Mike, it sounds as though Mr Schonberg was repeating the standard
objections, though he seems to have omitted "the over-riding importance of
the *sound* of the German". Your brief counter-argument would have nicely
deflated him (or actually probably wouldn't, given the picture you paint of
his firmness of view.
The snobbery is to be found here too, of course. And the ENO didn't exactly
help squash the audibility objection when they decided to add their
surtitling, which surely had the contrary effect of relieving people of even
*trying* to hear the words.
I know someone whose very first encounter with the Ring was on Channel 4 TV,
complete with ad breaks. They were bowled over by the piece and found
nothing particularly upsetting about the interruptions. I think I've heard
of several Rheingolds with an added interval, presumably to the benefit of
the bar takings.
My adverse reaction to Raimund Herincx's declared pride in his Wotanesque
status was, I admit, distinctly coloured by another very recent encounter.
This, as with Herincx, was in the BBC's central music (ie scores) library,
where I was working at the time. I'd served a quiet-spoken, rather
distinguished looking gent with something or other and as I prepared to
issue the music to him he said, "Oh, you'll need my name. It's Pears.
Peter Pears". Now that's how a star should behave.
With the caveat that it was a long time ago and I might not have the
absolutely exact details (though the gist of this is certainly correct -
there was a distinct buzz about it afterwards among the hard-core ENO Ring
regulars) this was Herincx's Porter rewrite:
PORTER: Only the man who braves my spear-point can pass through this sea of
HERINCX: He who my shining spear-point feareth shall never pass through
Perhaps I was (and am) over-sensitive about fidelity to the text, but for me
that sudden (and isolated) descent into the world of H&F Corder or Jameson
was a horrible, mood-destroying moment.
But I accept of course that many singers feel free to play and loose with
translations, and yes, Bailey was one such. And I'm truly delighted to
learn about Herincx's good works.