Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 3.djvu/411

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�SCHUMANN.

��the field in possession of the Italians and French. But under this head there is a word to be said to the German poets also.' In 1 844 he composed a chorus and an aria for an opera on Byron's poem of the Corsair. The work however went no farther, and the two pieces still remain unpub- lished. He also corresponded with his friend Zuccalmaglio as to the subject for an opera, which he wished to find ready on his return from Russia ; and made notes on more than twenty difl'< rent subjects of all kinds, periods and nationalities; but none of these were found suitable, and circumstances led to the abandon- ment of the project. At length, in 1^47, he decided on the legend of Ste. Genevieve. The two versions of the story contained in the tragedies of Tieck and Hebbel (principally that of Hebbel) were to serve as the basis of the text. The treatment of the words he persuaded Robert Reinick, the poet, who had been living in Dresden since 1844, to undertake. Reinick however failed to satisfy him, and Hebbel, who came to Dresden at the end of July 1847, c uld not say that he thought it a satisfactory text, though he declined to assist in remedying the deficiencies and bringing it into the desired form. This however was from no lack of interest in Schumann himself. On the contrary Hebbel always preserved the highest esteem for him, and subsequently dedicated to him his drama of ' Michel Angelo,' accepting in return from Schumann the dedication of his 'Nachtlied' (op. 108). But it was repugnant to him to see his work mutilated in the way which Schumann considered necessary for an opera. The com- poser was at last obliged to trust to his own poetic powers and construct a text himself from those already mentioned.

By August 1848 the music for the opera was so far complete that Schumann thought he might take steps for its performance. His first thought was of the theatre at Leipzig, where he knew that he was most warmly remembered. \Virsing was at that time the director, Julius Rietz the conductor, and the opera was to have been brought out in the spring of 1849, but ^ came to nothing. In June, when the preparations were to have begun, Schumann was detained by domestic circumstances, and the rest of the year slipped away with constant evasions and pro- mises on the part of the director of the theatre. Even the promise, 'on his honour,' that the opera should be performed at the end of Feb- ruary 1850, at latest, was not kept. And so on this his very first attempt at dramatic work, Schumann made acquaintance with the shady side of theatrical management in a way which must have disgusted his upright and honourable spirit. In his indignation, he would have made the director's breach of faith public, by in- voking the aid of the law ; but his Leipzig friends were happily able to dissuade him from this course. At last, on June 25, 1850, the first representation of ' Genoveva ' actually took place under Schumann's own direction. But the time was unfavourable; Who/ he writes to Dr. Her-

��SCHUMANN.

��309

�� ��mann Hlirtel, ' goes to the theatre in May or June, and not rather into the woods ?' How- ever, the number of his admirers in Leipzig was great, and the first opera by so famous H master excited great expectations ; the house was full, and the reception by the public, though not enthusiastic, was honourable to the composer. Still, artists and connoisseurs were tolerably unanimous in thinking that Schumann lacked the special genius for writing opera. His almost entire exclusion of recitative was very widely disapproved of. No one but the venerable Spohr, who had attended many of the rehearsals, gave a really favourable verdict upon the work. In his last opera, 'The Crusaders,' Spohr himself had adopted similar methods of making the music follow the plot closely without ever coming to a standstill, and he was naturally delighted to find the same in Schumann's work. After three representations (June 25, 28, 30) 'Genoveva' was laid aside for the time. Schumann, already vexed by the tedious postponements of the first performance, and disappointed by the cold recep- tion of the work, was greatly annoyed by the discussions in the public prints, especially by a critique from Dr. E. Kriiger, one of the col- laborateurs in the ' Neue Zeitschrift.' A letter from Schumann to Kriiger, in stronger terms than might have been expected from him, put an end for ever to their acquaintance.

Schumann derived far more gratification from the reception of his music to 'Faust.' In 1848 he completed the portion he had originally in- tended to write first, viz. the salvation of Faust, which forms the end of the second part of Goethe's poem. On June 25, 1848, the first performance took place among a limited circle of friends, upon whom it made a deep impression. The most cultivated portion of the audience was of opinion that the music made the meaning of the words clear for the first time, so deeply imbued was the composer with the poet's inmost spirit. As the looth anniversary of Goethe's birthday was approaching (Aug. 28, 1849) it was decided tc give a festival concert in Dresden, at which this ' Faust ' music and Mendelssohn's ' Walpur- gisnacht' should form the programme. When the Leipzig people heard of this intention, they would not be behind Dresden, and also got up a performance of the same works on August 29. In Weimar too the ' Faust ' music was per- formed on the same occasion. Schumann was exceedingly delighted that his work had been employed for so special an occasion. He writes to Dr. Hartel ; ' I should like to have Faust's cloak, and be able to be everywhere at once, that I might hear it.' In Dresden the success of the work was very considerable, but it made less impression at its first performance in Leipzig. Schumann took this quite calmly. ' I hear different accounts,' says he in a letter, 'of the impression produced by my scenes from Faust ; some seem to have been affected, while upon others it made no definite impression. This is what I expected. Perhaps an opportunity may occur in the winter for a repetition of the work, when it is possible that

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