The Music Criticism of Hugo Wolf

By Henry Pleasants; Hugo Wolf | Go to book overview

that can hardly have been surpassed by Saint Lawrence on the griddle. One saw, indeed, only the white of his eye, producing a not unseemly lighting effect in contrast to the hero's black attire.

1.
Karl Grammann ( 1842-1879), a minor German composer resident in Vienna 1871-1884. Das Andreasfest had first been performed in Dresden in 1882.
2.
Wunderblume, an exotic flower.

40. Die Entführung aus dem Serail
Bianchi as Lucia

February 15, 1885

Just before curtain time, Herr Reichenberg took over the role of Osmin for the suddenly indisposed Herr Rokitansky, and he carried it off very well, musically. He was less successful dramatically, and yet only the slenderest resources are required to achieve an absolutely truthful realization of this original character. A couple of bold strokes, and it's done. The singer who undertakes this role should, above all, avoid becoming too concerned with detail. Osmin is carved from a single slab (and a pretty rough one, too), and the fundamental tonality of this character should, therefore, be suitably shaded, vocally and dramatically, by discreet modulation into the nearest related keys only at the most appropriate moments. Once, and only once, does Osmin shed his forbidding bearskin: when the effect of the wine catapaults him into such a -- for him -- exotic tonality of utterly uninhibited jollity that he loses all sense of identity. For the rest, Osmin is a grumbler throughout the entire opera, and no good-humored grumbler, either. He's a thoroughly irate, malicious and surly grumbler, full of poison and bile. He is envious, too, and eager to gloat over the misfortunes of others, lustful without being able to experience pleasure, cruel, cowardly and cunning. Despite all that, he is stupid and loutish -- and the incarnation of impotence. Yes, if all were to come to pass as this fine fellow pictures it: "first beheaded, then hung, then impaled on a hot spit, then burned, then shackled and held under water, and finally flayed."

Obviously, this conscientious harem warden might have assisted the Holy Roman or Spanish inquisitors with a very edifying and salutary recipe. Fortunately, in this instance, it got no farther than the pious wish. We cannot be too grateful for the fact that [ Selim] Bassa closed his ears to his faithful servant's well-intended but, in their design, rather bold and extravagent

-116-

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