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Opera - Its Effects Not All Those Of Art

( Originally Published Early 1900's )



What operatic company is successful in our own country in case it contain no preeminent solo-singer? And, aside from the parts in which the music is sufficient unto itself, what does the opera furnish save a species of intellectual dissipation rather than of recreation; save effects that, on account of their variety, are distracting rather than restful, —effects in which there is very little influence resembling that of the "still, small voice" which thrills us when listening to the song of the family circle or to the "pure music" of the concert room, or when reading a beautiful poem or listening to an eloquent address? All parts of the opera furnish changes from ordinary thoughts and occupations; and all changes have their charms. But something more than the effect of mere change must be produced before one can experience that distinctively aesthetic influence which cultivated minds know to be the result of the highest art.—The Representative Significance of Form, XXVI.

Songs and operas are often enjoyed immensely by persons to whom music as music is a sealed art. Their pleasure in the song is similar to that which attends the utterance of very rhythmical poetry; and in the opera, the gaudy play-house, the gayly dressed people, the glittering stage, and the movements of the actors are all entertaining on their own accounts. A real musician, however, frequently regards everything of this sort as a distraction; and he enjoys the music connected with it just as much—sometimes more—when the words used on the stage are in a foreign language which he does not understand, or when the harmony is played, apart from either words or scenery, by an orchestra in a concert.—Idem, XXVI.

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