MODERN GERMAN AND SLAVONIC OPERA
The history of music furnishes more than one instance of the paralysing effect which the influence of a great genius is apt to exercise upon his contemporaries and immediate successors. The vast popularity of Handel in England had the effect of stunting the development of our national music for more than a century. During his lifetime, and for many years after his death, English-
Wagner had completed what, for the sake of convenience, we have called his earlier period, before his influence began to make itself felt in German opera. 'Lohengrin' was performed for the first time under Liszt's direction at Weimar in 1850. Eight years later Cornelius's 'Barbier von Bagdad' was performed at the same theatre under the same conductor. This was Liszt's last production at Weimar, for the ill-
The second act begins with a scene between Katharine and her sister, which conclusively proves that the reports of the former's shrewishness have not exceeded the truth. Hortensio and Lucentio, disguised respectively as a music master and a teacher of languages, are now ushered in, and receive most uncourteous treatment at Katharine's hands. The act ends with Petruchio's wooing of Katharine, and the settlement of their wedding-
Cornelius and Goetz would have been the first to admit the influence which Wagner's works exercised upon their imagination, yet their admiration for his music never seduced them into anything like mere imitation. The operas of Carl Goldmark are founded far more directly upon the methods and system of Wagner. Yet it would be unjust to dismiss him as a mere plagiarist. In his first work, 'Die Königin von Saba' (1875), there is a great deal which is entirely independent of Wagner's or any one else's influence. The plot of the work has really nothing Biblical about it, and if the names of the characters were changed, the work might be produced to-
Cyrill Kistler (1848-
The most important contribution to German opera made during the decade that followed the death of Wagner was Humperdinck's 'Hänsel und Gretel,' which was produced in December 1893. Before that time the composer was known to fame, at any rate so far as England is concerned, only by a couple of cantatas and some arrangements of scenes from Wagner's works for concert purposes, but at one bound he became the most popular living operatic composer of Germany. The libretto of 'Hänsel und Gretel' is a very charming arrangement, in three scenes, of a familiar nursery tale. The action opens in the cottage of Peter the broom-
Humperdinck's music reproduces, with infinite art, the tender and childlike charm of the delightful old fairy tale. His score is amazingly elaborate, and his treatment of the guiding themes which compose it is kaleidoscopic in its variety, yet the whole thing flows on as naturally as a ballad. The voice-
Humperdinck's share of 'Die sieben Geislein,' a children's ballad opera which was published some years ago, consists only of a few songs of an unimportant character, which will not enhance his reputation. 'Königskinder,' which was produced in 1897, must be classed as a play with incidental music rather than as an opera. The composer directed that the accompanied dialogue, of which there is a good deal, should be rhythmically chanted, but when the work came to be performed these directions were practically ignored by the players. 'Königskinder' was followed in 1902 by 'Dornröschen,' another fairy play accompanied by incidental music, which won little success, nor has good fortune attended his latest opera, 'Die Heirath wider Willen' (1905).
Among the younger generation of German composers, mention must be made of Max Schillings, whose very promising 'Ingwelde' (1894) has recently been succeeded by a remarkable work entitled 'Moloch' (1907); and of Wilhelm Kienzl, the composer of 'Der Evangelimann' (1895). In 'Ingwelde' Schillings followed the Wagnerian tradition almost too faithfully, but 'Moloch' is a work of very distinct individuality. 'Der Evangelimann,' on the other hand, is thoroughly eclectic in style, and the influence not only of Wagner, but of Meyerbeer, Gounod and even Mascagni, may be traced in its pages. Kienzl's later works have met with little favour. 'Donna Diana' (1895), by a composer named Reznicek, is a comic opera founded upon a Spanish subject, which has had a most successful career in Germany during the past few years. It is elaborate in construction, and indeed the score seems to be too complicated to harmonise well with the comic incidents of the story. More recently the composer has won success with a work on the subject of Till Eulenspiegel. Heinrich Zöllner came to the front in 1899 with 'Die versunkene Glocke,' an opera founded upon Gerhart Hauptmann's famous play, which is said to reproduce the symbolic charm of the original with conspicuous success. Eugene d'Albert, though English by birth, has for so long identified himself with Germany, that the success of his comic opera, 'Die Abreise' (1898), may most suitably be recorded here. His more ambitious works have been less favourably received. Siegfried Wagner, in spite of his parentage, seems to have founded his style principally upon that of Humperdinck. His first opera, 'Der Bärenhäuter' (1899), was fairly successful, principally owing to a fantastic and semi-
Mention must also be made of Felix Weingartner, whose 'Genesius' (1892) and 'Orestes' (1902) are said to contain much fine music; of August Bungert, whose trilogy founded upon the Odyssey has been received with favour in Dresden, though it does not appear to have made much way elsewhere; and of Hans Pfitzner, whose 'Rose von Liebesgarten' (1901) is one of the most promising operas of the younger generation.
The most important figure in the world of German opera to-
In modern times Singspiel has for the most part become merged in comic opera, which, though originally an importation from France, has become thoroughly acclimatised in Germany, and in the hands of such men as Johann Strauss, Franz von Suppé, and Carl Millöcker, has produced work of no little artistic interest, though scarcely coming within the scope of this book. To the Singspiel, too, may be traced an exceedingly unpretentious school of opera, dealing for the most part with homely and sentimental subjects, of which the best-
Closely allied to the German school of opera is that of Bohemia, of which the most famous representative is Smetana (1824-
More famous than his master is Smetana's pupil Dvorak (1841-
In Russia the development of opera, and indeed of music generally, is of comparatively recent date. Glinka (1803-
'Russian and Ludmila' (1858), Glinka's second work, is founded upon a fantastic Russian legend of magic and necromancy. It has not the national and patriotic interest of 'Life for the Czar,' but as music it deserves to rank higher. Berlioz thought very highly of it. Nevertheless it may be doubted whether, at this time of day, there is any likelihood of Glinka becoming popular in Western Europe. Glinka had an extraordinary natural talent, and had he lived in closer touch with the musical world, he might have become one of the great composers of the century. Melody he had in abundance, and his feeling for musical form is strong, though only partially developed. He had little dramatic instinct, and it is singular that he should be known principally as a composer for the stage. His treatment of the orchestra is brilliant and effective, but the national element in his music is the signe particulier of his style. He rarely used actual Russian folk-
Of the younger school of Russian operatic composers it is almost impossible to speak with any authority, since their works are rarely performed in Western Europe. Tchaikovsky's 'Eugene Onegin' is occasionally given in London, but has won little success. Much of the music is interesting, but the disconnected character of the libretto and the lack of incident fully account for the scanty favour with which it is received. 'Le Flibustier,' an opera by César Cui, was performed in Paris a few years ago with even less success. Borodin's 'Prince Igor,' and 'Die Mainacht' by Rimsky-
Poland has not hitherto taken a prominent place in the history of opera, and the successful production of 'Manru' (1901), an opera by Ignaz Paderewski, the world-
The genius of Scandinavian musicians seems to have little in common with the stage. The works of Hartmann and Weyse are not known beyond the boundaries of Denmark. Of late years, however, works by August Enna, a young Danish composer, have been performed in various German towns. 'Die Hexe' and 'Cleopatra' won a good deal of success, but the composer's more recent operas, 'Aucassin und Nicolette' and 'Das Streichholzmädel,' have met with little favour.