death he was preparing a continuation of his 'Art harmonique' to the fourteenth century. His legal writings are good, especially one on Flemish law. In early life he composed some masses and other church music. In spite of considerable errors his works form a most important contribution to the history of music.

[ F. G. ]

COUSSER or KUSSER, Johann Sigismund, son of a musician at Presburg; born there 1657, died in Dublin 1727. He studied six years in Paris under Lulli, and on his return to Germany was appointed chapel-master at Wolfenbüttel, and at Stuttgart. He lived at Hamburg from 1693 to 1697, conducting the performances at the opera, and is said to have been one of the first to introduce the Italian method of singing into Germany. Between 1700 and 1705 he made two journeys to Italy for study. Soon after, he came to London, and in 1710 received an appointment in the Cathedral of Dublin, of which he called himself chapel-master. He was also conductor of the King's band in Ireland until his death. His published works comprise the operas 'Erindo' (1693) 'Porus,' 'Pyramus and Thisbe' (1694), 'Scipio Africanus' (1695), and 'Jason' (1697), all performed at Hamburg; 'Apollon enjoué,' six operatic overtures and airs; an opera 'Ariadne'; and 'Heliconische Musenlust,' a collection of airs from Ariane (Nuremberg 1700); an Ode on the death of Arabella Hunt; and a 'Serenade' for the King's birthday (1724).

[ M. C. C. ]

COVENT GARDEN THEATRE, opened Dec. 7, 1732, under the management of Rich, who moved there with all his company from the theatre he had previously directed in Lincoln's Inn; burned on the night of Sept. 19, 1808; new theatre opened Sept. 18, 1809; converted into an opera-house 1847; burnt down 1856; reconstructed and opened again as an opera-house 1858. Though licensed for the performance of the higher class of dramatic works, to which the name of 'legitimate' is given, Covent Garden Theatre has been the scene of all kinds of theatrical representations; and two years after the first opening of the theatre, in 1734, we find the bill for March 11 announcing 'a comedy called The Way of the World, by the late Mr. Congreve, with entertainments of dancing, particularly the Scottish dance, by Mr. Glover and Mrs. Laguerre, Mr. Le Sac and Miss Boston, Mr. de la Garde and Mrs. Ogden; with a new dance called Pigmalion, performed by Mr. Malter and Mlle. Sallé.' 'No servants,' it is stated, in a notification at the end of the programme,' will be permitted to keep places on the stage.' Mlle. Sallé is said on this occasion to have produced the first complete ballet d'action ever represented on the stage. She at the same time introduced important reforms in theatrical costume. [See Ballet.] The chief composer of eminence connected with the theatre was Sir Henry Bishop, who between 1810 and 1824 produced at Covent Garden no less than fifty musical works of various kinds, including 'Guy Mannering,' 'The Miller and his Men,' 'The Slave,' and 'Clari,' besides adaptations of Rossini's 'Barber of Seville,' Mozart's 'Marriage of Figaro,' and other celebrated operas. 'Der Freischütz,' soon after its production in Germany, was brought out in an English version both at Covent Garden and at Drury Lane (1824). So great was its success that Weber was requested to compose for Covent Garden an entirely new opera. 'Oberon,' the work in question, was brought out in 1826 (April 12), when, though much admired, it failed to achieve such popularity as 'Der Freischütz' had obtained. It has been said that Weber was much affected by the coolness with which 'Oberon' was received. An excellent French critic, the late M. Scudo, writing on this subject in the 'Revue des Deux Mondes,' records the fact that 'Oberon' was very successful on its first production at Covent Garden, and adds that it was 'received with enthusiasm by those who were able to comprehend it.' An English musical journal, the 'Harmonicon,' published a remarkable article on 'Oberon,' in which, says M. Scudo, 'all the beauties of the score were brought out with great taste. It is impossible,' he continues, 'to quote an instance of a great man in literature or in the arts whose merit was entirely overlooked by his contemporaries. As for the death of Weber it may be explained by fatigue, by grief without doubt, but, above all, by an organic disease from which he had suffered for years.' Nevertheless the enthusiasm exhibited by the public at the first performance of 'Oberon' was not maintained at the following representations. The masterpiece of the German composer experienced much the same fate as 'Guillaume Tell' in Paris. In a letter to his wife, written on the very first night of performance, Weber says, 'My dear Lina, Thanks to God and to his all powerful will I obtained this evening the greatest success of my life. The emotion produced by such a triumph is more than I can describe. To God alone belongs the glory. When I entered the orchestra, the house, crammed to the roof, burst into a frenzy of applause. Hats and handkerchiefs were waved in the air. The overture had to be executed twice, as had also several pieces in the opera itself. At the end of the representation I was called on to the stage by the enthusiastic acclamations of the public; an honour which no composer had ever before obtained in England. All went excellently, and every one around me was happy.'

Between 1826 and 46 operas and musical dramas were from time to time played at Covent Garden. But it was not until 46 that the theatre was turned permanently into an opera-house; when, with the interior reconstructed by Mr. Albano, it was opened, in the words of the prospectus, 'for a more perfect representation of the lyric drama than has yet been attained in this country.' The director was Mr. Frederick Beale (of the firm of Cramer, Beale, & Co.), with whom was associated Signor Persiani, husband of the eminent prima donna of that name, and others. The musical conductor was Signor, now Sir Michael, Costa. In the company were in-