英日対訳:トーマス・ビーチャム自叙伝「A Mingled Chime」第18章(1/2)「コヴェント・ガーデン」シーズン1








To anyone unacquainted with the character of the British public it would have seemed beyond question that what it was craving more than anything else in the world at this time was opera. Over a period of ten years there had been carried on in and out of the press an unceasing campaign for the establishment of an English opera, or perhaps more accurately an opera in English; and according to dozens of writers on the subject, both professional and amateur, we should never be a really civilized nation until we had one. The only existing institution of importance, the Grand Opera Syndicate, which gave us regular seasons usually in the summer at Covent Garden in French, Italian, and German, was constantly assailed as being inimical to the interests of native music, and condemned on two further counts, insufficiency of repertoire and adherence to the star system.  

イギリスの一般大衆のことをご存じない方にとっては、当世、彼らが何よりも渇望していたのが、オペラであったことは、確かであるように思えたであろう。10年に亘り、国内外の各紙は、イギリスのオペラというものを確立すべし、というキャンペーンをずっと張り続けていた。もっとも、より正確な言い方をすれば「英語によるオペラ」とするべきか。本職の物書きも素人の投書も、あわせて10数人分読んでみたが、自国(語)のオペラのない国に、真の文明化などありえない、とのことだ。現在存在する関連団体で、きちんとしたところというと、「Grand Opera Syndicate」(大規模オペラ公演団体組合)だ。定期公演期間を、通常、毎年夏に設けてくれる。会場はロンドン・ロイヤル・オペラハウス「コヴェント・ガーデン」。フランス語、イタリア語、ドイツ語によるオペラが上演される。だがこれが攻撃を受け続けているのだ。イギリス独自の音楽を、という世間の要請に反している、更にもう2つ、演目が充実していないこと、そして、人気俳優を呼び物にすることに頼りすぎていること、これらが槍玉に挙げられているのである。 



For my part I never saw reason or justice in either of these indictments. The program given was fairly large and representative, more so indeed than in some of the famous theaters on the Continent, and the so-called star system was nothing worse than the practice of engaging for each role that particular singer whom the Directorate thought best fitted for it, hardly a serious offense against music. Six opera houses running the whole year round could not have played all the works which newspaper writers were convinced the pubhc wanted to hear; and if this demand was genuine, then clearly what was wanted was less the reformation or abolition of an institution that was doing excellent work in its own way than the creation of others to meet the demand. But as it is always more fun and less trouble to criticize than construct, nothing tangible ever came of this busy activity of tongue and pen.  




In determining then the character of my own effort, I had to take into consideration these two public aspirations, a more varied choice of fare, and the performance of English works, together with the engagement of a large number of English singers. The first was much easier to gratify than the second, for there were dozens, even hundreds of pieces unknown then as now. That was purely a matter of selection, and should be simple enough as the public appeared to want anything. But the production of operas by native composers on any scale was quite another matter, for there were very few that could be given with any reasonable chance of success, and as for the singers, most of them had been trained for oratorio and other concert work and had little or no knowledge of the stage and all that varied accomplishment which is essential to a successful career on it. Furthermore, English voices are unlike those of most other nations; really robust tenors and true dramatic sopranos hardly exist among us, and high baritones are as rare as a perfect summer. The best among them are of comparatively moderate volume, pure and excellent in tone but lacking in power and brilliance in comparison with those of Italy, Germany, and France. Some care and discretion would be necessary in the planning of a scheme of work that would display them to advantage by the side of their rivals, and perhaps my ultimate goal would prove to be a theater of smaller dimensions than Covent Garden or La Scala, something after the model of that admirable French organization the Opera Comique. But as my advisers were strongly of the opinion that this my first important season should be given at Covent Garden, a theater that had been associated in the public mind with opera for over two hundred years, there I went.  




The program was made up of Elektra, A Village Romeo and Juliet, Ivanhoe, Tristan and Isolde, The Wreckers, Carmen, Hansel and Gretel, and L'Enfant Prodigue. This last named piece was originally a short cantata which I transferred to the stage, and proved to be a capital curtain raiser. I myself conducted the Strauss and Delius operas, while Bruno Walter, whose first appearance this was at Covent Garden, and Percy Pitt divided the others between them. With the exception of Elektra none of the other novelties and unfamiliar pieces met with popular success, although the general attendance was fairly good. A Village Romeo and Juliet was pronounced to be undramatic by the press although I myself have never been able to discover this deficiency in it. All the same, Delius has certainly a method of writing opera shared by no one else. So long as the singers are off the stage the orchestra plays delicately and enchantingly, but the moment they reappear it strikes up fiercely and complainingly as if it resented not being allowed to relate the whole story by itself. During the last act the curtain is down for about eight minutes, and the orchestra plays a strain of haunting beauty; an intermezzo now known to every concert-goer as “The Walk to the Paradise Garden.” But in the theater it went for next to nothing, being almost completely drowned by the conflicting sounds of British workmen battering on the stage and the loud conversation of the audience.  




When I revived this work some years later, I introduced  here a new stage picture so that this lovely piece was played with  the curtain up, the only way in an English theater to secure comparative silence. What the public does not see it takes no interest in, and I would advise all young composers, if they wish their music to be heard, never to lower the curtain for one second during the course of an act. Better let it remain up with the operations of scene shifting and workmen in shirt sleeves in full view, for possibly a fair proportion of the spectators would leave the building under the impression that these were actually a part of the entertainment.  




Just as this work and The Wreckers represented the living English school, so the revival of Ivanhoe was an act of respect to a dead English master, Sullivan. It was essentially an affair of action and spectacle, and the designers and machinists saw their opportunity and went out boldly to grasp it. I was promised effects of grandeur and excitement that would outrival the most startling Drury Lane melodrama, and tons of timber were ordered for the scenes of the tournament and the burning of the Castle of Torquilstone. In those days we had not yet escaped from the cycle of ultra-realism in stage representation and everything had to be as life-like as possible. If there was a house on the stage it must be a real house, trees and waterfalls must be the things themselves; and artists as well as the public took a childish delight in going farther than merely holding the mirror up to nature. This phase came to an end shortly afterwards when a celebrated actor manager, nervously uncertain of the effect likely to be made on his cultivated audience by the unassisted recital of Shakespeare’s verse, distinguished himself by letting loose on the stage a brood of tame rabbits during Oberon’s magnificent speech in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Naturally against this rival attraction on the boards the unfortunate Bard had very little chance. 




I soon observed that the soaring ambitions of the scenic department were reacting none too favorably upon the musical side of the work. There were so many buildings, fences, trees, rivers and animals encumbering the stage that there was hardly any room upon it for the unlucky singers; and as for the chorus and supers numbering nearly three hundred, it was evident that if something were not done to accommodate them better they would have to sing in the adjoining market. But it is as difficult to alter traditional methods in a theater as to impose economy on a government department, and I waited and vacillated until the final rehearsal when all the grand effects were to be seen in their full glory. The burning of the castle was certainly an astonishing triumph as viewed from the auditorium, but it was appreciated less by the occupants of the crowded stage. For regardless of the value of human life, huge chunks of masonry flew in every direction spreading tenor among the attackers and defenders alike. There was almost a riot and undoubtedly there would have been no performance if I had not given my word to control the enthusiasm of the realists. All that day there was a depressed exodus from the theater of about as much wood and other solid material as would have built a fair sized sailing yacht.