The Music Criticism of Hugo Wolf

By Hugo Wolf; Henry Pleasants | Go to book overview

The artist got a lot closer to the essential character of this ridiculous figure than the grotesque posturing with which actresses of only moderate gifts achieve such cheap effects. Nevertheless, as played by Frau Materna, Selika retains her shy savagery and raw sentimentality, but far less obtrusively than we are accustomed to experience them in the work of bad actresses. Frau Materna gives more emphasis to the jealously loving woman than to the native primitiveness of the African. She takes this exotic plant by its roots, not, as others do, by its brightly adorned tuft of hair.

The audience rewarded Frau Materna with applause and flowers for a performance which, musically, too, provided perfection. We shall not trouble to sing the praises of the other particiapants one by one, but simply applaud them collectively in the most respectful, charitable, appreciative, affectionate, sympathetic, flattering, restrained, obliging, ardent, conciliatory and Christian manner.

1.
Tantalus, son of Zeus and greatly favored by the gods, outraged his benefactors by killing his only son, boiling him in a great cauldron and serving him up at their table. As punishment he was made to abide near a pond whose waters receded whenever he stooped to drink, surrounded by fruit trees whose fruit he could not reach. Hence "tantalize."

86. Der Ring des Nibelungen

May 23, 1886

We have had, contrary to all expectations, the Nibelung Trilogy — without Das Rheingold — and with it I have lost, apparently, all credibility for my powers of divination. So be it. Since it is not impossible that the clever reader may have taken the irony of my last article at face value, he will certainly not deny me his sympathy in this critical week when all has conspired against my art as prophet. I thank him for his compassion.

I could not, indeed, have enjoyed my success. I am even glad that my assumptions proved to be erroneous. While never for a moment in doubt, I secretly hoped that those who guide the affairs of the Court Opera would turn out to be right. I will gladly accept the charge of faulty insight and judgment when my incendiary words are contradicted by deeds in good faith, as has now happened. May I have further occasion to commit injustice. The proofs thereof are all too precious. May I always set up false premises, and may it be reserved for our artistic institutions to draw the proper syllogisms. Above all, may the dramatic works of Wagner be performed often and well, and to this end may our company, subsidized by the state as it is, be at full strength at least

-215-

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