MARGARET EMSLIE (Mezzo-Soprano)
THE STATION OCTET THOMAS. although known almost wholly now by Mignon, was the composer of at least twenty operas and full-sized ballets which enjoyed great popularity in the second half of last century. In his own day, indeed, he was easily the most popular of composers for the Paris stage. The latter part of his life was spent, however, in teaching, as head of the famous Paris Conservatoire. a post which he held for twenty-five years. It was the success of his opera Hamlet. following on Mignon, which won him that distinction, and to Mignon he owed also the award of the Grand Cross of the Legion of Honour which was given to him on the occasion of its thousandth performance. The opera Raymond, of which only the Overture is now played, although that is well known and popular, appeared in 1851.
THE scene of ' The Jewel Song' is the garden of Margaret's hous?. Siebel, Margaret's youthful admirer, has left a little posy of flowers on her doorstep, and then Faust has come in with Mephistopheles and Faust has sung his beautiful meditation on the place where his beloved dwells. Mephistopheles. whom he had bidden to leave him alone, has returned, bringing a handsome casket of jewels and an elaborate bouquet with which he replaces Siebel's simple posy, and the two withdraw. Margaret comes in through the wicket gate, and, dreaming of the handsome stranger who had spoken to her, she sits at her spinning-wheel and sings the simple old ballad of the King of Thule. interrupting it by thoughts of the unknown gallant. Then, as she is about to enter her house, she finds the casket of jewels and, hesitatingly at first, opens it. Though she cannot be sure that a gift so costly can really bo meant for her, she decks herself out with the gems, and then, admiring her reflection in the handglass which is in the casket, breaks into the brilliant Jewel
Song. Its striking effect is always enhanced by its contrast with the simplicity of the ballad which she has just sung, and something of the success of the brilliant air. when well sung. depends, too. on the fact that it is almost the first time in the Opera that a solo soprano voice has been heard.