英日対訳:トーマス・ビーチャム自叙伝「A Mingled Chime」第20章(1/2)「コヴェント・ガーデン」いま、ふたたび








While the season of which I have just written was still running, I had begun to make preparations for another in the autumn at Covent Garden of similar duration. This, like my initial venture of the previous winter, was to be of international character, although I intended to make use in it of most of the British singers who had appeared at His Majesty's. The repertoire was to follow the lines laid down in my declared policy; famous works that were little or entirely unknown in England, unproduced pieces of merit from any source, and a healthy leaven of popular favorites to reassure that section of the public which is always disheartened by an over-manifestation of novelty. 




After the startling success of Elektra, it was inevitable that my quest for an equal sensation should lead me at once to Salome, and I engaged a cast which was headed by Aino Akte, a slim and beautiful creature with an adequate voice and a remarkable understanding of her part. But one day I was unpleasantly surprised to learn that as the censor considered the work to be unfit for the British stage, we had been refused a license for performance. As the fiat had come from the Lord Chamberlain's oflSce, I was advised that I should be wasting my time if I did not appeal to some one of higher authority; and as there was only one such person in the State known personally to me, the Prime Minister, I decided to seek his intervention. As he had just left for Gloucestershire to spend a few weeks in the house of a relative, Mrs. Asquith, who always interested herself in matters of this sort, invited me to join the party. 




It has often been said that if any one wants to see the English to advantage, he had best turn his back on the town and hasten to the country. The average Briton is not genuinely urban in soul, although the evolution of industrial life has driven him from the countryside into cities; and the best evidence of this is the really shocking muddle he makes of the job when called upon to plan and lay out a new town. It is sometimes hard to believe that the men who built the churches or castles and designed the country towns and villages of Plantagenet days are the same breed as those who created and tolerated the slum atrocities of the nineteenth century. With the wealthier class, it was never the house in London that was looked upon as the real home, but some fair haunt, Jacobean or Palladian, sufficiently remote from the capital, set off by gardens that would have satisfied the requirements of Bacon himself and half hidden in the trees of its girdling park. For my part I had already observed that the man one has been seeing for months at a time in town takes on a different aspect and undergoes an almost biological transformation when met a few weeks later in the country among horses, dogs, and dairy maids.  




On first meeting Mr. Asquith at Downing Street, I had been a little abashed by his magisterial demeanor, which was rather too obviously that of the man accustomed to issue commands and wield authority. He toted us either to long flowing periods reminiscent of a college lecture room, or to a rapid series of staccato utterances not unlike those of the old Sergeant Major of the Engineer Corps in Lancashire, in which for a brief time I had held a commission. And although his wife had an easier and lighter hand in dealing with visitors or strangers, most of us remained rather more conscious than was quite necessary that here was the most influential lady of the land, with immense power in her grasp for good or ill. But in the freer air and more spacious accommodation of that charming house in the lovely Stroud Valley, both of these essentially simple and warmhearted people became different beings. The giant's robes fell away from the shoulders of the Prime Minister, who made one forget in five minutes that he was what he was, save for his massively striking appearance and the intellectual quality of his conversation. He was learned, but deeply rather than widely. His acquaintance with Greek, Roman, and English literature was as comprehensive as any I have known, and he retained a clear memory of everything that he had read. But with that of foreign modern nations it was fragmentary, and for the other arts, architecture excepted, he did not seem to have much predilection. Of music he knew next to nothing; but unlike most people who, unaffected by the classics, takes pleasure in popular jingles, he had no taste for anything that was vulgar or meretricious. In the presence of his wife, who had a wider general culture, he would display a statesmanlike caution in taking part in any discussion that touched On aesthetic subjects. But one evening when I found myself alone with him for a short while in a room where there was a piano, he asked me, with something of the expression in his eye with which a schoolboy makes a request that he is not quite sure should be granted, if I would play him the March from Tannhauser. I did so twice, and having gathered from me that musicians did not think too disdainfully of this famous fragment, he repeated the demand for it the night before my departure, but this time boldly in the presence of the rest of his family. Of all the British statesmen and politicians whom I have known from that time to this, Mr. Asquith, or the Earl of Oxford, as he afterwards became, has always seemed to me the most satisfactorily representative. More human and less abstract than those two brilliant bachelors, Lords Balfour and Haldane, and of a solidity, reliability, and poise less conspicuous in the younger stars of the political firmament, his resignation of the Premiership in 1916 was not the unqualified advantage to the country as has been so often alleged. I have often conjectured whether the once great Liberal party could have dechned upon such evil days had it remained for a few years longer under his leadership.  




I explained to him my little diffculty over Salome; how Strauss was the most famous and in common opinion the greatest of living composers; how this was his most popular work, how it was to be played for the first time to a few thousand enthusiasts who wanted to hear it, how it did not concern so far as I could see those that did not want to hear it, how being given in German it would be comprehended by few, and lastly, how I could not envisage the moral foundation of the Empire endangered by a handful of operatic performances. Would it not be more judicious to give the piece a chance, especially as we might run the risk of making ourselves slightly ridiculous in the eyes of the rest of the world by taking an exceptional attitude toward a celebrated work of art, as we had done so often in the past before the advent to power of the present enlightened government? The Prime Minister, more impressed, I think, by this last argument than the others, promised to speak to the Lord Chamberlain, and encouraged by this assurance I returned to town to complete my plans for the autumn.  




There was not too much time as the new season was to start at the very beginning of October, but the organization which I had formed nine months before and which had been functioning without a day's break since then, had reached a fair state of effciency, each part of the theater’s machine working easily and harmoniously with the other. Yet our first month turned out to be  

full of little else than one anxiety and disappointment after another. I started with a piece which I thought had a fair prospect of success, the Tiefland of D’Albert, which had won considerable favor abroad. Also D’Albert, in spite of his name, had been born an Englishman and had received his early musical training in London before leaving for the Continent, where he ultimately settled down permanently. But rarely have I had so much trouble with any work. The principal lady, who at the request of the composer had been engaged for the part of Marta, found that she could not come, and we had to discover some one else who would competently fill her place. After some difficulty we discovered a likely substitute, only to be embarrassed by her disinclination to attend rehearsals and a mysterious indisposition which afilicted her about three days before the first performance, and prevented her taking part in it. I did not learn until some little time after that the lady was or had been the wife of one of my leading baritones, that the couple were in the throes of a vast and intricate matrimonial disagreement, that she had not known when accepting my engagement that the offending spouse was to be a member of the company, and that the mere possibility of meeting him under the same roof, although it was a pretty large one, had a devastating effect upon her emotional apparatus. The premiere had to be given with an understudy who had every qualification for the part except voice and appearance. If intelligence, industry, and musicianship alone could have been sufficient for the purpose, the fate of Tiefland in London might have been happier. As it was, the want of the right female counterpart for the romantic and poetical interpretation of John Coates as Pedro deprived the piece of that essential measure of charm without which it suffered a severe handicap. 




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