Philip Hope-Wallace

Philip Hope-Wallace

b: NOV 1911
d: 1979
From The Guardian [date unknown - in the same issue on page 10 there is an appreciation - find it]

Philip Hope-Wallace, a writer of rare style:

Philip Hope-Wallace, who joined the Guardian 33 years ago as chief theatre reviewer and opera critic, died yesterday in hospital at the age of 67. Until he broke his hip seven weeks ago he was still working as opera critic and writing a more recent weekly column: he gave up theatrical criticism in 1971 after a quarter of a century, writes Nicholas de Jongh. His death removes from the columns of this newspaper, the airwaves of radio, the society of colleagues in Fleet Street and cultural points far beyond it, a unique raconteur and writer of rare style, knowledge and individuality. He wrote fluently not only about theatre and opera, but ballet, music and literature of several countries. After education at Charterhouse and Oxford he began his career with the International Broadcasting Company of France in 1934. He was four years a correspondent for The Times until the outbreak of war where he served in the Air Ministry press office. From 1945 he wrote criticism for the Listener and Time and Tide and became a regular broadcaster, particularly on the long-running programme the Critics. He soon emerged as one of the most distinctive and mellifluous journalists. "Not a bad life you know, not a bad life at all," he said recently. He was awarded the CBE for his services to journalism and was president of the Critics Circle in 1958.

Here we reprint Philip Hope-Wallace's review of Calla's Tosca of January 22, 1964.

"There will be every Oscar for the new Tosca. Covent Garden has a smash hit on its hands and the tumult of welcome for the whole production was stunning; the great occasion thus ran late. It is wonderfully successful, hardly open to any cavil and full of brilliant and apt strokes. Nor will it upset these conventionalists who have been seeing the old work (never less than last night "a shabby little shocker") in the sets before which Ternina first sang it years ago. The tumult of applause was also for old friend Tito Gobbi, a mellow Scarpia, acting splendidly and singing rather than shouting this time, with magnificent presence and effect. The tenor Cioni was also being heard here for the first time in a Puccini role and sang acceptably; a good presence too and no stick, but deficient in grace. But health, even rude health, is a great thing.

Frankly on the evidence of her Royal Festival Hall appearance I had feared that Maria Callas might seem overtaxed. I was duly confounded. True, there were times when the lamp of her art burned low, but it was always bright. You want more power and support behind those shrieks of anguish in act two. But how superb the whole delivery in the first act; what detail, what carressing and isolating of key words. All the detail was lovely; some of it unforgettably striking. I have not known Callas so magnificently in control of the situation (if not always the top of the voice) for a long time. For the rest there was an uncanny suggestion of the ex-convent child in her acting and of her origins in her frenzy and desperation. The piety and the sudden flair of jealousy are there; and a teasing sense of humour in the scene with the blue-eyed Magdalene -- beautiful! Her attitudes too; at the door, bending forward like those pictures of Bernhardt, or rigid with anticipation at the dinner table. Her movement and the way she wears her clothes are unmatched on the lyric stage today. Note how she manipulates that orange silk stole in act one (a get-up like Romney's Emma Hamilton). In act two it was Rachel at Phedre. In act 3 Mrs Siddons. The audience roared at her for 12 minutes at the end of the murder scene in which she had, for nearly 40 minutes, gripped them.

Productions as elaborate as this tend to slip. The detail is just now quite perfect: it catches the very minute of the day, just as Visconti does in The Leopard. Zeffirelli, moreover, does not intrude; there is none of that distraction which in my view mars his Falstaff and Don Giovanni, nor are there any liberties indulged against the musical planning (for instance Santuzzi's premature entry, from Mascagni's point of view, in the Zeff "cav."). The sets are sumptuous.

The church of Sant' Andrea may be slightly over-sized; but what a wonderful feeling is conveyed of huge marble pillars rising into the vaulted roof above the clutter of bondieuserie (Yet the stoup left is nearly as wobbly as the old one!) Tosca walks in from the body of the church but her first question "Perche chiuso?" is meaningless. Nothing was locked. This is a detail which hardly seems to matter when set beside the way caps Zeffirelli directs the Scarpia-Tosca encounter. Instead of standing cheek by jowl as is usual, Tosca turns her back on him and falls on her knees at the long priedieu bench. He sidles up, half kneeling, beside her. It is exactly how secular conversations in church do occur. The truth of it is remarkable. In act two the sinister little procession, the torture party, files passed Tosca and we can see each one in turn scanned by her. Instead of endless sitting on that sofa, this Tosca ranges the claustrophobic chamber; her lover's groans come up the trap-door over which she crouches, her face lighted from beneath. At the moment of reluctant consent, Tosca is down on the prompt side. Scarpia and Spoletta beyond, in diagonal; we see everything. And anyone who doesn't twig what "Simulato... come Palmieri" means this time has only himself to blame.

Callas sang "Vissi d'arte" mostly on her feet, but after the tiresome applause (which breaks the action) went on her knees for the most beautiful passage in her whole second act, beginning "Verdi..." there is no physical "chasing" of Tosca - thought of her submission is enough. The agonising wait before the murder (with rather limp orchestra under Signior Carlo Felice Cillario) has never in my memory seemed less ritualistic. The stabbing happened almost on the spur of the moment and took Scarpia completely by surprise! Think what that means to anyone who has seen 50 or more Toscas

Philip Hope-Wallace"

And his review of "Waiting for Godot":

"Waiting for Godot"

Philip Hope-Wallace
Tuesday May 17, 1955

Waiting for Godot at the Arts Theatre Club is a play to send the rationalist out of his mind and induce tooth-gnashing among people who would take Lewis Carroll's Red Queen and Lear's nonsense exchanges with the fool as the easiest stuff in the world. The play, if about anything, is ostensibly about two tramps who spend the two acts, two evenings long, under a tree on a bit of waste ground - "waiting for Godot."
Godot, it would seem, is quite possibly God, just as Charlot is Charles. Both tramps are dressed like the Chaplinesque zanies of the circus and much of their futile cross-talk seems to bear some sort of resemblance to those music-hall exchanges we know so well: "You know my sister?" "Your sister? "Yes, my sister," and so on, ad lib. One of the tramps is called Estragon, which is the French for tarragon herb: the other is called Vladimir. On the first evening their vigil is broken by the arrival of a choleric employer called Pozzo (Italian for a well) and a downtrodden servant Lucky, who looks like the Mad Hatter's uncle.

On the second evening this pair reappears, the former now blind and led by the latter, now a deaf mute. As night falls on both sessions a boy arrives to announce that Godot cannot keep the interview for which the tramps so longingly wait. And at the end of it, for all its inexplicit and deliberately fatuous flatness, a curious sense of the passage of time and the wretchedness of man's uncertainty about his destiny has been communicated out of the very unpromising material.

The allegorist is Sam Beckett, who was once James Joyce's secretary and who writes in French for preference. His English version bears traces of that language still. The language, however is flat and feeble in the extreme in any case. Fine words might supply the missing wings, but at least we are spared a Claudelian rhetoric to coat the metaphysical moonshine. The play bored some people acutely. Others found it a witty and poetic conundrum. There was general agreement that Peter Hall's production did fairly by a work which has won much applause in many parts of the world already and that Paul Daneman in particular, as the more thoughtful of the two tramps gave a fine and rather touching performance. Peter Woodthorpe, Timothy Bateson, Peter Bull, and a boy, Michael Walker, the mysterious Godot's messenger, all played up loyally. There was only one audible retirement from the audience, though the ranks had thinned after the interval. It is good to find that plays at once dubbed "incomprehensible and pretentious" can still get a staging. Where better than the Arts Theatre? In a talk he gave at Tavistock 'The Wharf' as part of his one-man show, Henry Blofeld, a well known cricket commentator, told stories describing Philip Hope Wallace as gay when presiding at the El Vino wine bar in Fleet Street..
  • NOV 1911 - Birth -
  • 1979 - Death -
John George Frederick Hope-Wallace
15 APR 1839 - 14 JUL 1900
Charles Nugent Hope-Wallace
3 FEB 1877 - 15 OCT 1953
Philip Hope-Wallace
NOV 1911 - 1979
Allan Chaplin , Col
20 JUN 1844 - 19 AUG 1910
Maud Elizabeth Skinner
25 OCT 1844 - 24 JUN 1904
Family Group Sheet - Child
PARENT (M) Charles Nugent Hope-Wallace
Birth3 FEB 1877
Death15 OCT 1953
Marriage12 JAN 1904to Mabel Florance Ida Chaplin
FatherJohn George Frederick Hope-Wallace
PARENT (F) Mabel Florance Ida Chaplin
Birth7 OCT 1875London, christened on Monday 6 December at St. Michael's, Brighton
Marriage12 JAN 1904to Charles Nugent Hope-Wallace
FatherAllan Chaplin , Col
MotherMaud Elizabeth Skinner
MPhilip Hope-Wallace
BirthNOV 1911
FNina Mary Hope-Wallace
Birth14 DEC 1905
Marriage1 OCT 1932to BART, Sir Edward O Hoare
FDorothy Jacqueline Hope-Wallace
Birth29 MAY 1909