The Music Criticism of Hugo Wolf

By Henry Pleasants; Hugo Wolf | Go to book overview

81. A Tale of Two Tenors

April 18, 1886

Two Meyerbeer operas one right after the other! Why not a Meyerbeer cycle, or an Excelsior Week, or a Trompeter von Säkkingen Olympiade? Such excursions cannot be denied our opera house simply as incompatible with its artistic standing, since for that institution everything has become a chimera, the only exception being money. One hears a lot of talk about the artistic sensibility of the present general director [ Wilhelm Jahn]. There may be some truth in it, but it is not reflected in the repertoire.

In the most recent performance of L'Africaine the Selika was Fräulein Tischler.1 The role imposes considerable demands on singer and actress alike. Fräulein Tischler acquitted herself admirably on both counts. The overall impression was highly favorable. She sang the lullaby at the beginning of the second act very beautifully. It was the upper register, especially, that touched off spontaneous demonstrations of approval. Her coloratura, too, is admirable.

Herr Mierzwinski appeared next day as Raoul in Les Huguenots. Whether Herr Mierzwinski sings the Prophet, or Arnold in William Tell, or Raoul, it's all the same. Each of these roles provides him with opportunity to show off his high chest tones, and that is all that matters. His conception of a role, and his acting of it, are not worth talking about. The voice, in its high and highest reaches, has lost none of its brilliance. In the Act III aria he easily took the trill from A to B flat, and then moved on to a resounding high C as if there were nothing to it, which, when viewed from another and even higher standpoint than high C, is true. The casting of the other roles was as usual except for the page, sung not by Frau von Naday, but by Fräulein Baier, a welcome change that should have been effected long ago.

The concert given by the tenor Darewski went off smoothly enough, I am happy to say, although it might easily have been otherwise. Here is what happened. In order to make room for a temporary stage for the productions of the opera class of the Conservatory, a considerable number of rows of seats had to be removed from the hall.2 Instead of the usual twenty-two, there were only fifteen, while tickets had been sold for the full house. Those then, who, like myself and many another worthy homunculus, entered the hall with an ideal placement in the sixteenth row could choose between standing or

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