英日対訳:T.ビーチャム自叙伝A Mingled Chime第38章(2/2) 1920年秋・冬公演/プッチーニの我儘/経営難







The major event for me of the winter Covent Garden season was the revival of A Village Romeo and Juliet, after a lapse of ten years. When first given the work had labored under two disadvantages, the unfamiliarity of its style, which puzzled both singers and auditors, and the crushing competition of Elektra, which had taken the town so violently by storm that it had no mind to think of anything else. But much had happened since then; the thunderbolt of Strauss no longer had the power to terrify; or the Delian idiom to bewilder. That class of opera goer who expects every new piece to be as full of lurid incident as La Tosca, proclaimed Delius to be undramatic, thereby exposing its ignorance of the meaning of the term. Obviously no work is undramatic that can in one way or another hold the stage, as A Village Romeo and Juliet certainly does when sung and played sympathetically; and it is a melancholy sign of the lagging cultural condition of operatic audiences that an aesthetic quarrel settled long ago in the playhouse should still be active among them. For it is nothing more than the old antithesis between the socalled drama of bustle and movement and that of thought and feeling, of which Scribe and Sardou are protagonists on the one side and Maeterlinck and Tchekov on the other. I admit freely that it is good to be roused now and then by the cheering spectacle of a gentleman vigorously chasing a lady around the room in spite of the unoriginality of the motive, or a father towing behind him the mangled remains of his child in a sack: but such excitements are not the necessary Alpha and Omega of every stage work. Also I am at one with the illustrious author of Jane Eyre, who once declared of an equally famous sister novelist that while she did not want her blood curdled, she did like it stirred. But there are more methods than one of accomplishing this purpose, and the kingdom of the drama has domains enough to accommodate all fancies and predilections. 




A Village Romeo and Juliet has the remotest kinship with melodrama; it is an idyll with something of the other-world or dream quality of a pastoral or fairy play. The characters are types rather than personages and express themselves with a brevity and reticence that is almost epigrammatic. I have never counted the number of words in its text, but I have little doubt that they are fewer than those in any other work of equal length; and an added reason for this is the frequency of purely orchestral episodes and connecting sections which play almost as important a part in the narrative as the singing. The vocal intervals are sometimes trying but not impossible, and although angular in appearance on paper do not sound strained or unnatural in performance. The music as befits the subject is lyrical and consistently poetical, with a recurring strain of tenderness more fully present than in any other operatic score of the past fifty years. The orchestral texture throughout is a joy to the ear and has that subdued warm tone suggestive of dark gold or rich velvet of which this composer alone has the full secret.  




This was the last of our seasons to enjoy a reasonable amount of favor, though hardly prosperity. The volatile public had already begun to avert its face from Grand Opera and difficult days were approaching. Yet the standard of performance had been rising steadily month by month and the program drawn up for the summer of 1920 was one that the most cautious of impresarios would have passed as safe and sound. Our prime novelty was II Trittico of Puccini, that interesting and varied assortment of one act pieces, of which only Gianni Schicchi is now seen on the stage. But the other two are also effective in their respective ways, and Suor Angelica, I think, stood a fair chance of success if the obstinacy of Puccini over its stage setting had not completely wrecked its chances. Having seen somewhere in Tuscany a convent which fulfilled his conception of what such a building ought to look like, he had insisted that the facsimile of it should be transferred to the theater. As the convent was built around a large close which occupied the whole of the center of the stage, it followed that the bulk of the action must take place either in one of the cloisters on either side of it, or away at the back almost out of sight. Puccini decided to place it in the left-hand cloister very much down stage, which meant as near the proscenium as possible. But the shape of Covent Garden successfully prevented this misguided stroke of mise-en-scene from being visible to a large part of the audience, and although we all did our best to persuade him to adopt some other scheme of production, the unlucky scene went on the stage just as he wanted and fell hopelessly flat, in spite of a graceful and moving interpretation of the errant nun by Edvina.  




The quota of fine singers included a newcomer, who proved to be one of the most accomplished of our age, Pareto. Of slight and distinguished appearance, this remarkable artist had a voice of exquisite beauty, haunting pathos, and flawless purity. Of the various roles she undertook, Leila in Les Pecheurs de Perles  and Violetta in La Tiaviata were the most outstanding, her representation of the latter being easily the most attractive and satisfying in my recollection. This very exceptional singer, like Claire Dux, never achieved that preeminent position to which her gifts seemed to destine her, and although there is generally a reason for such things, in this case I am ignorant of it.  




The conductor for the Italian portion of the season was the renowned veteran Mugnone, whose interpretations of Verdi I have always prefened to those of any other maestro known to me, past or present. Like some others among his contemporaries, he was a man of fiery and uncontrollable temper, and never a day passed without a stormy scene with singers, chorus, and orchestra, coupled with threats to return to Italy at once. The peak point of such paroxysms was usually reached in my room after rehearsals, and upon the sixth or seventh occasion I began to find it distinctly wearing. On the next therefore I was fully prepared and addressed him in some such fashion: “My dear friend, it pains me to see you so genuinely unhappy. We like you very much, but it is only too evident that you do not like us. I know you want to get away at the earliest moment, but perhaps feel in duty bound to stay here. I am quite ready however to release you from your contract now, and what is more, I have this morning bought tickets for yourself and family back to Milan, so that you can start tomorrow if you like." And so saying I produced them from my pocket and offered them to him.  




I have seen a good many men astonished in my time. but none quite so completely as this worthy Italian. He opened and closed his mouth, rolled his eyes, ruffled his hair and after several abortive efforts at speech, finally roared out, “I will never leave you.”  




“Oh, yes, you will,” I replied, “I know your mind better than you do yourself.”  




Then followed a long speech of explanation, self-justification, and protestation that he was grossly misunderstood; that he really adored London and would like to spend the rest of his days there. But he was just beginning to understand English ways, and I should in future see how well he would get on with every one in the place. As most of his squabbles had been not with the English at all, but with his own compatriots, I was not wholly convinced; but as I saw that I had made some effect on him, I restored the tickets to my pocket and inwardly prayed for the best. Our little encounter did prove to be of some efficacy, for I heard of no further disturbances of the peace. At any rate they did not come my way.  




A welcome diversion in the season was the return of Diaghileff with his company for a series of performances, which included three old Italian works arranged as opera ballets, one of them being the Pulcinelk of Pergolesi, rewritten and orchestrated by Stravinsky. None of them was conspicuously successful and I was disappointed with the reception given to the Ballet. It is true that Diaghileff had been hard pressed to keep it alive during war time; and together they had spent most of these troubled years in Spain, wandering over the whole country and playing sometimes for a night at a time in tiny towns on their way from one center to another. But although some of the stars of olden days had now retired or gravitated elsewhere, it was still a splendid organization, superior to anything else of its kind in Europe. Hardly anything we gave, however, seemed to appeal to the public, and the press too had developed a pronouncedly captious tone, considering it almost an affront that we could not repeat in toto the triumphs of 1914; unmindful of the fact that both Russia and Germany were for the moment as inaccessible as the planet Mercury. Lastly the slump had set in, deflation was playing havoc throughout the land, and people bewildered by a change which was as darkness is to light were discouraged and daunted. The financial loss on the year’s season was overwhelming, and at the close of it my fellow directors declared their intention of not going on.  





Suor Angelica  


Metropolitan Opera  

Barbara Frittoli