MODERN ITALY (Today’s Lesson)
The death of Verdi occurred so recently that it is still possible to speak of him as representing the music of modern Italy in its noblest and most characteristic manifestation, but his life's record stretches back to a very dim antiquity. His first work, 'Oberto, Conte di San Bonifacio,' was performed in 1839, when 'Les Huguenots' was but three years old, and 'Der Fliegende Holländer' still unwritten. It is thoroughly and completely Italian in type, and, though belonging to a past age in the matter of form, contains the germs of those qualities which were afterwards to make Verdi so popular, the rough, almost brutal energy which contrasted so strongly with the vapid sweetness of Donizetti, and the vigorous vein of melody which throughout his career never failed him. Verdi's next work, a comic opera known alternatively as 'Un Giorno di Regno' and 'Il Finto Stanislao' (1840) was a failure. 'Nabucodonosor' (1842) and 'I Lombardi' (1843) established his reputation in his own country and won favour abroad; but the opera which gave him European fame was 'Ernani' (1844). The story is an adaptation of Victor Hugo's famous play. Elvira, the chosen bride of Don Silva, a Spanish grandee, loves Ernani, an exiled nobleman, who has had to take refuge in brigandage. Silva discovers their attachment, but being connected with Ernani in a plot against Charles V., he defers his vengeance for the moment. He yields his claim upon Elvira's affection, but exacts a promise from his rival, that when he demands it, Ernani shall be prepared to take his own life. Charles's magnanimity frustrates the conspiracy, and Silva, defeated alike in love and ambition, claims the fulfilment of Ernani's oath, despite the prayers of Elvira, who is condemned to see her lover stab himself in her presence. Hugo's melodrama suited Verdi's blood-
'Ernani' was followed by a series of works which, for the sake of Verdi's reputation, it is better to pass over as briefly as possible. His success provided him with more engagements than he could conscientiously fulfil, and the quality of his work suffered in consequence. There are some fine scenes in 'I Due Foscari' (1844), but it has little of the vigour of 'Ernani.' 'Giovanna d'Arco' (1845), 'Alzira' (1845), and 'Attila' (1846), were almost total failures. In 'Macbeth' (1847), however, Verdi seems to have been inspired by his subject, and wrote better music than he had yet given to the world. The libretto is a miserable perversion of Shakespeare, and for that reason the opera has never succeeded in England, but in countries which can calmly contemplate a ballet of witches, or listen unmoved to Lady Macbeth trolling a drinking-
The music of 'Rigoletto' is on a very different plane from that of 'Ernani.' Verdi had become uneasy in the fetters of the cavatina-
'Il Trovatore' (1853) is melodrama run mad. The plot is terribly confused, and much of it borders on the incomprehensible, but the outline of it is as follows. The mother of Azucena, a gipsy, has been burnt as a witch by order of the Count di Luna. In revenge Azucena steals one of his children, whom she brings up as her own son under the name of Manrico. Manrico loves Leonora, a lady of the Spanish Court, who is also beloved by his brother, the younger Count di Luna. After various incidents Manrico falls into the Count's hands, and is condemned to death. Leonora offers her hand as the price of his release, which the Count accepts. Manrico refuses liberty on these terms, and Leonora takes poison to escape the fulfilment of her promise.
The music of 'Il Trovatore' shows a sad falling off from the promise of 'Rigoletto.' Face to face with such a libretto, Verdi probably felt that refinement and characterisation were equally out of the question, and fell back on the coarseness of his earlier style. 'Il Trovatore' abounds with magnificent tunes, but they are slung together with very little feeling for appropriateness. There is a brutal energy about the work which has been its salvation, for of the higher qualities, which make a fitful appearance in 'Rigoletto,' there is hardly a trace.
'La Traviata' (1853) is an operatic version of Dumas's famous play, 'La Dame aux Caméllias.' The sickly tale of the love and death of Marguerite Gauthier, here known as Violetta, is hardly an ideal subject for a libretto, and it says much for Verdi's versatility that, after his excursions into transpontine melodrama, he was able to treat 'drawing-
'Les Vêpres Siciliennes,' which was produced in Paris in 1855, during the Universal Exhibition, only achieved a partial success, and 'Simon Boccanegra' (1857), even in the revised and partly re-
'Aida' (1871) was the result of a commission from Ismail Pacha, who wished to enhance the reputation of his new opera-
Aida, the daughter of Amonasro, the King of Ethiopia, has been taken prisoner by the Egyptians, and given as a slave to the princess Amneris. They both love the warrior Radames, the chosen chief of the Egyptian army, but he cares nothing for Amneris, and she vows a deadly vengeance against the slave who has supplanted her. Radames returns in triumph from the wars, bringing with him a chain of prisoners, among whom is Amonasro. The latter soon finds out Aida's influence over Radames, and half terrifies, half persuades her into promising to extract from her lover the secret of the route which the Egyptian army will take on the morrow on their way to a new campaign against the Ethiopians. Aida beguiles Radames with seductive visions of happiness in her own country, and induces him to tell her the secret. Amonasro, who is on the watch, overhears it and escapes in triumph, while Radames, in despair at his own treachery, gives himself up to justice. Amneris offers him pardon if he will accept her love, but he refuses life without Aida, and is condemned to be immured in a vault beneath the temple of Phtha. There he finds Aida, who has discovered a means of getting in, and has made up her mind to die with her lover. They expire in each other's arms, while the solemn chant of the priestesses in the temple above mingles with the sighs of the heart-
'Aida' was an immense advance upon Verdi's previous work. The Egyptian subject, so remote from the ordinary operatic groove, seems to have tempted him to a fresher and more vivid realism, and the possibilities of local colour opened a new world to so consummate a master of orchestration. The critics of the day at once accused Verdi of imitating Wagner, and certain passages undoubtedly suggest the influence of 'Lohengrin,' but as a whole the score is thoroughly and radically Italian. In 'Aida' Verdi's vein of melody is as rich as ever, but it is controlled by a keen artistic sense, which had never had full play before. For the first time in his career he discovered the true balance between singers and orchestra, and at once took his proper place among the great musicians of the world. Special attention must be directed to Verdi's use of local colour in 'Aida.' This is often a dangerous stumbling-
Sixteen years elapsed before the appearance of Verdi's next work. It was generally supposed that the aged composer had bidden farewell for ever to the turmoil and excitement of the theatre, and the interest excited by the announcement of a new opera from his pen was proportionately keen. The libretto of 'Otello' (1887), a masterly condensation of Shakespeare's tragedy, was from the pen of Arrigo Boito, himself a musician of no ordinary accomplishment. The action of the opera opens in Cyprus, amidst the fury of a tempest. Othello arrives fresh from a victory over the Turks, and is greeted enthusiastically by the people, who light a bonfire in his honour. Then follows the drinking scene. Cassio, plied by Iago, becomes intoxicated and fights with Montano. The duel is interrupted by the entrance of Othello, who degrades Cassio from his captaincy, and dismisses the people to their homes. The act ends with a duet of flawless loveliness between Othello and Desdemona, the words of which are ingeniously transplanted from Othello's great speech before the Senate. In the second act Iago advises Cassio to induce Desdemona to intercede for him, and, when left alone, pours forth a terrible confession of his unfaith in the famous 'Credo.' This, one of the few passages in the libretto not immediately derived from Shakespeare, is a triumph on Boito's part. The highest praise that can be given to it is to say, which is the literal truth, that it falls in no way beneath the poetical and dramatic standard of its context. Othello now enters, and Iago contrives to sow the first seeds of jealousy in his breast by calling his attention to Cassio's interview with Desdemona. Then follows a charming episode, another of Boito's interpolations, in which a band of Cypriotes bring flowers to Desdemona. Othello is won for the moment by the guileless charm of her manner, but his jealousy is revived by her assiduous pleading for Cassio. He thrusts her from him, and the handkerchief with which she offers to bind his brow is secured by Iago. Left with his chief, Iago fans the rising flame of jealousy, and the act ends with Othello's terrific appeal to Heaven for vengeance upon his wife. In the third act, after an interview of terrible irony and passion between Othello and Desdemona, in which he accuses her to her face of unchastity, and laughs at her indignant denial. Cassio appears with the handkerchief which he has found in his chamber. Iago ingeniously contrives that Othello shall recognise it, and at the same time arranges that he shall only hear as much of the conversation as shall confirm him in his infatuation. Envoys from Venice arrive, bearing the order for Othello's recall and the appointment of Cassio in his place. Othello, mad with rage and jealousy, strikes Desdemona to the earth, and drives every one from the hall. Then his overtaxed brain reels, and he sinks swooning to the floor. The shouts of the people outside acclaim him as the lion of Venice, while Iago, his heel scornfully placed on Othello's unconscious breast, cries with ghastly malevolence, 'Ecco il Leone.' The last act follows Shakespeare very closely. Desdemona sings her Willow Song, and, as though conscious of approaching calamity, bids Emilia a pathetic farewell. Scarcely are her eyes closed in sleep, when Othello enters by a secret door, bent on his fell purpose. He wakes her with a kiss, and after a brief scene smothers her with a pillow. Emilia enters with the news of an attempt to assassinate Cassio. Finding Desdemona lead, she calls for help. Cassio, Montano, and others rush in; Iago's treachery is unmasked, and Othello in despair stabs himself, dying in a last kiss upon his dead wife's lips.
In 'Otello' Verdi advanced to undreamed-
Six years after 'Otello' came 'Falstaff,' produced in 1893, when Verdi was in his eightieth year. Boito's libretto is a cleverly abbreviated version of Shakespeare's 'Merry Wives of Windsor,' with the addition of two or three passages from 'Henry IV.' There are three acts, each of which is divided into two scenes. The first scene takes place in the Garter Inn at Windsor. Falstaff and his trusty followers, Bardolph and Pistol, discomfit Dr. Caius, who comes to complain of having been robbed. Falstaff then unfolds his scheme for replenishing his coffers through the aid of Mrs. Ford and Mrs. Page, and bids his faithful esquires carry the famous duplicate letters to the comely dames. Honour, however intervenes, and they refuse the office. Falstaff then sends his page with the letters, pronounces his celebrated discourse upon honour, and hunts Bardolph and Pistol out of the house. In the second scene, we are in Ford's garden. The letters have arrived, and the merry wives eagerly compare notes and deliberate upon a plan for avenging themselves upon their elderly wooer. Dame Quickly is despatched to bid Falstaff to an interview. Meanwhile Nannetta Ford, the 'Sweet Anne Page' of Shakespeare, has contrived to gain a stolen interview with her lover Fenton, while the treacherous Bardolph and Pistol are telling Ford of their late master's designs on is wife's honour. Ford's jealousy is easily aroused, and he makes up his mind to carry the war into the enemy's country by visiting Falstaff in disguise. The second act takes us back to the Garter. Dame Quickly arrives with a message from Mrs. Ford. Falstaff is on fire at once, and agrees to pay her a visit between the hours of two and three. Ford now arrives, calling himself Master Brook, and paves his way with a present of wine and money. He tells Falstaff of his hopeless passion for a haughty dame of Windsor, Mrs. Alice Ford, begging the irresistible knight to woo the lady, so that, once her pride is broken, he too may have a chance of winning her favour. Falstaff gladly agrees, and horrifies the unlucky Ford by confiding the news to him that he already has an assignation with the lady fixed for that very afternoon. The second scene is laid in a room in Ford's house. The merry wives are assembled, and soon Falstaff is descried approaching. Mrs. Ford entertains him for a few minutes, and then, according to their arrangement, Dame Quickly runs in to say that Mrs. Page is at the door. Falstaff hastily hides himself behind a large screen, but the jest changes to earnest when Mrs. Page herself rushes in to announce that Ford, mad with jealousy and rage, has raised the whole household and is really coming to look for his wife's lover. The women quickly slip Falstaff into a huge basket and cover him with dirty linen, while Nannetta and Fenton who have been indulging in another stolen interview slip behind the screen. Ford searches everywhere for Falstaff in vain, and is beginning to despair of finding him, when the sound of a kiss behind the screen arrests his attention. He approaches it cautiously, and thrusts it aside only to find his daughter in Fenton's arms. Meanwhile Mrs. Ford calls on her servants. Between them they manage to lift the gigantic basket, and, while she calls her husband to view the sight, carry it to the window and pitch it out bodily into the Thames. The first scene of the third act is devoted to hatching a new plot to humiliate the fat knight, and the second shows us a moonlit glade in Windsor Forest, whither he has been summoned by the agency of Dame Quickly. There all the characters assemble disguised as elves and fairies. They give Falstaff a mauvais quart d'heure, and end by convincing him that his amorous wiles are useless against the virtue of honest burghers' wives. Meanwhile Nannetta has induced her father, by means of a trick, to consent to her marriage with Fenton, and the act ends with a song of rejoicing in the shape of a magnificent fugue in which every one joins.
Perhaps the most extraordinary thing about 'Falstaff' is that it was written by a man eighty years old. It is the very incarnation of youth and high spirits. Verdi told an interviewer that he thoroughly enjoyed writing it, and one can well believe his words. He has combined a schoolboy's sense of fun with the grace and science of a Mozart. The part-
It is impossible as yet to speak with any degree of certainty as to Verdi's probable influence upon posterity. With all his genius he was perhaps hardly the man to found a school. He was not, like his great contemporary Wagner, one of the world's great revolutionists. His genius lay not in overturning systems and in exploring paths hitherto untrodden, but in developing existing materials to the highest conceivable pitch of beauty and completeness. His music has nothing to do with theories, it is the voice of nature speaking in the idiom of art.
Of the composers who modelled their style upon Verdi's earlier manner, the most important were Petrella (1813-
Arrigo Boito, to whom the University of Cambridge accorded the honour of an honorary degree in 1893, has written but one opera, 'Mefistofele,' but his influence upon modern Italian music must be measured in inverse ratio to his productive power. When 'Mefistofele' was originally produced in 1868, Verdi's genius was still in the chrysalis stage, and the novelty and force of Boito's music made 'Mefistofele,' even in its fall—for the first performance was a complete failure—a rallying point for the Italian disciples of truth and sincerity in music. In 1875 it was performed in a revised and abbreviated form, and since then has taken its place among the masterpieces of modern Italy. Boito's libretto reproduces the atmosphere of Goethe's drama far more successfully than any other of the many attempts to fit 'Faust' to the operatic stage. It is a noble poem, but from the merely scenic point of view it has many weaknesses. Its principal failing is the lack of one continuous thread of interest. The opera is merely a succession of episodes, each nicely calculated to throw fresh light upon the character of Faust, but by no means mutually connected. The prologue opens in Heaven, where the compact is made regarding the soul of Faust. The next scene shows the Kermesse, changing to Faust's study, where Mephistopheles appears and the contract is signed which binds him to Faust's service. We then pass to the garden scene, in which Faust is shown as Margaret's lover. Then come the Witches' Sabbath on the summit of the Brocken, and the prison scene with the death of Margaret. After this we have two scenes from the second part of Goethe's 'Faust,' the classical Sabbath, in which the union of Helen and Faust symbolises the embrace of the Greek and Germanic ideals, and the redemption of Faust with the discomfiture of Mephistopheles, which ends the work. Although 'Mefistofele' is unsatisfactory as a whole, the extraordinary beauty of several single scenes ought to secure for it such immortality as the stage has to offer. Boito is most happily inspired by Margaret, and the two scenes in which she appears are masterpieces of beauty and pathos. In the garden scene he has caught the ineffable simplicity of her character with astonishing success. The contrast between her girlish innocence and the voluptuous sentiment of Gounod's heroine cannot fail to strike the most careless listener. The climax of this scene, the delightfully tender and playful quartet, which culminates in a burst of hysterical laughter, is a stroke of genius. In the prison scene Boito rises to still greater heights. The poignant pathos of the poor maniac's broken utterances, the languorous beauty of the duet, and the frenzied terror and agony of the finale, are beyond praise.
Amilcare Ponchielli (1834-
The most important of the younger men is Giacomo Puccini, a composer who during the last decade has come to the front in a decisive manner. His first opera, 'Le Villi,' was produced in 1884. The subject is a strange one to have taken the fancy of a southern composer. It is founded upon one of those weird traditions which seem essentially the property of Northern Europe. Villi, or in English, Wilis, are the spirits of affianced damsels, whose lovers have proved untrue. They rise from the earth at midnight, and assemble upon the highway attired in all their bridal finery. From midnight until dawn they wheel their wild dances and watch for their faithless lovers. If one of the latter happen to pass, he is beguiled into the magic circle, and in the grasp of the relentless Wilis is whirled round and round until he sinks expiring upon the ground. In Puccini's opera, the scene is laid in the Black Forest. The characters are three in number—-
Puccini's next opera, 'Edgar' (1889), was a failure, but in 'Manon Lescaut' (1893) he once more achieved success. His treatment of the Abbé Prévost's romance, as may well be imagined, differs in toto from that of Massenet. The libretto, in the first place, is laid out upon an entirely different plan. It consists of a string of detached scenes with but little mutual connection, which, without some previous knowledge of the story, would be barely comprehensible. The first act deals with the meeting of the lovers at Amiens and their flight to Paris. In the second act we find Manon installed as the mistress of Géronte di Lavoir, surrounded by crowds of admirers. Des Grieux penetrates to her apartment, and after a scene of passionate upbraiding persuades her to fly with him. But before they can depart they are interrupted by the entrance of Manon's irate protector, who, in revenge for her faithlessness, summons the police and consigns her to St. Lazare. The third act shows the quay at Havre, and the embarkation of the filles de joie for New Orleans; and the last act, which takes place in America, is one long duet between Manon and Des Grieux, ending with Manon's death. Puccini looked at the story of Manon through Italian spectacles. His power of characterisation is limited, and there is little in his music to differentiate Manon and her lover from the ordinary hero and heroine of Italian opera. The earlier scenes of the opera demand a lighter touch than he could then command, but in the tragic scene at Havre he is completely successful. Here he strikes the true note of tragedy. The great concerted piece with which the act ends is a masterly piece of writing, and proves that Puccini can handle a form, which as employed by lesser men is a synonym for stereotyped conventionality, with superb passion and sincerity.
But Puccini's earlier successes sank into insignificance by the side of the triumph of 'La Bohème,' which was produced in 1896. It was impossible to weave a connected story from Murger's famous novel. Puccini's librettists attempted nothing of the kind. They took four scenes each complete in itself and put them before the audience without any pretence of a connecting thread of interest. In the first act we see the joyous quartet of Bohemians in their Paris attic—Rodolphe the poet, Marcel the painter, Colline the philosopher, and Schaunard the musician. Rodolphe sacrifices the manuscript of his tragedy to keep the fire going, and Marcel keeps the landlord at bay, until the arrival of Schaunard with an unexpected windfall of provisions raises the spirits of the company to the zenith of rapture. Three of the Bohemians go out to keep Christmas Eve at their favourite café, leaving Rodolphe to finish an article. To him enters Mimi, an embroiderer, who lodges on the same floor, under pretence of asking for a light. A delicious love-
With 'La Tosca,' which was produced in 1899, Puccini won another success, though for very different reasons from those which made 'La Bohème' so conspicuous a triumph. The libretto is a clever condensation of Sardou's famous drama. The scene is laid in Rome in the year 1800. In the first act we are introduced to Mario Cavaradossi, a painter, who is at work in a church, and to Flora Tosca, his mistress, a famous singer, who pays him a visit and teases him with her jealous reproaches. Cavaradossi befriends Angelotti, a victim of Papal tyranny, who has escaped from the castle of St Angelo, and despatches him by a secret path to his villa in the outskirts of Rome. Scarpia, the chief of police, who is close upon Angelotti's heels, suspects Cavaradossi of being implicated in Angelotti's escape, and uses La Tosca's jealous suspicions to help him in securing the prisoner. In the next act Angelotti is still at large, but Cavaradossi has been arrested. Scarpia, who has meanwhile conceived a violent passion for La Tosca, extracts from her the secret of Angelotti's hiding-
In 'La Tosca' we are in a world very different from that of 'La Bohème.' Here there is very little scope for grace and tenderness. All is deadly earnest. The melodramatic incidents of the story crowd one upon another, and in the rush and excitement of the plot the music often has to take a secondary place. Whenever the composer has a chance he utilises it with rare skill. There are passages in 'La Tosca' of great lyrical beauty, but as a rule the exigencies of the stage give little room for musical development, and a great deal of the score is more like glorified incidental music than the almost symphonic fabric to which we are accustomed in modern opera.
The history of 'Madama Butterfly' (1904), Puccini's latest opera, is a strange one. At its production in Milan it was hissed off the stage and withdrawn after a single performance. No one seems to know why it failed to please the Scala audience, with whom Puccini had previously been a great favourite. Possibly the unfamiliar Japanese surroundings displeased the conservative Milanese, or the singers may have been inadequate. At any rate, when it was revived a few months later at Brescia, in a slightly revised form, it won more favour, and its London appearance the following year was a brilliant triumph. Since then it has gone the round of Europe and America, and is now probably the most popular opera in the modern repertory. The story of 'Madama Butterfly' is familiar to English hearers, the opera being founded upon the drama by David Belasco, which was played here with great success some years ago. Peculiarly apt for musical setting is the tale of the fascinating little 'mousmé' who contracts a so-
However, to come to business, the scene opens in the garden of a country house among the hills above Nagasaki. Lieutenant Pinkerton and his friend Sharpless, the American consul, are inspecting the retreat which the former has prepared for his Japanese wife. The voices of Butterfly and her girl friends are soon heard in the distance as they ascend the hill. After an amusing scene of greeting and introduction comes the marriage ceremony and its attendant festivities, which are interrupted by the arrival of Butterfly's uncle. This venerable person, who is a priest in a neighbouring temple, has discovered that Butterfly has renounced her own religion and adopted that of her 'husband.' He pronounces the most portentous maledictions upon her and is bundled out by Pinkerton. The act ends with a love-
The name of Pietro Mascagni is chiefly connected in the minds of opera-
Leoncavallo, though older than Mascagni, must be regarded as in a certain sense his follower, since his most popular work, 'Pagliacci,' was undoubtedly inspired by 'Cavalleria Rusticana.' The story begins with the arrival of a troupe of travelling comedians, or Pagliacci, in an Italian village. All is not harmony in the little company. Tonio (the Taddeo, or clown) loves Nedda (Columbine), the wife of Canio (Pagliaccio), but she already has a lover in the shape of Silvio, a young villager, and rejects the clumsy advances of the other with scorn. Tonio overhears the mutual vows of Nedda and her lover, and bent upon vengeance, hurries off to bring the unsuspecting Canio upon the scene. He only arrives in time to see the disappearance of Silvio, and cannot terrify his wife into disclosing her lover's name, though he is only just prevented by Beppe, the Harlequin of the troupe, from stabbing her on the spot. The second act is on the evening of the same day, a few hours later. The curtain of the rustic theatre goes up and the little play begins. By a curious coincidence the scheme of the plot represents something like the real situation of the actors. Columbine is entertaining her lover Harlequin in the absence of her husband Pagliaccio, while Taddeo keeps a look-
Umberto Giordano, who during the last few years has steadily worked his way to the front rank of Italian composers, started his career with a succès de scandale in 'Mala Vita' (1892), a coarse and licentious imitation of 'Cavalleria Rusticana.' There is far better work in 'Andrea Chénier' (1896), a stirring tale of the French Revolution set to music which shows uncommon dramatic power and in certain scenes a fine sense of lyrical expression. After a good deal of preludial matter the plot centres in the rivalry of Chénier the poet and Gérard, a revolutionary leader, for the hand of Madeleine. Gérard condemns Chénier to death, but is melted by Madeleine's pleading, and rescinds the order for his execution. The pardon, however, comes too late, and Madeleine and Chénier ascend the scaffold together, in an ecstasy of lyrical rapture. 'Fedora' (1898), an adaptation of Sardou's famous drama, has less musical interest than 'Andrea Chénier,' the breathless incidents of the plot giving but little scope for musical treatment. The first act shows the death of Vladimir, the police investigation and Fedora's vow to discover the murderer. In the second Fedora extorts from Loris Ipanoff a confession of the vengeance that he wreaked upon the perfidious Vladimir, and, finding Loris innocent and Vladimir guilty, in a sudden revulsion of feeling throws herself into Loris's arms, bidding him stay with her rather than leave the house to fall into the hands of spies. In the third act Fedora, certain of detection, confesses to Loris her previous machinations against him, which have resulted in the deaths of his mother and brother, and takes poison before his eyes. Giordano touched a far higher level in 'Siberia' (1903), a gloomy tale of Russian crime and punishment. Stephana, a courtesan, among all her lovers cares only for the young sergeant Vassili. Vassili, who has learnt to love her, not knowing who she is, when he discovers the truth, bursts in upon a fête she is giving, quarrels with a lieutenant and kills him on the spot. He is condemned to exile in Siberia, but is followed by Stephana, who overtakes him at the frontier, and gets leave to share his fate. In the mines they find Globy, Stephana's original seducer, whose infamy she exposes to the assembled convicts. In revenge Globy betrays to the authorities a project of escape devised by Stephana and Vassili, and the lovers are shot just as liberty appears to be within their grasp. The music of 'Siberia' is more artistic than anything Giordano has previously written. The situations are skilfully handled, and the note of pity and pathos is touched with no uncertain hand. The opera is unequal, but the scene of the halt at the frontier is treated in masterly fashion.
Francesco Ciléa won no marked success until the production of his 'Adriana Lecouvreur' in 1902. The plot is an adaptation of Scribe's famous play, but so trenchantly abbreviated as to be almost incomprehensible. The opening scene in the foyer of the Comédie Française is bright and lively, the handling of the score arousing pleasant reminiscences of Verdi's 'Falstaff,' but the more dramatic passages in the struggle of Adrienne and her rival the Princess de Bouillon for Maurice de Saxe seem to be outside the scope of the composer's talent, and the great moments of the piece are somewhat frigid and unimpressive. There is a note of pathos, however, in Adrienne's death-
Edoardo Mascheroni's early laurels were won as a conductor, but in 1901 he sprang into fame as the composer of 'Lorenza,' an opera which has met with much success in various cities of Spain and Spanish America as well as in Italy. 'Lorenza' is a Calabrian version of the time-
Of the numerous other Italian composers who bask in the sunshine of popularity south of the Alps very few are known to fame beyond the frontiers of Italy. The younger men follow religiously in the steps of Mascagni or Puccini, while their elders still hang on to the skirts of 'Aida.' Giacomo Orefice won a success of curiosity in 1901 with his 'Chopin,' a strange work dealing in fanciful fashion with the story of the Polish composer's life, the melodies of the opera being taken entirely from Chopin's music.
Spinelli's 'A Basso Porto' (1895), which has been performed in English by the Carl Rosa Opera Company, is redolent of Mascagni's influence, but the nauseating incidents of the plot make 'Cavalleria,' by comparison, seem chaste and classical. The libretto deals with the vengeance wreaked by a villainous Neapolitan street loafer upon a woman who has played him false—a vengeance which takes the form of ruining her son by drink and play, and of attempting to seduce her daughter. In the end this egregious ruffian is murdered in the street by the mother of his two victims, just in time to prevent his being knifed by the members of a secret society whom he had betrayed to justice. The music is not without dramatic vigour, and it has plenty of melody of a rough and ready kind. There is technical skill, too, in the treatment of the voices and in the orchestration, but hardly enough to reconcile an English audience to so offensive a book. Salvatore Auteri-
Google Translation Tool: