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THE SIEGE OF BELGRADE:
A COMIC OPERA,
En Three Acts.
BY JAMES COBB, 1956 - 18 19
PRINTED FROM THE ACTING COPY, WITH REMARKS,
To which are added,
A DESCRIPTION OF THE COSTUME, CAST OF THE CHARACTERS, ENTRANCES AND EXITS, RELATIVE POSITION OF THE PER
FORMERS ON THE STAGE, AND THE WHOLE OF THE STAGE
As now performed at the
THEATRES ROYAL, LONDON.
EMBELLISHED WITH A PORTRAIT OF MISS LOVE,
IN THE CHARACTER OF LILLA.
Engraved on Steel by MR. WOOLNOTH, from an original Drawing by MR. WAGEMAN.
JOHN CUMBERLAND, 19, LUDGATE HILL.
The Siege of Belgrade.
THE playwright discovers his ingenuity more when he works without a plot, than with one ;-when, without any strong attempt at character, or extraordinary display of wit, he contrives to escape not only free from censure, but with some share of applause. It is to the very beautiful music, and to the combined talents of the performers, which graced this opera on its first appearance at Drury Lane, that the author owes his popularity. The plot is singularly unimportant and trivial. A young married lady is taken prisoner by a straggling party of the Turkish army, just arrived to the relief of Belgrade, and, as a matter of course, conducted to the Seraskier's seraglio. Her husband, an Austrian colonel, after a sufficient quantum of ejaculations to his adorable girl, and a good deal of blustering about bleeding and conquering with his brave hussars, attempts her rescue in disguise, is taken in the act of delivering a letter-“ a designing malicious-looking letter, that smells of gunpowder like a soldier's pouch"-and instead, as in England, of being hanged for a spy, he is consigned to the bowstring, from which he is miraculously saved by the apropos arrival of a tag-rag and bob-tail mob of Austrian soldiers and peasants, who make the enemy run like lamplighters; and then, to give them music to their dancing, commence singing the finale to the second act. The sequel is easily guessed-after a due portion
of din and danger, of alternate shouting and scampering, there is a regular siege; and the piece concludes with a puff direct on Christian mercy and forbearance, and all that sort of thing; as if the banner of the cross was a whit less blood-stained than that of the crescent.
In addition to this string of probabilities, is an underplot, consisting of the Seraskier's penchant for Lilla, the whimsies of Yuseph, an amorous old magistrate, and the jealous vagaries of a hair-brained passionate blockhead, who commits a thousand extravagances with all the coolness and good temper imaginable. Yuseph is a great relief to the prevailing tedium, to the heavy prose and ricketty rhyme of this opera. The character is sketched with considerable quaintness and humour, and shows that the author could produce comic effects when he would. Yuseph is a perfect type of the renowned Vicar of Bray, having none of that fastidious delicacy which makes a man resign his place when his patrons and partisans are sent to the right about-no, for it would be as difficult to oust this weathercock-official by fair means, as to overturn a pyramid from its base. Under his Turkish masters, he is Yuseph Ben Jacob Ben Mustapha; but, when the Austrians assume dominion, he becomes suddenly transmogrified into Heroon Joseph Wolfgang Bawmbork Blandenkerstoon Schwartzenbergen! He is highly flattered when the Seraskier obligingly condescends to laugh at him, and returns the compliment with full force, when his highness, instead of consulting him on some grand military operation, inquires if there are many pretty girls in the neighbourhood. His religious horror when he beholds the pork and wine impiously spread out to regale the Christian dogs, is only equalled in whim by the voracity with which he devours the one and swallows the other, with the accompanying salvo, that a Mahometan may take a cup of wine when nobody sees him. These oddities are mingled with a cowardice and self-importance no less diverting. Suet was the original Yuseph, and