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PUBLIC AMUSEMENTS OF THE METROPOLIS.
“ Then to ihe well-trod stage anon."
" And ever against eating cares
Lap me in soft Lydian airs,
The Italian Opera has still continued the great central attraction of our pleasure-seekers: the taste for music being at least on a par with the taste for fashion, and both combining to render this theatre the ne plus ultra of desirability. The first novelty that occurred after we had gone to press last month was the new ballet of “ Rosida.” This production, the brilliant idea of the fair dancer who is also its heroine, is an old Germanic fiction, infinitely improved, and married only so far to mysticism and the piece, as to exhibit pleasingly-marvellous pantomimic effects. Indeed, even on the Proteus-like boards of her Majesty's theatre, this display of subterranean splendour was both novel and interesting ; and the accompaniments of sylphs and gnomes, “white spirits and grey,” Viennese dancers and thinly-robed fairy-queens, with agrecable music, established the ballet at once as a seasonal favourite.
The operas performed here with the best success have been “ Don Giovanni,” “Lucrezia Borgia,” “I Puritani,” and “ Otello." “ Il Pirata” is not a favourite with the public, for it possesses the double fault of indifferent and borrowed harmonies. Madame Castellan's young and fresh voice becomes daily more popular. It has not a strained or harsh feature in its whole compass, and from first to last of an opera it is untiringly sweet and tender. Grisi (with some unequal nights) has maintained in the worthiest manner her reputation as a first-rate vocalist ; and, we trust, for many seasons yet to come, the brilliant lustre of her powers, as our most admired prima donna, will remain undimmed. We heard her last as Desdemona, and believe that in the first scenes she was suffering from some slight indisposition ; but, if it were so, apparently it soon ceased, and she speedily, as usual, electrified her audience by that display too well known almost to be specified. Il padre m'abbandoni, and Al piu sl’un salice, were the two favourites, perhaps, in which she triumphed
the most. We can scarcely sufficiently do justice to Castellan's Zerlina : since the lamented times of Malibran, we have not yet been so well pleased with the cast of the character : and still more perfect than her Zerlina, is the manner in which she performs " La Sonnambula.” Indeed, as Grisi's forte is the grand and majestic, where a sort of stern and overwhelming power is required, such as in “ Norma," “Semiramide," " Anna Bolena,” &c., so Castellan's genius is best proved in those parts where the energetic pathos and tenderness of the simple, truthful, loving girl, appeals to the feelings rather than the judgment of an audience. Brambilla and Madame Bellini have mainly assisted the brilliancy of the season. Mario was never so highly appreciated for the unequalled softness of his voice, and for those dramatic qualities he will not always exert, but which undoubtedly are always called forth at will. As Elvino, in “Il Pirata," rather more than a week ago, he obtained from us that unqualified admiration, which is sometimes withheld by the inertness of his acting: and, in this, he has often reminded us of the gifted Malibran, who would sometimes almost appear without power to embody her own conceptions, and who, withal, had within her the greatest amount of musical and dramatic genius it has ever been our lot to meet with in a singer. Moriani is very great in most of his characters: his part in " Linda di Chamouni," in which he so ably supports Madame Anaide, is perhaps that most suited (of all its range) to his peculiar and effective organs. Fornasari, Lablache, even Corelli, the best Roderigo (in “ Otello") we have heard this many a day, still increase the measure of delight awarded to the dilettanti of this house, still
“ Untwisting all the chains that tie
The hidden soul of harmony." The re-engagement of the little Viennoises, the charming automata of terpsichorean science, gives universal satisfaction. Carlotta Grisi in her unequalled Esmeralda, Cerito in her more aerial sphere, Lucile Grahn in her not so attractive, but still most spirituelle grace, and Taglioni's first-cast appearance (that has taken place with unrivalled applause even as we go to press), these are the attractions that (opera and ballet included) render the opera-going public of 1845 almost unanimous in opinion that it is, and has been, the phoenix of seasons.
The little theatre of St. James's, withal the hottest in London, is still the crowded resort of the distinguished : and deservedly so, for Mr. Mitchell has not failed to give us a succession of the principal Parisian “stars" of the drama. That most agreeable tenor and excellent actor, M. Achard, is at present the chief mark of attention. His re-appearance in “ La Famille du Fumiste” was hailed with much warmth, and his last night (which is said to take place on the evening of the day on which we indite our remarks on his popularity in this country) will no doubt prove that his exertions have been crowned with increased favour.' We have ourselves witnessed his Guillaume. Among Les Dames de la Cour, the finesse with which he opes the paysan is delightful: indeed, both for costume and comi
cality this little opera of “ Trianon,” in which he figures as Guillaume, is invaluable. We have also been present at a stupid vaudeville called “ L'Amour en Commandite," which the actor's powers alone made amusing; the amusing solo vaudeville of “Le Brasseur des Champs Elysées ;" “ Babiole et Jablot;" the latter one of his very best performances; and we have, in common with all who have seen him, pronounced his Pascal in “ L'Aumonier du Regiment” a perfect specimen of the tact and discrimination peculiar to the histrionic powers of our continental neighbours. He is to be immediately succeeded by M. Arnal, of whom great things are augured. We omitted to mention the sweet effect produced by the mode in which Achard sings Felicien David's admired production of “Les Hirondelles." Eliza Forgeot is the most sprightly of all French actresses. We have always to remark, indeed, even among the mere subordinates of a French company, an infinitely greater amount of stage knowledge, of keeping, and of nature in art—that is, of natural gesticulation, ease of manner, and attention to the parts enacted-than we unfortunately observe in most English corps dramatiques. The probability of a national failure may be traced to a general want of enthusiasm in our several vocations. We go through a routine merely as the routine of business, without taking the trouble, or perhaps, without having the capacity to extract the amusement from it, which appears always to be done with our more volatile neighbours.
We must still continue, alas! on the foreign list while we justly eulogize the Brussels Company that have been for a short time past occupying the boards of poor Covent GARDEN-fallen, indeed, from its high estate, as a national bulwark of the drama. We have in that little central capital of Brussels itself often enjoyed the excellence of their opera as a whole-a second-rate excellence after all—and yet not to be sneezed at, even by our more finished artistes of the Italian Theatre. First of all, every one will confess that the Brussels orchestra is Germanic in its excellence; that its vocal corps is welldisciplined, its general effect most satisfactory. Charles Hussers is an excellent band-conductor, and so methodical and unaffected in his manner as to be a pleasing contrast to the ostentatious pretensions of some of our foreign leaders of orchestras : each of the members of his band are choice instrumentalists, and prove, therefore, collectively most admirable accompanyists. We need not individualize: Madame Julien, Madame Guichard, Madame Laborde, Laurent, Quelleveri, Condere: these are all efficient principal portions of an excelling whole. The choruses are remarkably good in their acting and expression, and, we must say, although we very much deplore the deficiency of national spirit, and perhaps of national talent, that thus permits us to lavish the preponderance of our wealth upon foreigners, instead of upon our fellow-countrymen, that in this case popular favour is thoroughly well bestowed. A Brussels manager does not take liberties with an opera: the score is religiously respected. We bear it such as a composer of genius has produced it, and therefore we have a full comprehension of what is going on. Why is half-price banished from this theatre ? -because foreigners bring foreign customs too?
At DRURY LANE, Madame Anna Thillon continues still the standard of taste. The summer atmosphere seems to have had a softening effect upon the wires of her voice, and it is certainly improved.
The HAYMARKET, albeit the never failing resort of the laughterloving, has, perhaps, suffered slightly of late weeks, that the tide of fashion bas set in for the nonce towards Italian theatres and foreign performances. Yet, although not over-crowded, we have never yet visited this theatre that it has not been well and respectably attended. Time works Wonders” las not yet proved the force of its own axiom, for it remains an almost undiminished attraction. A new dramatic sketch, entitled “ The Old Soldier," at this house, is to be praised for enabling Farren to shine as the new “ old Adam," a capital representation, but not altogether a pleasing one, of failing powers. We like Farren best in his representation of elderly, not aged, persons : in the latter category he is too true to nature; for nature, at that advanced period, is not graceful nor loveable, however honest and amiable. At this theatre we have always to eulogise, as the exception among London theatres, that tact and ensemble in the company we have mentioned as characteristic of a French corps dramatique. For this special reason, amusement, and rational amusement too, is never wanting to its audiences. The droll farce of " The King and I,” is not the least amusing performance of the Haymarket company.
The PRINCESS's theatre has established a sort of reign to itself by the popularity of Miss Cushman. Her powers during the last month have been variously tried, and in every case she has reaped new laurels. She combines, evidently, great perseverance with a just discernment. Thus also, though by no means finished in the graces of her art, she examines, in every character she has hitherto attempted, its intellectual anatomy; and, acting up to her conception with intense energy, she infuses into the spectator the same moral abstraction, as it may be termed, by which she is herself carried away. Besides those characters of Shakspere we have in other numbers enumerated, she has exhibited her skill in “ Fazio” (an unpleasant play), Mrs. Haller, in the “ Stranger," and the chief part of a new five-act play, from the pen of that well-known and veteran dramatic author, Mr. James Kenney. The heroine is a noble lady of the time of the French Empire, married, for political purposes, by Napoleon to a man whom she does not love. According to the Emperor's behest, she should play the part of a foreign spy. Not only her sense of honour, but her involuntary attachment for a young German (a passion which gives the play the name of “ Infatuation”), alike deter her from this base method of reaching the highest step in the ladder of ambition. The struggles, incident to the position, of her good and evil feelings, Miss Cushman pourtrays very finely; and, as the language is exceedingly good, the interest does not flag, even to the happy denouement. Her nasal twang is the only drawback.
An imitation of Her Majesty's Bal Costume was not amiss at this little house, if taken in its proper sense of a burlesque upon the real pageant. Mrs. Stirling exhibits to advantage in a little drama called “ The Carbonari," or, “ The Bride of Parma.” Altogether the public do complete justice to the exertions of the stage-manager of this diminutive salle de spectacle.
The LYCEUM novelty is called “Friends at Court;" but though the costumes are good, and the getting-up of the affair praiseworthy, it is too dull a piece for further specification. Mr. Taylor's jointauthorship seems more successful, as "Cinderella” still largely attracts. The small fairy children at this bouse are the prettiest coryphées or corps de ballet we have seen for some time.
The ADELPHI is strong in fun. T. P. Cooke, in “ Poor Jack," a small drama, extracted from Marriott's worst novel; and in Wright, as Paul Pry, wherein he rivals, if he cannot excel, the old fame of Liston. We have, besides, a good word to say, deservedly, of Mr. C. Selby's “ Irish Dragoon;" and his new farce, “ Powder and Ball,” at this small house, not only sustains, but augments his reputation. It is a really droll burlesque, drolly acted, and, above all, drolly costumé; all, of course, in laughable imitation of the great guin of the season-Her Majesty's fancy ball. Miss Woolgar is the popular actress at the Adelphi, but there are pretty and deserving young artistes besides her-witness Miss Taylor and Miss Ellen Chaplin, in their nice costumes in this piece.
At Astley's Mr. Batty continues his course of interesting novelties. In the “ Battle of Waterloo,” Mr. Gomersal appears as Napoleon, in his very habit as he lived ; and certain foreign ladies exhibit on horseback in the circle, as we could wish native ladies, who equitate in public, could contrive to do. It is at last become the fashion to attend the performances at Astley's, which really seems singular, considering it is a most convenient place, where you are neither squeezed to death in getting in, nor smotbered after you accomplish the entrance.
VAUXHALL GARDENS are once more with verdure clad, after so many years lıybernation. By verdure, of course we mean variegated lamps, and all the adornments similar to such al-fresco rendezvous. In the orchestra is M. Musard with his band.
The leader, a great creature, who alone has succeeded in putting before the vulgar comprehension “ the might and majesty' of fiddling. And, d-propos of resuscitations, there is the master of the ceremonies
Imperious Simpson, dead and turn'd to clay,
Revisiting the glimpses of the day, or rather the night (but that wouldn't have done for our rhyme), in his successor Widdicombe; and may he never have a successor! as, indeed, it's probable he won't. And now, before we take leave of immortalities, a word about their old roast fowls. Some of them, that we tried to eat, we feel confident were contemporaries of that same Widdicombe at least during the last century or so. We beg to ask the proprietors if they cannot supply the public with chickens, What can have become of all the young rooks?