But those who have heard “Romeo and Juliet” may possibly prefer even the insincere and unsatisfactory form of Italian opera which it represents to the perfectly sincere and perfectly satisfactory kind represented, say, by “La Favorita.” For, as I said, when Italian opera is sincere it offers what no one wants—ear-tickling, and ear-tickling, moreover, of a sort which is gone completely out of fashion. Donizetti was a genuine descendant of the true line of opera-composers upon whom Gluck laid his curse, and he spent his life in devising pleasant noises to make his patrons’ evenings pass agreeably. I cannot believe that anyone ever yet understood what “La Favorita” is all about, or that anyone ever wanted to understand. It is a series of songs of the inanest and insanest sort, without a single expressive bar, or a single tone-pattern which is beautiful regarded simply as a pattern. Even the famous “Spirito Gentil” is merely a stream of the brackish water that flowed, day and night, from Donizetti’s pen, only it happens to be a little clearer than usual. But those tunes, so feeble and insipid now, pleased the ears of the time when Lord Steyne went to the opera for a momentary respite from boredom and to recruit his harem from the ballet corps; and Donizetti wrote them with no intention of posing as a grand composer, but simply as a humble purveyor of sweetmeats. In those days there was no music-hall, and the opera had to serve its purpose: hence the slight confusion which results in Donizetti, poor soul, being thought a better man than Mr. Jacobi is thought at the present time, although Mr. Jacobi cannot have less than a thousand times Donizetti’s brains and invention. Mr. Jacobi’s music is capital in its place; but I doubt whether it will be revived fifty years hence; and but for the fact that Donizetti was an opera-composer—and Mozart and Gluck were opera-composers too!—it is pretty certain that not the united prayers of Patti, Albani, Melba, and Eames would induce any operatic management to resurrect “La Favorita.” Even up-to-date ear-tickling is not popular now in the opera-house: we go to the music-hall for it; and we don’t want to pay a guinea at the opera to be tickled in a way that arouses no pleasurable sensations. Those terrific tonic and dominant passages for the trombones, sounding like the furious sawing of logs of wood, only make us laugh; and pretty tootlings of the flutes have long been done better, and overdone, elsewhere. Donizetti is amongst the dead whom no resurrection awaits.
And first, for the sake of chronology, Verdi younger. “La Traviata” was produced in 1853, says the learned Grove, which I have consulted on the point, and “Aida” not till 1871. And though Verdi was not young, for an ordinary man, in 1871, he was very young indeed for the composer of “Falstaff” and “Otello”; while in the “Traviata” period one can scarcely say he was doing more than