Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 4.djvu/570
In later years Boito became a fervent admirer of Wagner, and particularly of 'Lohengrin' and the 'Meistersinger,' but he was not in the least influenced by the German master's work: he admired but did not follow him. The only influences that acted strongly on him were those of Beethoven and Marcello, and a careful and diligent study of 'Mefistofele' will corroborate this assertion. About the time when 'Mefistofele' was given in Bologna, he began to' devote himself to the works of Sebastian Bach, who has since then reigned supreme in his estimation. Only the future will show what influence this study has brought to bear on his musical conceptions.
As we said above, all Boito's best poems are to be found in 'Il libro dei Versi,' a little book of less than two hundred pages. With the exception of 'Re Orso' they are short poems, full of originality and character. Opinions differed widely on their merit, but admirers and detractors agreed that either as an ornament or as a blemish they stand by themselves in Italian literature, and that he is no imitator. 'La mummia' 'George Pfecher' and 'Ad Emilio Praga' have always been considered the best, and 'King Orso' a fiaba, in two legends, an intermezzo and a moral, stands like a sphinx in the way of learned critics. What the poet meant by it no one knows, but leaving apart the drift of the poem there are in it flashes of light, dazzling, wild and sweet. The fifth number of the second legend, where the author narrates the thirty years' wandering of the worm that by fate had to enter the sepulchre of King Orso, is a marvel in its kind, and the troubadour's song (legend 1, no. 7) is unsurpassed in gentleness of thought and sweetness of expression, so much so that it is a wonder that song-writers have not yet seized upon it.
Boito is the author of several librettos or, better, of dramas for music, as it would be unfair to rank these literary gems on a line with the old-fashioned librettos of Italian operas. They are:—'Mefistofele,' 'Nerone,' 'Orestiade,' set to music by himself: 'Ero e Leandro' (Bottesini), 'Amleto' (Faccio), 'Gioconda' (Ponchielli), 'Alessandro Farnese' (Palumbo), 'Tram' (Dominiceto), 'Otello' (Verdi). Of these, only 'Mefistofele,' 'Gioconda,' 'Amleto,' 'Otello' and 'Ero e Leandro' have as yet been published, and each of them constitutes a perfect work of art by itself, independently of the musical setting. He is likewise the author of several translations, which include Wagner's 'Tristano ed Isolta,' 'Rienzi,' and 'Cena degli Apostoli,' Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, and some smaller works by Schumann and Rubinstein.Arrigo Boito has, since 1867, resided in Milan, where he lives with his brother Camillo. He does not occupy any official position, and leads a quiet and retired life. Though he is good-humoured, a pleasant companion, and of a kind and cheerful disposition, he carefully shuns fashionable society. The Italian government has conferred upon him first the title of 'Cavaliere,' then of 'Ufficiale' and lately of 'Commendatore'; but though he does not make a cheap show of pompous independence in refusing these titles, he does not like to be addressed otherwise than by his simple name, and even on state occasions he is never known to have worn the decoration to which he is entitled. Once, upon arriving at Venice, he went with a couple of friends to hire a piano. Having agreed on the instrument and on the price, he gave his name and address to the shopkeeper: reading the well-known name the good man began to 'Cavaliere' him at every other word, much to the annoyance of Boito. 'I did not know it was you, signor Cavaliere, I had the honour to serve,' the man proceeded, 'but being for you, signor Cavaliere, I shall make it five francs less a month.' 'My good fellow,' interposed one of the two friends, 'make it five francs more and don't call him Cavaliere, and it will be all right for both.'
[ G. M. ]
[ A. J. H. ]
BORGHI, Adelaide, formerly a celebrated mezzo-soprano singer, well known as Borghi-Mamo, was born in 1829 at Bologna. She showed as a child great aptitude for singing, and received instruction or advice from Pasta, and was also later advised by Rossini to adopt a