Reprint: The Libretto of "Moustique" by Henri Kowalski


Sir,- It seems to me, considering some suggestive lines which appeared in the Herald, that the impression is that the name of Marcus Clarke was unduly used by the author of the libretto of "Moustique." The words of the songs of the first act are his, and in the second act, until the romance of Queen Venus, "In days of old," that is to say, two-thirds of the work is signed Marcus Clarke. The dialogue differs from the original, and this for a cause that I explained, namely, that Marcus Clarke died before he flnished the work, leaving in my hands the portion indicated above, and the plot of the last act. Coming back to Paris after my first travel in Australia, I gave charge to two French authors, MM. Pagol and E. de Monlieu, to terminate the libretto accordingly with the plot of the eminent deceased. This was done, and in 1883 "Moustique" was played in French at the Alcazar Royal, of Bruxelles. The critics on that occasion thought that the French libretto had an English character, and was written on the Gilbert and Sullivan models and in complete opposition to the Parisian conventional manner. The name of Marcus Clarke was pronounced, and the Paris Figaro. Gaulois, Evenement, whose notices were afterwards reproduced in succinct manner by the Melbourne newspapers, related the opinion of the Belgian and French press. I should be very much annoyed if the public could suppose that I made a free use of a name representing a talented Australian writer; on the contrary, I thought that the feeling and judging of the European press should receive a sanction in these colonies; that is to say, that the English character of the "libretto" should be more appreciated than the French one which is purely the copy of the idea of Marcus Clarke, if not literally word for word what he left in my possession. I regret that the English translation of the French part was badly done in this country. I acted only with the greatest desire to see the name of Marcus Clarke applauded with mine. I acknowledge that my deficiency in the English language did not permit me to see at first reading that this translation was made by hands not thoroughly acquainted with theatrical objects, if with French; and the hurried way in which my opera was produced did not allow me to correct or to diminish the roughness of the words.

I am proud of the success of my music, and I regret sincerely that, in my desire to gain a new victory for my regretted friend Marcus Clarke, I was left alone without advice, though I do not forget the help that some artists gave me in correcting themselves their parts, in making more scholarly the accents in their proper place.

You will accept this letter, Mr Editor, as a proof of my sincere desire to decline any responsibility about the writing of advertisements and any premeditation, when I was anixous to place the name of Marcus Clarke, as the true creator of the imaginary story that is played just now under the title of "Moustique."

I am, &c, H. KOWALSKI.

First published in The Sydney Morning Herald, 11 July 1889

Note: this is the third of three pieces I've reprinted here over the past week regarding this production. The first of these can be found here, and the the second here. It's best they are read in order.

This was the piece I originally intended to reprint as I thought it provided a bit of an insight into one of Clarke's last works.  But, after re-reading it, I realised it couldn't stand on its own - hence the second piece, which is the review this letter comments on.  And then I realised I needed to provide a bit of context, hence the reprint last Wednesday of the initial notice of the play.

Australian Dictionary of Biography entry for Marcus Clarke

[Thanks to the National Library of Australia's newspaper digitisation project for this piece.]

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on December 23, 2009 9:40 AM.

Australian Bookcovers #191 - Chain of Evidence by Garry Disher was the previous entry in this blog.

Poem: Yule Fever by C. J. Dennis is the next entry in this blog.

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