“Every nation, as you say, has its excellencies; and ours should not quit the manly nervous sense, which is the distinction of the English drama. One play of our celebrated Shakespeare will give infinitely more pleasure to a sensible mind than a dozen English-Italian operas. But, my dear, in Italy, they are quite another thing: and the sense is not, as here, sacrificed so much to the sound, but that they are both very compatible.”
“Be pleased, Sir, to give me your observations on this head in writing, and then I shall have something to send worthy of Lady Davers’s acceptance.”
“I will, my dear;” and he took a pen, and wrote the inclosed; which I beg your ladyship to return me; because I will keep it for my instruction, if I should be led to talk of this subject in company. “Let my sister know,” said he, “that I have given myself no time to re-peruse what I have written. She will do well, therefore, to correct it, and return it to you.”
“In Italy, judges of operas are so far from thinking the drama or poetical part of their operas nonsense, as the unskilled in Italian rashly conclude in England, that if the Libretto, as they call it, is not approved, the opera, notwithstanding the excellence of the music, will be condemned. For the Italians justly determine, that the very music of an opera cannot be complete and pleasing, if the drama be incongruous, as I may call it, in its composition, because, in order to please, it must have the necessary contrast of the grave and the light, that is, the diverting equally blended through the whole. If there be too much of the first, let the music be composed ever so masterly in that style, it will become heavy and tiresome; if the latter prevail, it will surfeit with its levity: wherefore it is the poet’s business to adapt the words for this agreeable mixture: for the music is but secondary, and subservient to the words; and if there be an artful contrast in the drama, there will be the same in the music, supposing the composer to be a skilful master.
“Now, since in England, the practice has been to mutilate, curtail, and patch up a drama in Italian, in order to introduce favourite airs, selected from different authors, the contrast has always been broken thereby, without every one’s knowing the reason: and since ignorant mercenary prompters, though Italians, have been employed in hotch-potch, and in translating our dramas from Italian into English, how could such operas appear any other than incongruous nonsense?”
Permit me, dear Madam, to repeat my assurances, that I am, and must ever be, your obliged sister and servant,
Well, now, my dear lady, I will give you my poor opinion of a masquerade, to which Mr. B. persuaded me to accompany Miss Darnford; for, as I hinted in my former, I had a great indifference, or rather dislike, to go, and Miss therefore wanted so powerful a second, to get me with her; because I was afraid the freedoms which I had heard were used there, would not be very agreeable to my apprehensive temper, at this time especially.