Imatges de pÓgina

with which the pas de deux commences in Natalie, and it was easy, it was appropriate to see her form advancing upon the velvet meads, with the same air as on the stage, full of life, full of joy, the impersonation of spring. That must be beautiful and true which will bear being thus called to mind and mingled with the free loveliness of Na



In this pas de deux was sufficiently obvious the need of genius to make a dancer, and the impossibility that good taste and education, here or elsewhere, should alone suffice to fill the scene. Her partner, Sylvain, was a light and graceful dancer and understood his part, yet whenever, after her part was done, she retired with timid gentle step and an air that seemed to say, see how beautiful he will look now. He will show himself worthy of my hand," the light all vanished from the scene, the poetry stopped on the wing, and we saw Sylvain and his steps and thought of the meaning of the dance, distinctly. We wanted to see the prince with the princess, but she was escorted by a gentlemanly chamberlain.

And this is only one kind of beauty, of genius of which the ballet is susceptible. Taglioni's is of an entirely distinct character. We will insert here an account of a ballet composed for her which gives an idea of her style and powers. It is from the Revue de Paris, extracted from a letter dated St. Petersburg, 1839.

L'Ombre, ballet in three acts, given 1839 at the Imperial Theatre of St. Petersburg.

The expense of giving this ballet must have been enormous, but we must confess it was not without its due results. The costumes were of a surpassing magnificence; as to the decorations, both for quantity and quality, they seemed possible only to fairy-land. The four changes of scene in the very first act might astonish eyes habituated to every variety of luxurious display. The second act exhibits only one scene, but it would be pity indeed that it should be changed, so beautiful and novel is it. It is a park and garden of the most enchanting beauty; how unlike those pitiful landscapes usually exhibited by a few twisted trees at the side scenes. This is a true piece of nature, still fresh with the dew of morning, spacious parterres of flowers and verdure stretching out to the very front of the scene, with shrubberies that seem to catch the breeze, and a clear and limpid stream in the background.

The next time the curtain rises, we see a saloon decorated with the utmost taste and splendor. The tapestries and curtains are masterpieces, of themselves; the arabesques copied from Raphael with a religious precision. By sixty steps they descend into this sumptuous apartment, where three hundred and fifty persons could dance with ease. Look! Would you not think these colossal proportions betokened the remains of some Babylonian palace? The palace totters in fact, and all these riches fall into a heap of ruins. But reassure yourself. With the next stroke of the wand, you will witness a yet more glorious transformation. This place where your ear already presaged the lugubrious notes of the owl, is become the site of an eternal dwelling, and you, still living, find yourself in Elysium.

What then is the picture which requires so sumptuous a frame? you cry.- Patience, and you shall hear.

After all the different creations filled out by M'lle. Taglioni, you may conceive that the choregraphists have been somewhat at a loss to invent for her any new occasion. What new style could they discover for her who had been an Oriental in "La Revolte au Serail," a Greek divinity in "Le Pas de Diane," a water nymph in "La Fille du Danube," an aerial being, almost an angel in "La Sylphide," an ardent Spaniard, almost a courtezan in "La Gitana." Has not Taglioni taken possession of all the realms, the air, the water, and the earth? Her empire reaches from the sea to the stars; in every region we encounter the perfumed and luminous track left by that white wing. And Taglioni belongs to the family of indefatigable artists, urged without cessation towards the ideal by a secret and noble ardor, those laborious geniuses for whom every conquered obstacle is an incentive to seek new obstacles to conquer, and who cannot traverse the same path twice. If you feel this and recall the title of the new ballet, you will not need to have me tell you that the scene is placed in the invisible, and that the heroine of the ballet is but a lovely phantom, the gracious and serene shade of a poor young girl, who died of love.

Without wishing to deprive Mons. Taglioni of the merit of inventing this beautiful work, I think he is not the originator of the idea. The writer, who in all France, perhaps, possesses in the highest degree, the artistical instinct and sentiment, he whose pen, among all the critics of the drama, has been most delicately inspired by M'lle. Taglioni, M. Jules Janin, addressed to her the ravishing and melodious Adieu, ombre dansante!" when the Sylphide, in 1837, took her flight towards St. Petersburg. Une ombre dansante is in fact the theme of our new ballet. A pure young girl appears at first, fair and pale,


her heart full of love and singing hopes; she has in her hand a bouquet of flowers.

This fair child begins to dance; she knows not that death is so near her. Why does she so often press those flowers to her lips? She thinks she breathes from them the love of him whom she loves, but a jealous hand has concealed poison there. Alas! already it circulates in her veins; her light foot totters, a veil spreads over her eyes; she falls; she is dead; let us weep. Not yet, for see she returns into our world, poor ghost who cannot forget a living lover. She glides through the air like floating cloud, through the tremulous foliage of the willow, over the green grass, or the glittering surface of lakes and rivers, seeking everywhere him whose image she has carried away in a corner of her white shroud. She finds him again at last, after many melancholy hoverings and floatings, between heaven and earth, but what avails it? Can the living arms embrace a shade? But Heaven pities them, and the union of these lovers is soon to be realized in a better world.

The dance with which M'lle. Taglioni began in the first act is called Le pas du bouquet. You may divine its character from the situation I have delineated to you. It is not yet the dancing shade, not yet the mysterious vision, which will by and by leave its luminous furrow in space like the passage of a sunbeam. No! it is the modest and blushing betrothed, whose brow expands, whose eye sparkles with a timid ecstasy, whose innocent bosom heaves above a palpitating heart. Do you not read in the noble attitudes of this young girl, how much she loves; in her gay bounding motions, that she is happy as the bird who sings upon the flowering shrub? But also does not something in her air inform you that her last hour is nigh? See from time to time she shows signs of pain and faintness, bending like a half unfolded rose of May, whose lovely stem is touched by the frost. Ah, can it be that death will not relent at sight of so many charms? Will fate be inexorable in cutting short a life so pure and so innocent? Will no angel descend from heaven to save this virgin so full of graces? Useless prayers, vain hope! M'lle. Taglioni was especially applauded in this Pas du bouquet, for the qualities which have shone in her so many times, yet seem always new each time they are displayed, her noble demeanor, the elegance of her motions, the ease of her gestures at the most difficult moments, the enchanting delicacy of her pantomime, the exquisite precision of her performance always and everywhere.

But the incomparable part, that in which she surpassed herself, and reached the height of a creation, which might with justice be styled supernatural, is the dance of the second act. You remember the beautiful garden, whose delights I was de

scribing; in this garden Taglioni, freed from her terrestrial form, gives full play to her sweet inspirations. I do not know of what material the flowers are composed, but you see the divine dancer pass over camelias, lilies, jonquils, without their so much as trembling at her touch. You remember M'lle. Taglioni in the Fille du Danube, and the Sylphide; you thought then, like everybody else, that it was not possible for the human body to attain a greater lightness, yet this miracle is now accomplished. It is no more a nymph, a sylph who dances, but a shade, a soul, and the white feather that the wind wafts away, as it falls from the neck of the swan, would scarcely do it justice by the comparison. Nothing that approaches the least in the world to reality, can give an idea of this wonder. Imagine, if you can, a shadowy form, who, withdrawing slowly from the scene where she has hovered long without touching the earth, vanishes at last on the horizon like a celestial being, passing over the water as she goes. This spectacle affects one like a dream. Have you sometimes remarked in a clear and calm night, those long threads of gold that go and come on the tops of the trees, which play capriciously, rapid, and impalpable on the dark front of some silent church, these may give you some idea of the unmaterial dance invented on this occasion, by M'lle. Taglioni. I say nothing of the Pas de Trois, where she dances in the last act, and during which she cannot be seized by her lover, to whose eyes only she is perceptible. This dance is of the same kind as those preceding, and executed with the same perfection.

The next day the emperor, in token of his satisfaction, sent M. Taglioni a fine ring, and a magnificent set of diamonds and turquoises to M'lle. Taglioni. The dilettanti of St. Petersburg know now where they shall pass the greater number of their evenings this winter.

Dec. 1839.

And now, to wind up with a word to the scorner in the style of a moral to one of Pilpay's fables. Does any one look on beauty with the bodily eye alone? that degrades; it is the lust of the eye, brings sin and death. But to him who looks with the eye of the soul also, every form in which beauty appears is religious, and casts some flower upon the altar of intelligence.

We wish to refer here to the last of a course of lectures on the Natural History of Man, by that free and generous thinker, Alexander Kinmont, who, if he had lived, would have cast broad lights on the course of things in this age

and country, for excellent views on the subject of amusement. We make a brief extract which refers to the present time.

"I speak of the new state of society, to which we are tending, as characterized and to be marked more with the features of stern and uncompromising truth, light, and positive assurance, than any that have preceeded it; but, although I believe and see that such a condition of things will not admit of those peculiar kinds of romantic pleasures, derived from poetry and the fine arts, which have before existed, yet I by no means think that there are not other sources of rational and pure delight, of an analogous kind, still in reserve for mankind. Mankind cannot exist, the sweet charities of society cannot be maintained, without some such enjoyments; but what I maintain is that new fountains of poetry and art must be unsealed, which are to correspond with this new state of our social condition. I say they must be unsealed, for that they have not been opened yet in this nation, is certain. But I doubt not these fountains of feeling are to be found. O when will the magician go out with his divining rod, and find them, that they may gush forth, and refresh the parched land; for I believe that the souls of the people want song and poetry, or what is analogous thereto, they need a healthy excitement, a nation cannot live without excitement. Good music, good songs, good paintings, which were all new, and truly native, would do more to cure the fanaticism, and intemperance of the land, than all those artificial societies instituted for such purposes. There is a blank in the public mind, which requires to be filled up. Would society burst forth so frequently into those superstitious ebullitions called Revivals, if the chords of genuine feeling were struck in the human heart, if the pure tones of devotion were regularly, and calmly, and sweetly elicited by the divine touch of art, whether the poetical, the musical, or the graphical? They should be as original, and native, and as consistent with the genius of the new era, as were the political acts of the worthies of the Revolution, the ends, the thoughts and expressions of a Hamilton, a Jefferson, and a Madison."

[ocr errors]

Injustice is done by giving a single extract, for Kinmont is not one of those who shine in detached thoughts or finished passages, but a large and living tract of thought, which needs to be seen as a whole, for any part to be seen as it ought. But his enthusiasm on this subject, or any other, was no sudden gleam from a vaporous atmosphere, but the glow of a fire built on a broad hearth, and fed

« AnteriorContinua »