« AnteriorContinuar »
Enter AcaMAs, Speaking from without. Guards, &c
Where, where is this King?
Some god hold back my arm from brother's blood!
- It is not menot me, presumptuous youth ! The goddess thou affront'it !-thy impious sword,
It rages against heaven!
Better fubmit, [Aide to Demophon
I'll turn the tempeft.
Say'st thou, miscreant!
(Exeunt Demophon, Priests, &c. Macaria, My full heart must not-oh, it cannot speak
This tumult of emotion!
To its foundation shake ch' Athenian throne.' This maternal distress, added to that of Macaria, though not in the drama of Euripides, is far from new to our stage, and has often, even recently, been exhibited to English spectators. Lovers also have repeatedly been involved in distresses similar to those of Acamas. The diction is, for the most part, the hacknied cant of the theatre.
The Prologue is only distinguished by a laboured mediocrity; and the Epilogue is written in imitation of some of the later
compositions of Garrick, as well as the celebrated Epilogue of Budgell to the Diftreffed Mother, with the happy addition of a well-timed compliment to an English commander.
Art. VIII. The Lord of the Manor, a Comic Opera, as it is
performed at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane, with a Preface by the Author. 8vo.
Evans. 1781. 'HIS opera the Writer has introduced to the Public with
I s. 6 d.
probably tend to confirm the fufpicion, but feebly combated, concerning the perfon of the supposed Author. The Lord of the Manor, though without the humour of Steele and Farquhar, like the pieces of Steele and Farquhar, relishes of the military. Even our Author's favourite, Moll Flagon, has a sister in the Recruiting Officer or Funeral, we forget wbich, who, like Moll Flagon, smells of gunpowder. The recruiting scenes also are drawings in the same school, but should not, we allow, be thought liable " to the charge of ill-will to the military service." The reflections, in the Preface, on the use of music on the ftage, on Opera, and the English Comic Opera in particular, are for the moft part juft. The following passages will, we doubt not, fall in with the sentiments of the intelligent Reader :
One branch of Comic Opera which meets with success on our ftage is evidently a graf: from the Burletta of the Italians; and little as I
may admire it in general, I'will venture to say, respectively to the writing, it is improved in our soil. Midas, the Golden Pippin, and some others, considered as pieces of parody and burlesque, are much better than any Italian Burletta I know. In fact, there is in general in the Italian Drama of this name an infipidity, mixed with a buffoonery too low to be called farcical, which would make the representation insupportable in England, were the language underfood, or attended io in any other view than as the introduction and display of exquisite music.
• I cannot easily bring myself to allow the higher branch of our Comic Opera to be of foreign extraction. From the time the Beggar's Opera appeared, we find pieces in prose, with fongs interspersed, to approaching to regular Comedy in plot, incident, and preserva tion of character, as to make them a disinct species from any thing we find abroad and is it too much to add, that the sense, wit, and humour to be found in some of them are ilerling English marks by which we may claim the species as our own ? The musical pieces at Paris, upon the Theatre culled Les Italiens, sprung up from the decline of a sort of Drama where half the personages were Italian, as was half the language. When Harlequin and Argentine grew unfashionable, such o her representations as served bett for an hour of mere «lißipation succeeded, and the light and easy munic with which they were accompanied, made them very popular. But the pieces are either parodies, or founded in general upon materials which would be thought in England too flimsy for any
thing but an after-piece. They are composed with an amusing playfulness of imagination, which runs love through all its divisions, and usually contain abundance of very pretty vocal music, with a scarcity of incident and little variety of character. It is not intended to degrade or depreciate this file of writing as applicable to a Paris audience: it is only meant to state it more widely separate and distinct from the force and spirit of regular comedy than our own. They who are unacquainted with the Paris theatre, are referred for judgment upon this subject to the Deserter, Zemira and Azor, and other direct translations; and to Daphne and Amintor, and Thomas and Sally, and other after-pieces, very good in their kind, but written after the French manner. The Padlock is above this class in display of characters ; and the French have nothing upon their Musical Comic Stage to compare, as resembling Comedy, with Love in a Village, or the Maid of the Mill, or, to take itill greater credit to our Theatre, the Duenna.'
• In a represegtation which is to hold " a mirror up to natare, ” and which ought to draw its chief applause from reason, vocal music hould be confined to express the feelings of the passions, but never to express the exercise of them. Song, in any action in which reason tells us it would be unnatural to fing, mult be preposterous. To fight a duel, to cudgel a poltroon in cadence, may be borne in a burletta, upon the same principle that in the serious opera we see heroes fight lions and monsters, and sometimes utter their last (truggles for lite in fong, and die in strict time and rune : but these liberties would be torally inadmisible in the kind of drama which I am recommenda, ing. My idea' might be further explained by a passage in the piece of Marmontel before referred to. It appeared to one of the newspaper critics, that I had been guilty of a great error in not introducing a scene in the Silvain, wherein che Gardes Chase of the Seigneur attack the sportsman with guns in their hands, threatening to moot him unless he surrenders his gun, which he persists in preserving. By the bye, this sort of authority is more natural in France than I hope it would yet be thought to be in England: but that was not my principal objection. This scene upon the French stage is all in long; and even at Paris, where licence of throwing action into song is so much more in use than it is here, and where I have often seen ic excellently performed, the idea of five or fix fellows with fufils presented at a gentleman's head, and their fingers upon the triggers, threatening his life in bass notes, he resisting in tenor, and a. wife or daughter throwing herself between them in treble, while the speciator is kept in suspence, from what in realicy must be a momentary event, till the composer has run his air through all its different branches, and to a great length, always gave me disgult to a great degree,
* Music, therefore, if employed to express action, must be confined to dumb thew. It is the very essence of pantomime; and we have lately seen upon che opera stage how well a whole fiory may be told in dance; bui in all these instances music ftands in the place of speech, and is itself the only organ to express the sentiments of the aclor.
« To return to the application of vocal music upon the English theatre : it must not only be restrained from having part in the exer. cise or action of the passions ; care must be also taken, that it does not interrupt or delay events for the issue of which the mind is become eager. It should always be the accessory and not the principal subject of the drama; but ar the same time spring out of it in such a manner that the difference can hardly be discerned, and that it should feem neither the one nor the other could be spared.
• And notwithstanding all these reftri&tions vocal music judiciously managed would bave many occasions to distinguish its own specific charms, at the same time that it embellished, enriched, and elevated regular dramatic compositions. In tragedy, I am convinced, the mind would peculiarly feel its powers.
“ Not touch'd but rapt, not waken'd but inspir’d." In the humbler, but not less instructive line of comedy, its office 'would be to convey through the sweetest channel, and to establish by the most powerful impressions upon the mind, maxim, admonition, sentiment, virtue.'
We do not think that music in comedy should be entirely confined to the conveyance of maxim, admonition, sentiment, virtue.' It surely may be extended to festivity and humour; and yet with all these indulgencies, it will not be able, as the writes contends, to carry the comic opera' a step above reguJar comedy ;' a new species of drama which, with an arrogant modeity, the Author professes himself to have 'HUMBLY attempted in the Lord of the Manor ; the leading incident of which is avowedly taken from the Silvain of Marmontel.
The fable of the piece is originally fo much coloured after the French manner, that the chief labour of our Author seems to have been bestowed on giving it an English air. Young Contrast appears to be intended as a representative of our modern coxcombs, and might perhaps, with certain theatrical aslistances, assume that shape on the stage; but in the closet, he is no more than a faint copy of the fops that swarmed in our comedies, from the days of Etherege to those of Cibber. The females are but insipid personages, and the only attempt at novelty of character is in the skin-merchant, the crimp. The songs we think fuperior in excellence to the dialogue, though we are not among the respectable judges' who have attributed them to Mr. Sheridan.
Art, IX. Dilipation. A Comedy, in Five A&ts; as it is performed
at the Theatre-Royal, in Drury-Lane, By Miles Peter Andrews,
which is filled, according to the custom of modern playwriters, with the most fulsome adulation of the manager, and
actors and actresses concerned in bringing the piece forward in representation. The Author, indeed, seems half-ashamed of so base an humiliation, and endeavours, like other people who feel they look filly, to turn the matter off with a laugh. The manager and performers are certainly as much indebted to the author of a good play, as the author can posibly be to them ; exertion is their trade, the very compact between the theatre and the author : for plays being professedly calculated for reprefentation, they ought in justice, if properly exhibited, to be more entertaining on the stage than in the closet.
The only portion of the Preface that relates to the publica. tion of the piece is as follows:
• This Comedy having abided the decision of the Public, having undergone the ftri&tures of criticisin, and notwithstanding its numerous errors, having fortunately met with general approbation, the author hopes he may, in conjunction with other disposers of the drama, be indulged with a few remarks of his own.
• The great objection to this play has been the want of plot, an objection which the author will not pretend to dispute ; but then he begs it may be considered, that his chief aim in writing was to draw a lively picture of the manners of high life, characterised by an easy indifference to the vicissitudes of fortune, and a kind of indolent acceptance of every fashionable enjoyment; he therefore imagined an intricacy of plot would ill accord with the delineation of personages, who would not themselves undergo che fatigue of engaging in a multiplicity of business, to promote either their deareit interests, or their fondest pleasures. To supply this defect, the author has endeavoured to support, through five acts, a pleasand laughable dialogue, heightened by Aage fituation; an undertaking, in his opinion, full as difficult as the invention of fable. How far he has succeeded, is now fubmitted to the candid confideration of the reader.'
In the first of these paragraphs the Author acquiesces, with much complacency, in the plaudits of his friends and admirers; and in the second, he confesses and avoids the charges of the critics.-Want of plot! Granted: but then the characters, being indolent, should have lictle or nothing to do.-Such is the apology: but we have ever considered it as one of the first objects in the delineation of characters to involve them in situations opposite to their dispositions. The delicate Lord Foppington dilgraced, and dirtied, by Sir Tunbelly Clumsey--the cowardly Falstaff in the field of battle at Shrewsbury--become doubly ri. diculous. Thus the lovers of indolence and pleasure might be taught that their paffions lead to fatigue, danger and pain. This is poetical justice; nor is it easy, without a fable, happily imagined and well conducted, to support, through five acts, a pleasant laughable dialogue, heightened by stage situation :' and after all, what is flage-situation, or at least what should it be, but the necessary result of an “intricacy of plot ?' To this intricacy, if we may judge from the two last acts of this co