German Opera at Palmo’s Opera House.
The opening of the German Opera on Monday evening, by the representation of Der Freischutz, was well attended and gave good satisfaction. The music of this favorite Opera is familiar to every one, and to hear all the airs in their natural places was very pleasant to those who had never before heard it as a whole.
The performance and arrangements were tolerably good, quite as much so as can be expected at the beginning. We hope very much the German Opera will succeed among us, and take its turn with the Italian and French. We shall thus have an opportunity to become better acquainted with the great composers of the German school, and when a taste for their works is sufficiently cultivated, the best performers will presently be induced to visit us. We ought and we may easily have opportunity to become acquainted with all kinds of excellence from all parts of the world. To have this opportunity, it is only necessary that we should wish for it with sufficient earnestness to encourage efforts of this kind. We suppose, though there are many Germans in New-York, there still are not enough to furnish a permanent audience even to their national entertainments, which must be doubly dear to them in the new land. Our people, by aiding them, may enjoy the double advantage of becoming acquainted with their music and their language, for you gain more familiar acquaintance with a language by attending dramatic entertainments, and, especially, those where the association of music with the words assists the memory to retain them, than you possibly can in any other way.
We hope there will be some means adopted to get rid of the smoke and sulphurous fumes that follow upon the magical scenes in this opera, as the air in most places for public exhibitions is so bad, at any rate, from the absence of all proper means of ventilation, as to be almost unendurable and destructive to health, if breathed often; the addition of these fumes is a little too much.
In a more refined state of society it will be thought wonderful that people submit to be tormented as they do under the name of pleasure. It will then be thought incredible that they so long submitted to breathe this polluted air and bear the inevitable consequences—that they did not secure tolerably comfortable seats—that they did not every where, as they do at one or two places, have the seats numbered and the occupants directed to them by ushers, instead of being jostled and crowded, or else obliged to go so early as to waste an hour or even two hours, and destroy or dull the power of attention and enjoyment before the performance begins.
Other of our customs will be considered as marking a semi-barbarous period—among them that of mixing up bad and good music at concerts, so that there shall be something for all kinds of hearers. Even if all the music be good, a concert requires the greatest skill and delicacy of feeling in the director so to grade and alternate the different kinds that one shall not clash with another, and the changes jar rudely on the hearer’s mood.—There seems, indeed, in this country, a singular absence of all regard to effect upon the mind of the hearer likely to result from the choice of music. At Concerts lively jigs are interspersed with the dead march or the prayer of a priestess, and lately we heard a serenade to a bridal pair composed of a hop waltz and the music of the song “Love Not,” of which the verses begin, we think, like this:
Listening to this ominous serenade we supposed it to be conducted on this principle! Some friends of the new-married pair having paid a certain sum to have it given, the leader of the band thought the money worth one gay tune and one melancholy one, the prettiest to his taste he knew; and accordingly broke the silence of the night with the Hop Waltz and wound up with “Love not” as being the longest and most impressive of the two.
A people who hear good music well performed, and in a way that does not disguise its meaning, cannot long fancy that it is only meant to tickle the ear, but will find that the soul is reached also. To wash away this ignorance, nothing is so valuable as the performance of Operas and Oratorios as wholes. A taste has been formed here for Italian music by the Italian Opera, and we hope the German Opera may do the same for the other great kingdom of music. The company have begun well with Von Weber, whose romantic genius cannot fail of speedy sympathy, wherever there are men of any fancy or capacity for romance. They promise also the Don Juan and Magic Flute of Mozart, whose imagination and heavenly tenderness must find sympathy wherever there are men capable of the higher and more refined emotions. As in the case of Der Freischütz, the airs in these works of Mozart are so familiar, that we shall have the pleasure of finding old acquaintances in their native home at last.*
“German Opera at Palmo’s Opera House.” New-York Daily Tribune, 11 December 1845, p. 1.