英日対訳:トーマス・ビーチャム自叙伝「A Mingled Chime」第9章(1/2)生まれてはじめてのオペラでの仕事








It was during my second year in London that one day I heard of a new opera company that was about to go on tour in the suburbs, with a cast of artists nearly all well known to me. I resolved to try my luck with the management, and with a full score under my arm marched down to its offices, where I found a score of other persons in waiting. Hours went by and I was beginning to think I should never obtain even a glimpse of the great man, when suddenly the attention of us all was drawn to signs of what was unmistakably some sort of a scene going on in the inner room, accompanied by a very ineffective improvization on a piano, conspicuously out of tune. Presently the door was flung open and a portly choleric individual appeared and called out, Is there anyone here who can play the piano?' Several of those present at once answered in the affirmative. But do any of you know Faust without the music? continued the apparition and to this there was no reply. It dawned upon me that here might be an opportunity of penetrating the stronghold; so I meekly raised my voice and said, 'I think I know the opera."  



“What part of it?" sternly demanded my questioner.  



“Any part of it." He gazed at me incredulously and then said, “Come in," and in I went.  




It appeared that a singer who had been sent there with a recommendation for the part of Marguerite had neglected to bring a copy of the piece with her, and this oversight had kindled the official wrath. I played through those portions which were required for the trial and was about to take my leave when the now partly pacified impresario said: “Wait a bit. I want a word with you, besides there may be others out there who have forgotten their music”; and so it proved to be. After the singers had left he turned to me and said, “Why did you come here?”  



“I have an opera with me which I hoped you might hear with a view to performance,” said I.  




“Good God, what an idea!” said he. His astonishment seemed so profound that I hardly knew how to continue the conversation and was thinking of a fresh opening when he went on. “How many of the pieces I am giving do you know?” handing me at the same time a prospectus of his season. I looked at it, informed him that I was familiar with all of them, and he asked me if I had ever conducted. I told him exactly what I had done, and he asked me whether I would like to try my hand at opera. Naturally I jumped at the idea, still nourishing the hope that it might lead to the production of one of my works. As it was now about lunch time, he invited me to come back in the afternoon and talk it over with him, and when I returned I found him quite alone. He explained that he had given orders that no one should be admitted as he wanted to have a little private singing, declaring himself to be the possessor of the finest tenor voice in England. I was made to sit at the piano and accompany him for the rest of the day in long extracts from operas that contained his favorite roles, and every time there was a brief pause, he asked for my opinion as to his performance. Naturally I allowed my enthusiasm to grow with each effort, and the result was that before I left I had been offered and had accepted the post of one of the two conductors of the new company, with instructions to start at once on the rehearsals which were taking place at the “Old Vic,” and about two weeks later the company started on its tour.  




It lasted about two months, visiting such outlying places as Clapham, Brixton, and Stratford, and I enjoyed myself hugely, conducting in addition to Carmen and Pagliacci that trilogy of popular Saturday-nighters dubbed facetiously “The English Ring”— The Bohemian Girl, Maritana, and The Lily of Killarney. But all the fun and excitement I extracted from the experience (that inveterate old joker, G. H. Snazelle, who was playing Devilshoof succeeded in setting fire to the stage as a farewell gesture on the last night) could not blind my soberer perceptions to the truth that if there was one especial way in which opera should not be given, then here it was in all its rounded perfection. Some of the singers of course were excellent and I have never heard Marie Duma’s rendering of Leonora in II Trovatore bettered anywhere in the world for tone quality, phrasing, and insight into the true character of the role. The performances that I have heard during the last fifteen years either at La Scala or at Covent Garden have all been markedly inferior. But of attempt, even the slightest, at production there was none, and both scenery and dresses were atrocious. Some of the principals brought their own costumes along, but the isolated spectacle of one or two brilliantly clad figures only threw into more dismal relief the larger mass of squalor in the background. The chorus, which was composed mainly of veterans of both the sexes, was accurate but toneless and the orchestra quite the most incompetent I have known anywhere. I could not help comparing the wretched conditions under which great works of art were being presented to the public with the care, preparation, and even luxury bestowed upon any of the half dozen musical comedies or farces then running in the West End. Sometimes I would feel a touch of astonishment that we had an audience at all for the motley kind of entertainment we were offering, and at others an uncomfortable twinge of conscience as if I were an accomplice in some rather discreditable racket, which among a community more critical and knowledgeable would have provoked an instant breach of the peace.  




The inferiority of the orchestral performance would be an impossibility today in England, so incontestably higher is the general level of playing. But at that time, outside the few great orchestras such as the Covent Garden Opera, the Queens Hall or the Halle of Manchester, where at least the technical accomplishment was first-rate, the average player was hardly equipped to tackle any music except that of a simple and straightforward kind. The musical culture of the country had for generations been almost entirely choral, and the instrumental side had been relegated to an obscure background from which it was only just beginning to emerge. Sir Edward Elgar has told us how during the earlier days of his career he once conducted a country town orchestra and overheard an elderly fiddler, who was timidly attempting a rather high passage, murmur to his desk colleague, “You know, this is the first time I have been up here.” But already there were signs of a new and different spirit abroad which during the next few years was to yield gratifying results, chiefly owing to the wisdom of the colleges of music in creating student orchestras where young instrumentalists could be familiarized at an early age with at least a portion of the classical repertoire. Gradually the old and slightly tatterdemalion world of orchestral playing was rejuvenated by the invasion of a new type of player, who was not only a better performer on his instrument but of superior all round attainment.  




None the less, I have always considered that this rather uninviting initiation into professional life was of the greatest service to me. To be pitch-forked into such a chaotic welter and be forced to make something tangible and workable out of it is incomparably more useful to the young conductor than to take command of a highly trained body of experts, accustomed through long routine to fulfill their respective tasks with ease and celerity. Indeed the youthful or comparatively youthful musician should not be allowed, except on some rare occasion, to conduct an orchestra of the front rank at all, and if he does I am not sure which of the two parties to the transaction suffers the more from it. It is almost impossible that he can teach it anything, and it is more than likely that its accustomed discipline will speedily relax under a leadership that has neither experience nor authority. Further, the unhappy young man will have to decide between the alternatives of assuming an air of omniscience as comical as a child preaching in a cathedral pulpit, or an abnegation of any effort at real direction; either of which will be equally acceptable to that collection of humorists who make up the personnel of nearly every first-class orchestra of the world. For there is no other company of human beings engaged in a communal task that can match it for instant and accurate valuation of competence or incompetence, be it in a conductor, singer, pianist, or any other executant whose craft has been daily under its argus eye year in and year out. Be it in the opera house or the concert room, I would in nineteen cases out of twenty abide by the verdict or accept the opinion of a great orchestra far more confidently than I would that of either the press or the public.