페이지 이미지
PDF
ePub

very well knows that no foreign grace could be successfully engrafted upon her. Were she to imitate even some beau-ideal of grace which her own imagination might possibly create, she would perhaps fail. She has only to act out herself—or rather, not to speak it profanely, she has only to let nature act itself out through her. Her chief feature is unconsciousness, —the feature indeed which characterizes all highest efforts in every department of thought or action. Your

eye is delighted in her movements, as in the natural circlings of a bird through the air, or the swayings of an osier in the wind. As she does every thing without toil, so she does everything without knowledge. Were it not for the applause momently rained down upon her, I am satisfied that she herself would never know or feel that she moved with more than ordinary grace.

Madame Julia is conscious that she dances well. Her manner proclaims to you that she is thus conscious. She takes hardly a step which does not seem to say,

was not that finely executed ? ' There are continual drafts made on your astonishment and admiration. Sometimes you pay them, and sometimes not. Tag. lioni leaves you at liberty to be charmed or to be indif. ferent. She never astonishes ; nay more, she never surprises you. She only fills you with a tranquil charm and a delight. What use is it for her to whirl about, times without number, in a pirouette ? What use is it for her to stand upon her left foot's great toe, with her right heel higher than her head? What use is it for

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

her to leap aloft, and snap her feet ten times together, ere they touch again the stage? Rightly she leaves these little tricks and clap-traps to inferior artists. She has another sphere. She knows enough not to o'erstep the modesty of that sphere. She

She is in the most artificial scene perhaps of all the world, and yet in every thing is she simple and unconscious as the simplest childhood. Not only does she dance well; all her pantomime is inimitable. A gentleman at my side pronounced her walk alone, to be worth a voyage across the Atlantic. It is certainly very fine, and her gesticulation is likewise marked by that indescribable beauty, which characterizes the more complicated pantomime of her dance. With what captivating naïveté did she not fill the character of Fleur-des-Champs ! Her grace ran through the entire story like a golden thread, binding together its dream-like fancies, from the time she is first seen in her cradle of roses, to the concluding moment when in her shell she ascends to the world through the waters of old father Danube.

This ballet is I think, one of the most delightful works of art in its way, that I have seen. I did not regard it merely as a graceful exhibition of plastic muscle, rather as a living and breathing language, embodying a story not altogether unpoetical. It has certainly nothing of the utile. It is all of the dulce. It is all lightness, and beauty, and grace ; charming away your hour of rest, and seemingly of the same unsubstantial stuff whereof dreams are made. Pronounce it ridiculous if you please. It is still a part of

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

the great system of means for accomplishing this necessary end,—the amusement of the Parisians. So far as it illustrates a taste of the time, you cannot, hardreasoning Utilitarian as you are, daff it aside with absolute indifference. With respect to it, even your beloved question of· What does all this prove ? ' may not be entirely in vain.

Friday night.—I have just come from seeing Taglioni in another ballet, entitled the Sylphide. This and the Fille-du-Danube are now the only pieces in which she performs. I was more charmed than on the former occasion. The beauty of simplicity is inexhaustible. Taglioni is the beau-ideal of simplicity. Taglioni can never tire. Nay, the more I see her, the more of newness and of charm does she reveal.

What is the Sylphide? A fantastic and fairy thing, whose scenes are laid in Scotland. The curtain rising, you see a young Lowland shepherd slumbering, and over him, as if in guardiance, hangs a sylph. This sylph is Taglioni. She is in white ; a garland is on her head ; she bears wings like those which painters have given to Psyche, and her position is that to which you have been familiarized by numberless engravings in the musical windows of Paris and London. She rises, moves her wings to cool the air which the youthful Scot breathes, awakens him by a kiss on the forehead, and while in a dreamy confusion, he pursues her moving like a phantom, she swiftly disappears up the chimney of the apartment. Now awaking his comrade Gurn, he asks him if he has seen that fairy

[ocr errors]

form. No; Gurn has only dreamed of Effie, who, bythe-by, likes the young Scot far better than him. Effie is indeed the promised bride of this young Scot. Preparations are soon made for their nuptials, in the midst of which comes in an old witch, Madge by name, who reading the palms of all the lads and vir. gins present, foretells, among other things, that Effie will be the wife, not of the young Scot, but of Gurn. The former is soon left alone. He is half in love with the sylph, or rather with a certain vision of his sleep, for such to him does Taglioni seem. Well, while he is musing, up rises a distant window, and the sylph appears therein. By mysterious means she sails down to where stands her beloved. She appears sad, for he is soon to marry Effie. Notwithstanding her sadness, he resolves to abide true to his Scottish bride. Taglioni now goes through some steps of surpassing grace to win him. It is all in vain. And yet if there be any thing which may worthily cheat a young man into forgetfulness, not only of his vows, but of all the past, it is the style of Taglioni. She now folds around her the cloak which Effie had acci. dentally left behind. This trick succeeds. The recreant Scot salutes the sylph's lips. Gurn happens to see this. He gives notice to Effie and her companions that the Scot is billing and cooing with an unknown damsel. They rush in. The sylph had swiftly seated herself in a large arm-chair, over which, for concealment, is thrown Effie's cloak. Gurn suddenly jerks up said cloak, but lo! the form has vanished.

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

Mighty is the machinery of the Académie Royale de Musique. It is complete diablerie. There is nothing like it in all the world.

I shall not detail the various events which take place ere the Scot finds himself, alas ! quite disloyal to his first love, and led on, captivated by the sylph, far away into her own fairy realms. I think that never was stage scenery arranged, so as even in any remote degree, to equal that which these realms present. It is executed by French taste, out of abundant governmental funds; and its ambition is to outrival any thing of the kind in Europe. It is indeed unique and magnificent beyond all parallel. In the theatres of my own country, I had been taught to think it a pretty clever feat, if but one good-looking actress were made to soar, by the aid of ropes and wires, from the nether to the upper regions. But fancy to yourself an entire score of French nymphs, flying at the same moment through what seemed the heavens, near and far away,

, over meadows and among groves, while approaching on the earth from the distance, appears a band of some forty or fifty others, each in white, adorned with rose wreaths, and beating their Psyche wings, as, with Taglioni at their head, they advance and retire in every line of beauty and of grace. What a magnificent succession of tableaur, could their successive positions have been transferred to the canvass ! Could only the lines written by Taglioni on the unretaining air, have been traced on paper, they would have formed a study for any sculptor or painter. All seems

[ocr errors]
« 이전계속 »