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RECOLLECTIONS OF AN OPERA-GLASS.
UR whole life has been one of observation.
If we have not devoted our energies to "holding the mirror up to nature," we may
boast that our possessors have held their glass up to the highest pitch of art. As it is customary for those who indulge in autobiography to give their readers some account of themselves, we shall follow their example.
Be it known, then, we are, in every sense of the word, an opera glass." We are no exaggerated telescopic combination ; no double - barrelled - swivel - working-manuallabour-to-carry-almost-as-large- as - life-siamese-modellednine-pounders. No! Our proportions are elegantly slight; we close in beautiful compactness, and elongate in perfect symmetry. But, alas! we have been displaced by, and neglected for, the monstrosities now in vogue.
We first started into public life from a morocco, satin-lined case, the envied property of a
emancipation had approached ! The opera had been the one theme of our dingy manufacturers, but what the opera was, we as much knew then, as we do now the private or political predilections of Commissioner Lin.
The first object we ever saw, was the grimy face of a small apprentice, who was ordered to retire to the far end of the workshop, that his master might gauge our powers ; the detection of a fly on the extreme tip of the young gentleman's nose, threw him (our maker) into extacies of delight, and we were pronounced perfect. We were nervous about the dirty boy and insignificant fly; judge, then, what our feelings were when, as our case opened, we felt the soft contact of the perfumed and down-like French kid gently pressing us ;- in a second, we found ourself in one blaze of light. Our senses reeled; all things were dazzingly indistinct; and we verily believe, but for the relief we experienced from the fresh air which resuscitated us in our drawing out, we should have fainted on the spot. Anon we were raised to one of the most beautiful eyes that ever gazed through glass : for some few moments we were entranced, and then commenced our actual duties. How charmingly were we greeted by the duke's gold and enamel from the opposite box; how did the young honourables reciprocate and return our bows and glances; we never thought we could have done it, but—such was our perfect self-possession-we fixed ourself upon one of the magnates of the land, and pronounced him "a decidedly ugly fellow.”
But pass we over the first six months of our initiation, for it took us fully that time before we had the slightest notion of the meaning of anything we saw upon the stage ; for, what with our being put down, that our fair owner might talk to her friends, or suddenly snatched from witnessing a most pathetic scene, that she might enjoy her laugh at the very excellent good things whispered over her shoulder by the facetious Lord Alexander Fitzspoon, and our total want of knowledge of the language, we confess we were in one continued state of excited amazement.
At last we found the key to these operatic riddles. We left off thinking of the words, and attended solely to the action : this let us into the secret ; for, however the plot and dialogue of the different representations might vary, that was still the same. We will now proceed to give our short rules for understanding an Italian Opera. The chief ingredients of these affairs are :
Firstly, a Father,
Sixthly, and lastly, a Chorus.
believe they had received notice to quit their present premises, and were looking down for some eligible spot on which to deposit themselves. The hands are firmly drawn across the third button of the tunic, and a vain effort is made by the digits of the right to screw off the digits of the left; while the thumbs dispose themselves far out of the reach of the belligerent members. The shoulders attain an elevation which allows them a bird's-eye view of the interior of the ears; the elbows depict the wooden cross of an anchor ; while the toes, as if coquetting with the ground, confirm the opinion of Will Shakspere, that “so light a foot will ne'er wear out the everlasting flint.”
Whenever these evolutions are gone through, the auditor may be sure the tenor is pouring forth vows of love and constancy, parched up with passion, or iced with the indifference of his inamorata, -offering to get a special licence, and alluding to flight, felicity, elysium, and elopement.
This state of things usually lasts a quarter of an hour; after which enter the
in the act of declaring his passion; and thus it is done :The eyebrows are like six-bottle men after dinner, or M. Jullien's picolo, elevated to the highest pitch, while the contrary motion of the orbs of sight would induce one to
who occupies ten minutes by alternately placing her right hand on her left side, and extending the other to some unseen object in mid-air, always taking care to reverse the position every fourth bar. This, with an involuntary squeeze of her laced cambric handkerchief at the finale, speaks as plainly as possible that she loves the tenor, and the tenor only. In most instances, the object of her three hours' affection is conveniently within hearing, though, it may be, out of sight. A few notes from the seventy fiddles in the orchestra are, by the aid of a little imagination, supposed to be the gentle twanging of the tenor's property-guitar. No sooner are they heard than the soprano trips up the stage, throws open a canvass window about the size of the folding-gate entrance to Hyde Park, gazes intently down from its height (nearly three feet and a half!), and commences a duet with her serenading lover. Now comes
character he knows to be no great shakes, and who has nothing particular to recommend him, except a promise to advance sufficient cash to liquidate his liabilities. Here the soprano faints,—the tenor rushes in, through the beforementioned window-and, having knocked all the curl out of his wig, dashes his hat and feather to the ground, instead of burning the latter to hold under the lady's nose, deposits his guitar carefully on one of the goldmounted tables—throws back his cloak—appears to be anxious to ascertain from what precise point the wind may be blowing, to acquire which information commences waving a very gossamer-like square of snowy cambric high above his head, which he shakes violently at his
oblivious love-places his hand upon her heart—suddenly starts up; and, balancing his body on one leg, throws back his shoulder, seizes himself tightly by one of his eyebrows, a portion of his cheek, half his nose, and a stray lock of hair; and having protruded his doubled fist at an alarmed occupier of a gallerystall, intimates he is a bankrupt in love and money, and that, in his private opinion, under existing circumstances, a little prussic acid would be rather a pleasant beverage. Now enters the contralto confidante, who
walks on, kneels over the lady, and, finally, carries her off; the tenor following, with a trailing gait and drooping head. Soon after this, the soprano rushes in from the back, followed by the (bass) father and (baritone) rival, who are immediately joined by the amiable tenor. The bass seizes the soprano, who happens to be next to the tenor; the soprano turns, like a pivot, on her axis or left foot, and finds herself next to the baritone, who has pulled his sword half out of its sheath, and is busily engaged ramming it backwards and forwards, as though he were churning some obstinate cream against time. The tenor then commences operations by giving himself a simultaneous box on each ear, holding hard by his whiskers, and, as it were, throwing his respectable and ill-treated head from hand to hand. The bass points vehemently to the opera heaven, in the third grooves, where a very large
who hears the last cadenza-starts—retires three pacessteps behind an ornamental pillar-clenches his fist at the chandeliers-treats his chest with a couple of energetic thumps—rushes down the stage-seizes the soprano's hand -shakes his head-points, first to the proscenium, then to the fur cap of the prompter, ensconced behind the Brobdignag Dutch oven, which conceals him from the audience, and keeps him warm, -concluding with a violent start and preconcerted exit. The regular opera visitor is perfectly aware, from all this, that the father has not paid his last Christmas bills ;, that he has brought his daughter up from her cradle ; that he doubted not her love for him would induce her to marry a gentleman whose private
moon, in the last stage of yellow jaundice, is brilliantly lighted up with an extra jet of gas; the soprano seizes her father with one hand, and devotes the other to some very violent exercise of the air-sawing description. As the parties become excited, the baritone rushes up to a wing, gives three stamps with his right foot, and is followed by the bass, who seizes him firmly by his point-lace collar; the tenor draws his sword, and energetically gallops towards them, as though about to spit them both, when the soprano interposes, and this constitutes a finale!-wherein the tenor is devoted, the basso determined, the baritone desperate, and the soprano distracted ;—and thus ends the interest of an opera : as everybody knows, if it be a serious one, the baritone will run the tenor through, and the soprano will drop dead on his body, while the bass smites his repentant bosom, and is left to reflect upon the perspective increase of his expenses, in the shape of mourning, and his still clamorous creditors. In very effective performances, the introduction of offensive weapons, by a sort of mysterious agency, has been most successful. We remember
wish to have an opinion of their own, but appear perfectly content to echo the opinions of their betters. They are mighty stoics, looking upon the death of their best friends with laudable unconcern. Their other distinguishing characteristics are, invariably standing, in a straight line, on either side of the stage, and wearing their imitation worsted fleshings over their street trousers: this latter circumstance gives a varied expression to the natural shape of their legs, which, like Clari's "Home, sweet home," may be sought through the world, but ne'er met with elsewhere.
We trust these few illustrations of our favourite system, of attending to what is—or ought to be—the staple of theatrical productions, viz.,
“ Action! action! action!"
have convinced our readers of the efficacy of our plan ; and we will stake our gilt-moulding and morocco-case that we convey to our readers' minds an impression of more intense affection by one illustration of love's established action, than all the combinations that ever delighted the organ of sound, at the expense of the organs of sense can effect.
Who can doubt the fervent passion of our fat friend beneath?
seeing a soprano, who, notwithstanding the long odds against her, made a point which left five daggers edgeless !
The Chorus are an unpresuming set of gentlemen, who eschew all attempts at originality, and never manifest any