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Verdi in Victorian London

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Massimo Zicari

15. The Late 1860s and Wagner’s L’Olandese dannato (1870)

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  • 1 The Musical Times, January 1, 1868, pp. 252–54.
  • 2 The Musical World, January 11, 1868, p. 18.
  • 3 The Musical World, March 7, 1868, p. 159.
  • 4 The Musical World, March 14, 1868, p. 171.
  • 5 The Musical World, April 4, 1868, p. 227.

1The year 1867 came to an end with a terrible catastrophe striking Her Majesty’s Theatre: on 6 December, a Friday night, the theatre was totally destroyed by a fire the cause of which was not possible to ascertain.1 By January 1868, a property fund had already been announced and the patrons of the theatre were invited to subscribe in order to raise the money necessary for a speedy reopening, notwithstanding the dramatic financial losses incurred.2 In February, rumour had it that the two great opera companies in London were to be united under one management. While Frederick Gye was expected to sell his company and retire, a monopoly regime would be installed under James Mapleson as sole manager. The purported amalgamation of the two operatic enterprises into one “Grand Opera Company” was reported in The Morning Post and other London periodicals. On 7 March, Frederick Balsir Chatterton, lessee of Drury Lane, published a communication concerning the consultations he was undertaking with Mapleson. “Negotiations have been on foot between myself, as lessee of Drury Lane Theatre, and Mr. Mapleson, with a view to transferring his enterprise from the no longer existing boards of Her Majesty’s to those of Drury Lane Theatre.”3 The negotiations were progressing at such a rapid pace that one week later Mapleson announced that he had secured the Drury Lane Theatre and that his Italian opera season would commence there on 28 March. In addition to the stock repertoire, the novelties announced by Mapleson included Rossini’s La gazza ladra, an Italian version of Auber’s Gustave III and Wagner’s Lohengrin. At the same time, Gye was also in a position to announce the opening of the forthcoming opera season at Covent Garden, which was scheduled for 31 March.4 The opera season at Covent Garden was to begin with Rossini’s Le siège de Corinthe (given in Italian as L’assedio di Corinto); Verdi’s Rigoletto and Don Carlos were also included in the prospectus. At Covent Garden, Rigoletto was staged on 4 April and repeated on 11, followed immediately by Don Carlos on 6 April and Un ballo in maschera on 11. At Drury Lane, La traviata was produced on the 4th, Il trovatore on the 7th and Rigoletto on the 18th. Five operas in total, all bearing the name of Verdi.5

2On 11 April, the critic of The Musical World, in reviewing the performances of Don Carlos and Rigoletto at Covent Garden, confirmed his position and argued that the influence of Giacomo Meyerbeer was evident in Verdi’s recent development.

  • 6 The Musical World, April 11, 1868, p. 245, also published on The Times, April 6.

Nevertheless, the more we know of Don Carlos, the more we are disposed to regret that its composer was ever induced to try historical grand opera on the scale and after the manner of the Huguenots and the Prophète. In his own particular domain—romantic melodrama—Signor Verdi has long been unrivalled; but in Don Carlos, despite merits that have been fully avowed and discussed in these columns, he has coped with a giant, and honourably succumbed.6

  • 7 The Musical World, April 18, 1868, p. 264.
  • 8 Ibid., p. 265.

3Rigoletto, however, was the work which offered the most genuine proof of Verdi’s melodious invention and dramatic power. Verdi’s Un ballo in maschera, staged at Covent Garden on 11 April, was reviewed one week later by The Musical World; the critic confirmed his previous judgment, and pronounced it possibly the composer’s best accomplishment after Rigoletto.7 On the other hand, the critic described Il trovatore, given at Drury Lane, as “the most hackneyed, if not the best, of all hackneyed operas.”8 After a couple of performances of La traviata the name of Verdi faded away. Upon conclusion of the opera season at Covent Garden, The Saturday Review commented on Don Carlos.

  • 9 The Musical World, June 6, 1868, p. 382, from The Saturday Review.

As well might the director of the Royal Italian Opera think to galvanize a corpse as to resuscitate Don Carlos, in which the Bussetese musician, instead of depending on means that for nearly thirty years have enabled him to command the ear of Europe, has committed the enormous blunder of imitating Meyerbeer, whose Pegasus he can no more manage than Phaeton could control the horses of Phoebus. Signor Verdi will do wisely in future to refrain from such attempts.9

  • 10 Ibid. On 15 August a similar opinion made its appearance in the same journal, in a contribution sig (...)

4Since it was again Davison working behind the curtain and contributing to both journals, it is not surprising to see how similar the arguments against Don Carlos are: in a word, the work was considered an unsuccessful attempt to imitate Meyerbeer’s style. Moreover, the critic insisted that Verdi’s forte was romantic melodrama, while historical opera lay beyond his grasp. Again, Rigoletto was pronounced a relief and Un ballo in maschera the opera which ranked best immediately after it.10

5At this time, the articles that had appeared in the columns of The Times were reproduced in the columns of The Musical World, a fact suggesting once again that the opinion of a single individual occupied the critical position of both periodicals. In addition to them, Davison also contributed reviews to The Saturday Review.

  • 11 The Athenaeum, April 11, 1868, p. 533.

6In The Athenaeum, Chorley continued to express himself in the usual grumbling terms and, notwithstanding the recent development of Verdi’s compositional style, continued to refer to Rossini, whose Semiramide was also put on stage that year, as the champion of Italian vocal tradition: “There is more beauty in the first act of that opera (too lengthy though it be, a bad consequence of Signor Rossini’s indifference to the arrangement of his libretti) than in all Signor Verdi’s bombastic productions put together.”11

  • 12 The Musical World, July 11, 1868, p. 489.
  • 13 The Athenaeum, August 1, 1868, p. 153.

7Later on that year, while the name of Verdi faded away, the London critics paid more and more attention to those operas by Wagner that were produced on the continent. On 11 July, The Musical World published a contribution from the correspondent of the Berlin Echo, where Wagner’s Die Meistersinger, conducted by Hans von Bülow at the Royal Opera Theatre, was said to have “furnished every one with a fruitful theme of conversation.”12 Wagner’s score, the critic held, showed that the centre of musical gravity had moved from the singers to the orchestra, a development consistent with the composer’s own theories, but at variance with what the critic considered acceptable in operatic matters, especially if one considered the loudness of the orchestra. In August, The Athenaeum also devoted a column to the perusal of Die Meistersinger, since the publication of the piano version afforded this opportunity. The critic was hostile to the composer and his review was characterised by strong sarcasm. When referring to the music allotted to the tenor, he held that “The vilifier of symmetrical melody, as it has pleased him to be, he can still use it under his own conditions as shamelessly as the veriest tune-spinner of the south.”13

8In September, Chorley was in Germany, whence he reported on the recent musical developments and the role Wagner was playing in the German scene. The attraction there was Lohengrin which, conducted by Karl Eckert, opened the opera season at Baden-Baden. The opera was very well performed but, the critic argued, was not worth the enormous effort.

  • 14 The Athenaeum, September 12, 1868, p. 345.

To us, Lohengrin seemed to be the very sublimity of impudence. Of music, in the only sense in which we can understand the term, there is next to none in the entire opera. […] But the hearing of Lohengrin has deepened in us the conviction that if Wagner despises melody, it is because he cannot invent it. He is always earnest and dramatic, but never musical.14

9Chorley returned to the topic on 19 September, when he tried to elaborate further on the issue of the music of Lohengrin.

  • 15 The Athenaeum, September 19, 1868, p. 378. The article bears the initials of the author, H. F. C.

I have never received such an impression of haggardness in place of beauty of contour, of bombast thrust forward to do duty for real dignity, as from Lohengrin the other evening. It would be hard to say which was the most noticeable, the poverty of the thoughts, the crudity with which they are set forth, but sparingly relieved by certain ingenious orchestral touches, or the acquiescence of a public, including connoisseurs who have been used to boast their superior depth and far-sightedness in their judgment of music by contempt of all Italian and French ware, and of English pretensions to enjoy and appreciate what is best in music.15

  • 16 The Athenaeum, September 26, 1868, p. 408. The article bears the initials of the author, H. F. C.

10The antagonistic opinion expressed on 12 September was confirmed two weeks later when the critic, in reviewing Meyerbeer’s Les Huguenots as performed at Karlsruhe, drew a comparison between the two and insisted that Wagner’s music suffered greatly from the infelicitous comparison.16

  • 17 The Athenaeum, December 5, 1868, p. 761.

11On 21 November, Chorley announced that Rossini, one of the last men of genius still belonging to the greatest musical period Europe had ever witnessed, had passed away in Paris on 14 November. On the same day a long obituary appeared in the columns of The Musical World. Not long afterwards, Chorley informed the readers of The Athenaeum that Verdi had suggested to his publisher, Giulio Ricordi, that a Requiem Mass should be expressly written for the first anniversary of Rossini’s death, to which the best Italian living composers were called to contribute. Such an idea was pronounced absurd.17

  • 18 The Musical World, March 10, 1869, p. 156. See also The Athenaeum, February 27, 1869, p. 315.
  • 19 The Musical World, April 3, 1869, p. 231.

12As early as February 1869, the news spread again among the London periodicals that the two operatic seasons would soon merge; it was anticipated that the Royal Italian Opera at Covent Garden would open in March and be run by an associated body called “The Directors of the Royal Italian Opera and of Her Majesty’s Theatre.”18 As might be expected, some discussion followed and the pros and cons involved in such a change were presented. A monopoly might harm the already poor taste of the London public, since operagoers would no longer be able to choose between two venues. The reason for a coalition management was not made public, but the sad loss of one conductor was lamented as one of the first consequences; while Luigi Arditi was retained, Michael Costa would leave his former position. Finally, on 27 March the official prospectus of the Italian Royal Opera at Covent Garden was issued, confirming that the season would commence on 30 March, with Arditi as the conductor. The repertoire, now consisting of 48 stock operas, was to be enriched thanks to the inclusion of Ambroise Thomas’ Hamlet. Bellini’s Norma opened the season, followed by Rigoletto on 1 April, and Beethoven’s Fidelio on 3 April.19

  • 20 The Musical Times, April 1, 1869, pp. 44–45.
  • 21 Charles Santley, Student and Singer, the Reminiscences of Charles Santley (New York, London: Macmil (...)
  • 22 The Times, April 5, 1869, p. 5.
  • 23 The Musical World, April 10, 1869, p. 249.
  • 24 The Musical World, April 24, 1869, p. 288.
  • 25 The Musical World, May 8, 1869, pp. 329–30.
  • 26 See The Times, May 17, 1869, p. 9 and The Musical World, May 22, 1869, pp. 367–68.
  • 27 The Musical World, August 21, 1869, p. 588.

13On 1 April, the critic of The Musical Times commented on the opening of the opera season and lamented the loss of Costa, whose valuable work had largely contributed to the success of the Royal Italian Opera over the previous years. A note of scepticism was expressed in regard to the advantages that a united company under a double management would present.20 On 5 April, The Times reviewed the performance of Rigoletto under the new management; the American singer Jennie van Zandt, who made her career under the stage name of Madame Vanzini, was Gilda but her voice, although of quite wide range, was said to be neither powerful nor rich;21 Sofia Scalchi was Maddalena, the Irish bass Allan James Foley (alias Signor Foli) was Sparafucile, Pietro Mongini played the Duke of Mantua, while the role of Rigoletto was assigned to Charles Santley. Il trovatore was announced for the same day.22 The same review was reproduced in the columns of The Musical World on 10 April, to which a closing note was added regarding the performance of Il trovatore, featuring Thérèse Tietjens as Leonora, Sofia Scalchi as Azucena, Mongini as Manrico, Foley as Ferrando and Charles Santley as Conte di Luna.23 On 24 April The Musical World started the publication of a biographical sketch of Verdi’s life signed by “An enthusiastic Verdist.”24 In the meantime, the opera season continued with Les Huguenots and Il flauto magico, while in May a “New Italian Opera” opened at the Lyceum Theatre, performing L’elisir d’amore and Il barbiere di Siviglia. In May the Royal Italian Opera season offered Guillaume Tell (1 May), followed by Lucia di Lammermoor (4 May) and Martha (6 May), the last featuring Christine Nilsson in the main role.25 With Christine Nilsson playing Violetta in La traviata later in May,26 on 15 Adelina Patti made her appearance in La sonnambula, to which Lucia di Lammermoor, Don Giovanni, Antonio Cagnoni’s Don Bucefalo (first performed in London and immediately withdrawn from the stage) and Gounod’s Faust (as Faust e Margherita) followed over the same month. The season continued in June with Robert le diable, Il trovatore, Les Huguenots, Faust e Margherita, Il Barbiere, La gazza ladra, and it reached its climax when the first novelty of the season; Ambroise Thomas’ Hamlet was given on 19 June. La fille du régiment (as La figlia del reggimento), La sonnambula and Le prophète were also performed in July. Upon the conclusion of the opera season, the critic of The Musical World confirmed the doubts expressed at its outset and lamented once more the loss of Michael Costa.27 Similar remarks were made by Henry Lunn in the columns of The Musical Times on 1 September, when a review of the London musical season was published.

14In 1869 Verdi’s compositional work was not subject to any in-depth critical scrutiny, nor was any new opera put on stage that would draw the critics’ interest. Instead, considerable attention was bestowed upon Richard Wagner, whose Das Judenthum in der Musik (Judaism in Music) had been published in Leipzig. On 17 April The Musical World published the English translation of Eduard Hanslick’s response to Wagner’s attack. To this, more articles followed, focussing on the performance of Die Meistersinger at Karlsruhe and the announced production of Das Rheingold in Munich on 15 August, granted by permission of the King of Bavaria. Starting on 15 May, the serialised publication of the full text of Judaism in Music appeared in the columns of The Musical World. Reviews and critical contributions flowed in many a periodical, including The Pall Mall Gazette and The Athenaeum, which commented quite harshly on Wagner’s musical achievements and personal hatred against the Jews. To some extent, the general animosity expressed by the English press was caused by the explicit reference Wagner had made to England, to the religious orientation of the country and to Mendelssohn, one of the country’s most cherished musical champions. All this added to the already widespread sense of bewilderment that Wagner’s theories on musical drama had occasioned among the critics, together with the self- laudatory statements he repeatedly uttered at the expense of his fellow composers.

  • 28 “Judaism in Music,” The Athenaeum, April 24, 1869, p. 578.

The strong point of both these composers [Mendelssohn and Meyerbeer] is public frivolity, encouraged by unreasoning criticism. Mendelssohn has succeeded in England because the English religion inclines more to the Old than to the New Testament, and this may also be the reason why newspaper writers in England are more certain to be Jews than even the newspaper writers of Germany. Meyerbeer, again, owes all his popularity to the fact that the people who go to hear operas are those who want amusement, not those who care for Art.28

  • 29 “Apropos of the Holländer,” The Musical World, July 30, 1870, p. 506.

15Wagner’s line of argument seemed to lead to some sort of inconclusive syllogism, according to which if all Jews are not able to understand and criticise music, and if all critics who do not like Wagner’s music cannot understand and criticise music, therefore all the critics who do not like Wagner’s music must be Jews. Further reference to the accusations made by Wagner against the English critics appeared one year later in the columns of The Musical World, when Der Fliegende Holländer was produced at Drury Lane as L’Olandese dannato. On that occasion the critic objected to the allegation journalists had kept Wagner out of England, and protested against the claim that it was thanks to the Anglican religion that the Jewish conspiracy and attempt to sabotage Wagner’s works had been successful in that country.29

  • 30 In 1848 J. De Clerville addressed the manner in which Verdi had been the object of repeated, gratui (...)
  • 31 The Athenaeum, September 18, 1869, p. 378.
  • 32 The Athenaeum, September 25, 1869, p. 410.

16The provocative stance taken by Wagner in his writings had ignited strongly antagonistic reactions in the English press. Nevertheless, when called upon to judge his musical dramas not everybody agreed that the German composer was entirely deserving of condemnation. In 1869 an intervention in defence of Wagner appeared in the columns of The Athenaeum that is reminiscent of Verdi’s experience with The Musical World twenty-one years before.30 On 15 September 1869, Walter Bache, an English pianist and conductor who would distinguish himself for his advocacy of Franz Liszt and the so-called New German School in England, wrote a letter to the editor of The Athenaeum in which he intervened in the discussion of Das Rheingold and pleaded Wagner’s cause. He suggested that his works should not be judged by comparison with past composers and argued that “a clear understanding of a Wagner opera must be obtained from an efficient performance of the same.”31 The writer intended to address two issues: the first was the difficulties involved in the performance of Wagner’s innovative music, a point upon which Wagner himself insisted whenever he claimed that the tepid reception of his music was due to the poor quality of its performance; the second had to do with the critics who, having perused the score or, even worse, the piano version, were simply not in a position to fully understand and appreciate Wagner’s musico-dramatic edifice. In response to this letter, Chorley wrote of Wagner’s music in even more contemptuous terms, suggesting that Das Rheingold represented a “chaotic monster not meriting the name of a building, in which every accepted law and proportion are reversed or set aside, and in which, failing gold and marble and precious stones, we are bidden to accept, by way of novelty, such rubbish as great artificers of genius have cast aside by reason of its meanness and want of worth.”32

  • 33 Hughes, The English Musical Renaissance and the Press, p. 72.

17Although in 1868 Chorley retired from The Athenaeum, he continued to contribute articles and reports to the same periodical, now revealing his identity by putting either his name or his initials at their foot. Occasionally, the same writings were reproduced in the columns of The Musical World. Chorley’s successor as chief music critic of The Athenaeum was Campbell Clarke, another conservative critic who loathed modern music and favoured the tradition.33 After a couple of years, however, Charles L. Gruneisen, whose experience as chief critic on the Morning Post dated back to 1844, was appointed in his stead.

  • 34 The Musical Times, May 1, 1870, pp. 458–59.
  • 35 The Musical World, March 19, 1870, pp. 192, 198 and 206.
  • 36 The Musical World, April 9, 1870, p. 244.
  • 37 The Musical World, April 30, 1870, p. 304.

18Things did not change much in 1870. On 19 March the Italian Opera at Drury Lane, having consolidated its role under the management of George Wood, issued a rich prospectus and began to compete in attractiveness and fashionability with the operatic establishment led by Gye and Mapleson. The Royal Italian Opera season at Covent Garden (whose conductors were Augusto Vianesi and Enrico Bevignani) commenced on 29 March with Lucia di Lammermoor, while Verdi’s Macbeth was announced among its novelties.34 The Drury Lane Theatre opened on 16 April with Rigoletto, Der Fliegende Holländer and Macbeth also announced; Luigi Arditi was the conductor.35 In April the following operas were scheduled for production there: Lucia di Lammermoor (18), Il barbiere di Siviglia (19), Faust (21), Il flauto magico (23), Faust (25), Rigoletto (26), Le Nozze di Figaro (28), Weber’s operetta Abou Hassan (in the Italian version by Salvatore Marchesi) and Mozart’s L’Oca del Cairo (Italian version by Zaffira) on 30 April.36 On 23 April, La traviata was staged at Covent Garden, featuring Mathilde Sessi in the main role. One week later The Musical World pronounced her rendition of the main character closer to that of Angiolina Bosio than to the obtrusively “realistic” performance of Marietta Piccolomini in 1856.37

  • 38 Adelina Patti (Madrid, 19 February 1843—Craig-y-Nos Castle, 27 September 1919) won the admiration o (...)
  • 39 The Musical Times, June 1, 1870, p. 489.

19In May Luigi Cherubini’s Medea was revived at Covent Garden, while Rossini’s Barbiere introduced Adelina Patti in the part of Rosina together with Mario in that of Count Almaviva. Patti also appeared in La sonnambula and Martha later that month, while Pauline Lucca was Margherita in Gounod’s Faust and Leonora in La favorite.38 Thomas’ Hamlet followed later in May. At Drury Lane, Meyerbeer’s Robert le diable (as Roberto il diavolo) with Christine Nilsson in the part of Alice was the main attraction, followed by Gounod’s Faust and Flotow’s Martha, in addition to the already announced Abu Hassan and L’Oca del Cairo.39

  • 40 The Musical Times, August 1, 1870, pp. 556–58.
  • 41 “Wagner’s ‘Fliegende Holländer,’” The Athenaeum, July 30, 1870, pp. 153–54.
  • 42 See Richard Wagner, “A Communication to my Friends (1851),” in Richard Wagner’s Prose Works, trans. (...)
  • 43 The Times, July 25, 1870, p. 12, and The Musical World, July 30, 1870, p. 506.

20Finally, on 23 July Wagner’s Der Fliegende Holländer was produced at Drury Lane as L’Olandese dannato, with the Italian version by Salvatore Marchesi. The overture was accompanied by a first burst of applause and an encore was demanded upon its conclusion. The dramatic interest was strong and the public received the novelties in the opera with great enthusiasm: “that every one of the audience felt under the influence of a man who had struck out an original path for himself, and had power enough to make others accompany him, was apparent by the deep interest with which every note was listened to, and the enthusiastic applause with which the various pieces were received.”40 Charles Santley was the Dutchman, Ilma de Murska was Senta, Allan James Foley (Foli) was Daland and Perotti was Erik the Hunter. Luigi Arditi’s intelligent conducting contributed to the success of the opera. On 30 July, the critic of The Athenaeum reviewed the performance of Wagner’s opera and expressed a surprisingly mild opinion, once we consider the tone of the periodical’s previous articles. Still, it was claimed, the “music of the future” maintained an uncertain status in England, since L’Olandese dannato could not be considered a test of the reception of Wagner’s later works.41 The composition of Der Fliegende Holländer dates back to the early 1840s and the composer conducted its premiere at Dresden in 1843. Although Wagner himself considered this work a “decisive turning point” of his career, in 1870 Der Fliegende Holländer could not be understood as the best and most up-to-date example of Wagner’s evolution towards the so-called “music of the future.”42 Although a milstone in Wagner’s compositional development from Rienzi (1842), in which the composer followed the model of French Grand Opéra, to his more mature works, Tannhäuser (1845) and Lohengrin (1850), Der Fliegende Holländer was still strongly influenced by the operatic tradition from which Wagner was then departing. In L’Olandese, the critic claimed, Wagner had not violated the laws of operatic tradition, his score being laid out in the conventional form; the overture included the leading themes, while the vocal numbers were divided in the orthodox fashion of recitative and cabaletta. In that regard, the Wagner of Der Fliegende Holländer had nothing to do with the much-preached “music of the future.” The critic of The Times and The Musical World held a similar opinion, declaring himself partial to a work which was the least extravagant among others that were formless and contained no genuine music. “Every step since taken in advance of it seems to us a step in the wrong direction.”43 The same judgment made its appearance on the very same day in the columns of The Musical World, signed by Thaddeus Egg, a pseudonym under which, as we know, the figure of Davison should be recognised. Again, apart from the controversy concerning the English critics opposing Wagner as a reaction to his allegations, Der Fliegende Holländer represented a weak starting point for the “music of the future.” Wagner himself would have been surprised to see one of his earlier works preferred to the more advanced ones. Still, the critic pointed out that Der Fliegende Holländer was “good milk for babes,” since the London operagoers’ capability to digest more challenging works was yet to develop. In a way, it was a good idea to give the London audience a soft start.

21A different issue was raised by the critic of The Morning Post, who addressed the degree of novelty offered by Wagner’s music when compared to the traditional operatic repertoire and the average taste and expectation of the audience.

  • 44 Dennis Arundel, The Critic at the Opera, Contemporary Comments on Opera in London over Three Centur (...)

The music with which Wagner has described this story in his opera is of the most remarkable character: utterly unlike any operatic music familiar to the British public, and possessing none of the characteristics of an evanescent popularity, there are few melodies the average London publisher would care to disseminate, because the difficulty of the treatment places them far above the usual style of stuff which the ladies of the present generation have been led by the publishers to believe is taste-improving.44

22Although not the most innovative of Wagner’s works, the music of Der Fliegende Holländer would sound unfamiliar enough to those listeners whose ear had been nurtured in the traditional operatic music of the so-called hackneyed operas. However, the work was performed only twice, a circumstance suggesting that it scored a limited popular success.

  • 45 The Musical Standard, August 6, 1870, p. 45.
  • 46 Edward Dannreuther, Richard Wagner: His Tendencies and Theories (London: Augener, 1873), p. 1.

23The critic of The Musical Standard was quite enthusiastic, and pronounced L’Olandese dannato the most interesting event of the musical season, an occasion that would convince even the most contemptuous critic of the quality of Wagner’s music.45 In the meantime, having founded the London Wagner Society in 1872, Edward Dannreuther published Richard Wagner: His Tendencies and Theories with the purpose of elucidating the composer’s ideas for the benefit of the lately arisen curiosity of the English public.46

24Interestingly, Wagner’s controversial position and the hubbub occasioned by the performance of his L’Olandese dannato prompted the critic of The Illustrated Review to raise one further issue. In commenting on the gradual acceptance of Wagner and the increasing recognition of his artistic value all over Europe, as was suggested by the large number of performances his operas were receiving outside Germany, in 1872 the commentator argued that the troublesome German composer had at least one merit. He had finally shaken the English critics and the public, and woken them from their torpor. Their reaction served to demonstrate that the English composers could not keep up with their French, German and Italian colleagues, and that the English were a “somewhat stolid and unimaginative race.” Always too good at criticising and condemning others, they were not as good at creating music worth listening to and speaking of.

Notes

1 The Musical Times, January 1, 1868, pp. 252–54.

2 The Musical World, January 11, 1868, p. 18.

3 The Musical World, March 7, 1868, p. 159.

4 The Musical World, March 14, 1868, p. 171.

5 The Musical World, April 4, 1868, p. 227.

6 The Musical World, April 11, 1868, p. 245, also published on The Times, April 6.

7 The Musical World, April 18, 1868, p. 264.

8 Ibid., p. 265.

9 The Musical World, June 6, 1868, p. 382, from The Saturday Review.

10 Ibid. On 15 August a similar opinion made its appearance in the same journal, in a contribution signed under the pseudonym Shaver Silver, behind which the figure of H. Sutherland has been identified. Sutherland was the author of Rossini and His School (London: S. Low, Marston, Searle & Rivington, 1881) and The Lyrical Drama. Essays on Subjects, Composers, & Executants of Modern Opera (London: W.H. Allen, 1881).

11 The Athenaeum, April 11, 1868, p. 533.

12 The Musical World, July 11, 1868, p. 489.

13 The Athenaeum, August 1, 1868, p. 153.

14 The Athenaeum, September 12, 1868, p. 345.

15 The Athenaeum, September 19, 1868, p. 378. The article bears the initials of the author, H. F. C.

16 The Athenaeum, September 26, 1868, p. 408. The article bears the initials of the author, H. F. C.

17 The Athenaeum, December 5, 1868, p. 761.

18 The Musical World, March 10, 1869, p. 156. See also The Athenaeum, February 27, 1869, p. 315.

19 The Musical World, April 3, 1869, p. 231.

20 The Musical Times, April 1, 1869, pp. 44–45.

21 Charles Santley, Student and Singer, the Reminiscences of Charles Santley (New York, London: Macmillian & Co., 1892), p. 297.

22 The Times, April 5, 1869, p. 5.

23 The Musical World, April 10, 1869, p. 249.

24 The Musical World, April 24, 1869, p. 288.

25 The Musical World, May 8, 1869, pp. 329–30.

26 See The Times, May 17, 1869, p. 9 and The Musical World, May 22, 1869, pp. 367–68.

27 The Musical World, August 21, 1869, p. 588.

28 “Judaism in Music,” The Athenaeum, April 24, 1869, p. 578.

29 “Apropos of the Holländer,” The Musical World, July 30, 1870, p. 506.

30 In 1848 J. De Clerville addressed the manner in which Verdi had been the object of repeated, gratuitous, acrimonious criticisms in the columns of The Musical World (29 April 1848), and argued that there could be good reasons why the Italian composer was pursuing an innovative operatic ideal.

31 The Athenaeum, September 18, 1869, p. 378.

32 The Athenaeum, September 25, 1869, p. 410.

33 Hughes, The English Musical Renaissance and the Press, p. 72.

34 The Musical Times, May 1, 1870, pp. 458–59.

35 The Musical World, March 19, 1870, pp. 192, 198 and 206.

36 The Musical World, April 9, 1870, p. 244.

37 The Musical World, April 30, 1870, p. 304.

38 Adelina Patti (Madrid, 19 February 1843—Craig-y-Nos Castle, 27 September 1919) won the admiration of the most severe international critics thanks to the quality of her voice, her dramatic talent, and her stylistic versatility. Her repertoire included Rossini’s, Donizetti’s and Bellini’s bel canto operas, Mozart’s Don Giovanni and Nozze di Figaro as well as Verdi’s Il trovatore and Aida (see chapter 17), among others. Verdi thought highly of Patti, but she never recorded any of Verdi’s arias. She was long considered the most authoritative representative of the bel canto and her richly ornamented renditions of the coloratura repertoire were much appreciated not only by the public, but also by her colleagues and many contemporary music critics. Patti recorded “Ah non credea mirarti,” the aria from the final scene of Vincenzo Bellini’s La sonnambula (1831), in 1906, at Craig-y-Nos Castle. Her interpretation is characterised by the ubiquitous presence of portamentos (the voice slides up or down before reaching the written note), a few ornaments and a number of ritardandos. Available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w2LY6YLHn7U

39 The Musical Times, June 1, 1870, p. 489.

40 The Musical Times, August 1, 1870, pp. 556–58.

41 “Wagner’s ‘Fliegende Holländer,’” The Athenaeum, July 30, 1870, pp. 153–54.

42 See Richard Wagner, “A Communication to my Friends (1851),” in Richard Wagner’s Prose Works, trans. William Ashton Ellis (London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trübner & Co., 1892), 1: 300–09.

43 The Times, July 25, 1870, p. 12, and The Musical World, July 30, 1870, p. 506.

44 Dennis Arundel, The Critic at the Opera, Contemporary Comments on Opera in London over Three Centuries (New York: Da Capo Press, 1980), p. 350. The volume was originally published in London by Benn, 1957.

45 The Musical Standard, August 6, 1870, p. 45.

46 Edward Dannreuther, Richard Wagner: His Tendencies and Theories (London: Augener, 1873), p. 1.

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