英日対訳:T.ビーチャム自叙伝「A Mingled Chime」第25章(1/2)初めてのロシア歌劇公演期間








June came round bringing with it the Russian Opera Company and for the opening performances Drury Lane was by no means full, although this was the first appearances in England of Chaliapin. There is a belief, which must be general because of its constant reiteration, that the intelligent and enthusiastic music lover is not to be found in the stalls and boxes but in the pit and gallery. Rich people, we are told, care little for opera as a musical entertainment; for them it is a social function only and genuine appreciation must be sought among the less opulent classes. This comfortable article of faith has no foundation in fact, my own experience being in the contrary direction, for almost invariably when I have given master works with which the general public is unacquainted, there has been a conspicuous lack of support on the part of those to whom credit is usually given for superior taste and knowledge. And so in the case of our first Russian season it was only when it began to be known that the stalls and boxes were filled nightly with an audience of persons famous in politics, society and art that the man in the street also came to applaud and approve. When success did arrive, and it was not long delayed, it was total and fully equal to that of the Ballet two years before. Added to the anticipated spectacle of magnificent scenery and gorgeous costumery was the novel interest of a style of music unlike that of any other country and a standard of acting in all sections of the company superior to that which had yet been seen in an opera house. More of an advantage than a drawback was the pleasing element of incomprehensibility in it all, hardly anyone in the audience knowing a word of the language, or having the slightest idea of what was taking place on the stage. For all we knew it might have been the most utter nonsense that was being sung; but the experts proclaimed that Russian was a very agreeable language to listen to, and that for most people was all that mattered.  




It has always seemed to me that the surest guarantee of lasting fame for any work of art should be a spice of inscrutability. If its nature is susceptible of easy analysis, it is soon brought down to earth, examined microscopically and worried out of existence by criticism or ridicule. This melancholy fate can be avoided only if its meaning be shrouded in a reasonable obscurity, for the public may then go on for generations wondering and wondering about it and, as no final solution of the problem is ever likely to be forth-coming, will find itself after a few hundred years exactly where it was at the start. It looks as if this were the way, perhaps the only way of making certain of immortality, and to it is due much of the lofty reputation of Greek drama and such works as Hamlet, The Magic Flute, and The Ring, which are given credit for hidden significances when probably there are none there at all.  




That the general credit of Russian opera not only stands no higher than in those days, but has perceptibly gone down during the last fifteen or twenty years, is not easy to explain. No one can urge that it has been overplayed, for the public is acquainted with a mere handful of works, and even these are given infrequently. None the less, the Russian contribution to the repertoire of the lyric theater, although less vigorous and revolutionary than the German, and inferior in architectonic skill to the French or in lyrical facility to the Italian, is perhaps the most noteworthy of the nineteenth century. Of a consistently higher musical level than the first and of a more dignified order of utterance than the others, its two striking characteristics are nobility of conception and the absence of cheapness and vulgarity, both evidences of a culture rooted soundly in simplicity and good taste. Much has been written about the origins of the music itself, but hardly anything about its unmistakable affinity with the folk melody of Ireland. That ever distressful country was occupied for four hundred years by the same irrepressible horde of Northern encroachers on other people’s property who failed to obtain a permanent foothold in England, but succeeded under Rurik in planting itself solidly on the soil of Muscovy in the eighth century of our so-called Christian era. A striking example of their joint ancestry is to be found in the third act of Prince Igor, where the taking little tune associated with the spy Owlov is almost identical with that of a Celtic song of the middle ages.  




But that which chiefly differentiates the Russian school from any other is its profoundly national character. The masters of Western Europe from Handel and Mozart down to Bizet and Verdi, have penetrated every known corner of the earth in their search for literary fuel to fire their inspiration, surveying all mankind operatically from China to Peru. But there is hardly one important Russian work that is not only in musical idiom, but in choice of subject, the product of the native soil. The narrative operas of Moussorgsky, Borodin, and Rimsky-Korsakov, are as much of a national possession as the historical plays of Shakespeare, and the sequence of Ivan the Terrible, The Czar’s Bride, Boris Godounov,and Khovantschina as much a dramatic cycle as the Oresteia or Richard the Second and the three Henries.  




It is not surprising that in a people given up so much to mass singing we should find the chorus playing a more prominent and interesting part than in the opera of other schools. With few exceptions, such as Lohengrin and Carmen, the employment of it is casual and fragmentary, and more often than not, it is brought on to the stage either to send up the curtain on a jolly opening or bring it down at the end with a lively and agreeable clatter. Anyway it is rarely an essential and vital element in the drama, while in a Russian opera it is a protagonist with a definite and independent role of its own to play, and its larger importance has the effect of adding tonal weight and visual splendor to all the scenes in which it takes part. 




Socially the Russians are unlike any other European people, having a good deal of the Asiatic disregard for the meaning and use of the hour glass. Slow movement and time without limit for reflection and conversation are vital to them, and unless they can pass a substantial part of the day in discussions about the human soul, they become ill at ease and unhappy. For this reason, although they professed to like London, I do not think they were really at home there; for I often observed that they appeared astonished to find that other persons had something else to do and actually preferred going about doing it. But although deliberate enough in most things, they had a way of blazing out almost volcanically if annoyed or affronted, and an entertaining instance of this occurred towards the close of the season. 





Alexander Borodin: 

Prince Igor, act 2. 

Polovtsian dances. 

London Philharmonic Orchestra and Leets Festival Choir, 

Conducted by Sir Thomas Beecham. 

Recorded in Leets Town Hall on 5. october 1934.