Germany

The Diaries of a Cosmopolitan

Source: Count Harry Kessler (translated and edited by Charles Kessler), The Diaries of a Cosmopolitan 1918-1939 (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson), p. 352

Production: William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet, Berliner Theatre, Berlin, 27 October 1928

Text: Saw Reinhardt’s production of Romeo and Juliet at the Berliner Theatre. An incredible muddle. So much intellect and so many bright ideas that the upshot is an inferior provincial performance. A Palladian setting, with Juliet’s bedroom in the courtyard between screens and the balcony scene acted backstage so that Romeo’s words are totally inaudible and Juliet’s nearly so. Dreadful. At one point, during Juliet’s duologue with the Nurse, the audience broke into loud laughter. Elisabeth Bergner and the Nurse, greatly upset, rushed offstage between the screens and an interminable pause followed, with the house lights left down, while presumably Juliet was being soothed by some manager or other in the wings. The production had an icy reception, except from an obvious claque. At the end the real members of the public, including those in the more expensive seats left without applauding. Young Franz Lederer and Elisabeth Bergner make a handsome pair (he bears a striking resemblance to Byron), but that is all the performance has to offer.

Comments: Harry Kessler (1868-1937) was an Anglo-German aristocrat and diplomat. His diaries are an exceptionally vivid and observant account of art and politics in Weimar Germany. Kessler saw Max Reinhardt‘s production of Romeo and Juliet starring Elisabeth Bergner and Franz Lederer, at the Berliner Theatre, Berlin, on 27 October 1928.

Diary, Reminiscences, and Correspondence of Henry Crabb Robinson

Source: Henry Crabb Robinson, diary entry for 16 June 1851, in Thomas Sadler (ed.), Diary, Reminiscences, and Correspondence of Henry Crabb Robinson (London: Macmillan, 1869), vol. III, pp. 383-384

Production: August Wilhelm Schlegel, Was Ihr wollt (adaptation of William Shakespeare, Twelfth Night), Royal Court theatre, Dresden, 16 June 1851

Text: June 16th. – (At Dresden.) Took a short walk after dinner, and found that I remembered much of the city, though a great part of it seems new, and not quite so gay as I had fancied it. In one respect we were very lucky. Schlegel’s Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night,” called Was Ihr wollt, was played, and greatly to our satisfaction. The only mortification was, that I had such a faint recollection of Shakespeare. But Brown, who recollected more, could follow the translation throughout. It seemed to us admirably given. Sir Toby Belch, Sir Andrew Aguecheek, and Malvolio, all seemed to us quite in conformity with the English conception of the characters. A Madame Meyer Bourke played both Viola and Sebastian; and, when personating the latter, she gave a manliness to her voice and step which would have almost deceived us as to her identity. There was, of necessity, a change in the text at last. Another person, who managed to conceal his face, came in as Sebastian.

Comments: Henry Crabb Robinson (1775-1867) was an English lawyer and diarist, whose published journals document his acquaintance with literary figures of the period and refer regularly to theatre productions that he saw. This entry records a theatre trip in Dresden as part of a tour of Germany he undertook in the summer of 1851. He saw August Wilhelm Schlegel‘s Was Ihr wollt, an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, at the Royal Court theatre, Dresden, on 16 June 1851. August Wilhelm Schlegel’s translations of Shakespeare‘s plays greatly helped popularise him in Germany.

Links: Copy at Internet Archive