Three Children's Cantatas. Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, and Lampblack

Myles Birket Foster
1888 The Musical Times and Singing Class Circular  
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more » ... Hartel.] THE story of the rise and provress of dramatic art has been told over and over again by many writers. Each has brought a special amount of ability to bear upon the subject, and all works of this character, in whatever tongue they are written, never fail to attract the general reader. The love for the stage and the delight in the stories hich may be told concerning it knos^rs no veaker.ing. Therefore the present worli is secure of an interested folloso7ing. It treats of the development of the principles culminating in the Wagnerian music-drama, as exemplified in the svorks of the musicians and poets of the earliest time. Taking Gluck as his starting point the author incidentally treats of the labours of his predecessors as indicative of the state of art at the time when the composer of " Orpheus " sought to effect his reforms, not only in musical art, but in the dramaturgy of the opera. His sympathies are wholly with the German examples of operatic art, and as lliS researches have been chiefly directed towards its exaltation his work must be assessed from his own point of view. He tells nothing concerning Gluck that is not already nvell known, yet his manner is pleasant and shrewd even in telling old stories He naturally dwells upon the music of Mozart at some length, selecting for critical examination four works " Die Entfuhrung aus den Serail " (" The Seraglio "), " Figaro's Hochzeit " (" The Marriage of Figaro "), " Don Juan," and " Die Zauberflote " (" The Magic Flute "), the " new mechanical comedy," as it was called, probably because of the mechanical effects introduced. The philosophical and Masonic references in this last-named opera are spoken of and all the characters are, as in the other operas, minutely analysed. On Beethoven's only opera, " Fidelio," he dwells with pardonable fondness; but if he finds no great dramatic advance in the poem or in the music, he discovers it in Weber's " Der Freischutz," in " Euryanthe," and in " Oberon." The second volume is taken up by a short account of Meyerbeer, which occupies some thirty pages or so, and a long account of Wagner, to which some three hundred pages are devoted. The account of Meyerbeer, though proportionately of less dimensions than his admirers would hold to be commensurate with his deserts, is fair and impartial. The writer has reserved all his strength for the description of the author of " Rienzi," " Der Fliegende Hollander," " Tannhauser," " Lohengrin," " Tristan und Isolde," " Die Meistersinger von Niirnberg," " Der Ring des Nibelungen," and " Parsifal," the latter of svhich he says, in spite of the merits of others, remains Wagner's last and greatest work. " Believing minds nvill say that it was the contemplation of the world from the lofty standpoint of the stars. It is a work of hope and presentiment The blood which glosvs in the Graal chalice. illuminates and puriEles that hope, vivifies the presentiment, and separates the mortal from the immortal. It is the crowning point of his career and of the phase of art he represented so ably. The building in Bayreuth where his dramas are given rises up as a monument of his desires and his aims He attained as an artist more than most men during his lifetime by his works, and if upon that hill not one stone shall stand upon another his spirit will live in his art creations. He vill rank in the records of mankind as great as the immortals." This concluding sentence is the key to the whole work and is a fair evidence of the spirit in which the record has been made. Without questioning the right of Wagner to occupy a high position in art, there are few who will think that all those who prepared the way for him and worked honestly according to their lights were not of equal importance with him as factors in the development of the dramaturgy of the opera.
doi:10.2307/3359887 fatcat:57xbkoirm5dwtis6yyjpwbfsgm