Before The Public
In the wide reaches of the theatre it is needful to give an
exaggeration to the expression, which in the concert hall, where the
forms of society rule, must be entirely abandoned. And yet the picture
must be presented by the artist to the public from the very first
word, the very first note; the mood must be felt in advance. This
depends partly upon the bearing of the singer and the expression of
countenance he has dur
ng the prelude, whereby interest in what is
coming is aroused and is directed upon the music as well as upon the
The picture is complete in itself; I have only to vivify its colors
during the performance. Upon the management of the body, upon the
electric current which should flow between the artist and the
public,--a current that often streams forth at his very appearance,
but often is not to be established at all,--depend the glow and
effectiveness of the color which we impress upon our picture.
No artist should be beguiled by this into giving forth more than
artistic propriety permits, either to enhance the enthusiasm or to
intensify the mood; for the electric connection cannot be forced.
Often a tranquillizing feeling is very soon manifest on both sides,
the effect of which is quite as great, even though less stimulating.
Often, too, a calm, still understanding between singer and public
exercises a fascination upon both, that can only be attained through a
complete devotion to the task in hand, and renunciation of any attempt
to gain noisy applause.
To me it is a matter of indifference whether the public goes frantic
or listens quietly and reflectively, for I give out only what I have
undertaken to. If I have put my individuality, my powers, my love for
the work, into a role or a song that is applauded by the public, I
decline all thanks for it to myself personally, and consider the
applause as belonging to the master whose work I am interpreting. If I
have succeeded in making him intelligible to the public, the reward
therefor is contained in that fact itself, and I ask for nothing more.
Of what is implied in the intelligent interpretation of a work of art,
as to talent and study, the public has no conception. Only they can
understand it whose lives have been devoted to the same ideals. The
lasting understanding of such, or even of a part of the public, is
worth more than all the storm of applause that is given to so many.
All the applause in the world cannot repay me for the sacrifices I
have made for art, and no applause in the world is able to beguile me
from the dissatisfaction I feel over the failure of a single tone or
What seems to me bad, because I demand the greatest things of myself,
is, to be sure, good enough for many others. I am, however, not of
their opinion. In any matter relating to art, only the best is good
enough for any public. If the public is uncultivated, one must make it
know the best, must educate it, must teach it to understand the best.
A naive understanding is often most strongly exhibited by the
uncultivated--that is, the unspoiled--public, and often is worth more
than any cultivation. The cultivated public should be willing to
accept only the best; it should ruthlessly condemn the bad and the
It is the artist's task, through offering his best and most carefully
prepared achievements, to educate the public, to ennoble it; and he
should carry out his mission without being influenced by bad standards
The public, on the other hand, should consider art, not as a matter of
fashion, or as an opportunity to display its clothes, but should feel
it as a true and profound enjoyment, and do everything to second the
Arriving late at the opera or in the concert hall is a kind of bad
manners which cannot be sufficiently censured. In the same way, going
out before the end, at unfitting times, and the use of fans in such a
way as to disturb artists and those sitting near, should be avoided by
cultivated people. Artists who are concentrating their whole nature
upon realizing an ideal, which they wish to interpret with the most
perfect expression, should not be disturbed or disquieted.
On the other hand, operatic performances, and concerts especially,
should be limited in duration and in the number of pieces presented.
It is better to offer the public a single symphony or a short list of
songs or pianoforte pieces, which it can listen to with attention and
really absorb, than to provide two or three hours of difficult music
that neither the public can listen to with sufficient attention nor
the artist perform with sufficient concentration.