Why opera, which is a less old and less vital form of entertainment than drama (in America), should spring into such prominence is difficult to understand. San Francisco has raised one hundred thousand dollars towards a seven-hundred-thousand-dollar opera house, which will be owned and managed by the municipality. The Metropolitan and the Chicago and the Philadelphia and the New Orleans Opera maintain themselves as centers of real artistic work, though they are not municipal enterprises. Opera in Boston is assured for another three years, and this has been accomplished through the efforts of citizens.
But America has no endowed nor municipal theater.
I would in no way decry opera, but it is very clear that some of the energy which is now being used for opera might far better be put into the wider field of drama. Because of its very nature, opera is bound to appeal to and to reach fewer people than drama. As a force and a power for education and general uplift, it can never compare with drama. There is a considerable number of people who attend the opera because they love it, but a much larger number attend because it is fashionable. All the drama leagues and numberless organizations which are trying to cultivate taste for good plays and to better the drama are on the wrong track. It is not a cultivated, appreciative public that is needed. Let those interested in drama learn a lesson from opera. Let them employ their energies to make drama fashionable. When it becomes incumbent upon society leaders to occupy stalls in the theater for a season, we shall have an endowed theater and not until then.
Readers of THE NEW DRAMA may be interested to hear that the enterprise of the actors of the Brahm Company, which in the winter seemed uncertain, is now secure. The Deutsches Kuenstlertheater was incorporated on April 20, with a capital of 790,000 marks. Willy Grumwald is really to be manager, Ernst Friedmann, business manager, and among the associates are Tilla Durieux, Carl Forest, Gerhart Hauptmann, Hilde Herterich, Else Lehmann, Emil Lessing (Brahm’s stage manager), Theodor Loos, Hans Marr, Emanuel Reicher, Rudolf Rittner (who declares, however, that he is to return to the theater only as associate, artistic adviser, and stage manager, and that he still has no intention of ever acting again; since his blending of blazing passion with austere self-discipline is all too rare, let us hope he will change his mind), Oscar Sauer, Mathilde Sussin (whose sublime Deaconess in ’When We Dead Awake’ so fully meets Ibsen’s requirement of the actor of this character: complete self-effacement until the close, and then tragic acting of the highest order; Alfred Kerr, whose words—don’t you think?—no other living critic can equal, has called her ’eine der Schattengestalten dieses groessten Theaters der Unscheinbarkeit, der Seele’), and Paul Wegener. The Deutsches Kuenstlertheater is still undecided whether to build a theater or to lease one; it will enter into active being in July, 1914, when Otto Brahm will pass, alas, from the active service of the theater, which he has served as has no other man.