« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »
One of the minor stars of this theatre, Mademoiselle Judith, after serving her apprenticeship as pensionnaire for nearly two years, lately chose to imagine-rightly or wrongly-that she had fairly earned promotion to the rank of sociétaire, her claim to advancement being strongly supported by the Commissaire des Beaux Arts, M. Charles Blanc, brother of infinitesimal little Louis. Mademoiselle Rachel, however, thought otherwise, and so did M. Lockroy, the then manager of the theatre, and Mademoiselle Judith's application was flatly refused. Thereupon both parties set to work in good earnest; nothing was heard of in literary and dramatic circles but the great Jewish question, Felix v. Bernat-Rachel v. Judith: the patriotic rivalries of Kossuth and Jellachich, those lions of the day, or rather hour, for, since February, almost every hour has given birth to a new one-sank at once into insignificance before the feuds of Hermione and la Fille d'Honneur.
M. Sénard, then Minister of the Interior, being called on to unravel this Gordian knot, preferred cutting it, Alexander-fashion, by quietly relieving M. Lockroy of his managerial responsibilities. On this Mademoiselle Rachel immediately sent in her resignation, and Mademoiselle Judith, having been officially informed that her claim was inadmissible, removed herself, trunks and bandboxes, from the Rue Richelieu, and accepted an engagement at the Vaudeville, consoling herself with the ower true saying,
Tel brille au second rang qui s'éclipse au premier.
The sociétaires, however, in despair at Rachel's departure, and fearing lest she might transfer her throne from Paris to St. Petersburg, bethought themselves of invoking in self-defence Napoleon's famous Moscow decree, according to the terms of which, any member of their society, who should voluntarily cease to be such, could in no case again appear on any stage, either in France or elsewhere. All this time it was reported that the fair deserter had taken refuge at Pisa, that sultry solitude, thinlypeopled by poitrinaires and galley-slaves, which Méry so felicitously styles "une ville dégoutée du monde, et qui s'est retirée à la campagne." Such a step, which in the present volcanic state of Italy might, in more senses than one, have been termed a Pise aller, appears never to have been seriously meditated by Mademoiselle Rachel, who, while she was supposed to be skimming the Mediterranean in the Veloce, or toiling up Mont Cenis in a caleche de voyage, was tout bonnement within half-adozen miles of the Paris fortifications, in her little snuggery at Villa Nuova.
How matters may end I do not pretend to foresee; it is, however, evident that the Comédie Française can no more afford to do without Mademoiselle Rachel than Mademoiselle Rachel without the Comédie Francaise; the motive of their mutual dependence on each other originating in the famous device, adopted by Belgium and by the Bundle of Sticks Club at Lewes "Union is Strength." A reconciliation, therefore, sooner or later, will probably be brought about, and a very reasonable sine quâ non on the part of the actress will be the immediate re-nomination of M. Lockroy as director. Authors, actors, and the public in general, will concur in applauding so just and recommendable a measure. It will, moreover, be but an amende honorable on the part of those who advocated the dismissal of this excellent manager, if, applying to their
own case the words of Anselme in "l'Etourdi," they thus congratulate themselves on the reversal of so impolitic a decree :
Si notre esprit n'est pas sage à toutes les heures,
Les plus courtes erreurs sont toujours les meilleures.
And now, to wind up this tedious discussion as pleasantly as may be, I cannot do better than relate a short anecdote, of which Rachel herself is partly the heroine. Her first professional visit to Brussels was a complete triumph, each of her performances creating a fresh sensation in the fashionable and literary circles of the Belgian capital. Nor were her enthusiastic admirers satisfied with overwhelming the "star" with bouquets, madrigals, and bravos; the "regulars" of the company also came in for their share of applause. One of these, during an entr'acte, was receiving the compliments of a select group of worshippers on his spirited acting. "You are too partial," said he, in a tone which showed that he thought exactly the reverse-"La Petite (meaning Rachel) is interesting, and acts well. I could have played much better, but then, you know, I didn't wish to crush her!"
The first time I ever met with the term tohu-bohu was in M. d'Arlincourt's book, "Les Trois Royaumes," which I had the honour of translating in conjunction with the clever author of " Gisella, or Second Love," and several equally able works. I remember asking the vicomte what it meant, and receiving in reply the following not very satisfactory explanation. "Mon cher, ça ne se traduit pas, ça veut dire tout ce qu'il y a de plus pêle-mêle, de plus Babel-enfin-un vrai tohu-bohu!"
This definition, vague as it may appear, is, in some measure, applicable to Messrs. Cogniard's "Ile de Tohu-Bohu," a fanciful and amusing spectacle, brimfull of astounding improbabilities, political squibs, communist conspiracies, mobile evolutions; in short, embracing every incongruous and heterogeneous incident that the most prolific ingenuity could possibly crowd into three short acts, the whole enlivened by couplets, dances, splendid scenery, and costumes, and--the surest card of all—a galaxy of pretty women. Generally speaking, the figurantes of the minor Parisian theatres are not remarkable for beauty-au contraire-those of the Vaudeville, Variétés, and Gymnase-believe me, I speak advisedly, being— "quelque peu d'un métier
A me devoir connâitre en un pareil gibier,”—
positively overstepping the ordinary limits of ugliness. The Porte St. Martin, however, is a glorious exception to this too prevalent rule, and now and then runs a very close race with the Opera as regards the good looks of their respective pensionnaires.
But my business to-day is not with figurantes-not with the thirty sous per night comparses or dames des chœurs-but with a brilliant and dashing chef-d'emploi,-one who, dit-on, has damaged more hearts than all the diamond cement in the world could ever mend-in a word, with Mademoiselle Alice Ozy. Yes, after as strangely chequered a career as falls to the lot of most actresses, after the lapse of some eight or ten years since her first début at the Salle Chantereine,-years passed not in one theatre but in many-after quitting the Variétés for the Vaudeville, and the Vaudeville for the Palais Royal-after giving bals costumes without number
in the Rue de Provence, in Brompton Square, and on the Boulevard Poissonnière―the ever-welcome, but ever-inconstant, bird of passage, Mademoiselle Ozy, finally deigns to favour the habitués of the Porte St. Martin with a taste of her quality and a glimpse of her diamonds.
Now in these republican times real diamonds (like coffee in a snuff-box) are not to be sneezed at; those who have them for the most part hide or sell them, influenced either by their own pecuniary straits, or by M. Proudhon's anti-proprietor doctrines. Only fancy, therefore, the sensation created at the Porte St. Martin by the entrée of Mademoiselle Ozy, blazing away like the Girandola at Rome, with diamonds looped here, hanging there, and glittering everywhere! With the best intentions in the world, and the best binocle that Chevallier ever made, it was impossible to discover whether her hair was chestnut or auburn, or her eyes blue or hazel; the coup d'œil was so provokingly dazzling as to defy the most persevering scrutiny. If any fair truant of an avant scène essayed to ascertain how this Queen of Diamonds was coiffée, she soon lost sight of her object in her admiration of the jewels with which the coiffure was studded; if any painter or sculptor cast a glance at the bewitching Alice's hand or arm, his attention became immediately riveted by the rings that glistened on the one, or by the bracelets which encircled the other. In short, Mademoiselle Ozy, piquante as she is with her bright and knowing eyes, her saucy nez retroussé, her plump little figure, and her undeniable foot and ancle, might be as old as the hills, or as crooked as Eugène Sue's Mayeux or Marquis de Maillefort, for all any one would care, provided that she still continued to be a walking advertisement, a sparkling testimony in favour of the taste and skill of Messrs. Fossin, Laparc, Janisset, Mellerio, and Hunt and Roskell!
I only hope she has a strong iron safe to keep her treasures in, and that she never mislays the key of it, as poor Nathalie did one night at the Palais Royal, while dressing for the part of la Planète in "le Poudre Coton;" a part deriving its sole importance from the diamond star which French stage planets always wear as a headpiece, and which at the critical moment-thanks to the key of her strong box having been left in her apartment in the Rue Mogador-was, like many a Derby favourite at the finish-nowhere.
But, à propos de diamans-there are still some left in Paris besides Mademoiselle Ozy's, as any one may have seen who was at the Opera the other night, during the first performance of "Jeanne la Folle." This "solemnity," as the French style all first representations, especially important ones, was graced by the presence of Marrast the little, complacently smiling in one loge de face, while General Cavaignac, pale and careworn, occupied another. The remainder of the audience was composed, as is always the case on such occasions, of critics, author's friends, and author's enemies, here and there a stray homme du monde, looking horribly out of his element, a few lady subscribers in their boxes, and a bevy of laughing, giddy creatures-mostly colonists of the Quartier Breda-attired in showy silk dresses (pink or sky-blue being the prevailing colours) with the usual accompaniments of diamond brooches, ivory lorgnettes, and fabulous bouquets.
Were Meyerbeer to witness a single performance of " Jeanne la Folle," I imagine he would think twice before allowing his long-expected opera to be brought out at the Théâtre de la Nation; nay, were Messrs.
Duponchel and Roqueplan to give the illustrious composer his entrées ad libitum, I much doubt whether they would derive any profit (Prophet) from their civility. The fact is that the piece is poorly montée andwith one exception-most indifferently sung. Three of the principal scenes have already done duty some fifty times in "la Favorite" or elsewhere, and those which are bonâ fide new would hardly pass muster at the Porte St. Martin. The execution of the music is on a par with the getting up; such singers as Brémond, Gueymard, Porthéaut, and Euzet (Heaven help us, what substitutes for Lésasseur, Gardoni, Barroilhet, and Massol!) would annihilate any opera, even a "Robert le Diable." No wonder, then, that they have annihilated "Jeanne la Folle," the plot of which is one of the least interesting ever written by Scribe, while the music, by Clapisson, being more remarkable for science than for melody, 'goes (to make use of a homely but appropriate saying) in at one ear, and out at the other."
The finale of the third act, however, is highly spirited, and thanks to Mademoiselle Masson, the solitary exception alluded to above-whose energy and passion reminded more than one of her hearers of that admirable lyric tragedian, Rosine Stoltz- -was brilliantly successful. This painstaking young artiste has-it is but fair to say-striven hard to render her performance of that very ill-used damsel, Jeanne, as life-like and natural as possible. Shortly before the first performance of the opera, she paid a visit, accompanied by her mother, to the Saltpetrière; and was admitted, in conformity with her own request, to the presence of one of the "incurables." Scarcely had she addressed a few words to the unfortunate patient (who happened to be at dinner), when the latter, seizing hold of a basin of hot soup, threw it with so good an aim at Madame Masson (the mother) as completely to inundate her with the scalding liquid. The poor woman, overcome with fright and pain, fainted away in the arms of the doctor who had escorted them to the cell, leaving Mademoiselle Masson to make her exit as she best could, radically cured of her fancy for studying madness from life.
A pretty lady, on the point of escorting one of her fair friends home after the Opera, made in my hearing the following pretty apology to her companion's husband for the smallness of her brougham, only built to carry two: "Je voudrais, monsieur, que ma voiture fût plus élastique." I myself have as much, if not more, reason to regret the non-elasticity, not of my article, but of the space it is intended to occupy; for assuredly, if I had room to stow it away, ce n'est pas l'étoffe qui me manquerait. No less than six new pieces-one debut accompli -another in prospect-and all to be enumerated in rotation, like the names of a grand jury-in a definite number of lines! Positively, the limits assigned me seem, after the fashion of the " iron shroud," to grow smaller every day, and I may soon expect to find myself stopped short in the middle of a sentence-or, what is worse, of a joke, the point of said joke being, as a matter of course, "carried over" till next month. "Mac
Six pieces did I say? Aye, not including Emile Deschamps' beth," which some of "our own correspondents" have been finding fault with, just as if it was so very easy a thing to translate Shakspeare into Corneilleian verse.
Halévy's "Val d'Andorre" has already found a snug niche in the répertoire of the Opéra Comique, by the side of its elder brother, "Les
Mousquetaires de la Reine." An interesting plot, appropriate (though not always melodious) music, pretty scenery and costumes, and Mademoiselle Darcier, the best couplet-singer in or out of France, are its principal claims to immortality. Et d'une.
"O Amitié!" is the strange title of Scribe's last contribution to the Gymnase the two first acts are commonplace, but the third is a chefd'œuvre. The leading female character was intended for Mademoiselle Melcy, but that "beau brin de fille," as I once heard Desirée call her, was fastidious enough to decline it, and it fell to the lot of Mademoiselle Eugénie Sauvage. So much the better for Mademoiselle Eugénie Sauvage. Et de deux.
"Roger Bontemps," at the Vaudeville, interpreted by Félix, is Bé ranger's hero incarné. Et de trois.
"Madame Cartouche," at the same theatre, was to have been played by Madame Doche, and is played by Madame Albert. The authors having represented their heroine as young and pretty, the piece has not gained by the change. Et de quatre.
"Les sept Péchés Capitaux" at the Ambigu display to great advantage a marvellous array of clever artistes. Chilly, Montdidier, St. Ernest, Madames Guyon, Naptal, and Lucie, perhaps the six best melodramatic performers in Paris, are likely, if the receipts keep up as they have hitherto done, to go on sinning for some weeks-if not months-to come. Et de cinq.
Lastly, "La Poule aux Œufs d'Or" at the Cirque (already restored, as I prophesied, to its original spécialité), is a wonderfully droll and wonderfully well-got up féerie. In one of the tableaux all the characters are disguised as musical instruments, the scenery being composed of notes, crotchets, and quavers. Moreover, towards the close of the piece, as its author, Clairville, facetiously remarked, “Il y a un enfer si superbe, que cela vous donne envie d'y aller." Et de six.
So far, so good: "siamo a buon porto," as Don Abbondio says in the "Promessi Sposi," for we have only the débuts-début indeed, the other being still in nubibus-to chronicle. A few words will do it. The part of Cesarine in "La Camaraderie," successively played by Madame Volnys, Mademoiselle Judith, and I don't know how many more, has within the last few days been the means of introducing Mademoiselle Nathalie to the Théâtre de la République. If she is wise, she will stay there.
The other projected début at the same theatre-a project which may yet possibly melt away, and,
like the baseless fabric of a vision, Leave not a wreck behind;
is that of Madame Doche, whose secession from the vaudeville, together with the cause thereof, has been already communicated to the public by the fair lady herself in a very clever and witty letter. Should this desirable event come to pass-should Madame Doche really give up Bayard for Molière, and Rosier for Marivaux, the Comédie Française may have reason to congratulate itself on the acquisition not only of an Agnès, an Araminte, and a Silvia, but also of
Un diamant qui manque à son écrin;
of an ideal which none but a Contat or a Mars could ever embody, of a Célimène !