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Kamarck, Edward (ed.) / Arts in society: tenth anniversary issue
([1969?])

Chase, Gilbert
[Toward a total musical theatre],   pp. [25]-37 ff. PDF (16.6 MB)


Page [26]


We have fallen out of nature
and hang suspended in space.
Hermann Hesse, Steppenwolf (1927)
Readers of Hermann Hesse's novel will
recall that Harry Haller, the "Steppenwolf,"
wandering through the streets at night,
encounters a man carrying a placard
with the legend:
ANARCHIST EVENING ENTERTAINMENT
MAGIC THEATRE
ENTRANCE NOT FOR EVERYBODY
At once his curiosity is aroused; he
becomes eager, excited. "What is this
Evening Entertainment?" he asks. "Where
is it? When?" It is only much later,
however, and after various "humanizing"
adventures, that he is brought to the
Magic Theatre by the jazz musician Pablo.
There he finds a round corridor with
innumerable doors, each bearing an alluring
inscription. He chooses the one that says:
GUIDANCE IN THE BUILDING-UP OF THE
PERSONALITY. SUCCESS GUARANTEED
We may take this as a parable of the Musical
Establishment and the Standard Repertory,
in which training, performance, and
production are designed to guarantee
success in terms of a personality-cult
centering around the conductor, the
virtuoso "interpreter," the prima donna, the
Heldentenor, and even the impresario
who works hard at projecting his own
"image." The dead composers are idolized;
the living ones treated rather shabbily.
They have personality problems. For nearly
125 years - since W. H. Fry's "Leonora"
in 1845 -  American composers have
striven for "success" in grand opera; but
none has really ever made it, in spite
of cash prizes, foundation grants, and some
lavish productions at the "Met." Years
ago I took the naive view that if American
composers continued to try hard and
long enough, they would eventually
make it. Now I conclude that there is
nothing to make, creatively speaking.
Opera is obsolete except as a vehicle for
personality build-ups. We should seek
something else.
Let us return to the Magic Theatre. In
it there is another door with this
inscription:


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