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that “ written by Metastasio” put up in the bills of the day, would alone be sufficient to fill a house ; since thus the admirers of sense as well as sound might find entertainment.
The performers also should be entreated to sing only their parts, without clapping in any of their own favourite airs.
. I must own, that such songs are generally to me the most disagreeable in the world. Every singer generally chooses a favourite air, not from the excellency of the music, but from the difficulty ; such songs are generally chosen as surprize rather than please, where the performer may show his compass, his breath, and his volubility.
Hence proceed those unnatural startings, those unmusical closings, and shakes lengthened out to a painful continuance : such, indeed, may show a voice, but it must give a truly delicate ear the utmost uneasiness. Such tricks are not music; neither Corelli nor Pergolesi ever permitted them, and they begin even to be discontinued in Italy, where they first had their rise. And now I am upon the subject ; our composers
also should affect greater simplicity : let their bass cliff have all the variety they can give it ; let the body of the music (if I may so express it) be as various as they please, but let them avoid ornamenting a barren ground-work ; let them not attempt, by flourishing, to cheat us of solid harmony
The works of M. Rameau are never heard without a surprising effect. I can attribute it only to this simplicity he every where observes, insomuch that some of his finest harmonies are often only octave and unison. This simple manner has greater powers than is generally imagined ; and were not such a demonstration misplaced, I think, from the principles of music, it might be proved to be most agreeable.
But to leave general reflection. With the present set of performers, the operas, if the conductor thinks proper, may be carried on with some success, since they have all some merit; if not as actors, at least as singers. Signora Mattei is at once both a perfect actress and a very fine singer : she is possessed of a fine sensibility in her manner, and seldom indulges those extravagant and unmusical flights of voice complained of before. Cornacini, on the other hand, is a very indifferent actor, has a most unmeaning face, seems not to feel his part, is infected with a passion of showing his compass; but to recompense all these defects, his voice is melodious, (1) he has vast compass and great volubility, his swell and shake are perfectly fine, unless that he continues the latter too long. In short, whatever the defects of his action may be, they are amply recompensed by his excellency as a singer; nor can I avoid fancying that he might make a much greater figure in an oratorio than upon the stage.
However, upon the whole, I know not whether ever operas can be kept up in England; they seem to be entirely exotic, and require the nicest management and care. Instead of this, the care of them is assigned to men unacquainted with the genius and disposition of the people they would amuse, and whose only motives are immediate gain. Whether a discontinuance of such entertainments would be more to the loss or the advantage of the nation, I will not take upon me to determine; since it is as much our interest to induce foreigners of taste among us on the one hand, as it is to discourage those trifling members of society, who generally compose the operatical dramatis persona, on the other.
(1) [" Cornacini's voice was not good, and his style of singing by no means grand or captivating.”-Hist. of Music, vol. iv.]
[In 1765, Goldsmith, willing to avail himself of the current of approbation
which, since the appearance of the Traveller,' was running in his favour, was induced to make a selection of the papers which had appeared anonymously in several of the periodicals of the day, and published them in a duodecimo volume. It was printed for Newberry and Griffin, and appeared on the 3d of June, under the title of ' Essays BY MR. GOLDSMITH,' and with the motto, Collecta revirescunt. The Essays not admitted by the Poet into this volume, are now, for the first time, introduced into his collected works. Of their authenticity no doubt can be ascertained. Several were pointed out by Mr. Thomas Wright, who originally printed some of them from the manuscript of the author; others were known to the industrious and accurate Isaac Reed; others again, to Bishop Percy and Mr. Malone, particularly those on the study of the Belles-Lettres, printed in 1761-3; and which were included by the former in the edition of the works published in 1801. The collection of 1765 had the following Preface.)
The following Essays have already appeared at different times, and in different publications. The pamphlets in which they were inserted being generally unsuccessful, these shared the common fate, without assisting the bookseller's aims or extending the writer's reputation. The public were too strenuously employed with their own follies, to be assiduous in estimating mine ; so that many of my best attempts in this way have fallen victims to the transient topic of the times the Ghost in Cock Lane, or the siege of Ticonderago.