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“flashes and outbreakings of genius." To me, gross and habitual exaggeration seems to pervade nearly all the tragic exhibitions on the stage ; and if this be so, it is sufficient evidence of the absence of feeling. Genuine feeling never exaggerates. Those who are really touched by the parts they assume, may, from that very cause,
little master of themselves as to fail in giving a finished portrait of the character they have undertaken to represent; but tiey never, by any chance, fall into the opposite fault of “o'erstepping the modesty of nature," and becoming more violent than the hero or heroine of the scene would have been in reality, There is generally, however, an instinctive propriety about true passion, which leads those under its influence to do neither more nor less than they ought to do; whilst the less easily excited feelings of others wait upon the judgment, and it becomes a matter of calculation how much grief or energy must be used on certain occasions. But it is invariably your hacknied, cold-blooded actors, without either passion or judgment, and who off the stage laugh at any thing like enthusiasm in their art as ridiculous, that "out-berod Herod," and affect a superabundance of feeling to conceal their utter want of it; just as ladies of questionable character make an over parade of delicacy; or, indeed, as preten
would be a drawback, not to be counterbalanced by the talents of the actress, or a bald English translation of the opera; but, without any affectation, I can safely say I came away as much gratified as astonished, and as much astonished as a person of an equable temperament can well be. Pasta is certainly sui generis. There have been many good actors and many good singers, but such an union of musical excellence and Siddonian power, passion, grace, and majesty does not, never did, and it may be, never will exist again in the same person. She stands alone: no comparison between her and any other will hold good--though not so much on the score of inferiority as dissimilarity. The piece selected for her debut was Mayer's grand serious opera of Medea, a part with which Madame Pasta has become identified, and of which she holds undisputed possession. All who have the slightest smattering of classicality are familiar with the history of Jason and the Golden Fleece: his desertion of his lawful spouse Medea, his subsequent bigamious conduct in espousing the Princess Creusa, and the fearful retaliation of his ex-wife. The dramatist has followed the old story or fable very closely; and the predominating passions are consequently love, jealousy, rage, and revenge, with a suitable climax of horror, I have seen many fine performances, but I never saw one in which the actor appeared more terrifically in earnest than in this instance. She was a complete whirlwind of the passions : a southern vehemence pervaded every look and gesture; yet, for all that, there was not any thing in her acting in the slightest degree overstrained or artificial, or which the most phlegmatic spectator could point out as not justified by her situation in the scene. In the first act, when endeavoring to prevent Jason's marriage, she is merely a sublime termagant; and it is only in the second, after all her efforts prove fruitless, and she resolves upon revenge, that her real triumph commences. Certainly nothing could be finer or more touching than the irresolution with which she regards her children when meditating their murder--her alternate fierceness and tenderness-her unavailing wish that she could only kill the father's part in them—the deadly hatred with which she regards them as Jason's offspring, and the love and pity into which she relapses as she feels that they are likewise her own. Despair was never more truly or beautifully personified, than, when about to strike the fatal blow, she suddenly feels a mother's fondness tugging at her heart-strings—her uplifted arm falls powerless by her side, her head sinks upon her bosom, and she stands a few seconds as in a trance-helpless
and desolate. The voice of Jason, heard in pursuit of her, rouses and lashes her into fury, bordering on insanity, and the unnatural murder is at length consummated. I have somewhat of an Indian contempt for gesticulation on ordinary occasions, holding it to be Frenchified, frivolous, and ridiculous ; and all kinds of attitudinizing are my especial abhorrence. If ever I be executed for murder, it will be for discharging a pistol from the pit of the theatre at some fellow who, at the sight of a ghost or an injured friend, has thrown his legs and arms into what he conceives a beautiful position, and loth to give the audience too little of a good thing, continues them in it, until the applause his evolution has excited subsides, to the entire destruction of the illusion of the scene. But action, when there is heart and soul in it, and when every movement is apparently the result of the feeling of the moment, is an universal language; and it is extraordinary what a sensation may at times be produced by the sweeping of an arm or the pointing of a finger. Pastà is continually in motion. I do not know whether she wants repose in other parts—in Medea the violence of the passions called into play will not admit of it--but there is a grace, variety, and fiery vehemence in her gestures and manner, the very opposite of theatrical calculation and display. Some
of her attitudes are the very essence of the “sublime and beautiful.” She appears to have something else to think about than how the extremities of her person are conducting themselves. The closing scene, when, after the murder of her children, she confronts Jason, throws the dagger reeking with their blood towards him, exclaiming, as he turns away with horror, “Ha! traitor--dost thou shun me?" is perfectly appalling. Of Pasta's astonishing voice it may be said that its claims to pre-eminence rest rather upon its enormous power than its quality--not that it is deficient in the latter respect, but the former is its distinguishing characteristic; the manner in which it fills and rings through the immense opera-house is wonderful. It is, in the lower tones, what is termed a “veiled” voicethat is, in plain English, rather husky ; but this, which to others would be a serious disadvantage, is, on many occasions, of signal service to Pasta, particularly in depicting the stronger passions, such as despair or horror ; the upper tones are remarkably full and clear, and all that can be desired. Upon the whole, she is one of the wonders of the age, whose merits have not been overrated ; and, if ever she cross the Atlantic, I am not afraid that what I have ventured to say in her behalf, will appear at all exaggerated.