Friday, October 20, 2023

Quote of the Day (Mark Twain, on the Need to “Leave Out the Vocal Parts’ in Wagner Operas)

“The entire overture, long as it was, was played to a dark house with the curtain down. It was exquisite; it was delicious. But straightway thereafter, of course, came the singing, and it does seem to me that nothing can make a Wagner opera absolutely perfect and satisfactory to the untutored but to leave out the vocal parts. I wish I could see a [Richard] Wagner opera done in pantomime once. Then one would have the lovely orchestration unvexed to listen to and bathe his spirit in, and the bewildering beautiful scenery to intoxicate his eyes with, and the dumb acting couldn't mar these pleasures, because there isn't often anything in the Wagner opera that one would call by such a violent name as acting; as a rule all you would see would be a couple of silent people, one of them standing still, the other catching flies. Of course I do not really mean that he would be catching flies; I only mean that the usual operatic gestures which consist in reaching first one hand out into the air and then the other might suggest the sport I speak of if the operator attended strictly to business and uttered no sound.”—American novelist and humorist Mark Twain (1835-1910), “Mark Twain at Beyreuth” (often called “At the Shrine of St. Wagner”), originally printed in the Chicago Daily Tribune, Dec. 6, 1891, included in Mark Twain’s Travel Letters From 1891-92 

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