Music: Toscanini at Bayreuth

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In the wings a substitute tenor (Lauritz Melchior) fidgeted, waiting to take over the title-role should sick Tenor Sigmund Pilinsky collapse. On the dais, the back of Conductor Arturo Toscanini's mind held worry for his wife, in the hospital all week with a broken leg. Frau Cosima was dead. Son Siegfried had pneumonia. Nearest of kin to great Wilhelm Richard Wagner, in charge of this first evening of the 1930 Bayreuth festival was Siegfried's anxious wife. Yet despite all difficulties Tannhauser soared sonorously, sublimely to its final great choral of pity and pardon. When it was ended critics outdid one another in hailing the performance as the most brilliant Bayreuth opening in years. For Toscanini it was a great night, his Bayreuth debut. To his presence—perhaps his last engagement as an opera conductor —was ascribed an early sell-out of admissions for the whole season. He is conducting all five Tannhauser performances, the three of Tristan. Before him no South European had held the conductor's wand at the Festspielhaus. Thus to him had fallen the honor of bringing true Friedrich Nietzsche's words of long ago to Wagner: "We must 'Mediterraneanize' music." Tannhauser had not been given in Bayreuth in 25 years. It was an equally long time since Toscanini had conducted it. After each act (and at following performances) the great audience cheered tempestuously, threw hats, stamped, applauded, called for conductor and cast. But they called vainly. There are no curtain calls at Bayreuth. Oldtime Festivalgoers noted many a change that had come to the Festspielhaus and vicinity since the last festival (1928). Modernity has encroached on the Sacred Hill. A new office building of severe modern design rears beside the peaceful slope. A post orifice and police station have been erected to the left of the Festspielhaus, whose lawns, traditionally unkempt, have been carefully trimmed. Geometric flower beds sharpen the contrast to the former natural wilderness of the scene. Across the road the iron sword of Siegfried. Nothung, no longer flaunts its misinterpretation of a Wagnerian passage, placed there in Wartime. Sword and inscription have been removed. At the Villa Wahnfried, the end of the reign of the inexorable Cosima is signalized by flowers on the window ledge, the removal of iron bars from the windows. A brood of ducks quacks unmusically in a new and ornate marble pond.