Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 2.djvu/536

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brought forth no permanent fruit, though he had no cause to be dissatisfied with the result of his own private venture: but pieces constructed more or less exactly upon the model of the 'Beggar's Opera,' though containing, for the most part, only original Music, became enormously popular, and were produced in almost incredible numbers. Between the years 1788 and 1796 Storace wrote fifteen, the most successful of which were 'The Haunted Tower,' 'No Song, no Supper,' 'The Iron Chest,' and 'Mahmoud.' Dibdin wrote a still greater number, including 'The Padlock' (1768), 'The Waterman' (1774), and 'The Quaker' (1775). His Songs were characterised by a genial raciness which brought them into universal fame at the time they were written, and has been the means of preserving many of them to our own day, though the pieces into which they were introduced have been long since utterly forgotten—with the exception, perhaps, of 'The Waterman,' which still occasionally appears, as an 'Afterpiece,' at Provincial Theatres, and in which Mr. Sims Reeves achieved, not many, years ago, a very great success. Shield was gifted with a true genius for Melody. His Songs are delightful; and, among the thirty Operas he produced between 1782 and 1807, are many, such as 'Rosina,' 'Lock and Key,' and 'The Castle of Andalusia,' [App. p.735 "omit 'The Castle of Andalusia,' since that opera is not by Shield but by Arnold"] which abound with beauties now very undeservedly forgotten. Michael Kelly was a prolific writer of English Operas, and won much fame by 'The Castle Spectre' (1797) 'Bluebeard' (1798), and 'The Wood Dæmon' (1807). Hook, Davy, Ware, Reeve, and many other equally popular writers, contributed their quota of works which have long since passed out of memory, but which our grandfathers held in no light esteem. To them succeeded Braham, whose really good Songs, so perfectly adapted to the powers of his matchless voice, commanded success for 'The English Meet' and many other pieces, which, as true works of Art, were certainly not on a level with those of Shield. Very different were the productions of Sir Henry Bishop, a thorough master of Harmony, and a more than ordinarily accomplished Musician. He made, indeed, no attempt to improve upon the form of the English Opera, which, in his hands, as well as in those of his predecessors, was still no more than a Play—generally a very poor one—diversified by a goodly collection of Songs, Duets, and Choruses. But neither his Songs nor his Concerted pieces betrayed the slightest sign of weakness. Had they formed parts of a well-constructed Drama, instead of being scattered through the various Acts of such ill-conceived medleys as 'The Knight of Snowdoun' (1810 [App. p.735 "1811"]), 'The Miller and his Men' (1813), or 'Guy Mannering' (1816); had their writer devoted his life rather to the regeneration of English Opra than to the less exalted task of adorning it with gems of which it was not worthy—the name of Bishop would not have stood very low down upon the list of the great Operatic Composers of the present century. But there seems to have been a great lack of energy in the right direction at this particular epoch. Charles Horn, another delightful Composer of English Operas, was equally content to let the general character of the piece remain as he found it. It would be scarcely just to say the same of Balfe, who first made himself famous, in 1835, by 'The Siege of Rochelle,' and, in 1843, produced the most successful modern English Opera on record, the far-famed 'Bohemian Girl.' Balfe's style was not an elevated one; but he possessed an inexhaustible fund of Melody, and by careful study of the Opéra comique, he certainly raised the standard of the pieces he wrote, so far as their general structure was concerned, though in so doing he deprived them of the most salient characteristics of the older models, and produced a novelty to which it is difficult to assign any definite artistic status—a peculiarity which is, also, to some extent observable in the works of Rooke, J. Barnett, Lavenu, Wallace, and E. J. Loder. Happily we find no such difficulty with regard to the works of our best living Operatic Composers, Sir Julius Benedict, Professor Macfarren, and Mr. Arthur Sullivan. With these talented writers it rests to raise the English School to a higher level than it has ever yet attained. They have already done much towards that most desirable end; and we cannot doubt that Artists who have hitherto so conscientiously striven to turn their gifts to the best account will continue their labour of love until they have invested our National Lyric Drama with a very different form from that which it presented during the earlier half of the present century. Should they succeed in this great work, they will certainly not fail to find a Manager able and willing to do them justice; for enterprising Managers have never been wanting when their presence was needed witness the work wrought by Arnold, Harrison, Miss Louisa Pyne, Carl Rosa, and many others. The prospects of English Opera are not, then, so dark as some of us may imagine.

The Eighteenth Period of our history takes us once more, and for the last time, to Italy, where we find the work of Cimarosa followed up by one of the most brilliant geniuses the world has ever known. While Weber was studiously developing the Romantic School in Germany, Rossini was introducing unheard-of changes—not always for the better, but always striking and effective—into the inmost constitution of Italian Art, and carrying them out with such trenchant vigour, and on so extensive a scale, that he may be said to have entirely remodelled both the Opera Seria and the Opera Buffa. Though by no means a learned Musician, he knew enough of the Grammar of his Art to enable him to do full justice to the delicious conceptions which continually presented themselves to his mind, without costing him the labour of a second thought. From first to last he never troubled himself to work. Nature had bestowed upon him the power of giving a nameless grace to everything he touched. His Melodies were