« PreviousContinue »
Park Theatre. — After a season of extraordinary depression, the Metropolitau is again assuming its old prosperity. The past month has produced a marked change for the better, so far as the treasury is interested. The arrangement entered into with Mr. HAMBLIN, has certainly increased the audiences, whether it has added any lustre to the legitimate drama,'or not. The spectacle of Rienzi,' succeeded by a revival of Peter Wilkins,'and the production of the dramatic novelty of • Lafitte,' all of the gilt-gingerbread school of modern drama, have well nigh filled the benches of pit and boxes. This is decidedly a utilitarian age, and the drama has become infected. The old moralities which were once advanced, upholding the drama as the handmaid of nature, have lost a trifle of their force. The nutrimcat which the great mother once fed to her children, has turved sour, and the drama has become a veritable dry nurse, feeding them with meagre pap, out of a gilded spoon. Truly, the purpose of playing, whose end was and now is to show the very age and body of the time its form and pressure,' comes somewhat tardy off in its influences at the present day. Players are not so much engaged in 'holding the mirror up to Nature,' as they are in dis. torting the features of the old lady to a degree which would make her forswear herself, if she should find courage errough, some fue morning, to look in the glass. Behold thyself reflected bere!' can hardly now-a-days be considered as a stage motto, particularly complimentary to the audience. The admiration of the public is divided between the horses, and the heroes who ride them. The quadruped . Mazeppa'was long the chief star at the Bowery; a horse of less talent, but equal ambition, displayed his ability at the Park, in the spectacle of 'Rienzi.' On the first appearance of this dramatic horse trion, we remarked a degree of modesty, which augured well for his future career. There was none of that bold, intrusive inpudence, which is said to characterize the charger of a knight of the road, in this four-footed hero; on the contrary, so great was his diffidence, that it required the earnest persuasions of his attendants at the bottom of the stage, to make him come forward at all. Modesty is so well known to be the attendant of genius, that to mention its possession, is almost to affirm that the proprietor thereof is as surely the happy owner of a portion of the true mens divinorum.' There were other sensible and well-disposed animals in this piece, that did their 'possible,' to add to its attractions; but they were evidently old stagers, and made their exits and their entrances, without particular remark.
Mr. Balls has played his routine of characters lately, with considerable applause. Without any great degree of genius, strictly speaking, this gentleman is nevertheless an actor whose vivacity and sprightliness fit him for the gay, butterfly personations of modern farce. His brain seems ever in a glorious whirl, and there is no check to the sparkling, joyous spirit of fun, which hurries him on through scenes that would seem to require quicksilver, both in head and heels, to sustain. Mr. Balls is exactly one of the persons who ought to be attached to the regular stock company. He would fill one great hiatus, at least, and render less urgent the arduous exertions of some of the losser aspirants to the honors of the light comic drama. We have observed an increasing improvement, for some time, in the acting of Mrs. RICHARDSON. She seems to be recovering her old spirits. Miss CUSHMAN, too, gains nightly on her audiences. She has power, and physical ability, joined to good sound sense, which we are happy to see her display with such good success. Mr. WHEATLEY strives hard to succeed, and merits approbation for his strict, straightforward attention to the business of the scene. If he will alter a little more the monctony of his delivery, one great stumblingblock will be removed.
'The cause of the depression which the Park has experienced, durivg the past winter, may be found in the absence of the superior attractions which have heretofore distinguished its career, and in the rivalry of the National,'which has exceeded all its previous efforts; and for this want of its usual force, the managers may not be so much to blanc as the public suppose. The engagement of MADAME VESTRIS, it was thought, would present an attraction, greater than any other which could he brought from that English store-house upon which we have so long been in the habit of drawing; and so, we maintain, it would, if this lady had exercised the same means which have given her the great celebrity she enjoye:1 at bome. In the first place, the public expected to see a handsome woman, an extraordinary beauty. They were led to expect this, from the oft-repeated shapsodies of the English press. In this they were sadly disappointed. They looked forward, moreover, to the display of her talents in new pieces — such at least as were new to them. Here, too, their anticipations were deceived. Madame appeared in those plays which their old favorite, Mrs. Keeley, had previously performed in a manner that gave universal delight. Some light trifles, it is true, were produced for the first time; perfect in their way, and charmingly performed, both by the lady and her husband ; but these noveltics were few, and could not of themselves create sufficient attraction to fill the house. But the greatest mistake which MADAME VESTRIs made, was ad affectation (we are forced so to consider it) of overweeping modesty, and square-toed respectability, in her visit to our land of steady habits. There was certainly an implied compliment to the delicacy
of American audiences, in this assumption; and so far, we ought to feel grateful to the lady, and are so, no doubt; but as we wish to give an opinion of the true causes of her want of success, we will do so, by bonestly declaring, that this sudden exercise of delicacy, on the part of Madame, was one of the strongest. She was known in tbis country as much from the fame of the peculiar charm which it was said belouged to her delineations of male characters, as by any superiority which attached either to her acting, or singing, in personations of her own sex. Now whether it was allo gether from a high sense of the refined delicacy of the Americans, which in her opinion might not brook the metamorphosis in which she had so often appeared to admiring audiences at home, or whether she was guided by a just regard for that respectability with which the marriage-rites had so lately graced her condition, we are unable to decide; but however doubtful the motive, it is true that the result was a complete omission of all male personations in her American engagement, Bachelor though we be, we confess to a reverential horror for ladies in pantaloons, actually or figuratively, in real life ; yet is, by assuming these much-abused garments npon the stage, they can for an hour give even a fictitious charm to manhood, by softeniug down the rough asperities of the masculine gender, we are inchiped to applaud the fascinating delusion. One great attraction of M'de Vestris' art was tbus entirely abandoned ; and this, with tbe other causes to which we have alluded, may account for her waut of success, and the unpleasant lurch in which she left the managers, quite as truly as the reasons which soine English paragraph-writers have thought fit to assign. The very absurd notion, which the lady and her husband seemed to entertain, that the cause of tbeir disappointment was a foolish report of their conduct at hotels, and a want of republican simplicity in their fashion of eating dinner, is quite too ridiculous to merit a reply. That our theatrical public can and do appreciate foreign talent, the experience of every English man or woman, who has made a professional tour of America, can testisy. They have generally gone home enriched, far beyond their highest hopes, and have been tempted over again and again, to add to their wealth and reputation. We know that many English performers gain more money by one year's engagement here, than they could possibly obtain by five years' arduous labor in their profession at home, M'de Vestris would have been equally successful, if she had pursued a course equally honest, and a little less dignified. Mr. Matthews disappointed us most agreeably. His vivacity and humor, and a certain nervousness in his style of acting, reminded us continually of his lamented father. With the really great ability of Mrs. MATTHEws, it is to be regretted that their visit to this country did not equal, in its results, their favorable anticipations. After all, the great misfortune which the failure of the Matthews' created, falls upon the management. But we hope, as the spring opens, to see the Park resume its wonted attraction, and to behold, before the season closes, its complete revival from the temporary duluess which has so unexpectedly overshadowed it.
THE NATIONAL. — This establishment continues to win upon the town. Indeed, it may be said to have wrought out for itself a permanent popularity, througb the liberality, good taste, and efficiency of the management. Opera has continued to be the reigning attraction. ‘Amilie,' the never-tiring, all-satisfying, still continues in the ascendant. Although it has lost the gloss of povelty, its repre. sentation is more sure to attract, than any other performance that can be brought forward. The spirited acting, not less than the high musical gists, of Miss SHTREFF, has made her a prodigious favorite. Wilson's sweet, mellow voice, and delightful simplicity of execution, bave gained all suffrages; while SEGUIN, with his rich, deep tones, passion-speaking countenance, and general merit as an actor, has not been less successful. We should not omit to award due praise to the chorus-singers, who render their essential services with great credit to their talents and study. “The Marriage of Figaro, which crowded the National to the very street-doors, introduced to us Mrs. Seguin, as the 'Countess,' a part which she sustained with the highest honors, receiving, ever and anon, the most rapturous applause, in return for the finished efforts of her powerful and well-managed contralto voice. Miss SHIREFF, as ‘Suzanna,' was in all respects equally successful. We cannot conscientiously praise the acting of Secuin's 'Figaro ;' it was over-acted; but the music was rendered with his accustomed force and skill. Wilson, as the 'Count,' erred in another extreme; he under-acted his part, hut in his vocal efforts, left nothing to be desired. The melo-drama of
Lafitte' derived from the personations of Mr. Conner, a young actor of fine personal presence, and decided talents, as well as from adroit mechanical arrangements, and capital scenery, all that it received in the way of applause. It is intensely melo-dramatic, wbile the language is either ludierously forced and upnatyral, or lamentably tame and commonplace.
To CORRESPONDENTS. — ' A Dream,' by Grace GRAFTON," The Picture,' and 'Lines written in the Album of an Invalid in Italy,' are in type. "The Netherlands,' the first of a series, by Hon. CaleB CUSHING,'' A Third Psalm of Life,'' My Tablets,' 'Sketches of a Trip to Lake Superior,' 'Benevolence,' by `JUNIUS JUNIOR,' and The Sphynx,' with divers others articles, are filed for intortion, or are under advisement.