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Dame de Paris-the noble cathedral, with its rich and majestic tracery of ornament and of architecture. Quasimodo is directing the chimes,-how beautiful are the following verses :-
The Hunchback conceals himself behind a column as Claude Frollo enters with Clopin Trouillefou. The king of the beggars is instructed to spread detachments of armed vagabonds from the Cour des Miracles throughout the crowd-for we have forgotten to say that it is the morning of the executionnay more, distant murmurs warn us of the multitude's approach. The multitude precedes, escorts, and follows the procession.
This procession of the opera is not the least uninteresting portion of this magnificent institution. It is a well drilled pantomimic army, schooled to display every shade of wholesale emotion: say to the procession, "pray!" and the procession kneels as one man-command it to be gay, and you have the mad populace of the Venetian carnival before you-do you desire to close your eyes and to awake amid the pageants of
by-gone centuries? speak, and the procession appears in full panoply, on horseback, and armed in steel-do you seek to be thrilled with a display of storied horrors? the procession stalks before you, arrayed in the gloomy habiliments of the auto-da-fé.
At other times the procession of the opera is disbanded— thrown into groups-now in the market-place of the Muette, where who has not heard its lively chorus? where who has not watched the gathering of the storm, swelling and darkening into the full tempest of popular fury! then hushed, as if by an unseen power, while it kneels to invoke a blessing? and lastly, where who has not watched the struggle of revolution at its most ungovernable height, of mad rebellion with still madder tyranny and now into the bands of patriots who swell the army of William Tell.
From revolution and vehement tumult, the procession of the opera changes, with the most perfect readiness, to the gay revelry of the ball-room. See it appearing in the brilliant masquerade of Gustave! The motley army marches in graceful measure to the majestic Polonaise. Every costume is there; nay, more--each nation joins, not singly but in troops, the mazy dance. The frigid Laplander, the fiery Andalusian, the barbarous Cossack, the Frenchman of the old régime, the Chinese, the Turk, the Persian in rich costume, and then a type of every passion, the happy lovers, the jealous duenna, the bearded magician-all true to nature; i. e. to appearances. At a certain bar of the music, the procession of the opera smiles, three minutes after, it looks sad; all these symptoms of emotion are regulated by the ballet master-and a well-drilled chorister would be much more likely to sing one, two, three, or a dozen false notes, than would one of the processionists of the Grand Opera to smile or sadden out of time.
On Monday the procession of the opera appeared in La Juive; it there assumed two distinct characters--the triumphal parade of the emperor and his knights, and the mournful cortége which conducts the Juive to execution. On Wednesday the procession of the opera appeared first in Nathalie, a Swiss balletpantomime, wherein Mademoiselle Taglioni plays and dances divinely; it suddenly threw off its gay manners and peaceful costume, and appeared in the third act of William Tell; and, strange transformation! the evening's performance winds up with the masquerade of Gustave. It is Friday night-the Huguenots are played at the opera, and we have already seen the part which the procession plays in this wonderful drama. One would think that the procession of the opera had here had enough of such horrors-but no! it is again Monday night, we are at the fourth act of La Esmeralda-we are, in fact, where we
left off for this digression ;-see! the procession of the opera again appears upon the scene.
The crowd increases-murmurs-a sinister cortège begins to pour forth upon the square before the church; files of black penitents, banners of misericord, torches, archers, officers of justice and of police. The soldiers divide the crowd. The Esmeralda appears in white raiment, a halter around her neck, her feet naked, and a large black crape thrown over her. Near her, a monk with a crucifix; behind her, the executioners and a band of the king's troops. Quasimodo, leaning against the props of the portal, observes every thing with attention. The instant that the criminal arrives near the façade, a grave and distant chant is heard from within the closed doors of the cathedral.
"Omnes fluctus fluminis
The sounds gradually draw near, and finally burst forth as the doors are suddenly opened and reveal the interior of the church, filled by a long procession of priests in sacerdotal garments and preceded by banners. The procession is led by Claude Frollo in pontifical robes-he advances towards the Esmeralda.
The priest draws near his unfortunate victim-the Truands are in the crowd-a word from him, and the soldiers are overpowered and she rescued. The Esmeralda is obstinate-she spurns the apostate, and is delivered by him to the soldiery. But oh, surprise! Quasimodo rushes in among the archers, levels to the ground those engaged in seizing her, and bears off triumphantly into the church the rescued maiden.
"Quasimodo.-Asile! asile! asile!"
The people re-echo this cry. This exultation is doomed to disappointment. Claude Frollo proclaims the Egyptian still a prisoner-she is a pagan, and Notre-Dame can only save a Christian from the hands of human justice. The archers again advance upon the gipsy--the hunchback prepares to defend her-when suddenly a cry is heard from without-and soon Phoebus enters, on horseback, pale and exhausted. He has ridden far to save the Esmeralda, and denounces the priest as his assassin.
One would think that this libretto had already manifested a sufficiency of unnatural contrasts-that we have been alternately subjected to every opposing emotion which the skill of the dramatist and the nature of the subject could suggest-and that
VOL. XXI. NO. 41.
more especially in this last act the succession of antitheses had been rapid and overwhelming. But no; M. Hugo is as pitiless here as in most of his dramas. The handsome captain falls bleeding from his horse. The anxious and loving maiden receives him in her arms.
"Ciel tu pâlis! Qu'as tu!
Chaque pas que j'ai fait envers toi, ma bien-aimée
Je vais voir, ô mon pauvre ange
The last two lines are beautiful. The Esmeralda falls upon his body-and the piece concludes with the following singular and fantastic résumé :
"Claude Frollo.-Fatalité !
"The People.-Fatalité !"
and we must close our remarks on this opera, omitting entirely to notice the music, concerning the merits of which, the Journal des Débats and the Gazette de France-the organ of the juste milieu and the organ of legitimacy—are still waging a fierce and abusive war; the former in behalf of and the latter against the music of Mademoiselle Bertin. This lady is a daughter of the well known editor of the Débats. There is nevertheless a good calembourg in one of the smaller journals respecting it,
"Le chant-Bertin' n'enivre pas."
1 Pronounced Chambertin.
The Esmeralda was definitely condemned and driven from the stage on Friday evening, December 17th, 1836.
ART. IX.-Ion: a tragedy, in five acts. By THOMAS NOON TALFOURD. New York: 1837.
Tragedy, although its old form and features have departed, has not yet wholly succumbed to the spirit of the age. The stage, it is true, is fast losing its power, but readers are a thousandfold increased; and we question very much if the theatre alone ever gave a modern poet a real, lasting popularity. It is not wide enough. What a limited fame would his be whose work should only be known through the mouthing of a dozen actors, however clever. A metropolitan journal, and a metropolitan audience, would swear to its merits, and there an end. But now men write for millions. Each reader, as he passes over the performance, makes a little imaginary playhouse, and peoples it and gives it properties for himself. If he loses a few great points, he at least saves many small ones. any small ones. The Agamemnon of the piece has not it all to himself. Monimia's maid, with her impudent stare, and the identical petticoat which we have seen so often in the farce, does not destroy the vraisemblance of a whole tragedy. Your battles are decently fought, on meadow or mountain, not by four boobies of a side, between the flat and the foot-lamps. The truth is, that the schoolmaster is destroying the theatre. When men knew less of the realities of the world, and of the every-day progress of affairs, their imaginations were satisfied with exhibitions in which geography and chronology were infinitely outraged; and, perhaps, the next neighbouring nation transplanted to Africa or the New Continent. Now, managers are forced to seek other sources of excitement. The rage for melo-drama is the legitimate and necessary result of extended knowledge. Omne ignotum pro mirabile-men wonder at what they do not understand. Turkish heroes, with crooked cimeters and loose trowsers, used to be admired by children in the holidays; now, with big words and exaggerated sentiment in their mouths, they are gazed at by the vulgar of a larger growth. The theatre is given up to the lower classes, because the higher get better dramatic entertainment from books with less pain and expense. Actors degenerate because they have not the check of good taste in their audience. Writers for the stage become writers for the closet. Comedy is banished with the abolition of caste, and the progress of material science which brings mankind closer together, and a cheap literature, universally diffused, fills all the avenues of entertaining knowledge.
We never expect to see the theatre revived. Acting, once an art, has degenerated into a trade, to which few men will put themselves apprentice. It is a galling, miserable servitude to