The Music Criticism of Hugo Wolf

By Henry Pleasants; Hugo Wolf | Go to book overview
1.
Lilli Lehmann ( 1848-1929), one of the most remarkable singers of her own or any other generation, was, at the time of this guest engagement in Vienna, just beginning to move from a previously lyric and coloratura repertoire into the dramatie. Wolf may have been unaware that her Isolde, discussed here, was only her second appearance in the role, her first having been in London in July of the previous year. Her Leonore in Fidelio, reviewed here, was also new, her first appearance in the part having taken place in Berlin only ten days before. During this visit to Vienna she also sang her first Donna Anna and her first Norma, as well as Konstanze in Die Entführung aus dem Serail.
2.
In " Über die Bestimmung der Oper," Gesammelte Schriften und Dichtungen, Vol. IX. It was Wilhelmine Schröder-Devrient ( 1804-1860) whose performance as Leonore in the Vienna revival of 1822 led to general popular acceptance of Beethoven's only opera. Wagner heard her in this part in Leipzig in 1829, and wrote her a letter afterwards, saying that "as of that day my life had acquired its meaning, and that if she were ever to hear my name mentioned as of consequence in the world of art, she should remember that on this evening she had made me what I herewith vow to become." She was subsequently Wagner's first Adriano (in Rienzi), his first Senta and his first Venus.
3.
Georg Friedrich Treitschke ( 1776-1842), who revised Joseph Ferdinand Sonnleithner's text of Fidelio for the second revival of the opera in 1814.
4.
In Schiller's Don Curlos.

38. Welcoming a Cancellation

February 1, 1885

Thanks to Fräulein Lilli Lehmann's sudden hoarseness, the scheduled performance of Don Giovanni did not take place.

This sentence - - so it must seem -- could all too easily give the gentle reader a false impression as to what moved the critic to express so tersely his gratitude for Fräulein Lehmann's hoarseness and the consequent cancellation of Don Giovanni. From the pithy content of that sentence one might well assume that the critic despises Mozart's Don Giovanni. Good sense should have warned me never wantonly to allow such an awful suspicion to arise, even if boundless admiration for this work is something to be taken for granted, and any criticism of it something to be passed off as a more or less bad joke.

Your critic assures you that he intended neither a sad joke nor a dogmatic pronouncement as to the merits of Don Giovanni, nor even -- and here such an assumption cannot be excluded -- an unfavorable and even malicious assessment of Fräulein Lilli Lehmann, thus making of this sentence a miracle of condensed significance. He would not have dreamed of such a thing. All he had to do in order to prevent erroneous inferences was to write: "The cancellation of the performance of Don Giovanni due to the sudden hoarseness of Fräulein Lilli Lehmann is greatly to be regretted." Who then would have

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