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of the day we are describing would not let us do otherwise. It is also an old fancy of ours to associate the ideas of Chaucer with that of any early and vigorous manifestation of light and pleasure. He is not only the "morning-star" of our poetry, as Denham called him, but the morning itself, and a good bit of the noon; and we could as soon help quoting him at the beginning of the year, as we could help wishing to hear the cry of primroses, and thinking of the sweet faces that buy them.
NEW TRAGEDY OF THE SERF.
LITTLE need be said of the new tragedy at Covent Garden, called the Serf. It turns upon the love of two brothers (a prince and a natural son) for the same lady. The lady's affection is for the latter. The prince, maddened with jealousy, forgets the regard he has had for a loving brother, and takes advantage of his illegitimate birth to inflict on him a series of degradations, the most prominent of which is putting him into livery, and making him wait at table on himself and his mistress. The brother, maddened in his turn, aims his sword at the tyrant, and is about to be condemned to death, when his pardon is procured by the self-sacrifice of the lady, who agrees to marry the prince provided her lover obtains his freedom. The compromise brings torture, instead of relief, to the poor lover; and the end is, that he fights with and is mutually slain with the prince, the lady arriving only in time to be clasped in his dying arms. It must not be forgotten that all this misery is brought about by another serf, a sort of Iago, who, because his wife had been forcibly taken from him by his feudal lord, the father of the two young men, is resolved to undermine their house, and be the death of as many aristocrats as possible.
There is "capability" in this plot; and one of the characters, the lady, is touchingly conceived; a right woman, who, with equal sense and sweetness, endeavours to make peace between the brothers; and failing, is driven upon one of those pieces of selfsacrifice, which it is so much more flattering to one sex to expect from them, than for the other to exact. In this, however, as in every other respect, the execution of the piece is a mere commonplace. The opinions are old; the language is old; the very liberalisms are old, lagging in, as it were, after the age has got beyond it, and halting us to read a superfluous moral. The tragedy is attributed to a young nobleman, author of some fashion
able novels, from one of which the plot is said to be taken. We know not how this may be; but the incident of the livery, upon which so much stress is laid, looks a little as if it came out of a sphere of life where such things are of consequence. It may be in keeping with the time of the piece; but people cannot enter now-a-days into the excessive degradation of wearing a particular sort of coat; nor very well pitch their imaginations back into those ages of lords and footmen. It is not that they would care nothing for the coat, but that they have far got beyond the question; and cannot, in the present state of their knowledge, and their tranquil scorn of those old abuses, sympathize properly with the frenzy produced by its infliction. They think the man ought to despise it. Tragedy should turn as little as possible upon those fashions of a passion, and identify itself with what is lasting. The other liveryman, the new lago, is less mixed up with the symbol of his servitude; but then it was a dangerous thing to give us an Iago not clever, a devil without any pepper of wit. And the man too, to account for his freedom of speech, and to remind us the worse of Shakspeare in the insipidity of it, is made a "jester." He is Yorick and Iago in one, and has not a word to say for himself. "Be still my heart"-" Distraction's in the thought”—“ You cannot surely be serious, Madam?"-these are the sort of phrases above which the dialogue seldom rises. The only good-looking things, the two or three plums of comfort, stuck in this very daily bread, were picked out by the newspapers, and are not new enough to repeat. The piece was given out when we saw it (the second night) with much more applause than objection; but we hold it impossible to have a run. The circles may help it to a promenade.
We would rather say nothing of the actors. Perhaps it would not be fair upon them in a piece like this. We must not forget, however, to mention our gratitude for the very capital selection of music, which is played at this theatre between the acts. Not having yet been at Drury Lane, we know not whether it is the same there. But here the lovers of Haydn and Mozart recognise with delight the most beautiful passages of those authors; not a hasty beginning or so, hacked into indifference, and interrupted by the rising of the curtain, before the best passages are arrived at; but the passages themselves, selected with the greatest taste, and recalling the happiest of one's musical evenings. On the night in question, for instance, there were some of the loveliest bits out of Haydn's symphonies, and the divine andante movement in Mozart's symphony in E flat.
Since writing the article on the Serf, the piece has died. We shall be more cautious in future how we make haste to criticise new plays, as we had much rather have to state why things succeed, than why they fail. It has been denied in the papers, that the author is the nobleman alluded to. A lady of quality has been mentioned, of whom surely it is unworthy. Rank, it would seem, has had something to do with it. But these are not points with which we mean to busy ourselves.
Sue John Tons
ITALIAN OPERA.--TANCREDI.-RE-APPEARANCE OF MADAME PASTA.
GOING to the King's Theatre again, is a very different thing from renewing one's acquaintance with the other theatres. We confess, with all our love of Italian and of singing, we do not like it so well. The quiet seems pleasanter at first; treading upon matting is a sort of polite and gingerly thing; and it is interesting to look around for those beautiful faces belonging to Lady Charlottes and Carolines, dropping their lids down upon us as if they wore coronets, and not always the better for it. But the cue of polite life is to take indifference for self-possession; and you are not seated long before you begin to feel that there is an air of neutralization and falsehood around you. The quiet is a dread of committing themselves;people come as much to be seen as to see;-the performers in the boxes prepare for disputing attention with those on the stage;men lounge about the allies, looking so very easy, that they are evidently full of constraint; the looks of the women dispute one another's pretensions;-if you have been long away, you are not sure that something is not amiss in your appearance, that you are not guilty of some overt-act of a wrong cape, or absurd reasonableness of neckcloth; in short, you feel that the great majority of the persons around you have come to the Opera because it is the Opera, and not from any real love of music and the graces. The only persons really interested, with the exception of a few private lovers of music here and there, are the young and inexperienced; musicians, who come to criticise the music; and foreigners, whom it is pleasant to hear speaking their own language. After all, these last are the only persons who seem at home. The musicians are apt to be thinking too much of their flats and sharps, and compasses of voice. The young people, though they dare not own it to themselves, soon get heartily tired of everything but looking at the company; and the private lover of music gets as tired with the glare and common-place of nine-tenths of the performance.
Thanks and glory to PASTA, who relieved us from all this spectacle of indifference and pretension, the moment we heard the soul in her voice, and beheld the sincerity in her face. Pit and boxes were at once forgotten, quality, affectation, criticism, everything but delight and nature. Like a lark, she took us up at once out of that "sullen earth," and made us feel ourselves in a heaven of warmth and truth, and thrilling sensibility. If these are thought enthusiastic phrases, they are so. What others could we use to do justice to the enthusiasm of genius, and to the delight it produces in those golden showers out of its sky?
We saw Madame Pasta, for the first time, years ago, in the character of the Page in Figaro, and afterwards, in that of the female (we forget her name) in the Clemenza di Tito, who sings with her lover the beautiful duet, Deh prendi un dolce amplesso. In the Page, if we recollect, we thought her heavy and ungain. In the other part, we remember that Begrez, a singer not given to too much passion, stood while he was singing the duet with her, holding her hand, not indifferently as they generally do, but with tenderness and affection, cherishing it against his bosom; a piece of nature, which we have since attributed to her suggestion. If we are wrong, we beg his pardon. At all events, it was creditable to him, suggested or not.
Since we have seen Madame Pasta again, the heavy kind of simplicity which we recollect in her Figaro, must either have been the consequence of her having a greater tact for nature and truth, than she at that time felt experience enough to put forth; or her performance of the part may have been better suited to the character than we took it for. The Page, in that very breath-suspended and conscious piece, which is always hovering on the borders of strange things, is in reality in a very awkward position, and extremely sensible of it; and we are not sure, if we could have seen Madame Pasta in it, with as much knowledge of her then, as we persuade ourselves we have now, that we should not have found her the exact person for the character, and presenting a portrait, full of truth, in its very ungainness and want of teaching.
Truth is the great charm of this fine vocal actress. She waits upon it, without claim or misgiving; and like a noble mistress, truth in turn waits upon her, and loves her like her child. We never saw anybody before on the stage who impressed us with a sense of this sort of moral charm in its perfection. Even Mrs Siddons had always a queen-like air in her nature, which seemed to be conscious of the homage paid it, and to crown itself with its glory. Madame Pasta, as the occasion demands, is tranquil, grave, smiling, transported, angry, affectionate, voluptuous; intent at one minute as a bust, radiant as a child with joy at the next; intellectual as a Muse, full of wily and sliding tones as a Venus; in short, the occasion itself, and whatever it does with the human being. Imagine a female brought up in solitude, with a natural sincerity that nothing has injured, walking quietly about a beautiful spot,
reading everything that comes in her way, accomplished, at ease, getting even a little too fat with the perfection of her comfort and her ignorance of anything ungraceful; and imagine this same female gifted with as much sensibility as truth, and weeping, laughing, and undergoing every emotion that books can furnish her with, as she turns over the leaves; and you have a picture of this noble performer, and the extraordinary effect she produces without anything like theatrical effort. Not that she cannot indulge the critics now and then with the idea of a stage-actress, and set herself to make her bravura effective; but truth is at the bottom even of that, and she is sure to throw in some tone, and sweet reference to nature; as much as to say to the lovers of it, "Do not imagine I have forgotten you." She is like a nature full of truth, brought out of solitude into the world;-and too much habituated to sincerity, too sweet in the use of it, and too conscious of the power it gives her, to forego so rare, so charming, and so triumphant a distinction.
We do not pretend to make any discovery in this matter. The accounts we heard of her in Medea shewed us that the discovery had been made already; and it has been set forth by a critic, worthy of that name, in an article comparing this "perfection of natural acting" with that of the French. With a reference to this article, which is to be found in the "Plain Speaker," vol. 2, and which we regret we have no room to quote, for nothing need be said of the opera itself, we must conclude. Tancredi is said to be one of the most popular of Rossini's operas, but is by no means one of his best; being crammed, in fact, as full of common-places and old threadbare recitative, as nine-tenths of it can hold. It is theatrical clothesman's music. But there is good in the remainder; and the fine air, Di tanti palpiti, is part of it. If any one thinks he has heard this air a hundred times, till he has got tired of it, let him never mind, but go and hear it from Madame Pasta; he will then find he has never heard it before. We have left ourselves as little room to speak of the other performers, some of them excellent in their way, especially Madame Caradori; but after our new, true, and most original acquaintance, even the best of conventional singers become comparatively uninteresting. Caradori is like a sweet and perfect musical instrument, by the side of her; not that she does not act too better than most singers; she even contrives, in her manners, to give us an amiable as well as clever idea of her; but Pasta, coming upon all this, even in her most tranquil moments, seems like the very noon-tide of humanity risen upon a cold morning of it. There is more effective grace in the least of her movements, though she is too fat, and sometimes looks heavily so, than in all the received elegancies of the stage;-so beautiful as well as great is truth. By the way, we had forgotten to say that her voice is not perfect. Who asks whether any voice is so, when sensibility and sincerity speak together, and the sound is hugged into one's heart!