Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 3.djvu/264

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Mr. Loder (father of Edward Loder) being prin- cipal violin. This was but the commencement of a series of adaptations from foreign works, diversified by novelties from indigenous pens. Among notable incidents during Schira's term of conductorship may be specified the memorable debut of Anna Thillon in an English version of Auber's 'Diamans de la Couronne' (May 1844), that of Mile. Nau in 'La Sirene' (Nov. 1844), and the production of two operas by Balfe, ori- ginally composed for the Paris Ope'ra Comique 'Le Puits d'Amour,' rechristened 'Geraldine* (Nov. 1843), and ' Les Quatre Fils d'Aymon,' re- christened 'The Castle of Aymon* (Nov. 1844). At the end of 1844 Schira accepted an engage- ment from Mr. Alfred Bunn, then lessee of Drury Lane, to fill the place left vacant by Mr. (now Sir Julius) Benedict, who resigned immediately after Balfe's 'Daughter of St. Mark' was brought out. At Drury Lane he remained unti 1 the spring of 1 847, when Mr. Bunn seceded from the manage- ment, the committee having entertained the proposal of M. Jullien to become future lessee ; and here several adaptations of foreign operas, besides a good number of works by English com- posers, were produced. From the latter it will suffice to name Wallace's 'Maritana' and 'Matilda of Hungary,' Macfarren's 'Don Quixote,' Bene- dict's ' Crusaders/ Lavenu's ' Loretta ' (composed for Mme. Anna Bishop), Balfe's ' Enchantress,' etc. ; among the former, Flotow's * Stradella* and ' Martha.' In Sept. 1848 Mr. Bunn took Covent Garden Theatre, and Schira was again, appointed conductor. The season only lasted two months, but was not without interest. It comprised the first theatrical engagement after his brilliant suc- cess, the year before, at Drury Lane, of Mr. Sims Reeves, for whom an adaptation of Auber's ' HaydeV was produced, the great English tenor assuming the part of Loredano ; another English adaptation of Rossini's ' Donna del Lago ' ; and an entirely new opera, called ' Quentin Durward,' the composition of Mr. Henri Laurent. The success of the enterprise was not in proportion to the expectations of the manager; 'Quentin Durward' was by no means a hit, and though Bunn had lowered his prices the house was pre- maturely closed. Thus an opera, entitled ' Kenil- worth,' from Schira's own pen, which had already been put into rehearsal, with Sims Reeves in the part of Leicester, was lost to the public, and no more English opera was heard at Covent Garden until Miss Pyne and Mr. Harrison migrated from the Lyceum, to carry on their undertaking in a more spacious arena.

Although he had severed his connection with the Princess's as musical director, in which position his worthy successor was Mr. Edward Loder, Schira wrote two original works for the theatre in Oxford Street 'Mina,' produced in

1849, and 'Theresa, or the Orphan of Geneva,' in

1850, both, the latter especially, received with marked favour. The leading singers in 'Mina' were Miss Louisa Pyne, Mme. Weiss, Messrs. W. Harrison, Weiss and H. Corri ; in 'Theresa' Miss Louisa Pyne, Messrs. Allen, Weiss, H. Corri,


and Wynn (brother of Mr. G. A. Sala, and a humourist in his way). Mr. Bunn, however, having once more become lessee of ' Old Drury,' naturally looked back for his old and tried adviser. Schira was once more engaged as con- ductor, with W. Lovell Phillips as chorus-master. The theatre opened on Jan. 23, 1852, with an English version of ' Robert le Diable,' succeeded by 'Fra Diavolo,' with Mr. Sims Reeves (Brigand Chief), and Miss Lucombe. The principal incident that marked the season was the production of ' The Sicilian Bride,' by Balfe, in no respect one of his most successful efforts. From this time Schira devoted himself specially to giving instructions in the vocal art. He nevertheless did not neglect composition, as testified in a number of charming songs, duets, trios, etc., some of which have at- tained wide popularity. He also was busily employed in the composition of a grand opera, called 'Niccolb de'Lappi,' performed with marked applause at Her Majesty's Theatre in May 1863. For the Carnival at Naples, two years later, he wrote another grand opera, entitled ' Selvaggia,' which was given with brilliant success, and re- presented at Milan, Barcelona and elsewhere. The reception accorded to ' Selvaggia ' led to his being asked to write another opera, ' Lia,' for Venice. This, also brought out during the Carnival, was hardly so much to the taste of the Venetians as its precursor. Nevertheless there are amateurs who regard ' Lia ' as Schira's capo di lavoro.

The managers of the Birmingham Festival having commissioned Schira to write a cantata for the meeting of 1873 the work was undertaken with ready zeal, and performed under the com- poser's own direction on the evening of the first day (Aug. 26). The cantata is entitled 'The Lord of Burleigh,' the libretto, by Mr. Desmond Lumley Ryan, being founded upon the Laureate's well-known poem, though not a line has been appropriated from Tennyson, save the motto which heads the title-page of the printed edi- tion. The piece was received with distinguished favour, two numbers were encored, and the com- poser called back with unanimity to the platform. Since then Schira has been almost silent as a producer for the stage, the only exception being an operetta, entitled 'The Ear-ring,' performed at the St. George's Hall Theatre. Anything like^ a catalogue of his miscellaneous pieces would occupy too much space. Enough that Francesco Schira is a composer of the genuine Italian type; Italian by birth he is also Italian by predilection a true child of the sunny land to which we owe Piccinni, Cimarosa, Paisiello, Rossini, Bellini and Verdi. His music, while revealing the hand of one who has thoroughly mastered the prin- ciples of his art, is free from all pretence, relying upon its unaffected simplicity and grace for the impression it seldom fails to create. His most important works having been referred to, a re- capitulation would be superfluous. As an in- structor in singing Schira has always maintained a high position, many a public vocalist of note having profited by his counsels. In his own

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