The Music Criticism of Hugo Wolf

By Henry Pleasants; Hugo Wolf | Go to book overview

32. Vogl as Loge

December 21, 1884

Herr Vogl's accomplishment as Loge in Das Rheingold by Richard Wagner beggars all description. It was a demonstration of the actor's art worthy of taking its place beside Niemann's inspired Tannhäuser or the Tristan of Schnorr von Carolsfeld (about which we must accept Wagner's testimony, as Schnorr's all too premature death prevented us from hearing him).1

These three characters are, to be sure, fundamentally different in disposition and development (with Loge one cannot speak of any development at all). Each, consequently, must be regarded from a different point of view. There can be no doubt, however, that the role of Tannhäuser imposes the most exacting requirements upon the protagonist. To what transformations is this erratic Minnesinger not exposed, ranging from the most intense sensuality to the severest ascetism! What a world of effects lies between these poles of human experience! And what conflicts and pressures must there be at work within him to so shatter his personality and call forth such reversals of behavior!

Faced with this role, the merely intelligent actor is lost. Artificial fireworks are not enough. A volcanic nature, even if it sometimes discharges only cinders, but one that needs no special impulse from outside to set off an eruption, containing within itself so many elements in ferment that, once diverted from its familiar course, the slightest opposition will set off a catastrophic outburst. Such, it seems to us, is the underlying characteristic of Tannhäuser's nature. Niemann's own impetuous nature was predestined for identification with that of Tannhäuser in such a degree that one need only pronounce the name of that artist to evoke immediately the image of the noble Minnesinger. Niemann's conception of the role has become the model, just as Schnorr set the standard for Tristan, and as now Vogl, as the youngest in the league, has given us an incomparably striking characterization of Loge.

It would surely not be uninteresting to draw a parallel between the three characters and these three splendid actors, each of whom gives, or has given, his best in one of the three roles. Only limitations of space restrain me from so doing. If, however, I had to suggest the relationship of the three characters one to another in rough outline, I would say this: The poet did not fix the character of Tannhäuser with a single stroke. He lets him emerge little by little before our eyes. Tannhäuser arouses our most intense interest only in the course of

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