Apropos to singing;—we were this evening carried to a well-known conservatory called the Mendicanti; who performed an oratorio in the church with great, and I dare say deserved applause. It was difficult for me to persuade myself that all the performers were women, till, watching carefully, our eyes convinced us, as they were but slightly grated. The sight of girls, however, handling the double bass, and blowing into the bassoon, did not much please me; and the deep-toned voice of her who sung the part of Saul, seemed an odd unnatural thing enough. What I found most curious and pretty, was to hear Latin verses, of the old Leonine race broken into eight and six, and sung in rhyme by these women, as if they were airs of Metastasio; all in their dulcified pronunciation too, for the patois runs equally through every language when spoken by a Venetian.
Well! these pretty syrens were delighted to seize upon us, and pressed our visit to their parlour with a sweetness that I know not who would have resisted. We had no such intent; and amply did their performance repay my curiosity, for visiting Venetian beauties, so justly celebrated for their seducing manners and soft address. They accompanied their voices with the forte-piano, and sung a thousand buffo songs, with all that gay voluptuousness for which their country is renowned.
The school, however is running to ruin apace; and perhaps the conduct of the married women here may contribute to make such conservatorios useless and neglected.
When the Duchess of Montespan asked the famous Louison D’Arquien, by way of insult, as she pressed too near her, “Comment alloit le metier[O]?” “Depuis que les dames sen melent” (replied the courtesan with no improper spirit,) “il ne vaut plus rien[P].” It may be these syrens have suffered in the same cause; I thought the ardency of their manners an additional proof of their hunger for fresh prey.
[Footnote O: How goes the profession?]
[Footnote P: Why since the quality has taken to it ma’am, it brings us in very little indeed.]
Will Naples, the original seat of Ulysses’s seducers, shew us any thing stronger than this? I hardly expect or wish it. The state of music in Italy, if one may believe those who ought to know it best, is not what it was. The manner of singing is much changed, I am told; and some affectations have been suffered to encroach upon their natural graces. Among the persons who exhibited their talents at the Countess of Rosenberg’s last week, our country-woman’s performance was most applauded; but when I name Lady Clarges, no one will wonder.