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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 170 pages of information about Great Singers, Second Series.
of Moliere’s dramas, the terror of the last scene when (between his teeth almost) the great artist uttered the line—­’Suir uscio tremendo lo sguardo figgiamo’—­clutching the while the weak and guilty woman by the wrist, as he dragged her to the door behind which her falsity was screened, was something fearful, a sound to chill the blood, a sight to stop the breath.”  This writer, in describing his performance of the part of the Doge in Verdi’s “I Due Foscari,” thus characterizes the last act when the Venetian chief refuses to pardon his own son for the crime of treason, faithful to Venice against his agonized affections as a father:  “He looked sad, weak, weary, leaned back as if himself ready to give up the ghost, but, when the woman after the allotted bars of noise began again her second-time agony, it was wondrous to see how the old sovereign turned in his chair, with the regal endurance of one who says ‘I must endure to the end,’ and again gathered his own misery into his old father’s heart, and shut it up close till the woman ended.  Unable to grant her petition, unable to free his son, the old man when left alone could only rave till his heart broke.  Signor Ronconi’s Doge is not to be forgotten by those who do not regard art as a toy, or the singer’s art as something entirely distinct from dramatic truth.”

His performance of the quack doctor Dulcamara, in “L’Elisir d’Amore,” was no less amazing as a piece of humorous acting, a creation matched by that of the haggard, starveling poet in “Matilda di Shabran” and Papageno in Mozart’s “Zauberflote.”  Anything more ridiculous and mirthful than these comedy chef-d’ouvres could hardly be fancied.  The same critic quoted above says:  “One could write a page on his Barber in Rossini’s master-work; a paragraph on his Duke in ’Lucrezia Borgia,’ an exhibition of dangerous, suspicious, sinister malice such as the stage has rarely shown; another on his Podesta in ‘La Gazza Ladra’ (in these two characters bringing him into close rivalry with Lablache, a rivalry from which he issued unharmed); and last, and almost best of his creations, his Masetto.”  Ronconi is, we believe, still living, though no longer on the stage; but his memory will remain one of the great traditions of the lyric drama, so long as consummate histrionic ability is regarded as worthy of respect by devotees of the opera.

V.

Mme. Viardot’s name is, perhaps, more closely associated with the music of Meyerbeer than that of any other composer.  Her Alice in “Robert le Diable,” her Valentine in “Les Huguenots,” added fresh luster to her fame.  In the latter character no representative of opera, in spite of the long bead-roll of eminent names interwoven with the record of this musical work, is worthy to be compared with her.  This part was for years regarded as standing to her what Medea was to

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