I went on Saturday to hear the three operatic novelties so liberally provided for us on the same night by Messrs. Mapleson, Lago and Harris. I do not mix my liquors, and I endeavour, as a rule, to keep to the same lyrical drama throughout the evening; nor is it my fault if a good dose of strong Beethoven, sweetened with Gounod and flavoured with Meyerbeer had, on the occasion in question, a somewhat confusing effect on my brain. At Her Majesty's, Lilli Lehmann was all right as Leonora: not Leonora of La Favorita, but Leonora the favourite wife of Manrico—no, not of Manrico, but of another personage who, like the unfortunate Trovatore, has to be rescued by his loving spouse from the tyranny of a powerful baritone; whether Verdi's Count di Luna or Sheridan's Pizarro, I cannot just now call to mind. Mlle. Lehmann is not only a fine singer, but also a serious dramatic artist; and the public was deeply impressed by her performance. She is a Lehmann with all the earnestness of a good clergyman; not that she had taken orders as I (Box No. 70) had done.
From Her Majesty's Theatre, I drove in a rapid Hansom to Drury Lane. I had told the cabman to take me to the Royal Italian Opera, and I was about to remonstrate with him for conveying me to the wrong house, when he promptly explained that there were now two Royal Italian Operas, one at Covent Garden, the other at Drury Lane. New source of confusion! "Confusion worse confounded!" as Milton observes.
"How far have they got?" I inquired as I entered the theatre.
"Valentine's death scene," replied my friend.
"Valentine does not die, my dear fellow; Valentine only faints," I answered, I was thinking of course, of the new dramatic soprano, Mlle. Sandra, in Les Huguenots.
"You are evidently not an Opera-goer," I continued, "or you would know that no one dies in this work, except, of course, in the last Act. But that is always left out."
"Wrong again!" exclaimed Jones, with an amused look. "Augustus Harris restores the last Act. See his prospectus."
"Well, never mind that. Is Ella Russell singing the part of Queen Margaret as well as ever?"
"I did not know that Margaret was a Queen. I always thought she was of humble origin. The part in any case is being played by Mlle. Nordica."
Determined to be no longer the victim of mystification, I wished Jones good-bye, and hurrying in, found the curtain down. Afraid now to ask what was being played, I waited patiently for the next Act, and when at last the curtain went up, I found to my astonishment that some representation entirely new to me was taking place. Will-o'-the-Wisps on a dark back-ground. That was all I saw. I asked myself whether I had gone mad, or whether the Drury Lane Pantomime was being played a little earlier than usual. Then the dark scene gave place to a scene of great brilliancy. There was a throne at the back of the stage, and again my thoughts reverted to the Huguenots, and I fancied I could recognise Queen Margaret. But her features were not the features of Ella Russell....