Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 3.djvu/220

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supported the high reputation he had acquired on the Continent, but vanquished the enemies of his talents in England. His operas of the " Cid " and " Tamerlano," were equal, if not superior, to most of the musical dramas performed in any part of Europe ; indeed each of these dramas was so entire, so masterly, and yet so new and natural, that there was nothing left for criticism to censure, though innumerable beauties to point out and admire.' (Burney.)

In addition to the operas named above, he produced here ' Lucio Vero ' and ' Nitetti e Perseo.' His perfect comprehension of the art of writing for the voice, and the skill with which he adapted his songs to their respective expo- nents, contributed an important element to the success of his music, even indifferent singers being made to appear to advantage. His popu- larity, however, was undermined after a time, from a variety of causes. Jealousy led to cabals against him. ' Upon a difference with Rauzzini, this singer, from a friend, became a foe, declaring himself to be the author of the principal songs in all the late operas to which Sacchini had set his name, and threatening to make an affidavit of it before a magistrate. The utmost of this accusation that can be looked upon as true may have been that during Sacchini's severe fits of the gout, when he was called upon for his operas before they were ready, he employed Rauzzini, as he and others had done Anfossi in Italy, to fill up the parts, set some of the recitatives, and perhaps compose a few of the airs for the under singers.' (Burney.) He would probably have lived down this calumny, prompted as it was by personal spite, but his idle and dissolute habits estranged his friends, impaired his health, and got him deeply into debt, the consequence of which was that he left this coun- try arid settled in Paris Burney says in 1 784 ; Fetis in 1782. It seems probable that this last date is correct, as several of his operas were produced in the French capital during 1783-4. He had been there on a visit in 1781, when his ' Isola d'Amore,' translated by Frame'ry and adapted to the French stage, was played there successfully, under the name of 'La Colonie.' His ' Olimpiade ' is said to have been deprived of a hearing through the jealousy of Gluck. Burney says, that in Paris Sacchini was almost adored. His works were often performed and widely popular there after his death, but during his life his luck seems to have been almost invariably bad. He started with an apparent advantage in the patronage of Joseph II. of Austria, who was in Paris at the time, and recommended the composer to the protection of his sister, Marie Antoinette. Thanks to this, he obtained a hearing for his 'Rinaldo' (rearranged and partly re-written for the French stage as 'Renaud'), and for ' II gran Cid,' which, under the name of 'Chimene,' was performed before the Court at Fontainebleau. Both of these works contained great beauties, but neither had more than a limited success. ' Dardanus,' a French opera, was not more fortunate, in 1784. CEdipe a Colone' was finished early in 1785. This, his master- piece, brought him his bitterest disappointment. The Queen had promised that ' (Edipe' should be the first opera at the royal theatre during the Court's next residence at Fontainebleau. The time was approaching, but nothing was said about it, and Sacchini remarked with anxiety that the Queen avoided him and seemed uneasy in his presence. Suspense became intolerable, and he sought an audience, when the Queen unwillingly and hesitatingly confessed the truth. 'My dear Sacchini, I am accused of showing too much favour to foreigners. I have been so much pressed to command a performance of M. Lemoine's " Phedre " instead of your " (Edipe '* that I cannot refuse. You see the situation ; forgive me.' Poor Sacchini controlled himself at the moment, but on arriving at home gave way to despair. The Queen's favour lost, he believed his only chance gone. He took to his bed then and there, and died three months afterwards, on October 7, 1 786.

It is very difficult to form a just estimate of this composer, whose merits were great, yet whose importance to the history of Art seems now so small. The dramatic music of the end of the last century is summed up to us in the operas of Gluck and Mozart, exclusive of many others, akin to these in style and tendency, deficient only in the vital element which makes one work live while others die out. At the time of their production the line may have seemed more difficult to draw. One drop of essence may be distilled from a large quantity of material, yet without the proportion of material, that drop would not be obtained. Among the second- rate writers of this transition period, Sacchini must rank first. A little more force, perhaps a little less facility, and he might have been a great, instead of a clever, or a ' graceful, elegant and judicious ' composer. He, better than most Italians, seems to have understood the dawning idea of the ' poetical basis of music ' ; unfor- tunately the musical ideas, of which the super- structure must (after all) consist, while good and appropriate as far as they went, were limited. His dramatic sense was keen and just, but was not backed by sufficient creative power to make a lasting mark. Fear, remorse, love, hatred, revenge, these things repeat themselves in the world's drama from Time's beginning to its end, but their expressions are infinite in variety. They repeat themselves, too, in Sacchini's operas, but always in very much the same way. In his later works, the influence of Gluck's spirit is unmistakeable. There is a wide gulf between such early Italian operas as ' L'Isola d'Amore/ consisting of the usual detached series of songs, duets, and concerted pieces, and the '(Edipe a Colone,' where each number leads into the next, and where vigorous accompanied recitative and well-contrasted, dialogued choruses carry on and illustrate the action of the drama, while keeping alive the interest of the hearer. Burney remarks that Sacichini, ' observing how fond the English were of Handel's oratorio choruses, introduced