‘Aber, Adolf,’ said the Frau Professor from the other end of the table. ‘Calm yourself.’
He shook his fist at her. He was the mildest of creatures and ventured upon no action of his life without consulting her.
‘No, Helene, I tell you this,’ he shouted. ‘I would sooner my daughters were lying dead at my feet than see them listening to the garbage of that shameless fellow.’
The play was The Doll’s House and the author was Henrik Ibsen.
Professor Erlin classed him with Richard Wagner, but of him he spoke not with anger but with good-humoured laughter. He was a charlatan but a successful charlatan, and in that was always something for the comic spirit to rejoice in.
‘Verruckter Kerl! A madman!’ he said.
He had seen Lohengrin and that passed muster. It was dull but no worse. But Siegfried! When he mentioned it Professor Erlin leaned his head on his hand and bellowed with laughter. Not a melody in it from beginning to end! He could imagine Richard Wagner sitting in his box and laughing till his sides ached at the sight of all the people who were taking it seriously. It was the greatest hoax of the nineteenth century. He lifted his glass of beer to his lips, threw back his head, and drank till the glass was empty. Then wiping his mouth with the back of his hand, he said:
‘I tell you young people that before the nineteenth century is out Wagner will be as dead as mutton. Wagner! I would give all his works for one opera by Donizetti.’