Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Hector Berlioz Would Have Wound Up in Opera Tattler

From p. 54 of the Dover edition of his Memoirs:
As I was intimately acquainted with every note of the score, the performers, if they were wise, played it as it was written; I would have died rather than allow the slightest liberty with the old masters to have passed unnoticed. I had no notion of biding my time and coldly protesting in writing against such a crime -- oh dear no! -- I apostrophised the delinquents then and there in my loudest voice, and I can testify that no form of criticism goes so straight home as that. For example, I once remarked that in Iphigenie en Tauride cymbals had been put into the first dance of the Scythians, in B minor, where Gluck has only strings; and that in Orestes' great recitative, in the third act, the trombone parts, which, in the score, are so exquisitely adapted to the situation, had been left out altogether. The next time the opera was played I was resolved that if these errors were repeated I would show them up. Accordingly, when the Scythian ballet began I lay in wait for my cymbals; they came in just as they had done before. Boiling with anger, I nevertheless contained myself until the piece was finished, and then, seizing the occasion of the momentary lull which preceded the next piece, I shouted out with all my might, "There are no cymbals there; who has dared to correct Gluck?"

The hubbub may be imagined.