Short Play # 59: Three Mini-plays about Wagner

Note: The three mini-plays that follow are found plays—or at least the substance of them was found: I lifted all of the three incidents that constitute the plays from the chapter titled “Arnold Bocklin” in Alberto Savinio’s book, Operatic Lives (1942).  Savinio (1891-1952), a brilliant writer and an equally brilliant painter (he has been a bit occluded by being Giorgio de Chirico’s brother), has always been rather undervalued.  I feel it is an honour to steal from him.

MINI-PLAY #1: The Most Beautiful Sight in the World:

The play is set in a drawing room of the Wagner home.  The painter, Arnold Bocklin, has come to pay a call.
He is received by Cosima Wagner—who raises her finger to her lips and requests that Bocklin be very quiet.

COSIMA (whispering): Come with me, Arnold.  I consider you worthy to witness the most beautiful sight in the world!

BOCKLIN (whispering back):  Alright.

COSIMA (whispering): But walk on tiptoe.

BOCKLIN (still whispering): Alright.

[Cosima leads the painter carefully into a large dim room where, on a vast, red satin divan, the sleeping composer is stretched out among the cushions, fast asleep.  His velvet beret has slipped down over one ear]

COSIMA (adoringly):  You see how he’s wearing his magician’s dressing gown?

BOCKLIN (unimpressed):  Yes, so he is.


MINI-PLAY #2: No Understanding of Music

.The play is set in Wagner’s drawing room.  The great Russian virtuoso, Anton Rubinstein, is sitting at the piano, playing music from Wagner’s newest opera, Die Gotterdammerung.  Wagner ushers another visitor, Arnold Bocklin, into the room to listen. 

BOCKLIN (having listened inattentively):  Very nice.

WAGNER (suddenly furious): I see you have no understanding of music!

BOCKLIN (coolly):  More than you have of painting.


MINI-PLAY #3:  Parsifal Wine (a mimed play)

The play is set in Wagner’s workroom in Ravello, Italy, where the maestro is putting the finishing touches to what will be his last opera, Parsifal.  He has once again invited Arnold Bocklin to the studio, thinking of him as a possible designer for his theatre in Bayreuth. 

It is a very hot afternoon.  Bocklin suits on the red divan and listens at great length to Wagner’s description of the Parsifal music and his ornate theories about it.

The painter grows steadily more drowsy.  Wagner asks him what he thinks of it all.

Bocklin requests a glass of wine.  He drinks it and then, without a word, gets his to his feet and takes his leave.

Wagner looks after him, dumbfounded.