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

attempted expression.

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

of taste.

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

artist's efforts.

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.