Among the principal interests of my London life at this time was the production at our theater of Weber’s opera, “Der Freyschuetz.” Few operas, I believe, have had a wider or more prolonged popularity; none certainly within my recollection ever had any thing approaching it. Several causes conduced to this effect. The simple pathos of the love story, and the supernatural element so well blended with it, which gave such unusual scope to the stage effects of scenery, etc., were two obvious reasons for its success.
From the inimitably gay and dramatic laughing chorus and waltz of the first scene to the divine melody in which the heroine expresses her unshaken faith in Heaven, immediately before her lover’s triumph closes the piece, the whole opera is a series of exquisite conceptions, hardly one of which does not contain some theme or passage calculated to catch the dullest and slowest ear and fix itself on the least retentive memory; and though the huntsman’s and bridesmaid’s choruses, of course, first attained and longest retained a street-organ popularity, there is not a single air, duet, concerted piece, or chorus, from which extracts were not seized on and carried away by the least musical memories. So that the advertisement of a German gentleman for a valet, who to other necessary qualifications was to add the indispensable one of not being able to whistle a note of “Der Freyschuetz,” appeared a not unnatural result of the universal furor for this music.
We went to hear it until we literally knew it by heart, and such was my enthusiasm for it that I contrived to get up a romantic passion for the great composer, of whom I procured a hideous little engraving (very ugly he was, and very ugly was his “counterfeit presentment,” with high cheek-bones, long hooked nose, and spectacles), which, folded up in a small square and sewed into a black silk case, I carried like an amulet round my neck until I completely wore it out, which was soon after poor Weber’s death.