英日対訳:T.ビーチャム自叙伝A Mingled Chime第38章(1/2)第1次大戦の傷悪化/「ファルスタッフ」を斬る








The termination of the war and the return to peace conditions added considerably to the costs of running an opera company. While the struggle continued I had almost a monopoly of the services of a substantial proportion of the best artists in the country; but with the relaxation of those restrictions and regulations which had crippled their activities for over four years, hundreds of concert societies came to life again and, with appetites stimulated by their long fast, took up their work where it had been interrupted. As the members of my company had been more in the public eye than any others of the profession, they were in universal demand, and I had to choose between granting them frequent leaves of absence, which must depreciate the discipline and efficiency of the ensemble, and increasing their remuneration. As the virtue and strength of the organization lay mainly in its splendid teamwork, I and my colleagues preferred to accept the latter alternative, and concurrently with this went a large rise in labor charges, chorus salaries, and everything else material to the maintenance of a big theater.  




As always happens after a great war, there was a universal opinion that a new era had been inaugurated and a good time at hand for every one. The trifling circumstances that the national machine of industry had yet to be reorganized so as to absorb five or six million service men, that the national debt had risen from seven hundred and fifty to six thousand million pounds, and the annual budget from two hundred millions to a thousand, were overlooked in the exhilaration of the moment. Men and women alike had but one thought; to forget about the war as soon as possible and enjoy themselves, no matter at whose expense. This  all-round augmentation of costs was alarming for the future of the enterprise, for even on the reduced war time scale the losses had been heavy, amounting to as much as two thousand pounds in a week when air raids had been frequent. Although we no longer had this super-distraction to cope with, there was the competition of other forms of entertainment which had languished during the days of danger; and the halls, musical comedy theaters, and pantomimes regaining their old place in the great heart of the public, the earlier mood of simplicity and gravity that had led so many to the solace of great art vanished in favor of one that sought a class of entertainment requiring the minimum of thought and concentration.  




It began to be all too clear to me what I had suspected for some time, namely, that without assistance from the state or municipality, a first-rate operatic organization could never be maintained on a permanent basis. Individual seasons might now and then be run at a trifling loss, and third or fourth rate companies could even make a little profit for themselves, on the condition of adhering relentlessly to a standard of performance liable at any moment to cause the outraged spirit of some dead master to walk the earth again like that of Hamlet’s father. But an institution that employes the services of the best available singers, musicians, dancers, mechanicians, producers, and scene painters, is a commercial impossibihty and beyond the means of one man, unless he be a multi-millionaire. Modem history, alas, has not yet furnished the refreshing phenomenon of a multi-millionaire who has taken a really serious interest in music, probably for the reason that his concrete soul is shocked by the intangible and unsatisfactory nature of the art itself. For where are the abiding results of so much expenditure? They cannot be stowed away in the cellars of museums, hung on the walls of picture galleries, used for the better purpose of domestic decoration, or best of all, turned into solid cash once more in the auctioneer’s salesroom. During one of my trips to the United States, I had a visit from a benevolent gentleman who had been contributing handsomely for years to the maintenance of a great orchestra and was desirous of comparing notes with me on how such institutions should be run. I related as many of my experiences as might enlighten without terrifying him, and his parting words as he went out of the door were: “Well, sir, I guess that every time some guy draws a bow across a fiddle, you or I sign a check for a thousand dollars.” A pleasing example of the New World's inimitable capacity to express “multum in parvo.”  




But I knew that for the moment anything in the nature of state aid was out of the question, as no government that had been cheerfully spending between six and seven millions a day on the work of destruction would dream of providing a mere fifty or hundred thousand a year for the maintenance of an institution which was making a fair bid to be valued as educative as well as artistic, and which ministered to the needs of an appreciable percentage of the cultured portion of the community. In Manchester it was estimated that over seventy thousand persons had visited the opera during our two recent visits there, about one-tenth of the population of the city. Besides there was an ominous whisper in the air, deflation; and the Bank of England was seriously disturbed by the specter of so much general prosperity. There was far too much money in circulation, some drastic surgical operation must be performed and the nation made poorer, after the fashion of Moliere’s “Medecin malgre Lui,” who cautioned a patient that his perfect condition of health was alarming and would be the better for a little loss of blood. However, most of this was as yet in the future and the only thing to do for the moment was to go on sticking to one’s task without too much thought of what tomorrow might bring forth.  




At the turn of the year, January, 1920, I revived Falstaff at Manchester, and to judge by the reception given to the performance that opening night, any one present might have surmised that this charming work which had never been anything but the palest of successes in England, had at last come to stay. But it was not to be, for neither the later performances there, nor those I gave shortly afterwards in London excited more than a limited interest, in spite of a really first-class ensemble. Indeed, in point of musical accuracy, intelligent stage work, diction and ensemble, the English company of that time outrivaled any other that I have conducted in any part of the world. With all the necessary resources at one’s disposal, it would be impossible to reproduce it today, for the general level of singing has declined and the number of gifted stage personalities is depressingly small.  




I have often been asked why I think Falstaff is not more of a box-office attraction, and I do not think the answers far to seek. Let it be admitted that there are fragments of melody as exquisite and haunting as anything that Verdi has written elsewhere, such as the Duet of Nanetta and Fenton in the First Act and the song of Fenton at the beginning of the final scene, which have something of the lingering beauty of an Indian summer. But in comparison with every other work of the composer, it is wanting in tunes of a broad and impressive character, and one or two of the type of “O Mia Regina,” “Ritoma Vincitor,” or “Ora per sempre addio” might have saved the situation. Also there are too many scenes, six in all, for the thin shape and light weight of the piece, and the ensemble movements, until the very close when it is too late, have not the time to gather momentum and thrill the ear with that irresistible flood of tone that we have in the great finales of Aida and Otello. Although there may be less scope for it in a work of frail texture, the harmonic side of it has little of the variety that we find in Otello or the “Requiem,” and finally, the whole opera is wanting a little in the human note. The characters are charming but never very real, even Falstaff himself; and I cannot resist the impression that Verdi, in this his swan song, was too subservient to the influence of Boito for the good of his own natural genius. Or was it only that the stream of autumnal invention, although clear as ever, was running more slowly and fitfully? 





Aida, IGV 1, Act IV: "O terra addio" (Aida, Radamès, Coro, Amneris) · 

London Philharmonic Orchestra ·  

Sir Thomas Beecham ·  

Chorus of the Royal Opera House Covent Garden ·