What, pray, is a 'pubic performance'?

What, pray, is a 'pubic performance'?


norman lebrecht

January 31, 2012

I’ve attended some hair-raising concerts in my time, but a new biography of Robert Schumann adds a new dimension to the experience.

The Life of Schumann

According to a TLS review, proof-reading is now so lax at Cambridge University Press that the book refers three times to works of Schumann which received a pubic performance, an interpretation I’ve occasionally dreamed about but never actually seen.

Exactly what the learned author has in mind is probably detailed in a footnote. But, for those who find music writing a trifle arid, there is fun yet to be found in the lives of great composers.



  • Ronald Schneider says:

    In the very first edition of Beverly Sills’ autobiography “Bubbles – a self-portrait” from 1976 the first sentence famously read: “When I was only three, and still named Belle Miriam Silverman, I sang my first aria in pubic.”

  • valentina lisitsa says:

    I bet the publisher saved costs by using a computer spell-checker instead of a human. Those program are notorious for their quirks, almost like live creatures with a mind of their own.
    I once had a very embarassing e-mail exchange with quite important concert presenter. We talked programs for a recital – and every time spell-checker changed the word RECITAL to RECTAL

  • Peter says:

    You can seem them for yourself by using Amazon’s “search inside” feature. I see only two instances, but they’re amusing:

    “But such exposure was never matched in a pubic performance.”

    “He told Clara ‘None of my things are really for pubic performance.'” (Yes, they also drop the comma before the quotation mark.)

  • Mark Sebastian Jordan says:

    Norman, thank you for keeping us a breast of this embareassing situation.

  • Spell Checker says:

    @Peter, you seeM to also be susceptible to spelling errors too, as are we all 😉

  • A then-famous TV broadcast of Friedrich Gulda, of which I couldn’t find more on the internet then a reference to it in his Guardian obituary: “he and his girlfriend appeared on stage naked for a rendition of Schumann songs on the recorder”.

  • Joel V. says:

    In 1981 the Genoa Opera Co. put on a production of Bizet’s Carmen. For tourists in the audience they translated it into English. Especially the Act 4 has been explained in quite a splendid way!

    Act I
    Carmen, a cigarmakeress from a Tobago factory loves Don Jose of the mounting guard. Carmen
    takes a flower from her corsets and lances it to Don Jose (Duet: “Talk me of my mother”) There was a noise inside the Tobago factory and revolting cigarmakeresses burst onto the stage. Carmen is arrested and Don Jose is ordered to mounting guard on her but she seduces him and lets her escape.

    Act II
    The tavern. Carmen Sings (Aria “The sistrums tinkling’). Enter 2 smugglers (Ho, we have a mind in business”) Enter Escamilla a Balls Fighter. Carmen refuses to penetrate because Don Jose has iberated her from prison. He just now arrives. (Aria “Slop her who comes”) But there are the buglers singing his retreat. Don Jose will leave and draws his sword. Called by Carmen’s shrieks the 2 smugglers interfere with her . Jose is bound to dessert. Final Chorus: “Opening Sky Wandering Life”

    Act III
    A rocky landscape. Smugglers chatter. Carmen sees her death in the cards, Don Jose makes a date with her for the next Balls fight.

    Act IV
    A place in Seville. Procession of Bullfighters. The roaring of Balls is heard in the arena. Escamillo enters (Aria and Chorus: “Toreador, Toreador, all hail the Balls of the Toreador”)Enter Don Jose (Aria: I besmooch you”) Carmen repels him. She wants to join with Escamilo now chaired by the crowd. Don Jose stabbs her (Aria:” rupture, rupture) He sings Oh my seductive Carmen.