Giacomo Meyerbeer (properly JAKOB LIEBMANN BEER), famous dramatic composer, was born at Berlin, of Jewish parents, Sept. 5, 1791. His fathers Herz Beer, a native of Frankfort, was a wealthy banker in Berlin; his mother (nee Amalie Wulf) was a woman of rare mental and intellectual gifts, and high cultivation. He was their eldest son, and a legacy from a rich relation named Meyer caused his name to take the form in which it was known. He seems to have been the sole member of his family remarkable for musical gifts; but two of his brothers achieved distinction in other lines – Wilhelm as an astronomer, and Michael (who died young) as a poet.
His genius showed itself early. His first instructor was Lauska, an eminent pianoforte player, and pupil of Clementi; and old Clementi himself, although he had long given up teaching, was so much struck, during a visit to Berlin, with the promise displayed in the boy’s performance as to consent to give him lessons. As early as seven years old he played in public the D minor Concerto of Mozart, and two years later was reckoned one of the best pianists in Berlin. The fact that, owing to the example and patronage of royalty, music was ‘the fashion’ in the Prussian capital did not prevent its being regarded by the wealthier classes in the light of a mere pastime, and it is to the credit of the Beers that they not only recognised their son’s especial bent, but did their best to give him a sound professional training. It was as a pianist that he was expected to win his laurels, but as he had also, from an early age, shown much talent for composition, he was placed under Zelter for instruction in theory, and subsequently (for Zelter’s rigid severity was insupportable to the young prodigy) under Bernard Anselm Weber, director of the Berlin Opera, and a pupil of the then celebrated Abbe Vogler. An amiable, accomplished man, full of enthusiasm for art, Weber was an inspiring companion, but not a competent theoretical teacher for such a pupil. The boy, whose industry was equal to his talent, brought one day to his master a fugue on which he had expended an unusual amount of time and pains, as he thought, with success. So thought Weber, who, proud and joyful sent off the fugue as a specimen of his pupil’s work to his old master, the Abbe Vogler, at Darmstadt. The answer was eagerly looked for, but months elapsed and nothing came. At last there appeared – not a letter, but a huge packet. This proved to contain a long and exhaustive treatise on Fugue, in three sections. The first of these was theoretical, setting forth in rule and maxim the whole ‘duty’ of the fugue – writer. The second, entitled ‘Scholar’s Fugue,’ contained Meyerbeer’s unlucky exercise, dissected and criticised bar by bar, and pronounced bad. The third, headed ‘Master’s Fugue,’ consisted of a fugue by Vogler, on Meyerbeer’s subject, analysed like the preceding one, to show that it was good.
Weber was astonished and distressed; but Meyerbeer set to work and wrote another fugue, in eight parts, in accordance with his new lights. This, with a modest letter, he sent to Vogler. The answer soon came: ‘Young man ! Art opens to you a glorious future! Come to me at Darmstadt. You shall be to me as a son, and you shall slake your thirst at the sources of musical knowledge.’ Such a prospect was not to be resisted, and in 1810 Meyerbeer became aninmate of Vogler’s house.
This notorious Abbe, regarded by some people as the most profound theoretician of Germany, by others (including Mozart) as an impudent charlatan, was possessed of some originality, much eccentricity, and unbounded conceit, not so much a learned man as an enthusiast for learning in the abstract, and with a mania for instructing others. His imperturbable self-confidence (‘he gives out that he will make a composer in three weeks and a singer in six months, says Mozart in one of his letters’) certainly had an attraction for young ardent minds, for among his pupils were several men of genius. After many years of a wandering, adventurous life, he had settled at Darmstadt, where he was pensioned and protected by the Grand Duke.
In his house Meyerbeer had for companions Gansbacher (afterwards an organist of repute at Vienna), and Carl Maria von Weber, who had studied with Vogler some years before, and was now attracted to Darmstadt by his presence there, and between whom and Meyerbeer, eight years his junior, there sprang up a warm and lasting friendship. Each morning after early mass, when the young men took it in turns to preside at the organ, they assembled for a lesson in counterpoint from the Abbe. Themes were distributed, and a fugue or sacred cantata had to be written every day.
In the evening the work was examined, when each man had to defend his own composition against the critical attacks of Vogler and the rest. Organ fugues were improvised in the Cathedral, on subjects contributed by all in turn. In this way Meyerbeer’s education was carried on for two years. His diligence was such that often, when interested in some new branch of study, he would not leave his room nor put off his dressing-gown for days together. His great power of execution on the pianoforte enabled him to play at sight the most intricate orchestral scores, with a full command of every part. His four-part ‘Sacred Songs of Klopstock’ were published at this time, and an oratorio of his, entitled ‘God and Nature,’ was performed in presence of the Grand Duke, who appointed him Composer to the Court. His first opera, ‘Jephthah’s Vow’ was also written during this Vogler period and produced at Munich in 1813. Biblical in subject, dry and scholastic in treatment, it resembled an oratorio rather than an opera and although connoisseurs thought it promising, it failed to please the public.
A comic opera, ‘Alimeleky or the Two Caliphs,’ met with a better fate at Stuttgart in 1811. It was bespoken and put in rehearsal by the manager of the Karnthnerthor theatre in Vienna. To Vienna, in consequence, Meyerbeer now repaired, with the intention of making his appearance there as a pianist. But on the very evening of his arrival he chanced to hear Hummel, and was so much impressed by the grace, finish, and exquisite legato playing of this artist that he became dissatisfied with all he had hitherto aimed at or accomplished, and went into a kind of voluntary retirement for several months, during which time he subjected his technic to a complete reform, besides writing a quantity of pianoforte music, which, however, was never published.
He made a great sensation on his first appearance, and Moscheles, who heard him at this time, was wont to say that, had he chosen a pianist’s career, few virtuosi could have rivalled him. But to be a composer was the only goal worthy of his ambition, although at this moment it seemed to recede as he pursued it. The ‘Two Caliphs,’ performed in Vienna in 1814, had been an utter failure. Dejected, disheartened to such a degree as almost to doubt whether he had not from the first deceived himself as to his vocation, he was somewhat consoled by the veteran Salieri, who reassured him, affirming that he wanted nothing in order to succeed but freedom from scholastic trammels, and, above all, knowledge of the human voice and how to write for it, a knowledge, Salieri added, only to be acquired in Italy.
Accordingly, in 1815, Meyerbeer went to Venice. It was Carnival time. Rossini’s ‘Tancredi’ was then at the height of its popularity, and all Venice resounded with ‘Di tanto palpiti.’ To Meyerbeer, accustomed to associate Italian opera with the dreary works of Nicolini, Farinelll, Pavesi, and others, this was a revelation, and he surrendered spellbound to the genial charm. Hope awoke, emulation was rekindled. He had no style of his own to abandon, but he abandoned Vogler’s without regret, and set to work to write Italian operas. His success was easy and complete. ‘Romilda e Costanza’ (produced at Padua in 1818, Pisaroni in the leading part), ‘Semiramide riconosciuta’ (Turin, 1819), ‘Eduardo ecristina’ and ‘Emma di Resburgo’ (Venice, 1820) were all received with enthusiasm by the Italian people, and this at a time when it was difficult for any one but Rossini to obtain a hearing.
The last named opera was played in Germany under the title of ‘Emma von Leicester,’ and not unsuccessfully. ‘Margherita d’ Anjou’, the best of these operas was written for the Scala at Milan and given there in 1820. ‘L’ Esule di Granata’ (1822) made but little impression. ‘Almansor’ was commenced at Rome, but not completed.
In 1823, while engaged in writing the ‘Crociato,’ the composer went to Berlin, where he tried, but failed, to get a performance of a three act German opera ‘Das Brandenburger Thor’. This was a time of transition in his life. He was wearying of the Italian manner, and he could not be insensible to the murmurs of dissatisfaction which everywhere in Germany made themselves heard at the degradation of his talent by his change of style. Foremost among the malcontents was C. M. von Weber, who had looked on his friend as the hope of that German opera in which were centered his own ardent aspirations, and who in 1815 at Prague, and subsequently at Dresden, had mounted ‘The Two Caliphs’ with extraordinary care and labour, hoping perhaps to induce him to return to his old path.
‘My heart bleeds,’ he wrote, ‘to see a German composer of creative power stoop to become an imitator in order to win favour with the crowd.’
In spite of all this the friendship of the two men remained unshaken. On his way back to Italy Meyerbeer spent a day with Weber, who wrote of it, ‘Last Friday I had the happiness of having Meyerbeer with me. It was a red letter day, a reminiscence of dear old Mannheim. . . . . We did not seperate till late at night. He is going to bring out his ‘Crociato’ at Trieste, and in less than a year is to come back to Berlin, where perhaps he will write a German opera. Please God he may! I made many appeals to his conscience.’ Weber did not live to see his wish fulfilled, but the desire which he expressed before his death that an opera he left unfinished should be completed by Meyerbeer, showed that his faith in him was retained to the last.
The ‘Crociato’ was produced at Venice in 1824, and created a furore, the composer being called for and crowned on the stage. In this opera, written in Germany, old associations seem to have asserted themselves. More ambitious in scope than its predecessors, it shows an attempt, timid indeed, at dramatic combination which constitutes it a kind of link between his ‘wild oats’ (as in after years he designated these Italian works) and his later operas. In 1826 he was invited to witness its first performance in Paris, and this proved to be the turning point of his career. He eventually took up his residence in Paris, and lived most of his subsequent life there. From 1824 till 1831 no opera appeared from his pen. A sojourn in Berlin, during which his father died, his marriage, and the loss of two children, were among the causes which kept him from public life. But in these years he undertook that profound study of French character, French history, and French art which resulted in the final brilliant metamorphosis of his dramatic and musical style, and in the great works by which his name is remembered.
Paris was the headquarters of the unsettled, restless, tentative spirit which at that epoch pervaded Europe, the partial subsidence of the ferment caused by a century of great thoughts, ending in a revolution that had shaken society to its foundations. Men had broken away from the past, without as yet finding any firm standpoint for the future. The most opposite opinions flourished side by side. Art was a conglomeration of styles of every time and nation, all equally acceptable if treated with cleverness. Originality was at an ebb; illustration supplied the place of idea. Reminiscence, association, the picturesque, the quaint, ‘local colour,’ these were sought for rather than beauty; excitement for the senses, but through the medium of the intellect. Men turned to history and legend for material, seeking in the least a torch which, kindled at the fire of modern thought, might throw light on present problems. This spirit of eclecticism found its perfect musical counterpart in the works of Meyerbeer. The assimilative power that, guided by tenacity of purpose, enabled him to identify himself with any style he chose, found in this intellectual ferment, as yet unrepresented in music, a well nigh inexhaustible field, while these influences in return proved the key to unlock all that was original and forcible in his nature. And he found a fresh stimulus in the works of French operatic composers, abounding, as they do, in quaint, suggestive ideas, only waiting the hand of a master to turn them to full account.
‘He did not shrink, as a man, from the unremitting, insatiable industry he had shown as a boy, and he buried himself in the literature of French opera, from the days of Lulli onwards
. . . . It was interesting to see in his library hundreds of opera scores great and small, many of which were hardly known by name even to the most initiated. . . .
In his later works we see that to the flowing melody of the Italians and the solid harmony of the Germans be united the pathetic declamation and the varied, piquant rhythm of the French.’ (Mendel.) Last, but not least, in his librettist, Eugene Scribe, he found a worthy and invaluable collaborator.
Many vicissitudes preceded the first performance, in 1831, of ‘Robert le Diable’, the opera in which the new Meyerbeer first revealed himself, and of which the unparalleled success extended in a very few years over the whole civilized world. It made the fortune of the Paris Opera. Scenic effect, striking contrast, novel and brilliant instrumentation, vigorous declamatory recitative, melody which pleased none the less for the strong admixture of Italian opera conventionalities, yet here and there (as in the beautiful scena ‘Robert ! toi que j’aime ‘) attaining a dramatic force unlooked for and till then unknown, a story part heroic, part legendary, part allegorical, with this strange picturesque medley all were pleased, for in it each found something to suit his taste.
The popularity of the opera was so great that the ‘Huguenots’, produced in 1886, suffered at first by contrast. The public, looking for a repetition, with a difference, of ‘Robert,’ was disappointed at finding the new opera quite unlike it’s predecessor, but was soon forced to acknowledge the incontrovertible truth, that it was immeasurably the superior of the two. As a drama it depends for none of its interest on the supernatural. It is, as treated by Meyerbeer, the most vivid chapter of French history that ever was written. The splendours and the terrors of the sixteenth century, its chivalry and fanaticism, its ferocity and romance, the brilliance of courts and the ‘chameleon colours’ of artificial society,’ the sombre fervour of Protestantism are all here depicted and endued with life and reality, while the whole is conceived and carried out on a scale of magnificence hitherto unknown in opera.
In 1838 the book of the d Africaine’ was given to Meyerbeer by Scribe. He became deeply interested in it, and the composition and recomposition, casting and recasting of his work, occupied him at intervals to the end of his life. His excessive anxiety about his operas extended to the libretti, with which he was never satisfied, but would have modified to suit his successive fancies over and over again, until the final form retained little likeness to the original. This was especially the case with the ‘Africaine,’ subsequently called ‘Vasco de Gama’ (who, although the hero, was an afterthought!), and many were his altercations with Scribe, who got tired of the endless changes demanded by the composer, and withdrew his book altogether; but was finally pacified by Meyerbeer’s taking another libretto of his, ‘Le Prophete,’ which so forcibly excited the composer’s imagination that he at once set to work on it and finished it within a year (1843).
A good deal of his time was now posed in Berlin, where the King had appointed him General musik director in 1842. Here he wrote several occasional pieces, cantatas, marches, and dance music, besides the three act German opera, ‘Ein Feldlager in Schlesien.’ The success of this work was magically increased, a few weeks after its firstt performance, Dec. 1, 1844, by the appearance in the part of the heroine of a young Swedish singer, introduced to the Berlin public by Meyerbeer, who had heard her in Paris, Jenny Lind.
He at this time discharged some of the debt he owed his dead friend, C. M. von Weber, by producing ‘Euryanthe’ at Berlin. His duties at the opera were heavy, and he had neither the personal presence nor the requisite nerve and decision to make a good conductor. From 1845 he only conducted possibly not to their advantage his own opera, and those in which Jenny Lind sang.
The year 1846 was marked by the production of the overture and incidental music to his brother Michael’s drama of ‘Struensee.’ This very striking work is its composer’s only one in that style, and shows him in some of his best aspects. The overture is his most successful achievement in sustained instrumental composition. A visit to Vienna (where Jenny Lind achieved a brilliant success in the part of Vielka in the ;Feldlager in Schlesien’ ) and a subsequent sojourn in London occurred in 1847.
In the autumn he was back in Berlin, where, on the occasion of the King’s birthday, he produced, after long and careful preparation, ‘Rienzi,’ the earliest opera of his future rival and bitter enemy, Richard Wagner. The two composers had seen something of one another in Paris. Wagerer was then in necessitous circumstances, and Meyerbeer exerted himself to get employment for him, and to make him known to influential people in the musical world. Subsequently, Wagner, while still in France, composed the ‘Fliegende Hollander,’ to his own libretto. The score rejected by the theatres ot Leipzig and Munich, was sent by its composer to Meyerbeer, who brought about its acceptance at Berlin. Without claiming any extraordinary merit for these good offices of one brother artist to another, we may, however, say that Meyerbeer’s conduct was ill-requited by Wagner.
‘Le Prophete,’ produced at Paris in 1849, after long and careful preparation, materially added to its composer’s fame. Thirteen years had elapsed since the production of its predecessor. Once again the public looking for something like the ‘Huguenots’ was disappointed. Once again it was forced, after a time, to do justice to Meyerbeer’s power of transferring himself as it were, according to the dramatic requirements of his theme. But there are fewer elements of popularity in the ‘Prophete’ than in the ‘Huguenots’. The conventional operatic forms are subordinated to declamation and the coherent action of the plot. It contains some of Meyerbeer’s grandest thoughts, but the gloomy political and religious fanaticism which constitutes the interest of the drama, and the unimportance of the love story (the mother being the female character in whom the interest is centered), are features which appeal to the few rather than the many. The work depends for its popularity on colouring and chiaroscuro; the airy verve of the ballet music, and the splendid combinations of scenic and dramatic effects in the fourth act, being thrown into strong relief by the prevailing sombre hue.
Meyerbeer’s health was beginning to fail, and after this time he spent a part of every autumn at Spa, where he found to temporary refuge from his toils and cares. Probably no great composer ever suffered such a degree of nervous anxiety about his own works as he did. During their composition, and for long after their first completion, he altered and retouched continually, never satisfied and never sure of himself. During the correcting of the parts, the casting of the characters, the coaching of the actors, he never knew, nor allowed any one concerned to know, a moments peace of mind. Then came endless rehearsals, when he would give the orchestra passages scored in two ways, written in different coloured inks, and try their alternate effect; then the final performance, the ordeal of public opinion and of possible adverse criticism, to whitch, probably owing to his having been fed with applause and encouragement from his earliest years, he was so painfully susceptible that, as Heine says of him, he fulfilled the true Christian ideal, for he could not rest while there remained one unconverted soul, ‘and when that lost sheep was brought back to the fold he rejoiced more over him than over all the rest of the flock that had never gone astray.’ This peculiar temperament was probably the cause also of what Chorley calls his ‘fidgetiness ‘ in notations, leading him to express the exact amount of a rallentendo or other inflection of tempo by elaborate alterations of time signature, insertions or divisions of bars, giving to many of his pages a patchwork appearance most bewildering to the eye.
Faithful to change, he now challenged his adopted countrymen on their own especial ground by the production at the Opera Comique in 1854 of ‘L’Etoile du Nord.’ To this book he had intended to adapt the music of the ‘Feldlager in Schlesien,’ but his own ideas transforming themselves gradually while he worked on them, there remained at last only six numbers of the earlier work. ‘L’Etoile’ achieved considerable popularity, although it aroused much animosity among French musicians, jealous of this invasion of their own domain, which they also thought unsuited to the melodramatic style of Meyerbeer.
The same may be said of ‘Le Pardon do Ploerme1’ (Dinorah), founded on a Breton idyl, and produced at the Opera Comique in 1859.
Meyerbeer’s special pawers found no scope in this comparatively circumscribed field. The development of his genius since 1824 was too great not to be apparent in any style of composition, but these French operas, although containing much that is charming, were, like his Italian ‘wild oats,’ the result of an effort of will to be whomsoever he chose.
After 1859 he wrote, at Berlin, two cangtatas, and a grand march for the Schiller Centenary Festival, and began a musical drama never finished called ‘Goethe’s Jugendzeit,’ introducing several of Goethe’s lyrical poems, set to lyric. His life was overshadowed by the death of many friends and contemporaries, among them his old coadjutor, Scribe, to whom he owed so much.
In 1862 he represented German music at the opening of the London International Exhibition by his ‘Overture in the form of a March.’ (He had before visited England in 1832.) The next winter he was again in Berlin, still working at the ‘Africaine,’ to which the public looked forward with impatience and curiosity. For years the difficulty of getting a satisfactory cast had stood in the way of the production of this opera. His excessive anxiety and fastidiousness resulted in it being never performed at all during his lifetime. In October 1861 he returned, for the last time, to Paris. The opera was now finished, and in rehearsal. Still he corrected, polished, touched, and retouched: it occupied his thoughts night and day. But he had delayed too long. On April 23 he was attacked by illness, and on May 2, 1864, he died.
The ‘Africaine ‘ was performed after his death at the Academie in Paris, April 28, 1865. When it appeared in London (in Italian) on the 22nd July following, the creation by Pauline Lucca of the part of Selika will not soon be forgotten by those who had the good fortune to see it.
The work itself has suffered somewhat from the incessant change of intention of its composer. The original conception of the music belongs to the same period as the ‘Huguenots’, Meyerbeer’s golden age having occupied him from 1838 till 1843. Laid aside at that time for many years, and the book then undergoing a complete alteration, a second story being engrafted on to the first, the composition, when resumed, was carried on intermittently to the end of his life. The chorus of Bishops, and Nelusko’s two airs, for instance, were written in 1858; the first duet between Vasco and Selika in 1857; while the second great duet took its final form as late as the end of 1862.
The excessive length of the opera on its first production (when the performance occupied more than six hours) necessitated considerable curtailments detrimental to coherence of plot. But in spite of all this, the music has a special charm, a kind of exotic fragrance of it’s own, which will always make it to some minds the most sympathetic of Meyerbeer’s works. It is, in fact, the most purely musical of them all. None is so melodious or so pathetic, or so free from blemishes of conventionality; in none is the orchestration so tender: it may contain less that is surprising, but it is more imaginative; it approaches the domain of poetry more nearly than any of his other operas.
It is common to speak of Meyerbeer as the founder of a new school. Fetis affirms that, whatever fault, or failings have been laid to his charge by his opponents, one thing, his originality has never been called in question. ‘All that his works contain, character, ideas, scenes, rhythm, modulation, instrumentation, all are his and his only.’
Between this view and that of Wagner, who calls him a ‘miserable music maker, ‘a Jew banker to whom it occurred to compose operas,’ there seems an immeasurable gulf. The truth probably may be expressed by saying that he was unique rathr than original. No artist exists that is not partly made what he is by the ‘accident’ of preceding and surrounding circumstances. But on strong creative genius these modifying influences, especially those of contemporary art, have but a superficial effect, wholly secondary to the individuality which asserts itself throughout and finally moulds its environment to its owm likeness. Meyerbeer’s faculty was so determined in its manifestations by surrounding conditions, that, apart from them, it may almost be said to have had no active existence at all.
He changed music as often as he changed climate, though a little of each of his successive styles clung to him till the last. A born musician, of extraordinary ability, devoted to Art and keenly appreciative of the beautiful in all types, with an unlimited capacity for work, helped by the circumstance of wealth which in many another man would have been an excuse for idleness, he seized on the tendencies of his time and became its representative. He left no disciples, for he had no doctrine to bequeath; but he filled a gap which no one else could fill. As a great actor endows the characters he represents with life, since to the union of his personality with the outlines suggested by the dramatist they do in fact owe to him their objective existence, and are said to be treated by him, so Meyerbeer, by blending his intellect with the outlines and suggestions of a certain epoch, gave to it a distinct art existence which it has in his works and in his only.
His characters stand out from the canvas with, his contemporary eulogists say, the vividness of Shakespeare’s characters; we should say rather of Scott’s. The literary analogue to his operas is to be found, not in tragedy, they are too realistic for that, but in the historical novel. Here the men and women of past times live again before our eyes, not as they appear to the poet, who ‘sees into the life of things,’ but as they appeared to each other when they walked this earth. This is most compatible with the conditions of the modern stage, and Meyerbeer responds to its every need.
It is consistent with all this that he should have been singularly dependent for the quality of his ideas on the character of his subject. His own original vein of melody was limited, and his constructive skill not such as to supplement the deficiency in sustained idea. This defect may have been partly owing to the shallow pedantry of his instructor, at the time when his youthful talent was developing itself. Wagner (whose antipathy to Meyerbeer’s musicals rather intensified than otherwise by the fact that some of the operatic reforms on which his own heart was set were first introduced, or at least attempted, by that composer) compares him to a man who, catching the first syllable of another man’s speech, there upon screams out the whole sentence in a breath, without waiting to hear what it really should have been! However this may be, Meyerbeer’s own ideas rarely go beyond the first syllable; the rest is built up by a wholly different process, and too often as though his self reliance failed him at the crucial point, a melody with a superbly suggestive opening will close with some conventional phrase or vulgar cadenza, all the more irritating for this juxtaposition. As a striking case in point it is enough to adduce the baritone song in ‘Dinorah.’ The first phrase is beautiful. The second, already inferior, seems dragged in by the hair of its head. The third is a masterly augmentation, a crescendo on the first. The fourth is a tawdry platitude. Something of the same sort is the case with his harmonies. He often arrests the attention by some chord or modulation quite startling in its force and effect, immediately after which he is apt to collapse, as if frightened by the sudden stroke of his own genius. The modulation will be carried on through a sequence of wearisome sameness, stopping short in some remote key whence, as if embarrassed how to escape, he will return to where he began by some trite device or awkward makeshift.
His orchestral colouring, however, is so full of character, so varied and saisissant as to hide many shortcomings in form. His grand combinations of effects can hardly be surpassed, and are so dazzling in their result that the onlooker may well be blinded to the fact that what he gazes on is a consummate piece of mosaic rather than an organic structure.
But in some moments of intense dramatic excitement he rises to the height of the situation as perhaps no one else has done. His very defects stand him here in good stead, for these situations do not lend themselves to evenness of beauty. Such a moment is the last scene in the fourth act of the ‘Huguenots,’ culminating in the famous duet. Here the situation is supreme, and the music is inseparable from it. Beyond description, beyond criticism, nothing is wanting. The might, the futility, the eternity of Love and Fate, he has caught up the whole of emotion and uttered it. Whatever was the source of such an inspiration (and the entire scene is said to have been an afterthought) it bears that stamp of truth, which makes it a possession for all time. If Meyerbeer lives, it will be in virtue of such moments as these. And if the ‘Prophetes’ may be said to embody his intellectual side, and the ‘Africaine’ his emotional side, the ‘Huguenots’ is perhaps the work which best blends the two, and which, most completely typifying its composer, must be considered his masterpiece.
Presenting, as they do, splendid opportunities to singers of dramatic ability, his operas hold the stage, in spite of the exacting character which renders their perfect performance difficult and very rare. They will live long, although many of the ideas and associations which first made them popular belong already to the past.