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Title: Chapters of Opera - Being historical and critical observations and records concerning the lyric drama in New York from its earliest days down to the present time
Author: Krehbiel, Henry Edward, 1854-1923
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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his Opera Books page. Plain text adaption by Andrew Sly.



CHAPTERS OF OPERA


Being
Historical and Critical Observations
And Records Concerning the Lyric
Drama in New York from Its
Earliest Days Down to
The Present Time

by

HENRY EDWARD KREHBIEL

Musical Editor of "The New York Tribune";
Author of "How To Listen To Music,"
"Studies In The Wagnerian Drama,"
"Music And Manners In The Classical Period,"
"The Philharmonic Society Of New York," etc., etc.



To MARIE--WIFE

and

DAUGHTER HELEN

Who have shared with the Author many of the
Experiences described in this book.

"Joy shared is Joy doubled."
                --GOETHE.



PREFACE

The making of this book was prompted by the fact that with the season
1907-08 the Metropolitan Opera House in New York completed an existence
of twenty-five years. Through all this period at public representations
I have occupied stall D-15 on the ground floor as reviewer of musical
affairs for The New York Tribune newspaper. I have, therefore, been a
witness of the vicissitudes through which the institution has passed
in a quarter-century, and a chronicler of all significant musical
things which were done within its walls. I have seen the failure of
the artistic policy to promote which the magnificent theater was built;
the revolution accomplished by the stockholders under the leadership
of Leopold Damrosch; the progress of a German régime, which did much
to develop tastes and create ideals which, till its coming, were
little-known quantities in American art and life; the overthrow of that
régime in obedience to the command of fashion; the subsequent dawn and
development of the liberal and comprehensive policy which marked the
climax of the career of Maurice Grau as an operatic director, I have
witnessed since then, many of the fruits of wise endeavor and astute
management frittered away by managerial incapacity and greed, and fad
and fashion come to rule again, where for a brief, but eventful period,
serious artistic interest and endeavor had been dominant.

The institution will enter upon a new régime with the season 1908-09.
The time, therefore, seemed fitting for a review of the twenty-five
years that are past. The incidents of this period are fixed; they
may be variously viewed, but they cannot be changed. They belong to
history, and to a presentation of that history I have devoted most
of the pages which follow. I have been actuated in my work by deep
seriousness of purpose, and have tried to avoid everything which
could not make for intellectual profit, or, at least, amiable and
illuminative entertainment.

The chapters which precede the more or less detailed history of the
Metropolitan Opera House (I-VII) were written for the sake of the
light which they shed on existing institutions and conditions, and to
illustrate the development of existing taste, appreciation, and interest
touching the lyrical drama. To the same end much consideration has been
paid to significant doings outside the Metropolitan Opera House since
it has been the chief domicile of grand opera in New York. Especial
attention has been given for obvious reasons to the two seasons of
opera at Mr. Hammerstein's Manhattan Opera House.

H. E. KREHBIEL.

Blue Hill, Maine, the Summer of 1908.



AUTHOR'S NOTE TO THIRD EDITION

For the purposes of a new and popular edition of this book, the
publishers asked the author to continue his historical narrative, his
record of performances, and his critical survey of the operas produced
at the two chief operatic institutions of New York, from the beginning
of the season 1908-1909 down to the close of the season 1910-1911. This
invitation the author felt compelled to decline for several reasons,
one of which (quite sufficient in itself), was that he had already
undertaken a work of great magnitude which would occupy all his working
hours during the period between the close of the last season and the
publication of this edition.

Thereupon the publishers, who seemed to place a high valuation on
the historical element in the book, suggested that the record of
performances at least be brought up to date even if the criticism of new
operas and the discussion of the other incidents of the season--such as
the dissensions between the directors of the Metropolitan Opera House,
the rivalry between them and the director of the Manhattan, the quarrels
with artists, the successes achieved by some operas and the failure
suffered by others--be postponed for the present at least for want of
time on the part of the author to carry on the work on the scale of the
original edition.

It was finally agreed that the author should supply the record for
the period intervening between the appearance of the first edition of
"Chapters of Opera" and the present publication by revised excerpts
from the annual summaries of the activities of the seasons in question
published by him in the New York Tribune, of which newspaper he has had
the honor of being the musical critic for thirty years past. For the
privilege of using this material the author is deeply beholden to the
Tribune Association and the editor, Hart Lyman, Esq. The record may be
found in the Appendices after the last chapter.

H. E. KREHBIEL.

Blue Hill, Maine, Summer of 1911.



CONTENTS


CHAPTER I

INTRODUCTION OF OPERA IN NEW YORK

  The Introduction of Italian Opera in New York
  English Ballad Operas and Adaptations from French and Italian Works
  Hallam's Comedians and "The Beggar's Opera"
  The John Street Theater and Its Early Successors
  Italian Opera's First Home
  Manuel Garcia
  The New Park Theater and Some of Its Rivals
  Malibran and English Opera
  The Bowery Theater, Richmond Hill, Niblo's and Castle Gardens


CHAPTER II

EARLY THEATERS, MANAGERS, AND SINGERS

  Of the Building of Opera Houses
  A Study of Influences
  The First Italian Opera House in New York
  Early Impresarios and Singers
  Da Ponte, Montressor, Rivafinoli
  Signorina Pedrotti and Fornasari
  Why Do Men Become Opera-Managers?
  Addison and Italian Opera
  The Vernacular Triumphant


CHAPTER III

THE FIRST ITALIAN COMPANY

  Manuel del Popolo Vicente Garcia
  "Il Barbiere di Siviglia"
  Signorina Maria Garcia's Unfortunate Marriage
  Lorenzo da Ponte
  His Hebraic Origin and Checkered Career
  "Don Giovanni"
  An Appeal in Behalf of Italian Opera


CHAPTER IV

HOUSES BUILT FOR OPERA

  More Opera Houses
  Palmo's and the Astor Place
  Signora Borghese and the Distressful Vocal Wabble
  Antognini and Cinti-Damoreau
  An Orchestral Strike
  Advent of the Patti Family
  Don Francesco Marty y Torrens and His Havanese Company
  Opera Gowns Fifty Years Ago
  Edward and William Henry Fry
  Horace Greeley and His Musical Critic
  James H. Hackett and William Niblo
  Tragic Consequences of Canine Interference
  Goethe and a Poodle
  A Dog-Show and the Astor Place Opera House


CHAPTER V

MARETZEK, HIS RIVALS AND SINGERS

  Max Maretzek
  His Managerial Career
  Some Anecdotes
  "Crotchets and Quavers"
  His Rivals and Some of His Singers
  Bernard Ullmann
  Marty Again
  Bottesini and Arditi
  Steffanone
  Bosio
  Tedesco
  Salvi
  Bettini
  Badiali
  Marini


CHAPTER VI

THE NEW YORK ACADEMY OF MUSIC

  Operatic Warfare Half a Century Ago
  The Academy of Music and Its Misfortunes
  A Critic's Opera and His Ideals
  A Roster of American Singers
  Grisi and Mario
  Annie Louise Cary
  Ole Bull as Manager
  Piccolomini and Réclame
  Adelina Patti's Début and an Anniversary Dinner Twenty-five
Years Later
  A Kiss for Maretzek


CHAPTER VII

MAPLESON AND OTHER IMPRESARIOS

  Colonel James H. Mapleson
  A Diplomatic Manager
  His Persuasiveness
  How He Borrowed Money from an Irate Creditor
  Maurice Strakosch
  Musical Managers
  Pollini
  Sofia Scalchi and Annie Louise Cary Again
  Campanini and His Beautiful Attack
  Brignoli
  His Appetite and Superstition


CHAPTER VIII

THE METROPOLITAN OPERA HOUSE

  The Academy's Successful Rival
  Why It Was Built
  The Demands of Fashion
  Description of the Theater
  War between the Metropolitan and the Academy of Music
  Mapleson and Abbey
  The Rival Forces
  Patti and Nilsson
  Gerster and Sembrich
  A Costly Victory


CHAPTER IX

FIRST SEASON AT THE METROPOLITAN

  The First Season at the Metropolitan Opera House
  Mr. Abbey's Singers
  Gounod's "Faust" and Christine Nilsson
  Marcella Sembrich and Her Versatility
  Sofia Scalchi
  Signor Kaschmann
  Signor Stagno
  Ambroise Thomas's "Mignon"
  Madame Fursch-Madi
  Ponchielli's "La Gioconda"


CHAPTER X

OPERATIC REVOLUTIONS

  The Season 1883-1884 at the Academy of Music
  Lillian Nordica's American Début
  German Opera Introduced at the Metropolitan Opera House
  Parlous State of Italian Opera in London and on the Continent
  Dr. Leopold Damrosch and His Enterprise
  The German Singers
  Amalia Materna
  Marianne Brandt
  Marie Schroeder-Hanfstängl
  Anton Schott, the Military Tenor
  Von Bülow's Characterization: "A Tenor is a Disease"


CHAPTER XI

GERMAN OPERA AT THE METROPOLITAN

  First German Season
  Death Struggles of Italian Opera at the Academy
  Adelina Patti and Her Art
  Features of the German Performances
  "Tannhäuser"
  Marianne Brandt in Beethoven's Opera
  "Der Freischütz"
  "Masaniello"
  Materna in "Die Walküre"
  Death of Dr. Damrosch


CHAPTER XII

END OF ITALIAN OPERA AT THE ACADEMY

  The Season 1885-1886
  End of the Mapleson Régime at the Academy of Music
  Alma Fohström
  The American Opera Company
  German Opera in the Bowery
  A Tenor Who Wanted to be Manager of the Metropolitan Opera House
  The Coming of Anton Seidl
  His Early Career
  Lilli Lehmann
  A Broken Contract
  Unselfish Devotion to Artistic Ideals
  Max Alvary
  Emil Fischer


CHAPTER XIII

WAGNER HOLDS THE METROPOLITAN

  Second and Third German Seasons
  The Period 1885-1888
  More about Lilli Lehmann
  Goldmark's "Queen of Sheba"
  First Performance of Wagner's "Meistersinger"
  Patti in Concert and Opera
  A Flash in the Pan at the Academy of Music
  The Transformed American Opera Company
  Production of Rubinstein's "Nero"
  An Imperial Operatic Figure
  First American Performance of "Tristan und Isolde"
  Albert Niemann and His Characteristics
  His Impersonation of Siegmund
  Anecdotes
  A Triumph for "Fidelio"


CHAPTER XIV

WAGNERIAN HIGH TIDE

  Wagnerian High Tide at the Metropolitan Opera House
  1887-1890
  Italian Low Water Elsewhere
  Rising of the Opposition
  Wagner's "Siegfried"
  Its Unconventionality
  "Götterdämmerung"
  "Der Trompeter von Säkkingen"
  "Euryanthe"
  "Ferdinand Cortez"
  "Der Barbier von Bagdad"
  Italo Campanini and Verdi's "Otello"
  Patti and Italian Opera at the Metropolitan Opera House


CHAPTER XV

END OF THE GERMAN PERIOD

  End of the German Period
  1890-1891
  Some Extraordinary Novelties
  Franchetti's "Asrael"
  "Der Vasall von Szigeth"
  A Royal Composer, His Opera and His Distribution of Decorations
  "Diana von Solange"
  Financial Salvation through Wagner
  Italian Opera Redivivus
  Ill-mannered Box-holders
  Wagnerian Statistics


CHAPTER XVI

ITALIAN OPERA AGAIN AT THE METROPOLITAN

  The Season 1891-1892
  Losses of the Stockholders of the Metropolitan Opera House Company
  Return to Italian Opera
  Mr. Abbey's Expectations
  Sickness of Lilli Lehmann
  The De Reszke Brothers and Lassalle
  Emma Eames
  Début of Marie Van Zandt
  "Cavalleria Rusticana"
  Fire Damages the Opera House
  Reorganization of the Owning Company


CHAPTER XVII

THE ADVENT OF MELBA AND CALVÉ

  An Interregnum
  Changes in the Management
  Rise and Fall of Abbey, Schoeffel, and Grau
  Death of Henry E. Abbey
  His Career
  Season 1893-1894
  Nellie Melba
  Emma Calvé
  Bourbonism of the Parisians
  Massenet's "Werther"
  1894-1895
  A Breakdown on the Stage
  "Elaine"
  Sybil Sanderson and "Manon"
  Shakespearian Operas
  Verdi's "Falstaff"


CHAPTER XVIII

UPRISING IN FAVOR OF GERMAN OPERA

  The Public Clamor for German Opera
  Oscar Hammerstein and His First Manhattan Opera House
  Rivalry between Anton Seidl and Walter Damrosch
  The Latter's Career as Manager
  Wagner Triumphant
  German Opera Restored at the Metropolitan
  "The Scarlet Letter"
  "Mataswintha"
  "Hänsel und Gretel" in English
  Jean de Reszke and His Influence
  Mapleson for the Last Time
  "Andrea Chenier"
  Madame Melba's Disastrous Essay with Wagner
  "Le Cid"
  Metropolitan Performances 1893-1897


CHAPTER XIX

BEGINNING OF THE GRAU PERIOD

  Beginning of the Grau Period
  Death of Maurice Grau
  His Managerial Career
  An Interregnum at the Metropolitan Opera House Filled by
Damrosch and Ellis
  Death of Anton Seidl
  His Funeral
  Characteristic Traits
  "La Bohème"
  1898-1899
  "Ero e Leandro" and Its Composer


CHAPTER XX

NEW SINGERS AND OPERAS

  Closing Years of Mr. Grau's Régime
  Traits in the Manager's Character
  Débuts of Alvarez, Scotti, Louise Homer, Lucienne Bréval and
Other Singers
  Ternina and "Tosca"
  Reyer's "Salammbô"
  Gala Performance for a Prussian Prince
  "Messaline"
  Paderewski's "Manru"
  "Der Wald"
  Performances in the Grau Period


CHAPTER XXI

HEINRICH CONRIED AND "PARSIFAL"

  Beginning of the Administration of Heinrich Conried
  Season 1903-1904
  Mascagni's American Fiasco
  "Iris" and "Zanetto"
  Woful Consequences of Depreciating American Conditions
  Mr. Conried's Theatrical Career
  His Inheritance from Mr. Grau
  Signor Caruso
  The Company Recruited
  The "Parsifal" Craze


CHAPTER XXII

END OF CONRIED'S ADMINISTRATION

  Conried's Administration Concluded
  1905-1908
  Visits from Humperdinck and Puccini
  The California Earthquake
  Madame Sembrich's Generosity to the Suffering Musicians
  "Madama Butterfly"
  "Manon Lescaut"
  "Fedora"
  Production and Prohibition of "Salome"
  A Criticism of the Work
  "Adriana Lecouvreur"
  A Table of Performances


CHAPTER XXIII

HAMMERSTEIN AND HIS OPERA HOUSE

  Oscar Hammerstein Builds a Second Manhattan Opera House
  How the Manager Put His Doubters to Shame
  His Earlier Experiences as Impresario
  Cleofonte Campanini
  A Zealous Artistic Director and Ambitious Singers
  A Surprising Record but No Novelties in the First Season
  Melba and Calvé as Stars
  The Desertion of Bonci
  Quarrels about Puccini's "Bohéme"
  List of Performances


CHAPTER XXIV

A BRILLIANT SEASON AT THE MANHATTAN

  Hammerstein's Second Season
  Amazing Promises but More Amazing Achievements
  Mary Garden and Maurice Renaud
  Massenet's "Thaïs," Charpentier's "Louise"
  Giordano's "Siberia" and Debussy's "Pelléas et Mélisande" Performed for
the First Time in America
  Revival of Offenbach's "Les Contes d'Hoffmann," "Crispino e la Comare"
of the Ricci Brothers, and Giordano's "Andrea Chenier"
  The Tetrazzini Craze
  Repertory of the Season



CHAPTER I

INTRODUCTION OF OPERA IN NEW YORK


Considering the present state of Italian opera in New York City (I am
writing in the year of our Lord 1908), it seems more than a little
strange that its entire history should come within the memories of
persons still living. It was only two years ago that an ancient factotum
at the Metropolitan Opera House died who, for a score of years before he
began service at that establishment, had been in various posts at the
Academy of Music. Of Mr. Arment a kindly necrologist said that he had
seen the Crowd gather in front of the Park Theater in 1825, when the new
form of entertainment effected an entrance in the New World. I knew the
little old gentleman for a quarter of a century or more, but though he
was familiar with my interest in matters historical touching the opera
in New York, he never volunteered information of things further back
than the consulship of Mapleson at the Academy. Moreover, I was unable
to reconcile the story of his recollection of the episode of 1825 with
the circumstances of his early life. Yet the tale may have been true, or
the opera company that had attracted his boyish attention been one that
came within the first decade after Italian opera had its introduction.

Concerning another's recollections, I have not the slightest doubt.
Within the last year Mrs. Julia Ward Howe, entertaining some of her
relatives and friends with an account of social doings in New York in
her childhood, recalled the fact that she had been taken as a tiny miss
to hear some of the performances of the Garcia Troupe, and, if I mistake
not, had had Lorenzo da Ponte, the librettist of Mozart's "Nozze di
Figaro" and "Don Giovanni" pointed out to her by her brother. This
brother was Samuel Ward, who enjoyed the friendship of the old poet,
and published recollections of him not long after his death, in The
New York Mirror. For a score of years I have enjoyed the gentle
companionship at the opera of two sisters whose mother was an Italian
pupil of Da Ponte's, and when, a few years ago, Professor Marchesan, of
the University of Treviso, Italy, appealed to me for material to be used
in the biography of Da Ponte, which he was writing, I was able, through
my gracious and gentle operatic neighbors, to provide him with a number
of occasional poems written, in the manner of a century ago, to their
mother, in whom Da Ponte had awakened a love for the Italian language
and literature. This, together with some of my own labors in uncovering
the American history of Mozart's collaborator, has made me feel
sometimes as if I, too, had dwelt for a brief space in that Arcadia of
which I purpose to gossip in this chapter, and a few others which are
to follow it.

There may be other memories going back as far as Mrs. Howe's, but I
very much doubt if there is another as lively as hers on any question
connected with social life in New York fourscore years ago. Italian
opera was quite as aristocratic when it made its American bow as it
is now, and decidedly more exclusive. It is natural that memories of
it should linger in Mrs. Howe's mind for the reason that the family
to which she belonged moved in the circles to which the new form of
entertainment made appeal. A memory of the incident which must have been
even livelier than that of Mrs. Howe's, however, perished in 1906, when
Manuel Garcia died in London, in his one hundred and first year, for he
could say of the first American season of Italian opera what Æneas said
of the siege of Troy, "All of which I saw, and some of which I was."
Manuel Garcia was a son of the Manuel del Popolo Vicente Garcia, who
brought the institution to our shores; he was a brother of our first
prima donna, she who then was only the Signorina Garcia, but within
a lustrum afterward was the great Malibran; and he sang in the first
performance, on November 29, 1825, and probably in all the performances
given between that date and August of the next year, when the elder
Garcia departed, leaving the Signorina, as Mme. Malibran, aged but
eighteen, to develop her powers in local theaters and as a chorister
in Grace Church. Of this and other related things presently.

In the sometimes faulty and incomplete records of the American stage to
which writers on musical history have hitherto been forced to repair,
1750 is set down as the natal year for English ballad opera in America.
It is thought that it was in that year that "The Beggar's Opera" found
its way to New York, after having, in all probability, been given by
the same company of comedians in Philadelphia in the middle of the
year preceding. But it is as little likely that these were the first
performances of ballad operas on this side of the Atlantic as that the
people of New York were oblivious of the nature of operatic music of
the Italian type until Garcia's troupe came with Rossini's "Barber of
Seville," in 1825. There are traces of ballad operas in America in the
early decades of the eighteenth century, and there can exist no doubt at
all that French and Italian operas were given in some form, perhaps, as
a rule, in the adapted form which prevailed in the London theaters until
far into the nineteenth century, before the year 1800, in the towns and
cities of the Eastern seaboard, which were in most active communication
with Great Britain, I quote from an article on the history of opera in
the United States, written by me for the second edition of "Grove's
Dictionary of Music and Musicians":


Among French works Rousseau's "Pygmalion" and "Devin du Village,"
Dalayrac's "Nina" and "L'Amant Statue," Monsigny's "Déserteur," Grétry's
"Zémire et Azor," "Fausse Magie" and "Richard Coeur de Lion" and others,
were known in Charleston, Baltimore, Philadelphia, and New York in
the last decade of the eighteenth century. There were traces, too, of
Pergolese's "Serva padrona," and it seems more than likely that an
"opera in three acts," the text adapted by Colman, entitled "The Spanish
Barber; or, The Futile Precaution," played in Baltimore, Philadelphia,
and New York, in 1794, was Paisiello's "Barbiere di Siviglia." From
1820 to about 1845 more than a score of the Italian, French, and German
operas, which made up the staple of foreign repertories, were frequently
performed by English singers. The earliest of these singers were members
of the dramatic companies who introduced theatrical plays in the
colonies. They went from London to Philadelphia, New York, Williamsburg
(Va.), and Charleston (S. C.), but eventually established their
strongest and most enduring foothold in New York.


Accepting the 1750 date as the earliest of unmistakable records for a
performance of "The Beggar's Opera" in New York, the original home of
opera here was the Nassau Street Theater--the first of two known by that
name. It was a two-storied house, with high gables. Six wax lights were
in front of the stage, and from the ceiling dangled a "barrel hoop,"
pierced by half a dozen nails on which were spiked as many candles. It
is not necessary to take the descriptions of these early playhouses
as baldly literal, nor as indicative of something like barbarism.
The "barrel hoop" chandelier of the old theater in Nassau street was
doubtless only a primitive form of the chandeliers which kept their
vogue for nearly a century after the first comedians sang and acted at
the Nassau Street Theater. Illuminating gas did not reach New York till
1823, and "a thousand candles" was put forth as an attractive feature
at a concert in the American metropolis as late as 1845. "The Beggar's
Opera" was only twenty years old when the comedians sent to the colonies
by William Hallam, under the management of his brother, Lewis, produced
it, yet the historic Covent Garden Theater, in which it first saw the
stage lights (candles they were, too), would scarcely stand comparison
with the most modest of the metropolitan theaters nowadays. Its
audience-room was only fifty-four or fifty-five feet deep; there were
no footlights, the stage being illuminated by four hoops of candles,
over which a crown hung from the borders. The orchestra held only
fifteen or twenty musicians, though it was in this house that Handel
produced his operas and oratorios; the boxes "were flat in front and
had twisted double branches for candles fastened to the plaster. There
were pedestals on each side of the boards, with elaborately-painted
figures of Tragedy and Comedy thereon." Hallam's actors went first to
Williamsburg, Va., but were persuaded to change their home to New York
in the summer of 1753, among other things by the promise that they would
find a "very fine 'Playhouse Building'" here. Nevertheless, when Lewis
Hallam came he found the fine playhouse unsatisfactory, and may be said
to have inaugurated the habit or custom, or whatever it may be called,
followed by so many managers since, of beginning his enterprise by
erecting a new theater. The old one in Nassau Street was torn down,
and a new one built on its site. It was promised that it should be
"very fine, large, and commodious," and it was built between June and
September, 1753; how fine, large, and commodious it was may, therefore,
be imagined. A year later, the German Calvinists, wanting a place of
worship, bought the theater, and New York was without a playhouse until
a new one on Cruger's Wharf was built by David Douglass, who had married
Lewis Hallam's widow, Hallam having died in Jamaica, in 1755. This was
abandoned in turn, and Mr. Douglass built a second theater, this time
in Chapel Street. It cost $1,625, and can scarcely have been either very
roomy or very ornate. Such as it was, however, it was the home of the
drama in all its forms, save possibly the ballad opera, until about
1765, and was the center around which a storm raged which culminated
in a riot that wrecked it.

The successor of this unhappy institution was the John Street Theater,
which was opened toward the close of the year 1767. There seems to have
been a period of about fifteen years during which the musical drama
was absent from the amusement lists, but this house echoed, like its
earliest predecessors, to the strains of the ballad opera which "made
Gay rich and Rich gay." "The Beggar's Opera" was preceded, however, by
"Love in a Village," for which Dr. Arne wrote and compiled the music;
and Bickerstaff's "Maid of the Mill" was also in the repertory. In 1774
it was officially recommended that all places of amusement be closed.
Then followed the troublous times of the Revolution, and it was not
until twelve years afterward--that is, till 1786--that English Opera
resumed its sway. "Love in a Village" was revived, and it was followed
by "Inkle and Yarico," an arrangement of Shakespeare's "Tempest," with
Purcell's music, "No Song, No Supper," "Macbeth," with Locke's music,
McNally's comic opera "Robin Hood," and other works of the same
character; in fact, it may safely be said that few, if any, English
operas, either with original music or music adapted from the ballad
tunes of England, were heard in London without being speedily brought to
New York and performed here. In the John Street Theater, too, they were
listened to by George Washington, and the leader of the orchestra, a
German named Pfeil, whose name was variously spelled Fyle, File, Files,
and so on, produced that "President's March," the tune of which was
destined to become associated with "Hail Columbia," to the words of
which it was adapted by Joseph Hopkinson, of Philadelphia. On January
29, 1798, a new playhouse was opened. This was the Park Theater. A
musical piece entitled "The Purse, or American Tar," was on the program
of the opening performance, and for more than a score of years the Park
Theater played an important rôle in local operatic history. For a long
term English operas of both types held the stage, along with the drama
in all its forms, but in 1819 an English adaptation of Rossini's "Barber
of Seville"--the opera which opened the Italian régime six years
later--was heard on its stage, and two years after that Henry Rowley
Bishop's arrangement of Mozart's "Marriage of Figaro." At the close of
the season of 1820 the Park Theater was destroyed by fire, to the great
loss of its owners, one of whom was John Jacob Astor. On its site was
erected the new Park Theater, which was the original home of Italian
opera, performed in its original tongue, and in the Italian manner,
though only a small minority of the performers were Italians by birth.

Garcia was a Spaniard, born in Seville. Richard Grant White, writing in
The Century Magazine for March, 1882, calls him a "Spanish Hebrew," on
what authority I am unable to guess. Not only was Manuel Garcia, the
elder, a chorister in the Cathedral of Seville at the age of six, but
it seems as likely as not that he came of a family of Spanish church
musicians who had made their mark for more than fifty years before the
father of Malibran was born. But it is a habit with some writers to find
Hebrew blood in nearly all persons of genius.

The new Park Theater was looked upon as a magnificent playhouse in its
day, and it is a pity that Mr. White, writing about it when it was a
quarter of a century old, should have helped to spread the erroneous
notion that it was quite unworthy of so elegant a form of entertainment
as Garcia brought into it. It remained a fashionable house through all
its career or at least for a long time after it gave refuge to the
Italian muse, though it may not have been able to hold one of its
candles to the first house built especially to house that muse eight
years later. The barrel hoop of the first New York theater gave way
to "three chandeliers and patent oil lamps, the chandeliers having
thirty-five lights each." Mr. White's description of this house after it
had seen about a quarter of a century's service is certainly uninviting.
Its boxes were like pens for beasts. "Across them were stretched benches
consisting of a mere board covered with faded red moreen, a narrower
board, shoulder high, being stretched behind to serve for a back. But
one seat on each of the three or four benches was without even this
luxury, in order that the seat itself might be raised upon its hinges
for people to pass in. These sybaritic inclosures were kept under lock
and key by a fee-expecting creature, who was always half drunk, except
when he was wholly drunk. The pit, which has in our modern theater
become the parterre (or, as it is often strangely called, the parquet),
the most desirable part of the house, was in the Park Theater hardly
superior to that in which the Jacquerie of old stood upon the bare
ground (par terre), and thus gave the place its French name. The floor
was dirty and broken into holes; the seats were bare, backless benches.
Women were never seen in the pit, and, although the excellence of the
position (the best in the house) and the cheapness of admission (half a
dollar) took gentlemen there, few went there who could afford to study
comfort and luxury in their amusements. The place was pervaded with evil
smells; and, not uncommonly, in the midst of a performance, rats ran out
of the holes in the floor and across into the orchestra. This delectable
place was approached by a long, underground passage, with bare,
whitewashed walls, dimly lighted, except at a sort of booth, at which
vile fluids and viler solids were sold. As to the house itself, it was
the dingy abode of dreariness. The gallery was occupied by howling
roughs, who might have taken lessons in behavior from the negroes who
occupied a part of this tier, which was railed off for their particular
use."

This was the first home of Italian opera, strictly speaking. It had long
housed opera in the vernacular, and remained to serve as the fortress
of the English forces when the first battles were fought between the
champions of the foreign exotic and the entertainment which had been so
long established as to call itself native. Its career came to an end in
1848, when, like its predecessor and successor, it went up in flames and
smoke.

Presently I shall tell about the houses which have been built in New
York especially for operatic uses, but before then some attention ought
to be given to several other old theaters which had connection with
opera in one or another of its phases. One of these was the New York
Theater, afterward called the Bowery, and known by that name till a
comparatively recent date. The walls of this theater echoed first to the
voice of Malibran, when put forth in the vernacular of the country of
which fate seemed, for a time, to have decreed that she should remain a
resident. This was immediately after the first season of Italian opera
at the Park Theater. The New York Theater was then new, having been
built in 1826. Malibran had begun the study of English in London before
coming to New York with her father; and she continued her studies with
a new energy and a new purpose after the departure of her father to
Mexico had left her apparently stranded in New York with a bankrupt and
good-for-nothing husband to support. She made her first essay in English
opera with "The Devil's Bridge," and followed it up with "Love in a
Village." English operas, whether of the ballad order or with original
music, were constructed in principle on the lines of the German
Singspiel and French opéra comique, all the dialogue being spoken; and
Malibran's experience at the theater and Grace Church, coupled with her
great social popularity, must have made a pretty good Englishwoman of
her. "It is rather startling," says Mr. White, in the article already
alluded to, "to think of the greatest prima donna, not only of her day,
but of modern times--the most fascinating woman upon the stage in the
first half of the nineteenth century--as singing the soprano parts of
psalm tunes and chants in a small town then less known to the people of
London and Paris and Vienna than Jeddo is now. Grace Church may well be
pardoned for pride in a musical service upon the early years of which
fell such a crown of glory, and which has since then been guided by
taste not always unworthy of such a beginning." Malibran's performances
at the New York Theater were successful and a source of profit, both
to the manager and M. Malibran, to whom, it is said, a portion of the
receipts were sent every night.

Three other theaters which were identified with opera more or less
came into the field later, and by their names, at least, testified to
the continued popularity which a famous English institution had won a
century before, and which endured until that name could be applied to
the places that bore it only on the "lucus a non lucendo" principle.
These were the theaters of Richmond Hill, Niblo's, and Castle Garden.
The Ranelagh Gardens, which John Jones opened in New York, in June,
1765, and the Vauxhall Gardens, opened by Mr. Samuel Francis, in
June, 1769, were planned more or less after their English prototypes.
Out-of-doors concerts were their chief musical features, fireworks their
spectacular, while the serving of refreshments was relied on as the
principal source of profit. Richmond Hill had in its palmy days been the
villa home of Aaron Burr, and its fortunes followed the descending scale
like those of its once illustrious master. Its site was the neighborhood
of what is now the intersection of Varick and Charlton streets. After
passing out of Burr's hands, but before his death, the park had become
Richmond Hill Gardens, and the mansion the Richmond Hill Theater, both
of somewhat shady reputation, which was temporarily rehabilitated by the
response which the fashionable elements of the city's population made to
an appeal made by a season of Italian opera, given in 1832. The relics
of Niblo's Garden have disappeared as completely as those of Richmond
Hill, but its site is still fresh in the memory of those whose
theatrical experiences go back a quarter of a century. They must be old,
however, who can recall enough verdure in the vicinity of Broadway and
Prince Street to justify the name maintained by the theater to which for
many years entrance was gained through a corridor of the Metropolitan
Hotel. Three-quarters of a century ago Niblo's Garden was a reality.
William Niblo, who built it and managed it with consummate cleverness,
had been a successful coffee-house keeper downtown. Its theater opened
refreshingly on one side into the garden (as the Terrace Garden Theater,
at Third Avenue and Fifty-eighth Street does to-day), where one could
eat a dish of ice cream or sip a sherry cobbler in luxurious shade, if
such were his prompting, while play or pantomime went merrily on within.
Writing of it in 1855 Max Maretzek, who, as manager of the Astor Place
Opera House, had suffered from the rivalry of Niblo and his theater,
said:


The Metropolitan Hotel, Niblo's Theater, stores and other buildings
occupy the locality. Of the former garden nothing remains save the
ice cream and drinking saloons attached to the theater. These take up
literally as much room in the building as its stage does, and prove
that its proprietor has not altogether overlooked the earlier vocation
which laid the foundation of his fortune. The name by which he calls it
has never changed. It was Niblo's Garden when loving couples ate their
creams or drank their cobblers under the shadow of the trees. It is
Niblo's Garden now, when it is turned into a simple theater and hedged
in with houses. Nay, in the very bills which are circulated in the
interior of the building during the performances you may find, or
might shortly since have found, such an announcement as the following,
appearing in large letters:

"Between the second and third acts"--or, possibly, it may run thus
when opera is not in the ascendant--"after the conclusion of the
first piece an intermission of twenty minutes takes place, for a
promenade in the garden."

You will, I feel certain, admit that this is a marvelously delicate
way of intimating to a gentleman who may feel "dry" (it is the right
word, is it not?) that he will find the time to slake his thirst.

When he returns and his lady inquires where he has been he may reply,
if he wills it:

"Promenading in the garden."


It is not plain from Mr. White's account whether or not his memory
reached back to the veritable garden of Mr. Niblo, but his recollections
of the theater were not jaundiced like those of Mr. Maretzek, but
altogether amiable. Speaking of the performances of the Shireff, Seguin,
and Wilson company of English opera singers, who came to New York in
1838, he says:


Miss Shireff afterward appeared at Niblo's Garden, which was on the
corner of Broadway and Prince Street, where the Metropolitan Hotel now
stands. Here she performed in Auber's "Masked Ball" and other light
operas (all, of course, in English), singing in a theater that was
open on one side to the air; for Niblo's was a great place of summer
entertainment. It was a great New York "institution" in its day--perhaps
the greatest and most beneficent one of its sort that New York has ever
known. It may be safely said that most of the elder generation of New
Yorkers now living [this was written in 1881] have had at Niblo's Garden
the greatest pleasure they have ever enjoyed in public. There were
careless fun and easy jollity; there whole families would go at a
moment's warning to hear this or that singer, but most of all, year
after year, to see the Ravels--a family of pantomimists and dancers
upon earth and air, who have given innocent, thoughtless, side-shaking,
brain-clearing pleasure to more Americans than ever relaxed their sad,
silent faces for any other performers. The price of admission here was
fifty cents, no seats reserved; "first come, first served."


Last of all there was Castle Garden. Children of to-day can remember
when it was still the immigrants' depot, which it had been for half a
century. Tradition says that it was built to protect New York City from
foreign invasion, not to harbor it; but as a fortress it must have
suffered disarmament quite early in the nineteenth century. It is now
an aquarium, and as such has returned to its secondary use, which was
that of a place of entertainment. In 1830 and about that day it was a
restaurant, but for the sale only of ice cream, lemonade, and cakes.
You paid a shilling to go in--this to restrict the patronage to people
of the right sort--and your ticket was redeemable on the inside in
the innocent fluids and harmless solids aforementioned. A wooden
bridge, flanked by floating bathhouses, connected the castle with the
garden--i.e., Battery Park. North and east, in lower Broadway and
Greenwich Street, were fashionable residences, whose occupants enjoyed
the promenade under the trees, which was the proper enjoyment of the
day, as much as their more numerous, but less fortunate fellow citizens.
There balloons went up by day, and rockets and bombs by night, and
there, too, the brave militia went on parade. To Mr. White we owe the
preservation of a poetical description written by Frederick Cozzens in
an imitation of Spenser's "Sir Clod His Undoinge":


  With placket lined, with joyous heart he hies
  To where the Battery's Alleys, cool and greene,
  Amid disparted Rivers daintie lies
  With Fortresse brown and spacious Bridge betweene
  Two Baths, which there like panniers huge are seen:
  In shadie paths fair Dames and Maides there be
  With stalking Lovers basking in their eene,
  And solitary ones who scan the sea,
  Or list to vesper chimes of slumberous Trinity.


The operas performed in the first season of Italian opera in America
by the Garcia troupe in the Park Theater 1825-1826, were "Il Barbiere
di Siviglia," "Tancredi," "Il Turco in Italia," "La Cenerentola," and
"Semiramide" by Rossini; "Don Giovanni" by Mozart; "L'Amante astuto"
and "La Figlia del Aria" by Garcia.



CHAPTER II

EARLY THEATERS, MANAGERS, AND SINGERS


The first opera house built in New York City opened its doors on
November 18, 1833, and was the home of Italian Opera for two seasons;
the second, built eleven years later, endured in the service for which
it was designed four years; the third, which marked as big an advance
on its immediate predecessor in comfort and elegance as the first had
marked on the ramshackle Park Theater described by Richard Grant White,
was the Astor Place Opera House, built in 1847, and the nominal home of
the precious exotic five years.

The Astor Place Opera House in its external appearance is familiar
enough to the memory of even young New Yorkers, though, unlike its
successor, the Academy of Music, at Fourteenth Street and Irving Place,
it did not long permit its tarnished glories to form the surroundings
of the spoken drama after the opera's departure. The Academy of Music
weathered the operatic tempests of almost an entire generation, counting
from its opening night, in 1854, to the last night on which Colonel J.
H. Mapleson was its lessee, in 1886, and omitting the expiring gasps
which the Italian entertainment made under Signor Angelo, in October,
1886, under Italo Campanini, in April, 1888, and the final short spasm
under the doughty Colonel in 1896. The first Italian Opera House (that
was its name) became the National Theater; the second, which was known
as Palmo's Opera House, when turned over to the spoken drama, became
Burton's Theater; the Astor Place Opera House became the Mercantile
Library. The Academy of Music is still known by that name, though it
is given over chiefly to melodrama, and the educational purpose which
existed in the minds of its creators was only a passing dream. The
Metropolitan Opera House has housed twenty-three regular seasons of
opera, though it has been in existence for twenty-five seasons. Once
the sequence of subscription seasons was interrupted by the damage done
to the theater by fire; once by the policy of its lessees, Abbey & Grau,
who thought that the public appetite for opera might be whetted by
enforced abstention. The Manhattan Opera House is too young to enter
into this study of opera houses, their genesis, growth, and decay, and
the houses which Mr. Oscar Hammerstein built before it in Harlem and in
West Thirty-Fourth Street, near Sixth Avenue, lived too brief a time in
operatic service to deserve more than mention.

I am at a loss for data from which to evolve a rule, as I should like to
do, governing the length of an opera house's existence in its original
estate as the home of grand opera.

The conditions which produce the need are too variable and also too
vague to be brought under the operation of any kind of law. At present
the growth of wealth, the increase in population, and with that
increase the rapid multiplication of persons desirous and able to enjoy
the privileges of social display would seem to be determining factors,
with the mounting costliness of the luxury as a deterrent. The last
illustration of the operation of the creative impulse based on the
growth of wealth and social ambition is found in the building of
the Metropolitan Opera House, Mr. Hammerstein's enterprise being
purely individual and speculative. The movement which produced the
Metropolitan Opera House marked the decay of the old Knickerbocker
régime, and its amalgamation with the newer order of society of a
quarter of a century ago. This social decay, if so it can be called
without offense, began--if Abram C. Dayton ("Last Days of Knickerbocker
Life in New York") is correct--about 1840, and culminated with the
Vanderbilt ball, in 1882, to which nearly all the leaders of the old
Knickerbocker aristocracy accepted invitations. "During the third
quarter of the nineteenth century," said The Sun's reviewer of Mr.
Dayton's book, "sagacious and far-sighted Knickerbockers began to
realize that as a caste they no longer possessed sufficient money to
sustain social ascendency, and that it behooved them to effect an
intimate alliance with the nouveaux riches." To this may be added that
when there were but two decades of the century left it was made plain
that the Academy of Music could by no possibility accommodate the two
classes of society, old and new, which had for a number of years been
steadily approaching each other.

There was an insufficiency of desirable boxes, and holders of seats
of fashion were unwilling to surrender them to the newcomers. So the
Metropolitan Opera House was built in 1883, and the vigor of the social
opposition, coupled with popular appreciation of the new spirit, which
came in with the German régime, gave the deathblow to the Academy, whose
loss to fashion was long deplored by the admirers of its fine acoustic
qualities and its effective architectural arrangements for the purposes
of display.

The period is not so remote that we cannot trace the influences of
fashion and society in the rise of the first Italian Opera House, if not
in its fall. The Park Theater was still a fashionable playhouse when
Garcia gave his season of Italian opera in it in 1825-26, but within a
decade thereafter the conditions so graphically described by Mr. White,
combined with new ambitions, which seem to have been inspired to a
large extent by Lorenzo Da Ponte, prompted a wish for a new theater:
one specially adapted to opera. The new entertainment was recognized
as a luxury, and it was no more than fitting that it be luxuriously
and elegantly housed. It will be necessary to account for the potent
influence of Da Ponte, who was only a superannuated poet and teacher of
Italian language and literature, and this I hope to do presently; for
the time being it is sufficient to say that it was he who persuaded the
rich and cultured citizens of New York to build the Italian Opera House,
which stood at the intersection of Church and Leonard streets. The
coming of Garcia had filled Da Ponte, then already seventy-six years
old, with dreams of a recrudescence of such activities as had been his
in connection with Italian Opera in Vienna and London. He made haste to
identify himself in an advisory capacity with the enterprise, persuaded
Garcia to include "Don Giovanni" in his list of operas, although this
necessitated the engagement of a singer not a member of the company, and
had already brought his niece, who was a singer, from Italy, and the
Italian composer Filippo Trajetta, from Philadelphia, when his dream
of a permanent opera, for which he should write librettos, his friend
compose music, and his niece sing, was dispelled by Garcia's departure
for Mexico, and his subsequent return to Europe. For the next five years
Da Ponte seems to have kept the waters of the operatic pool stirred, for
there is general recognition in the records of the fact that to him was
due the conception of the second experiment, although its execution
was left to another, who was neither an American nor an Italian, but a
Frenchman named Montressor. Like Garcia, he was his own tenor, which
fact must have eased him of some of the vexations of management, though
it added to its labors. We are told that Montressor succeeded in making
himself personally popular. He had an agreeable voice, a tolerable
style, and was favorably compared with Garcia, though this goes for
little, inasmuch as Garcia was past his prime when he came here. Among
his singers were Signorina Pedrotti, who created a great stir (though,
I fancy, this was largely because of her beauty and the fact that the
public, remembering the Signorina Garcia, wanted somebody to worship)
and a basso named Fornasari.

Signorina Pedrotti effected her entrance on October 17, in a new opera,
Mercadante's "Elisa e Claudio," which made the hit of the season,
largely because of the infatuation of the public for the new singer.
Mr. White gives us a description of her (from hearsay and the records)
in his article published in The Century Magazine, of March, 1882:

Not much has been said of her, for she had sung only in Lisbon and in
Bologna, and had little reputation. But she took musical New York off
its feet again. She had a fine mezzo-soprano voice, of sympathetic
quality; and although she was far from being a perfectly finished
vocalist, she had an impressive dramatic style and a presence and a
manner that enabled her to take possession of the stage. She was a
handsome woman--tall, nobly formed, with brilliant eyes and a face
full of expression. She carried the town by storm.

Like Malibran, and many another singer since, Fornasari made a fine
reputation here, and was afterward "discovered" in Europe, where he rose
to fame. He seems to have been of the tribe of lady-killers, of whom
every opera company has boasted at least one ever since opera became a
fashion--which is only another way of saying ever since it was invented.
But Fornasari had a noble voice, besides his mere physical attractions.
Mr. White, who saw him long years afterward, when he chanced to be
passing through New York on his way to Europe, describes him: He was
very tall; his head looked like that of a youthful Jove; dark hair in
flaky curls, an open, blazing eye; a nose just heroically curved; lips
strong, yet beautifully bowed; sweet and persuasive (one would think
that White got his description from some woman--what man ever before or
since was praised by a man for having a Cupid's bow mouth?), and withal
a large and easy grace of manner.

Montressor's season opened on October 6, 1832, at the Richmond Hill
Theater, which became respectable for the nonce, and collapsed
after thirty-five representations. The receipts for the season were
$25,603--let us say about half as much as a week's receipts at the
Metropolitan Opera House to-day. The operas given were Rossini's
"Cenerentola," "L'Italiana in Algeri"; Bellini's "Il Pirata," and
Mercadante's "Elisa e Claudio," the last winning the largest measure of
popularity. The chief good accomplished was the bringing to New York
from Europe of several excellent orchestral players, who, after the
failure of the enterprise, settled here, to the good of instrumental
music and the next undertaking.

Why men embark in operatic management, or, rather, why they continue in
it after they have failed, has always been an enigma. Once, pointing my
argument with excerpts from the story of all the managers in London,
from Handel's day down to the present, I tried to prove that the desire
to manage an opera company was a form of disease, finding admirable
support for my contention in the confession and conduct of that English
manager who got himself into Fleet Prison, and thence philosophically
urged not only that it served him right (since no man insane enough to
want to be an operatic impresario ought to be allowed at large), but
also that a jail was the only proper headquarters for a manager, since
there, at least, he was secure from the importunities of singers
and dancers. Lorenzo Da Ponte was, obviously, of the stuff of which
impresarios are made. Montressor's failure, for which he was in a degree
responsible (and which he discussed in two pamphlets which I found
twenty years ago in the library of the New York Historical Society),
persuaded him that the city's greatest need was an Italian opera house.
His powers of persuasion must have been great, for he succeeded in
bringing a body of citizens together who set the example which has been
followed several times since, and built the Italian Opera House at
Church and Leonard streets, on very much the same social and economic
lines as prevail at the Metropolitan Opera House to-day. European models
and European taste prevailed in the structure and its adornments. It was
the first theater in the United States which boasted a tier composed
exclusively of boxes. This was the second balcony. The parterre was
entered from the first balcony, a circumstance which redeemed it from
its old plebeian association as "the pit," in which it would have been
indecorous for ladies to sit. The seats in the parterre were mahogany
chairs upholstered in blue damask. The seats in the first balcony were
mahogany sofas similarly upholstered. The box fronts had a white ground,
with emblematic medallions, and octagonal panels of crimson, blue, and
gold. Blue silk curtains were caught up with gilt cord and tassels.
There was a chandelier of great splendor, which threw its light into a
dome enriched with pictures of the Muses, painted, like all the rest of
the interior, as well as the scenery, by artists specially brought over
for the purpose from Europe. The floors were carpeted. The price of
the boxes was $6,000 each, and subscribers might own them for a single
performance (evidently by arrangement with the owners) or the season.
Apropos of this, Mr. White tells a characteristic story:


It was told of a man who had suddenly risen to what was then great
wealth, that, having taken a lady to the opera, he was met by the
disappointing assurance that there were no seats to be had.

"What, nowhere?"

"Nowhere, sir; every seat in the house is taken, except, indeed, one of
the private boxes that was not subscribed for."

"I'll have that."

"Impossible, sir. The boxes can only be occupied by subscribers and
owners."

"What is the price of your box?"

"Six thousand dollars, sir."

"I'll take it."

And drawing out his pocketbook he filled up a check for six thousand
dollars and escorted his lady to her seat to the surprise and, indeed,
to the consternation of the elegant circle, which saw itself completed
in this unexpected manner.


The new house, which, with the ground, had cost $150,000, was opened
on November 18, 1833, under the joint management of the Chevalier
Rivafinoli and Da Ponte, with Rossini's "La Gazza ladra," but two months
before that date there was a drawing for boxes, concerning which and
some of the details of the opening performance an extract from the diary
of Mr. Philip Hone, once mayor of the city, presents a much livelier
picture than I could draw:


   (From the diary of Philip Hone, Esq.)

September 15, 1833. The drawing for boxes at the Italian Opera
House took place this morning. My associates, Mr. Schermerhorn and
General Jones, are out of town, and I attended and drew No. 8, with
which I am well satisfied. The other boxes will be occupied by the
following gentlemen: Gerard H. Coster, G. C. Howland, Rufus Prime,
Mr. Panon, Robert Ray, J. F. Moulton, James J. Jones, D. Lynch, E.
Townsend, John C. Cruger, O. Mauran, Charles H. Hall, J. G. Pierson
and S. B. Ruggles.

November 18, 1833. The long expected opening of the opera house took
place this evening with the opera "La Gazza ladra"; all new performers
except Signor Marozzi, who belonged to the old company. The prima donna
soprano is Signorina Fanti. The opera, they say, went off well for a
first performance; but to me it was tiresome, and the audience was
not excited to any degree of applause. The performance occupied four
hours--much too long, according to my notion, to listen to a language
which one does not understand; but the house is superb, and the
decorations of the proprietors' boxes (which occupy the whole of the
second tier) are in a style of magnificence which even the extravagance
of Europe has not yet equaled. I have one-third of box No. 8; Peter
Schermerhorn one-third; James J. Jones one-sixth; William Moore
one-sixth. Our box is fitted up with great taste with light blue
hangings, gilded panels and cornice, armchairs, and a sofa. Some of
the others have rich silk ornaments, some are painted in fresco, and
each proprietor seems to have tried to outdo the rest in comfort and
magnificence. The scenery is beautiful. The dome and the fronts of the
boxes are painted in the most superb classical designs, and the sofa
seats are exceedingly commodious. Will this splendid and refined
amusement be supported in New York? I am doubtful.


The outcome justified Mr. Hone in his doubts. The season was advertised,
to last forty nights. When they were at an end a supplementary season of
twenty-eight nights was added, which extended the time to July 21, 1834.
Besides "La Gazza ladra," the operas given were "Il Barbiere di
Siviglia," "La Donna del Lago," "Il Turco in Italia," "Cenerentola," and
"Matilda di Shabran"--all by Rossini; Pacini's "Gli Arabi nelli Gallie,"
Cimarosa's "II Matrimonio segreto," and "La Casa do Pendere," by the
conductor, one Salvioni. The season had been socially and artistically
brilliant, but the financial showing at the end was one of disaster. The
prices of admission were from $2 down to fifty cents, and when the house
was completely sold out the receipts were not more than $1,400. The
managers took their patrons into their confidence, Rivafinoli publishing
the fact that the receipts for the entire season--including fifteen
nights in Philadelphia, for that city's dependence on New York for
Italian opera began thus early--were but $51,780.89, which were exceeded
by the expenses $29,275.09. For the next season the house was leased by
the owners to Signor Sacchi, who had been the treasurer of Rivafinoli
and Da Ponte, and Signor Porto, one of the singers. These managers had
an experience similar to that which Maretzek declaimed against twenty
years later when troubles gathered about the new Academy of Music.
Notwithstanding that there had been a startling deficit, though the
audiences had been as large as could be accommodated, these underlings
of Rivafinoli and Da Ponte, who were at least men of experience in
operatic management, took the house, giving the stockholders the free
use of their boxes and 116 free admissions every night besides. The
second season started brilliantly, but just as financial disaster was
preparing to engulf it the performances were abruptly brought to an
end by the prima donna, Signora, or Signorina, Fanti, who took French
leave--an incident which remains unique in New York's operatic annals,
at least in its consequences, I think.

It is evident to a close student of the times that the reasons given
were not the only ones to contribute to the downfall of the enterprise.
Italian opera had found a vigorous rival in English, or rather in
opera in the vernacular, for the old ballad operas were disappearing
and German, French, and Italian opera sung in the vernacular, not by
actresses who had tolerable voices, but by trained vocalists, was taking
its place. The people of New York were not quite so sophisticated as
they are to-day, and possibly were dowered with a larger degree of
sincerity. Many of them were willing to admit the incongruity of
behavior at which Addison made merry when he predicted that the time
would come when the descendants of the English people of his day would
be curious to know "why their forefathers used to sit together like an
audience of foreigners in their own country and to hear whole plays
acted before them in a tongue which they did not understand." We know
that Addison was a poor prophet, for the people of Great Britain and
America are still sitting in the same attitude as their ancestors so far
as opera is concerned; but it is plain that arguments like his did reach
the consciences of even the stockholders of the Italian Opera House, or
at least the one of them who has taken posterity into his confidence.
The season under Sacchi and Porto had scarcely begun when Mr. Hone
wrote in his diary:


I went to the opera, where I saw the second act of "La Straniera," by
Bellini. The house is as pretty as ever, and the same faces were seen in
the boxes as formerly; but it is not a popular entertainment, and will
not be in our day, I fear. The opera did not please me. There was too
much reiteration, and I shall never discipline my taste to like common
colloquial expressions of life: "How do you do, madame?" or "Pretty
well, I thank you, sir," the better for being given with orchestral
accompaniment.


I shrewdly suspect that Mr. Hone had been reading his Spectator.
There were three years of opera in London, in Addison's day, when the
English and Italian languages were mixed in the operas as German and
Italian were in Hamburg when Handel started out on his career. "The king
or hero of the play generally spoke in Italian and his slaves answered
him in English; the lover frequently made his court and gained the heart
of his princess in a language which she did not understand." At length,
says Addison, the audience got tired of understanding half the opera,
"and to ease themselves entirely of the fatigue of thinking, so ordered
it that the whole opera was performed in an unknown tongue." Now listen
to our diarist:


The Italian language is among us very little understood, and the genius
of it certainly never entered into with spirit. To entertain an audience
without reducing it to the necessity of thinking is doubtless a
first-rate merit, and it is easier to produce music without sense than
with it; but the real charm of the opera is this--it is an exclusive and
extravagant recreation, and, above all, it is the fashion.

  Italian music's sweet because 'tis dear,
  Their vanity is tickled, not their ear;
  Their taste would lessen if the prices fell,
  And Shakespeare's wretched stuff do quite as well.

The recitative is an affront to common sense, and if there be any
spectacle more than another opposed to the genius of the English
character and unsuited to its taste it is the ballet of the opera house.
Its eternal dumbshow, with its fantastic appeals to sense and to sense
only, may be Italian perfection, but here it is in English a tame
absurdity. What but fashion could tempt reasonable creatures to sit and
applaud--what was really perpetrated--Deshayes dancing "The Death of
Nelson"?


After the season of Sacchi and Porto Italian opera went into exile for
ten years. Da Ponte pleaded for "the most splendid ornament" of the city
in vain. English opera conquered, aided, no doubt, by the fact that the
section of the city in which the Italian Opera House was situated was
fatally unfashionable, and after standing vacant for a year the house
was leased to James W. Wallack, father of John Lester Wallack, who
turned it into a home for the spoken drama. In another year it went
up in flames.



CHAPTER III

THE FIRST ITALIAN COMPANY


The beginnings of Italian opera in America are intimately associated
with two men who form an interesting link connecting the music of the
Old World with that of the New. These men were Manuel del Popolo Vicente
Garcia and Lorenzo Da Ponte. The opera performed in the Park Theater on
November 29, 1825, when the precious exotic first unfolded its petals
in the United States, was Rossini's "Il Barbiere di Siviglia." In this
opera Garcia, then in his prime, had created, as the French say, the
rôle of Almaviva in Rome a little less than ten years before. The
performance was one of the most monumental fiascos in Rossini's career,
and the story goes that Garcia, hoping to redeem it, introduced a
Spanish song to which he himself supplied a guitar accompaniment. The
fiasco of the first performance was largely, if not wholly, due to the
jealous ill will of the friends of Paisiello, who had written music for
an opera on the same story, which was much admired all over Europe, and
which in an adapted form had reached America, as had Rossini's, before
Garcia came with the original version. But Rossini's music was too
fascinating to be kept under a bushel, and in it Garcia won some of his
finest triumphs in London and Paris. In the first New York season it
was performed twenty-three times. Garcia was also a composer, and had
made his mark in this field before he became famous as a singer, having
produced at least seventeen Spanish operas, nineteen Italian, and Seven
French, most, if not all of them, before he came to America.

Exactly what it was that persuaded Garcia to embark on the career of
impresario in a new land does not appear in the story of his enterprise.
There are intimations that he had long had the New York project in mind;
also it used to be thought that Da Ponte had inspired him with the idea;
the more general story is that Dominick Lynch, a New York importer of
French wines, was at the bottom of the enterprise, but whether on his
own account or as a sort of agent for the manager of the Park Theater,
I have not been able to learn. Garcia's singing days were coming to an
end, though his popularity was not yet on the wane if there is evidence
in the circumstances that from 1823 to 1825 his salary in London had
increased from 260 pounds to 1,250 pounds. But it was as a teacher and
composer that he now commanded the greater respect. He had founded
a school of singing of which it may truthfully be said that it was
continued without loss of glory until the end of the nineteenth
century by his son Manuel, who died in 1906, a few months after he had
celebrated the hundredth anniversary of his birth. But, though we may
not know all the reasons which prevailed with him to seek fortune as a
manager after he had himself passed the half-century mark, it is easy
to fancy that the fact that he had half the artists necessary for the
undertaking in his own family had much to do with it. His daughter,
Maria Felicita, had studied singing with him from childhood and at
sixteen years of age had sung with him in Italy. His wife was an
opera singer and his son Manuel had made a beginning in the career which
he speedily abandoned in favor of that which gave him far greater fame
than the stage promised. The future Malibran was singing in the chorus
in London only a year before she disclosed her peerless talents in New
York. In June, 1825, Pasta, who was Mr. Ebers's prima donna at the
King's Theater, took ill. Garcia was a member of the company and came
forward with an offer of his daughter as substitute. The offer was
accepted, the girl effected her début as Rosina in "The Barber," and
made so complete a hit that she was engaged for the remaining six weeks
of the season at a salary of 500 pounds. This is the story as told by
Fétis, which does not differ essentially from that told by Ebers in
his account of his seven years of tenancy of the King's Theater, or
by Lord Mount-Edgecumbe in his "Musical Reminiscences," except that
these make no direct reference to Pasta's illness as the cause which
gave Maria her opportunity. Lord Mount-Edgecumbe's account says that
Ebers found it necessary, about the time of the arrival of Pasta, "to
engage a young singer, the daughter of the tenor Garcia, who had sung
here for several seasons. She was as yet a mere girl, and had never
appeared on any public stage; but from the first moment of her
appearance she showed evident talents for it, both as singer and
actress. Her extreme youth, her prettiness, her pleasing voice and
sprightly, easy action as Rosina in 'Il Barbiere di Siviglia,' in which
part she made her début, gained her general favor; but she was too
highly extolled and injudiciously put forward as a prima donna when she
was only a promising débutante, who in time, by study and practice,
would, in all probability, under the tuition of her father, a good
musician, but (to my ears at least) a most disagreeable singer, rise
to eminence in her profession."

I am not more than half persuaded that this view of the future
Malibran's talents and prospects did not tally with that of her father,
though her tremendous success in New York ought to have persuaded him
that a future of the most dazzling description lay before his daughter.
There is something of a puzzle in the fact that in the midst of her
first triumph the girl should have married M. Malibran, who was only
apparently wealthy, and was surely forty-three years her senior, and of
a nature which was bound to develop lack of sympathy and congeniality
between the pair. The popular version of the story of her marriage is
that she was forced into it by her father, and it is more than intimated
that he was induced to act as he did by the promise of 100,000 francs
made by Malibran as a compensation for the loss of his daughter's
services. Did Garcia oppose his daughter's marriage, and did she
wilfully have her own way in a matter in which she was scarcely a proper
judge? Or was the marriage repugnant to her, and was she sacrificed to
her father's selfishness? I cannot tell, but it has been hinted that
there was danger of her marrying a member of the orchestra in London
before she came to New York, and it is as like as not that the affair
Malibran was of her wishing. Who can know the ways of a maid fourscore
years after? The marriage was as unfortunate as could be. In a few
months Malibran was a bankrupt, his youthful wife's father was gone to
distant Mexico, there to make money, only to be robbed of it at Vera
Cruz on his home journey to England, and Maria Felicita, instead of
living in affluence as the wife of a wealthy New York merchant, was
supporting an unworthy husband, as well as herself, by singing in
English at the theater in the Bowery and in Grace Church on Sundays. The
legal claims bound the ill-assorted pair for ten years, but did not gall
the artist after she returned to Europe in 1827, little more than a year
later. In Paris the marriage was annulled in 1836, and the singer, now
the greatest prima donna on the stage, married Charles de Bériot, the
violinist, with whom she had been living happily for six years, and by
whom she had a son, born in February, 1833. The world's Book of Opera
must supply the other chapters which tell of the great Malibran, her
marvelous triumphs and her early death; but it is a matter of pride for
every American to reflect that this adorable artist began her career
with the admiring applause of our people.

Manuel Garcia, the son, the senior of his sister by three years,
survived her the whole span of life allotted to man by the Psalmist.
Malibran died in 1836; Garcia in 1906. He achieved nothing on the stage,
which he abandoned in 1829. Thereafter his history belongs to that of
pedagogy. Till 1848 his field of operations was Paris; afterward, till
his death, London. Jenny Lind was one of his pupils; Mme. Marchesi
another.

The story that Da Ponte had anything to do with inspiring Garcia's New
York enterprise is practically disposed of by the fact that Da Ponte,
though intimately associated with the opera in London during his sojourn
in that city, had already been a resident of New York three years when
Garcia made his début as a singer and never returned thither. Personally
Garcia was a stranger to him and he to Garcia when the latter came to
New York in the fall of 1825. This gives color of verity to a familiar
story of their meeting. As might easily be imagined, the man who had
written the librettos of "Le Nozze di Figaro," "Don Giovanni," and "Cosi
Fan Tutte" for Mozart, was not long in visiting Garcia after his arrival
here. He introduced himself as the author of "Don Giovanni," and Garcia,
clipping the old man in his arm, danced around the room like a child in
glee, singing "Fin ch'han dal vino" the while. After that the inclusion
of Mozart's masterpiece in Garcia's repertory was a matter of course,
with only this embarrassment that there was no singer in the company
capable of singing the music of Don Ottavio. This was overcome by Da
Ponte going to his pupils for money enough to pay an extra singer for
the part. Many a tenor, before and since, who has been cast for that
divinely musical milksop has looked longingly at the rôle of Don
Giovanni which Mozart gave to a barytone, and some have appropriated it.
Garcia was one of these (he had been a tenor de forza in his day),
and it fell to him to introduce the character in New York. Outside of
himself, his daughter, and the basso Angrisani, the company was a poor
affair, the orchestra not much better than that employed at the ordinary
theater then (and now, for that matter), and the chorus composed of
mechanics drilled to sing words they did not understand. It is scarcely
to be wondered at, therefore, that at one of the performances of
Mozart's opera, of which there were ten, singers and players got at
sixes and sevens in the superb finale of the first act, whereupon
Garcia, losing his temper, rushed to the footlights sword in hand,
stopped the orchestra, and commanded a new beginning.

It has already been told how that Da Ponte was active in the promotion
of the first Italian opera enterprise, that he inspired Montressor's
experiment at the Richmond Hill Theater and was the moving spirit in the
ambitious, beautiful but unhappy Italian Opera House undertaking. To do
all these things it was necessary that he should be a man of influence
among the cultured and wealthy classes of the community. As a matter of
fact he was this, and that in spite of the fact that his career had been
checkered in Europe and was not wholly free from financial scandal, at
least in New York. The fact is that the poet's artistic temperament was
paired with an insatiable commercial instinct. This instinct, at least,
may be set down as a racial inheritance. Until seven or eight years
ago nobody seems to have taken the trouble to look into the family
antecedents of him whom the world will always know as Lorenzo Da Ponte.
That was not his name originally. Of this fact something only a little
better than a suspicion had been in the minds of those who knew him and
wrote about him during his lifetime and shortly after his death. Michael
Kelly, the Irish tenor, who knew him in Vienna, speaks of him as "my
friend, the abbé," and tells of his dandyish style of dressing, his
character as a "consummate coxcomb," his strong lisp and broad Venetian
dialect; if he knew that he was a converted Jew, he never mentioned the
fact. Later writers hinted at the fact that he had been born a Jew, but
had been educated by the Bishop of Ceneda and had adopted his name.
When I investigated his American history, a matter of twenty years ago,
my statement in The Tribune newspaper that he was the son of a Hebrew
leather dealer provoked an almost intemperate denial by a German
musical historian, who quoted from his memoirs a story of his religious
observances to confound me. My statement, however, was based, not only
on an old rumor, but also on the evidence of a pamphlet published in
Lisbon in the course of what seems to have been a peculiarly acrimonious
controversy between Da Ponte and a theatrical person unnamed, but
probably one Francesco. In this pamphlet, which is not only indecorous
but indecent, he is referred to as "the celebrated Lorenzo Daponte, who
after having been Jew, Christian, priest, and poet in Italy and Germany
found himself to be a layman, husband, and ass in London." It remained
for Professor Marchesan, his successor in the chair of rhetoric in the
University of Treviso, to give the world the facts concerning his origin
and early family history. From Marchesan's book ("Della Vita e delle
Opere di Lorenzo da Ponte") published in Treviso in 1900 we learn that
the poet's father was in truth a Hebrew leather dealer, and also that
the father's name was Jeremiah Conegliano, his mother's Rachel
Pincherle, and his own Emanuele Conegliano. He was fourteen years old
when not he alone, but the whole family, embraced Christianity. They
were baptized in the cathedral of Ceneda on August 20, 1763, and the
bishop gave the lad, whose talents he seems to have observed, his own
name. The rest of his story up to his departure for America may be
outlined in the words of the sketch in Grove's "Dictionary of Music
and Musicians" (second edition, Vol. III, p. 789).

After five years of study in the seminary at Ceneda (probably with the
priesthood as an object) he went to Venice, where he indulged in amorous
escapades which compelled his departure from that city. He went to
Treviso and taught rhetoric in the university, incidentally took part in
political movements, lampooned an opponent in a sonnet, and was ordered
out of the republic. In Dresden, whither he turned his steps, he found
no occupation for his talents, and journeyed on to Vienna. There,
helped by Salieri, he received from Joseph II the appointment of poet
to the imperial theater and Latin secretary. Good fortune brought
him in contact with Mozart, who asked him to make an opera book of
Beaumarchais's "Mariage de Figaro." The great success of Mozart's opera
on this theme led to further co-operation, and it was on Da Ponte's
suggestion that "Don Giovanni" was undertaken, the promptings coming
largely from the favor enjoyed at the time by Gazzaniga's opera on the
same subject, from which Da Ponte made generous drafts--as a comparison
of the libretti will show. Having incurred the ill will of Leopold, Da
Ponte was compelled to leave Vienna on the death of Joseph II. He went
to Trieste, where Leopold was sojourning, in the hope of effecting a
reconciliation, but failed; but there he met and married an Englishwoman
who was thenceforth fated to share his checkered fortunes. He obtained a
letter recommending him to the interest of Marie Antoinette, but while
journeying toward Paris learned of the imprisonment of the Queen, and
went to London instead. A year was spent in the British metropolis in
idleness, and some time in Holland in a futile effort to establish an
Italian theater there. Again he turned his face toward London, and this
time secured employment as poet to the Italian opera and assistant to
the manager, Taylor. He took a part of Domenico Corri's shop to sell
Italian books, but soon ended in difficulties, and to escape his
creditors fled to America, arriving in New York on June 4, 1805.

Da Ponte lives in the respect and admiration of Dante scholars as the
first of American teachers and commentators on "The Divine Comedy." He
gave himself the title, and in this case adhered to the truth, which
cannot be said of all of his statements about himself. For instance, in
a letter to the public to be set forth presently, he calls himself "poet
of the Emperor Joseph II." He was in the habit of thus designating
himself and it was small wonder that his biographers almost unanimously
interpreted these words to mean that he was poet laureate, or Caesarian
poet. After the mischief, small enough, except perhaps in an ethical
sense, had been done, he tried to correct it in a foot note on one of
the pages of his "Memorie," in which he says that he was not "Poeta
Cesario," but "poet to the Imperial theaters." In his capacity as a
teacher his record seems to have been above reproach; and it was in
this capacity that he first presented himself favorably to New Yorkers.
Within two years after his arrival he gave a pamphlet to the public
entitled "Compendium of the Life of Lorenzo Da Ponte, written by
Himself, to which is added the first Literary Conversatione held at his
home in New York on the 10th day of March, 1807, consisting of several
Italian compositions in verse and prose translated into English by his
scholars." That this little brochure was designed as an advertisement
is obvious enough; it was issued on his fifty-eighth birthday and its
contents, besides the sketch of his life, which, so it began, he
had promised to give his pupils, were specimens of their literary
handicraft. In the biographical recital are echoes of the contentions in
which he had been engaged in London a few years before. Although only
two years had elapsed since his arrival in America, what may be called
the first of his commercial periods was already over. He had sent his
wife to New York ahead of him with some of the money which his English
creditors were looking for. With this he promptly embarked in business,
trafficking in tobacco, liquors, drugs, etc.--goods which promised
large profits. In three months fear of yellow fever drove him to
Elizabethtown, N. J., where he remained a year, by which time he was
ruined. He came back to New York and began to teach the Italian
language and literature, and the little "Compendium" recorded his first
successes. He taught till 1811, by which time he had laid aside $4,000,
with which he again went into business, this time as a distiller in
Sunbury, Pa. After several years of commercial life he returned again to
New York and resumed the profession which brought him into contact with
people of refinement and social standing, who seem to have remained his
friends, despite his complaints and importunities, till his death in
1838. Among those who were sincerely attached to him were Clement Clark
Moore, Hebrew lexicographer, trustee of Columbia College, and (best of
all) author of "'Twas the Night before Christmas." Through Moore he
secured the privilege of calling himself Professor of Italian Literature
at Columbia, though without salary, managed to sell the college a large
number of Italian books, and was engaged to make a catalogue of the
college library. Another friend was Henry James Anderson, who became
Professor of Mathematics and Astronomy in the college in 1825, the year
in which Garcia came to New York with his operatic enterprise. Professor
Anderson married his daughter and became the father of Edward Henry and
Elbert Ellery Anderson. Other friends were Giulian C. Verplanck, Dr.
Macneven, Maroncelli, the Italian patriot, (whose wife was one of the
members of the opera company which Da Ponte organized with Rivafinoli),
Samuel Ward, Dr. John W. Francis, the Cottenet family, and H. T.
Tuckerman, who wrote a sketch of him after his death in Putnam's
Magazine. At the time of his operatic venture, 1833-34, he lived at No.
342 Broadway, and kept a bookstore at No. 336, which may then have been
an adjoining house. The site is near the present Catherine Lane. Before
then he had lived in dozens of different houses, moving, apparently,
nearly every year. He died at No. 91 Spring Street, on August 17, 1838,
and was buried in the Roman Catholic Cemetery in Eleventh Street,
between First Avenue and Avenue A. When the centenary of the first
performance of "Don Giovanni" was celebrated in many European cities, in
1887, I conceived the idea of sending a choir of trombones to the grave
of the poet who had written the text to pay a musical tribute to his
memory, and thus made the discovery that the place of his burial was
as completely lost as the last resting place of the mortal remains of
Mozart. Weeks of research were necessary to determine the fact that it
was the old cemetery that had received his body, and that the location
of the grave was no longer to be determined by the records. It was never
marked.

Da Ponte's ambition to see Italian opera permanently established in New
York seems to have received a crushing blow with the failure of the
pretentious Italian Opera House enterprise. His dream I have referred
to; he was again to be a "poet to the opera," to write works for season
after season which his countryman Trajetta was to set to music. His
niece was to be a prima donna. He did write one libretto; it was for an
opera entitled, "L'Ape Musicale," for the musical setting of which he
despoiled Rossini. His niece, Giulia Da Ponte, did sing, but her talents
were not of the kind to win distinction. He persuaded Montressor to give
his season, and, rushing into print, as was his custom--the period of
the pamphleteer was to his liking--he discussed the failure of that
undertaking in two booklets. After the successive failures of himself
with Rivafinoli and his underlings, who attempted to succeed where he
had come to grief, he appended a letter to his old supporters (who had
plainly fallen away from him) to a pamphlet devoted to setting forth the
miseries of his existence after the great things which, in his opinion,
he had done for the people of New York. The letter has never seen the
light of day from the time when it was printed in 1835 till now; but it
deserves preservation. I found it twenty years ago in the library of the
Historical Society of New York in a bound volume of miscellaneous
pamphlets. It is as follows:


TO THOSE AMERICANS who love the fine arts I address myself. Hitherto I
have vainly spoken and written. Never was more really verified the Latin
proverb: Abyssus abyssum invocat.

Let the verses that I now present you rouse you from your lethargy; yet
should they not, I will not cease to cry aloud. I cannot now remain in
silence while my fellow countrymen are sacrificed, the citizens of two
noble cities deceived, and an enterprise for which I have so long and
ardently labored, so calculated to shed luster on the nation, and so
honorable in its commencement, ruined by those who have no means, nor
knowledge, nor experience. Answer at least these questions: Did you not
request from me an Italian company? It will be readily understood with
whom I speak. Why did you ask this of me? I was offered a handsome
premium if I would introduce a troupe of select Italian artists in
America. Did not I, and I alone procure them? Were they not excellent?
Have I been compensated for my labor, reimbursed my actual expenses,
or even honored by those most benefited by my losses and labors?

Had not I a right to expect thus much, or at least justice? And if you
thought me competent to do what I have done, why should you not be
guided by my counsels? Did I not tell you and reiterate in my writing
and verbally that Rivafinoli was not to be trusted? That he was a
daring, but imprudently daring, adventurer, whose failures in London,
and in Mecico and Carolina were the sure forerunners of his failure in
New York? And when deceived by him, whom did you take in place of him?
PORTO! SACCHI! With what means? What talents? What judgment? What
experience? What chances of a happy issue? Would you know why they
wished it? I will tell you, with Juvenal--'Greculus esuriens si in
coelum jusseris ibit.' But ignorant pretenders mostly have more
influence than modest truth. You, gentlemen of the committee, gave the
theater to them because, not having anything to lose, they could yield
to everything, even to the promising of what they knew themselves
unable to perform.

One of them it is said still has some hopes from you. Before another
disgrace occurs I beg you to look at the effects. Nemo dat quod non
habet. I brought a company from Italy by the mere force of my word. And
why was this? Because they knew me for an honorable man, who would not
promise what he could not perform, who had been eleven years the poet of
the Emperor Joseph 2d, who for another equal space of time had been the
poet to the theater in London, who had written thirty-six operas for
Salieri, for Martini, for Storace and Mozzart (sic).

That these dramas still survive, you yourself have seen and thought its
author not worthy of your esteem. For God's sake let the past become a
beacon light to save you from the perils of the future. Do not destroy
the most splendid ornament of your city. Rocco is obliged to visit
Italy. Lease to him the theater, he will have for his advisers the
talented and estimable Bagioli and myself. For me I wish for nothing,
but it pains me to see spoiled by ignorance and imposture, and vanity
that which cost me so much, or to speak more correctly, which cost me
everything, and you so much, and it will cost you more in fame as well
as in money.

What will they say, the Trollops and the Halls and Hamiltons who
nodum in scripto quoerunt with the microscope of national aversion?
Rocco and he only can redeem the fortunes of your disorganized,
betrayed, dishonored establishment by giving you a new and meritorious
company. Listen then to him and assist him--you will lose nothing by
it; I pledge you the word of an old man whose lips have never uttered
an untruth. Your servant and fellow citizen,
                                               Lorenzo Da Ponte


The theater was not leased to Rocco. It never echoed to
opera after the second season.



CHAPTER IV

HOUSES BUILT FOR OPERA


"His wit was not so sharp as his chin, and so his career was not so long
as his nose," says Richard Grant White of the impresario who, ten years
after the failure of the Italian Opera House, made the third effort to
establish Italian opera in New York of which there is a record. The man
with a sharp chin and long nose was Ferdinand Palmo. He was the owner of
a popular restaurant which went by the rather tropical name "Café des
Milles Colonnes," and was situated in Broadway, just above Duane Street.
Palmo knew how to cook and how to cater, and his restaurant made him
fairly rich. What he did not know about managing an opera house he was
made conscious of soon after the ambition to be an impresario took hold
of him. His was an individual enterprise, like Mr. Hammerstein's, with
no clogs or entangling alliances in the shape of stockholders, or
managing directors, or amusement committees. He seems to have been
strongly impressed with the idea that after the public had been total
abstainers for ten years they would love opera for its own sake, and
that it would not be necessary to give hostages to fortune in the shape
of a beautiful house, with a large portion set apart for the exclusive
use of wealth and fashion. Except in name, says Mr. White, there were no
boxes. Palmo did not even build a new theater. He found one that could
be modeled to his purposes in Stoppani's Arcade Baths, in Chambers
Street, between Broadway and Center Street. The site is now occupied
by the building of the American News Company. The acoustics of the new
opera house are said to have been good, but the inconvenience of the
location and unenviable character of the neighborhood are indicated
quite as much as Signor Palmo's enterprising and considerate nature
by his announcement that after the performances a large car would be
run uptown as far as Forty-Second Street for the accommodation of
his patrons; and also that the patrons aforesaid should have police
protection. The house seated about eight hundred persons, the seats
being hard benches, with slats across the back shoulder high. Opera
lovers given to luxury were permitted to upholster their benches. The
orchestra numbered "thirty-two professors," but their devotion to the
art which they professed was not so great as to make them willing to
starve for its sake or to refuse to resort to the methods of the more
modern workingmen's unions to compel payment for their services, as
we shall see presently. The first performance under Signor Palmo took
place on February 3, 1844, the opera being the same one with which
Mr. Hammerstein began his latest venture sixty-two years later--"I
Puritani." The prima donna soprano was Borghese, who was attractive in
appearance, though not beautiful; who dressed well, sang with passionate
intensity, and won a popularity that found vent in praise which may
have been extravagant. One critic, "balancing her beauties against her
defects," pronounced her the best operatic singer that the writer had
yet heard on this side of the Atlantic. This remark leads Mr. White
to surmise that the critic had not been five years in America, for,
says he, Signora Borghese was not worthy to tie the shoes of Malibran,
Pedrotti, Fanti, Garadori, or Mrs. Wood, the last two of whom had sung
in English opera. Her chief defect seems to have been the tremolo--that
vice toward which the American critics of to-day are more intolerant
than those of any other people, as they are toward the sister vice of
a faulty intonation. Mr. White talks sensibly on the subject in his
estimate of Borghese.


She had a fine voice, although not a great one; her vocalization,
regarded from a merely musical point of view, was of the corresponding
grade, but as stage vocalization it had great power and deserved
higher commendation. Her musical declamation was always effective and
musico-rhetorically in good taste. She had a fine person, an expressive
face, and much grace of manner. One might be content never to hear a
better prima donna if one were secured against never hearing a worse.
In her was first remarked here, among vocalists of distinction, that
trembling of the voice when it is pressed in a crescendo, which has
since become so common as greatly to mar our enjoyment of vocal music.
This great fault, unknown before the appearance of Verdi, is attributed
by some musical critics to the influence of his vociferous and strident
style. It may be so; but that which follows is not always a consequence
of that after which it comes. Certain it is, however, that from this
time forward very few of the principal singers who have been heard in
New York--only the very greatest and those whose style was formed
before Verdi domineered the Italian lyric stage--were without this
tremble. Grisi, Mario, Sontag, Jenny Lind, Alboni, and Salvi were
entirely without it; their voices came from the chest pure, free and
firm.


I can scarcely believe that the distressful vocal wabble either came in
with Verdi's music or was greatly promoted by it. In the lofty quality
of style Mme. Sembrich is the most perfect exemplar whom it is the
privilege of New Yorkers to hear to-day; and she is the best singer
we have of Verdi's music. Did anyone ever hear a tone come out of her
throat that was not pure, free, and firm? Frequently the tremolo is
an affectation like the excessive vibrato of a sentimental fiddler;
sometimes it is the product of weakness due to abuse of the vocal organ.
In all cases it is the sign of bad taste or vicious training, or both,
and is an abomination. On the opera stage to-day Italian prima donnas
are most afflicted with it. In turn Verdi, Meyerbeer, and Wagner
have been accused of having caused it, but anyone who has listened
intelligently to the opera singers of the last forty years will testify
with me that the truly great singers of their music have been as free
from the vicious habit as have been those whose artistic horizons have
been confined by the music of Bellini, Rossini, and Donizetti.

The tenor of the Palmo company was Antognini, who effected his entrance
on the American stage five weeks after the opening of the season. In the
opinion of Mr. White, he was the greatest tenor ever heard here, not
excepting Mario and Salvi, and Mr. White's opinion is so judiciously
expressed that one is fain to give it credence. Whether or not it can be
extended over the period which he has covered, which is that reaching
from the last days of the Academy of Music, when Campanini was still in
his vocal prime but had not developed the dramatic powers which he put
into play with the decay of his voice, I shall not undertake to say;
taste in tenor voices has changed within the last generation in favor
of the robust quality so magnificently exemplified in Signor Caruso. To
judge from Mr. White's description Antognini, as a singer merely, was
a Bonci of a manlier mould. His fame seems to have died with those who
heard him, and perhaps this is a good reason for reprinting what Mr.
White said about him in full:


He (Antognini) was an artist of the first class, both by natural gifts
and by culture. His voice, although not of notable compass, was an
absolute tenor of a delicious quality and great power. His vocalization
was unexceptionably pure, and his style was manly and noble. As a
dramatic singer I never heard his equal except Ronconi; as an actor,
I never saw his equal, except Ronconi, Rachel, and Salvini. He had in
perfection that power which Hamlet speaks of in his soliloquy, after
he dismisses the players, when the speech about Pyrrhus is ended:

  Is it not monstrous that this player here,
  But in a fiction, in a dream of passion
  Could force his soul so to his own conceit
  That from her working all his visage wann'd;
  Tears in his eyes, distraction in's aspect,
  A broken voice, and his whole function suiting
  With forms to his conceit!

I have seen the blood fade not only from Antognini's cheeks, but from
his very lips, as he strode slowly forward to interrupt the nuptials
in "Lucia di Lammermoor," and then flame back again as he broke into
defiance of his foes. The inflections of his voice in passages of
tenderness were ravishing, and his utterance of anger and despair was
terrible. Nor was any tenor that has been heard here, not even Mario
in his prime, his superior in that great test of fine vocalization, a
sustained cantabile passage. He was one of those blond Italians who
are found on the northern border of the peninsula. Being all this he
nevertheless soon disappeared, and was forgotten except by a few of the
most exacting and cultivated among his hearers; the reason of which was
that his voice could not be depended upon for two nights together--not,
indeed, for one alone. On Monday he would thrill the house; on Wednesday
he would go about the stage depressed, almost silent, huskily making
mouths at his fellow actors and the audience. His voice would even
desert him in the middle of an evening, thus producing an impression
that he was trifling with his audience. No judgment could have been
more unjust, for he was a conscientious artist, but the effect of this
defect, as Polonius might say, was therefore no less disastrous, and
he soon gave place to artists less admirable but more to be relied
upon.

In this season there appeared a prima donna of the French school in
the person of Laura Cinthe Montalant, known in the annals of opera
as Cinti-Damoreau, who had come to America to sing in concerts with
Artôt, the violinist. In the eyes of Fétis she was one of the greatest
singers the world had known. Damoreau was the name of her husband, an
unsuccessful French actor. When she came to America she had made her
career in Paris and London, a great triumph coming to her in the French
capital, where Rossini composed the principal female rôles in "Le Siège
de Corinth" and "Moïse," and Auber those in "Domino Noir,"
"L'Ambassadrice," and "Zanetta."

[Repertory of the first season at Palmo's Opera House: "I Puritani"
(Bellini), "Belisario" (Donizetti), "Beatrice di Tenda" (Bellini), "Il
Barbiere di Siviglia" (Rossini), "La Sonnambula" (Bellini), "L'Elisir
d'Amore" (Donizetti), "L'Italiana in Algeri" (Rossini). Repertory of
the second season, 1844-1845: "Lucia di Lammermoor" (Donizetti), "II
Pirata" (Bellini), "Chiara de Rosemberg" (Luigi Ricci), "Lucrezia
Borgia" (Donizetti), "Belisario" (Donizetti), "La Cenerentola"
(Rossini), "Semiramide" (Rossini).]


It is not surprising that ill fortune became the companion of Palmo at
the outset of his enterprise and dragged him down to the lowest depths
before the end of his second season (according to the calendar).

The first season ran its course and a second one began in November,
1844. Amidst the usual vicissitudes it continued until January 25,
1845. On this momentous date Borghese was before the footlights and
about to open her mouth in song when suddenly the orchestra ceased
playing. Not a soft complaining note from the flute, not a whimper from
the fiddles. Borghese raved and Palmo came upon the stage to learn the
cause of the direful silence. A colloquy with the musicians, if not
exactly in these words, was to this effect:

"What's the meaning of this? Is it a strike? Why?"

"No pay."

"I'll pay you to-morrow."

"To-night's the time"--the musicians packing up their instruments.

Palmo rushed to the box office to get the night's receipts. Alas! they
were already in the hands of the deputy sheriff. Another opera manager
had gone down into the vortex which had swallowed up Ebers, and Taylor,
and Delafield, and others of their tribe in London, and Montressor and
Rivafinoli in New York. Palmo, it is said, had literally to return to
his pots and kettles; after serving as cook and barkeeper in the hotels
of others the once enterprising manager of the Café of a Thousand
Columns became a dependent upon the charity of his friends. There was
another season of opera at Palmo's, among the managers of which were
Sanquirico, a buffo singer, Salvatore Patti, and an Italian named
Pogliagno. In the company were Catarina Barili and her two children,
Clotilde and Antonio. Patti was a tenor singer. He was the husband
of the prima donna, Catarina Barili, who was looked upon as a fine
representative of the old school of singing, and from the pair sprang
Carlotta and Adelina, who gave a luster to the name of Patti which the
father would never have given it by his exertions as singer and manager.
Both were born before their parents came to New York; Carlotta in
Florence, in 1840, and Adelina in Madrid, in 1843. The childhood and
youth of both were spent in New York, and here both received their
musical training. Their artistic history belongs to the world, and since
I am, with difficulty, trying just now to talk more about opera houses
and those who built them to their own ruin, than about those who sang in
them, I will not pursue it. The summer of 1847 saw Palmo's little opera
house deserted. In 1848 it became Burton's Theater, where, as Mr. White
observes, that most humorous of comedians made for himself in a few
years a handsome fortune.

Who shall deny that Signor Palmo, though his fortunes went down in
disaster, made a valuable contribution to that movement--which must
still be looked upon as in an experimental stage--which has for its aim
the permanent establishment of opera in the United States? Experimental
in its nature the movement must remain until the vernacular becomes the
language of the performances and native talent provides both works and
interpreters. The day is still far distant, but it will come. The opera
of Germany was still Italian more than a century and a half after the
invention of the art form, though in the meanwhile the country had
produced a Bach and a Handel. The Palmo venture (at the bottom of which
there seems to have been a desire to popularize or democratize a form of
entertainment which has ever been the possession of wealth and fashion)
revived the social sentiment upon which Da Ponte had built his hopes.
In the opinion of the upper classes's it was not Italian opera that
had succumbed, but only the building which housed it. This certainly
presented an aspect of incongruity. Fine talent came from England for
the English companies, whose career continued without interruption,
and the moment which saw the downfall of Palmo's enterprise saw also
the influx of a company of Italian artists under the management of Don
Francesco Marty y Torrens, of Havana, who deserves to be kept in the
minds of opera lovers which go back to the days of the Academy of
Music, if for no other reason than that he brought Signor Arditi to
New York--the hawk-billed conductor whose shining pate used to
glisten like a stage lamp from the conductor's seat in the fine old
house at Fourteenth Street and Irving Place.

And so, in order that Italian opera might not perish from the earth, but
live on, surrounded by the architectural splendor appropriate to it, one
hundred and fifty men of social prominence got together and guaranteed
to support it for five years, and Messrs. Foster, Morgan, and Colles
built the Astor Place Opera House. Instead of the eight hundred seatings
of Palmo's institution, this held 1,800. The theater had "a fine open
front and an excellent ventilation." That it was an elegant playhouse
and admirably adapted to the purpose for which it had been designed
there are many people still alive in New York to testify. Mr. White says
enthusiastically that it was "one of the most attractive theaters ever
erected." Even Max Maretzek, who began his American career there, first
as conductor, afterward as impresario, while throwing ridicule upon its
management (his own administration excepted, of course) and its artistic
forces, praises the architectural arrangement of the house. "Most
agreeably surprised was I," he writes in his "Crotchets and Quavers,"
published in 1855, "on entering this small but comfortably arranged
bonbonnière. It contained somewhere about 1,100 excellent seats in
parquet (the Parisian parterre), dress circle and first tier, with some
seven hundred in the gallery. Its principal feature was that everybody
could see, and, what is of infinitely greater consequence, could be
seen. Never, perhaps, was any theater built that afforded a better
opportunity for a display of dress. Believe me" (he is indulging in the
literary fiction of a letter to a journalistic friend in Paris), "that
were the Funambules built as ably for this grand desideratum, despite
the locality and the grade of performance at this theater, my conviction
is that it would be the principal and most fashionable one in Paris."
Maretzek is, of course, here aiming chiefly to cast discredit upon one
of the vanities and affectations of society--the love of display; but if
Mr. White is to be believed, the patrons of the Astor Place Opera House,
on its opening (which means the fashionable element of New York society)
were temperate and tasteful in the matter of dress. Speaking of the
first performance at the new house, he says: "Rarely has there been
an assembly, at any time or in any country, so elegant, with such a
generally suffused air of good breeding; and yet it could not be called
splendid in any one of its circles. At the Astor Place Opera House that
form of opera toilet for ladies which is now peculiar to New York and
a few other American cities came into vogue--a demi-toilet of marked
elegance and richness, and yet without that display either of apparel
and trimmings or of the wearer's personal charms which is implied by
full evening dress in fashionable parlance. This toilet is very pleasing
in itself, and it is happily adapted to the social conditions of a
country in which any public exhibition of superior wealth in places set
apart for common enjoyment of refined pleasure is not in good taste."
Mr. White wrote in 1881; would he have been able to be so complimentary
to the opera audiences of 1908? What relation does the present
extravagance of dress, the vulgar ostentation which Mr. White would
have us believe was foreign to the taste of New York's cultured society
in 1847, bear toward the support which opera has received since the
Metropolitan Opera House was opened? The factors which are to determine
the question seem to be marshaling themselves since Mr. Hammerstein
opened the Manhattan Opera House, but they are not yet fairly opposed
to each other. There are features in which the new opera house recalls
memories of the old Academy which met its downfall when the amalgamation
between the old Knickerbockers and the newer New Yorkers was effected;
but there are also other features which make a repetition of that
occurrence under present circumstances very improbable, and the chiefest
of these is that inculcated by the failure of the Palmo enterprise;
opera must have an elegant environment if it is to succeed. But it had
this in the Astor Place Opera House; why, then, did it live its little
span only?

The question is easily answered--the Astor Place Opera House was killed
by competition; not the competition of English opera with Italian, which
had been in existence for twenty-five years, but of Italian opera with
Italian opera. The first lessees of the new institution were Messrs.
Sanquirico and Patti, who had first tried their luck in Palmo's Opera
House. They endured a season. [At the Astor Place Opera House in its
first season Sanquirico and Patti produced Verdi's "Ernani," Bellini's
"Beatrice di Tenda," Donizetti's "Lucrezia Borgia," Mencadante's "Il
Giuramento," and Verdi's "Nabucco." Mr. Fry's season in 1848 when Mr.
Maretzek was the conductor, brought forward Donizetti's "Linda di
Chamouni," "Lucrezia Borgia," "L'Elisir d'Amore," "Roberto Devereux,"
and "Lucia di Lammermoor" and Verdi's "Ernani."] Then the first American
manager appeared on the field--I mean the first American manager whose
thoughts were directed to opera exclusively as distinguished from the
managers of theaters who took hold of opera at intervals, as they did
any other sort of entertainment which offered employment for their
houses. The manager in question was Mr. E. R. Fry, who came from the
counting house to a position of which he can have known nothing more
than what he could acquire from attendance upon opera, of which he was
fond, and association with his brother, W. H. Fry, who was a journalist
by profession (long the musical critic of The Tribune) and an amateur
composer of more than respectable attainments. Mr. Maretzek, in his
"Crotchets and Quavers"--a book generally marked by characteristic good
humor, but not free from malevolence--tries to make it appear that Mr.
Edward Fry went into operatic management for the express purpose of
performing his brother's operas; but while the animus of the statement
is enough to cause it to be looked upon with suspicion, the fact
that none of William Henry Fry's operas was performed at the Astor
Place Opera House during the incumbency of Edward Fry is a complete
refutation. "Leonora," the only grand opera by a professional critic
ever performed in New York, so far as I know, was brought forward at
the Academy of Music a good nine years later. Apropos of this admirable
and respected predecessor of mine, a good story was disclosed by Charles
A. Dana some fifteen or twenty years ago in his reminiscences of Horace
Greeley. Mr. Dana published a large number of letters sent to him at
various times while he was managing editor of The Tribune and Mr.
Greeley editor-in-chief. It was in the days just before the War of
the Rebellion. A political question of large importance had arisen
in Congress, and Mr. Greeley was so concerned in it that he went to
Washington to look after it in person and act as a special correspondent
of his own newspaper. Thence one day he sent two letters to The Tribune
on the subject, but in the issue of the day in which he expected them to
appear in The Tribune he sought in vain for his communication. Thereupon
he indited an epistle to Mr. Dana in these wingèd words:


Friend Dana: What would it cost to burn the Opera House? If the price
is reasonable have it done and send me the bill. . . . I wrote my two
letters under the presumption (there being no paper on Wednesday) that
the solid work of exposing their (Pierce and Gushing) perversion of
history had of course been done by Hildreth. I should have dwelt with it
even more gravely but for that. And now I see (the Saturday paper only
got through last night) that you crowded out what little I did say to
make room for Fry's eleven columns of arguments as to the feasibility of
sustaining the opera in N. Y. if they would only play his compositions.
I don't believe three hundred people who take the Tribune care one chew
of Tobacco for the matter.


The "eleven columns" was an amiable exaggeration quite in consonance
with the remainder of the letter; but I can testify from a consultation
of the files of the newspaper which I have served as one of Mr. Fry's
successors for more than a quarter of a century that on the date in
question The Tribune's critic did occupy three and a half columns
with a discussion of the Lagrange season just ended at the Academy
of Music and a most strenuous plea for the permanent substitution of
English for Italian opera! Also, that most of what Mr. Fry said would
sound just as apposite to-day as it did then, and be backed by just as
much reason. But a taste for the elegant exotic and reason do not seem
to go hand in hand, and managers are still strangely averse to placing
themselves for guidance into the hands of The Tribune's critics. How
different might not musical history in New York have shaped itself had
William Henry Fry, George William Curtis, John R. G. Hassard, and H. E.
K. had their way during the last sixty years! The thought is quite
overpowering.

The opposition which the Astor Place Opera House met was indeed
formidable. It came from the company organized by Don Francesco Marty y
Torrens for performances in Havana. This enterprising gentleman did not
come to New York to make money, but mischief--as Messrs. Sanquirico,
Patti, Fry, and Maretzek must have thought--and incidentally to keep
his singers employed during the hot and unhealthy season in Havana. His
aiders and abettors were James H. Hackett and William Niblo. The former,
in his day an actor, was particularly famous for his impersonation of
Falstaff. His interest in opera may have been excited more or less by
the fact that his wife had been Catherine Leesugg, an English opera
singer, who had sung the part of Rosina in an English version of
Rossini's "Barber of Seville" as early as 1819. At Niblo's history
I have already taken a glance. In the present chapter he is chiefly
interesting, according to a story which has long had currency, as
the manager who succeeded in putting an end to the Astor Place Opera
House by a trick which took the bloom of caste off that aristocratic
institution. I shall let Maretzek tell the story presently, pausing now
to interject an anecdote which fell under my notice some years ago while
I was turning over the records of the Grand Ducal Theater at Weimar.
This always comes to my mind when the downfall of the Astor Place Opera
House is mentioned, and also when, as has frequently been the case
within the last sixteen years, I met a grandson of one of the principal
actors in the incident in the streets of New York.

In April, 1817, there came to Weimar from Vienna a gifted dog, who
assisted his master in the presentation of a play of the melodramatic
order, entitled "The Dog of Aubri de Mont-Didier." The director of the
Grand Ducal Theater at the time was one Wolfgang von Goethe. To him the
dog's manager applied for the privilege of producing his edifying piece.
Goethe refused permission, and there was danger that the patrons of the
playhouse which had echoed to the first sounds of the plays of Schiller
and Goethe were to be deprived of the inestimable privilege of seeing
a dog dash out of the door of a tavern in which a murder had been
committed, pull a bell rope to alarm the village, carry a lantern into
the forest, discover the murderer just at the psychological moment,
pursue him from rock to rock, capture him at the last, and thus bring
about the triumph of justice. But the dog's manager was not thus to be
put down. He went with a petition to Fräulein Jagemann (whose portrait
in the character of Sappho my readers may still find hanging on a wall
of the library at Weimar), and solicited her intervention with the Grand
Duke, whose reign Schiller and Goethe made glorious. Fräulein Jagemann
was a prima donna and the Grand Duke's mistress. ("The companion of
my leisure moments," he called her with quite a pretty euphemism.) In
the former capacity she had given Goethe, the director, a great deal
of trouble, and in the latter her influence had caused him many an
annoyance. It was the dog that broke the camel's back of his patience.
Fräulein Jagemann saw an opportunity to get in a blow against her
artistic tyrant, and she wheedled Charles Augustus into commanding the
production of "The Dog of Aubri de Mont-Didier." The play was given
twice, on April 12 and 14, 1817, with uproarious success, of course,
and on April 17th Goethe resigned the artistic direction of the Weimar
Court Theater. As for Fräulein Jagemann, she eventually got a title
and estates as Frau von Heygendorf.

And now for the story of "The Dogs of Donetti: or, the Downfall of the
Astor Place Opera House," by Max Maretzek; it must be prefaced by the
statement that after Edward Fry had made a lamentable failure of his
opera season at which he had the services of Maretzek as conductor,
Maretzek became lessee of the house and thus remained for the years
1849 and 1850.


Bled to the last drop in my veins (I, of course, allude to my purse and
my pocket), the doors of the Astor Place Opera House were closed upon
the public. It was my determination to woo the fickle goddess Fortune
elsewhere. Possibly her blinded eyes might not recognize her old adorer,
and she might even yet bestow upon me a few of her faithless smiles.

Again, however, after my departure, was the opera house leased. But to
whom do you imagine it was now abandoned by the exemplary wisdom of its
proprietors?

To the identical William Niblo who had fostered and encouraged the
opposition--the same William Niblo who had a theater (or let me give
it his name, and call it--a garden) within the length of some three
stone-throws from their own house. It must be granted they did not
foresee that which was about to happen. But this will scarcely palliate
the folly of taking the head of a rival establishment for their tenant.

This gentleman engaged the troupe of dogs and monkeys, then in this
country, under the charge of a certain Signor Donetti.

Their dramatic performances were offered to the refined and intelligent
proprietors and patrons of this classic and exclusive place of
amusement. Naturally they protested. It was in vain. Then they sued out
an injunction against this exhibition on the ground that in Niblo's
lease of the premises only respectable performances were permitted to
be given in the opera house. On the "hearing to show cause" for this
injunction Mr. Niblo called up Donetti or some of his friends, who
testified that his aforesaid dogs and monkeys had, in their younger
days, appeared before princes and princesses and kings and queens.
Moreover, witnesses were called who declared under oath that the
previously mentioned dogs and monkeys behaved behind the scenes more
quietly and respectably than many Italian singers. This fact I feel that
I am not called on to dispute. . . . As might be supposed the injunction
was dissolved.

As a matter of course, the house lost all its prestige in the eyes of
the community. Shortly afterward its contents were sold, and the shell
of the opera was turned into a library. Its deathblow had been given it
as a place for theatrical amusement by the astute Mr. William
Niblo.


Furthermore, Mr. Maretzek would have us believe that some year or
two later, the Academy of Music having been projected meanwhile, he
met Niblo and asked him what he thought of the prospects of the new
enterprise.

"Why," answered the manager, in his nasal voice, "I suppose I shall
have again to engage Donetti's dogs and monkeys."



CHAPTER V

MARETZEK, HIS RIVALS AND SINGERS


Of the operatic managers of fifty years ago Max Maretzek was the only
one with whom I was personally acquainted, and it was not until near the
close of his career that he swam into the circle of my activities or I
into his. He died on September 17, 1897. His last years were spent in a
home on Staten Island, and the public heard nothing about him after the
memorable concert given for his benefit at the Metropolitan Opera House
on February 12, 1889, the occasion being set down as the fiftieth
anniversary of the beginning of his career as a conductor in America.
All the notable conductors then living in New York took part in the
concert--Theodore Thomas, Anton Seidl, Frank van der Stucken, Walter
Damrosch, and Adolf Neuendorff. Maretzek was seventy-six years of age
at the time of his death, and he had grown old, if not gracefully, at
least good-naturedly. He did not quarrel with his fate, but even when
he spoke of its buffetings it was in a tone of pleasant banter and with
a twinkle in his eyes. His manner of accepting what the world brought
him was illustrated at a meeting which I had with him in the season of
1883-84--the first of the Metropolitan Opera House. It was on a Saturday
afternoon that I found him standing in front of the new establishment
after the first act of the opera was over. Not having seen him in the
house, I asked him if he was attending the performance. He said he was,
but that, the house being sold out, he had no seat. Thereupon I offered
him mine, saying that it might be a pleasure to occupy it since several
of his professional acquaintances were seated in the neighborhood who
would be glad to greet him. "Annie Louise Cary is right back of me," I
said, "and Clara Louise Kellogg near by." But he did not care to accept
my offer, and I fancied I saw a rather more serious and contemplative
look come over his grizzled face. Naturally, I asked him what he thought
of the new house and the new enterprise, adding that I regretted that he
was not the manager. He began with apparent solemnity:

"Well, when I heard the house was to be built, I did think--I did think
that some of the stockholders would remember what I had done for opera.
Some of the old-timers, who used to go to the Academy of Music and Astor
Place Opera House when I was manager there, I thought, would recollect
what companies I gave them--Parodi, and Steffanone, and Marini, and
Lorini, and Bettini, and Bertucca"--(how often I had heard him chant the
list, counting off the singers on his chubby fingers!)--"and Truffi,
and Benedetti, and Salvi. I thought somebody might remember this and the
old man, and come to me and say, 'Max, you did a good deal for us once,
let us do something for you now.' I didn't expect them to come and offer
me the house, but I thought they might say this and add, 'Come, we'll
make you head usher,' or, 'You may have the bar.' But nobody came, and
I'm out of it completely."

Maretzek's managerial career continued at least until 1874; after that
he conducted operas for others and did something toward the last in the
way of teaching. It was seldom that one could get into a conversation
with him but he could grow reminiscent, and, reverting to the olden
time, begin tolling off the members of the companies which he had led
to artistic victories and who had helped plunge him into financial
defeat--"Parodi, and Steffanone, and Marini, and Bettini, and Lorini,
and Bertucca," and so on. Poor Bertucca! Few of those who in later
years saw Mme. Maretzek, portly and sedate, enter the orchestra at the
Academy of Music and Metropolitan Opera House, and tune her harp while
the audience was gathering in the gilded horseshoes above, recalled
that she had been the sprightly and bewitching Bertucca of thirty
years before.

I cannot recall that Maretzek ever grew bitter in discoursing on what
once was and what might have been. He could be satirical and cutting,
but his words were generally accompanied with a smile. His dominant mood
and something of his style of expression are illustrated in his book,
"Crotchets and Quavers, or Revelations of an Opera Manager in America,"
which he published in 1855, most obviously with the help of some
literary hack who, I imagine, got the thoughts from Maretzek, but
supplied the literary dress for them. A good many old scores are paid
off in the book, and a good many grudges fed fat; but there are not many
instances of bad humor. There is a sugar coating even to his malice.
Shortly before I left Cincinnati, the College of Music of that city,
having suffered a serious loss of prestige because of the resignation
of Theodore Thomas, made a pretentious announcement of an operatic
department, a practical school for opera, which was to be conducted by
Maretzek. I think it was in the fall of 1880. At any rate, it was on the
very eve of my departure from Cincinnati for New York. Maretzek came to
the city somewhat late in the evening, and though I called upon him at
the Burnet House as soon as I heard of his coming, he was already in
bed when my card reached him. Nevertheless, I was asked up to his room.
A tea tray still stood upon the table by the side of the bed when I
entered. He held out his hand cordially and apologized for receiving
me in bed. I told him that my newspaper, The Gazette, wanted to know,
for the information of its readers, what he purposed doing at the
college. The squabble between Mr. Thomas and the college authorities had
kept the town in a ferment for months, all of which Maretzek seemed to
know. It was no concern of his, but he could not help having artistic
sympathies or predispositions, and these were obviously on the side of
the musician Thomas, who had split with the business management of the
college because of charlatanry in its methods. There was a merry twinkle
in Maretzek's eyes as in reply to my question he answered: "I don't
know what I am going to do, or what I'm here for. They made me an offer,
and I came. I'm told that I am to run an opera school." Again he held
out his hand at parting, and his last words were:

"Don't give me away!"

Not many months had passed before he, too, had followed Theodore Thomas
back to New York, I met him in the lobby of the Academy of Music between
the acts of the opera. It was in the consulship of Mapleson. "Hello!"
I greeted him. "Back to New York so soon? What's the matter in
Cincinnati?"

The quizzical smile with which he had greeted me grew wider as he
replied sententiously:

"I'm not a hog. I know when I've got enough!"

Maretzek was a Hebrew, born in Brünn, Moravia, and educated in Vienna,
where first he studied medicine, but, according to his own story,
becoming disgusted with the sights of the dissecting room, he changed
his purposes and devoted himself to music. He wrote an opera entitled
"Hamlet" when he was twenty-two years old, and a year later, in 1844,
found himself in London, employed under Balfe at Her Majesty's Theater.
Thence he was brought to New York to conduct the opera for Mr. E. P.
Fry, as has already been mentioned, in 1848. After one season as
conductor he started in on his career as manager, which lasted
twenty-five years, the first five of which are amusingly described
in his book "Crotchets and Quavers." More than twenty years later he
attempted to continue the story in a musical journal, and gathering the
disconnected chapters together, issued them in an unattractive form
under the title "Flats and Sharps." The first book is, to some extent,
a contribution to musical history, though its strong personal equation
and its effort to be entertaining mar its value and influence. The
impression to which I have given utterance, that he was helped in its
preparations by some penny-a-liner, is based upon the difference between
its pages and the personal letters which I received from Maretzek in
his later years, especially a brief autobiographical sketch which he
prepared for me. To judge by the evidence of book and sketch, the
latter in his own handwriting and delivered in person, one was forced
to the conclusion either that he knew more about the English language
six years after his first coming to New York than he did twenty years
later or that he had hired somebody fluent but malignant of pen to put
his thoughts into shape. It had long been the fashion for theatrical
managers and opera impresarios to give the history of their
administrations to the world, and Maretzek was but following it, though
why he should have done so before he had finally and definitely retired
from the field it is not easy to see.

It was an unwise, even a dangerous, thing to do, for it involved the
necessity of criticizing the acts of professional people and music
patrons with whom a manager was more or less likely to come into contact
if he expected to continue his enterprises. The style adopted in the
book was the epistolary, the chapters being in the form of letters to
European friends: Hector Berlioz (with whom Maretzek had been brought
into connection in London), Fiorentino (an Italian, who had been musical
critic of the Corsaire, of Paris), Luigi Lablache (the famous basso),
Professor Joseph Fischof (of Vienna), Michael W. Balfe (of London,
composer of "The Bohemian Girl" and other English operas), Frederick Gye
(manager of the Royal Italian Opera, Covent Garden, London), and Carl
Eckert (conductor of the Court Opera, Vienna). A final chapter is
addressed to the public and is devoted to a recital of the troubles
through which the Academy of Music passed in the earliest stages of its
career. Eckert had been in America as conductor of the company headed by
Henrietta Sontag, and the chapter over which his name is written tells
of the career of that artist in the United States and her death in
Mexico. Incidentally, also, Maretzek pays off a score owing to Bernard
Ullmann, a manager with whom Maretzek was much in conflict and against
whom he tried to turn the public by calling the attention of Americans
to the sneers in which the delectable gentleman had indulged at their
expense while he was trying to win the good graces of the Havanese.
Nevertheless, within four years he was Ullmann's partner, for together
they opened the season of 1859 at the Academy of Music. The quarrels of
opera managers are very like those of lawyers inside the courtroom.

But when Maretzek was holding up the heinousness of Ullmann in the
chapter entitled "Los Americanos y su gusto por la Musica," Ullmann was
only an agent for Maurice Strakosch, who had entered the managerial
field. It was different with Don Francesco Marty y Torrens, the
impresario who invaded Maretzek's territory from Havana; and he remained
Maretzek's pet aversion to the end of the chapter. In his memoirs
Arditi, who came to New York as conductor of one of Marty's companies,
says that Don Francesco was among impresarios the most generous of
men, Maretzek the cleverest (though he sets down Maurice Grau as the
"cleverest of entrepreneurs"), and Colonel Mapleson the most astute.
It is not unlikely that Arditi's amiable opinion of the Cuban was
influenced not a little by the circumstance that Marty, not caring to
make money in New York, treated his artists with unusual liberality.
That, naturally, would not tend to increase the admiration of a rival
manager for him. He may have been the most generous of men in the eyes
of Arditi, but in those of Maretzek he was worse than Barbaja, the
Neapolitan manager, who owned the gambling monopoly in the kingdom
of Naples, and who, after animating his acquaintances with music and
singing, and diverting their eyes with the silk fleshings and short
muslin jupons of his dancers, fleeced them at his gambling houses and
became richer than the King of Naples himself. Maretzek intimates that
in his youth Don Francesco had been the mate of a pirate vessel which
preyed on the commerce of the Gulf of Mexico and adjacent waters; that
he betrayed his captain to death, and was rewarded with a monopoly of
the fish trade in Cuba; that he became possessed mysteriously of enough
money to fit out a feet of fishing boats to supply the market which he
controlled; that from that source alone his annual income rose to about
$160,000; that then he embarked in the slave trade, bringing negroes
from Africa and Indians from Yucatan, which he bribed the Spanish
officials to permit him to land; was knighted by the Spanish Crown out
of gratitude for pecuniary help extended in a crisis; and built an opera
house in Havana in order to acquire a social position among the proud
people who, despite his badge of nobility, refused to "swallow the fish
and digest the negro," as Maretzek puts it. This was the manager who, in
the summer of 1850, brought to New York what Maretzek characterizes as
"the greatest troupe which had been ever heard in America," and which,
"in point of the integral talent, number, and excellence of the artists
composing it," had "seldom been excelled in any part of the Old World."

"This party consisted of three prime donne. These were the Signore
Steffanone, Bosio, and Tedesco. Its only contralto was the Signora
Vietti. There were three tenors--Salvi, Bettini, and Lorini. Badiali and
Corradi Setti were the two barytones, while the two bassi were Marini
and Coletti. At the head of this extraordinary company was the great
contrabassist Bottesini, assisted by Arditi. It would be useless, my old
friend, to attempt to indicate to you the excellence of this company.
You have long since known their names, or been aware of their standing
as artists in the world of music. The greater portion of them enjoy a
wide and well-deserved European reputation, and their reunion anywhere
would form an almost incomparable operatic troupe."

Some of these names are those of singers whom, in his later days, I have
said Maretzek was in the habit of chanting while telling them off on his
fingers. His was not the credit of having brought them to the country,
but he did, a year after they had made their first appearance in the
Havana company, succeed in enticing them away from their generous
manager and enlisting them under his banner at the Astor Place Opera
House. All but Tedesco.

Of these singers Maretzek has more or less to say in his book, but
the point of view is that of the manager perpetually harassed by the
jealousies, importunities, and recalcitrancy of his singers. Steffanone
was a conscientious artist, but had an infirmity of body and mind which
was exceedingly troublesome to her manager; Bosio was talented and
industrious, but had a husband whose devotion to her interests was an
affliction to her manager; Tedesco was husbandless, but had a father who
was so concerned about her honorarium that he came to the opera house on
payday with a small pair of scales in his pocket, with which he verified
every coin that came out of the exchequer of the unfortunate manager,
"subjecting each separate piece of gold to a peculiarly Jewish
examination touching their Christian perfection;" Salvi was a mountain
of conceit, who believed himself to be the Louis Quatorze of the lyric
drama, and compelled his manager to imagine him exclaiming "L'opéra
c'est moi!" Toward his manager Salvi was a despot, who rewarded favors
bestowed upon himself by compelling the manager to engage persons who
had served the tenor. Maretzek cites a ukase touching a singer named
Sidonia:


Caro Max: Fa di tutto per iscriturare la Sidonia, altrimenti io non
canto ne "Don Giovanni," ne "Norma," ne altri.

A 250 $ il mese, e che la scrittura porti 350 $. Amen, cosi sia.
Il tuo,       Salvi.

19. 4. 53.

(In English: "Dear Max: Do everything to engage the Sidonia, otherwise
I shall not sing in 'Don Giovanni,' 'Norma' or other operas. At $250 per
month, but let the writing bear $350. Amen, and so be it.")


"At $250 per month, but let the scrittura bear $350." I wonder how many
of my readers think of this cheap device of singers and managers when
they read about the honoraria received by opera singers to-day!

Bettini drank to excess and spent whole nights in the gambling room,
rendering him unfit for duty ever and anon; Badiali was singularly
conscientious as an artist, and became a favorite with the public, but
not with his colleagues, because of his extraordinary meanness and
avarice and a jealous disposition; Marini was the greatest living
Italian basso, save Lablache, but his voice was occasionally unreliable,
and he frequently ill-humored, capricious, splenetic, and peevish.

In private life Angiolina Bosio was Mme. Panayotis di Xindavelonis, the
wife of a Greek gentleman, whom she had married in 1851. She was in her
prime when she came to New York, though she had not reached the meridian
of her reputation. Her features were irregular, and she was not comely.
Richard Grant White claims credit for having given her the punning
sobriquet "Beaux Yeux," by which she was widely known on account of her
luminous and expressive eyes. "Her voice," says White:


was a pure, silvery soprano, remarkable alike for its penetrating
quality and for its charm so fine and delicate that it seemed almost
intellectual. But she was not a remarkably dramatic singer, even in
light comedy parts, which best suited her; and her style was not at all
declamatory. She _sang_; and in her vocalization she showed the results
of intelligent study in the old Italian school. Her phrasing was
incomparably fine, and the delicacy of her articulation has been
surpassed by no modern prima donna, not even by Alboni. Thus much of
her as a vocal artist; but her charm was greatly personal. Although
her acting was always appropriate and in good taste, and at times--as,
for example, in the saucy widow of "Don Pasquale"--very captivating,
she never seemed to throw herself wholly into her part. She was always
Angiolina Bosio, and appeared on the stage like a lady performing
admirably in private theatricals. Her bearing was a delight to her
audience, and seemed to be a performance, whereas it was only herself.
She sang the music of all the great operatic composers to the admiration
of the public and the critics of the most exacting disposition; but she
was greatest in Rossini's operas, and in Bellini's and Donizetti's. Yet
her exquisitely charming and finished performance of Zerlina should not
be passed over unmentioned.


Tedesco, who came to New York with the first Havana company in April,
1847, presented herself to the always susceptible mind of Mr. White as a
great, handsome, ox-eyed creature, the picture of lazy loveliness until
she was excited by music; then she poured out floods, or rather gusts,
of rich, clear sound. "She was not a great artist, but her voice was
so copious and so musical that she could not be heard without pleasure,
although it was not of the highest kind." Bettini left nothing here that
remained in the memory of New Yorkers except the half of a name which he
gave to his wife, the contralto Trebelli-Bettini, who was a member of
Mr. Abbey's company on the opening of the Metropolitan Opera House in
1883. Salvi came over with the Havana company in the spring of 1848, and
was one of the fish which Maretzek took from Marty's weirs. If we are
to believe the testimony of contemporaneous critics he was the greatest
tenor of his time, with the exception of Mario. That was the opinion of
White, who wrote of him as follows in The Century Magazine for May,
1882:


Although Salvi was past his youth when he first sang in New York, his
voice was yet in perfect preservation. It lacked nothing that is to be
expected in a tenor voice of the first class; and it had that mingling
of manliness and tenderness, of human sympathy and seraphic loftiness
which, for lack of any other or better word, we call divine. As a
vocalist he was not in the first rank, but he stood foremost in the
second. His presence was manly and dignified, and he was a good actor.
But it was as a vocalist, pure and simple, that he captivated and moved
his audiences. He was heard in America at brief intervals during a few
years, and his influence upon the taste of the general music-loving
public was very considerable and wholly good. Singing at Niblo's or
Castle Garden and other like places at which the price of admission was
never more than $1, and was generally 50 cents, he gave to multitudes
who would otherwise have had no such opportunity that education in art
which is to be had only from the performances of a great artist. In
purity of style he was unexceptionable. He lacked only a little higher
finish, a little more brilliancy of voice and impressiveness of manner
to take a position among tenors of the very first rank. Of these,
however, there are never two in the world at the same time, scarcely two
in the same generation; and so Salvi prepared the public for the coming
Mario. His forte was the cantabile and his finest effects were those in
mezza voce, expressive of intense suppressed feeling. More than once
when he sang "Spirto gentil," as he rose to the crescendo of the second
phrase, and then let his cry pass suddenly away in a dying fall, I have
heard a whole house draw suspended breath, as if in pain, so nearly
alike in their outward manifestation and fine, keen pleasure.


Such were some of the singers whose names are associated in the musical
annals of New York with that of Max Maretzek.



CHAPTER VI

THE NEW YORK ACADEMY OF MUSIC


Fifty-one years ago the center of operatic activity had shifted to the
Academy of Music, at Fourteenth Street and Irving Place, and there it
remained until the Metropolitan Opera House was built. From the opening
of the Academy in 1854 to the opening of the Metropolitan in 1883 the
former had no rival as an establishment, though the rivalry between
managers and singers was the liveliest that New York has ever seen
during the first decade of the time. For twenty years Burton's Theater
revived its early traditions, and housed an opera troupe at intervals,
and Niblo's Theater and Castle Garden were open to every manager who
wished to experiment with the costly enterprise. English companies
came and went, and a new competitive element, which soon became more
dangerous than that which several times crushed the Italian exotic,
entered in the shape of German opera, which, though it first sought a
modest home in the lesser theaters of the Bowery and lower Broadway,
soon achieved recognition at the fashionable Academy. The eagerness of
the rivalry in the Italian field alone is indicated by the fact that the
Academy had five different managers in the first three seasons of its
history, and that thereafter, until the coming of James H. Mapleson in
1878, it was almost a rule that there should be a change of management
every season. Maretzek was alternately manager and competitor over
and over again, and the bitterest rivals of one season would be found
associated with each other the next. Already in the first season the
stockholders had to step in and assume some of the risks of management
to save the enterprise from shipwreck, and, despite the attractiveness
of the house, the excellence of the performances, the presence of such
phenomenal artists as Mme. Grisi and Signor Mario, and generous public
patronage, the first season cost the different managers between $50,000
and $60,000--three times as much as Maretzek had lost in the previous
six years, if that gentleman's word is to be taken. The figures look
modest now, but twenty years later their duplication at the Metropolitan
Opera House sufficed to effect a revolution in methods, and eventually
tastes, which had a profound influence upon musical life in New York.

The Academy of Music had its birth in the expiring throes of the Astor
Place Opera House. The spirit of which it was the material expression
seems to have been admirable. To this the name of the establishment
bears witness. It was not alone the official title of the French
institution, popularly spoken of as the Grand Opéra, which was in the
minds of the promoters of the New York enterprise--the new opera house
was to be a veritable academy of music, an educational institution.
Not only was fashionable society to have a place in which to display
and disport itself, but popular taste and popular knowledge were to
be cultivated. To this end the auditorium was to be three times as
commodious as that of the Astor Place Opera House, and the low prices
which had been prevalent only at Niblo's, Burton's, and Castle Garden
were to be the rule at the new establishment. In the charter granted
by the State, dated April 10, 1852, the purposes of the Academy were
set down as the cultivation of taste by entertainments accessible at
moderate charges, by furnishing facilities for instruction and by
rewards. These purposes were overlooked at the beginning, but before the
first season had come to its end Ole Bull, for a few weeks a manager,
proclaimed his intention to pursue them by promising to open a
conservatory in the fall of 1855, and at once (January, 1855) offering
a prize of $1,000 for the "best original grand opera by an American
composer, and upon a strictly American subject." The competition ended
with Ole Bull's announcement, for his active season endured only two
weeks.

It is doubtful if the competition would have produced anything more
than a curiosity had it been carried to a conclusion. On the spur of
the moment I can think of only two American musicians whose capacity
was adequate to such a task--Mr. W. H. Fry, who was then musical critic
and an editorial writer for The Tribune, and Mr. George F. Bristow,
both of whom had composed operas found worthy of performance. Mr. Fry's
"Leonora" was performed at the Academy on March 29, 1858, with Mme.
Lagrange in the principal rôle, but the score was already a dozen years
old, and it is not likely that the composer's state of health would
have permitted him to undertake the writing of a new opera even if
he had been so disposed. Mr. Bristow's "Rip Van Winkle," which had a
production in New York in the year of Ole Bull's announcement, may, for
all that I know to the contrary, have been written for the prize. The
scheme of uniting a training school for singers with an opera house was
not heard of again, so far as I can recall, until Mr. Conried became
director of the Metropolitan Opera House. It has much to commend it, and
might be made a power for artistic good with an operatic establishment
on a really public-spirited, artistic, and unselfish basis; as it is,
its influence is apt to be pernicious morally, as well as artistically.
How seriously Mr. Fry took the proposed educational feature of the
institution is indicated by an article on the new opera house, which he
published in The Tribune, in the course of which he said:


The expense of maintaining an opera house so nurtured at home will be
at most not more than one-fourth what it would be if the artists were
brought from Europe. American vocalists would be content with some few
thousand dollars a year, and, if they were sought for and educated,
boarded and lodged gratuitously the meanwhile, their services could be
procured for several years in payment of the expenses of apprenticeship.
In that way alone can the exorbitant demands of foreign artists be
diminished; and the folly and extravagance of paying them from one to
ten thousand dollars a night, as has been done in this city, will be
forever avoided. In connection with this it may be mentioned that there
are some Americans now studying for the operatic stage in Italy, and
one lady of Boston has appeared in Naples with success. It may yet come
to pass that art, in all its ramifications, may be as much esteemed as
politics, commerce or the military profession. The dignity of American
artists lies in their hands.


Mr. Fry's hopes, so far as the Academy of Music is concerned, were
never realized, and after half a century his words are echoing wherever
writers indulge in discussion of ways and means for promoting American
music. Yet, without schools connected with opera houses American singers
have made their mark, not only at home, but in the lyric theaters of
Italy, France, Germany, and England. Names like Clara Louise Kellogg,
Annie Louise Cary, Minnie Hauk, Alwina Valleria, Emma Nevada, Lillian
Nordica, Adelaide Phillips, Emma Albani, and Josephine Yorke are
connected more or less intimately with the history of the Academy of
Music, but they do not exhaust the list. To them must be added those
of Charles Adams, Suzanne Adams, David Bispham, Robert Blass, William
Candidus, Emma Eames, Signor Foli, Geraldine Farrar, Julia Gaylord,
Helen Hastreiter, Eliza Hensler (the daughter of a Boston tailor who
became the morganatic wife of Dom Fernando of Portugal), Louise Homer,
Emma Juch, Pauline l'Allemande, Marie Litta, Isabella McCullough,
Frederick C. Packard, Jules Perkins, Signor Perugini, Mathilde Phillips,
Susan Strong, Minnie Tracey, Jennie Van Zandt, Emma Abbott, Bessie
Abott, Julia Wheatley, Virginia Whiting (Signora Lorini), Edyth Walker,
Marion Weed, Zélie de Lussan, Clarence Whitehill, Allen Hinckley, Joseph
F. Sheehan, and half a dozen or more singers now attracting attention in
London and Germany.

Max Maretzek was the first lessee of the Academy of Music, but the
company that opened it on October 2, 1854, was that engaged by J. H.
Hackett to support Grisi and Mario, which had appeared at Castle Garden
two months before. Maretzek sublet to Hackett, who thought that the
brilliancy of his stars, and the new house, justified him in advancing
the price of seats to $2. He had a rude awakening, for the audience on
the first night was neither large nor brilliant. It numbered not more
than 1,500, and on the second night the prices came down to the popular
scale, with $1.50 as the standard. By the middle of December, though
the stockholders had been obliged to come to the rescue of Hackett,
the collapse of the opening enterprise was announced, and Hackett took
Grisi and Mario to Boston for a brief season, and then came back for
three or four performances at the Metropolitan Theater.

The last performance took place on February 20, 1855. Though many
excellent singers had been heard in New York between the coming of
Malibran and that of Grisi and Mario, the three months of their sojourn
in America have ever since remained memorable. For a generation
afterward all tenors were measured by Mario's standard. Grisi created
a less enduring impression, because the audiences that heard her were
within the space of a few years permitted also to hear such singers as
Jenny Lind, Henrietta Sontag, and Marietta Alboni, three names that are
still resplendent in operatic annals. There does not seem to be any
reason for questioning the belief that Mario was the greatest tenor
singer that ever gladdened the ears of American music lovers. Richard
Grant White, who was then writing the musical reviews for The Courier
and Enquirer newspaper, had chosen Benedetti as his ideal of a dramatic
singer, and he found Mario lacking in passion, while confessing that
he had the sweetest tenor voice in all the world. He retired from the
stage in 1867, but came to America in 1872, under Strakosch, and sang
in concert with Carlotta Patti, Annie Louise Gary, Teresa Carreño, and
Sauret. He had always been a somewhat unreliable singer, frequently
disappointing his audiences by not singing at all, or singing listlessly
until he reached the air in which he could produce a sensational effect,
and when he returned to America he had only a superb presence and
bearing, and a magnificent reputation with which to arouse interest. He
was sixty-two years old, and had accepted an engagement for the reason
that frequently brings worn-out artists to the scenes of their earlier
triumphs; he needed money. Eight years later his financial condition so
distressed his old friends and admirers in London that they got up a
benefit concert for him. He was living in Rome when he died in 1883.

Such satisfaction as can come to one from seeing a renowned artist was
mine in 1872; but I can scarcely say that I _heard_ Mario. With Annie
Louise Gary he sang first in a graceful little duet, "Per valli, per
boschi," by Blangini ("Dear old Mario had to warm up in a duet before
he would trust himself in solo," said the admired contralto, many years
afterward), and later attempted Beethoven's "Adelaide." Romances were
Mario's specialty, and Beethoven's divine song ought to have been an
ideal selection for him, but it was quite beyond his powers and I do not
now know whether to be glad or sorry that I heard him attempt it. It
is always unfortunate when great singers who have gone into decay are
tempted again to sing. To the generation who knew them in their prime
they bring a double measure of disappointment--grief for the passing
away of the art which once gave pleasure, and regret that the younger
generation should carry down to posterity a false impression of the
singer's voice and style. Who shall measure the heartburnings left by
Madame Patti's last visit to America when she sold herself to a trumpery
balladist, and, affecting the appearance and manner which had been hers
a quarter of a century before, tried to make a new generation believe
that it was listening to the vocalist whom veterans maintained was the
last one entitled to be called "la Diva." How much lovelier and more
fragrant the memory of Annie Louise Cary, whose American career began
during the Strakosch régime at the Academy of Music, and ended with her
marriage to Charles Mon son Raymond, when she was still in the very
plenitude of her powers. Many a time within the first few years after
her retirement have I seen her surrounded by young women and old, as she
was leaving the Academy of Music or the Metropolitan Opera House, and
heard their pleading voices: "Oh, Miss Cary! aren't you ever going to
sing for us again?" and "Please, Miss Cary, won't you let me kiss you?"

Ole Bull's management of the Academy of Music was but a fleeting
incident, memorable only for the protestations with which it was begun
and for its brevity. For the famous Norwegian violinist it was a
Utopian dream with a speedy and rude awakening. After he had retired
the Lagrange troupe came from downtown and completed the season with
the help of the stockholders, and Maretzek, the erstwhile impresario
and lessee, became the conductor. For four years, 1855, 1856, 1857,
and 1858, the Academy saw Maretzek, Strakosch, and Ullmann alternately
installed as impresarios, and then for a year there was no opera at the
house, the three men at the head of as many different companies seeking
their fortunes outside of the metropolis. With Ullmann Thalberg was
associated for a space, the great pianist having come to America to
make money under the management of Ullmann, and probably having been
persuaded to risk some of his gains by his manager. It was but a brief
interlude, however. Ullmann, whose activities in America extended over
a quarter of century, lived to manage some of the artists who are
still before the public. The beginning of his career, like that of
Maretzek, fell in the period when Barnumism was at its zenith, and
Ullmann was utterly unconscionable in the methods to which he resorted
for the purpose of exploiting his artists. It was under his operatic
consulship that the winsome Piccolomini came to New York--an artist of
insignificant caliber, lovely to look upon and fascinating as an actress
in soubrette parts. "A Columbine," said Chorley about her when she
effected her début in London, "born to 'make eyes' over an apron with
pockets, to trick the Pantaloon of the piece, to outrun the Harlequin,
and to enjoy her own saucy confidence on the occasion of her success--with
those before the footlights and the orchestra." But this was not
all. "Never did any young lady, whose private claims to modest respect
were so great as hers are known to be," said the same critic, "with such
self-denial fling off their protection in her resolution to lay hold of
the public at all risks. Her performances at times approached offense
against maidenly reticence and delicacy. When she played Zerlina,
in 'Don Giovanni,' such virtue as there was between the two seemed
absolutely on the side of the libertine hero--so much invitation was
thrown into the peasant girl's rusticity." Here was a capital subject
for the methods dear to the heart of Ullmann. In London the Piccolomini
had been proclaimed to be of a noble Roman family, the niece of a
cardinal, who had quarreled with her relations because of her theatrical
propensities. There may have been some truth in the statements, but
Ullmann adorned her history still more, and proclaimed from every New
York housetop that the lady was a lineal descendant of Charlemagne, and
the great-grand-daughter of Schiller's tragic hero Max Piccolomini.

It was under the co-consulship of Maretzek and Ullmann that Adelina
Patti made her operatic début at the Academy of Music. The date was
November 24, 1859, the opera "Lucia di Lammermoor." Twenty-five years
later Patti was again the prima donna of the Academy, though Mapleson
was now the manager. It was the second year of the rivalry between the
Academy and the Metropolitan Opera House, and Colonel Mapleson conceived
the idea of profiting by the anniversary. At first it was planned that
"Lucia" should be given, with Brignoli as Edgardo, the part he had sung
in the opera at Patti's début, but two months before the time the tenor
died. Instead, "Martha" was performed, in a manner wholly commonplace
in all respects except as to the titular rôle, in which Mme. Patti
appeared, as a matter of course. There was only a little perfunctory
applause, but Colonel Mapleson had resolved that the scene should be
enacted, of which we have often read, in which the devotees of the prima
donna unhitch the horses from her carriage, and themselves drag it, with
wild rejoicings, through the streets. To make sure of such a spontaneous
ovation in staid New York was a question which Mapleson solved by
hiring fifty or more Italians (choristers, probably) from the familiar
haunts in Third Avenue, and providing them with torches, to follow the
carriage, which was prosaically dragged along to its destination at the
Windsor Hotel. As a demonstration it was the most pitiful affair that I
have ever witnessed. In fact, it seemed to me such a humiliation of the
great artist that on the next opera night I suggested to my colleague
of The Times newspaper that something adequate and appropriate to so
interesting an anniversary be arranged. He agreed and within a fortnight
or so a banquet was given in Mme. Patti's honor at the Hotel Brunswick,
under the auspices of a committee consisting of a number of well-known
gentlemen, including Judge Daly, William Steinway, and Nahum Stetson.
The committee of arrangements, having visited Mme. Patti and gained her
consent, went to work right merrily, but before the invitations were
issued an obstacle was met which threatened shipwreck to the amiable
enterprise; the wives of several gentlemen who had been invited
privately refused pointblank to break bread with the prima donna on
account of the scandal caused by her separation from the Marquis de Caux
and marriage to Nicolini, the tenor. Somewhat perplexed, the two critics
visited her a second time, and put the matter to her as delicately as
possible. Would she, under the circumstances, be the guest of a number
of gentlemen, representative of the legal, artistic, and literary
professions? Again she accepted, and without a moment's hesitation. So,
instead of the gathering that had been planned, there was a stag party
of about seventy gentlemen in the ballroom of the Brunswick, handsomely
decorated and discreetly lighted with wax candles.

The preliminary reception was held in one of the rooms adjoining the
banquet hall, and there a scene was enacted which brought into relief
a trait of character which was extremely useful to the Colonel in the
difficult task of managing his wilful and capricious prima donna. Mme.
Patti received her hosts seated upon a divan. She looked radiant, and
was wholly at ease after having taken a peep into the hall to see that
the light would not be prejudicial to her complexion. One after another
of the seventy gentlemen advanced to her, took the hand which she
extended with a gracious smile, muttered the pretty compliment which he
had rehearsed, and fell back to make room for the next comer. The room
was pretty nearly full, when the Colonel appeared in the glory of that
flawless, speckless dress suit, with the inevitable rose in the lapel
of his coat. Not a glance did he give to right or left, but with the
grace of a practised courtier, he sailed across the room, sank on his
knees before the diva, and raised her hand to his lips. Such a smile as
rewarded him! A score of breasts bulged out with envy and a score of
brains framed the thought: "Confound it! Why didn't I think of doing
that?"

The dinner passed off without a hitch, Mme. Patti managing by a hundred
pretty coquetries to convince nearly every one of her three-score and
ten hosts that he had received at least one smile that was more gracious
than that bestowed upon his fellows. Speeches were made by Judge Daly,
William Steinway, Dr. Leopold Damrosch, William Winter and others, but,
as Colonel Mapleson had carried off the palm by his courtliness at the
reception, Max Maretzek made himself the most envied of men at the
dinner. Quite informally he was asked to say something after the set
programme had been disposed of. Where the other speakers had brought
forward their elegantly turned oratorical tributes the grizzled old
manager told stories about the child life and early career of the guest.
Amongst other things he illustrated how early the divine Adelina had
fallen into the ways of a prima donna by refusing to sing at a concert
in Tripler Hall unless he, who was managing the concert, would first
go out and buy her a pound of candy. He agreed to get the sweetmeats
provided she would give him a kiss in return. In possession of her box
she kept both of the provisions of her contract. When the toastmaster
declared the meeting adjourned Patti bore straight down on her old
manager and said:

"Max, if I gave you a kiss for a box of candy then, I'll give you one
for nothing now!"

And she did.



CHAPTER VII

MAPLESON AND OTHER IMPRESARIOS


Memories are crowding upon me, and I find there is much still to be said
about the Academy of Music, and the operatic folk whom it housed between
1854 and 1886. Just now the incidents which have been narrated about
the banquet given in honor of the twenty-fifth anniversary of Adelina
Patti's début recall other characteristic anecdotes of Colonel Mapleson,
who managed the Academy of Music from 1878 to the end of the disastrous
season of 1885-'86. When Mapleson and Abbey were drawing up their forces
for the battle royal between the Academy of Music and the Metropolitan
Opera House in 1883, one of the New York newspapers reported Mme. Patti
as saying: "Colonel Mapleson comes here when he wants me to sing, and
he calls me 'My dear child,' and he goes down on both knees and kisses
my hands, and he has, you know, quite a supplicating face, and it is not
easy to be firm with a man of such suavity of manners." I have often
thought of this in connection with the outcome of the disastrous rivalry
between the two houses and their managers. When Colonel Mapleson let
himself down so gracefully upon his knee and pressed the prima donna's
hand to his lips, the act was not all unselfish adoration. It used to
be said that there was no manager alive who had succeeded in becoming
debtor to Adelina Patti. It was golden grain alone that persuaded this
bird to sing. The story is old of how her personal agent once hovered
between her dressing room and the manager's office, carrying the message
one way: "Madame Patti will not put on her slippers until she is paid,"
returning the other way with a thousand dollars; coming again to the
manager with: "Madame has one slipper on, but will not put on the other
till she has her fee"--and so on. Doubtless apocryphal and yet only a
bit fanciful and exaggerated. Yet it was known in the inner operatic
circles in 1885 that Colonel Mapleson had succeeded in getting himself
pretty deeply into her debt. How he did it the anecdotes of the
reception and Mme. Patti's interview serve to indicate. In sooth, the
persuasive powers of the doughty colonel were distinctly remarkable, and
it was not only the prima donna who lived in an atmosphere of adulation
who fell a victim to them. I have a story to illustrate which came to
me straight from the lips of the confiding creditor. He was a theatrical
costumer, moreover, and one of the tribe of whom it is said that only to
a Connecticut Yankee will they lower the flag in a horse trade.

My friend was a theatrical costumer with a shop conveniently situated
in Union Square. When the clouds began to lower upon the Academy around
the corner he became curious to know whether or not he was likely to
get a balance of some $1,500 owing him for costumes furnished to the
establishment. He sent his bill many times, and, being on amicable terms
with Colonel Mapleson, called on him at intervals to talk over the
situation. When he left the impresario's office he always carried away
profuse promises of speedy payment, but nothing more. Finally, he put
the bill into the hands of his lawyer, who at once took steps to attach
the property of the foreign debtor, and, to bring about pressure in a
manner that seemed likely to be effective, he instructed the deputy
sheriff, who was to serve the legal papers, to present himself at the
office of Colonel Mapleson an hour or so before the beginning of the
opera. The arrangements perfected, he informed his client of what had
been done. But there remained a kindly spot in the costumer's soul, and
of his own volition he called on the manager in the afternoon of the day
set apart for the coup in order to give him one more opportunity to save
himself from the impending catastrophe.

"I found the Colonel in his office," said he, in relating the incident,
"cutting the corners off of tickets and sending them out to fill his
house for the next performance. While he clipped he talked away at me
in his cheerfullest and blandest style, told me how sorry he was that he
could not pay me out of hand, and deplored the action which I had taken,
but with such absence of all resentment that I began to feel ashamed of
myself for having threatened to shut him up. After half an hour I agreed
to send a messenger post-haste to my lawyer and call off the sheriff.
This done he borrowed $75 cash from me, and I went away happy. I tell
you I know lots of managers, but there's only one Colonel Mapleson in
this world."

Whether or not my friend ever collected his bill I do not know; but this
I do know, that when the colonel ended the campaign of 1884-'85 Mme.
Patti's name was on his list of creditors for a considerable sum--$5,000
or $6,000, I believe. The next time I met him he was sauntering about in
what passes for a foyer in Covent Garden Theater, London. The rose in
his buttonhole was not more radiant than he.

"What are you up to now, Colonel?" I asked him.

"In what respect?"

"In a business way, of course."

"Well," with a twinkling smile, "just now I am persuading Adelina to
sing at my benefit."

"Will she do it?"

"I think she will" And she did.

Mapleson was one of the last of the race of managers who had practical
training in the art in which he dealt commercially. He was a graduate
of the Royal Academy of Music in the violin class, and had played in
the orchestra at the opera. He had also studied singing, and in his
youth tried his luck as an operatic tenor. In this he was like Maurice
Strakosch, who played the pianoforte prodigiously as a child, studied
singing three years with no less an artist than the great Pasta, and
after singing for a space at Agram turned his attention again to the
pianoforte. He came to New York in 1848, and his first engagement was
with Maretzek, at the Astor Place Opera House. Afterward he was a member
of a traveling concert company, in which he was associated with Amalia
Patti, whom he married, and it was thus that he became the teacher,
and, eventually, the manager of his sister-in-law, Adelina Patti. When
Ronconi first appeared in America at Burton's Theater (which had
been Palmo's Opera House), in the spring of 1858, Strakosch was the
conductor. The last of the old opera managers whom I recall at this
moment who were practical musicians as well, was Dr. Leopold Damrosch,
who directed the destinies of the Metropolitan Opera House after one
year of warfare with the Academy of Music had put Henry E. Abbey hors
du combat for a while. Abbey came out of the ranks of theatrical
managers, like Heinrich Conried, his only practical experience in music
being as a cornet player in a brass band in Akron, Ohio, whence he came.

Strakosch's associates, however, were not musical practitioners. Ullmann
may have had some knowledge of music, but he was all showman. Thalberg,
the pianist, was Ullmann's partner when Strakosch and Ullmann joined
their forces in January, 1857, to manage the Academy of Music, but the
new coalition was the sign of Thalberg's withdrawal from the managerial
field.

Like Maretzek, in his Cincinnati experience, the virtuoso knew when he
had enough. Strakosch's later associates were his brothers, Ferdinand
and Max. The former was the European agent for the firm, and the latter
what might be termed the acting house man in the United States,
especially during the later years of the Strakosch régime.

In Europe Maurice Strakosch was also associated with Pollini, who
afterward became a large factor in the field of German opera, as manager
of the opera in Hamburg. Pollini had been Strakosch's office boy. His
real name was Pohl, and he hailed from Cologne; but he, too, was a
musician. Strakosch died in Paris in October, 1887. One night in July,
1886, I met him in the theater at Altona, whither I had gone to hear a
performance of "Der Trompeter von Säkkingen," then the rage throughout
Germany. He asked me to drive back to his hotel in Hamburg with him, for
his physician had told him that day that he might drink a glass of beer,
the first in six months, and he wanted a friend to share the pleasure
with him. I brought him the latest news from the opera houses of New
York, and, also, the intelligence that Pollini had just engaged Mme.
Sembrich for a season at some 5,000 francs a night.

"We quit partnership," said he, "back in the 70's because Pollini
thought that money was no longer to be made in Italian opera, and wanted
to take up German opera exclusively. I didn't agree with him, and went
on with Nilsson and the rest. He got rich and I got poor, and now he's
going back into the Italian field. He'll rue it."

Call the roll of some of the best of the singers whose American careers
are chiefly bound up with the history of the Academy of Music: Grisi,
Mario, Vestvali (a much admired contralto), Badiali, Amodio (barytone),
Steffanone, Brignoli, Lagrange, Mirate, D'Angri, Piccolomini, Adelina
Patti, Kellogg, Nilsson, Campanini, Lucca, Cary, Parepa, Albani, Hauk,
Gerster, Nevada. There are others whom fond recollection will call back,
some belonging indubitably to the first rank, like Maurel, some who
will live on because they gladdened the hearts of the young people of a
generation ago, who were more impressionable than critical. Some men of
middle age (as they think) now will not want to forget Mlle. Ambre or
Mlle. Marimon, and will continue to forgive the homely features of Mme.
Scalchi for the sake of her perfect physical poise and movement as the
page in "Les Huguenots," as others forgave the many registers of her
voice because of her joyous volubility of utterance. Doubtless, too,
there are matrons of to-day who will remember the singing of Ravelli
with as much pleasure as I recall it, and the shapely legs of the young
tenor that walked off with the heart (we also had a story of a diamond
ring) of a young singer from California, who afterward made a name for
herself in Paris, with more enthusiasm than I could possibly feel.

Some of these singers became intimately associated with New York life in
a social way. Annie Louise Cary, after her marriage to Charles Monson
Raymond, lived for years in a cheery apartment at No. 20 Fifth Avenue,
sang occasionally with the choir in the West Presbyterian Church, in
Forty-second Street, and shed sunshine over a circle of friends who
loved her as enthusiastically as a woman as they had admired her as an
artist. Now her home is in Norwalk, Conn. Her first operatic engagement
was at Copenhagen, and she spent two seasons in the opera houses of
the Scandinavian peninsula, and one at Brussels before the Strakosch
brothers brought her to the United States, in 1870. The first season she
sang in concert with Nilsson, the second (1871-72) in opera, the third
with Carlotta Patti and Mario in concert; and thereafter till her
retirement in 1882 in both concert and opera, winning and holding an
almost unparalleled popularity. In the Strakosch company of 1873-74 she
was one of a galaxy of artists that the opera-goers of that period, who
are still living, will never cease to think of without a swelling of the
heart--Nilsson, Cary, Campanini, Capoul, Maurel, Del Puente, and others.

Campanini remained the tenor of tenors for New Yorkers for a decade
longer. Abbey took him away from Mapleson for the first season of the
Metropolitan Opera House, and, after the introduction of German opera
there, his local career was practically at an end. He died in 1896
in Italy, whither he had returned on retirement. His dramatic style
improved as his voice decayed. When he first came he was chiefly a
lyrical singer; his Elvino was delicious beyond description. In his last
years he had taken on robust stature, and his passionate utterances in
"Carmen" and "Aïda" will live till the end in the memory of those who
heard them. He was proud of his skill as a singer pure and simple,
though he was more or less of a "naturalist," as the Germans call a
singer who owes more to nature than to artistic training. How greatly
he admired the perfection of his "attack" is illustrated in an incident
which twice grieved the soul of Theodore Thomas and some other sticklers
for the verities in classical music.

At the Cincinnati Music Festival, in May, 1880, Mr. Thomas brought
forward Beethoven's Mass in D, the great "Missa Solemnis." In the first
movement, "Kyrie," of this work Beethoven has created an effect of
surpassing beauty in the successive introduction of the solo voices. At
the outset there is a crashing chord from all the forces, including the
full organ. The thundering sound ceases abruptly, leaving the solo tenor
voice sustaining a tone seemingly in midair. Another loud crash projects
the solo contralto voice, and so on. The effect is transporting; but
the obvious intention of the composer and the loveliness of his device
weighed nothing in Campanini's mind against the fact that it interfered
with popular appreciation of the "attack," of which he was proud. So
he calmly waited until the colossal D major chord was silenced, then
intoned his D softly, and made a beautiful crescendo upon it. After
a rehearsal I ventured to call his attention to the beautiful
effectiveness of Beethoven's device, but he answered: "It is music for
the head, not for the heart. If I sing it so the audience will not hear
my beautiful attack."

And at the concert he perverted the text to gratify his vanity. I
reminded Mr. Thomas of the incident two years later, when he gave the
mass at the festival held in the Seventh Regiment Armory in New York.
Campanini was to sing in it again. Mr. Thomas said he would set him
right, but at the performance we were again cheated of Beethoven's
effect in order that the tenor might make his. When Campanini died
Philip Hale set down his estimate of him in these words:


No tenor who has blazed here above the opera horizon has fully equaled
in brilliancy Campanini at his zenith. De Reszke, in point of personal
refinement, is a greater artist, but his voice is inferior, and his
dramatic action lacks the elementary force shown by Campanini when
aroused. De Lucia is a greater actor of melodramatic parts, but his
voice is too shrill. Tamagno in "Otello" is beyond comparison, but that
is his one opera. . . . Of all tenors who have visited us since 1873
the greatest, viewed from all points, was Campanini.


The popular idol before Campanini was Brignoli, who held his own from
the first days of the Academy until within less than a decade of its
collapse. For some years before the Mapleson era, however, he had
dropped out of the Italian operatic ranks and sung in English companies,
and in concerts. It was in such organizations that I first heard
him some twelve or fifteen years after he had become the popular
"silver-voiced tenor" of New York. He came to New York in 1855, and his
career was American, though it was in Paris that Strakosch heard him
and turned his face toward America. He lived in New York, singing and
occasionally managing companies in which he sang, till October, 1884,
when he died. He was twice married, the first time to Kate Duckworth, an
English contralto, known on the platform as Mlle. Morensi, and, after
her death, to Isabella McCullough, an American soprano. Richard Grant
White's mind was still obsessed by memories of Salvi, Benedetti, and
Mario when Brignoli was basking in the sunshine of popular favor, and
his estimate of the tenor in The Century Magazine for June, 1882, is
scarcely flattering either to the singer or the public that liked him.
It was Mr. White's observation that Brignoli came into the swim at the
time that the young woman of New York became the arbiter of art and
elegance. Says Mr. White:


Her admiration of Brignoli was not greatly to the credit of her taste.
He had one of those tenor voices that seem like the bleating of a sheep
made musical. His method was perfectly good; but be sang in a very
commonplace style, and was as awkward as the man that a child makes
by sticking two skewers into a long potato; and he walked the stage,
hitching forward first one side and then the other, much as the child
would make his creature walk. But he was a very "nice" young man, was
always ready to sing, and faute de mieux it became the fashion with
the very young to like him. But there never was a tenor of any note in
New York whose singing was so utterly without character or significance
and who was so deficient in histrionic ability. His high and long
continued favor is one of those puzzling popular freaks not uncommon
in dramatic annals.


Let us hope, in a spirit of Christian charity and something more
selfish, that Brignoli never read these severely critical words.
His vanity was that of a child, and they would have grieved him
inordinately. There was truly something of the bleat in his voice, and
his walk on the stage, whether in concert or opera, was provocative
of the risibles, but even his mannerisms were fascinating. Shall we,
because a critic did not like him, be ashamed for having thrilled a
little when we heard his "Coot boy, sweetheart, c-o-o-o-t boy!" thirty
years ago? I trust not. And if he were here again, and his manager were
to come with the old request, "Do me a favor, won't you, and if you
chance to meet dear old Brig say something pretty to him and help me
keep him in a good humor against the concert to-night--admire his teeth
and compliment him on his youthful appearance"--we should do it for
old sake's sake, and with a heart full of gratitude. No one could know
Brignoli and remain in ignorance of his frailties and foibles. He
probably ate as no tenor ate before or since--ravenously as a Prussian
dragoon after a fast. No contracts did he sign on a Friday or on a
thirteenth day, and he lived in perpetual dread of the evil eye. Part of
his traveling outfit was a pair of horns, which he relied upon to shield
him in case the possessor of the jettatura should get into his room
and he not have his fingers properly posed. I had been four years in the
turmoil of New York's musical life when Brignoli died; I cannot recall
an unkind word that was ever spoken of him.



CHAPTER VIII

THE METROPOLITAN OPERA HOUSE


Not the chronicler of musical doings but the historian of society
should discuss the genesis of the Metropolitan Opera House, which came
twenty-five years ago to displace the Academy of Music as the home of
grand opera in New York. In the second of these "Chapters of Opera"
I cited the Metropolitan Opera House as the last illustration of the
creative impulse which springs from the growth of wealth and social
ambition, and stated that it marked the decay of the old Knickerbocker
régime, and its amalgamation with the newer order of society. Before
this latter occurrence, however, it had become plain that the Academy of
Music could not accommodate all the representatives of the two elements
in fashionable society, who, for one reason or another, wished to own
or occupy the boxes which were the visible sign of wealth and social
position. There was no manifest dissatisfaction, either, with the
Academy of Music or with the performances under the direction of Colonel
Mapleson, though these were conventional enough and the dress of the
operas looked particularly shabby in contrast with the new scenery and
costumes at the new theater when once the rivalry had begun. The house
being satisfactory, popular taste contented with the representations,
and there being no evidences of insufficient room in any part of the
audience room except the private boxes, it seems obvious to the merest
observer from without that social and not artistic impulses led to the
enterprise which produced the new establishment.

The Metropolitan Opera House was built in the summer of 1883. The
corporation which built it was called the Metropolitan Opera House
Company (Limited), and its leading spirits were James A. Roosevelt, the
first president of the board of directors; George Henry Warren, Luther
Kountze, George Griswold Haven, who remained the active head of the
amusement committee from the beginning till he died last spring; William
K. Vanderbilt, William H. Tillinghast, Adrian Iselin, Robert Goelet,
Joseph W. Drexel, Edward Cooper, Henry G. Marquand, George N. Curtis,
and Levi P. Morton. The building is bounded by Broadway, Seventh Avenue,
Thirty-ninth and Fortieth Streets. About one-quarter of the space
is devoted to the audience room, another quarter to the stage and
accessories, and the rest to administrative offices, apartments, etc.
Its cost, including the real estate, was $1,732,978.71, and so actively
was the work of construction pushed that the portion of the building
devoted to the opera was completed when the first performance took place
on October 22, 1883. J. Cleaveland Cady, the architect, had had no
previous experience in building theaters, to which fact must be ascribed
a few impracticable features of the house, most of which have since been
eradicated, but he had made a careful study of the plans of the most
celebrated opera houses of Europe, and the patrons of the house still
have cause to be grateful to him for the care with which he looked after
their safety and comfort. Since then the appearance of the interior has
been changed very considerably. The two tiers of boxes were where they
are now, but their fronts were perpendicular, and there was no bulging
curve at the proscenium. Besides the two tiers of boxes, as they exist
at present, there were twelve baignoirs, six on a side at the stage ends
of the parquet circle, so-called. These were found to be unprofitable,
and were abolished when the house was remodeled about ten years after
the opening. The decoration of the interior was intrusted to E. P.
Tredwill, an architect of Boston, who followed Mr. Cady's wishes in
avoiding all garish display and tawdry effect. The deepest color in the
audience room was the dark, rich red of the carpet on the floor. The
silk linings of the boxes and the curtains between them and the small
salons in the rear were of fabrics specially made for the purpose. They
had an old gold ground and large, raised figures of conventional design
in a darker shade, with dark red threads. The tier fronts, ceiling,
and proscenium were of a light color, the aim having been to obtain a
prevailing tint of ivory. Amid the filigree designs of the pilasters,
which carried the work above the curtain opening, were pictures of
singing and playing cherubs, and back of the bold consoles, which
projected from the side walls, were figures called "The Chorus" and
"The Ballet," painted by Francis Maynard, while above the middle of
the opening, in a segmentary arch, was an allegory, with Apollo as the
central figure, by Francis Lathrop. Statues of the Muses filled niches
on both sides of the consoles. Over the ceiling, amidst the entwinings
of ornamental figures, on a buff ground, were spread a large number
of medallions of oxidized metal, which, in the illumination from the
lights, shone with a copper luster. The house was lighted by gas, though
preparations had been made for the installation of electrical appliances
when that form of illumination should be found justified by economy. As
originally built, the orchestra was sunk sufficiently below the level
of the floor to conceal the performers from all but the occupants of
the upper tiers. In the hope of attaining improved acoustic effects
the floor of the orchestra was laid upon an egg-shaped sound-chamber
of masonry. The innovation did not meet with the approval of Signor
Vianesi, the first musical director at the opera house, and, after an
experimental rehearsal, the floor was raised so that the old conditions
obtained when the performances began. So the orchestra remained, the
players spoiling the picture on the stage, until "Lohengrin" came
to a performance. Then Signor Vianesi was prevailed upon to try the
arrangement from which Mr. Cady had expected fine artistic results.
The effect was good, and the device was adhered to for a space, and in
more or less modified form ever since, though there has been continual
experimentation with the disposition of the instrumentalists.

Operatic performances began at the new house on October 22, 1883, and
after sixty-one representations, at which nineteen operas were produced,
the first season came to an end. I shall tell the story of the season in
greater detail in the next chapter, contenting myself for the present
with an account of the results of the merry war which ensued between
the rival establishments. Colonel Mapleson was intrenched in the Academy
of Music, which opened its doors for its regular season on the same
evening. The advantage lay with Mr. Henry E. Abbey, who had a new house,
the fruit of an old longing, and the realization of long cherished
social aspirations. With the Academy of Music there rested the charm of
ancient tradition, more potent then than it has ever been since, and the
strength of conservatism. There were stars of rare refulgence in both
constellations, which met the Biblical description in differing one
from another in their glory. With Colonel Mapleson was Mme. Adelina
Patti, who, in so far as she was an exponent of the art of beautiful
vocalization, was without a peer the whole world over. She served then
to keep alive the old traditions of Italian song as Mme. Sembrich does
now. At her side stood Mme. Etelka Gerster, with a voice youthful,
fresh, limpid, and wondrously flexible, and a style that was ripening
in a manner that promised soon to compass all the requirements of the
Italian stage from the sentimental characters in which she won her first
successes to the deeper tragic parts which had begun to make appeal to
her ambition. With Mr. Abbey was Mme. Christine Nilsson. Mme. Patti,
though she had grown to womanhood and effected her entrance on the
operatic as well as concert stage in New York, was not so familiar a
figure as Mme. Nilsson. Patti had begun her operatic career at the
Academy of Music in 1859, and had gone to Europe, where she remained
without revisiting her old home until the fall or winter of 1881, when
she came on a concert trip. The trip was more or less a failure, the
public not yet being prepared to pay ten dollars for a reserved seat
to hear anybody sing. After singing at a concert for the benefit of
the sufferers from forest fires in Michigan, she announced a reduction
of prices to two dollars for general admission, and five dollars for
reserved seats. Under these conditions business improved somewhat, but
in February, 1882, she found it necessary to organize an opera company
in order to awaken interest fairly commensurate with her great merit
and fame. It was a sorry company, and the performances, only a few,
took place in the Germania Theater, on Broadway, at Thirteenth Street,
formerly Wallack's; but they were received with much enthusiasm. So far
as London was concerned, she was under engagement at the time to Mr.
Gye, Colonel Mapleson's rival at Covent Garden. Mr. Abbey claimed that
he had an option on any American engagement for opera, but she appeared
next season at the Academy, and the doughty English manager held her as
his trump card in the battle royal which ensued on the opening of the
Metropolitan.

In the twenty years of Mme. Patti's absence from New York, Mme. Nilsson,
who had come to the metropolis in the heyday of her European fame in
1870, had won her way deep into the hearts of the people. In 1883 she
was no longer in her prime, neither her voice nor her art having stood
the wear of time as well as those of Mme. Patti, who was six months her
senior in age, and five years in stage experience, but she was more
than a formidable rival in the admiration of the public. She was no less
happy in the companionship of Mme. Sembrich as a junior partner than
Patti was with Mme. Gerster. Both of the younger singers were fresh from
their first great European successes. Three years later Mme. Gerster
went back to Mme. Marchesi, her teacher, with her voice irreparably
damaged. "The penalty of motherhood," said her friends; "the result of
worry over the failure to hold her place in the face of opposition,"
said more impartial observers. Mme. Sembrich went back to Europe to
continue her triumphs after disaster had overtaken her first American
manager, and in a decade returned, to remain an ornament of the
Metropolitan ever since.

In Mr. Abbey's ranks were also Mme. Fursch-Madi, Mme. Scalchi, Mme.
Trebelli, Mme. Lablache (who gave way to her daughter till a quarrel
over her between the impresarios was determined), and Mme. Valleria,
who had come to the Academy some time before from London, though she
was a Baltimorean by birth--a sterling artist who is remembered by
all connoisseurs with gratitude and admiration. Chief among Colonel
Mapleson's masculine forces was Signor Galassi, a somewhat rude but
otherwise excellent barytone. At the head of the tenors was Signor
Nicolini, the husband of Mme. Patti, who sang only when she did, but not
always. The circumstance that Mme. Patti insisted upon his engagement,
also, whenever she signed a contract gave rise to a malicious story
to the effect that she had two prices, one of, let us say merely for
illustration, 6,000 francs for herself alone, one of 4,000 francs for
herself and Nicolini. The rest of the male contingent was composed
mostly of small fry--Vicini, Perugini, and Falletti, tenors, Cherubini
and Lombardini, basses, and Caracciolo, buffo. Mr. Abbey had carried off
three admired men singers from the Academy--Campanini, Del Puente, and
Novara--and brought an excellent barytone, Kaschmann, from Europe, and
a redoubtable tenor, Stagno.

There was little to interest a public supposedly weary of the
barrel-organ list in the promises made in the rival announcements.
Colonel Mapleson held forth the prospect of Patti in Gounod's "Roméo
et Juliette," and "Mireille" (in Italian, of course), as well as in
Rossini's "La Gazza ladra," a forgotten opera then and again forgotten
now; other old works which were to be revived for her and Mme. Gerster
were "Crispino e la Comare," and "L'Elisir d'Amore." Mme. Pappenheim's
presence as the dramatic soprano of the company (a less necessary
personage in the companies of that day than now) led to the promise of
"Norma" and "Oberon." Only the Italian work was given. Mr. Abbey's book
of good intentions embraced twenty-four operas, all of them familiar
except "La Gioconda," which had been the novelty of the preceding
London season.

The outcome of the battle between the opera houses was defeat for both.
The Academy of Music survived for two more campaigns, out of which the
new house came triumphant, while the old went down forever. It was
different with the men. Mr. Abbey retired after one season, forswearing
opera, as he said, for all time; Colonel Mapleson, though defeated,
was a smaller loser, and he was not only brave enough to prepare for a
second encounter, but also adroit enough to persuade Mme. Patti to place
herself under his guidance again. Mr. Abbey's losses have been a matter
of speculation ever since. It was known at the time that he had lost
all the profits of three or four other managerial enterprises, and some
years ago I feared that I might be exaggerating when I set down the
deficit of the Metropolitan Opera House in its first season at $300,000.
As I write now, however, I have before me a letter from Mr. John B.
Schoeffel, who was associated with Mr. Abbey as partner, in which he
says that the losses of the season were "nearly $600,000."

[The operas performed at the Academy of Music in the season 1883-1884
were: "La Sonnambula," "Rigoletto," "Norma," "Faust," "Linda di
Chamouni," "La Gazza ladra," "Marta," "La Traviata," "Aïda," "L'Elisir
d'Amore," "Crispino e la Comare," and "Les Huguenots" (in Italian).]



CHAPTER IX

FIRST SEASON AT THE METROPOLITAN


Twenty-five years ago there was no opera in the current repertory
comparable in popularity with "Faust." If I am told that neither is
there to-day I shall neither gainsay my informant nor permit the fact
to give me heartburnings in spite of my attitude toward the modern
lyric drama. To that popularity Mme. Nilsson contributed a factor of
tremendous puissance. No singer who is still a living memory was so
intimately associated in the local mind with Gounod's masterpiece as
she, whose good fortune it had been to recreate the character of
Marguerite, when, on March 3, 1869, the opera in a remodeled form was
transferred from the Théâtre Lyrique to the Grand Opéra in Paris. Coming
to New York soon afterward, it was she who set the standard by which,
for a long time, all subsequent representatives of the character were
judged. With her, Mme. Scalchi (who never had more than one rival in the
part of Siebel so far as New Yorkers are concerned, viz., Annie Louise
Cary), and Signor Campanini (the most popular Faust who has ever sung
in New York) in the company, it was no wonder that the opera was chosen
for performance on the opening night at the Metropolitan Opera House on
October 22, 1883. The opera was sung in Italian, no manager's fancy
having yet attained such a conception, as that all operas ought to be
sung in the language in which they were composed--and might be; for this
reason the names in the cast, though given in their familiar French
forms may be transliterated into Italian if so they will better please
the reader. The cast then was as follows: Marguerite, Mme. Nilsson;
Siebel, Mme. Scalchi; Martha, Mlle. Lablache (whose mother had
been expected to appear in the part, but was prevented by judicial
injunction); Faust, Signor Campanini; Valentine, Signor Del Puente;
Mephistopheles, Signor Novara.

The performance did not differ materially from many which had taken
place in the Academy of Music when the same artists took part. All the
principal artists, indeed, had been heard in the opera many times when
their powers were greater. Mme. Nilsson had been thirteen years before
the American public, and though in this period her art had grown in
dignity and nobility, her voice had lost the fresh bloom of its youth,
and her figure had begun to take on matronly contours. Still, she was a
great favorite, and hers was an extraordinary triumph, the outburst of
popular approbation coming, as was to have been expected, in the garden
scene of the opera. Referring to my review of the performance which
appeared in The Tribune of the next day, I note that till that moment
there had been little enthusiasm. After she had sung the scintillant
waltz, however, "the last film of ice that had held the public in
decorous check was melted," and an avalanche of plaudits overwhelmed the
fair singer. Bouquets rained from the boxes, and baskets of flowers were
piled over the footlights till it seemed as if there was to be no end.
In the midst of the floral gifts there was also handed up a magnificent
velvet casket inclosing a wreath of gold bay leaves and berries,
ingeniously contrived to be extended into a girdle to be worn in the
classic style, and two gold brooch medallions, bearing the profiles
of Tragedy and Comedy, with which the girdle was to be fastened. The
donor was not mentioned, but an inscription told that the gift was in
"commemoration of the opening of the Metropolitan Opera House." Signor
Campanini had spent the year before the opening in retirement, hoping
to repair the ravages made in his voice by the previous seasons at the
Academy of Music, and, I regret to say, possibly his careless mode of
life. His faults had been conspicuous for several seasons, and the
hoped-for amendment did not discover itself. "Occasionally the old-time
sweetness, and again occasionally the old-time manly ring was apparent
in his notes, but they were always weighted down by the evidences of
labor, and the brilliancy of the upper tones with which he used to fire
an audience into uncontrollable enthusiasm was gone."

The regular subscription nights at the Metropolitan in the first season,
and for all the seasons that followed down to that of 1907-08, were
Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, with afternoon performances on
Saturdays. On the second night of the season, October 24, 1883, Mr.
Abbey brought forward two of his new singers. The opera was "Lucia di
Lammermoor," the first performance of which in the new house was made
memorable by the introduction of Mme. Marcella Sembrich. She had been
engaged by Mr. Abbey on the strength of the success achieved by her
in the London season of 1883. She was almost at the beginning of her
career, being little known outside of Athens, where she made her début,
Dresden, where she had sung in German, and London. She had dazzled the
British metropolis by her vocalization, especially in "Lucia," and it
was for this reason that it was selected for her introduction to New
York. Before the season came to an end she sang in "I Puritani," "Don
Giovanni," "La Traviata," and "Hamlet." All the good qualities which
have since then been extolled hundreds of times by the critics of the
New York newspapers were noticeable in her first representation. I
turn back to the files of The Tribune to see what I wrote while under
the spell of her witching art, and find the following:


Mme. Sembrich is a lovely singer,--lovely of person, of address, of
voice; and her artistic acquirements, in the limited field in which
Donizetti's opera called them into activity, at least, are of the
highest rank. Her style is exquisite, and plainly the outgrowth of a
thoroughly musical nature. It unites some of the highest elements of
art. Such reposefulness of manner, such smoothness and facility in
execution, such perfect balance of tone and refinement of expression
can be found only in one richly endowed with deep musical feeling and
ripe artistic intelligence. She carries her voice wondrously well
throughout a wide register, and from her lowest note to her highest
there is the same quality of tone. It is a voice of fine texture, too;
it has a velvety softness, yet is brilliant; and though not magnetic
in the same degree as the voices of other singers still before the
public, it has a fine, sympathetic vein. It wakens echoes of Mme.
Patti's organ, but has warmer life-blood in it.


Of the musicianly qualities of this charming singer, recognized on this
first acquaintance, we were to have a demonstration before her departure
which was in the highest degree surprising. Sympathy for Mr. Abbey in
his great losses, and admiration for the self-sacrificing manner in
which he adhered to all his obligations to them as well as to the
public, led the directors of the Metropolitan Opera Company to offer him
a benefit concert. At this entertainment, which was successful beyond
anything that local records had to show up to that time, the profits
amounting to $16,000, Mme. Sembrich sang an aria; then came upon the
stage and played a violin obbligato to Mme. Nilsson's performance of
the familiar Bach-Gounod "Ave Maria"; again she appeared and this time
played a Chopin Mazourka on the pianoforte. In every instance she
was the complete artist, and the public, who had been charmed by her
witcheries as Mozart's Zerlina and melted by the pathos of her singing
in the last act of "La Traviata," were at a loss to say if she had shown
herself a greater artist in song or in instrumental music, as a pianist
or violinist. It was not until many years after she had returned to
Europe to continue her operatic triumphs in St. Petersburg, Madrid,
Vienna, Paris, and Berlin that I learned the story of her life, and with
it the secret of her musical versatility; how she had started life as
a player of the pianoforte and violin with her father at dances in the
houses of the wealthy folk in her native town in Poland, gone to the
conservatory in Lemberg to study the pianoforte, been taken to the
Conservatory at Vienna by Professor Stengel (then her teacher, now her
husband), because there was nothing left in his system of instruction
from which she could profit, and there been advised to study singing
instead of the pianoforte with Liszt, as her proud teacher had fondly
hoped. It was Professor Epstein who gave the world one of the greatest
singers of our generation, but in doing so he robbed it of a pianist of
doubtless equal caliber. So far as I know, the story of Mme. Sembrich
is without a parallel.

Signor Kaschmann was the barytone of the "Lucia" performance. He had a
handsome face and figure, a good bearing, and disclosed familiarity with
the stage, and considerable talent as an actor, but he was afflicted
with that distressful vocal defect which singers of his school often
call vibrato in order to affect to find a virtue in it. There is,
indeed, artistic merit in a true vibrato which lends vitality to a
voice, but when it degenerates into a tremolo, or wabble, it is a
vice of the most unpardonable kind.

Another of the newcomers made his bow to the Metropolitan public on the
third night of the season, October 26th, when "Il Trovatore" was brought
forward. This was the tenor Signor Stagno, a stockily built, heavy,
self-conscious man, of good stage features and bad stage manners. When
his voice was first heard from behind the scenes, it sounded throaty, a
squeezed-out, constrained tone, but later, when Manrico's display pieces
came it rang out full and vibrant as a trumpet. It developed at once
that he was a singer of the sideshow kind, with whom the be-all and
end-all of his part and art lay in the high tones. So little of a
musician was he that, being enthusiastically recalled after the "Di
quella pira," he was unable to keep the key of C major in his head in
spite of his stentorian proclamation of its tonic a few seconds before,
and could not begin the repetition till the concert-master had plucked
the first note of the air on his violin. A short time before I heard
Mme. Patti perform the feat of beginning the trill which accompanies the
melody by the orchestra in the middle of the dance song in "Dinorah"
without a suggestive tone or chord after a hubbub and gladsome tumult
that seemed, to have lasted several minutes. A new bass, Signor
Mirabella, appeared in "I Puritani" on October 29th--a musical singer
with a voice of large volume and ample range, and a self-possessed,
easy, and effective stage presence.

On her second appearance Mme. Nilsson was seen in a part with which she
was more intimately associated in the popular mind than any other singer
in New York or London. The opera was "Mignon," the date October 31st.
Ambroise Thomas's opera had its first American performance at the
Academy of Music under the management of Maurice Strakosch, on November
22, 1871. With Mme. Nilsson, on that occasion as on this, was associated
M. Capoul, the most ardent and fascinating lover known to opera in
America, who not long before had risen from the ranks of French opéra
bouffe. Mme. Trebelli, who had created the part of Frederick in London,
where, as in New York, Mme. Nilsson was the original Mignon, and for
whom the composer had written the rondo-gavotte, "In veder l'amata
stanza" (taking its melody from the entr'acte music preceding the second
act), was also a member of Mr. Abbey's company, but Mme. Scalchi, who
could wear man's attire and walk in tights more gracefully than any
woman who ever appeared on the American operatic stage within my memory,
was too popular in the part to be set aside for the sake of a newcomer,
and Mme. Trebelli had to wait until October 27th before getting a
hearing in opera. Meanwhile she sang industriously in concerts. The
changes which had taken place in Mme. Nilsson's person and voice during
the dozen years between her first appearance as Mignon and the one
under consideration might naturally have been expected to affect her
performance of the part. Many were ready to perceive the loss of some
of the charms of youthful freshness and grace, which are indissolubly
connected with any conception of this most poetical of Goethe's
creatures. The result fulfilled their anticipations in a measure, for
Mme. Nilsson's impersonation was more remarkable for its deep feeling in
the dramatic portions than for lightness and gracefulness in the lyric.
This loss brought with it a compensation, however. Many protests have
been felt, when not expressed, against the tendency of singers to make
Mignon a mere wilful, pettish, silly young woman. The poet's ideal was
sufficiently despoiled by the unconscionable French librettist without
this further desecration which effectually dispelled the last glimmer of
the poetical light that ought always to shine about this strange child
of the South. Too much of tropical passion, too much of undefined
longing, too much of tenderness the part could hardly be invested with,
but it is easily made silly by over-acting in the very place where the
tendency to do so is strongest. The whole opera is one that must either
be represented with extreme care in avoiding extravagant expression,
or all effort to approach even distantly the ideals of the poet must
be abandoned and the piece be given as if Goethe had never lived, and
"Wilhelm Meister" had never been written.

Perhaps the latter plan would be the better one, for it is hard to think
of Goethe during the performance of the opera without taking violent
offense, and it would only be a relief to have all thought of him
studiously kept out of mind. Yet, we would not willingly lose the
pleasure which Ambroise Thomas provided in this, his best opera. It is
to his credit that he felt the embarrassments which his subject caused.
At one time he thought seriously of permitting the heroine to go the way
of Goethe's "Mignon," and of offering the opera to the Théâtre Lyrique
instead of the Opéra Comique, for which he had undertaken to write it.
He did not carry out the plan, however, but instead thought to silence
the carping of the Germans by composing a second conclusion, a
dénouement allemand, in which Mignon falls dead, while listening to
Philine's polacca in the last scene. A tragic end to a piece treated
in the comedy manner throughout was too ridiculous, however, and the
Germans would have none of the dénouement allemand. They raised a hue
and cry against the opera, then heard it for the sake of its music, and
ended by admiring its admirable parts without changing their minds about
the desecration of their great poet.

It is no wonder that the opera-book was made. Such scruples as
distressed the Germans never trouble French librettists, and the
characters which Carré and Barbier found in Goethe's romance are as if
born for the stage. What lyric possibilities do not lie in the Harper?
Was ever a more perfect musical coquette dreamed of than Philine? Have
not Mignon's songs drawn forth music from nearly every composer of
eminence since Beethoven? The filling-in parts were on the surface of
the story, and the character of their music could not be misconceived.
Wilhelm Meister himself, in his character of a strolling player, had
only to sacrifice his habit of reflection to be a dashing tenor. The
temptation was certainly strong; the sacrilege was committed, and the
verbal skeleton constructed out of things which were dearest in German
literature, was tricked out with piquant music and ear-tickling roulades
by the man who was not awed even by Shakespeare. Think of "Le Songe
d'une Nuit d'Été"! With such characters the play is easily acted, and
the music never fails to fascinate.

"La Traviata" was the next opera, produced on November 5th, with Mme.
Sembrich as Violetta, and Capoul as Alfredo, and then came "Lohengrin"
on November 7th. In Wagner's opera the parts of the heroine and hero
were enacted by Nilsson and Campanini, who had sung in its first Italian
performance at the Academy a decade before. Excellently sung in the best
manner as understood by singers of the Italian school--a manner fully
justified, let it be said in passing, by Signor Marchesi's Italian
text--and magnificently dressed, the opera attracted the most numerous
and brilliant audience since the opening night, and remained one of the
most pronounced successes of the season. It served also to introduce
Mme. Fursch-Madi, a dramatic singer, who, although not attractive
in appearance, was one of the finest singers in her style and most
conscientious artists known to her period. She was a French woman, who
was graduated from the Paris Conservatoire, married M. Madier, a chef
d'orchestre in the French capital, came to America to join the French
company in New Orleans in 1874, and sang for three seasons (1879-'81)
at Covent Garden. She spent the last years of her life in and about New
York, singing in opera and concert, always a noble example to youthful
aspirants, and died in poverty after great suffering in September, 1894.
"La Sonnambula" followed on November 14th, and "Rigoletto" on November
16th, without noteworthy incident, except the first American appearance
of Gaudignini as the Jester, and "Robert le Diable" (in Italian), with
Fursch-Madi as Alice, Valleria as Isabella, Stagno and Mirabella. This
performance was enlivened by an amusing incident. It will be recalled by
people familiar with the history of the opera that Scribe and Meyerbeer
first designed "Robert" for the Opéra Comique, but remodeled it for the
Grand. For a few moments in the incantation scene at this performance
the audience seemed inclined to ignore the author's sober second
thought, and accept the work as a comic instead of romantic opera. The
wicked nuns, called back to life by the sorcery of Bertram, amid the
ruins of the cloister, appeared to have been stinted by the undertaker
in the matter of shrouds, and the procession of gray-wrapped figures
in cutty sarks caused the liveliest merriment until the transformation
took place, and serious interest was revived by the lovely face, form,
and dancing of Mme. Cavalazzi.

"Il Barbiere," with Sembrich as a delightfully piquant Rosina,
nevertheless moved with leaden feet in many of its scenes, because of
the ponderous and lugubrious Stagno, who essayed a part far from his
province, when he tried to sing the Count. On November 28th "Don
Giovanni" was reached with the finest distribution of women's rôles, I
dare say, that New York has ever seen, and one that ranked well with the
famous London one of Tietjens, Nilsson, and Patti. Mme. Fursch-Madi was
Donna Anna, Mme. Nilsson Donna Elvira, and Mme. Sembrich Zerlina. For
delvers in musical history the performance had curious interest because
it partook somewhat of an anniversary character. It fell within a day of
exactly fifty-eight years after Italian opera had first been heard in
America (November 29, 1825). Save Mme. Patti we have heard no Zerlina
comparable with Mme. Sembrich, and Mme. Nilsson's singing of the airs,
"Ah, che mi dice mai," and "Mi tradi quell' alma ingrata" lingers in
my memory as an impeccable exemplification of the true classic style.
The performance suffered shipwreck, however, in the famous first finale,
because of the untunefulness of the orchestra, and the incapacity
of the enlisted stage bands. In "Mefistofele," on December 5th, Nilsson
appeared as Marguerite and Helen of Troy, and Trebelli as Marta and
Pantalis. Nilsson had fixed the ideal of Helen in Europe and New York,
and it is she, I believe, who started the questionable practice of
having one performer impersonate both Marguerite and the classic Queen.
Boito has given us so little of Goethe's Gretchen in his delightful,
but sketchy, opera that it does not make much difference how the part
is acted; but Helen is a character that seemed cut to the very form of
Nilsson--regal in beauty and carriage, soul-moving in voice, serene in
pose and gesture. She fitted perfectly into the fairest picture that
a lover of ancient Greek life could conjure up, and moved through the
classic act like a veritable Hellenic queen. The beauty, majesty, the
puissant charm of a perfect woman of the antique type--all were hers.
Campanini, who, like Nilsson, had been seen in the opera before the
Metropolitan Opera House entered the lists, sang on this evening with
peculiar enthusiasm; and with reason. Not only had he been instrumental
in giving the opera to the people of London and New York, but, on
this occasion, he was singing under the baton of his younger brother,
Cleofonte, then a modest maestro di cembalo trying his 'prentice hand at
conducting; now the redoubtable leader of Mr. Hammerstein's forces at
the Manhattan. Four years later Cleofonte Campanini came again to New
York as conductor of his brother's company organized for the production
of Verdi's "Otello."

On December 20th the one real novelty of Mr. Abbey's list had
production. It was Ponchielli's "La Gioconda," with the following
distribution of parts: La Gioconda, Mme. Nilsson; Laura Adorno, Mme.
Fursch-Madi; La Cieca, Mme. Scalchi; Enzo Grimaldo, Signor Stagno;
Barnaba, Signor Del Puente; Alvise Badiero, Signor Novara. Ponchielli's
opera had been the principal novelty of the London season in the summer
of 1883, where it was brought out by Mr. Gye. On this occasion it was
performed with a gorgeousness of stage appointments, and a strength of
ensemble which spoke volumes for the earnestness of the effort which Mr.
Abbey was making to give grand opera in a style worthy of the American
metropolis, and the reception which the public gave to the work afforded
convincing proof of the eagerness for a change from the stale list which
had so long constituted its operatic pabulum. The house was crowded
from floor to ceiling, and the audience, having assembled for the
enjoyment of an unusual pleasure, was soon wrought into an extremely
impressionable state, which the striking pictures, excited action,
and ingenious music intensified with every act.

The score of "La Gioconda" is full of ingeniously applied harmonical
and orchestral devices, but they are all such as were learned from
Ponchielli's great predecessor and successor, Verdi. As a matter of
fact, Ponchielli, though he has been discovered as the father of the
young veritist school of Italy, which seems already to have exhausted
itself, was less original than Boito, who has distinguished himself
above all the rout of Verdi's traducers and followers (for a space the
category included the same names) by continence and self-criticism. As
I write more than two decades have elapsed since he became known in
New York, and in the interim we have seen the rise, and, also, the
considerable fall of such imitators as Mascagni, Leoncavallo, and their
superior, Puccini. We are now more able to see than we were twenty-five
years ago how much Ponchielli, and all his tribe, owe to Verdi; and
also how much ruder and less attentive to real beauty they were. Then
we could hear besides his voice, that of Verdi in his music; now we
can hear also tones which awaken echoes in Mascagni, Leoncavallo, and
Puccini. Of a sometimes mooted Wagnerian influence, there is only so
much in this score as is to be found in all scores, German and French,
and Italian, since the shackles of instrumental form were cast off.
Ponchielli makes a little use of a recurring melodic phrase from
La Cieca's "Voce di donna," but he pursues the device even less
consistently than Verdi, and in a manner that is older than Meyerbeer.
In melody he is wholly Italian, and of Wagner's use of typical phrases
"La Gioconda" is as guiltless as Pergolesi's "Serva padrona."

What is admirable to the popular appreciation of to-day is the hot vigor
of the drama, and the quick co-operation of music in its climacteric
moments. This co-operation is most obvious in the employment of the
device of contrast, which dominates the work and seems to have been the
feature which has been most effectively seized upon by Ponchielli's
pupils. It marks every climax in the opera, and becomes almost tiresome
in its reiteration. In the first act the blind woman's prayer is set
against a background composed of a gambling chorus and the wild whirl
of the furlano, which ends abruptly with organ peals and a pious
canticle--an effect repeated since in "Cavalleria Rusticana" and
"Tosca." In the second act in the twinkling of an eye, Gioconda is
transformed from a murderous devil into a protecting saint; in the third
Laura's accents of mortal woe commingle with the sounds of a serenade
in the distance, and the disclosure of a supposed murder is made at the
climax of a ball; in the fourth the calls of passing gondoliers break
in upon Gioconda's soliloquies, which have for their subject suicide,
murder, and self-sacrifice. The device is of a coarse tissue, but it
is of the opera operatic, and it is now more familiar than it was when
first disclosed to the patrons of the Metropolitan Opera House,
twenty-five years ago.

If it were necessary one might look for the source of this device of
contrast in the literature to which Verdi directed attention when
he turned his thoughts to Victor Hugo, and composed "Ernani" and
"Rigoletto." Hugo was the prince of those novelists and dramatists
who utilized glaring contrasts and unnatural contradictions to give
piquancy to their creations and compel sympathy for monsters by uniting
monumental wickedness with the most amiable of moral qualities. The
story of "La Gioconda" is drawn from "Angelo, Tyrane de Padoue." In
transforming this tragedy into an opera the librettist removed the scene
from Padua to Venice, changed a wealthy actress into a poor street
singer, and made the blind mother, who is barely mentioned in the play,
into a prominent and moving character. There can be no question but that
Boito ("Tobia Gorria" is but an anagramatic nom de plume of Arrigo
Boito) was highly successful in remodeling the tragedy for operatic
purposes, but he did not palliate its moral grossness or succeed in
inviting our compassionate feelings for anyone entitled to them. The
only personages who in this opera escape disaster are a pair of lovers,
whose sufferings, as depicted or inferred, cannot be said to have
refined the guilt out of their passion. We might infer that once the
attachment of Enzo and Laura was pure and lovely, but all that we see of
it is flauntingly criminal and doubly wicked. The happiness of Enzo, who
to elope with another man's wife cruelly breaks faith with a woman whose
love for him is so strong that she gives her life to save his, is hardly
a consummation that ought to be set down as justifying so many blotches
and blains, pimples and pustules, on the face of human nature. Laura's
treachery is to Gioconda as well as to her husband, and has no redeeming
trait. In fact, the blind woman is the only character in the opera who
has moral health, and she seems to have been brought in only that her
sufferings might intensify the bloody character of Barnaba, the spy.
Even Gioconda, a character that has latent within it many effective
elements, is sacrificed by the librettist to the one end--sensational
effect through contrast and contradiction. Nowhere does she illustrate
the spirit of blitheness which is put forth by her name, and only once
does she allude to it. From the moment of her entrance till her death
she is filled with torturing passion and conflicting emotions. Not la
Gioconda she, but la Dolorosa--except for the bookmaker's desire for
dramatic paradox. Against the desire to sympathize with her is thrust
the revelation that her rival is never saved from death at her hands
because of any repugnance of hers to murder. She would kill in an
instant were it not that her vengefulness is overcome by gratitude to
the benefactress of her mother. So it comes that the strongest feeling
excited by the heroine, who dies a sacrifice to filial affection and
passionate love, is one of simple pity--a feeling that is never absent
from tender hearts, no matter how depraved the victim of misfortune.

But opera in the estate illustrated by "La Gioconda" scarcely justifies
even an elementary moral disquisition. Moreover, what Ponchielli
provoked is so much worse than what he himself did that his condemnation
can go no further than purgatorial fires. It is in the operas of his
pupils and would-be imitators, like Giordano, Tasca, and others, that
filth and blood are supposed to fructify the music which rasps the
nerves, even as the dramas revolt the moral stomach. In view of the
products of the period in which began operatic veritism, so-called, "La
Gioconda" seems almost washed in innocency, and if its music is at times
highly spiced, it is at least frankly and simply melodious. Naturally he
has followed his librettist in aiming at contrast, at higgledy-piggledy
finales, at garish orchestration, at strenuous declamation in the
dialogue not cast in melodic forms and at abrupt changes. But he has
plenty, if not profound melodiousness. La Cieca's air, Enzo's romance,
Laura's "Stella del Marinar," Barnaba's barcarole, and the ballet music
have lived on in our concert rooms from that day to this.

"La Gioconda" was the last opera brought forward in the winter season,
which ended on December 22d, leaving two out of thirty promised
subscription performances to be supplied on the return of Mr. Abbey's
forces from Boston, whither they went for the holidays. When he came
back in a fortnight he gave "Carmen," on January 9th, with Trebelli,
Campanini, and Del Puente (who had been in the cast of the original
London production); repeated it on January 11th, and "La Gioconda"
on January 12th.

On March 10th a spring season began, which lasted till April 12th. It
added four operas to the list. Ambroise Thomas's "Hamlet" (March 10),
Flotow's "Martha" (March 14th), Meyerbeer's "Huguenots" (March 19th),
and "Le Prophète" (March 21st). The last, which had first been heard in
New York at the Astor Place Opera House four years after its original
production in Paris, on April 16, 1849, had been absent from the
current operatic list so long that it was to all intents and purposes
a novelty to Mr. Abbey's patrons. The last week of the season brought
two disappointments: Mmes. Nilsson and Sembrich both fell ill, the
indisposition of the latter (or something else) causing the abandonment
of Gounod's "Roméo et Juliette," an opera that was new to New Yorkers,
and was promptly brought out by Colonel Mapleson with Mme. Patti in
his spring season at the Academy of Music.

As has already been set forth, Mr. Abbey made a monumental financial
fiasco; but his was a heroic effort to galvanize Italian opera, which
seemed moribund, into vitality. He showed an honest desire to keep
all his promises to the public made when he asked support for his
enterprise, and all in all, his administration was signalized by virtues
too frequently absent in the doings of operatic managers. His stage sets
were uniformly handsome, and some of them showed greater sumptuousness
than the people had seen for many years; his orchestra, though faulty in
composition as well as execution, did some admirable work under Signor
Vianesi; his chorus was prompt, vigorous, and tuneful; his ensembles
were carefully and intelligently composed, and his selection of operas
was judicious from a managerial point of view. He gave to New York the
strongest combination of women singers that the city had ever known;
nor has it been equaled in any one season since. The financial failure
of the enterprise caused no surprise among intelligent and impartial
observers. One needed not to be prophetically gifted to foretell
twenty-five years ago that New York could not support two such costly
establishments as the Academy of Music and the Metropolitan Opera House.
The world of fashion, which in the nature of things is the supporter of
Italian opera, and has been ever since the art form was invented, was
divided in its allegiance, and divided, moreover, in a manner which made
an interchange of courtesies all but impossible. This threw the burden
of maintaining the rival houses upon two limited groups of persons, and
the loss was mutual.

In Mr. Abbey's prospectus he promised to produce twenty-four operas,
which he named; he kept his promise as to all but five, these being
"Lucrezia Borgia," "Linda di Chamouni," "Fra Diavolo," "Otello," and
"Le Nozze di Figaro." "Roméo et Juliette," which he attempted to give,
but failed at the last, was not in the original list. Besides these
performances, he gave fifty-eight outside of New York in visits to
Brooklyn, Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago, Cincinnati, St. Louis,
Washington, and Baltimore. The local record may be tabulated as
follows:


   Opera                    First performance       Times given

  "Faust" .................... October 22 ............ 6
  "Lucia di Lammermoor" ...... October 24 ............ 3
  "Il Trovatore" ............. October 26 ............ 3
  "I Puritani" ............... October 29 ............ 1
  "Mignon" ................... October 31 ............ 4
  "La Traviata" .............. November 5 ............ 4
  "Lohengrin" ................ November 7 ............ 6
  "La Sonnambula" ............ November 14 ........... 2
  "Rigoletto" ................ November 16 ........... 2
  "Robert le Diable" ......... November 19 ........... 3
  "Il Barbiere di Siviglia" .. November 23 ........... 3
  "Don Giovanni" ............. November 28 ........... 5
  "Mefistofele" .............. December 5 ............ 2
  "La Gioconda" .............. December 20 ........... 4
  "Carmen" ................... January 9 ............. 5
  "Hamlet" ................... March 10 .............. 1
  "Martha" ................... March 14 .............. 3
  "Les Huguenots" ............ March 19 .............. 2
  "Le Prophète" .............. March 21 .............. 1


There was one performance with a mixed program.



CHAPTER X

OPERATIC REVOLUTIONS


Colonel Mapleson and the stockholders of the Academy of Music and their
friends were little disposed to yield to the new order of things without
a struggle. The Academy was refurnished and a season of Italian opera
begun on the same night on which Mr. Abbey opened his doors. Colonel
Mapleson's company comprised Mmes. Patti, Gerster, Pappenheim, Pattini,
and Josephine Yorke, and Signori Falletti, Nicolini, Perugini,
Cherubini, Vicini, Lombardini, and Caracciolo. The performances were
like those that had been the rule for years, except for the brilliancy
which Mme. Patti lent to those in which she took part. But not even she
could hold the fickle public. On the nights when she sang the house
was two-thirds full; Mme. Gerster had established herself as a prime
favorite, but when she sang on the "off nights" the house was two-thirds
empty. The season was financially disastrous, though Colonel Mapleson's
losses were not comparable to Mr. Abbey's, and he was not only brave
enough to prepare for the next season's campaign, but adroit enough to
persuade Mme. Patti to place herself under his guidance again. But,
while he held out against Mr. Abbey and the new house, he was compelled
to yield to the Metropolitan and German opera as established by Dr.
Damrosch. Of the singers who helped Colonel Mapleson make his fight,
one is still in enjoyment of popular favor. This is Mme. Nordica,
who, though not a regular member of the company, effected her American
operatic début at the Academy on November 26, 1883, in Gounod's "Faust."
She was announced as Mme. Norton-Gower, and of her performance I wrote
at the time in The Tribune:


Of Mrs. Norton-Gower the first statement must be that she gives abundant
evidence of having been admirably trained in the spirit of Gounod's
music and the tragedy. Nearly every number in the score which falls to
the part of Margherita she sang with commendable intelligence and taste.
The most obvious criticism was that the spirit so excellently conceived
by her put a severe strain upon the matter in her control. It cost her
a manifest effort to do what she well knew how to do, for she is not
a phenomenal vocalist. She has a voice of fine texture, and her tones
are generally sympathetic. She sings with feeling, but acts with more.
Her performance was meritorious beyond the performances of any of Mr.
Mapleson's women singers, Mmes. Patti and Gerster excepted.


That Mr. Abbey had made losses which were so great as to make him
unwilling to remain at the head of the operatic forces at the
Metropolitan Opera House was known long before the close of the first
season. Before the spring representations began he made answer to the
proposal of the directors of the Metropolitan Opera Company by saying
that he would act as their manager without compensation for the next
year, provided they would pay the losses which the first season would
entail upon him. The directors had agreed in their original contract to
save him whole to the extent of $60,000--a pitiful tenth part of what,
according to Mr. Schoeffel, the losses finally aggregated; I am inclined
to think, however, that Mr. Schoeffel has included the losses made in
the other cities visited by the company. There were only sixty-one
representations at the Metropolitan Opera House, and it is inconceivable
that they averaged a deficit of over $9,000 each. They could not have
cost that sum in fact, and many of the performances drew houses which at
the prevailing prices (orchestra $6) must have yielded handsome returns.
Whatever the sum which loomed up as a prospective loss, however, it
was great enough to dissuade the directors from adopting Mr. Abbey's
suggestion. Instead, they made up their minds cheerfully to pay their
own loss, and at the beginning of the spring season, all negotiations
having come to an end, sent Mr. Abbey a letter which read as follows:


                          Metropolitan Opera House, New York,
                                Secretary's Office, March 14, 1884.

My Dear Sir: It gives me much pleasure to say that I am instructed by
the president to tender you the use of the Opera House on April 21,
1884, for a benefit performance to yourself. I beg also to express my
hope that the results of the benefit may in some measure be commensurate
with the manner you have presented Italian opera and to say that it will
give me great pleasure to do anything I can to aid in making the benefit
a great success. Most sincerely yours,

                                    Edmund C. Stanton, Secretary.
  To Henry E. Abbey.


In the meantime negotiations had already begun looking to the transfer
of the house for the next season to Mr. Ernest Gye, who was manager at
the time of Covent Garden, London. These negotiations were continued
till deep in the summer and came to naught at the end. Of the reasons
for the failure several became known to the public. One was the
unwillingness of the directors to give Mr. Gye a free hand in the
engagement of artists. The directors, who were active in determining
the policy of the opera, were all devoted admirers of Mme. Nilsson;
they were, in fact, the donors of the laurel wreath of gold which she
received on the first night of the season. They were desirous that she
should be re-engaged, though the weight of her contract had done much to
break Mr. Abbey's financial back, and they were also a little fearful
that Mr. Gye, the husband of Mme. Albani, would, not unnaturally, seek
to put that singer in Mme. Nilsson's place. Meanwhile, the opera season
at Covent Garden came to a close, and though Mr. Gye had not had Colonel
Mapleson at Her Majesty's Theater to cope with, as in former seasons,
but only English opera at Drury Lane, under the direction of Carl Rosa,
the financial outcome was such as to suggest that Mr. Gye's attitude
toward opera at the Metropolitan was something like that which the
Germans describe as a cat walking about a dish of hot porridge.

At intervals bits of gossip reached New York by cable, but none of
them was of a comforting character. One week it was said to be the
exorbitance of Mme. Nilsson's demands which gave Mr. Gye pause, and
the next the difficulty of finding a tenor worthy of succeeding Signor
Campanini and capable of satisfying the captious, critical, and
fastidious people of New York. There were suspicions, too, that some
of the embarrassments which confronted Mr. Gye and the Metropolitan
directors were due to the machinations of that sly and persuasive old
dog, Colonel Mapleson. Nilsson had but one rival, and she was Mme.
Patti. Her Colonel Mapleson had secured; not only her, but, report said,
Scalchi, Tremelli, and Tamagno also. Mme. Scalchi had been a strong prop
of the first Metropolitan season, and Tremelli and Tamagno, though they
had not been heard in America, had names to conjure with. Tremelli never
came, and it was not until 1890, when Mr. Abbey was again in the traces
of an Italian opera manager, and was exploiting both Mme. Patti and Mme.
Albani, that Tamagno was heard in New York.

Failures of such magnitude as those of Mr. Gye in London, Colonel
Mapleson at the Academy of Music, and Mr. Abbey at the Metropolitan
Opera House, naturally set the beards of the wiseacres a-wagging.
Clearly the world of opera was out of joint and a prophet with a new
evangel seemed to be needed to set it right. In New York the efforts had
been made along old lines, but Mr. Gye had ventured on an experiment
which suggested the polyglot scheme which became the fixed policy of
the Metropolitan Opera House some ten years later. Along with the old
Italian list Mr. Gye gave some of Wagner's lyric dramas in German, and
even ventured an English opera done into German--C. Villiers Stanford's
"Savonarola." Was Italian opera dead? So it almost seemed; but the
incidents attending its demise were familiar to operatic history and
as old as Italian opera in London and New York. When the art form was
making its first struggles for habilitation in the British metropolis
Addison thought the spectacle so amusing that he wrote an essay in
which he pictured the amazement of the next generation on learning that
in the days of its predecessors English men and women had sat out entire
evenings listening to an entertainment in a foreign tongue. And he said
in that essay many other excellent things, the truth and force of which
are just as deserving of appreciation (and just as needful) now as they
were in the time of the writer.

The consciousness of the absurdity of Italian opera transported in the
"original package" (to speak commercially) to England and America seems
to have been constant with the Anglo-Saxon peoples. Of this the legion
of managerial wrecks which strew the operatic shores or float as
derelicts bear witness. Bankers, manufacturers, and noblemen have come
to the rescue of ambitious managers, or become ambitious managers
themselves, only to go down in the common disaster. Mr. Delafield wrote
his name high among his fellows across the water by losing half a
million of dollars in a single season--a feat which no man equaled till
Mr. Abbey came. Taylor got himself into the King's Bench Prison by his
venturesomeness, and, once there, found consolation in a philosophy
which taught him that of all places in the world the properest one for
an opera manager was a prison. But I have mentioned this before.

Time was when the popular taste found complete satisfaction in the
melodies of the Italian composers. Time was when the desire for novelty
in the operatic field could be satisfied only by importations from
Italy. Time was when Germans, Frenchmen, and Englishmen went to Italy
to study operatic composition and wrote in the Italian manner to
Italian texts. All this had changed at the period of which I am
writing--Germans, Frenchmen, and Englishmen had operas in their own
languages and schools of composition of their own. But still New York
and London clung to Italian sweets.

And Italy had become sterile. Verdi seemed to have ceased writing. There
were whisperings of an "Iago" written in collaboration with Boito, but
it was awaiting ultimate criticism and final polish while the wonderful
old master was engaged in revamping some of his early works. Boito was
writing essays and librettos for others, with the unfinished "Nerone"
lying in his desk, where it is still hidden. Ponchielli had not
succeeded in getting a hearing for anything since "La Gioconda."
Expectations had been raised touching an opera entitled "Dejanice," by
Catalani, but I cannot recall that it ever crossed the Italian border.
The hot-blooded young veritists who were soon to flood Italy with their
creations had not yet been heard of. The champions of a change from
Italian to German ideals seemed to have the argument all in their favor.
The spectacle presented by the lyric stage in Germany and France seemed
to show indubitably what course opera as an art form must needs take if
it was to live. Gluck, Weber, and Wagner, all Germans, had pointed the
way. In 1883 five new operas by English composers reached the dignity of
performance, and it was significant that two of them--Mr. Mackenzie's
"Colomba" and Mr. Stanford's "Savonarola"--were performed in German, the
former in Hamburg, the latter in London. There were many lovers of opera
in New York besides the musical reviewer for The Tribune who believed
that if America was ever to have a musical art of its own the way could
best be paved by supplanting Italian performances by German at the
principal home of opera in the United States. We should, it is true,
still have foreign artists singing foreign works in a foreign tongue,
but the change in repertory would promote an appreciation and an
understanding of truthful, dramatic expression in a form which claimed
close relationship with the drama.

This was the state of affairs when, negotiations having failed with
both Mr. Abbey and Mr. Gye, the summer days of 1884 being nearly gone
and the prospect of a closed theater confronting the directors of the
Metropolitan Opera House, Dr. Leopold Damrosch submitted to them a
proposition to give opera in German under his management, but on their
account. Either the forcefulness and plausibility of his arguments or
the direfulness of their need led the directors to make the venture. Dr.
Damrosch went to Germany toward the end of August; toward the end of
September he was back in New York, ready to announce a season of opera
in German, with a completely organized company and a promising list of
operas. Few persons knew what was coming, and the information brought
with it a shock of surprise. Dr. Damrosch had been a vigorous factor in
the musical life of New York for twelve years, but he had never been
identified with opera in the public mind, and, in fact, his practical
familiarity with it was little. He had come to New York from Breslau,
where he was conductor of the Orchesterverein (a symphonic organization)
in 1871. He had had some practical experience with the theater at
Weimar, where he played with the orchestra of the Court Theater under
the direction of Liszt, had been musical director at the Municipal
Theater in Posen and Breslau, but for short periods only. He had not
gone through the career of the typical German conductor for the reason
that he was not a musician "vom Hause aus"--as the Germans express it.
He was a physician turned musician--a member of one of the scientific
professions who had abandoned science for art.

Dr. Damrosch was a remarkable man. He was born in Posen, Prussia,
on October 22, 1832. He studied music in the home circle, like the
generality of German lads, but his parents had chosen the profession of
medicine for him, and he had acquiesced in the choice, matriculating
in the medical department of the University of Berlin after he had
completed the usual gymnasial course of studies. He had not abandoned
his love for music, though he so devoted himself to medicine that in
due course he was graduated with honors and received his degree.
Incidentally, like Schumann at Heidelberg, he continued to study music,
Hubert Ries being his teacher in violin playing, and the venerable
Professor Dehn in counterpoint and composition. After graduation he
returned to his native Posen to practise medicine, and remained there
thus occupied till 1854.

In 1855 the physician's earlier and stronger love for music achieved the
mastery over his adopted profession, and he started out into the world
as a concert violinist. He played at Magdeburg and at Berlin, where his
talents were so much admired that on the recommendation of friends in
the Prussian capital he went to Weimar, where he won the friendship
of Liszt and joined the body of enthusiastic young musicians--Peter
Cornelius and others--who had rallied around the great musician and were
fighting the battles of the new German school. His musical creed was
formed here, as he himself confessed in a series of articles written for
the Neue Zeitschrift für Musik. His first official appointment was as
director of the music at the Stadttheater in Posen, and in 1866 he was
called to fill the same post at Breslau. After he had resigned this
position he remained in Breslau as director of the Orchesterverein,
which he called into existence until he accepted the call of the
Männergesangverein Arion in New York in 1871. Though Dr. Damrosch had
achieved a European reputation before he came to New York, his best
and most enduring work was accomplished here, where he organized the
Oratorio Society, which has had a continuous existence since 1873, and
the Symphony Society, which, amid many vicissitudes and with several
reincarnations, has lived since 1877. The establishment of German opera,
though it did not endure, was yet his crowning achievement, and at the
culmination of the glory which it brought him he died. But of that
presently and in its proper place.

The artistic basis of the scheme which Dr. Damrosch put into effect was
essentially German. It dispensed with the star system (except so far as
the engagement of Mme. Materna was a deference to it) and substituted
instead a good ensemble, unusual attention to the mounting of
operas, and the bringing out of dramatic effects through other stage
accessories. The change of base brought with it of necessity a change
of repertory, and the Italian operas which had formed the staple of
New York lists for years were put aside for the masterpieces of German
and French composers. One or two efforts to include works of a lighter
lyrical character sufficed to demonstrate the wisdom of a strict
adherence to the list of tragic works of large dimensions and
spectacular nature, and the sagacity of Dr. Damrosch was shown in
nothing more clearly than in his choice of operas for representation.

There were few familiar names in the list of singers printed in the
prospectus. The most familiar, and the greatest, was that which
has already been announced as the one concession made to the star
system--Mme. Amalia Materna. Twenty-five years ago the story of Bayreuth
was a household word throughout the civilized world, and Mme. Materna
had been associated with the Wagner festivals since the first held, in
1876. In May, 1882, she was brought to New York by Theodore Thomas for
the Music Festival, held in the Seventh Regiment Armory, and with her
Bayreuth colleagues--Winkelmann, tenor, and Scaria, bass--she took part
in concerts and festivals which Mr. Thomas gave in 1884 in Boston,
New York, Philadelphia, Cincinnati, and Chicago. After returning to
Europe after the American engagement of 1882, she had gone straight
to Bayreuth, where she "created" the part of Kundry in the original
production of "Parsifal," alternating afterward in the character
with Fräulein Brandt, who was associated with her in Dr. Damrosch's
Metropolitan company. When she came to the Metropolitan (she made her
first appearance after the season was well under headway, in January,
1885) Mme. Materna was thirty-eight years old and her splendid powers
were at their zenith. She had sung in public since her thirteenth year,
at first in church, then in comic opera in Graz and Vienna. While
singing at a small theater in the Austrian capital she became a member
of the Court Opera, attracted wide attention by her dramatic abilities
in the grand operas of its repertories, and at once leaped into fame by
her impersonation of Brünnhilde at the first Bayreuth festival, in 1876.

Next in significance in the first Metropolitan German Company was
Marianne Brandt, whose influence in creating new ideals and developing
new tastes among the opera-goers of New York was even greater than that
of Mme. Materna, because her powers were no less and her labors of
longer duration. She came here after having won praise from the critics
of London, where she had sung at the first performance in England of
"Tristan und Isolde" at Drury Lane in 1882. That was ten years after
she had effected her London début. The principal Coloratursängerin of
the company was Frau Marie Schroeder-Hanfstängl, then a member of
the Frankfort Opera, who was a native of Breslau and a friend of the
Damrosch family while they were there. As Mlle. Schroeder she had
already established a reputation at that time in Paris, where she had
sung at the Théâtre Lyrique through the mediation of her teacher,
Mme. Viardot-Garcia. The jugendlich Dramatische was Frau Auguste
Seidl-Krauss, who was announced throughout the season by her maiden
name, but had been married for about a year to Anton Seidl, then
conductor at the Stadttheater in Bremen, who was soon to become a
most puissant factor in the sum of New York's musical activities. The
principal tenor was Anton Schott, who had made a considerable reputation
as a Wagnerian singer in the opera houses of Munich, Berlin, Schwerin,
Hanover, and London, and had made the Italian tour with Angelo Neumann's
Wagner company which Seidl conducted in 1882. Earlier in life he had
been an artillery officer in the German army, which fact coupled
with his explosive manner of singing prompted one of Dr. von Bülow's
witticisms. The doctor had been conductor of the opera in Hanover when
Schott was there and had conceived a violent dislike for him. Some years
after the latter's New York season, conversing socially with von Bülow,
I chanced to mention Schott's name.

"Ah! do you know Schott?" asked the irascible little doctor;
"ein eigenthümlicher Sänger, nicht war? Eigentlich ist er ein
Militärtenor--ein Artillerist. Sie wissen er singt manchmal zu hoch--da
distonirt er; gewöhnlich singt er zu tief--da destonirt er; und wenn er
gelegentlich rein singt--da detonirt er!" The ingenious play on words
is quite untranslatable, but my readers who understand German but are
unfamiliar with musical terms will be helped to an appreciation of the
fun by being told that "dis," "des," and "de" are the German names
applied respectively to D sharp, D flat, and D natural. No doubt Dr.
von Bülow had perpetrated his little joke before he shot it off for my
benefit. It was a habit of his to have such brilliant impromptus ready
and ingeniously to invite an occasion for their introduction. But they
always had the effect of brilliant spontaneity. It was on another
occasion, when he was praising the performance of another German tenor,
and I had interposed the suggestion that to me he seemed to lack
virility, that he burst out with:

"But, my dear fellow, a tenor isn't a man; it's a disease!"

I supplied the quotation marks in my mind, for though the remark was
his, it had served him on at least one other occasion, as I chanced
to know.

Other members of the company were Anna Slach, Anna Stern, Hermine Bely,
Adolf Robinson, barytone (another of Dr. Damrosch's professional friends
from Breslau); Josef Staudigl (bass, son of the great Staudigl); Josef
Koegel, bass; Emil Tiffero, Herr Udvardi, Otto Kemlitz, Ludwig Wolf,
Josef Miller, and Herr Schneller. John Lund, who came from Kroll's,
in Berlin, and Walter Damrosch, were chorus masters and assistant
conductors. The first season began on November 17, 1884, with a
performance of "Tannhäuser."



CHAPTER XI

GERMAN OPERA AT THE METROPOLITAN


After German opera began at the Metropolitan Opera House it endured
seven years. It was only at the outset that it had the opposition of
what had been the established régime of Italian opera at the Academy of
Music, but it was pursued throughout its career by desultory enterprises
and hampered greatly by the fact that the stockholders were never
unitedly and enthusiastically in favor of it or the principles of art
which it represented. Throughout the period there was a hankering for
the fleshpots of Egypt in the region of the Metropolitan boxes. It seems
desirable, therefore, that, though it is my purpose more specifically
in the next few chapters to tell the story of the seven years of German
opera, I should turn the light occasionally on the doings at rival
institutions. The first of the seven years at the Metropolitan Opera
House was the seventh year of Colonel Mapleson's tenancy of the Academy
of Music. He opened his season on November 10, 1884, but before then
James Barton Key and Horace McVicker experimented with Italian opera
for three weeks at the Star Theater. The organization was composed of
operatic flotsam and jetsam, such as is always to be found plentifully
in New York after operatic storms in South America or Mexico, and was
neither better nor worse than scores of other companies heard here
before and since. Like most of these, too, it had a mouth-filling
name--the Milan Grand Opera Company--but, like few of them, it had a
capital tenor, Signor Giannini, who at a somewhat later period we shall
find in Colonel Mapleson's forces. Other members of the company whose
names are worthy of preservation were Maria Peri (soprano leggiero),
Signora Damerini (dramatic soprano), Signora Mestress (contralto), and
Signor Serbolini (bass). The experiment resulted in financial failure,
but it introduced to New York the South American opera, "Il Guarany,"
by Señor Gomez. In Colonel Mapleson's company were Mme. Patti,
Signora Ricetti, Mme. Emma Nevada, Signor Nicolini, Signor Vicini, and
Signor Cardinali (tenors), Mme. Scalchi, Mme. Fursch-Madi, Signori de
Pasqualis, Cherubini, Caracciolo (bassos), Signor de Anna (barytone),
and Signor Bassetti (tenor), otherwise Mr. Charles Bassett, like Mme.
Nevada, an American singer. The subscription ended on December 27th, and
in the following week he gave four extra performances, at two of which
he reduced the prices, though they were of a higher artistic order than
the others. The relations between Mapleson and the stockholders of the
Academy were becoming strained, and in a speech which he made at his
annual benefit he remarked upon their absence sarcastically. It was
plain that their patience had given out and that they were weary of
extending to him the financial support which had helped him through
the season. In my review of the season I find this remark, which is
indicative of their indifference to the fate of their lessee: "The
condition of the house gives evidence of an unwillingness to sink money
in an unlucrative enterprise. It is somewhat discouraging to the patrons
of the house to sit in ramshackle chairs which threaten to deposit them
incontinently on the floor at any moment, and the collapse of a stall
has frequently accentuated a musical or dramatic climax in the season
just ended."

The season ended with many promises unfulfilled, for which the
impresario placed the blame upon the directors, who, he said, had not
given him sufficient use of the Academy stage. His explanations were not
always wholly ingenuous, however. Thus he had announced that "Lakmé"
would be given, with the composer, M. Delibes, in the conductor's
chair. Now, in the season before, Mme. Gerster had been so desirous to
create the part of the heroine in America (it being one which afforded
fine scope for her lovely powers, and which she had studied with the
composer) that she had bought the performing rights. But nothing came of
her ambition, and it was an open secret that Heugel, the publisher, had
quarreled with Mapleson because of unwarranted practices with his scores
in London. In the midst of his troubles Colonel Mapleson announced that
he had engaged Mme. Nilsson for the season of 1885-86. There was as
little foundation for this announcement as for the promise of "Lakmé."

With ruin staring him in the face, Mapleson concluded the season. He
bettered his fortunes a trifle in Boston and Philadelphia, but failed
again in New Orleans and St. Louis. Then he went to San Francisco,
where the fact that Mme. Nevada was a native of the Pacific Slope was
a helpful factor. After the close of the season at the Metropolitan
Opera House he gave a "spring season" of six performances in one week,
beginning on April 20th. He repeated the performance in Boston and then
sailed for Europe, stopping in New York only long enough to institute
two suits at law--one against Signor Nicolini to recover $10,000 for
failing to sing, and one against Mme. Nevada for $3,000, alleged to
have been overpaid her. The suits, in all likelihood, were merely moves
in the managerial game which he was playing in London and New York. In
the seventh of these "Chapters of Opera" I described as the crowning
achievement of Colonel Mapleson in the season full of noteworthy
incidents the circumstance that he had succeeded in owing Mme. Patti
some $5,000 or $6,000. Nicolini was Patti's husband.

More than ever it looked in the spring of 1885 as if Italian opera had
received its quietus. The demoralization of the Academy of Music was
complete. In London there prevailed a state of affairs so anomalous and
startling that the newspaper critics were cudgeling their brains in a
vain effort to find an explanation. For the first time in one hundred
and fifty-eight years the British metropolis was without opera; for
the first time in thirty-nine years (except in 1856, when fire made it
impossible) the Royal Italian Opera at Covent Garden had failed to open
its doors on Easter Tuesday. Mr. Gye and his backers refused to venture
their fortunes again, and the lease of Her Majesty's was also going
begging. In New York Colonel Mapleson had held one good card which he
did not seem to know how to play: the season compassed the twenty-fifth
anniversary of the operatic début of Mme. Patti. There ought, for
excellent and obvious reasons, to have been a fitting celebration of
the event; but there was not. On November 26th, two days after the date,
Colonel Mapleson gave a performance of "Martha," with Mmes. Patti
and Scalchi in the principal women's parts. After the opera a rout of
supernumeraries, choristers, and other boys and men engaged for the
purpose, carrying torches, followed the diva's carriage to the Windsor
Hotel, where she was serenaded. That was all. It was so undignified and
inadequate that it provoked some of Mme. Patti's friends to arrange the
banquet in her honor which I have described in Chapter VI. Had Signor
Brignoli, who was the Edgardo to Adelina Patti's Lucia at the Academy on
November 24, 1859, been spared in life and health a few weeks longer
(Signor Brignoli died in October, 1884), his friends would probably
have urged an association of the two artists in a gala performance
of Donizetti's opera. This would have provided an appropriate and
delightful celebration, and it would not have been difficult to marshal
a number of interesting relics of the period which saw the operatic
advent of Mme. Patti, though all of them would have appeared much worse
for the wear of a quarter-century than she. Of the valiant champions
who were leading the contending operatic armies of the time, Arditi,
Maretzek, and Strakosch were still with us. The first was filling, as
of yore, the leader's chair at the Academy and doing yeoman's service
in the unobtrusive and modest manner which always characterized him;
the second, withdrawn from all connection with operatic management, was
watching the boiling and bubbling of the caldron with amused interest
and spicing his comments with capitally told reminiscences of opera a
generation before; the third was still chasing the fickle goddess with
fugitive essays as impresario. There were even remains of the critics of
those days still active in the world of letters--Richard Grant White,
for instance, and George William Curtis, one of my predecessors on The
Tribune--and they would undoubtedly have grown young again and been
warmed into enthusiastic utterance by eager memories of the dainty
débutante and the singers who had preceded her--Grisi, Bosio,
Piccolomini, and the rest.

A vast amount of reminiscences would have been justified by such
a celebration, for it would have thrown a bright sidelight on the
marvelous career of Mme. Patti, a career without parallel in the history
of the last half-century. Within three years after she made her first
essay "our little Patti," as she was then fondly spoken of, had achieved
the queenship of the lyric stage; and, now, twenty-two years later, her
title had not suffered the slightest impairment. Within the time singers
who had won the world's admiration had been born, educated, and lifted
to the niches prepared for them by popular appreciation, but all far
below the place where Patti sat enthroned. Stars of great brilliancy
had flashed across the firmament and gone out in darkness, but the
refulgence of Patti's art remained undimmed, having only grown mellower
and deeper and richer with time. Truth is, Mme. Patti was then, and is
still, twenty-five years later, a musical miracle; and the fact that she
was in New York to sing in the very spot in which she began her career
twenty-five years before should have been celebrated as one of the
proudest incidents in the city's musical annals. For the generation of
opera-goers who grew up in the period which ought to be referred to
for all time in the annals of music as The Reign of Patti, she set a
standard by which all aspirants for public favor were judged except
those whose activities were in a widely divergent field. Not only did
she show them what the old art of singing was, but she demonstrated
the possibility of its revival. And she did this while admiring
enthusiastically the best results of the dramatic spirit which pervades
musical composition to-day. Her talent was so many-sided and so
astonishing, no matter from which side it was viewed, that rhapsody
seems to be the only language left one who attempts analysis or
description of it. Her voice, of unequaled beauty, was no more a gift
of nature than the ability to assimilate without effort the things
which cost ordinary mortals years of labor and vexation of soul. It was
perpetually amazing how her singing made the best efforts of the best of
her contemporaries pale, especially those who depended on vocal agility
for their triumphs. Each performance of hers made it plainer than it had
been before that her genius penetrated the mere outward glitter of the
music and looked upon the ornament as so much means to the attainment of
an end; that end, a beautiful interpretation of the composer's thought.
No artist of her time was so perfect an exponent as she of the quality
of repose. So far as appearances went it was as easy for her to burden
the air with trills and roulades as it was to talk. She sang as the
lark sings; the outpouring of an ecstasy of tones of almost infinite
number and beauty seemed in her to be a natural means of expression.
Her ideas of art were the highest, and it was a singular testimony
of her earnestness that, while educated in the old Italian school of
vocalization and holding her most exalted supremacy as a singer of
Rossini's music, her warmest love, by her own confession, was given, not
to its glittering confections, but to the serious efforts of the most
dramatic writers. This must be remembered in the list of her astonishing
merits now when her voice can no longer call up more than "the tender
grace of a day that is dead"; mine was the proud privilege and great
happiness of having heard her often in her prime. But I must get down
to the real business of this chapter.

The first German performance at the Metropolitan took place on November
17, 1884. The opera was "Tannhäuser" and the distribution of parts
as follows: Elizabeth, Mme. Krauss; Venus, Fräulein Slach; a Young
Shepherd, Fräulein Stern; the Landgrave, Josef Koegel; Tannhäuser, Anton
Schott; Wolfram, Adolf Robinson; Walther von der Vogelweide, Emil
Tiffero; Biterolf, Josef Miller; Heinrich der Schreiber, Otto Kemlitz;
Reinmar, Ludwig Wolf. The performance made no claim upon special
analysis or description. Its highest significance consisted in the
publication which it made with reference to the new ideals in operatic
representation which came in with the new movement. No doubt to a large
portion of the audience, still judging by the old standards, much of it
must have been inexplicable, much of it (especially the singing of Herr
Schott) little short of monstrous. To a smaller portion, familiar with
the opera, the language of its book and the spirit of the play, as well
as the music, it came as a vivid realization of the purposes of the
poet-composer. To all but the German element in the audience the opera
itself was practically a novelty. "Tannhäuser" had not been incorporated
in the Italian repertory as "Lohengrin" had, and only those knew it
who had attended the sporadic German performances of earlier decades
conducted by such men as Bergmann, Anschütz, and Neuendorff. The
first New York performance took place on August 27, 1859, at which the
Männergesangverein Arion supplied the choruses.

Wagner once described his Tannhäuser as "a German from head to foot,"
and it was doubtless because Dr. Damrosch saw in it a representative
quality that he chose it for his opening. There was patriotism as well
as lovely artistic devotion, too, in the choice of "Fidelio" for the
second performance, on November 19th. Beethoven's opera had almost
as little association with Italian opera as "Tannhäuser," and it was
noteworthy that the only portion of the audience room which was not
filled was that occupied by the stockholders' boxes. It was an English
company that, in September, 1839, had introduced "Fidelio" to New York,
and with it made such successful competition with the Italian company of
the day that it was performed fourteen times in succession. Mr. Mapleson
made a pitiful essay with it in March, 1882, at the Academy, but to
recall as vivid and vital a performance as that under discussion one had
to go back to the days of Mme. Johannsen and her associates, who gave
German opera in 1856. In Dr. Damrosch's performance Marianne Brandt
effected her entrance on the American stage, and the memory of her
impersonation of the heroine is still one of the liveliest and most
fragrant memories of those memorable days. The dramatic framework of
"Fidelio" is weak, its construction faulty. Only one ethical idea
is presented in it with real vividness, but it is an idea which is
peculiarly dear to the German heart--the saving power of woman's love.
"Fidelio" is a tale of wifely devotion, and Beethoven bent all his
energies to a glorification of his heroine's love and fidelity. To
represent the character faithfully has been the highest ambition of
German singers for a century. In that time not many more than a dozen
have achieved high distinction in it; and Marianne Brandt is among the
number. On its musical side her performance was thrillingly effective,
but on its histrionic it rose to grandeur. Every word of her few
speeches, every note of her songs, every look of her eyes and expression
of her face was an exposition of that world of tenderness which filled
the heart of Leonore. Nine-tenths of the action which falls to the
part of Leonore is by-play, and by-play of the kind which is made
particularly difficult by the time consumed by the music, which is not
wisely adjusted with reference to the promotion of the action. Yet all
these waits while Leonore is in view were filled by Fräulein Brandt
with little actions which tended to develop the character so sadly
left in the background by the playwright, but so lovingly treated by
the composer. It was down to its smallest detail a picture of a woman
impelled by one idea, in which her whole soul had been resolved, and
which had grown out of a lofty conception of love and duty. There was
nothing of the petty theatrical in Fräulein Brandt, and it was only an
evidence of the sincerity of her devotion to the art work which made her
bend over and stroke the wrist which she had freed from manacles while
the powerful personages of the play were bowing before her as a pattern
of conjugal love and the mimic populace were shouting their jubilations
over salvation accomplished.

At the third representation, on November 21st, Meyerbeer's "Huguenots"
was brought forward to introduce Mme. Schroeder-Hanfstängl; and at the
fourth tribute to the characteristic German spirit was paid by the
production of Weber's "Der Freischütz." From the day of its birth this
has been the opera in which the romantic spirit of the German race
has found its most vivid reflection. The sombre lights and mysterious
murmurings of the German forests pervade it; the spectres of that
paganism from which the sturdy Northerners could be weaned only by
compromise and artifice flit through it. The Wild Huntsman overshadows
it and, though he says not a word, he powerfully asserts his claim upon
the trembling admiration of those who keep open hearts for some of his
old companions of pre-Christian days--especially for the burly fellow
who under a new name is welcomed joyfully every Christmastide. In
another sense, too, "Der Freischütz" is a national opera; the spirit of
its music is drawn from the art-form which the people created. Instead
of resting on the highly artificial product of the Italian renaissance,
it rests upon popular song--folk-song, the song of the folk. Its
melodies echo the cadences of the Volkslieder in which the German heart
voices its dearest loves. Instead of shining with the light of the
Florentine courts it glows with the rays of the setting sun filtered
through the foliage of the Black Forest. Yet "Der Freischütz" failed on
this its revival--failed so dismally that Dr. Damrosch did not venture
upon a single repetition. The lesson which it taught had already been
suggested by "Fidelio," but now it was made plain and Dr. Damrosch paid
heed to it at once. The dimensions of the Metropolitan Opera House
forbade the intimacy which operas founded on the German Singspiel
demand for appreciation, and spoken dialogue, especially in a foreign
tongue, was painfully destructive of artistic illusion. The operas which
followed were more to the purpose: "William Tell," on November 28th,
with Robinson as the hero, Schroeder-Hanfstängl as Mathilde, Slach as
Gemmy, Staudigl as Gessler, Koegel as Walter, Udvardi as Arnold, and
Brandt exemplifying a new spirit in opera by her assumption of the
unimportant part of Tell's wife; "Lohengrin," on December 3d, with
Krauss, Brandt, Schott, and Staudigl in the principal parts; "Don
Giovanni," on December 10th, with Schroeder-Hanfstängl as Donna Anna,
Hermine Bely as Zerlina, Brandt as Elvira, Robinson as the Don,
Koegel as the Commander, and Udvardi as Ottavio; "Le Prophète," on
December 17th, with Brandt as Fidès (one of her greatest rôles),
Schroeder-Hanfstängl as Bertha, and Schott as John of Leyden; "La Muette
de Portici" (otherwise "Masaniello") on December 29th, with Schott as
the hero and Isolina Torri as Fenella. There was an interruption of
this spectacular list on January 2, 1885, when "Rigoletto" was given
to gratify the ambition of Herr Robinson to be seen and heard as the
Jester, and of Mme. Schroeder-Hanfstängl to sing the music of Gilda. In
this opera Fräulein Brandt played the part of Maddelena and interpolated
a Spanish song sung in German. Then, on January 5th, came Mme. Materna's
first operatic appearance in America, in a repetition of "Tannhäuser."

Before continuing the record a few notes on some of these operas and
their performance may not be amiss. There was little that was noteworthy
about the representation of "Don Giovanni" except Dr. Damrosch's effort
to do justice to the famous finale, the full effectiveness of which
failed nevertheless because of the arrangement of the stage, which
was that of the preceding season. "Les Huguenots" was a distinct
disappointment. "La Muette de Portici," which was as good as new to
the majority of the audience, acquired historical interest from close
association with "William Tell." It was something of an anomaly that,
though Rossini's opera had made its appearance during the many years of
Italian domination whenever a tenor came who could be counted on to make
a sensation with his high notes in the familiar trio of men, Auber's
opera, its inspiration as a type, had had so few representations that
it had passed out of memory except for its overture. But the history
of "La Muette" is full of anomalies. Its story is Neapolitan and there
is Neapolitan color in its music; but it is nothing if not French. It
inspired Rossini to write "William Tell" and Meyerbeer to write "Les
Huguenots" for the French stage, and is the masterpiece of its author;
but Auber is the only Frenchman among the great composers for the
Académie in the first half of the nineteenth century. Wagner defended it
against the taste of the Parisians, who preferred Rossini and Donizetti,
and was snubbed for his pains by the editor of the Gazette Musicale,
who was an officer of the French government. Von Weber condemned as
coarse the instrumentation which Wagner praised for its fire and
truthfulness. Its heroine is dumb; yet to her is assigned the loveliest
music in the score.

"Lohengrin" better than "Tannhäuser" gave the public an opportunity to
study the change in matter and spirit which had been introduced into
local opera by the coming of the Germans to the Metropolitan.

Mme. Materna's first appearance on January 5th was followed by a second
on January 7th as Valentine in "Les Huguenots," and a third on January
16th in Halévy's "La Juive." By this time Dr. Damrosch was ready with
the first of the large Wagnerian productions which were a part of the
dream which it was fated should be realized, not by him, but by his
successor, whose name was thereby made illustrious in the operatic
annals of New York. On January 30th "Die Walküre" was performed, with
the following cast: Brünnhilde, Amalia Materna; Fricka, Marianne
Brandt; Sieglinde, Auguste Krauss; Siegmund, Anton Schott; Wotan, Josef
Staudigl; Hunding, Josef Koegel; Gerhilde, Marianne Brandt; Ortlinde,
Fräulein Stern; Waltraute, Fräulein Gutjar; Schwertleite, Fräulein
Morse; Helmwige, Frau Robinson; Siegrune, Fräulein Slach; Grimgerde,
Frau Kemlitz; Rossweise, Fräulein Brandl.

"Die Walküre" had been presented before in New York at a so-called
Wagner festival at the Academy of Music on April 2, 1877, under the
direction of Adolf Neuendorff; but the memories of that production
were painful when they were not amusing, and, though much of the music
of the Nibelung trilogy had been heard in the concert room, this was
practically the first opportunity the people of New York had to learn
from personal experience what it was that Wagner meant by a union of
arts in the lyric drama. Dr. Damrosch had made an earnest effort to meet
the standard set by the Bayreuth festivals. The original scenery and
costumes were faithfully copied, except that for the sake of increased
picturesqueness Herr Hock, the stage manager, had draperies replace the
door in Hunding's hut, which, shaking loose from their fastenings, fell
just before Siegmund began his love song, and disclosed an expanse of
moonlit background. In the third act, too, there was a greater variety
of colors in the costumes of the Valkyrior. Fräulein Brandt again
disclosed her artistic devotion by enacting the part of Fricka and also
leading the chorus of Valkyrior; but Mme. Materna was the inspiration of
the performance. It was a surprise to those who had already learned to
admire her to see how in the character of Brünnhilde she towered above
herself in other rôles. Both of the strong sides of the character had
perfect exemplification in her singing and acting--the wild, impetuous,
exultant freedom of voice which proclaimed the Valkyria's joy in living
and doing until the catastrophe was reached, and the deep, unselfish,
tender nature disclosed in her sympathy with the ill-starred lovers
and her immeasurable love for Wotan. Her complete absorption in the
part fitted her out with a new gamut of expression. "If anything can
establish a sympathy between us and the mythological creatures of
Wagner's dramas," I wrote at the time, "that thing is the acting and
singing of Materna." The drama made a tremendous impression, and in the
three weeks which remained of the season (including some supplementary
performances) "Die Walküre" had seven representations.

The remaining incidents of the season may now be hurried over to make
room for a record of the catastrophe which marked its close. By the
middle of January it was reported that the receipts were double those of
the corresponding period in the previous year, notwithstanding that the
price of admission had been reduced nearly one-half. By this time, too,
the board of directors had decided to continue the policy adopted at the
suggestion of Dr. Damrosch and engage him as director for the next year.
This decision had not been reached, however, without consideration of
other projects. Charles Mapleson, a son of the director of the Academy
of Music, and doubtless only his go-between, submitted a proposition for
the directorship, and so did Adolf Neuendorff, a man of indefatigable
energy and enterprise, who had given New York its first hearing of
"Lohengrin" at the Stadt Theater, in the Bowery, in April, 1871. In
January there was also a strike of the chorus, which was quickly
settled, and all but the ringleaders in the disturbance taken back
into favor on signing an apology.

Rejoicings over the success of the enterprise gave way to general grief
and consternation with the unexpected death of Dr. Damrosch on February
15th. On Tuesday, February 10th, he contracted a cold from having thrown
himself upon a bed in a cold room for a nap before dinner on returning
from a rehearsal at the opera house. He had neglected to open the
furnace register or cover himself, and he awoke thoroughly chilled.
After dinner he went to a rehearsal of the Oratorio Society, which was
preparing Verdi's Manzoni Requiem for performance the following week.
Before the conclusion of the rehearsal he was so ill that he was
forced to hurry home in a carriage. The next morning it was found that
pneumonia had set in, complicated by pleurisy, and a consultation of
physicians was held. Only one of the subscription performances at the
Metropolitan Opera House remained to be given, but there were still
before the director in the way of operatic work five supplementary
performances and seasons at Boston, Chicago, and Cincinnati. This
naturally caused the sick man a great deal of concern. He deferred to
the wishes of his physicians and sent his son Walter, in whose talent
and skill he felt great confidence and pride, to conduct the remaining
subscription performance in the evening, hoping in the meantime to
secure such good care as to enable him to be in his chair on Thursday
evening when "Die Walküre" was to be repeated. In this hope, too, he
was disappointed and had to send his son a second time to conduct a
performance of the drama which had put the capstone to the astonishingly
successful season which his zeal, learning, skill, enterprise, and
perseverance had brought about. As on the previous day he went through
the score with his son and called his attention to some of the details
of the responsible and difficult task before him. The young man's
knowledge of the score and aptitude in grasping the suggestions made to
him comforted and quieted the father, and the representations at the
opera house went off in a manner which caused complimentary comments on
Thursday evening and Saturday afternoon. On Sunday, February 15th, at
3 o'clock A.M., a change in the sick man's condition set in, and the
physicians, realizing that the case was hopeless, so informed the family
early in the day. Dr. Damrosch was not disturbed by the prospect of
death. He retained consciousness until one o'clock in the afternoon, and
within an hour before that time called Walter to his bedside and asked
that an opera score be brought that he might give a few more suggestions
for the concluding representations in New York. He was assured that
all would go well. His last thoughts and words were with his family
and work. In disjointed phrases he repeatedly asked that nothing be
permitted to suffer because of his sickness; that the preparations for
the operas and concerts of the societies of which he was conductor
should go on. With his mind thus occupied he sank into unconsciousness
and died at a quarter after two o'clock in the afternoon of Sunday,
February 15, 1885. His funeral took place at the opera house on
February 18th, amidst impressive ceremonies, addresses being made by
the Rev. Horatio Potter (Assistant Bishop of New York), the Rev. Henry
Ward Beecher, and Professor Felix Adler. The remaining performances of
the supplementary season were conducted by Mr. Lund, after which the
company went on tour, Mr. Lund and Walter Damrosch sharing the work
of conducting. The season had begun on November 17th, one week after
Colonel Mapleson opened his seventh season at the Academy of Music. It
lasted until February 21st, but the last subscription performance was
that on the evening of the day after Dr. Damrosch had fallen ill. The
subscription was for thirty-eight nights and twelve Saturday matinées.
There was no Christmas interregnum. The list of operas produced, the
date of first representation, and the number of times each opera was
given can be read in the following table:


   Opera                    First performance     Times given

  "Tannhäuser" .............. November 17 ........... 9
  "Fidelio" ................. November 19 ........... 3
  "Les Huguenots" ........... November 21 ........... 5
  "Der Freischütz" .......... November 24 ........... 1
  "William Tell" ............ November 28 ........... 3
  "Lohengrin" ............... December 3 ............ 9
  "Don Giovanni" ............ December 10 ........... 2
  "Le Prophète" ............. December 17 ........... 9
  "La Muette de Portici" .... December 29 ........... 3
  "Rigoletto" ............... January 2 ............. 1
  "La Juive" ................ January 16 ............ 5
  "Die Walküre" ............. January 30 ............ 7
                                                     --
   Total number of representations ................. 57


Twelve out of twenty-two works promised in the prospectus were given,
the unperformed operas being "Rienzi," "Der Fliegende Holländer,"
"Le Nozze di Figaro," "Die Zauberflöte," "Il Barbiere di Siviglia,"
Gounod's "Faust," "Die Lustigen Weiber von Windsor," "La Dame Blanche,"
"Hans Heiling," and Kreutzer's "Nachtlager von Granada." The failure
to produce all the operas promised was largely due to the teachings of
the first month of the season. In the list were a number of peculiarly
German works, in which the musical numbers alternated with spoken
dialogue. The experience made with "Fidelio" and "Der Freischütz" showed
that works of this character were unedifying to the persons of native
birth in the audience, and this was one reason why it was decided
to omit several of them. Another reason was that it was found that
the large dimensions of the opera house detracted from even good
performances of light works; and still another was that the style of
the singers was adapted to vigorous and declamatory music, rather than
to that which depends for effect upon purity and beauty of voice and
excellence of vocalization. A comparison of the last performances
with those which were given when the company was continually engaged
in studying new works suggests another reason: "Der Freischütz" was
poorly performed; the first representations of "William Tell" and
"Les Huguenots" threatened the loss of all the prestige won by the
performances of "Tannhäuser"; and "Fidelio" and "Don Giovanni" called
for a vigorous exercise of good nature. Whatever disappointment came,
therefore, from the failure to produce such interesting works as "Hans
Heiling," one of the finest products, if not the finest, of the epigonoi
of Weber, and "Die Lustigen Weiber von Windsor," unquestionably the best
Shakespearian opera extant (Verdi's "Otello" and "Falstaff" excepted),
was compensated for by the excellence which marked the performances
of "Tannhäuser," "Lohengrin," "Le Prophète," and "Die Walküre." The
production of this great work was a fitting end to Dr. Damrosch's
artistic career. It marked the beginning of a new era in New York's
operatic affairs, and led to the execution in the years which followed
of his large plan to produce the entire Nibelung tragedy, "Tristan und
Isolde" and "Die Meistersinger"--a plan carried out by his successor.
For "Tannhäuser," "Fidelio," "William Tell," "La Muette de Portici," "La
Juive," and "Die Walküre" new stage decorations had to be provided, and
this was done on a scale of great liberality, in comparison with what
New York had been accustomed to. The largest expenditure on a single
representation was $4,000, and the average cost was $3,400. These sums
were much smaller than those expended in the previous season on the
hurdy-gurdy Italian list, and the stage pictures were all much finer.
The saving was in the salaries of the artists, no two of which cost
together as much as Mme. Nilsson alone.



CHAPTER XII

END OF ITALIAN OPERA AT THE ACADEMY


The season 1885-86 witnessed the collapse of the Italian opposition at
the Academy of Music, but also the rise of an institution in its
place, which, had it commanded a higher order of talent and been more
intelligently administered, might have served the lofty purposes set for
the German opera. This was the American Opera Company, which, after an
extremely ambitious beginning, made a miserable end a season later,
leaving an odor of scandal, commercial and artistic, which infected the
atmosphere for years afterward. German opera was also given throughout
a large part of the season at the Thalia Theater, the manager being Mr.
Gustav Amberg, and the conductor John Lund, who had come into notice at
the Metropolitan Opera House by reason of the death of Dr. Damrosch.
These performances were unpretentious, and divided between operetta and
the type of opera which grew out of the Singspiel. Their significance,
so far as this history is concerned, lay in the evidence which they bore
of a considerable degree of interest on the part of the public outside
of the patrons of the Metropolitan Opera House in German opera. There
were also commendable features in the repertory. Thus, the performances
began on October 13, 1885, with "Der Freischütz," in which appeared
Ferdinand Wachtel, a son of the famous "coachman tenor," Theodore
Wachtel, whose sensational career in Europe and America had come to an
end a decade before, though he did not die till 1893. The father's
battle horse, "Le Postillon de Lonjumeau," was brought out for the son,
but the public were not long in discovering that the latter had all the
faults and none of the merits of the former, and he failed to become
even a nine days' wonder. Among the operas brought forward by Mr.
Amberg was Nicolai's "Lustigen Weiber von Windsor," and Emil Kaiser's
"Trompeter von Säkkingen," a production obviously prompted by the
sensational success in Europe of Nessler's opera of the same name.
Nicolai's opera, which has never lost its popularity with the Germans,
was probably given on its merits alone, but the fact that Dr. Damrosch
had abandoned it after putting it in his prospectus, may have had
something to do with its performance by Mr. Amberg's modest troupe, as
well as by the proud American Opera Company, which brought it out in a
specially prepared English version. Mr. Amberg's company also brought
forward a German version of Maillart's "Les Dragons de Villars," under
the title, "Das Glöckchen des Eremiten."

Colonel Mapleson, having spent the summer bickering and negotiating
with the directors of the Academy, after having failed to get into the
Metropolitan Opera House under the cloak of his son Charles, began his
eighth season in the Academy of Music, which had been furbished up for
the occasion, on November 2, 1885. Mme. Patti had deserted him, and
if he ever had made overtures to Mme. Nilsson, whose engagement he had
announced, they came to naught. He now made a virtue out of necessity
and proclaimed the merits of "good all 'round" opera, and the iniquity
of the star system. His company, however, was the old one, with Alma
Fohström and Minnie Hauk in place of Mme. Patti, Gerster, and Nevada.
Among the familiar names in the prospectus were those of Mme. Lablache,
Ravelli, de Anna, Del Puente, Cherubini, and Carraciolo; among the
newcomers were Signor Giannini, an extremely serviceable tenor, who had
sung in the previous season in the "Milan Grand Opera Company," compiled
by James Barton Key and Horace McVicker, as related in the preceding
chapter; also a Mlle. Felia Litvinoff, whom we shall meet again as Mme.
Litvinne, sister-in-law of M. Édouard de Reszke, and member of a company
singing at the Metropolitan Opera House. Mapleson opened with "Carmen,"
the heroine represented by Mme. Hauk. She had created the character in
London and New York, and set a standard which prevailed in England and
America until the coming of Mme. Calvé; but time had dealt harshly
with Mme. Hauk during the nineteen years which had elapsed since she,
a lissome creature, had first sung at the Academy of Music (she had
effected her operatic début in Brooklyn a few weeks before), and much of
the old charm was gone from her singing, and nearly all from her acting.
The opening was distinctly disappointing, and the season came to an end
on November 28th, after twelve evening and four afternoon performances.
There could scarcely have been a more convincing demonstration of how
completely the fashionable world had abandoned the Academy of Music than
the giving of a subscription season of only four weeks' duration. Within
this period, moreover, there was no sign of effort to get out of the old
rut into which Colonel Mapleson's repertory had sunk. "Carmen" was
given three times, "Il Trovatore" twice, "Lucia di Lammermoor" twice,
"L'Africaine" twice, "La Sonnambula" once, "La Favorita" once, "Fra
Diavolo" twice, "Don Giovanni" twice, and "Faust" once. Mlle. Fohström
effected her American début in a performance of "Lucia" on November
9th. She had been announced for the second night of the season in "Il
Trovatore," but was taken ill. She had been little heard of previous to
her coming, though diligent observers of musical doings knew that she
had sung for several seasons in Europe, and, I believe, South America,
and had figured in Colonel Mapleson's spring season in London in 1885.
She was a small creature, with features of a markedly Scandinavian
type--she was a native of Finland--and had evidently studied the
traditions of the Italian operatic stage to as much purpose as was
necessary to present, acceptably, the stereotyped round of characters.
But her gifts and attainments were not great enough to take her
impersonations out of the rut of conventionality, nor to save her
singing from the charge of nervelessness and monotony of color. Three
seasons later (1888-89) she was a member of the German company at the
Metropolitan Opera House, and sang such rôles as Marguerite de Valois
("Les Huguenots"), Mathilde ("William Tell"), Marguerite ("Faust"),
Bertha ("Le Prophète"), and Eudora ("La Juive"), giving place at the
beginning of February to Mme. Schroeder-Hanfstängl, who had returned,
to the delight of her admirers. In the interim she increased her
artistic stature very considerably, her voice proving more effective
in the new house than in the Academy of Music, which was incomparably
better acoustically. Mapleson's singers came back to the Academy on
December 20th to sing Wallace's "Maritana" in Italian (with Tito
Mattei's recitatives in place of the spoken dialogue), and at the
manager's benefit on December 23d Massenet's opera "Manon" was performed
for the first time in America. Under the circumstances the cast deserves
to be set forth: The Chevalier des Grieux, Signor Giannini; Lescaut,
Signor del Puente; Monfontaine, Signor Rinaldini; the Count des Grieux,
Signor Cherubini; du Bretigny, Signor Foscani, (Mr. Fox, an American);
an innkeeper, Signor de Vaschetti; attendant of the Seminary of St.
Sulpice, Signor Bieletto; Poussette, Mlle. Bauermeister; Javotte, Mme.
Lablache; Rovette, Mlle. de Vigne; Manon, Mme. Hauk.

From January 4th to April 17th the Academy of Music was occupied by the
American Opera Company, the artistic director of which was Theodore
Thomas, who had long stood at the head of orchestral music in America.
As I have already intimated, rightly managed this institution might have
become of the same significance to the future of opera in the United
States as the German company, which had just established a domicile at
the Metropolitan Opera House. Indeed, it might have become of greater
significance, for the best friends of the German enterprise looked upon
it as merely a necessary intermediary between the Italian exotic and a
national form of art, with use of the vernacular, which every patriotic
lover of music hoped to see installed some day in the foremost operatic
establishment in the land. Unfortunately, its claims to excellence were
put forward with impudent exaggeration, and there was no substantial
or moral health in its business administration. It could not expect to
cope with foreign organizations or local aggregations of foreign artists
in respect of its principal artists, but it could, and did, in respect
of scenic investiture, and in its choral and instrumental ensemble.
Unhappily, even in these elements it was unwisely directed, though with
a daring and a degree of confidence in popular support which may be said
to have given it a characteristically American trait. In three respects
the season was unique in the American history of English opera (or opera
in English, as it would better he called, since there was not an English
opera in its repertory), viz.: in the brilliancy of the orchestra, the
excellence of the chorus (numerous and fresh of voice), and the
sumptuousness of the stage attire.

There were sixty-six performances in the season of light operas, and one
ballet, the latter Delibes's "Sylvia." The operas were Goetz's "Taming
of the Shrew" (five times), Gluck's "Orpheus" (thirteen times), Wagner's
"Lohengrin" (ten times), Mozart's "Magic Flute" (six times), Nicolai's
"Merry Wives of Windsor" (nine times), Delibes's "Lakmé" (eleven times),
Wagner's "Flying Dutchman" (seven times), and Massé's "Marriage of
Jeannette" (in conjunction with the ballet, five times). "The Taming of
the Shrew" received its first performance in America on January 4, 1886;
"Lakmé" on March 1st; "The Marriage of Jeannette," on March 24th, and
"Lohengrin" (in English), on January 20th.

Immediately on the death of Dr. Damrosch, trouble broke out in the
Metropolitan company. There had been some jealousy among the women
singers because of the large honorarium paid to Mme. Materna. It was her
third visit to America, and she had learned to say dollars when at home
she was accustomed to think of florins. Moreover, in the spring of the
year she had made an extensive concert tour with Mme. Nilsson, under
the direction of Mr. Thomas, and knew something about the liberality of
Americans in the matter of artists' fees. Herr Schott (Dr. von Bülow's
dis-, des-, and detonating tenor), developing a large and noisy
managerial ambition, scarcely waited for the burial of Dr. Damrosch
before beginning an agitation looking toward his installation in the
dead director's place. All this might have been done in a seemly manner,
and if it had been so done might have been carried through successfully
and with popular approbation, for Herr Schott's project, in the main,
was the one acted on by the directors. But Herr Schott, in an effort
to promote his scheme, made an ungallant attack upon the artistic
character of Mme. Materna, and this the public found to be "most
tolerable and not to be endured." The occasion soon presented itself
for Schott to show that he had an overweening sense of his own
importance and popularity. At the end of the fourth of the five
supplementary performances there was a demonstration of applause. Herr
Schott interpreted it as a curtain call for himself, and promptly showed
himself, and bowed his thanks. The applause was renewed, and he repeated
this performance. Then came a third call, and again the tenor stepped
out before the footlights. Now the applause of his friends was mingled
with cries of "Materna!" but on a fourth call, and a fourth appearance
of Schott, the popular feeling exploded in hisses and calls for the
soprano. He retired unabashed, but Mme. Materna, answering the next
call, was tumultuously greeted. So far as the overwhelming majority
of the patrons of the house was concerned, Herr Schott's cake was now
dough. Foolishly he, or his friends for him, proceeded to anger the
directors from whom they were expecting favors. It was given out that
he had submitted a proposition concerning the management of the opera
house at the request of the directors. This met with prompt denial at
the hands of Mr. Stanton, the secretary of the board, and by some of
the directors themselves.

Herr Schott had submitted a proposition, however, and had coupled it
with a hint, which sounded like a threat, that in case it was not
promptly accepted it would go to the directors of the Academy of Music.
This vexed some of the stockholders of the older institution, who
made public denial that they were considering German opera, even as a
remote possibility. Herr Schott's proposition was dismissed with little
ceremony by the Metropolitan directors, who, however, sent Mr. Stanton
and Mr. Walter Damrosch to Europe to organize a company to carry out the
lines already established during the coming season. In doing so they
adopted several valuable suggestions contained in Herr Schott's plan.
In this plan Schott was to be the musical director of the company, of
course, but not the conductor. For this post he contemplated engaging
Anton Seidl, then conductor of the Municipal Theater of Bremen and
husband of the jugendlich Dramatische, who had successfully gone
through the ordeal of one season--Auguste Krauss. Walter Damrosch was
to be assistant conductor, Mme. Schroeder-Hanfstängl, Frau Krauss,
Fräulein Brandt, and Herren Staudigl and Blum, of the old company, were
to be kept, and the new singers were to be a Fräulein Gilbert, Fräulein
Koppmeyer, Ferdinand Wachtel (son of Theodore, already referred to), and
Carl Hill, bass.

The organization, as finally effected, placed Mr. Stanton at its head
as director, acting for the stockholders; Walter Damrosch, as assistant
director, and also conductor; Lilli Lehmann, of Berlin, was the
principal soprano; Marianne Brandt, principal contralto; Albert Stritt,
principal tenor; Emil Fischer, of Dresden, principal bass, and Adolf
Robinson, principal barytone. Other singers were Auguste Krauss (who now
became Seidl-Krauss), Max Alvary, tenor; Fräulein Slach, mezzo-soprano;
Eloi Sylva, tenor; Kemlitz, tenor; Lehmler, bass; Frau Krämer-Wiedl,
dramatic soprano; Herr Alexi, barytone, and Fräulein Klein, soprano.
With this company the second season of German opera was opened on
November 23, 1885, the opera being "Lohengrin." I shall not take up
the features of the season seriatim, nor make detailed record of
the consecutive productions of the operas on its list. Only special
incidents shall be recorded; but before this is done something may
be said touching the newcomers:

Anton Seidl was a young man when he came to New York, but he had filled
the position of secretary to Richard Wagner, and been a member of his
household for six years. Before then he had studied at the Leipsic
Conservatory (which he entered in October, 1870), and been a chorus
master or accompanist at the Vienna Opera. There he came under the eyes
of Hans Richter, who sent him to Wagner when the latter asked for a
young man who could give him such help on "The Ring of the Nibelung" as
Richter had given him on "Die Meistersinger"--that is, to write out the
clean score from the composer's hurried autograph. The period which he
spent with Wagner was from 1872 to 1879. During all the preparations for
the first Bayreuth Festival in 1876 he was one of the poet-composer's
executive officers. He was one of the assistant conductors on the stage
during the festival, and afterward conducted the preliminary rehearsals
for the concerts which Wagner gave in London and elsewhere to recoup
himself for the losses made at the festival. Then, on Wagner's
recommendation, he was appointed conductor at the Municipal Theater
at Leipsic (his associates being Victor Nessler and Arthur Nikisch),
later on of Angelo Neumann's "Richard Wagner Theater," which gave
representations of "Der Ring des Nibelungen" in many cities of Germany,
Holland, England, and Italy, and still later of the Municipal Theater in
Bremen--the post which he held when the death of Dr. Damrosch created
the vacancy which brought him to New York. All this he had accomplished
before his thirty-fifth year (he was born in Pesth on May 7, 1850), and
he was not yet thirty when Wagner, in a speech delivered in Berlin,
alluded to him as "the young artist whom I have brought up, and who is
now accomplishing astounding things." Naturally, when he came to New
York, he was looked upon as a prophet, priest, and paladin of Wagner's
art. For twelve years he filled a large place in the music of New York,
in concert room as well as opera house, and when he died it was like
his predecessor, in the fulness of his powers, and in the midst of his
activities. But this belongs to a later chapter of this story.

Lilli Lehmann brought to New York chiefly the fame which she had won in
Bayreuth at the first Wagner festival, of 1876, at which she was one of
the Rhine daughters (Woglinde), and one of the Valkyrior (Helmwige), and
where she also sang the music of the Forest Bird in "Siegfried." At that
period in her career she was still classed among the light sopranos, and
so she continued to be classed until she broke violently away from the
clogs which tradition puts upon artists in the theaters of Germany. She
felt the charm of freedom from the old theatrical conventions when she
sang Isolde at Covent Garden on July 2, 1884, and her growth to a lofty
tragic stature was rapid. She was filled with fervor for the large rôles
of Wagner when she came to New York, and her success in them was so
gratifying to her ambition that it led her at the expiration of her
leave of absence from the Court Opera at Berlin (where she had been
fifteen years as erste Coloratursängerin) to extend her stay in America
beyond the period of her furlough, and involved her in difficulties with
the Berlin Intendant, and the federation of German theatrical managers,
called the Cartellverband. Having carried to her an offer from the
president of the Cincinnati Festival Association to sing at the festival
of May, 1886, which was the ultimate reason for her action, I am in
a position to give the details of the story of what became a cause
célèbre, and led to a wide discussion of the relations between the
German managers and their singers. A short time before Miss Lehmann had
declined an offer from the committee of the North American Sängerbund to
take part in the Sängerfest, which was to be held in Milwaukee in June,
1886. She had also been asked by the artistic manager of the house of
Steinway & Sons to go on a concert tour with Franz Rummel and Ovide
Musin. When I came to her with the dispatch from Cincinnati she spoke of
her unwillingness to break her contract with Berlin, and of the loss of
the lifelong pension to which her period of service at the Court Opera
would eventually entitle her. I declined to advise her in the premises,
but made a calculation of her prospective net earnings from the three
engagements which were offering, and suggested that she compare the
income from their investment with the pension which she would forfeit.
I also agreed, if she wished it, to reopen the negotiations with the
Sängerfest officials at Milwaukee. She took the matter under advisement,
and in a few days, having concluded the engagement with a representative
of the Cincinnati association, she told me she had determined to stay in
America during June. In July, against the advice of some of her American
friends, she paid a fine imposed upon her by the Intendant of the Court
Opera. The amount of the fine was 13,000 marks ($3,250), and this amount
she had received from the Milwaukee engagement. I had written to Mr.
Catenhusen, the director of the Sängerfest, as promised, and he had
reopened negotiations with more than willingness. Asked for her terms,
she replied: "Three thousand three hundred dollars," and turning to a
friend said: "I'll let the festival pay my Berlin fine." After she had
paid the money into the royal exchequer, the manager of Kroll's Theater
engaged her for a series of representations, but met an unexpected
obstacle in the form of a refusal of the Intendant of the Court Theater
to restore her to the privileges which she had forfeited by breaking
her contract. It was long before she succeeded in making peace with
the Governmental administration of the Court Opera, and in the public
discussion which accompanied her efforts she took part in an eminently
characteristic way. The newspapers were open to her, and in the Berlin
Tageblatt (I think it was) she defended her course on the ground that
America had enabled her to exercise her talent in a field which the
hidebound traditions of the German theaters would have kept closed to
her. Once a florid singer, always a florid singer, was her complaint,
and she added: "One grows weary after singing nothing but princesses
for fifteen years." Though she began in "Carmen," and followed with
"Faust," Miss Lehmann soon got into the Wagnerian waters, in which she
was longing to adventure, and in them set some channel buoys which the
New York public still asks Brünnhildes and Isoldes to observe. It was
then, however, and still is, characteristic of her broad ideals in art,
that, while winning the highest favor in tragic parts, she preserved not
only her old skill, but her old love for good singing in the old sense.
When, at the height of her Wagnerian career, she sang at a performance
for her own benefit, she chose "Norma."

From 1885 till the time when her operatic experiences had become the
exception to her rule of concert work, the greater part of her career
was spent in New York; and during the whole of the period she was in all
things artistic an inspiration, and an exemplar to her fellow artists.
For industry, zeal, and unselfish devotion in preparing an opera I have
never met an artist who could be even remotely compared with her. When
"Siegfried" was in rehearsal for its first American production, she took
a hand in setting the stage. Though she had nothing to do in the second
act, she went into the scenic lumber room and selected bits of woodland
scenery, and with her own hands rearranged the set so as to make
Siegfried's posture and surroundings more effective. When the final
dress rehearsal of "Götterdämmerung" was reached a number of the
principal singers were still uncertain of their music. Miss Lehmann was
letter perfect, as usual, but without a demur repeated the ensembles
over and over again, singing always, as was her wont, with full voice
and intense dramatic expression. This had been going on literally for
hours when the end of the second act was reached. When she came into the
audience room for the intermission I ventured to expostulate with her:

"My dear Miss Lehmann, pray have a care. You are not effecting your
début in New York, nor is this a public performance. Think of to-morrow.
You will weary your voice. Why do you work so? Markiren Sie doch!"

"Markiren thu Ich nie!" ("Markiren," it may be explained, is the
technical term for singing in half-voice, or just enough to mark the
cues.) "As for the rest, rehearsals are necessary, if not for one's
self, then at least for the others. Don't be alarmed about my voice.
It is easier to sing all three Brünnhildes than one Norma. You are so
carried away by the dramatic emotion, the action, and the scene that
you do not have to think how to sing the words. That comes of itself.
But in Bellini you must always have a care for beauty of tone and
correct emission. But I love 'Norma,' and Mozart's 'Entführung.'"

Very different this from the conduct of Max Alvary after he had begun to
grow into public favor. He was a son of the Düsseldorf painter, Andreas
Achenbach, and came to New York without reputation, and engaged to
sing second rôles. Early in the season Stritt, the first tenor, after
creating the part of Assad in Goldmark's "Königin von Saba" yielded it
up to Alvary, finding the range of the music a little too trying for
his voice. Alvary's handsome face and figure, especially the latter,
his gallant bearing, and his impeccable taste in dress, made a deep
impression, and it was not long before he developed into a veritable
matinée girl's idol. He developed also an enormous conceit, which near
the end of his New York career led him to think that he was the opera,
and that he might dictate policies to the manager and the directors back
of him. So in the eyes of the judicious there were ragged holes in his
shining veneer long before his career in New York came to a close. The
preparation of "Siegfried" for performance led to an encounter between
him and Mr. Seidl, in which the unamiable side of his disposition, and
the shallowness of his artistic nature were disclosed. At the dress
rehearsal, when alone on the stage, he started in to go through his
part in dumbshow. Seidl requested him to sing.

"It is not necessary; I know my part," was the ungracious reply.

"But this is a rehearsal. It is not enough that you know your part
or that you know that you know your part. I must know that you know
it. Others must sing with you, and they must hear you."

He started the orchestra again. Not a sound from the puffed up little
tenor in his picturesque bearskin and pretty legs. Seidl rapped for
silence, and put down his baton.

"Call Mr. Stanton!" he commanded.

Mr. Stanton was brought from his office, and Mr. Seidl briefly explained
the situation. He would not go on with the rehearsal unless Mr. Alvary
sang, and without a rehearsal there would be no first performance of
"Siegfried" to-morrow. Mr. Alvary explained that to sing would weary
him.

"I shall not sing to-day and to-morrow. Choose; I'll sing either to-day
or to-morrow."

"Sing to-day!" said Stanton curtly, and turned away from the stage. Like
a schoolboy Alvary now began to sing with all his might, as if bound to
incapacitate himself for the next day. But he would have sacrificed a
finger rather than his opportunity on the morrow, and the little misses
and susceptible matrons got the hero whom they adored for years
afterward.

Next to Miss Lehmann, the most popular singer in the company in this
second year of German opera at the Metropolitan was Emil Fischer, the
bass. Except for a short period spent abroad in an effort to be an opera
manager in Holland, Fischer has remained a New Yorker ever since he came
in 1885. This has not been wholly of his own volition, however. He came
from Dresden, where he was an admired member of the Court Opera. His
coming, or his staying, involved him in difficulty with the Royal
Intendant, and though the singer began legal proceedings against his
liege lord, the King of Saxony, for rehabilitation, he never regained
the privileges which he had forfeited in order to win the fame and
money which came to him here. The fame was abiding; the money was
not. Twenty-one year after his coming his old admirers were still so
numerous, and their admiration so steadfast, that a benefit performance
at the Metropolitan Opera House, in which he took part in an act of
"Die Meistersinger," yielded nearly $10,000.

The season of 1885-86 at the Metropolitan Opera House began on November
23d, and lasted till March 6th, with an interregnum of two weeks from
December 19th to January 4th, during which the company gave performances
in Philadelphia, with woeful financial results, the loss to the
stockholders being $15,000. The excellence of the management and the
wisdom and honesty of the artists were attested by the circumstance that
not once was an opera changed after it was announced. Nine operas were
performed, and of these three were wholly new to the Metropolitan
stage, two were absolutely new to America, and two were provided with
considerable new scenery. The table of performances was as follows:


   Opera                    First performance     Times given

  "Lohengrin" .............. November 23 ............ 4
  "Carmen" ................. November 25 ............ 2
  "Der Prophet" ............ November 27 ............ 3
  "Die Walküre" ............ November 30 ............ 4
  "Die Königin von Saba" ... December 2 ............ 15
  "Tannhäuser" ............. December 11 ............ 4
  "Die Meistersinger" ...... January 4 .............. 8
  "Faust" .................. January 20 ............. 5
  "Rienzi" ................. February 5 ............. 7
                                                     --
  Total representations ............................ 52


The attractive charm of a new work was shown in the success achieved
by Goldmark's "Queen of Sheba," which was given with great pomp in its
externals, but also finely from a musical point of view. It brought into
the box office an average of $4,000 for fifteen performances, and was
set down as the popular triumph of the season, though, considering that
"Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg" had a month less to run, its record
was also remarkable. The average difference in attendance on the two
works which led the list was about one hundred and fifty. The directors
had fixed the assessment on the stockholders in October at $2,000 a box,
and their receipts from this source were $136,700; from the general
public, $171,463.13; total, $308,163.13. The cost of producing the
operas, omitting the charges for new scenery and properties, but
including the expenses of the Philadelphia season, was $244,981.96. The
fixed charges on the building (taxes, interest, and rental account) were
about $85,000 in the preceding year, and the financial outcome was so
satisfactory to the stockholders that the directors promptly re-engaged
Mr. Seidl, and adopted a resolution empowering the managing director,
Edmund C. Stanton, to make contracts with artists for three years. It
was interesting to note the effect upon the opera houses and artists
of Germany. I cannot recall that there were any more difficulties like
those which attended the disruption of their contracts by Fräulein
Lehmann and Herr Fischer. Instead, the managers of the municipal
theaters of Germany especially (and, I doubt not, court theaters also)
found that they, too, could come in for a share of the American dollars
by granting leaves of absence for the New York season, and taking a
percentage of the liberal fees received by their stars.



CHAPTER XIII

WAGNER HOLDS THE METROPOLITAN


The incidents of the early history of the Metropolitan Opera House come
to me in such multitude that I find it difficult to apportion seasons
and chapters in this record. Later, it may be, when the new order of
things shall have been established, and again given place to the old,
the relation may make more rapid progress. I have already devoted much
space to the second German season, but there are a few details which
deserve special consideration. The first of these (if the reader will
accept the instantaneous popularity of Mr. Seidl as a conclusion from
the remarks made in his introduction in these annals) was the first
appearance of Lilli Lehmann. Circumstances would have it that she should
show herself first, not as the singer of old-fashioned florid rôles,
with which (except for her Bayreuth experience) she was associated, nor
yet as the Wagnerian tragedienne which she became later, but in a
transitional character--that of Carmen in Bizet's opera of that name.
Lehmann as the gipsy cigarette maker, with her Habanera and Seguidilla,
with her errant fancy wandering from a sentimental brigadier to a
dashing bull fighter, is a conception which will not come easy to the
admirers of the later Brünnhilde and Isolde; and, indeed, she was a
puzzling phenomenon to the experienced observers of that time. Carmen
was already a familiar apparition to New Yorkers, who had imagined that
Minnie Hauk had spoken the last word in the interpretation of that
character. When Fräulein Lehmann came her tall stature and erect, almost
military, bearing were calculated to produce an effect of surprise of
such a nature that it had to be overcome before it was possible to enter
into the feeling with which she informed the part. To the eye, moreover,
she was a somewhat more matronly Carmen than the fancy, stimulated by
earlier performances of the opera or the reading of Mérimée's novel,
was prepared to accept; but it was in harmony with the new picture that
she stripped the character of the flippancy and playfulness popularly
associated with it, and intensified its sinister side. In this, Fräulein
Lehmann deviated from Mme. Hauk's impersonation and approached that
of Mme. Trebelli, which had been brought to public notice at the
first Italian season at the Metropolitan Opera House. In her musical
performance she surpassed both of those admired and experienced artists.
Her voice proved to be true, flexible, and ringing, and, also, of a most
particularly telling quality. She disclosed ability to fill the part
with the passionate expression and warmth of color which it called for,
and utilized that ability judiciously and tastefully. M. Eloi Sylva, the
new tenor, effected his American introduction in Meyerbeer's "Prophet"
on November 27th. He was an exceedingly robust singer, with an imposing
stage presence, a powerful voice, which, in its upper register,
especially, was vibrant, virile, and musical. Two seasons later he
essayed English opera, with about the same results, so far as his
pronunciation was concerned, as he achieved in German. Fräulein Lehmann
was first seen and heard as Brünnhilde in "Die Walküre" on November
30th. She was statuesquely beautiful, and her voice glorified the music.
In the first scene she brought into beautiful relief the joyful nature
of the Wishmaiden; her cries were fairly brimming with eager, happy
vitality. While proclaiming his fate to Siegmund, she was first inspired
by a noble dignity, then transformed instantaneously into a sympathetic
woman by the hero's devotion to the helpless and hapless woman who lay
exhausted on his knees.

The first of the two novelties of the season was Goldmark's opera
"Die Königin von Saba," which had its first performance in America on
December 2d. The cast was as follows: Sulamith, Fräulein Lebmaun;
Königin, Frau Krämer-Wiedl; Astaroth, Fräulein Brandt; Solomon, Herr
Robinson; Assad, Herr Stritt; Hohepriester, Herr Fischer; Baal Hanan,
Herr Alexi. Mr. Seidl conducted. The opera (which had had its first
production in Vienna ten years before, and had achieved almost as much
success in Germany as Nessler's "Trompeter von Säkkingen") was produced
with great sumptuousness, and being also admirably sung and acted, it
made a record that provided opera-goers in New York with a sensation of
a kind that they had not known before, and to which they did not grow
accustomed until the later dramas of Wagner began their triumphal career
at the Metropolitan. Twenty years afterward (season 1905-06) Mr. Conried
revived the opera at the Metropolitan, but it was found that in the
interim its fires had paled. In 1885 there were reasons why the public
should not only have been charmed, but even impressed by the opera. In
spite of its weaknesses it was then, and still is, an effective opera.
Thoughtfully considered, the libretto is not one of any poetical worth,
but in its handling of the things which give pleasure to the superficial
observer it is admirable. It presents a story which is fairly rational,
which enlists the interest, if not the sympathy, of the observers, which
is new as a spectacle, and which is full of pomp and circumstance.
Looked at from its ethical side and considered with reference to the
sources of its poetical elements, it falls under condemnation. The title
of the opera would seem to indicate that the Bible story of the visit of
the Queen of Sheba to Solomon had been drawn on for the plot. That is
true. The Queen of Sheba comes to Jerusalem to see Solomon in his glory,
and that is the end of the draft on the Biblical story; the rest is the
modern poet's invention. But that is the way of operas with Biblical
subjects--a few names, an incident, and the rest of invention. In
Gounod's "Reine de Saba" the magnificently storied queen tries to elope
with the architect of Solomon's temple like any wilful millionaire's
daughter. Salome is a favorite subject just now that the danse du
ventre is working its way into polite society, but save for the dance
and the names of the tetrarch and his wife, the Bible contributes
nothing to the Salome dramas and pantomimes. Sulamith, who figures like
an abandoned Dido, in the opera of Mosenthal and Goldmark, owes her
name, but not her nature or any of her experiences, to the pastoral
play which Solomon is credited with having written. The Song of Songs
contributes, also, a few lines of poetry to the book, and a ritualistic
service celebrated in the Temple finds its prototype in some verses from
Psalms lxvii and cxvii, but with this I have enumerated all that "Die
Königin von Saba" owes to the sacred Scriptures. Solomon's magnificent
reign and marvelous wisdom, which contribute factors to the production,
belong to profane as well as to sacred history, and persons with deeply
rooted prejudices touching the people of Biblical story will be happiest
if they can think of some other than the Scriptural Solomon as the
prototype of Mosenthal and Goldmark, for in truth they make of him a
sorry sentimentalist at best. The local color of the old story has been
borrowed from the old story; the dramatic motive comes plainly from
"Tannhäuser"; Sulamith is Elizabeth, the Queen Venus, Assad Tannhäuser,
and Solomon Wolfram. Goldmark's music is highly spiced. At times it
rushes along like a lava stream, every measure throbbing with eager,
excited, and exciting life. He revels in instrumental color; the
language of his orchestra is as glowing as the poetry attributed to the
veritable King whom the operatic story celebrates. Many composers before
him made use of Oriental cadences and rhythms, but to none did they seem
so like a native language. It has not been every Jew who could thus
handle a Jewish subject. Compare Halévy, Meyerbeer, and Rubinstein with
Goldmark.

The first performance of Wagner's "Meistersinger" fell on the same
night as the production for the first time in America of Goetz's
"Widerspänstigen Zähmung" in English by the National Opera Company.
We thus had in juxtaposition an admirable operatic adaptation of a
Shakespearian comedy and a modern comedy, of which I thought at the
time I could not speak in higher praise than to say that it was truly
Shakespearian in its delineation of character. In my book, "Studies in
the Wagnerian Drama," I have analyzed Wagner's comedy from many points
of view, and printed besides the results of investigations of the old
Nuremberg mastersingers made on the spot. The significance of this
record is that it tells of the introduction in America of a comedy
which, though foreign in matter and manner to the thoughts, habits, and
feelings of the American people, has, nevertheless, held a high place
in their admiration. Later we shall see that this admiration was based
on the sound understanding of the play which the original, performers
inculcated. Let their names therefore be preserved. They were: Hans
Sachs, Emil Fischer; Veit Pogner, Josef Staudigl; Kunz Vogelsang,
Herr Dworsky; Konrad Nachtigal, Emil Sänger; Sixtus Beckmesser, Otto
Kemlitz; Fritz Kothner, Herr Lehmler; Balthasar Zorn, Herr Hoppe; Ulrich
Eisslinger, Herr Klaus; Augustin Moser, Herr Langer; Hermaun Ortel,
Herr Doerfer; Hans Schwartz, Herr Eiserbeck; Hans Foltz, Herr Anlauf;
Walther von Stolzing, Albert Stritt; David, Herr Kramer; Eva, Auguste
Seidl-Krauss; Magdalena, Marianne Brandt; Nachtwächter, Carl Kaufmann.
Mr. Seidl conductor.

I modulate to the Metropolitan season 1886-87 through the performances
of the opposition, which began at the Academy of Music, but ended in
the house which was now definitely acknowledged to be the home, and
only home, of fashionable opera. Mme. Patti provided the last bit of
evidence. In the two preceding seasons she had led Colonel Mapleson's
forces at the Academy; yet the public would have none of his opera. Now,
after a year's absence, she returned to America under the management of
Mr. Abbey, who had opposed Nilsson to her when the rivalry of the houses
began. She gave operatic concerts, one, two, three, and four, at the
Academy of Music, with old favorites of the New York public--Scalchi,
Novara, and a French tenor named Guille--in her company, besides Signor
Arditi; and she gave fragments of opera ("Semiramide" and "Martha"),
besides a miscellaneous concert. The experiences of Mme. Patti on her
return to her old home in 1881 were measurably repeated. The great
singer was admired, of course, and half an operatic loaf was accepted as
better than no bread. This was in November, 1886, and in April, 1887,
Mr. Abbey decided to offer the operatic loaf, such as it was, but to
cut it, not at the house with which Patti's name had been intimately
associated, but at the Metropolitan Opera House. He was conjuring
with the legend (then new, but afterward worn threadbare), "Patti's
Farewell." I am writing in July, 1908, and have just been reading the
same legend again in the London newspapers--twenty-one years after
it served Mr. Abbey a turn. In April, then, Mr. Abbey came to the
Metropolitan Opera House with Mme. Patti to give six "farewell"
operatic performances. The company consisted of Scalchi, Vicini,
Galassi, Valerga, Del Puente, Novara, Abramoff, Corsi, and Migliara,
some of them recruited from an earlier company that had come and
departed like a shadow in the fall season. Also Miss Gertrude Griswold,
whom I mention because she was an American singer who had given promise
of good things in Europe, and who helped Mme. Patti with the one and
doubly singular performance of "Carmen," in which she was seen and
(occasionally) heard in the United States. Mr. Abbey gave six
performances, in all of which Mme. Patti appeared, the operas being
"La Traviata," "Semiramide," "Faust," "Carmen," "Lucia," and "Marta."
The financial results were phenomenal. The public paid nearly $70,000
for the six operas! Had Colonel Mapleson been able to do fifty per cent.
of such business the Academy of Music might have been saved. But Mr.
Abbey, to use the slang of the stage, was playing Patti as a sensation.
Prices of admission were abnormal, and so was the audience. Fashion
heard Patti at the Metropolitan, and so did suburban folk, who came to
$10 opera in business coats, bonnets, and shawls. Such audiences were
never seen in the theater before or since.

This was a little Italian opera season, but a successful one, and one
housed at the Metropolitan. In the fall there had been another at the
Academy of Music, which was not a success, and which ended in a quarrel
between prima donna and manager that contributed a significant item to
the popular knowledge of the status of Italian opera. On October 18th an
Italian named Angelo began a season of Italian opera at the Academy. The
name of the company was the Angelo Grand Italian Opera Company, and its
manager's experience had been made, as an underling of Mapleson in the
luggage department. The season, as projected, was to last five weeks,
and a virtue proclaimed in the list was to be a departure from the
hurdy-gurdy list which had been doing service so long. There were smiles
among the knowing that a trunk despatcher should appear as the successor
of his former employer, and that employer so polished a man of the world
as James H. Mapleson; but opera makes strange bedfellows, and there have
been stranger things than this in its history. A Hebrew boy named Pohl
was little more than a bootblack when he entered the service of Maurice
Strakosch, but as Herr Pollini a couple of decades later he was a
partner of that elegant gentleman and experienced impresario, and one of
the operatic dictators of Germany. Eventually, in the case of the Angelo
Grand Italian Opera Company, it turned out that the Deus ex machina was
the prima donna, Giulia Valda (Miss Julia Wheelock), an American singer,
who had chosen this means of getting a hearing in her native land. The
list of operas sounded like an echo of half a century before. Five
operas were given, and four of them were by Verdi: "Luisa Miller,"
"I Lombardi," "Un Ballo in Maschera," and "I due Foscari;" the remaining
opera was Petrella's "Ione." Here was an escape from the threadbare
with a vengeance. It made the critics rub their eyes and wonder if Mme.
Valda had not been in the company of the Seven Sleepers of Ephesus. Five
weeks were projected, but trouble came at the end of a fortnight--that
is to say, it came to public notice at the end of a fortnight; it began
probably with the season. On November 3d the persons who came to hear
a promised performance of "La Juive" found the doors of the Academy
closed. A few spasmodic efforts to galvanize the corpse into the
semblance of life were made, but in vain; the Angelo Grand Italian Opera
Company was dead. Some of its members had been heard before in other
organizations; some were heard later. They were Giulia Valda, Mlle.
Prandi, Mme. Valerga, Mlle. Corre, Mathilde Ricci, Mme. Mestress,
Mme. Bianchi-Montaldo, Signor Vicini, Lalloni, Bologna, Greco,
Giannini, Pinto, Corsi, Migliara, and Conti. The conductors were
Logheder and Bimboni, the latter of whom was discovered as a young
conductor of surprising merit twenty years later by Boston.

One season of the American Opera Company sufficed to involve it in
such financial difficulties that its managers deemed a reorganization
necessary. It appeared, therefore, in the season of 1886-87 under the
title, National Opera Company. Mr. Theodore Thomas was still its musical
director, and Mr. Gustav Hinrichs and Arthur Mees assistant conductors;
Charles E. Locke was the business manager. The company spent the
greater part of the season in other cities, but gave two series of
representations in Brooklyn, at the Academy of Music, and one series at
the Metropolitan Opera House. The first Brooklyn season was of one week,
from December 27th to January 1st, when the German company was idle; the
second embraced the Thursday evenings from February 28th to March 26th,
during which period the company gave a regular series of representations
in New York. Among the singers were Pauline L'Allemand, Emma Juch,
Laura Moore, Mathilde Phillips (sister of Adelaide Phillips, one of
the singers of first rank sent out into the world by America), Jessie
Bartlett Davis, Mme. Bertha Pierson, William Candidus, Charles Bassett
(The Signor Bassetti of Colonel Mapleson's company in the previous
season), William Fessenden, William Ludwig, Myron W. Whitney, Alonzo E.
Stoddard, and William Hamilton. The notable feature of the repertory was
the first production in America of Rubinstein's opera "Nero," on March
14, 1887. The book had been translated for the production by Mr. John
P. Jackson. Mr. Thomas conducted, and the cast was as follows: Nero
Claudius, William Candidus; Julius Vindex, William Ludwig; Tigellinus,
A. E. Stoddard; Balbillus, Myron W. Whitney; Saccus, William Fessenden;
Sevirus and a Centurion, William Hamilton; Terpander, William H. Lee;
Poppaea, Bertha Pierson; Epicharis, Cornelia van Santen; Chrysa, Emma
Juch; Agrippina, Emily Sterling; Lupus, Pauline L'Allemand. So far as I
can recall, "Nero" is the only opera of Rubinstein's that has been given
in the United States. Its performance by the National Opera Company did
greater justice to its spectacular than its musical features, but in
this there was not a large measure of artistic obliquity. The opera
seems to have been constructed with the idea that mimic reproductions
of scenes from Rome in its most extravagant, debauched, and luxuriant
period would prove more fascinating to the public than an effort to
present the moral and intellectual life of the same place and period
through the medium of an eloquent, truthful, compact, well-built, and
logically developed drama with its essentials further vitalized by
music. From whatever side he is viewed, Nero is an excellent operatic
character, and the wonder is that the opera of Barbier and Rubinstein
did not have sixty instead of only six predecessors. Not only is it
a simple matter to group around him historical pictures of unique
interest, brilliancy, variety, and suggestiveness, but, as the
historians present him to us, he is as made for the stage. His cruelty,
profligacy, effeminacy, cowardice, and artistic vanity are traits which
invite dramatic illustration, and for each one of them the pages of
Suetonius afford incidents which accept a dramatic dress none the less
willingly because they are facts of historical record. Besides all this,
there is something like poetical justice in the conceit of making a
stage character out of the emperor who hired himself to a theatrical
manager for 1,000,000 sesterces (say $40,000--a pretty fair honorarium
for the time, I should say), and who employed a claque of 5,000 young
men. To throw a sequence of the characteristic incidents in the life
of Nero into the form of a dramatic poem, logical in its development,
and theatrically effective, ought not to be a difficult thing to do.
And yet, in the case of this opera, Barbier did not do it, and by a
singularly persistent and consistent fatality Rubinstein apparently
found every weak spot in the poet's fabric, and loosened and tangled his
threads right there. The operas and ballets performed by the National
Opera Company in this season besides "Nero" were "The Flying Dutchman,"
"The Huguenots," "Faust," "Aïda," "Lakmé," "The Marriage of Jeannette,"
Massé's "Galatea," "Martha," "Coppélia," and Rubinstein's "Bal Costumé,"
an adaptation.

"Galatea" had its first New York performance at the Academy of Music
in Brooklyn, on December 30, 1886, under the direction of Arthur Mees;
Delibes's ballet "Coppélia" at the Metropolitan on March 11, 1887,
under the direction of Gustav Hinrichs. It is likely that both works
were previously given by the National Opera Company on tour.

The fourth regular subscription season of opera at the Metropolitan
Opera House (third season of opera in German) began on November 8, 1886,
under the management of the board of directors, the direction of Edmund
C. Stanton, with Anton Seidl and Walter Damrosch, conductors. It
extended over fifteen weeks, the closing date being February 26, 1887,
and comprised forty-five subscription nights, and fifteen matinées,
no opera having been given from December 5th to January 3d. In the
prospectus the directors had promised to produce fourteen operas, and
the promise was kept as to number, though two operas, "Tristan und
Isolde" and "Fidelio," were substituted for "Siegfried" (which had been
completely staged) and "Les Huguenots." The operas thus substituted were
the most successful of the list, "Fidelio" being received with so much
favor on the two occasions for which it had been announced that an
extra performance had to be given to satisfy the popular demand. Of
this incident more presently. This extra performance raised the number
of representations to sixty-one, which were distributed through the list
of operas as follows:

   Opera                    First performance       Times given

  "Die Königin von Saba" ........... November 8 ....... 4
  "Die Walküre" .................... November 10 ...... 3
  "Aïda" ........................... November 12 ...... 4
  "Der Prophet" .................... November 17 ...... 5
  "Das Goldene Kreutz" and ballet .. November 19 ...... 4
  "Tannhäuser" ..................... November 28 ...... 6
  "Tristan und Isolde" ............. December 1 ....... 8
  "Faust" .......................... December 8 ....... 3
  "Lohengrin" ...................... December 15 ...... 4
  "Merlin" ......................... January 3 ........ 5
  "Fidelio" ........................ January 14 ....... 3
  "Die Meistersinger" .............. January 21 ....... 5
  "Rienzi" ......................... January 31 ....... 5
  "La Muette de Portici" ........... February 16 ...... 2
                                                       --
   Total performances ................................ 61


The cost of representation was $288,400, and of maintaining the opera
house about $154,000; in this total of about $442,000 was included the
cost of the scenery, wardrobe, and properties. The company's receipts
comprised $202,751 from subscriptions and box office sales, about
$33,000 from rentals, and about $175,000 from an assessment of $2,500
from each of the stockholders; in all about $410,751 I am able to be
thus explicit about the financial affairs of the German régime because
of courtesies received at the time from Mr. Stanton, with the sanction
of the stockholders, who were inclined then to look upon their
undertaking as one of public, not merely of private, concern. The
figures will enable the student of this history to view intelligently
some of the happenings at a later period, when the giving of opera
became a business speculation pure and simple. In attendance, the
measure of public patronage was represented by 137,399. The prices of
admission ranged from fifty cents to four dollars, and the average
receipts were $1.47 1/2 per individual.

The incidents of a particularly interesting character in the season were
the first American performances of "Tristan und Isolde," and Goldmark's
opera "Merlin," and the coming and going of Albert Niemann; secondary
in importance were the production of Wagner's "Rienzi," with which was
connected the return of Anton Schott to the ranks of the company, the
surprising triumph of "Fidelio," and the production of Brüll's opera,
"Das goldene Kreutz," and the ballet, "Vienna Waltzes." "Tristan und
Isolde" was brought forward on December 1, 1886, under the direction of
Anton Seidl. The distribution of characters was as follows: Tristan,
Albert Niemann; Isolde, Lilli Lehmann; König Marke, Emil Fischer;
Kurwenal, Adolf Robinson; Melot, Rudolph von Milde; Brangäne, Marianne
Brandt; Ein Hirt, Otto Kemlitz; Steuermann, Emil Sanger; Seemann,
Max Alvary. The interesting character of the occurrence was fully
appreciated by the public, and the drama was seen and heard by a
remarkable assembly. The last seat had been sold four days before, and
the vast audience room was crowded in every portion. The tenseness of
the attention was almost painful, and the effect of Herr Niemann's
acting in the climax of the third act was so vivid that an experienced
actress who sat in a baignoir at my elbow grew faint and almost swooned.
At the request of Mr. Stanton, or Mr. Seidl, he never ventured again
to expose the wound in his breast, though the act is justified, if
not demanded, by the text. The enthusiasm after the first act was
tremendous. The performers came forward three times after the fall of
the curtain, and then Mr. Seidl, who had won the greenest laurels that
had yet crowned him, was called upon to join them, and twice more the
curtain rose to enable the performers to receive the popular tribute.
Five recalls after an act would have meant either nothing or a failure
in an Italian theater; it was of vast meaning here. The reception
accorded Wagner's love drama was not such an one as comes from an
audience easily pleased or attracted by curiosity alone. It told of
keen and lofty enjoyment and undisguised confession of the power of
the drama. The applause came after the last note of the orchestral
postludes. The drama was performed eight times in seven weeks, and
took its place as the most popular work in the repertory, though in
average attendance it fell a trifle short of the three representations
of "Fidelio," which also served to signalize the season.

I shall have something to say presently about Herr Niemann, and a
criticism of his interpretation of the character of the hero of the
tragedy can be spared. From a histrionic point of view it has been
equaled only by his performances of Siegmund and Tannhäuser; nothing
else has shown such stature that has been witnessed on the operatic
stage of New York. Nor has his declamation of the text been equaled,
though the compelling charm of Wagner's melody was potently presented
years later by Jean de Reszke. Herr Niemann was long past the prime of
life when he came to New York, and when he went back to Berlin after
his last visit there was very little left of his public career; but the
youngest artist in the company might have envied him the whole-souled
enthusiasm with which he set about his tasks. How completely he
dedicated himself to the artistic duty was illustrated when, in the
season of 1887-88, he realized what had been the ambition of years,
and gave a first performance of Siegfried in "Götterdämmerung." He had
studied the part a dozen years before in the hope of appearing in it
at the first Bayreuth festival; but Wagner did not want the illusion
spoiled by presenting the actor of Siegmund on one evening as the actor
of Siegfried on another, and Niemann's Siegmund was a masterpiece that
must not be despoiled. In New York, on Niemann's second visit, he asked
for the privilege of enacting the Volsung's part in the last division of
the tetralogy, and studied the part ab initio with Seidl. I chanced one
evening to be a witness of his study hour--the strangest one I ever saw.
It was at the conductor's lodgings in the opera house. There was a
pianoforte in the room, but it was closed. The two men sat at a table
with the open score before them. Seidl beat time to the inaudible
orchestral music, and Niemann sang sans support of any kind. Then
would come discussion of readings, markings of cues, etc., all with
indescribable gravity, while Frau Seidl-Krauss, a charming ingénue
budding into a tragedienne, sat sewing in a corner. After the
performance of the drama, I sat again with Niemann and Seidl over
cigars and beer. I thanked Niemann for having discarded a universal
trick in the scene of Siegfried's murder, and for carrying out Wagner's
stage directions to the letter in raising his shield and advancing a
step to crush Hagen, and then falling exhausted upon it.

"I am glad you noted that," said Niemann in his broad Berlinese. "Years
ago I was angered by the device which all Siegfrieds follow of lifting
the shield high and throwing it behind themselves before they fall.
Das hat doch gar kein Sinn. There's no sense in that; if he has
strength enough to throw the shield over his head, he certainly has
strength enough to hurl it at the man he wants to kill. He lifts the
heavy shield for that purpose, but his strength gives way suddenly, and
he falls upon it with a crash. It's dangerous, of course. A fellow might
easily break a finger or a rib. But if you do a thing, do it right. I
have waited more than ten years to sing Siegfried, and now I've done it;
but, youngster (to Seidl), if we meet again years from now, and I've
fifty marks in my pocket, I'll get an orchestra, and you will conduct
just enough to let me sing 'Ach! dieses Auge, ewig nun offen,' and
then I'll die in peace! That's the climax of Siegfried's part, and it
must sound red, blood red--Siegfried is red; so is Tristan. Vogl sings
Tristan well, but he's all yellow--not red, as he ought to be."

I recall another bit of Niemann's characteristic criticism: Adolf
Robinson, the barytone of the first few German seasons, was an excellent
singer and also actor; but he belonged to the old operatic school,
and was prone to extravagant action and exaggerated pathos. He was,
moreover, fond of the footlights. At one of the last rehearsals for
"Tristan und Isolde," Robinson, the Kurwenal of the occasion, was
perpetually running from the dying hero's couch to the front of the
stage to sing his pathetic phrases with tremendous feeling into the
faces of the audience. Niemann, reclining on the couch, immovable as
a recumbent statue, as was his wont, without a gesture, all evidence
of the seething impatience which is consuming him mirrored in the
expression of his face, and particularly his eyes, watched the
conventional stage antics of his colleague till he could endure them no
longer. He gave a sign to Seidl, who stopped the orchestra to hear the
dying knight addressing his squire in wingèd, but un-Wagnerian, words
to this effect:

"My dear Robinson, this scene is not all yours--Tristan has also
something to say here; but how am I to make my share of the dramatic
effect if you are always going to run down to the audience and sing at
it? After a while there will be nothing left for me to do but to get
up and hurl my boots into the audience room. And I'm a very sick man.
Now, there's a good fellow, come over here to the couch; stay by me
and nurse me, and you'll see there's something in my part, too."

Niemann's first American appearance was on November 10th in "Die
Walküre." From the criticism of his performance, which I wrote for
The Tribune on that occasion, I reprint the following extract as
the best summing up which I am able to make of the great dramatic
singer's art:


The creation of a Wagnerian musical drama created also the need of
Wagnerian singers. Those who go to see and hear Herr Niemann must go to
see and hear him as the representative of the character that he enacts.
It is only thus that they can do justice to themselves, to him, and to
the art-work in which he appears. A drama can only be vitalized through
representation, and the first claim to admiration which Herr Niemann
puts forth is based on the intensely vivid and harmonious picture of
the Volsung which he brings on the stage. There is scarcely one of the
theatrical conventions which the public have been accustomed to accept
that he employs. He takes possession of the stage like an elemental
force. Wagner's dramas have excited the fancy of painters more than any
dramatic works of the century, because Wagner was in a lofty sense a
scenic artist. Niemann's genius, for less it can scarcely be called,
utilizes this picturesque element to the full. His attitudes and
gestures all seem parts of Wagner's creation. They are not only instinct
with life, but instinct with the sublimated life of the hero of the
drama. When he staggers into Hunding's hut and falls upon the bearskin
beside the hearth a thrill passes through the observer. Part of his
story is already told, and it is repeated with electrifying eloquence in
the few words that he utters when his limbs refuse their office. The
voice is as weary as the exhausted body. In the picturesque side of his
impersonation he is aided by the physical gifts with which nature has
generously endowed him. The figure is colossal; the head, like "the
front of Jove himself"; the eyes large and full of luminous light, that
seems to dart through the tangled and matted hair that conceals the
greater portion of his face. The fate for which he has been marked out
has set its seal in the heroic melancholy which is never absent even in
his finest frenzies, but in the glare of those eyes there is something
that speaks unfalteringly of the godlike element within him. This
element asserts itself with magnificent force in the scene where
Siegmund draws the sword from its gigantic sheath, and again when he
calmly listens to the proclamation of his coming death, and declines
the services of the messenger of Wotan who is sent to conduct him to
Walhalla.

There are aspects in which, even from a literary point of view, Wagner's
"Ring of the Nibelung" seems to be the most Teutonic of the several
German versions of the old legend which is its basis. It is a primitive
Teutonism, however, without historical alloy; such a Teutonism as we can
construct by letting the imagination work back from the most forceful
qualities of the historical German to those which representatives of
the same race may have had in a prehistoric age. The period of Wagner's
tetralogy, it must be remembered, is purely mythical. The ruggedness of
the type which we obtain by such a process is the strong characteristic
of Herr Niemann's treatment of Wagner's musical and literary text. It
is, like the drama itself, an exposition of the German esthetic ideal:
strength before beauty. It puts truthful declamation before beautiful
tone production in his singing and lifts dramatic color above what is
generally considered essential musical color. That from this a new
beauty results all those can testify who hear Herr Niemann sing the love
song in the first act of "Die Walküre," which had previously in America
been presented only as a lyrical effusion and given with more or less
sweetness and sentimentality. Herr Niemann was the first representative
of the character who made this passage an eager, vital, and personal
expression of a mood so ecstatic that it resorts to symbolism, as if
there was no other language for it. The charm with which he invests the
poetry of this song (for this is poetry) can only be appreciated by one
who is on intimate terms with the German language, but the dramatic
effect attained by his use of tone color and his marvelous distinctness
of enunciation all can feel.

The defects in Herr Niemann's singing, the result of the long and hard
wear to which his voice has been subjected in a career of thirty-five
years' duration, are so obvious that I need not discuss them. To do
so would be as idle as to attempt to deny their presence. He must be
heard as a singing actor, as a dramatic interpreter, not as a mere
singer.


Niemann said farewell to the New York public at a notable performance
of "Tristan und Isolde," the last of the season, on February 7, 1887.
I doubt if the history of opera in New York discloses anything like
a parallel to the occasion. Out of doors the night was distressingly
dismal. A cold rain fell intermittently; the streets were deep with
slush, and the soft ice made walking on the pavements uncomfortable,
and even dangerous. But these things were not permitted to interfere
with the determination of the lovers of the German lyric drama to bear
testimony to their admiration for the artist who had done so much for
their pleasure. The house was crowded in every part. Every seat had been
sold days before. Many of the tickets had been bought by speculators,
who, in spite of the untoward weather, reaped a rich harvest. During the
day the prices obtained varied from ten dollars to fifteen dollars for
the orchestra stalls (regular price, four dollars), and at night seats
in the topmost gallery fetched as much as three dollars, which was six
times the regular tariff. There were delegations in the audience from
Boston, Philadelphia, and Cincinnati. The enthusiasm after each act
was of the kind that recalled familiar stories of popular outbursts in
impressionable Italy. Herr Niemann husbanded his vocal resources in the
first act, but after that both he and Fräulein Lehmann threw themselves
into the work with utter abandon, such abandon, indeed, as made some of
the prima donna's friends tremble for her voice. After two recalls had
followed the second fall of the curtain a third round was swelled by
a fanfare from the orchestra. To acknowledge this round Herr Niemann
came forward alone, and was greeted with cheers, while a laurel wreath,
bearing on one of its ribbons the significant line from "Tannhäuser,"
"O, kehr zurück, du kühner Sänger," was handed up to him. The third act
wrought the enthusiasm to a climax. After the curtain had been raised
over and over again, Herr Niemann came forward and said, in German: "I
regret exceedingly that I am not able to tell you in your own language
how sincerely I appreciate your kindness toward me. I thank you
heartily, and would like to say 'Auf wiedersehn.'" His place for the
rest of the season was filled by Herr Anton Schott.

I have referred to the "Fidelio" incident of the season, which may now
be told, since Herr Niemann also figured in it. To Beethoven "Fidelio"
was a child of sorrow; that fact is known to every student of musical
history. On its first production it failed dismally. With his heart
strings torn, the composer yielded to the arguments and prayers of his
friends and revised the opera. In the new form it was revived, and made
a better impression; but now Beethoven quarreled with his manager, and
withdrew his opera from the Vienna theater. He offered it in Berlin, and
it was rejected. For seven years it slept. Then it was taken in hand
again by the composer, and adapted to a revised text. Some of the music
elided at the first revision was restored. By this time four overtures
had been written for it. Again it was brought forward; and this time the
Viennese awoke to an appreciation of its splendor. Since 1814 its name
has been almost the ineffable word for the serious musician. But sorrow
and disaster have followed upon innumerable efforts to habilitate it
in the opera houses of the world. We have seen that Dr. Damrosch made
haste to produce it at the Metropolitan Opera House, but the financial
results were so direful that two years later it was only upon the urgent
entreaty of a few friends who stood close to him that Mr. Stanton
consented to include it in the repertory for 1886-87.

"But," said the director to his petitioners, "if I give it once I must
give it twice, for I have two Leonores in my company, and there must be
no quarrel."

So he gave the opera on Friday, January 14th, with Fraulein Brandt
as the heroine, and on Wednesday, January 19th, with Fräulein
Lehmann--Niemann being the Florestan on both occasions. The enthusiasm
was boundless, though the silly laugh of a woman in one of the boxes at
the first performance so disconcerted Fräulein Brandt at the beginning
of the duet in the dungeon scene that she broke down in tears, and Mr.
Seidl had to stop the orchestra till she could sufficiently recover her
composure to begin over again. Now, the popular interest was so great
that Mr. Stanton gave an extra performance, with Fräulein Lehmann, and
when the record of the season was made up, lo! Beethoven's opera led
all the rest in average receipts and attendance. In Berlin, Dr. Ehrlich
preached a sermon to the people of Germany with the incident as a text.

As a novelty "Tristan und Isolde" had been preceded on November 19th
by Brüll's pretty little opera, "Das goldene Kreutz," and the ballet,
"Vienna Waltzes." It was succeeded on January 3d by Goldmark's "Merlin,"
conducted by Walter Damrosch, with the parts distributed as follows:
Artus, Robinson; Modrid, Kemlitz; Gawein, Heinrich; Lancelot, Basch;
Merlin, Alvary; Viviane, Lehmann; Bedwyr, Von Milde; Glendower,
Sieglitz; Morgana, Brandt; Dämon, Fischer. Much interest centered in
the opera because of its newness (it had received its first production
in Vienna less than two months before), and the great success achieved
by its predecessor, "The Queen of Sheba;" but it failed of popular
approval, eight operas preceding it in popularity, as evidenced by
the attendance, and but one of them--"Tristan"--a novelty.



CHAPTER XIV

WAGNERIAN HIGH TIDE


In this chapter I purpose to tell the story of a period of three years,
from 1887 to 1890, and in order to cover the ground I shall leave out
what appertains to the repetition of works incorporated in the repertory
of the Metropolitan Opera House during the preceding three seasons.

The period was an eventful one and marked the high-water of achievement
and also of popularity of the German régime, but also the beginning of
the dissatisfaction of the boxholders, which resulted two years later in
a return to the Italian form. It witnessed the introduction of the "Ring
of the Nibelung" in its integrity and illustrated in a surprising manner
the superior attractiveness of Wagner's dramas to the rest of the
operatic list. Outside of the Nibelung dramas it brought two absolute
novelties to the knowledge of the public and revived several old operas
of large historical and artistic significance, which had either never
been heard at all in New York, or heard so long ago that all memory of
them had faded from the public mind. It saw the light of competition
flicker out completely at the Academy of Music, and after a year of
darkness it beheld the dawn of Italian rivalry in what had become the
home of German art.

Twenty operas were brought forward in the first three years of the
German régime. They were "Tannhäuser," "Fidelio," "Les Huguenots,"
"Der Freischütz," "William Tell," "Lohengrin," "Don Giovanni," "The
Prophet," "Masaniello," "Rigoletto," "La Juive," "Die Walküre,"
"Carmen," "The Queen of Sheba," "Die Meistersinger," "Rienzi," "Aïda,"
"Das Goldene Kreutz," "Tristan und Isolde," and "Merlin." (In this list
I have set down the titles in the language in which they live in the
popular mouth in order to avoid what might seem like an affectation were
I to use the German form always in the story simply because the Italian
and French works were sung in German.) Additions to the list in the
season of 1887-88 were "Siegfried," "Der Trompeter von Säkkingen,"
"Euryanthe," "Ferdinand Cortez," and "Götterdämmerung"; in the season of
1888-89, "L'Africaine," "Das Rheingold," and "Il Trovatore"; in 1889-90,
"Der Fliegende Holländer," "Un Ballo in Maschera," "Norma," and "Der
Barbier von Bagdad."

The record of the last two years indicated a falling off in energy,
but though it caused disaffection at the time, it seems notable enough
compared with the activities of the establishment twenty years later
under much more favorable circumstances. For the last of the three
seasons under discussion seven additions to what was called by courtesy
the established list had been promised; but counting in "Norma," (a
special performance for the benefit of Lilli Lehmann) and "The Flying
Dutchman," which had been promised only by implication in the plan of
a serial representation of Wagner's works, only four additions were
made. Two causes operated toward the disappointing outcome. One was an
epidemic of influenza which prevailed during the greater part of the
winter and caused much embarrassment to the singers; the other was the
inefficiency of the chorus--a defect which has not yet been remedied,
but was greater in the season 1907-08 than a decade earlier. "Otello"
was in readiness so far as the principals were concerned, but the chorus
consumed so much time restudying old works that it had to be abandoned;
also Lalo's "Le Roy d'Ys." Though the stockholders were giving opera
themselves for themselves, they took no steps toward making it a
permanent institution. Their decision to give German opera was made from
year to year, and the end of every season brought with it practically
a complete disruption of the company. There had to be a reorganization
each fall. The directors were unwilling to give their own manager
the degree of permanence which they bestowed without hesitation upon
a lessee, and the policy of the house was thus kept continually in
controversy. The fact is that the activities of the Germans were not
to the taste of the stockholders, who were getting serious art where
they were looking for fashionable diversion. This became painfully
obvious when the conduct of the occupants of the boxes scandalized
the institution to such a degree that the directors were compelled to
administer a public rebuke to themselves and their associates, and a
stigma was placed upon the institution from which it has suffered,
very unjustly, ever since. But a discussion of these incidents can be
more intelligently and profitably introduced later in this narrative.

The fourth German season began on November 2, 1887, and ended on
February 18, 1888, and consisted of forty-seven subscription nights,
sixteen subscription matinées, and one extra matinée. In all fourteen
operas were produced. The two Wagnerian novelties, "Götterdämmerung"
and "Siegfried," were the most popular features of the season, the
former being given seven times, though it was the last of the season's
productions. It brought into the treasury a total of $30,324, or
an average of $4,332, and was heard by audiences averaging 2,871.
"Siegfried" was a good second. It had nine weeks' advantage of
"Götterdämmerung" and was performed eleven times, with total receipts
amounting to $37,124.50, or an average of $3,374.95. Pursued by its
old fatality, "Fidelio" dropped to the foot of the list with four
performances, which yielded only $8,997. The receipts for the season
were $411,860.24, of which $190,087.24 came from the box office sales
and subscriptions, $170,180 from the stockholders' assessment of $2,500
on each box, and $51,593 from rentals. This assessment was only $24,000
more than the cost of maintaining the opera-house, which was about
$146,000. The staging of new operas cost $19,727.27, more than half of
which was expended on Spontini's "Ferdinand Cortez." The scenery for
"Siegfried" had been purchased the year before and also the costumes for
that drama and "Götterdämmerung." The principal members of the company
were Lilli Lehmann, Marianne Brandt, Auguste Seidl-Krauss, Biro di
Marion, Louise Meisslinger, Albert Niemann, Max Alvary, Emil Fischer,
Adolf Robinson, Rudolph von Milde, Johannes Elmblad, Herr Ferenczy,
and Herr Alexi.

The first American representation of Wagner's "Siegfried" took place on
November 9, 1887. Anton Seidl conducted and the parts were distributed
as follows: Siegfried, Max Alvary; Mime, Herr Ferenczy; der Wanderer,
Emil Fischer; Alberich, Rudolph von Milde; Fafner, Johannes Elmblad;
Erda, Marianne Brandt; Brünnhilde, Lilli Lehmann; Stimme des
Waldvogels, Auguste Seidl-Krauss. The production of this drama was
an invitation to the people of New York to take the longest and most
decisive step away from the ordinary conventions of the lyric theater
that had yet been asked of them. At the time it seemed foolishly
presumptive to attempt a prediction of what the response would be. A
season before "Tristan und Isolde" had been received with great favor
and under conditions which did not admit a question of the honesty and
intelligence of the appreciation. This was encouraging to the lovers of
Wagner's dramas, but the difference between opera of the ordinary type
and "Tristan und Isolde" is not so great as between "Tristan und Isolde"
and "Siegfried," notwithstanding that in the love tragedy Wagner took
as uncompromising a stand as ever did a Greek poet, and hewed to the
lines of his theoretical scheme with unswerving fidelity. In the
subject-matter of the drama lies the distinction. Despite the absence of
the ethical element which places "Tannhäuser" immeasurably higher than
"Tristan" as a dramatic poem, the latter drama contains an expression of
the universal passion which is so vehement, so truthful, and so sublime
that it seems strange that anybody susceptible to music and gifted with
emotions could ever have been deaf to its beauties or callous to its
appeals. Besides this, the sympathies are stirred in behalf of the
personages of the play who stand as representatives of human nature,
and, though the co-operation of a chorus, which has always been
considered an essential element of the lyric drama, is restricted to
a single act, the dramatic necessity of the restriction is so obvious
that an audience, once engrossed in the tragedy, must needs resent such
a violation of propriety as the introduction of a chorus in any scene
except that of the first act would be. In "Siegfried," however, the case
is not so plain. Here there is not only no chorus, but scarcely more
than five minutes during which even two solo voices are blended in a
duet. Except Siegfried and Brünnhilde, the personages of the play have
no claim upon human sympathy, and their actions can scarcely arouse a
loftier feeling than curiosity. Through two acts and a portion of the
third, save in a dozen measures or so, the music of woman's voice and
the charm of woman's presence are absent from the stage, and, instead,
we are asked to accept a bear, a dragon, and a bird, a sublimely solemn
peripatetic god who asks riddles and laughs once, and two dwarfs,
repulsive of mind and hideous of body.

These are the drawbacks concerning which there can be no controversy.
To them are to be added the difficulties which result from a desire
to employ in a serious drama mechanical devices of a kind that custom
associates only with children's pantomimes and idle spectacles. A bear
is brought in to frighten a dwarf; a dragon sings, vomits forth steam
from its cavernous jaws, fights and dies with a kindly and prophetic
warning to its slayer; a bird becomes endowed with the gift of human
speech through a miraculous process which takes place in one of the
people of the play. Surely these are grounds on which "Siegfried" might
be stoutly criticized from the conventional as well as a universal point
of view; but I have not enumerated them for the purpose of disparaging
Wagner's drama, but rather to show the intellectual and esthetic
attitude of the patrons of the Metropolitan Opera House twenty years
ago, who, through all these defects, saw in "Siegfried" a strangely
beautiful and impressive creation, which, under trying circumstances,
challenged their plaudits at the outset and soon won their enthusiastic
admiration.

More direct and emphatic was the appreciation of "Götterdämmerung," the
last of the season's novelties, as "Siegfried" was the first. It was
produced on January 25, 1888, only three weeks before the close of the
season, yet it was given six times in the subscription performances
and once outside the subscription, with the financial results already
mentioned. The cast was as follows: Siegfried, Albert Niemann; Gunther,
Adolf Robinson; Hagen, Emil Fischer; Alberich, Rudolph von Milde;
Brünnhilde, Lilli Lehmann; Gutrune, Auguste Seidl-Krauss; Woglinde,
Sophie Traubmann; Wellgunde, Marianne Brandt; Flosshilde, Louise
Meisslinger. Mr. Seidl conducted. It was but natural that the concluding
drama of the tetralogy should have excited warmer sympathy than its
immediate predecessor. In it the human element becomes really active
for the first time. This circumstance Mr. Seidl accentuated by two bold
excisions. One of the things for which Wagner has been faulted is that
in his treatment of the Siegfried legend he has sacrificed historical
elements in order to bring it into closer relationship with Norse
mythology; has, in fact, made the fate of the gods and goddesses of
our ancestors the chief concern of the prologue and succeeding dramas.
Except for those who prefer to see only ethical symbols in the
characters there is some force in the objection. Like Homer in his
"Iliad," Wagner has a celestial as well as a terrestrial plot in his
"Ring of the Nibelung," and the men and women, or semi-divine creatures,
in it are but the unconscious agents of the good and evil powers
typified in the gods and dwarfs.

The criticism, however, is weaker here than in Germany, where ten or a
dozen dramas (chief of which is Geibel's "Brünnhild"), as well as the
medieval epics, have accustomed the people to think of their national
hero with something like historical surroundings. In these writings
the death of Siegfried is brought about by his alliance with the
Burgundians, whose seat was at Worms; and the Gunther of the legend
is easily identified with King Gundikar, who was overcome by Attila
and died A.D. 450. Wagner's original draft of "Götterdämmerung" (an
independent drama which he called "Siegfried's Death") followed the
accepted lines, and it was not until the tetralogy was planned that the
mythological elements from the Eddas were drawn into the scheme, the
theater of the play changed, its time pushed back into a prehistoric
age, and the death of the hero made to bring about the destruction
of the old gods--the Ragnarök of the Icelandic tales. The connection
between the death of Siegfried and the fate of the gods is set
forth in the two scenes which were eliminated at this production of
"Götterdämmerung." The first is the prologue in which the Nornir (the
Fates of Northern mythology), while twisting the golden-stranded rope of
the world's destiny, tell of the signs which presage the Twilight of the
Gods. The second is the interview between Brünnhilde and Waltraute, one
of the Valkyrior, who comes to urge her sister to avert the doom which
threatens the gods by restoring the baneful ring to the Rhine daughters.
Both scenes are highly significant in the plan of the tragedy as a
whole, but a public largely unfamiliar with German and unconcerned
about Wagner's philosophical purposes can much more easily spare than
endure them. In later years they were restored at the Metropolitan
performances, but I make no doubt that Mr. Seidl's wise abbreviation
had much to do with the unparalleled success of the drama in its first
season. Persons familiar with the German tongue and the tetralogy,
either from study of the book and music or from attendance on
performances in Germany, were justified in being disappointed at the
loss of two scenes highly important from a dramatic point of view and
profoundly beautiful from a musical; but it was better to achieve
success for the representations by adapting the drama to the capacity
of the public than to sacrifice it bodily on the altar of integrity.

Nessler's opera, "Der Trompeter von Säkkingen," which had for nearly
five years fairly devastated the German opera houses, receiving more
performances than any three operas in the current lists, won only a
succès d'estime. It was performed for the first time on November 23d,
dressed most sumptuously and effectively cast (Robinson as Werner,
Elmblad as Conradin, Kemlitz as the Major-domo, Sänger as the Baron,
Frau Seidl-Krauss as Marie, Von Milde as Graf von Wildenstein, and
Meisslinger as Gräfin), but it reached only seven performances, was
fourth from the bottom in the list arranged according to popularity,
and in the following year it was not included in the repertory. In
1889-90 it was revived and received four performances, but its rank was
seventeenth in a list of nineteen. Weber's "Euryanthe" fared but little
better, though a work immeasurably greater. It, too, received four
performances, and it was but one remove in advance of "Der Trompeter."
To all intents and purposes it was new to the American stage when it was
produced on December 23, 1887, with Lehmann, Brandt, Alvary, Fischer,
and Elmblad in the parts of Euryanthe, Eglantine, Adolar, Lysiart, and
the King, respectively. Mr. Seidl conducted. Twenty-four years before
there had been some representations of the opera under the direction of
Carl Anschütz in Wallack's Theater, at Broadway and Broome Street, but
of this fact the patrons of the Metropolitan Opera House had no memory.
It was a beautiful act of devotion on the part of Herr Anschütz and his
German singers to produce "Euryanthe" at that time, and, had it been
possible to break down the barriers of fashion and reach the heart of
the public, the history of the lyric theater in America during the
quarter of a century which followed would, no doubt, read differently
than it does. "Tannhäuser" and "Lohengrin" were produced under similar
circumstances, and even "Die Walküre"; but "Lohengrin" was popularized
by the subsequent performances in Italian, and "Tannhäuser" and "Die
Walküre" had to wait for appreciation until fortuitous circumstances
caused fashion, fame, and fortune to smile for a space upon the German
establishment at the Metropolitan. It may have been a benignant fate
which preserved "Euryanthe" from representation in the interval. The
work is one which it is impossible for a serious music lover to approach
without affection, but appreciation of all its beauties is conditioned
upon the acceptance of theories touching the purpose, construction,
and representation of the lyric drama which did not obtain validity
in America until the German artists at the Metropolitan had completed
their missionary labors. Indeed, there are aspects of the case in which
Weber's opera, with all its affluence of melody and all its potency
of romantic and chivalric expression, is yet further removed from
popular appreciation than the dramas of Wagner. In these there is
so much orchestral pomp, so much external splendor, so much scenic
embellishment, so much that is attractive to both eye and ear, that
delight in them may exist independently of a recognition of their deeper
values. "Euryanthe" still comes before us with modest consciousness of
grievous dramatic defects and pleading for consideration and pardon
even while demanding with proper dignity recognition of the soundness
and beauty of the principles that underlie its score and the marvelous
tenderness, sincerity, and intensity of its expression of passion.
When it was first brought forward in Vienna in October, 1823, Castelli
observed that it was come fifty years before its time. He spoke with a
voice of prophecy. It was not until the fifty years had expired that
"Euryanthe" really came into its rights, and it was the light reflected
upon it by the works of Weber's great successor at Dresden that
disclosed in what those rights consisted. After that the critical voices
of the world agreed in pronouncing "Euryanthe" to be the starting point
of Wagner, and, as the latter's works grew in appreciation, "Euryanthe"
shone with ever-growing refulgence. No opera was ever prepared at the
Metropolitan with more patience, self-sacrifice, zeal, and affection
than this, and the spontaneous, hearty, sincere approbation to which the
audience gave expression must have been as sweet incense to Mr. Seidl
and the forces that he directed. But "Euryanthe" is a twin sister in
misfortune to "Fidelio"; the public will not take it to its heart. It
disappeared from the Metropolitan list with the end of the season which
witnessed its revival.

A dozen or more circumstances combined to give the first performance of
Spontini's "Ferdinand Cortez," which took place on January 6, 1888, a
unique sort of interest. In one respect it was a good deal like trying
to resuscitate a mummy, for whatever of interest historical criticism
found in the opera, a simple hearing of the music was sufficient to
convince the public that Spontini was the most antiquated composer that
had been presented to their attention in several years. Compared with
him Gluck and Mozart had real, dewy freshness, and Weber spoke in
the language of to-day. Nevertheless, Spontini still stands as the
representative of a principle, and if it had been possible for Mr.
Stanton to supplement "Ferdinand Cortez" with "Armida" or "Iphigenia in
Aulis," the Metropolitan repertory would admirably have exemplified the
development of the dramatic idea and its struggle with simple lyricism
in opera composition. The public would have been asked to take the steps
in the reverse order, it is true--Wagner, Weber, Spontini, Gluck--but
this circumstance would only have added to the clearness of the
historical exposition. The light which significant art works throw out
falls brightest upon the creations which lie behind them in the pathway
of progress. "Euryanthe" was understood through the mediation of
"Tristan und Isolde." "Ferdinand Cortez" has an American subject; the
conqueror of Mexico is the only naturalized American with whom we had
an acquaintance till Pinkerton came on the stage in Puccini's "Madama
Butterfly," and Mr. Stanton surpassed all his previous efforts in the
line of spectacle to celebrate the glories of this archaic American
opera. The people employed in the representation rivaled in numbers
those who constituted the veritable Cortez's army, while the horses came
within three of the number that the Spaniard took into Mexico. This was
carrying realism pretty close to historical verity. A finer sense of
dramatic propriety, however, was exhibited in the care with which the
pictures and paraphernalia of the opera were prepared. The ancient
architecture of Mexico, the sculptures, the symbols of various kinds
carried in the processions, the banners of Montezuma and some of the
costumes of his warriors were copied with painstaking fidelity from the
remains of the civilization which existed in Mexico at the time of the
conquest. The cast of the opera was this: Cortez, Niemann; Alvarez,
Alvary; High Priest, Fischer; Telasko, Robinson; Montezuma, Elmblad;
Morales, Von Milde; Amazily, Fräulein Meisslinger.

The prospectus for the season of 1888-89 announced sixteen weeks of
opera between November 28th and March 16th, the subscription to be for
forty-seven nights and sixteen matinées. The last two weeks were set
apart for two consecutive representations of the dramas constituting
"The Ring of the Nibelung." The difficulties involved in an effort to
compass the tetralogy in a week combined with other circumstances to
compel an extension of the season for a week, much to the advantage of
the enterprise. The final record showed that fifty evening and eighteen
afternoon performances had taken place between the opening night and
March 23, 1889. Sixteen works were performed, the relative popularity
of which is indicated in the following list: "Götterdämmerung,"
"Tannhäuser," "Das Rheingold," "La Juive," "Il Trovatore," "Lohengrin,"
"Aïda," "Siegfried," "L'Africaine," "Die Meistersinger," "Les
Huguenots," "Die Walküre," "Faust," "Le Prophète," "Fidelio," and
"William Tell." The most significant new production--indeed the only
significant one--was "Das Rheingold," which completed the acquaintance
of the New York public with the current works of Wagner, "Parsifal"
being still under the Bayreuth embargo, although it had several times
been given in concert form. The total cost of the representations, not
including scenery, costumes, properties, and music, was $333,731.31,
or an average of $4,907.78 a representation. The total receipts from
the opera were $213,630.99, divided as follows: Box office sales,
$149,973.50; subscriptions, $59,607.50; privileges, $4,049.99. The
average receipts a representation were $3,141.63. The loss to the
stockholders on the operatic account was $1,766.15 a representation,
which was covered by the receipt of $201,180.00 from the stockholders
for the maintenance of the establishment, the fixed charges on
the building, and the cost of scenery, music, etc., amounting to
$144,455.81.

"Das Rheingold" was produced for the first time on January 4, 1889,
under the direction of Mr. Seidl, and was performed nine times in
the ten weeks of the season which remained. The artists concerned in
the production were Emil Fischer as Wotan, Max Alvary as Loge, Alois
Grienauer as Donner, Albert Mittelhauser as Froh, Joseph Beck as
Alberich, Wilhelm Sedlmayer as Mime, Eugen Weiss as Fafner, Ludwig
Mödlinger as Fasolt, Fanny Moran-Olden as Fricka, Katti Bettaque as
Freia, Sophie Traubmann as Woglinde, Felice Kaschowska as Wellgunde,
Hedwig Reil as Flosshilde, and again, Hedwig Reil as Erda.

The sixth season of opera in German began on November 27, 1889, and
ended on March 22, 1890. Within this period fifty evening and seventeen
afternoon subscription performances were given and there was an extra
performance on February 27th for the benefit of Lilli Lehmann, who
had stipulated for it in her contract in lieu of an increase in
her honorarium, demanded and refused. The sixty-seven subscription
performances were devoted to nineteen operas and dramas which are
here named in the order of popularity as indicated by attendance and
receipts: "Siegfried," "Don Giovanni," "Die Meistersinger," "Tristan
und Isolde," "Lohengrin," "Das Rheingold," "Der Barbier von Bagdad,"
"Tannhäuser," "Der Fliegende Holländer," "Götterdämmerung," "Die
Königin von Saba," "William Tell," "Aïda," "Die Walküre," "Rienzi,"
"Il Trovatore," "Der Trompeter von Säkkingen," "Un Ballo in Maschera,"
and "La Juive." The ballet "Die Puppenfee" was performed in connection
with the opera "Der Barbier von Bagdad." The last three weeks of the
season were devoted to representations in chronological order (barring
an exchange between "Tristan" and "Meistersinger") of all the operas
and lyric dramas of Wagner from "Rienzi" to "Götterdämmerung,"
inclusive. The total receipts from subscriptions, box office sales,
and privileges were $209,866.35; average, $3,132.34. The total cost of
producing the operas (not including scenery, costumes, properties, and
music) was $352,990.32, or an average of $5,268.52 per representation.
On this showing the loss to the stockholders on operatic account was
$2,136.18 a representation, which was met by an assessment of $3,000 a
box; of this sum $1,200 went to the fixed charges on the opera house.

The one novelty of the season was Peter Cornelius's "Barbier von
Bagdad," which had its first performance on January 4, 1890. The
production was embarrassed by mishaps and misfortunes. It had been
announced for December 25th, but Mr. Paul Kalisch, the tenor, fell ill
with the prevailing epidemic and a postponement became necessary. It was
set down for January 4th, but when that day came Mr. Seidl was ill. He
had prepared the opera with great care and loving devotion, but at the
eleventh hour had to hand his baton to his youthful assistant, Walter
Damrosch. The beautiful work had only four representations. The original
cast was as follows: Caliph, Josef Beck; Mustapha, Wilhelm Sedlmayer;
Margiana, Sophie Traubmann; Bostana, Charlotte Huhn; the Barber, Emil
Fischer. "Die Puppenfee," ballet by J. Hassreiter and F. Gaul, music by
Joseph Bayer, followed the opera and was conducted by Frank Damrosch.
The most important addition to the forces in this season was Theodor
Reichmann, who effected his entrance on the American stage on the first
evening in Wagner's "Flying Dutchman." Herr Reichmann was known to
American pilgrims to the Wagnerian Mecca as the admired representative
of Amfortas in "Parsifal," but his impersonation of the Dutchman was
equally famous in Vienna and the German capitals. On this occasion Mr.
Seidl restored the architect's original design with reference to the
band. Mr. Cady's device had never had a fair trial. Signor Vianesi
condemned it in the first season. When Dr. Damrosch took the helm he
tried it, but abandoned it and resorted to the compromise suggested by
Vianesi, which raised the musicians nearly to the level of the first row
of stalls in the audience room. The growth of the band sent the drummers
outside the railing, but no one was brave enough to restore the original
arrangement till the opening of the sixth German season.

I come to the operatic activities of the period beyond the walls of the
Metropolitan. They scarcely amounted to opposition at any time, though
at the end of the third year there came a brief season of Italian opera
in the home of the German institution which whetted the appetites of the
boxholders and, no doubt, had much to do with the revolution which took
place two years later. In 1887, beginning on October 17th and ending in
December, there was a series of performances at the Thalia Theater which
served again to indicate that German opera had a following among the
people who could not afford to patronize the aristocratic establishment.
This season was arranged to exploit Heinrich Bötel, a coachman-tenor
of the Wachtel stripe, who came from the Stadttheater, in Hamburg. The
prima donna was Frau Herbert-Förster, the wife of Victor Herbert,
who had been a member of the Metropolitan company while her husband,
afterward the most successful of writers for the American operetta
stage, sat in Mr. Seidl's orchestra. The operas given were "Trovatore,"
"Martha," "The Postilion of Lonjumeau," Flotow's "Stradella," "La Dame
Blanche," and "Les Huguenots." At other theaters, too, there were
performances of operas and operettas by the Boston Ideal Opera Company
and other troupes, but with them these annals have no concern. The
National Opera Company, stripped of the prestige with which it had
started out, abandoned by Mr. Thomas and reorganized on a co-operative
basis, made its last struggle for existence at the Academy of Music
between April 2 and April 6, 1888. The decay of the institution seemed
to fill it with the enterprise and energy of despair. It produced (but
in anything but a commendable fashion) English versions of Goldmark's
"Queen of Sheba," Rubinstein's "Nero," "Tannhäuser" (first performance
of the opera in English in New York on April 4th), and "Lohengrin." In
the company, besides some of the singers who had belonged to it in the
previous two years, were Eloi Sylva, Bertha Pierson, Amanda Fabbris,
Charles Bassett, and Barton McGuckin, the last a tenor who had made
a notable career in Great Britain with Mr. Carl Rosa's companies.

This season also saw the introduction of Verdi's "Otello" by a company
especially organized for the purpose by Italo Campanini, who, his
singing days being practically over, turned impresario. He had been in
Milan when Verdi's opera was produced, on February 5, 1887, and made
haste to procure the American rights of performance. It was a laudable
ambition, but the enterprise was overwhelmed with disaster. Campanini
brought from Italy a tenor named Marconi for the titular rôle; his
sister-in-law, Eva Tetrazzini, to sing the part of Desdemona, and his
brother, Cleofonte (who was maestro di cembalo at the Metropolitan Opera
House during its first season), as conductor. With these he associated
Signora Scalchi and Signor Galassi (Emilia and Iago). The first
performance took place on April 16, 1888, in the Academy of Music, and
four representations were given on the established opera nights and
Saturday afternoons. The public's attitude was apathetic. The tenor did
not please, the fashionable season was over, the music was not of the
kind that had been expected from Verdi, and the prices of admission were
too high for a popular audience. Signor Campanini essayed a second week
and now threw his own popularity into the scale. Signor Marconi was
dismissed and returned at once to Europe, never to be heard again in New
York; Campanini, who had been the most popular tenor with New Yorkers
since the palmy days of Brignoli, took his part; the prices of admission
were reduced. All to no avail; ruin had overtaken the manager, and the
eighth performance was the last. It was truly pitiable. Signor Campanini
deserved better for his bold embarkation in a noble enterprise; but
reasons for the failure were easily found. It was unwise to give opera
on an ambitious scale after the amusement season had worn itself out;
it was nothing less than foolish to do so with an ill-equipped company,
in a house that had lost its fashionable prestige and at prices so
large that a fatal blunder had to be confessed by their reduction at
the end of a week. Two seasons later, the opera was announced by the
Metropolitan director, Mr. Stanton, but was not given, for reasons
already mentioned. How it entered the fashionable home of opera we
shall see presently.

After the lapse of twenty years it is still impossible to say that
"Otello" has really been habilitated in New York. Its fate has not
been quite so pitiful as that of "Falstaff," because it has been more
frequently performed, and performed, moreover, in better style; but it
has not won the popular heart. It is admired by the knowing, but not
loved by the masses, as the earlier operas, especially "Aïda," is loved.
The reason? I am still inclined to look for it where I thought I found
it a score of years ago. At that time it seemed to me that the public,
if it concerned itself with the matter at all (which I doubt), was at a
loss for a point of view from which to consider it. Was it an Italian
opera? Certainly not, if that type was represented by any of the works
of Rossini, Bellini, Donizetti, or of Verdi himself when he was the
popular idol. Was it a French opera? A German opera? A lyric drama in
the Wagnerian manner? To the connoisseur, if not to the idle prattler
about music, each of these designations suggests a distinct idea--a
form, a style, a manner. Which of them might with most propriety be
applied to this work? The circumstance that the book was in the Italian
language had little to do with the question, no matter how loudly
an excitable individual (as on this occasion) might shout "Viva
l'Italiano!" to testify his admiration for Verdi's music. "The
style--it is the man." "Otello" was composed and first brought forward
under anomalous conditions, and though it first saw the stage lamps
at Milan, its style is not distinctively Italian. Neither is it
distinctively French or German. It is of its own kind, Verdian;
characteristic of the composer of "Rigoletto," "Trovatore," and
"Traviata" in its essence, though widely different from them in
expression. The composer himself indicated that he desired it to be
looked upon as outside of the old operatic conventions. According to its
title page it is "Dramma lirico in quattro Atti." "Aïda" was still an
"Opera in quattro Atti." The distinction was not undesigned. There are
many other indications that he desired his work to be looked upon as
something as far from old-fashioned opera as were Wagner's later dramas;
that he aimed in the first instance at a presentation of its dramatic
contents, and considered the music as a means, and not entirely as an
end. In this he followed a Wagnerian precept. His score is filled with
instrumental interludes designed to accompany actions or to depict
emotions. He leaves no question in our minds on this point, but as fully
as Wagner in his "Lohengrin" period he indicates the bodily movements
that are to go hand in hand with the music. In the picture of a storm
which opens the opera the manipulator of the artificial lightning is
not left to his discretion as to the proper moment for discharging
his brutum fulmen; in the love duet, at the close of the first act,
the appearance of the moon and stars is sought to be intensified by
descriptive effects in the music; and when, in the last scene, Otello
kisses the sleeping Desdemona, and the one typical phrase of the opera
(drawn from the love scene) is repeated, the composer indicates on what
beat of each measure he wants each kiss to fall. These are only a few
instances of Verdi's appreciation of the necessity of suiting the action
to the music, the music to the action; and they sink into insignificance
when compared with his treatment of the murder in the last act. Then
Otello's entrance and actions up to the waking of Desdemona are
accompanied by a solo on double basses, interrupted at intervals by
energetic passages from the other strings. It is not difficult to recall
other melodramas written since "Fidelio" in which similar dramatic
effects are sought, but the audacity of Verdi's procedure is unexampled
in Italian opera. I make no doubt that had this scene been written
twenty years earlier it would have been received by his countrymen
with hisses and catcalls. Yet we were told that at the opera's first
performance in Milan the audience redemanded it uproariously and the
Italian critics could not sufficiently express their admiration for
it. The fact is that "Otello" disclosed an honest, consistent, and in
many respects successful effort to realize the higher purposes which
we associate in the conception of a lyric drama as distinguished from
the opera. With this conception nationalism had nothing to do; Verdi's
superb artistic nature, everything.

In the season of 1888-89 there was but a single performance of Italian
opera in New York, a circumstance singular enough to deserve special
mention. On April 24th Signor Campanini appeared with Clementine De Vere
in "Lucia di Lammermoor," the performance being for the once-popular
favorite's benefit. Memories of a period in which Italian singers were
tremendously active were called up in the minds of opera-goers of the
older generation by an entertainment given in the Metropolitan Opera
House on February 12th, in honor of the fiftieth anniversary of Max
Maretzek's entrance in the American field as a conductor of operas. The
affair was generously patronized and participated in on its professional
side by Theodore Thomas, Anton Seidl, Frank van der Stucken, Adolf
Neuendorff, and Walter Damrosch as conductors; Mme. Fursch-Madi, Miss
Emily Winant, Miss Maud Powell, Rafael Joseffy, Max Alvary, Signor Del
Puente, Julius Perotti, Wilhelm Sedlmayer, and Mrs. Herbert-Foerster.
Scenes from "Siegfried," "Il Trovatore," and "Carmen" were performed.

There were some performances of operas in English in the early part
of the next season (1889-90) by the Emma Juch English Opera Company
(Nessler's "Trumpeter of Säkkingen" being brought forward as a novelty),
at the Harlem Opera House, owned and managed by Oscar Hammerstein. This
house also, for a week after the close of the regular season at the
Metropolitan, was the scene of an unsuccessful effort to prolong the
German performances, or rather to provide German opera at popular
prices to the residents of Harlem. The company, headed by Miss Lehmann
and conducted by Walter Damrosch, was made up of singers from the
Metropolitan company. The operas given were "Norma," "Les Huguenots,"
and "Il Trovatore."

The Italian company which took possession of the Metropolitan Opera
House immediately on its vacation by the German singers was under the
management of Henry E. Abbey and Maurice Grau. During the fall and
winter months it had been giving representations in some of the larger
cities of the United States and Mexico City. Arditi and Sapio were the
conductors, and most of the singers were familiar to the public--Patti,
Albani, Nordica, Fabbri, Ravelli, Vicini, Perugini, Del Puente,
Castelmary, Novara, Migliara; newcomers were Hortense Synnerberg,
mezzo-soprano; Signora Pettigiani, soprano leggiero; Zardo, barytone,
and Francesco Tamagno, tenor. The presence of this singer in the troupe
served to indicate that its purpose, outside the exploitation of Madame
Patti, was the production of Verdi's "Otello," with which the season
was opened on March 24th, Madame Albani being the Desdemona. Tamagno
had created the title rôle in Milan two years before.

The subscription was for sixteen evenings and four matinées, which
were to be encompassed in a period of four weeks; but the illness of
Madame Patti compelled a postponement of one of the performances until
the fifth week after the opening, and then to the twenty subscription
representations was added, a twenty-first as a "farewell" to Madame
Patti. The operas in which this artist appeared were "La Sonnambula,"
"Semiramide," "Lakmé," "Martha," "Lucia di Lammermoor," "Roméo et
Juliette," "Il Barbiere," "Linda di Chamouni," and "La Traviata." The
other operas were "Otello," "Il Trovatore," "Tell," "Aïda," "Faust,"
"L'Africaine," "Rigoletto," and "Les Huguenots."

There was no novelty in the list, unless the fact that "Lakmé" was
transformed into a novelty by the Italian version; it had been heard
before in English, and the performance was so desperately slipshod,
notwithstanding that Mme. Patti impersonated the heroine, that it
awakened only pity for Delibes's work. It would be extremely interesting
and doubtless instructive also were I able to give such a detailed
financial statement of the outcome of this season as Mr. Stanton's
courtesy enabled me at the time to give of the German seasons. But here
I am thrown on conjecture. On the evenings and afternoons when Patti
sang the audiences unquestionably represented vast receipts to the
management. An estimate made at the time from a study of the character
and size of the audiences placed the receipts in round numbers at
$100,000. It was significant as bearing on the artistic problem
suggested by the succession of German and Italian opera--a problem that
was destined to become of paramount interest soon--that on scarcely
a single Patti performance were all the orchestra stalls sold, and
that there were always unsold boxes in the tier not occupied by the
stockholders. The bulk of the money came from the occupants of the
balconies and gallery. The musical and fashionable elements in the
city's population had comparatively small representation. The audiences,
in fact, were largely composed of curiosity seekers, impelled by the
desire to be able in the future to say that they, too, had heard the
greatest songstress of the last generation of the nineteenth century.
The "Patti's Farewell" trick was still effective; a few years later it
was found that it would work no longer, and the great singer disappeared
in a black cloud of failure, followed by the grief of all who had been
her admirers.



CHAPTER XV

END OF THE GERMAN PERIOD


The season of 1890-91 was full of incidents, some exciting, some
amusing, but they were all dwarfed by the announcement which came in the
middle of January that the directors of the Metropolitan Opera House had
concluded a contract of lease with Henry E. Abbey (or Abbey and Grau)
under which opera was to be given in the next season in Italian and
French. The alleged reason was that Mr. Abbey was willing to assume
all risk of failure for the same subvention which the stockholders as
individuals were paying themselves in their capacity as entrepreneurs;
the real reason was that the stockholders, or a majority of them, were
weary of German opera, and especially of the dramas of Wagner. This
reason spoke out of the action which had been taken looking to the
eighth season of opera (seventh in German) before an agreement had been
reached with Mr. Abbey. Wagner had supplied the financial backbone to
all the seasons since German opera had been introduced, as will appear
presently; but the directors were unwilling to admit that fact until, as
a result of their change of policy, disaster stared them in the face.
Then they made haste to reverse their action as far as possible and
did other works of repentance which enabled them to save a modicum of
prestige and some money; but the hands of the clock had been set back,
and the goal of a national opera, toward which the German movement was
leading, was forgotten. It has never been seen since.

When Mr. Stanton went to Germany in the spring of 1890 to engage singers
and select a repertory he carried with him a definite policy, formulated
by the directors, which was the fruit of a sentimental passion for the
amiable Italian muse and a spirit of thrift. Italian opera under their
own management seeming still impracticable because of its expensiveness,
the directors conceived what they thought would prove to be a happy
compromise; they would continue to give German opera, but would make
a radical change in the character of the repertory. Wagner was to be
shelved as to all but his earlier operas, such as "Tannhäuser" and
"Lohengrin," and the season enriched with new works by Italian and
French composers. With this purpose in view, Mr. Stanton completed his
arrangements, and the season of 1890-91 was opened on November 26th in
a manner that looked like a bold and successful stroke in favor of the
new policy. "Asrael," an opera by an Italian composer, which had stirred
up some favorable comment in Germany and Italy, was given with a great
deal of sumptuousness in stage attire and with a company which critics
and amateurs agreed in recognizing as, on the whole, stronger than any
of recent years. Mme. Lehmann-Kalisch was not at its head, it is true,
but instead there was a singer of excellent ability and considerable
personal and artistic charm in the person of Antonia Mielke. Emil
Fischer was retained, and also Theodor Reichmann and some of the lesser
members of the old company, and to them were added Heinrich Gudehus,
Jennie Broch (soprano leggiero), Marie Ritter-Goetze (mezzo-soprano),
Andreas Dippel, Marie Jahn (soprano), and others. Mme. Minnie Hauk
joined the forces later in the season.

"Asrael" was in every respect a surprise--as strange to the audience
as if it had been composed for the occasion. The name of the composer,
Alberto Franchetti, had never appeared in any local list save once, in
April, 1887, when a symphony in E minor, bearing it, had been performed
at a concert of the Philharmonic Society under the direction of Theodore
Thomas. The Tribune newspaper contributed all that the public learned
about him then and since. This was to the effect that he was a young
Italian (or, rather, Italianized Hebrew), a member of one of the
branches of the Rothschilds, who had studied in Munich and lived much
of his time in Dresden, where Kapellmeister Schuch sometimes gave him
opportunities to hear his orchestral music. Also that he was very
wealthy, having a purse as large as his artistic ambition, and was
not disinclined, when a work of his composition was accepted for
performance, to care for its sumptuous production by paying for the
stage decorations out of his own pocket. He resembled Meyerbeer in being
a Jew, and also in that it was possible for his mother to say of him:
"My son is a musical composer, but not of necessity." The book of the
opera proved to be a most bewildering conglomeration of scenes and
personages from familiar operas, and though the pictures were
magnificent and much of the music was pleasing, "Asrael" had only five
performances, and when the record of the season was made up it was
found to stand thirteenth in a list of seventeen operas.

At the bottom of this list stood the two other novelties of the season,
and if the public were bewildered by "Asrael" they were thrown into
consternation by "Der Vasall von Szigeth," and into contemptuous
merriment by "Diana von Solange." Both of these operas were sung in
German, of course, but "Der Vasall," not only had an Italian (Anton
Smareglia) for its composer, like "Asrael," but had originally been
composed in Italian and borne an Italian name--"Il Vassallo di Szigeth."
Here plainly was a concession to the Italian predilections of the
stockholders. But the composer of "Der Vasall," or "Il Vassallo"--as you
like it--was a Dalmatian, like Von Suppé, the operetta composer. His
native tongue was Italian, but the influence of Austrian domination and
Austrian art had deeply affected his nationalism, and enabled him to
infuse an Hungarian subject (the story of "Der Vasall" was Hungarian)
with Hungarian musical color. It therefore chanced that in this
instance, when the stockholders seemed to have bargained for Italian
sweets, they got a strong dose of Magyar paprika. As for the libretto,
it offered such a sup of horrors as had never been seen on an operatic
stage before, and has never been seen since. "Der Vasall von Szigeth,"
which was brought forward on December 12th, had four performances in the
season and took in $7,805.50, which was probably not much more than the
cost of staging the opera.

The amused gossip touching the potency of new influences which had begun
with "Asrael" was given fresh fuel by the production of "Diana von
Solange." Why an opera which had lain "so lange" (to make an obvious
German pun) in the limbo of forgotten things, which, indeed, had never
enjoyed a popularity of any kind, though it was thirty or forty years
old, should have been resurrected for production in New York was a
question well calculated to irritate curiosity and provoke many an
ill-natured sally of wit. "Diana von Solange" was the work of Ernest II,
Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. The family to which the duke belonged had
long dallied with music; that the public knew. His ducal highness's
brother, the British Prince Consort, affected the art in his time, and
left evidences of good, sound taste in the story of English music, and
it was known that the Duke of Edinburgh (son of the Prince Consort and
Queen Victoria) was an amateur fiddler, quite capable of leading the
band at a London smoking concert. A complacent German lexicographer had
even admitted Ernest II into the fellowship of Beethoven, but that fact
was not widely known, and after "Diana von Solange" had been produced
the most cogent argument in explanation of its production among the
theatrical wits was based on familiar German stories of the lavishness
of the Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha in the distribution of orders,
especially among musicians. No anecdote was more popular for the rest of
the season in the corridors than that which told of how a concert party
driving away from the ducal palace discovered that the chamberlain had
handed over one more decoration than the artists who had entertained the
duke. "Never mind," quoth the chamberlain; "give it to the coachman!"
The production of an opera composed by the duke without the obbligato
distribution of orders was inconceivable, even in democratic America,
but the tongues of waggish gossips wagged so furiously that it was said
only the stage manager was willing to accept his bauble. Brahms's bon
mot touching the danger of criticizing the music of royalty, "because
no one could tell who composed it," not being current at the time,
the music of "Diana von Solange" was mercilessly faulted, as was also
the libretto. It was certainly right royal poetry set to right royal
music--an infusion of immature Verdi and Meyerbeer plentifully watered.
Archaic research discovered that the opera had been written some
thirty-five years before, and that the composer, possessing, quite
naturally, some influence with the management of the ducal theaters at
Coburg and Gotha, had succeeded in having it performed in those cities
in December, 1858, and May, 1859, and that Dresden had also honored
it with a performance in January, 1859. Why New York blew the dust of
generations off its score was never learned by the inquisitive newspaper
scribes.

The story of the opera concerned itself with the succession to the
throne of Portugal on the death of Enrique, with whom the old Burgundian
line became extinct in 1580. A wicked man plotted to give the crown
to Philip II of Spain (who really got it), and employed a Provençal
adventuress to help keep it from the nephew of the dying king. But
the adventuress, who lent her name to the opera, lost heart in the
enterprise because she fell in love with the nephew and was stabbed
to death for her pains. The wicked man was shot by the nephew, and
there was thus a proper amount of bloodshed to justify the historical
character of the work, the grewsomeness of which was modified by much
edifying declamation on the part of the dying king, expressive of the
lofty sentiments which, the world knows, always fill the breasts of
monarchs. The opera was performed on January 9, 1891, and received two
representations. A third was announced for a Saturday afternoon, but
called forth so emphatic a popular request for "Fidelio" that the
representative of the stockholders adjudged it to be the course of
wisdom to set aside Ernest II in favor of Beethoven.

For six weeks Mr. Stanton followed the line of policy laid down by his
directors, and within that time brought forward the three novelties
which I have described, besides "Tannhäuser," "Lohengrin," "The Flying
Dutchman," "Les Huguenots," "Le Prophète," and "Fidelio." Already in the
third week of the season, however, it became manifest that the policy
of the directors did not meet with the approbation of the public. One
result of the German representations in the preceding six years had
been to develop a class of opera patrons with intelligent tastes and
warm affections. A large fraction of this public had become season
subscribers, and among these dissatisfaction with the current repertory
was growing daily. It may be that the panicky feeling in financial
circles had something to do with a falling off in general attendance in
the early part of the season, but this is scarcely borne out by the fact
that the advance subscription amounted to $72,000, representing about
one thousand persons, and that, though the novelties would not draw, the
three Wagnerian works proved to be as attractive as ever they had been.
The significance of the popular attitude, indeed, was obvious enough,
although the directors chose to close their eyes and ears to it. It
was, in fact, so obvious that The Tribune newspaper did not hesitate to
predict a tremendous success for "Fidelio" when it was announced "for
one performance only" on December 26th, and to assert in advance of the
performance that it would have to be repeated to satisfy the demand for
good dramatic music which had grown up because of the Wagner cult and
been whetted by Mr. Stanton's neglect to put on the stage a few works
imbued with the modern dramatic spirit. Two repetitions of "Fidelio"
and the lifting of that opera to fourth place in the list attested the
soundness of The Tribune's diagnosis of the situation.

By a coincidence, on the night of the first representation for the
season of one of the latter-day works of Wagner, which, had the
directors chosen to read the signs of the times aright and be guided
by them, might have ushered in the era of prosperity which they were
sighing for but repelling by their course, the decision was reached to
turn over the opera house to Mr. Abbey for performances in Italian and
French. This date was January 14th. So far as the subscribers to the
opera and the majority of its patrons were concerned, this action of the
directors seemed like nothing else than the culmination of a conspiracy
to set back the clock of musical progress in New York a quarter of a
century at least. The news came upon the public like a bolt from the
blue. The plan had been laid early in the summer (was, in fact, the
fruition of the postprandial Patti season of 1889-90), but all concerned
had been pledged to secrecy. Mr. Abbey seized the right moment to
strike, and when he had bagged his game he exhibited it forthwith, and
it was received with a loud chorus of cheers from the enemies of the
German institution. The directors gleefully continued their course for
a little while longer, though the handwriting on the wall had begun to
blaze forth when all the canons of art and the fruit of years of serious
effort were insulted by the production of the amorphous creation of one
whose sole claim on popular attention as a composer was that he was a
royal duke and the brother-in-law of the Queen of England.

At the first performance, after the announcement of the projected
change had been made, the public took it upon themselves to show their
disapproval of the action of the directors. There seemed to be but one
way to do this effectually without injury to the form of art which the
public had learned to love, and that way was adopted: After January
14th not a single representation was conducted by Mr. Seidl at which
the conductor was not compelled to appear upon the stage and accept
a tribute of popular admiration. Mr. Seidl had come to be the
representative in an especial manner of the new spirit as opposed to
the directors, who, by their action, had shown that they stood for the
old. And so the directors were rebuked in the honors showered upon the
conductor. It needed as little prophetic gift to predict what course Mr.
Stanton would pursue in view of the new developments as it had required
to predict the success of "Fidelio" after the experiences of 1888-89 had
seemed to indicate that the opera had lost all charm for the public. On
January 20th, only six days after Mr. Abbey had captured the directors,
The Tribune, commenting editorially on the "Operatic Revolution,"
remarked:


Financially Wagner must save this season or it will suffer shipwreck.
Mr. Stanton knows that, and it is not a rash prediction to say that
the whole unperformed list will be sacrificed from this time forth
to the production of Wagner's works. The policy will be voted wise
by the directors because it will go further than anything else to
save the season; it will be welcomed by the public because of their
disappointment with the novelties which a shortsighted policy attempted
to foist upon them.


The prediction was fulfilled to the letter; after January 20th
thirty-five representations took place, and all but ten of them were
devoted to Wagner's works, notwithstanding that within this period Mme.
Minnie Hauk was added to the company and that the two operas in which
she appeared ("L'Africaine" and "Carmen") proved more popular than any
works of the non-Wagnerian list, with the single exception of "Fidelio."
An amusing evidence of the enforced change of heart in the directors
was a promulgation of an order requesting the occupants of the boxes to
discontinue the conversation during performances which had grown to be a
public scandal. The resolution to publish the order was adopted, either
at the meeting of the directors at which the agreement was reached
with Mr. Abbey, or the day after; the order bore date January 15; the
contract with Mr. Abbey was made on January 14th.

It is proper that I devote some attention to the story of the growth of
the spirit which eventually overthrew German opera at the Metropolitan
Opera House, or, rather, not German opera, but opera exclusively in the
German tongue; for it was not long in developing that the new régime
stood no show of success unless to Italian and French German opera was
also added. The vicissitudes which brought with them this demonstration
must be reserved for a subsequent chapter, but before I tell the story
of the institution's retrogression I owe to the student of history
an outline of the doings of the season 1890-91. The season began on
November 26th and lasted till March 21st. There were sixty-seven
subscription performances, an extra performance of "Fidelio" for the
benefit of the chorus, which yielded $1,849, giving each chorister
$18.20, and a Sunday night performance of excerpts from "Parsifal,"
which brought in $1,872. I have enumerated the operas which had been
given up to the production of "Diana von Solange"; after this date
came "Die Meistersinger," "L'Africaine," "Siegfried," "Der Barbier von
Bagdad," "Die Walküre," "Götterdämmerung," "Carmen," and "Tristan und
Isolde." Arranged in the order of their popularity as indicated by
attendance and receipts, the entire list was as follows: "Siegfried,"
four times; "Tannhäuser," seven times; "Götterdämmerung," four times;
"Fidelio," three times; "Die Meistersinger," six times; "Die Walküre,"
four times; "Lohengrin," seven times; "Carmen," three times; "The Flying
Dutchman," four times; "L'Africaine," three times; "Le Prophète," once;
"Tristan und Isolde," three times; "Asrael," five times; "Barber of
Bagdad," four times; "Les Huguenots," three times; "Der Vasall von
Szigeth," four times; "Diana von Solange," twice. The total receipts for
the season (box office sales and subscriptions) were $198,119.25; the
average, $2,957.

The last performance of the season was given to "Die Meistersinger"
on a Saturday afternoon. The house was crowded from floor to ceiling
and there were signs from the beginning that there was to be a large
expression of public opinion. After the first and second acts there were
calls and recalls for the singers and for Mr. Seidl. But this was but a
preparation. After the fall of the curtain on the last act the multitude
remained in the audience room for over half an hour (remained, indeed,
till laborers appeared on the stage to get it ready for a concert in the
evening), and called for one after another of the persons who were in
one way or another representative of the system that was passing away.
The greatest bursts of enthusiasm were those which greeted Mr. Stanton
(whose sympathies were with the German movement), Mr. Seidl and Mr.
Fischer, though Mr. Walter Damrosch, Mr. Habelmann, Mr. Dippel, Fräulein
Jahn, and other singers were not neglected. Mr. Stanton's unwillingness
to receive the distinction which the audience plainly wished to shower
upon him caused disappointment; but Mr. Stanton stood in an awkward
position between the stockholders and the public. Finally, after an
unusual outburst of plaudits for Mr. Fischer, that singer came forward
carrying a gigantic wreath and half a dozen bouquets and said:


Ladies and Gentlemen: It is impossible for me to express what I feel
for your kindness and love; and I hope it is not the last time (here
a tremendous uproar interrupted the speaker for a space) that I shall
sing for you here, on this stage, in German.


Had one been able to explode a ton of dynamite when Mr. Fischer ended
it would have been accepted by the audience as not more than a fitting
amount of approbative noise. Twenty minutes later, the audience still
clamoring for a speech, Mr. Seidl came forward, for perhaps the
twentieth time, and spoke as follows:


Believe me, ladies and gentlemen, I understand the meaning of this
great demonstration. For myself, the orchestra, and the other members
of the company, I thank you.


To understand the story of the overthrow of German opera managed by the
owners of the opera house, and the reversion to the system which had
proved disastrous at the beginning and was fated to prove disastrous
again, it is well to bear the fact in mind that instability was, is,
and always will be an element in the cultivation of opera so long as it
remains an exotic; that is, until it becomes a national expression in
art, using the vernacular and giving utterance to national ideals. The
fickleness of the public taste, the popular craving for sensation, the
egotism and rapacity of the artists, the lack of high purpose in the
promoters, the domination of fashion instead of love for art, the
lack of real artistic culture--all these things have stood from the
beginning, as they still stand, in the way of a permanent foundation
of opera in New York. The boxes of the Metropolitan Opera House have
a high market value to-day, but they are a coveted asset only because
they are visible symbols of social distinction. There were genuine
notes of rejoicing in the stockholders' voices at the measure of
financial success achieved in the first three seasons of German opera,
but the lesson had not yet been learned that an institution like the
Metropolitan Opera House can only be maintained by a subvention in
perpetuity; that in democratic America the persons who crave and create
the luxury must contribute from their pockets the equivalent of the
money which in Europe comes from national exchequers and the privy
purses of monarchs. This fact did eventually impress itself upon the
consciousness of the stockholders of the Metropolitan Opera House, but
when it found lodgment there it created a notion--a natural one, and
easily understood--that their predilections, and theirs alone, ought
to be humored in the character of the entertainment. I have displayed
a disposition to quarrel with the artistic attitude of the directors,
but I would not be an honest chronicler of the operatic occurrences of
the last twenty-five years if I did not do so. The facts in the case
were flagrant, the situation anomalous. The stockholders created an
art spirit which was big with promise while rich in fulfilment, and
then killed it because its manifestation bored them. An institution
which seemed about to become permanent and a fit and adequate national
expression in an admired form of art, was set afloat again upon the
sea of impermanency and speculation. About the middle of the fourth
German season the directors formally resolved to continue the German
representations. Not long afterward it developed that the receipts
for the season would be considerably less than had been counted on,
and immediately a clamor arose against the management. The champions
of Italian opera joyfully proclaimed that the knell of German opera
had rung, and attributed the falling off in popular support to the
predominance of Wagner's operas and dramas in the repertory. The
disaffection threatened mischief to the enterprise and had to be met;
the directors met it by formally asking for an expression of opinion
from the stockholders as to the future conduct of the institution. On
January 21, 1888, they sent out a circular letter to the stockholders,
in which they submitted two propositions, on which they asked for a
vote. One was "To go on with German opera with an assessment of $3,200 a
box"; the other, "To give no opera the next season, with an assessment
of $1,000 a box, and to resume, if possible, the following season." The
letter, which was signed by James A. Roosevelt, president, stated that
the giving of Italian opera was not suggested because the directors
"were convinced that to do so in a satisfactory manner will require a
much larger assessment upon the stockholders than to give German opera."
It was also set forth that the directors had estimated that the opera
could be maintained for the assessment ($2,500 on each box), provided
the receipts from the public amounted to $3,000 a performance. The
subscription was 50 per cent. larger than the previous year (about
$80,000, against $52,000), and larger receipts had been expected than
in 1886-87, when the average was about $3,300. Instead, the receipts
had fallen off and indicated an average of only $2,500. Rentals,
however, had increased $14,000.

The answer of the stockholders was a vote of over four to one in favor
of continuing German opera under the first proposition of the circular
letter. Then, while the Italinissimi were still proclaiming that
the Metropolitan opera had been killed by Wagnerism, there came the
announcement of two weeks of consecutive representations of the three
dramas of "The Ring of the Nibelung" (all but the prologue), which were
in the repertory of the company. The two weeks, and a third in which
"Götterdämmerung" was performed three times, brought more money into
the exchequer of the opera than any preceding five weeks of the season.
The average of $2,500 apprehended by the directors was raised to over
$3,177.

During the next season the average receipts were practically the same,
nor was there anything to change the situation from a financial point
of view. The stockholders had voted themselves into a mood of temporary
quiescence, and the opera pursued its serious course unhampered by more
than the ordinary fault-finding on the part of the representations of
careless amusement seekers in the public press, and the grumbling in
the boxes because the musical director and stage manager persisted in
darkening the audience room in order to heighten the effect of the
stage pictures.

The aristocratic prejudice against gloom extended to the operas which
contained dark scenes, and when Mr. Stanton once exercised his authority
as director and had the stage lights going at almost full tilt in the
dungeon scene of "Fidelio," the effect of Florestan's exclamation,
"Gott! welch' Dunkel hier!" upon an audience fully three-fourths of
which was composed of Germans or descendants of Germans the ludicrous
effect may be imagined. Many stories were current among the artists
of the blithe indifference of the occupants of the boxes to artistic
proprieties when they interfered with the display of gowns and jewels.
One of them was that the chairman of the amusement committee of the
directors had requested that the last act of "Die Meistersinger" be sung
first, as it was "the only act of the opera that had music in it," and
the boxholders did not want to wait till the end. The conduct of the
occupants of the boxes now grew to be so intolerable that there were
frequent demonstrations of disapproval and rebuke from the listeners
who sat in the parquet and balconies. The matter became a subject for
newspaper discussion; in fact, it had been such a subject ever since the
loud laugh of a woman at the climacteric moment of "Fidelio" had caused
Fräulein Brandt to break down in tears in the opening measures of the
frenetically joyous duet, "O namenlose Freude!" In the course of this
extraordinary discussion one of the directors boldly asserted the right
of the stockholders in the boxes to disturb the enjoyment of listeners
in the stalls. Not only did he repeal the old rule of "noblesse oblige,"
but he also intimated that the payment of $3,000 acquitted the box owner
and his guests of one of the simplest and most obvious obligations
imposed by good breeding. At length the directors were forced to rebuke
their own behavior. On the night of January 21, 1891, the following
notice was found hung against the wall in each of the boxes:


                                            January 15, 1891.
Many complaints having been made to the directors of the Opera House
of the annoyance produced by the talking in the boxes during the
performances, the board requests that it be discontinued.
                                By Order of the Board of Directors.


This was the first sop to Cerberus after the directors had concluded a
contract with Mr. Abbey, leasing the house to him a second time and
substituting opera in Italian and French for opera in German. The public
had begun to speak its mind, not only by making a mighty demonstration
in honor of Mr. Seidl and the singers when a German opera was given,
but in remaining away when the weak-kneed novelties were given; in
requesting by petition a performance of "Fidelio" on a Saturday
afternoon for which the opera by the royal composer had been set down,
and in crowding the house and giving an ovation to the singers when
their petition was granted. The next sop was to set aside all the works
which it had been projected should take the place of the later dramas of
Wagner, which the stockholders (or the majority of them) did not like,
and to devote the remainder of the season almost exclusively to Wagner.
The operas thus sacrificed were Marschner's "Templer und Jüdin,"
Massenet's "Esclarmonde," Lalo's "Le Roi d'Ys," Goetz's "Taming of the
Shrew," and Nicolai's "Merry Wives of Windsor." Not love of Wagner but
fear of financial consequences dictated the step, which was successful
in extricating the institution from the slough into which it had fallen.
How much the Wagner operas and dramas did to keep the Metropolitan Opera
House alive can be shown by the statistics of the last five German
seasons, which I compiled at the close of the season of 1890-91, and
printed in The Tribune of March 25th of the latter year. Here is the
table:


                      Season      Season      Season      Season      Season
                     1886-1887   1887-1888   1888-1889   1889-1890   1890-1891
Total
representations .......... 61          64          68          67          67
Wagnerian
representations .......... 31          36          35          37          39
Non-Wagnerian
representations .......... 30          28          33          30          28
Total
receipts ........ $202,751.00 $185,258.50 $209,581.00 $204,644.70 $198,119.25
Average
receipts ........... 3,323.78    2,894.66    3,141.63    3,054.39    2,957.00
Wagnerian
receipts ......... 111,049.50  116,449.75  115,784.50  121,568.70  125,169.25
Non-wagnerian
receipts .......... 91,701.50   68,808.75   93,796.50   83,076.00   72,950.00
Wagnerian
average ............ 3,582.21    3,234.72    3,308.13    3,285.65    3,209.46
Non-Wagnerian
average ............ 3,056.71    2,457.45    2,842.32    2,769.20    2.605.37
Average difference
in favor of Wagner ... 525.50      777.27      465.81      516.45      604.09



CHAPTER XVI

ITALIAN OPERA AGAIN AT THE METROPOLITAN


The figures which I have printed showing a loss to the stockholders of
the Metropolitan Opera House on opera account year after year during the
German period, do not tell the whole story of the financial condition
into which the Metropolitan Opera House Company (Limited) had fallen.
This condition had much to do with creating a desire on the part of the
stockholders for a change of policy. The first German season cost the
stockholders only about $42,000 above the amount realized from the box
assessment, which was, I believe, $2,000--two-thirds of the sum that
has ruled ever since. There were seventy stockholders, and in view of
the loss made by Mr. Abbey the year previous this deficit was a trifle
scarcely worth considering. The growth in popular interest as indicated
by the support of the subscriptions for the season of 1890-91 was
promising; but the stockholders themselves were not all prompt in
meeting their obligations to their own organization. By 1890 there was
an account of unpaid assessments amounting to $46,328. Of this, $21,112
was canceled by the acquisition of two boxes by the company, but the
balance sheet at the end of the last German season still showed $25,216
due from stockholders on assessment account. The floating debt at this
time amounted to $84,044.48. The prices of admission had been greatly
reduced in the German years, and the capacity of the house, represented
in money, was not more than fifty per centum of what it is to-day. The
demands of singers were growing greater year after year, and were not
lessened, as may easily be imagined, by the thrifty complacency of those
German managers who granted furloughs to their singers in consideration
of a share of their American earnings. Under the circumstances it is not
to be wondered at that Mr. Abbey's agreement to give Italian and French
opera at his own risk was alluring, especially to those who had never
sympathized with the serious tendency of German opera.

The contract of the directors for opera in the season of 1891-92 was
made with Henry E. Abbey and Maurice Grau, who figured in all the
announcements as the managers. With them was associated as silent
partner Mr. John B. Schoeffel, of Boston, who had shared in all of Mr.
Abbey's daring theatrical ventures since 1876, and, consequently, also
in the unfortunate season of 1883-84, when Maurice Grau acted as manager
at a salary of $15,000. Mr. Abbey's mind was not closed to the lessons
of the German seasons. A few days after he had signed the contract he
told me that he had had a project in contemplation to bring Materna,
Winkelmann, Scaria, and others to America for Wagnerian opera before Mr.
Thomas had brought them for concert work; that he looked upon German
opera as more advantageous to the manager, not only on account of its
smaller costliness, but, also, because it enabled a manager to adjust
his singers to a repertory instead of the repertory to the singers. But
he had speculated successfully with Patti under the "farewell" device,
the managerial virus was again in his veins, and he cherished a foolish
belief that, as one of the results of the German régime, he would
be able to exact different service from the artists of Italian and
French opera than they had been wont to give. On this point he was soon
painfully disillusionized. Had it not been for the presence in his
company of Mme. Lehmann, M. Lassalle, and the brothers Jean and Édouard
de Reszke, whose instincts and training kept them out of the old
Italian rut, his performances would never have gotten away from the old
hurdy-gurdy list. As it was, when he wanted to give "L'Africaine," in
order to present M. Lassalle in one of his most effective rôles, though
he had Emma Eames, Marie Van Zandt, Albani, the sisters Giulia and
Sophia Ravogli, Pettigiani, and Lillian Nordica in his company (the last
hired specially for the purpose), he was obliged to ask Mme. Lehmann
to learn the part of Selika. She did so, but the strain, combined with
other things, broke down her health, and she was useless to her manager
for the second half of the season. She had been engaged as a lure for
the German element among the city's opera patrons, and to it also were
offered propitiatory sacrifices in the shape of performances in Italian
of "Fidelio," "The Flying Dutchman," and "Die Meistersinger" under the
direction of Mr. Seidl. After the lesson had been still more thoroughly
learned a German contingent was added to the Italian and French, and
German opera was added to the list, making it as completely polyglot as
it has ever been since. But before then many financial afflictions were
in store for the enterprise.

Mr. Abbey began his season December 14, 1891, after having given opera
for five weeks in Chicago. In his company, besides the sopranos just
named, were Mme. Scalchi and Jane de Vigne, contraltos; Jean de Reszke,
Paul Kalisch, M. Montariol, and a younger brother of Giannini, tenors;
Martapoura, Magini-Coletti, Lassalle, and Camera, barytones; Édouard de
Reszke, Vinche, and Serbolini, basses, and Carbone, buffo. As conductor,
Vianesi, known from the season of 1883-84, returned. The subscription
season came to a close on March 12th, and presented thirty-nine
subscription evening performances, thirteen matinées, three extra
evenings, and one extra afternoon--in all, fifty-six representations.
The list of operas contained not a single novelty, unless Gluck's
"Orfeo," which had been heard in New York in 1866, and Mascagni's
"Cavalleria Rusticana," which had been performed by two companies in
English earlier in the season, were changed into novelties by use of the
Italian text. But under such a classification Wagner's comic opera would
also have to be set down as a novelty. The list included ten operas not
in the repertories of the German companies, which had occupied the opera
house between the two administrations of Mr. Abbey. Inasmuch as a new
departure was signalized by this season, I present herewith a table of
performances in the subscription season, with the extra representations
mentioned:


  Opera                                         First performance

  "Roméo et Juliette" ............................ December 14
  "Il Trovatore" ................................. December 16
  "Les Huguenots" ................................ December 18
  "Norma" ........................................ December 19
  "La Sonnambula" ................................ December 21
  "Rigoletto" .................................... December 23
  "Faust" ........................................ December 25
  "Aïda" ......................................... December 28
  "Orfeo" and "Cavalleria Rusticana" ............. December 30
  "Le Prophéte" .................................. January 1
  "Martha" ....................................... January 2
  "Lohengrin" .................................... January 4
  "Mignon" ....................................... January 8
  "Otello" ....................................... January 11
  "L'Africaine" .................................. January 15
  "Don Giovanni" ................................. January 18
  "Dinorah" ...................................... January 29
  "Hamlet" ....................................... February 10
  "Lakmé" ........................................ February 22
  "I Maestri Cantoni" ............................ March 2
  "Carmen" ....................................... March 4


The first and most obvious lesson of the season, so far as it was an
index of popular taste, may be seen by a critical glance at the list of
performances. A beginning was made on the old lines. The familiar operas
of the Italian list were brought forward with great rapidity, but not
one of them drew a paying house. The turning point came with the arrival
of M. Lassalle on January 15th. Messrs. Abbey and Grau then recognized
that salvation for their undertaking lay in one course only, which was
to give operas of large dimensions, and in each case employ the three
popular men who had taken the place in the admiration of the public
usually monopolized by the prima donna--the brothers de Reszke, and M.
Lassalle. How consistently they acted on that conviction is shown by the
circumstance that, though seventeen operas had been brought out between
December 14th and January 15th, only six were added to them in the
remaining two months.

It was not a "star" season in the old sense. The most popular artists
were the three men already mentioned, but it required that they should
all be enlisted together with Miss Eames and Mme. Scaichi to make
the one "sensation" of the season--Gounod's "Faust," which had six
regular performances, and two extra. Of the women singers the greatest
popularity was won by Miss Eames, whose youthfulness, freshness of
voice, and statuesque beauty, compelled general admiration. The
smallness of her repertory, however, prevented her from helping the
season to the triumphant close which it might have had if the company
had been enlisted to carry out the policy adopted when the season was
half over. Miss Eames's début was made on the opening night in Gounod's
"Roméo et Juliette." In many ways she was fortunate in her introduction
to the operatic stage of her people--her people, though she was born in
China. She was only twenty-four years old, and there was much to laud in
her art, and nothing to condone except its immaturity. Her endowments of
voice and person were opulent. She appeared in the opera in which she
had effected her entrance on the stage at the Grand Opéra in Paris less
than three years before, and for which her gifts and graces admirably
fitted her. She appeared, moreover, in the company of Jean de Reszke,
who was then, and who remained till his retirement, in all things except
mere sensuous charm of voice, the ideal Romeo. She came fresh from her
first successes at Covent Garden, which had been made in the spring of
the year, and disclosed at once the lovely qualities which, when they
became riper, gave promise of the highest order of things in the way
of dramatic expression. At the end of the period whose history I am
trying to set down she was still one of the bright ornaments of the
Metropolitan stage, though she had not realized all the promises which
she held out at the close of the first decade of her career.

Curiosity was piqued, and a kindly spirit of patriotism enlisted by
the début of Miss Marie Van Zandt on December 21st. She, too, was an
American, but she had been before the European public ten years, and
had won as much favor as any American artist ever enjoyed in Paris.
Mr. Abbey had pointed to her engagement (and that of Mme. Melba, whose
star was just rising above the horizon) as a persuasive argument with
the directors. Everything about the little lady, not excepting some
unfortunate experiences which put an end to her Parisian career, invited
to kindliness of utterance touching her début. Those of her hearers
who had followed the history of opera in America for a score of years
remembered her mother with admiration. Long before the days when every
effort to produce opera in the vernacular was heralded as a great
patriotic undertaking, Mme. Jenny Van Zandt headed companies which
exploited as varied and dignified repertories as those of the German
companies at the Metropolitan Opera House, barring the Wagnerian list.
Miss Van Zandt, diminutive, but winsome in voice as well as figure,
and ingratiating in manner, recalled an old observation about precious
things being done up in small parcels. Her coming seemed to betoken the
return of the day of small things. She appeared in "La Sonnambula," and
it was not until two months had passed that the patrons of the opera
were privileged to hear her in "Lakmé," the opera with which her name
was chiefly associated in Paris. Meanwhile she appeared in "Martha,"
"Mignon," "Don Giovanni," and "Dinorah," without rousing the public out
of the apathy which it felt toward operas of their character. And when
her battle-horse was led into the ring the task of sustaining interest
in the season had fallen upon the shoulders of the masculine contingent
in the company.

Curious questionings were raised by the production of "Fidelio" and
"Die Meistersinger" in Italian. It was generally recognized that Mr.
Abbey offered them as sops to Cerberus; but the German element in the
population, which they were designed to appease, plainly were lacking in
that peculiar bent of mind necessary to understand why Beethoven's opera
done in Italian with a cast one-half good was supposed by the management
to be worth two-thirds more than the same opera done in a language which
it could understand with a cast all good (two of the principals, Mme.
Lehmann and Mr. Kalisch, being the same), during the preceding seven
years. Was the Italian language sixty-seven per cent. more valuable
than the German in an opera conceived in German, written in German, and
composed in the German spirit by a German? The public thought not, and
"Fidelio" had only two performances. A more kindly view was taken of
the Italian "Meistersinger," Which enabled the Germans to give expression
to their feelings by making demonstrations over Mr. Seidl. There was
much to admire, moreover, in the singing and acting of Jean de Reszke
as Walther, and M. Lassalle as Hans Sachs. There was nothing of the
conventional operatic marionette in these men. One night while they and
Édouard de Reszke were on the stage at the same time I expressed my
admiration at the sight of three such fine specimens of physical manhood
to Mme. Lehmann, who sat near my elbow in a baignoir.

"Inspiring, isn't it?"

"Yes," was the reply, "and they might be as fine artists as they are
men if they would but study."

We all know that their American experience was as little lost on the
brothers de Reszke as it was on Mme. Lehmann herself, who stepped into
the foremost rank of tragic singers so soon as America offered her the
opportunity to shuffle off the obligation of "singing princesses," as
she called it.

Mascagni's "Cavalleria Rusticana," the hot-blooded little opera which
was destined to make so great a commotion in the world (had already
begun to make it, indeed), had its first production at the Metropolitan
Opera House on December 30th. The opera was no novelty, having already
made an exciting career before the Metropolitan opera season opened;
but there were two features of the performances calculated to live in
the memory of serious observers as characteristic of the change in
spirit which had come over the institution since the departure of the
German artists: Miss Eames wore a perfectly exquisite accordion-pleated
skirt as the distraught Sicilian peasant, and Signor Valero sang the
siciliano on the open stage, the overture being stopped and the curtain
raised so that he might sing his serenade to Lola with greater effect.
He sang behind Lola's house, and winning a call in spite of his
stridulous voice and singular phrasing, he stepped out from cover, bowed
his acknowledgments, and, returning to his hiding place, serenaded his
love over again. After he had come forward a second time Signor Vianesi
found his place in the score and resumed the overture.

"Cavalleria Rusticana" precipitated an amusing but extremely lively
managerial battle when it reached New York. Those who watched the
operatic doings of Europe were aware of the fact that the opera spread
like wildfire from town to town immediately after its first success at
Rome. Fast as it traveled, however, the intermezzo traveled faster.
Seidl had seized upon it in the summer of 1891, and made it a feature of
his concerts at Brighton Beach. Then came simultaneous announcements of
the production of the opera by Rudolph Aronson and Oscar Hammerstein in
the fall. Mr. Aronson wanted to open the season at the Casino with it,
and let it introduce a change in the character of the entertainments
given at that playhouse. Mr. Hammerstein had also announced the work,
but he had no theater at his ready disposal. He thought Aronson was
poaching on his preserves, and there began a diverting struggle for
priority of performance, from which nobody profited and the opera
suffered. Amid threats of crimination Aronson precipitated what he
called a dress rehearsal of the work at the Casino in the afternoon of
October 1, 1891. Like the king in the parable, he sent out into the
highways, and bade all he could find in to the feast. Especially did
his servants labor on the Rialto, and the affair had all the appearance
of a professional matinée. Nothing was quite in readiness, but Mr.
Hammerstein had announced his first performance for the evening of that
day, and must be anticipated at all hazards. Yet there were singers
and scenes and musicians in the orchestra, and Mr. Gustav Kerker to
steer the little operatic ship through the breakers. On the whole, the
performance was fair. Laura Bellini was the Santuzza of the occasion,
Grace Golden the Lola, Helen von Doenhoff the Lucia, Charles Bassett the
Turiddu, and William Pruette the Alfio. Heinrich Conried staged the
production. In the evening Oscar Hammerstein pitchforked the opera on
to the stage of the Lenox Lyceum--an open concert room, and a poor one
at that. There was a canvas proscenium, no scenery to speak of, costumes
copied from no particular country and no particular period, and a
general effect of improvisation. But the musical forces were superior
to Mr. Aronson's, and had there been a better theater the Casino
performance would have been greatly surpassed. There was a really fine
orchestra under the direction of Mr. Adolph Neuendorff, but it sat
out on the floor of the hall, which reverberated like a drum. Mme.
Janouschoffsky, an exceedingly capable artist, was the Santuzza, Mrs.
Pemberton Hincks the Lola, Mrs. Jennie Bohner the Lucia, Payne Clarke
the Turiddu, and Herman Gerold the Alfio. While all this pother
was making, "Cavalleria Rusticana" was already three weeks old in
Philadelphia, where Mr. Gustav Hinrichs had brought it forward with his
American company at the Grand Opera House; Minnie Hauk, with a company
of her own, had given it in Chicago the night before the New York
struggle, and Emma Juch and her company were rushing forward the
preparations for a production in Boston.

"Cavalleria Rusticana" came upon the world like the bursting of a bomb,
and its effect was so startling that it bewildered and confounded the
radical leaders of musical thought. There were few, indeed, who retained
calmness of vision enough to perceive that it was less a change of
manner than of subject-matter, which had whirled the world off its
critical feet. Outside of Italy there was no means of seeing the work
of preparation which had preceded it. The annual output of hundreds of
operas made no impression beyond the Alpine barrier, and it was easy to
believe that the entire product was formed after the old and humdrum
manner. No sooner had "Cavalleria Rusticana" broken down the old
confines, however, than it was discovered that a whole brood of young
musicians had been brought up on the same blood-heating food, and a
dozen composers were ready to use the same formulas. Most of them,
indeed, got the virus from the same apothecary who uttered the mortal
drug to Mascagni--that is to say, from Amilcare Ponchielli. Had we but
listened twenty-five years ago to "La Gioconda" as we are able to listen
to "Cavalleria Rusticana," and its swift and multitudinous offspring
now, we might have recognized the beginnings of what has been termed
"Mascagnitis," not in an essentially new manner of musical composition,
but in the appeal to the primitive passion for violence and blood which
found expression in the operatic paraphrase of Victor Hugo's story,
and the invitation which that passion extended to the modern musician
suddenly emancipated from a lot of cumbersome formularies, and endowed
with a mass of new harmonic and instrumental pigments with which to
produce the startling contrasts and swift contradictions for which
the new field of subjects clamors.

Seventeen years ago "Cavalleria Rusticana" had no perspective. Now,
though but a small portion of its progeny has been brought to our
notice, we, nevertheless, look at it through a vista which looks like a
valley of moral and physical death through which there flows a sluggish
stream thick with filth, and red with blood. Strangely enough, in spite
of the consequences which have followed it, the fierce little drama
retains its old potency. It still speaks with a voice which sounds like
the voice of truth. Its music still makes the nerves tingle, and carries
our feelings unresistingly on its turbulent current. But the stage
picture is less sanguinary than it looked in the beginning. It seems to
have receded a millennium in time. It has the terrible fierceness of an
Attic tragedy, but it also has the decorum which the Attic tragedy never
violated. There is no slaughter in the presence of the audience, despite
the humbleness of its personages. It does not keep us perpetually in
sight of the shambles. It is, indeed, an exposition of chivalry, rustic,
but chivalry, nevertheless. It was thus Clytemnestra slew her husband,
and Orestes his mother. Note the contrast which the duel between Alfio
and Turiddu presents with the double murder to the piquant accompaniment
of comedy in "Pagliacci," the opera which followed so hard upon its
heels. Since then piquancy has been the cry; the piquant contemplation
of adultery, seduction, and murder amid the reek and stench of the
Italian barnyard. Think of Cilèa's "Tilda," Giordano's "Mala Vita,"
Spinelli's "A Basso Porto," and Tasca's "A Santa Lucia!"

The stories chosen for operatic treatment by the champions of verismo
are all alike. It is their filth and blood which fructifies the music,
which rasps the nerves even as the plays revolt the moral stomach. I
repeat: looking back over the time during which this so-called veritism
has held its orgy, "Cavalleria Rusticana" seems almost classic. Its
music is highly spiced and tastes "hot i' th' mouth," but its eloquence
is, after all, in its eager, pulsating, passionate melody--like the
music which Verdi wrote more than half a century ago for the last act
of "Il Trovatore." If neither Mascagni himself, nor his imitators, have
succeeded in equaling it since, it is because they have thought too
much of the external devices of abrupt and uncouth change of modes and
tonalities, of exotic scales and garish orchestration, and too little of
the fundamental element of melody, which once was the be-all and end-all
of Italian music. Another fountain of gushing melody must be opened
before "Cavalleria Rusticana" finds a successor in all things worthy of
the succession. Ingenious artifice, reflection, and technical cleverness
will not suffice even with the blood and mud of the Neapolitan slums as
a fertilizer.

Messrs. Abbey and Grau had no rival opera organizations to contend with
at any time after they opened their doors, so they created a bit of
competition themselves. In January they brought Mme. Patti and her
operatic concert company into the house for a pair of concerts in which
scenes from operas were sung in costume, the famous singer's companions
being Mlle. Fabbri, M. Guille (tenor), Signor Novara (bass), and Signor
Del Puente. The occasion offered an opportunity to study the impulses
which underlie popular patronage. The entertainments being concerts,
not operas, the stockholders were not entitled to their boxes under the
terms of their contract with Abbey & Grau, and were conspicuous by their
absence. Nevertheless, at the second concert, which took place on an
afternoon, I estimated the audience at four thousand--nine-tenths women.
Mme. Patti also appeared in performances of "Lucia di Lammermoor" and
"Il Barbiere" in a supplementary season, one feature of which, on March
31, 1892, was the production of Wagner's "Flying Dutchman" in Italian,
with M. Lassalle in the titular part, which he sang for the first time
in his life. "A marvelous artist indeed is this Frenchman," was my
comment in The Tribune, "and if he and the brothers de Reszke are in
next year's company, the lovers of the lyric drama as distinguished from
the old sing-song opera will look into the future without trepidation."
Unhappily there was no "next year's company."

In August, 1892, the Metropolitan Opera House had a visitation of fire,
which brought operatic matters to a crisis, caused a postponement of
the performance for a season, a reorganization of the corporation which
owned the building, and a remodeling of the stage and portions of the
interior of the theater. For a considerable space before the building of
the Metropolitan the public mind was greatly exercised over the awful
loss of life at recent theater fires, especially the destruction of the
Ringtheater in Vienna. When Mr. Cady planned the New York house, he
set about making it as absolutely fireproof as such a structure can be.
It was to be non-combustible from the bottom up. There was not a stud
partition in it. The floors were all of iron beams and brick arches, the
masonry being exposed in the corridors, passages and vestibules, but for
comfort having a covering of wood in the audience room. The roof was of
iron and masonry, the outer covering of slate being secured to masonry
blocks. The iron roof beams of over one hundred feet span, were mounted
on rollers to allow for contraction and expansion. The ceiling of the
audience room was of iron. The ornamental work of the proscenium, the
tier balustrades, and the frames of the partitions between the boxes
were all of metal. The stage was supported by a complex iron system
of about four thousand light pieces so adjusted as to be removable
in sections when it was desired to open the stage floor. Theater
fires almost invariably originate on the stage, and, as an additional
safeguard, Mr. Cady contrived an apparatus for flooding the stage in
the case of a threatened conflagration. A large skylight was weighted
to fall open in case of fire, and a great water tank placed over the
rigging loft and connected with a network of pipes with apertures
stopped with extremely fusible solder, so that the heat of even a
small fire would open the holes and release a drenching shower.

One after another these precautions were rendered inutile. The iron
support of the stage troubled the stage mechanics, who wanted something
that could be more easily handled, so wooden pieces were substituted for
the iron. The location of the tank was such that the water was in danger
of freezing in winter, and steam pipes were arranged to keep the water
warm. Mr. Abbey did not like the expense of warming the water, and
therefore emptied the tank. There was a fireproof curtain, which was
cumbrous to handle, and Mr. Abbey's men chained it up. The commodious
stage made a superb paint shop in summer, and Mr. Abbey used it for
painting scenery for his other theaters. It was being thus used on
August 27, 1892, when a workman carelessly threw a lighted match among
the "green" scenery. It caught fire, the stage was burned out, and
the auditorium sadly disfigured. When, eventually, the building was
repaired, the interior of the theater, all that had suffered harm, was
thoroughly remodeled, the stockholders' boxes were reduced to a single
row, the proscenium was given its present shape, the apron of the stage
was removed, and the stage itself was made more practicable in many
ways. This did not happen, however, until the question whether or not
the opera house should be restored to its original uses had occupied the
minds of the stockholders and public for nearly a year. In the middle
of the season Messrs. Abbey and Grau, while protesting that they were
satisfied with the financial outcome of their venture, announced that
they did not intend to give opera the next year. They were shaken in
this determination, if they ever seriously harbored it, by the success
of "Faust" and one or two other operas, which enlisted what in the next
season of opera came to be called the "ideal cast." But there was a
division of opinion as to the proper course for the future among the
stockholders, especially after Mr. Abbey, late in September, sent word
from London that his firm would not undertake opera in the United States
without a subvention from the Metropolitan Opera Company. Also that he
had already canceled his contracts with singers for the American season
of 1892-93. There was some vague talk before this on the part of Mr.
Schoeffel of a season of opera in Mexico City, and a longer season than
usual in Chicago, the intimation plainly being that grand opera might
be emancipated from dependence on the metropolis. One effect of this
indecision was to bring forth a discussion of the feasibility of endowed
opera in New York, Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia, and one or two other
of the large cities of the country. Another was to call into new life an
agitation in favor of the establishment of another German company. The
first project died of inanition; the second developed in another year
into an actuality, which created more stir than the close of the opera
house had done. The Metropolitan Opera Company reached a decision
some time in January, 1893. The directors had neglected to insure
the building against fire, and provision had to be made for funds to
rebuild, as well as to pay off existing liabilities. The opera lovers
among the stockholders reorganized the company under the style of the
Metropolitan Opera and Real Estate Company, and purchased the building
under foreclosure proceeding for $1,425,000, then raised $1,000,000 by a
bond issue, and the summer of 1893 was devoted to a restoration of the
theater, an agreement having also been reached for a new lease to Mr.
Abbey and his associates.



CHAPTER XVII

THE ADVENT OF MELBA AND CALVÉ


For the reasons set forth at the close of the last chapter there was no
opera at the Metropolitan Opera House in the season of 1892-93, but the
fall of the latter year witnessed the beginning of a new period, full
of vicissitudes. With many brilliant artistic features, it was still
experimental to a large extent on its artistic side, the chief results
of its empiricism being the restoration of German opera in the repertory
on an equal footing with Italian and French. It also brought the largest
wave of prosperity to the house that it had experienced since its
opening, yet ended in the shipwreck of the lessees, and disaster that
was more than financial. The lessees were again Messrs. Abbey, Schoeffel
and Grau, with whom the reorganized Metropolitan Opera and Real Estate
Company (Limited) effected an agreement, the essential elements of which
remained unchanged for fifteen years; that is, down to the close of the
season of 1907-08. The term was five years. The lessees took the house
for an annual rental of $52,000, and pledged themselves to give opera
four times a week for thirteen weeks in the winter and spring. The
lessors paid back to the lessees the $52,000 for their box privileges,
and to insure representations which would be satisfactory to them,
reserved the right to nominate six of the singers, two of whom were
to take part in every performance in the subscription list.

The first season under the new lease was enormously successful, Abbey,
Schoeffel, and Grau realizing about $150,000, including the visits to
other cities, and a supplementary spring season of two weeks. They made
great losses on their other enterprises, however, especially on Abbey's
Theater (now the Knickerbocker), and the American tours of Mounet-Sully
and Mme. Réjane. Like results attended the seasons of 1894-95, and
1895-96, the drag in the latter instance being the Lillian Russell Opera
Company, which, together with other ventures, brought the firm into
such a financial slough that it made an assignment for the benefit of
its creditors, who were forced to take over its business to protect
themselves. Chief of these was William Steinway, who had accommodated
Abbey, Schoeffel and Grau with loans to the extent of $50,000. Under
his guidance as chairman of the committee of reorganization, the stock
company, Abbey, Schoeffel & Grau (Limited), was formed, he becoming
president, and Henry E. Abbey, John B. Schoeffel, and Maurice Grau
managing directors at a salary of $20,000 a year. Ernest Goerlitz, who
had been in the employ of the firm for some time, was made secretary
and treasurer. He remained in an executive capacity at the Metropolitan
until the expiration of the consulship of Conried in 1908. Mr. Steinway
got rid of the debts of the company (or, perhaps, it would be more
correct to say, changed their character) by issuing certificates of
stock and notes to the creditors. In this manner some of the principal
artists of the company became financially interested in opera giving.

Before the reorganized company began the next series of performances Mr.
Abbey died, and the season was only a fortnight old when Mr. Steinway
followed him into the grave. A very puissant personage in the managerial
field was Mr. Abbey during a full quarter-century of theatrical life in
America. He was a purely speculative manager, who never permitted his
own likes or dislikes to influence him in his chosen vocation of
purveying amusements, so-called, to the public, though his tastes led
him generally into the higher regions, and there is little doubt that an
inherent love for music for its own sake made him take to opera. As a
young man in his native city of Akron, Ohio, where he was born in 1846,
he played cornet in the town band. When he revoked his resolution never
to embark in an operatic enterprise again after the disastrous season of
1883-84, I met him in Broadway, and asked him about the artists he
intended to bring to the Metropolitan Opera House. He gave me the names
of those whom he had in view, and I expressed my regret that one, whom I
admired very greatly indeed, was missing. His reply was prompt: "There
is no woman in the world I would rather engage, and no woman whose
singing gives me greater pleasure; but she doesn't draw. I never made
any money with her." It was an illuminative observation. As a youth he
was interested with his father in the jewelry business in Akron, and on
the death of his father, in 1873, the business became his; but by that
time he was already a theatrical manager, though on a small scale. In
1869 he had assumed charge of the Akron theater. In 1876 he associated
himself with John B. Schoeffel, and with him gradually acquired
theatrical properties in several of the principal cities of the East,
and entered upon enterprises of a character which were his undoing in
the end. The Abbey, Schoeffel & Grau Company carried through the season
of 1896-97 with a profit of about $30,000 in New York, despite the fact
that the financial affairs of the country were in a bad way. A four
weeks' season in Chicago, however, was ruinous, and Mr. Gran was
compelled to fall back on some of the artists of the company and friends
to enable him to bring the Chicago season to a close. Jean and Édouard
de Reszke and Lassalle were among the subscribers to a guarantee fund of
$30,000, which he needed to carry him through. All the guarantors were
repaid in full, when, at the end of the season, the affairs of Abbey,
Schoeffel & Grau (Limited) were wound up, and Mr. Schoeffel bought the
principal asset, the Tremont Theater, in Boston. Thereupon Mr. Grau and
his associates formed a new company, which gave opera under the
conditions which seemed to have become traditional until the end of the
season of 1902-3. Mr. Grau was compelled by ill health to withdraw from
active duty before the end of the last season, and the story of his
company's doings falls naturally into another chapter of this history.
We must now survey the artistic incidents of the period between the
reconstruction of the opera house and the beginning of the new régime.
This will be the business of this and the following chapter.

Simply for the sake of convenience in the record, I shall devote the
chief statistical attention in the remaining chapters of this history to
the subscription seasons, and discuss the supplementary spring seasons
only as they offer features of special interest. The seasons, generally
a fortnight long, and given after the return of the singers from visits
to Boston and Chicago, are distinguished from the subscription seasons
very much as the fall seasons in London are from the summer seasons,
though there is not the sharp line of demarcation so far as fashion
goes, which the adjournment of Parliament makes on the other side of
the Atlantic.

The tenth regular season of opera then began at the Metropolitan Opera
House on November 27, 1893, and ended on February 24, 1894. Officially
the languages of the performances were Italian and French, but the
operas given were, for the greater part, French and German, and the
representations were dual in language in all cases, except the Italian
works. I mention this fact, not because of its singularity, for it is a
familiar phenomenon all over the operatic world, except perhaps Italy,
but in order to point out hereafter a betterment, which came in with
a more serious artistic striving later. The chorus always sang in the
"soft bastard Latin," whether the principals sang in Italian or French;
and the occasions were not a few when two languages were sung also
by the principals--when lovers wooed in French, and received their
replies in Italian, thus recalling things over which Addison made
merry generations ago. The season was planned to embrace thirty-nine
subscription nights and thirteen matinées. To these were added two
matinées and sixteen evening representations, two of the latter
being for the benefit of popular charities. In all, New York had
sixty performances of opera within the period covered by the regular
subscription, which was a smaller number than had been shown by any
season since that of 1886-87. Eighteen operas were brought forward in
full (that is to say, without more than the conventional cuts), and
parts of three others. Thus of "La Traviata," though I have included it
in the list to be presented soon, only the first and fourth acts were
performed. There was not a single opera in the repertory which had not
been heard in New York before, though several were new to the house.
The nearest approach to a novelty was Mascagni's "L'Amico Fritz," which
disappeared from the list after two representations, and had been heard
at an improvised performance, which scarcely deserves to be considered
in a record of this character. In the supplemental season, however,
a novelty of real pith and moment was brought forward in the shape
of Massenet's "Werther," which had been promised to the regular
subscribers, and which, while it made no profound impression, was
accepted as an earnest of the excellent and honorable intentions of the
managers, and a proof of the difficulties which hampered them at times.

The principal members of the company were Mesdames Melba, Calvé,
Eames, Nordica, Arnoldson, Scalchi, and Mantelli, and Messrs. Jean and
Édouard de Reszke, de Lucia, Vignas, Ancona, Plançon, Castelmary, and
Martapoura. The subscription for the season amounted to $82,000, which
was $10,000 more than the largest subscription in the German period. A
great ado was made over this fact by the managers and their friends. Not
unnaturally the lovers of German opera took up the cudgels against the
Italianissimi, and pointed out the indubitable fact that owing to the
difference in prices of admission and seats the subscription, instead of
showing a large advance in popular interest, indicated a falling off to
the extent of an attendance of six thousand in the season. Not money,
but attendance, they argued, was the real standard of popularity. The
managers also very unwisely, as it proved (since two years later they
found themselves obliged to include German performances in their
scheme), put forward a public boast that the receipts for the last
month of the opera "nearly equaled the average gross receipts for the
entire term of any German opera ever given in New York." Of course, the
reference went only to the German seasons at the Metropolitan Opera
House, for there was no record that could be consulted touching the many
sporadic German enterprises of the earlier periods at the Academy of
Music and other theaters. It was not at all unkind, but simply in the
interest of historical verity that in The Tribune I called attention
to the fact that it was scarcely ingenuous in Abbey, Schoeffel & Grau
to choose the last month in the season for the comparison, for in that
month there were twenty-two representations, including two for popular
charities (at one of which, managed by the opera house directors, the
public contributed $22,000), and six representations of "Carmen," which,
with Mme. Calvé in the principal character, was enjoying the most
sensational triumph ever achieved by any opera or singer. Moreover, most
of 'these performances were outside the subscription, and the prices,
as I have repeatedly said, were nearly double those which prevailed
during the German régime. Besides, it was an easy task to prove from the
figures which I had printed from year to year in my "Review of the New
York Musical Season," that, in order to surpass the German record with
their last month, Abbey, Schoeffel & Grau would have had to show average
nightly receipts of over $9,000, whereas only once had they, in a spirit
of boastfulness, claimed that as much as $11,000 had been taken at a
single performance, and that at a phenomenal "Carmen" matinée. Without
Calvé and "Carmen" the bankruptcy which came two years later might have
been precipitated in this season. Thanks to Bizet's opera, and its
heroine, and the popularity of Mme. Eames and the brothers de Reszke in
"Faust," the season was prodigiously successful, the receipts from all
sources (including the Sunday night concerts and opera in Philadelphia
and Brooklyn) being in the neighborhood of $550,000, and the profits,
as I have already said, $150,000. The twelve performances of "Carmen,"
I make no doubt, brought at least $100,000 into the exchequer of the
managers in the subscription season, and in the supplemental post-Lenten
season of a fortnight there were three performances more. The success of
the opera remained without a parallel in the history of opera in New
York till the coming of Wagner's "Parsifal."

Mme. Melba effected her entrance on the operatic stage in America on
December 4, 1893, in Donizetti's "Lucia." Five years before she had made
her London début in the same opera, and between that time and her coming
to New York she had won fragrant laurels in Paris in company with the
brothers de Reszke and M. Lassalle in "Roméo et Juliette" and "Faust,"
both of which operas she had prepared with the composer. Her repertory
was small when she came, but in it she was unique, both for the quality
of her voice and the quality of her art. She did not make all of her
operas effective in her first season, partly because a large portion
of the public had been weaned away from the purely lyric style of
composition and song, in which she excelled, partly because the dramatic
methods and fascinating personality of Mme. Calvé had created a fad
which soon grew to proportions that scouted at reason; partly because
Miss (not Mme.) Eames had become a great popular favorite, and the
people of society, who doted on her, on Jean de Reszke, his brother
Édouard, and on Lassalle, found all the artistic bliss of which they
were capable in listening to their combined voices in "Faust." So
popular had Gounod's opera become at this time with the patrons of the
Metropolitan Opera House, that my witty colleague, Mr. W. J. Henderson,
sarcastically dubbed it "das Faustspielhaus," in parody of the popular
title of the theater on the hill in the Wagnerian Mecca.

When Mme. Melba came she was the finest exemplar of finished
vocalization that had been heard at the opera house since its opening,
with the single exception of Mme. Sembrich. Though she had been singing
in opera only five years, she had reached the zenith of her powers.
Her voice was charmingly fresh, and exquisitely beautiful. Her
tone-production was more natural, and quite as apparently spontaneous,
as that of the wonderful woman who so long upheld the standard of bel
canto throughout the world. In the case of Mme. Patti, art had already
begun to be largely artifice, a circumstance that needed to cause no
wonder inasmuch as her career on the operatic Stage already compassed
a full generation; but Mme. Melba neither needed to seek for means nor
guard against possible mishap. All that she needed--more than that:
all that she wanted to humor her amiable disposition to be prodigal in
utterance--lay in her voice ready at hand. Its range was commensurate
with all that could be asked of it, and she moved with greatest ease
in the regions which most of her rivals carefully avoided. To throw
out those scintillant bubbles of sound which used to be looked upon as
the highest achievement in singing seemed to be an entirely natural
mode of expression with her. With the reasonableness of such a mode
of expression I am not concerned now; it is enough that Mme. Melba
came nearer to providing it with justification than any one of her
contemporaries of that day, except Mme. Sembrich, or any of her
contemporaries of to-day. Added to these gifts and graces, she disclosed
most admirable musical instincts, a quality which the people had been
taught to admire more than ever while they were learning how to give
reverence due to the dramatic elements in the modern lyric drama.

I have already intimated that Mme. Melba's operas found little favor
with the public compared with "Carmen" and "Faust," and, perhaps, there
was in this more than a mere indication of the educational influence
left by the German period. I should have no hesitation whatever in
saying so had not the "Carmen" craze reached proportions which precluded
the thought that artistic predilections or convictions had anything to
do with it. So much of a mere fad did Mme. Calvé in "Carmen" become that
the public remained all but insensible to the merits of her immeasurably
finer impersonation of Santuzza in "Cavalleria Rusticana." It was in
Mascagni's opera that she effected her début on November 29, 1893, in
company with Señor Vignas, a Spanish tenor, squat and ungraceful of
figure, homely of features, restricted in intelligence, and strident of
voice. New York knew very little of Mme. Calvé when she came, though
she had already been twice as long on the stage as Mme. Melba, and even
after her first appearance Mr. Abbey met my congratulations on her
achievement with a dubious shake of the head, and the remark that, while
he hoped my predictions touching her popularity would be fulfilled,
he placed a much lower estimation on her powers than I. Not he, but
Mr. Grau, was responsible for her engagement, and his hopes were all
centered on Mme. Melba. Like most of our singers at the time, Calvé
came to New York by way of London. The rôle of Santuzza, which she had
created in Paris in January, 1892, and in London in the following May,
had been hailed with gladness in both cities, but her Carmen was as
inadequately appreciated in Paris as it was overestimated in New York
and London, especially in later years, when the capriciousness which
led her originally to break away from some of the traditions of the
rôle created by Galli-Marié. and thus cost her the understanding of
the Parisians, had become a fixed habit, which she pursued regardless
of decent moderation, sound principles, and good taste.

The Parisians attested their artistic Bourbonism not only in declining
to recognize the excellence of the good features of Calvé's Carmen, but,
also, in failing to appreciate her touchingly beautiful Ophelia, to
the great grief of Ambroise Thomas, who went to Italy to see her in the
part, and believed that had she but been given the proper support in
Paris "Hamlet" would have ranked with "Faust" in popularity. Of course,
this was a fond composer's too good opinion of his opera, but the trait
of the Paris public which is unwilling to find merit in any change from
a performance which first won their admiration has frequently stood
in the way of first-class talent. To illustrate this I can relate an
anecdote which was repeated to me at an artistic dinner table in the
French capital in 1886. It is not for me to vouch for the truth of the
story, but give it as it was told to me in explanation of some amused
comments which I had made on the stiff conventionality of a performance
of "L'Africaine" which I had witnessed at the Grand Opéra. Faure, the
original of Ambroise Thomas's Hamlet, had been succeeded in the rôle by
Lassalle, whose fine art in newer works had met with full recognition
from press and public. To Lassalle's great surprise, his Hamlet, a
remarkably fine performance within the limit set by the pitiable
operatic travesty of Shakespeare's play, was received coldly, and there
was wide comment on the circumstance that he had ignored traditions of
performance, especially in the scene between the Prince and his mother.
In considerable distress he went to Faure, who had set the fashion:

"What pose, gesture, effect of yours is it that I have failed to copy?"
he asked of his confrère.

And Faure explained:

At the first performance when he reached the scene in question, he had
found his throat suddenly clogged. Only by an act neither pleasant to
observe nor polite to describe, could he remove the obstruction, and at
a supreme moment he had improvised a movement which carried his face out
of sight of the audience, so that he might free his throat unnoticed.
Knowing nothing of the cause, the public applauded the effect, and the
singular nuance became a part of the "business" of the piece.

When Mme. Calvé flashed upon New York in "Cavalleria Rusticana,"
her impersonation startled me into the declaration that no finer
lyrico-dramatic performance had been witnessed in America within a
generation. Unhesitatingly I placed it by the side of Materna's
Brünnhilde, Brandt's Fidès, Niemann's Tristan and Siegmund, and
Fischer's Hans Sachs, without, of course, presuming to compare the
relative value of the dramatists' conceits. Even now I cannot recall
anything finer in the region of combined action and song. She held her
listeners so completely captive and swayed them so powerfully that she
compelled even the foolishly and affectedly frantic claquers, who had
seats near the stage, to hold their peace. They could only make their
boisterous clamor in response to the old-fashioned appeal made by
a high tone screeched by the stridulous tenor. There was as little
conventionality in her singing as in her acting, though she had not
yet adopted that indifference to rhythm which has marked her singing
in more recent years. She saturated the music with emotion. Much of it
she seemed to sing to herself, declaiming it like dramatic speech whose
emotional contents had been raised to a higher power by the melody. In
moments of extreme excitement one scarcely realized that she was singing
at all. Carried along by the torrent of her feelings, her listeners
accepted her song as the only proper and efficient expression for her
emotional state. The two expressions, song and action, were one; they
were mutually complemental. It was not nature subordinated to art, but
art vitalized by nature. It is not possible for me to compare her
Carmen with Galli-Marié's, which stood in the way of her appreciation
in the part in Paris. I have heard that that was so frank in one of
its expressions that it invited the interference of the Prefect of the
Seine. To me, at least, in Mme. Calvé's impersonation, it seemed that
I was enjoying my first revelation of some of the elements of the
character of the gypsy as it had existed in the imagination of Prosper
Mérimée when he wrote his novel. To me she presented a woman thoroughly
wanton and diabolically equipped with the wicked witcheries which
explained, if they did not palliate, the conduct of Don José. Here we
had a woman without conscience, but also without the capacity for even
a wicked affection; a woman who might have been the thief whom the
novelist describes, who surely carried a dagger in her corsage, and who
in some respects left absolutely nothing to the imagination, to which
even a drama like "Carmen" makes appeal. She came upon the stage as
Mérimée's heroine stepped into his pages: "poising herself on her
hips, like a filly from the Cordovan stud," and with a fine simulation
of unconsciousness, she seemed every moment about to break into one of
those dances which the satirist castigated in the days of the Roman
Empire:

  Nec de Gadibus improbis puellae
  Vibrabunt sine fine prurientes
  Lascivos docili tremore lumbos.

Alas! Mme. Calvé's admiration for herself was stronger than her devotion
to an artistic ideal, and it was not long before her Carmen became
completely merged in her own capricious personality.

Massenet's "Werther" (performed in Chicago, March 29) had its first New
York performance at the Metropolitan, April 19, 1894, with Mme. Eames,
Sigrid Arnoldson, Jean de Reszke, M. Martapoura, and Signor Carbone.
Signor Mancinelli conducted. The opera had one performance, and was
repeated once in the season of 1896-97. Then it disappeared from the
repertory of the Metropolitan, and has since then not been thought of,
apparently, although strenuous efforts have been made ever and anon
to give interest to the French list. I record the fact as one to be
deplored. "Werther" is a beautiful opera; as instinct with throbbing
life in every one of its scenes as the more widely admired "Manon" is in
its best scene. It has its weak spots as have all of Massenet's operas,
despite his mastery of technique, but its music will always appeal
to refined artistic sensibilities for its lyric charm, its delicate
workmanship, its splendid dramatic climax in the duo between Werther
and Charlotte, beginning: "Ah! pourvu que de voie ces yeux toujours
ouverts," and its fine scoring. It smacks more of the atmosphere of
the Parisian salon than of the sweet breezes with which Goethe filled
the story, but no Frenchman has yet been able to talk aught but polite
French in music for the stage, Berlioz excepted, and the music of
"Werther" is of finer texture than that of most of the operas produced
by Massenet since.

The season of 1894-95, consisting again of thirteen weeks, began on
November 19th, and closed on February 16th. It was marked by a number of
incidents, some of which made a permanent impression on the policy of
the Metropolitan Opera House. Chief of these was a remarkable eruption
of sentiment in favor of German opera--so vigorous an eruption,
indeed, that it led to the incorporation of German performances in
the Metropolitan repertory ever after, though the change involved a
much greater augmentation of the forces of the establishment than the
consorting of French with Italian had involved. To this I shall give
the attention which it deserves presently. Other features were the
introduction of Saturday night performances of opera at reduced prices
(a feature which became permanent), the appearance of several new
singers, and the production of two novelties, one of them Verdi's
"Falstaff," of first-class importance.

In their prospectus the managers promised a reformation of the chorus,
and announced the re-engagement of "nearly all the great favorites
of last year." The improvement of the chorus was not particularly
noticeable except in appearance; a number of young and comely American
women were enlisted, but their best service was to stand in front of the
old stagers who knew the operas, and could sing but who seemed to have
come down through the ages from the early days of the old Academy. The
phrase "nearly all" was an ominous one, for it betokened the absence
from the company of Mme. Calvé. The newcomers were Lucille Hill, Sybil
Sanderson, Zélie de Lussan, Mira Heller, and Libia Drog, sopranos; G.
Russitano and Francesco Tamagno, tenors, and Victor Maurel, who had been
a popular favorite twenty years before at the Academy of Music. Luigi
Mancinelli and E. Bevignani were the conductors, and Mr. Seidl was
engaged to give éclat to the Sunday evening concerts. Mme. Melba's chief
financial value to the management in the preceding season had been found
to lie in these concerts, which this year were begun earlier than usual,
and made a part of Melba's concert tour. The first opera was "Roméo et
Juliette," with the cast beloved of society, and on the second night
the introduction of the newcomers began. But woefully. The opera was
"William Tell," and Signorina Drog sang the part of the heroine in place
of Miss Hill, indisposed. Mathilde (or Matilda--the opera was sung in
Italian), does not appear in the opera until the second act, and then
she has the most familiar air in the opera to sing--"Selva opaca," an
air which then belonged to the concert-room repertory of most florid
sopranos. When Signorina Drog came upon the stage, it is safe to say
that no one regretted her substitution for the English singer except
herself. She was an exceedingly handsome person, who moved about with
attractive freedom and grace, and disclosed a voice of good quality,
especially in the upper register. She began her aria most tastefully,
but scarcely had she begun when her memory played her false. For a few
dreadful seconds she tried to pick up the thread of the melody but in
vain. Then came the inevitable breakdown. She quit trying, and appealed
pitifully to Signor Mancinelli for help. He seemed to have lost his
head as completely as the lady had her memory. So had the prompter, who
pulled his noddle into his shell like a snail and remained as mute.
Signor Tamagno entered in character, and indulged in dumbshow to a few
detached phrases from the orchestra. Then the awfulness of the situation
overwhelmed him, and he fairly ran off the stage, leaving Matilda alone.
That lady made a final appeal to the conductor, switched her dress
nervously with her riding whip, went to the wings, got a glass of water,
and then disappeared. The audience, which had good-humoredly applauded
till now, began to laugh, and the demoralization was complete. It would
have been a relief had the curtain fallen, but as this did not happen
Signor Tamagno, Signor Ancona, and Édouard de Reszke came upon the stage
and began the famous trio, in which Signor Tamagno sang with tremendous
intensity and power. It was a remarkable performance of a sensational
piece, and had it not been preceded by so frightful a catastrophe, and
interrupted by Tamagno himself to bow his acknowledgments, pick up a
bunch of violets thrown from a box, and repeat his first melody, its
effect would have been dramatically electrifying. There was a long wait
after the act to enable Signor Mancinelli to arrange the necessary cuts,
and after the stage manager had made an apology on behalf of Signorina
Drog, and explained that she had been seized with vertigo, but would
finish the opera in an abbreviated form, the representation was resumed.
It is due to the lady to add that she had never before attempted to sing
the part, and that on the third evening she materially redeemed herself
in "Aïda." Miss de Lussan, a native of New York, who had begun her
operatic career a few years before in the Boston Ideal Opera Company,
and had won a commendable degree of favor at Covent Garden as Carmen,
had been engaged in the hope of continuing the prosperous career of
Bizet's opera, but the hope proved abortive. It was the singer, not the
song, which had bewitched the people of New York--Calvé, not Bizet.
"Carmen" was excellently given, the charm of Melba's voice being called
on for the music of Micaela's part; but the sensation had departed, and
was waiting to be revived with the return of Calvé in the succeeding
season.

The first novelty in this season was "Elaine," an opera in four acts,
words by Paul Ferrier, music by Herman Bemberg, brought forward on
December 17, 1894. "Elaine" was produced because Mme. Melba and the
brothers de Reszke wanted to appear in it out of friendship for the
composer, who had dedicated the score to them, and come to New York to
witness the production, as he had gone to London when it was given in
Covent Garden. In America Bemberg was a small celebrity of the salon and
concert room. His parents were citizens of the Argentine Republic, but
he was born in Paris, in 1861. His father being a man of wealth, he
had ample opportunity to cultivate his talents, and his first teachers
in composition were Bizet and Henri Maréchal. Later he continued his
studies at the Conservatoire, under Dubois and Massenet. In 1885 he
carried off the Rossini prize, and in 1889 brought out a one-act opera
at the Opéra Comique, "Le Baiser de Suzon," for which Pierre Barbier
wrote the words. "Elaine" had its first performance at Convent Garden in
July, 1892, with Mme. Melba, Jean and Édouard de Reszke, and M. Plançon
in the cast. It was then withdrawn for revision, and restored to the
stage the next year. If there is anything creditable in such a thing it
may be said, to Mr. Bemberg's credit, that, so far as I know, he was the
first musician who wrote music for Oscar Wilde's "Salome." The public,
especially the people of the boxes, lent a gracious ear to the new
opera, partly, no doubt, because of its subject, but more largely
because of Mme. Melba, Mme. Mantelli, the brothers de Reszke, Plançon,
and M. Castelmary, who were concerned in its production. All of Mr.
Bemberg's music that had previously been heard in New York was of the
lyrical order, and it seemed but natural that he was less successful in
the developing of a dramatic situation than in hymning the emotions of
one when he found it at hand. A ballad in the first act ("L'amour est
pur comme la fiamme"), the scene at the close ("L'air est léger"), a
prayer in the third act ("Dieu de pitié"), and the duets which followed
them are all cases in point. They mark the high tide of M. Bemberg's
graceful melodic fancy, and exemplify his good taste and genuineness of
feeling. It is not great music, but it is sincere to the extent of its
depth. For the note of chivalry which ought to sound all through an
Arthurian opera M. Bemberg has chosen no less a model than "Lohengrin";
but his trumpets are feebler echoes of the original voice than his
harmonies on several occasions, as, for instance, the entrance of
Lancelot into the castle of Astolat. In general his instrumentation
is discreet and effective. He has followed his French teachers in the
treatment of the dialogue, which aims to be intensified speech. He
has also trodden, though at a distance, in the footsteps of Bizet and
Massenet in the device of using typical phrases; but so timidly has this
been done that it is doubtful if it was discovered by the audience. The
resources of the opera house in reproducing the scenes of chivalric life
were commensurate with the music of the opera in its attempt to bring
its spirit to the mind through the ear. It is more exciting to read of
a tournament in Malory than to see a mimic one on the stage. It is true
that there were men on horses who rode together three times, that a
spear was broken, and that they afterward fought on foot; but they
struck their spears together as if they had been singlesticks, instead
of receiving each his opponent's weapon on his shield, and when the
spear broke it was not all "toshivered." Then, when they had drawn their
swords, they did not "lash together like wild boars, thrusting and
foining and giving either other many sad strokes, so that it was marvel
to see how they might endure," as the gentle Sir Thomas would doubtless
have had them do. Still, the opera was enjoyed and applauded, as it
deserved to be for the good things that were in it, and the Lily Maid
had more lilies and roses and holly showered about her than she could
easily pick up and carry away.

Miss Sybil Sanderson, who had gone to Paris from the Pacific Slope some
years before, and had achieved considerable of a vogue, particularly
in Massenet's operas, made her American début on January 16, 1895, in
Massenet's "Manon," in which M. Jean de Reszke sang the part of the
Chevalier des Grieux for the first time. The opera had been heard at the
Academy of Music, in Italian, nine years before, and this was its first
performance in the original French, a language which the fair débutante
used with admirable distinctness and charmingly modulated cadences, a
fact which contributed much to the pretty triumph which she celebrated
after the first act. She did not maintain herself on the plane reached
in this act. The second had scarcely begun before it became noticeable
that she was wanting in passionate expression as well as in voice,
and that her histrionic limitations went hand in hand with her vocal.
But she was a radiant vision, and had she been able to bring out the
ingratiating character of the music she might have held the sympathies
of the audience, obviously predisposed in her favor, in the degree
contemplated by the composer. This quality of graciousness is the most
notable element in Massenet's music. As much as anything can do so
it achieves pardon for the book, which is far less amiable than that
of "Traviata," which deals with the same unlovely theme. Another
quasi novelty was Saint-Saëns's "Samson et Dalila," which had one
performance--and one only--on February 8th to afford Mme. Mantelli
an opportunity to exhibit her musical powers, and Signor Tamagno his
physical. The music was familiar from performances of the work as an
oratorio; as an opera it came as near to making a fiasco as a work
containing so much good and sound music could.

The most interesting event in the whole administration of Mr. Abbey and
his associates happened on February 4th, when Verdi's "Falstaff" was
presented. Signor Mancinelli conducted, and the cast was as follows:


  Mistress Ford ...................... Mme. Emma Eames
  Anne ............................... Mlle. de Lussan
  Mistress Page ...................... Mlle. Jane de Vigne
  Dame Quickly ....................... Mme. Scalchi
  Fenton ............................. Sig. Russitano
  Ford ............................... Sig. Campanari
  Pistol ............................. Sig. Nicolini
  Dr. Caius .......................... Sig. Vanni
  Bardolph ........................... Sig. Rinaldini
  Sir John Falstaff .................. M. Victor Maurel
               (His original creation.)


To construct operas out of Shakespeare's plays has been an ambition
of composers for nearly two centuries. Verdi himself yielded to the
temptation when he wrote "Macbeth" forty years ago. Probably no one
recognized more clearly than he did when he wrote "Falstaff" how
the whole system of lyrico-dramatic composition should undergo a
transformation before anything like justice could be done to the
myriad-minded poet's creations. Who would listen now to Rossini's
"Otello"? Yet, in its day, it was immensely popular. A careless day it
was--the day of pretty singing, and little else; the day when there was
so little concern for the dramatic element in opera that the grewsome
dénouement of Rossini's opera is said once to have caused a listener
to cry out in astonishment: "Great God! the tenor is murdering the
soprano!" Then it might have been possible for a composer, provided he
were a Mozart, to find a musical investment for a Shakespearian comedy,
but assuredly not for a tragedy. No literary masterpiece was safe from
the vandalism of opera writers at that time, however, and Shakespeare
simply shared the fate of Goethe and their great fellows. With the dawn
of the new era there came greater possibilities, and now it may be said
we have a few Shakespearian operas that will endure for several decades
at least: let us say Nicolai's "Merry Wives of Windsor," Gounod's
"Romeo and Juliet," Verdi's "Othello" and "Falstaff." Ambroise Thomas's
"Hamlet" and Saint-Saëns's "Henry VIII" seem already to have outlived
their brief day, at least in all countries save France, where the
personal equation in favor of a native composer seems strong enough to
keep second-class composers afloat while it permits genius to perish. As
for Goetz's "Taming of the Shrew," it was too much like good Rhine wine,
and too little like champagne to pass as a comic opera. When Verdi's
last opera appeared the only Falstaff who had vitality was the fat
knight of Nicolai's work. Yet he had had many predecessors. Balfe
composed a "Falstaff" for the King's Theater in London, which was sung
with the capacious-voiced Lablache in the titular part, and Grisi,
Persiani, and Ivanoff in the cast. That was in 1838. Forty years earlier
Salieri had composed an Italian "Falstaff" for Vienna. In 1856 Adolphe
Adam produced a French "Falstaff" in Paris, and the antics of the greasy
knight amused the Parisians eighty-six years earlier in Papavoine's
"Le Vieux Coquet." Nicolai's predecessors in Germany were Peter Ritter,
1794, and Dittersdorf, 1796.

Verdi's return to Shakespearian subjects after reaching the fulness
of his powers in his old age, and after he had turned from operas to
lyric dramas, is in the highest degree significant of the thoroughness
of the revolution accomplished by Wagner. The production of "Otello"
and "Falstaff" created as great an excitement in Italy as the first
performance of "Parsifal" did in Germany; and it must have seemed like
the irony of fate to many that Wagner should have to be filtered through
Verdi in order to bear fruit in the original home of the art form. But
that is surely the lesson of "Otello," "Falstaff," and the fervid works
of Leoncavallo, Mascagni, and Puccini.

Even more strikingly than "Otello" this comic opera of the youthful
octogenarian disclosed the importance which Boito had assumed in the
development of Verdi. That development is one of the miracles of music.
In manner Verdi represents a full century of operatic writing. He began
when, in Italy at least, the libretto was a mere stalking horse on which
arias might be hung. All that he did besides furnishing vehicles for
airs was to provide a motive for the scene painter and the costumer.
Later we see the growth of dramatic characterization in his ensembles,
and the development of strongly marked and ingeniously differentiated
moods in his arias without departure from the old-fashioned forms. In
this element lay much of the compelling force of his melodies, even
those commonplace ones which were pricked for the barrel organ almost
before the palms were cool which first applauded them--like "Di quella
pira" and "La donna è mobile." Then set in the period of reflection. The
darling of the public began to think more of his art and less of his
popularity. Less impetuous, less fecund, perhaps, in melodic invention,
he began to study how to wed dramatic situations and music. This led him
to enrich his harmonies, and to refine his instrumentation, which in
his earlier works is frequently coarse and vulgar in the extreme. At
this stage he gave us "La Forza del Destino" and "Aïda." Now the hack
writers of opera books would no longer suffice him. He had already shown
high appreciation of the virtue which lies in a good book when he chose
Ghislanzoni to versify the Egyptian story of "Aïda." But the final step
necessary to complete his wonderfully progressive march was taken when
he associated himself with Boito. Here was a man who united in himself
in a creditable degree the qualifications which Wagner demanded for his
"Artist of the Future"; he was poet, dramatist, and musician. No one who
has studied "Otello" can fail to see that Verdi owes much in it to the
composer of "Mefistofele"; but the indebtedness is even greater in
"Falstaff," where the last vestige of the old subserviency of the text
to the music has disappeared. From the first to the last the play is
now the dominant factor. There are no "numbers" in "Falstaff"; there
can be no repetition of a portion of the music without interruption and
dislocation of the action. One might as well ask Hamlet to repeat his
soliloquy on suicide as to ask one of the characters in "Falstaff" to
sing again a single measure once sung. The play moves almost with the
rapidity of the spoken comedy. Only once or twice does one feel that
there is an unnecessary eddy in the current.

And how has this play been set to music? It has been plunged into a
perfect sea of melodic champagne. All the dialogue, crisp and sparkling,
full of humor in itself, is made crisper, more sparkling, more amusing
by the music on which, and in which, it floats, we are almost tempted to
say more buoyantly than comedy dialogue has floated since Mozart wrote
"Le Nozze di Figaro." The orchestra is bearer of everything, just as
completely as it is in the latter-day dramas of Richard Wagner; it
supplies phrases for the singers, supports their voices, comments on
their utterances, and gives dramatic color to even the most fleeting
idea. It is a marvelous delineator of things external as well as
internal. It swells the bulk of the fat knight until he sounds as if he
weighed a ton, and gives such piquancy to the spirits of the merry women
(Mrs. Quickly monopolizing the importance due to Mrs. Page), that one
cannot see them come on the stage without a throb of delight. In spite
of the tremendous strides which the art of instrumentation has made
since Berlioz mixed the modern orchestral colors, Verdi has in
"Falstaff" added to the variegated palette. Yet all is done so
discreetly, with such utter lack of effect-seeking, that it seems as if
the art had always been known. The flood upon which the vocal melody
floats is not like that of Wagner; it is not a development of fixed
phrases, though Verdi, too, knows the use of leading motives in a sense,
but a current which is ever receiving new waters. The declamation is
managed with extraordinary skill, and though it frequently grows out
of the instrumental part, it has yet independent melodic value as the
vocal parts of Wagner's "Die Meistersinger" have. Through this Verdi
has acquired a comic potentiality for his voice parts which goes hand
in hand with that of his instrumental parts.

But Verdi is not only dramatically true and melodious in his vocal
parts, he is even, when occasion offers, most simple and ingenuous.
There is an amazing amount of the Mozartian spirit in "Falstaff," and
once we seem even to recognize the simple graciousness of pre-Gluckian
days. Thus the dainty fancy and idyllic feeling which opens the scene in
Windsor Forest, with its suggestion of fays and fairies and moonlight
(a scene, by the way, for which Verdi has found entrancing tones, yet
without reaching the lovely grace of Nicolai), owes much of its beauty
to a minuet measure quite in the manner of the olden time, but which is,
after all, only an accompaniment to the declamation which it sweetens.
The finales of "Falstaff" have been built up with all of Verdi's
oldtime skill, and sometimes sound like Mozart rubbed through the
Wagnerian sieve. Finally, to cap the climax, he writes a fugue. A fugue
to wind up a comic opera! A fugue--the highest exemplification of
oldtime artificiality in music! A difficult fugue to sing, yet it runs
out as smoothly as the conventional tag of Shakespeare's own day, whose
place, indeed, it takes. It is a tag suggested by "All the world's a
stage," and though it is a fugue, it bubbles over with humor.



CHAPTER XVIII

UPRISING IN FAVOR OF GERMAN OPERA


In marshaling, in the preceding chapter, the chief incidents of the
period with which I am now concerned I set down the restoration of
German performances at the Metropolitan Opera House as the most
significant. There was a strong influence within the company working
to that end in the person of M. Jean de Reszke, who, though the
organization was not adapted to such a purpose, nevertheless strove
energetically to bring about a representation of "Tristan und Isolde"
in the supplementary spring season of 1895. Through him "Die
Meistersinger" in an Italian garb had been incorporated into the
repertory, and he was more than eager not only that it and the popular
operas "Tannhäuser" and "Lohengrin" should recover their original
estate as German works, but that he might gratify a noble ambition and
demonstrate how the tragic style of "Tristan" could be consorted with
artistic singing. He achieved that purpose in the season of 1895-96,
and set an example that will long be memorable in the annals of the
Wagnerian drama in America. But the force which compelled the reform was
an external one. It came from the public. To the people, as they spoke
through the box office, Abbey, Schoeffel & Grau were always readier to
give an ear than the stockholders or the self-constituted champions of
Italian opera in the public press.

There had been talk of a rival German institution when Mr. Abbey
restored the Italian régime in 1891; but it was wisely discouraged by
the more astute friends of the German art, who felt that the influence
of seven years would bear fruit in time, and who placed the principles
of that art above the language in which they were made manifest. The
interregnum following the fire had led Mr. Oscar Hammerstein to enter
the field as an impresario on a more ambitious scale than ordinary,
and on January 24, 1893, he opened a Manhattan Opera House with a
representation in English of Moszkowski's "Boabdil." The "season"
lasted only two weeks, and the opera house has long since been
forgotten. It stood in the same Street as the present Manhattan Opera
House, and its site is part of that covered by Macy's gigantic
mercantile establishment. Though he had no opposition, Mr. Hammerstein
showed little of that pluck and persistence which have distinguished him
during the two seasons in which he has conducted a rival establishment
to the Metropolitan Opera House. After two weeks, within which he
produced "Boabdil," "Fidelio," and some light-waisted spectacular
things, he turned his theater over to Koster & Bial, who ran it as a
vaudeville house until the end of its short career. There were English
performances of the customary loose-jointed kind in the summer at the
Grand Opera House, the first series of which, beginning in May, 1893,
derived some dignity from the fact that it was under the management of
Mr. Stanton, who had conducted the Metropolitan Opera House for the
stockholders during the German seasons; and in November the Duff Opera
Company anticipated Mr. Abbey's forces by bringing out Gounod's
"Philémon et Baucis" in an English version.

These things, however, contained no portents for the future of opera
in New York; they were the familiar phenomena which flit by in the
metropolis's dead seasons. Pregnant incidents came in the midst of
the regular season. It chanced that Mme. Materna, Anton Schott, Emil
Fischer, and Conrad Behrens, who had been identified with the earlier
German seasons, were in New York in February, 1894, and taking
advantage of that fact Mr. Walter Damrosch arranged two performances
of "Die Walküre," in the Carnegie Music Hall, for the benefit of local
charities. They were slipshod affairs, with makeshift scenery and a
stage not at all adapted for theatrical performances; but the public
rose at them, as the phrase goes, and Mr. Damrosch felt emboldened to
give a representation of "Götterdämmerung," with the same principals
at the Metropolitan Opera House, on March 28th. Again there was an
extraordinary exhibition of popular interest which the German Press
Club turned to good account by improvising a performance of "Tannhäuser"
for its annual benefit on April 9. Soon there was a great stir in the
German camp, but united action was hindered by the rivalry between Mr.
Damrosch and Mr. Seidl. The supplementary season at the Metropolitan
ended on April 27th, and under date of April 28th there appeared a
circular letter, signed individually by friends of Mr. Seidl, soliciting
subscriptions for a season of German opera in 1904-05. The plan
contemplated forty performances between November and May, on dates which
were not to conflict with the regular performances of Italian and French
opera. At the same time announcement was made of the organization of a
Wagner Society, whose purpose it was to support a season of Wagner's
operas at the Metropolitan Opera House, beginning on November 19, 1894,
and continuing for four weeks--twelve evening performances and four
matinées, the company to include "the greatest Wagnerian singers from
Bayreuth and other German opera houses." Personal friends of the two
conductors attempted to unite the rival enterprises, and a conference
was held at the office of William Steinway. The attempt failed because
Messrs. Seidl and Damrosch could not agree on a division of the artistic
labors and credits. Mr. Seidl withdrew from the negotiations. In less
than a week Mr. Damrosch announced that he had secured subscriptions for
his season amounting to $12,000, and also a guarantee against loss of
$10,000 more. On May 10th he sailed for Europe to engage his company.
When he returned in the fall he announced a season of twelve evening and
four afternoon performances, to be devoted wholly to Wagner's operas
and dramas, to begin on February 25, 1895. The prices ranged from $4
for orchestra stalls to $1 for seats in the gallery. In his company were
Rosa Sucher, Johanna Gadski, Elsa Kutscherra, Marie Brema, Max Alvary,
Nicolaus Rothmühl, Paul Lange, Franz Schwarz, and Rudolph Oberhauser,
besides Emil Fischer and Conrad Behrens, who had been identified with
the earlier German regime. Adolf Baumann, of the Royal opera at Prague,
was engaged as stage manager, but lost his life in the wreck of the
North German Lloyd steamship Elbe on the voyage hitherward.

The season began, as advertised, on February 25th and ended on March
23d, the sixteen performances receiving an additional representation to
enable Max Alvary to effect his one hundredth performance of Siegfried
in the drama of that name in the city where he "created" it, as the
French say. There were also an additional performance of "Lohengrin" and
three extra performances at reduced prices after the subscription. The
whole affair was Mr. Damrosch's own venture, he being at once manager,
artistic director, and conductor, but, as I have intimated, he had the
backing of an organization called the Wagner Society, which was chiefly
composed of women. The season came hard on the heels of the Italian
and French season. Mr. Damrosch's leading singers were familiar with
Wagner's works, but practically he had to build up his institution from
the foundation and to do it within an incredibly short time. With such
rapid work we are familiar in America, but in Germany to have suggested
such an undertaking as the organization of a company, the preparation of
a theater, and the mounting, rehearsing, and performing of seven of the
most difficult and cumbersome works in the repertory of the lyric drama
within the space of five or six weeks would have been to have invited
an inquest de lunatico. I do not wish to be understood as mentioning
these things wholly in the way of praise--the results from an artistic
point of view disclosed much too often that they were blameworthy--but
what credit they reflect upon the tremendous energy, enterprise,
and will power of Mr. Damrosch must be given ungrudgingly and
enthusiastically. Plainly he was inspired with a strength of conviction
quite out of the ordinary line of that spirit of theatrical speculation
upon which we have so often depended for the large undertakings in
music. It was a belief based on something like religious zeal, and under
the circumstances what he did was an even more remarkable feat than that
accomplished by his father in 1884. I sometimes thought at the time that
he was driven into the enterprise more by impulse than by reason, and
the fact that he occasionally had the same sort of a notion is evidenced
by a letter which I received from him in response to one of mine to him
near the close of the season. "Thanks for your congratulations on the
financial success so far," wrote the young manager. "I shall breathe
more freely after the next four weeks are over. The responsibility has
been a heavy one, and it is curious that no one seemed to share my
almost fatalistic belief in Wagner opera. Neither Abbey & Grau, nor
Seidl, nor anyone was willing to touch it, and I was finally driven into
it myself by an irresistible impulse which, so far, seems to have led
me right. I am glad now, for many reasons, that events have so shaped
themselves, and I think that the season will be productive of much good
for the future. A curious and interesting fact in connection with the
performances has been that the public came to hear the operas, and not
the singers."

And such a success! Not only far in advance of what the fondest
Wagnerites had dared to hope for as a tribute to their master's art,
but one which compelled them to rub their eyes in amazement and grope
and stare in a search for causes. Twenty-one times in succession was
the vast audience room crowded, and when the time was come for striking
the balance on the subscription season there was talk, only a little
fantastic if at all, of receipts aggregating $150,000, or nearly $9,000
a performance. I should like to keep the thought of this unparalleled
financial success separate from that of the artistic results attained.
Between the financial and artistic achievements there was a wide
disparity; but that fact only sufficed to emphasize the obvious lesson
of the season, namely, the vast desire which the people of New York
felt again to enjoy Wagner's dramas. Fortunately I can make a record
of the capaciousness of that hunger without necessarily lauding its
intelligence and discrimination. Great indeed must have been the hunger
which could not be perverted by the vast deal of slipshod work in
the scenic department of the representations, and the vaster deal of
bungling and makeshift in the stage management. Many an affront was
given to the taste and intelligence of the audiences, and dreadful was
the choral cacophony which filled some of the evenings. Yet the people
came; they came, as Mr. Damrosch observed in his letter, to hear
the dramas instead of the singers, and though "Lohengrin" had been
beautifully performed in the Italian season by artists like Nordica,
Jean and Édouard de Reszke, and Maurel in the cast, the public crowded
into the German representation as if expecting a special revelation from
Fräulein Gadski, a novice, and Herr Rothmühl, a second-rate tenor, Of
all the singers only Miss Marie Brema, a newcomer, and the veteran, Emil
Fischer, were entirely satisfactory. For the beautiful dramatic art of
Frau Sucher and for her loveliness of person and pose there was much
hearty admiration, but this could not close the ears of her listeners
to the fact that her voice had lost its freshness. The subscription
repertory, including the Alvary anniversary, was as follows: "Tristan
und Isolde," three times; "Siegfried," four times; "Lohengrin," twice;
"Götterdämmerung," twice; "Tannhäuser," twice; "Die Walküre," twice,
and "Die Meistersinger," twice. In a letter recently received from Mr.
Damrosch he says: "My first spring season of thirteen weeks in New York,
Chicago, Boston, and a few Western cities gave a profit of about
$53,000, leaving me with a large stock of Vienna-made scenery, costumes,
and properties."

Mr. Damrosch had won the first battle of his campaign and taught a
lesson of lasting value to his old and experienced rivals. Warned by the
success of his experiment and stimulated by a petition signed by about
two thousand persons asking that German representations under Mr. Seidl
be included in the Metropolitan scheme, Messrs. Abbey, Schoeffel & Grau
made German opera a factor in the next season; but they did so in a
half-hearted way, which defeated its purposes and brought punishment
instead of reward. Nevertheless, German opera had returned to the
Metropolitan to stay, and henceforth will call for attention along with
the Italian and French performances in this history. Meanwhile, since
I have begun it, let me finish the tale of the impresarioship of Mr.
Damrosch.

Flushed with victory, the young manager prepared a five months'
campaign for the year 1896, and sought for new worlds to conquer.
Philadelphia, in which city he began operations on February 20th,
treated him shabbily, but he did fairly well in New York and other
cities in the East and West. Unfortunately for him, he made an
invasion of the South, which was not ripe for serious opera, either
financially or artistically. A performance in one city of that section
which cost him over $3,000 brought him exactly $220. The difference
between the sums was what Mr. Damrosch paid to learn that knowledge
and love of Wagner's operas had not penetrated far into Tennessee.

Experience is always purchased at large cost in the operatic field.
Abbey, Schoeffel & Grau refused Mr. Damrosch the use of the Metropolitan
Opera House for his second New York season, and he was driven to the
old, socially discredited Academy of Music. They did not look with
favoring eyes upon an enterprise which had achieved so tremendous a
triumph at its very start, and they provided a large percentage of the
wormwood which filled the cup which Mr. Damrosch drank in 1896; but they
embittered their own goblet by the procedure, and when the time came
for laying out the campaign of 1896-97 they were quite as ready as Mr.
Damrosch to sign a treaty of peace whose provisions promised to make
for the good of both sides instead of the injury of either. The rivals
agreed to keep out of each other's way as much as possible and even to
help each other by an occasional exchange of singers. By this means it
was purposed to widen the repertories of both companies, Mr. Damrosch
providing the Metropolitan establishment with a Brünnhilde and an
Isolde for Jean de Reszke's Siegmund, Siegfried, and Tristan, and the
Metropolitan company lending him in return Melba, Eames, and Calvé, or
others, to enable him to perform some of the Italian and French operas
which he had included in his list. Mr. Damrosch yielded Chicago to his
rivals and took Philadelphia in exchange. It was a wise compromise.
Mr. Damrosch lost $40,000 in 1896; he made $14,000 in 1897. The next
year, the Metropolitan Opera House being closed during the regular
subscription period, as will appear later in this record, Mr. Damrosch
entered into partnership with Charles A. Ellis, manager of the Boston
Symphony Orchestra, who had undertaken the management also of Mme.
Melba's American affairs, and Italian and French operas were added to
the German repertory. The regular season showed a good profit, most of
which, however, was frittered away in a spring tour made by Melba with
a portion of the company. By this time Mr. Damrosch had concluded that
he was too good a man and musician to surrender himself to the hateful
business of managing a traveling opera company, and he withdrew from the
partnership with Ellis, to whom he sold all his theatrical properties,
and returned to concert work and composition, though for two weeks in
the next season he was conductor of Mr. Ellis's company.

And now to some of the details of the artistic work of these Damroschian
enterprises. The year 1896 was signalized by the appearance in America
of two singers who rapidly achieved first-class importance. These were
Katherina Klafsky and Milka Ternina. Mme. Klafsky was the wife of Herr
Lohse, whom Mr. Damrosch also engaged as assistant conductor. She came
here under a cloud, so far as the managerial ethics of Germany were
concerned. How much respect those ethics were entitled to may be judged
from the story. I have already said, in discussing the case of Mme.
Lehmann and her violation of contract with the Opera at Berlin, that a
speedy result of the success of German opera under Mr. Stanton was a
change of attitude on the part of the Intendanten of German theaters
toward the New York institution so soon as it was found that a handsome
proportion of the American earnings might be diverted into the pockets
of those Intendanten or the managers of municipal theaters. When Mr.
Damrosch engaged his second company Mme. Klafsky was a member of the
Municipal Theater in Hamburg, of which Pollini was director. When the
offer of an American engagement came to her she consulted with Herr
Pollini, who graciously gave his consent to her acceptance of it on
condition that she pay him one-half of her earnings. She refused to
agree to do this, and, fearing that Pollini would invoke the aid of the
courts to restrain her from coming to New York, she took French leave
of Germany more than two months before she was needed here. Her success
in America was emphatic, and after she had effected a reconciliation
with Pollini she was re-engaged by Mr. Damrosch to alternate with
Mme. Lehmann in the season of 1896-97. Within a fortnight of the
re-engagement she died in Hamburg from a trephining operation undertaken
to relieve her from the results of an injury to her skull, received
while in America.

Mme. Klafsky and Mr. Alvary had sung in "Tristan und Isolde," with which
Mr. Damrosch began his campaign in Philadelphia on February 20th. Her
success was instantaneous, and her tremendous dramatic forcefulness, the
natural expression of an exuberant temperament, placed her higher in
public favor during the season than Mme. Ternina, whose refined and
ingratiating art did not receive full appreciation till later. Other
members of the Damrosch troupe of 1896 were Wilhelm Grüning, tenor,
and Demeter Popovici, bass, beside Gadski, Fischer, Alvary, and other
persons already known, but of smaller importance. The New York season
began at the Academy of Music on March 2d and ended on March 28th. The
operas were "Fidelio," "Lohengrin," "Siegfried," "Tannhäuser," "Die
Meistersinger," "Die Walküre," "Der Freischütz," and (in the original
English) Mr. Damrosch's "The Scarlet Letter." This opera had its first
performance in New York on March 6. Its libretto was written by George
Parsons Lathrop, a son-in-law of Hawthorne, who wrote the romance on
which it was based. The cast included Johanna Gadski as Hester Prynne,
Barron Berthald as Arthur Dimmesdale, Conrad Behrens as Governor
Bellingham, Gerhard Stehmann as the Rev. John Wilson, and William
Mertens as Roger Chillingworth. The greater part of the music had been
performed at concerts of the Oratorio Society on January 4 and 5, 1895.
The book of the opera proved to be undramatic in the extreme, a defect
which was emphasized by the execrable pronunciation of nearly all the
singers at the performance on the stage at the Academy. In the music Mr.
Damrosch essayed the style of Wagner, and did it so well, indeed, as to
deserve hearty admiration. He was helped, it is true, by factors frankly
and copiously copied from the pages of his great model. The nixies of
the Rhine peeped out of the sun-flecked coverts in the forest around
Hester Prynne's hut, as if they had become dryads for her sake; ever
and anon the sinister Hunding was heard muttering in the ear of
Chillingworth, and Hester wore the badge of her shame on the robes of
Elsa, washed in innocency. But such things are venial in a first work.
In frankly confessing his model (for it cannot be thought for a
moment that Mr. Damrosch expected his imitations to be overlooked) he
illustrated a rule which applies to all composers at the outset of their
careers. The fact must be noted, but it is much more to the purpose
that the young composer blended the elements of his composition with a
freedom and daring quite astonishing in their exhibition of mastery.
There is no sign of doubt or timorousness anywhere in the work, though
the moments are not infrequent when the utterance is more fluent than
significant. The typical phrases which he chose to symbolize the persons
and passions of the play are most of them deficient in plasticity, and
nearly all of them lack that expressiveness which Wagner knew so well
how to impress upon his melodic elements; the greater, therefore, was
the surprise that Mr. Damrosch was able to weave them together in a
fabric which moved steadily forward for more than an hour, and reflected
more or less truthfully and vividly the feeling of the dramatic
situations. Unfortunately there is little variety in this feeling, so
that in spite of Mr. Damrosch's effort, or, perhaps, because of it,
there is a deal of monotony in the music of the first act. There is a
fine ingenuity of orchestration throughout, however, and an amount
of daring in harmonization which sometimes oversteps the limits of
discretion. In an agonizing scene between Chillingworth and Hester at
the close of the first act the orchestra and the two chief personages
are wholly engrossed with an exposition of the dramatic feeling of the
moment, while the chorus (supposed to be worshiping in the neighboring
meeting-house) sing the "Old Hundredth" in unison and without
instrumental support. It is an admirable historical touch, and the
device is the approved one of using a psalm tune as a cantus firmus
to the remainder of the music; but Mr. Damrosch's harmonization of the
ensemble is such that we seem to hear two distinct and unsympathetic
keys. There was, after the second act, a scene upon the stage in honor
of Mr. Damrosch, in which, after several large wreaths had been bestowed
upon him, a representative of the Wagner Society came forward, and on
behalf of that body presented him with a handsome copy of Hawthorne's
story and the incorrect statement that the honor was paid to him as
the first American who had composed a grand opera on an American theme
which had been publicly produced. In this there were as many errors
of statement as in the famous French Academician's description of a
lobster. George F. Bristow's "Rip Van Winkle" was composed by a native
American and was brought out at Niblo's Garden long before Mr. Damrosch
was born in Breslau; while Signor Arditi, who hailed from Europe, like
Mr. Damrosch, brought out under his own direction and with considerable
success an opera entitled "La Spia," based on Cooper's novel. This
merely in the interest of the verities of history.

The German season of 1907, a part of whose story I have already told,
began at the Metropolitan Opera House on March 8th and lasted four
weeks. It added no novelty to the local list, but had some interesting
features, among them a serial performance of the dramas of Wagner's
"Ring of the Nibelung," the first appearance of Mme. Nordica in the
Brünnhilde of "Siegfried" on March 24th, and the joint appearance of
Mmes. Lehmann and Nordica in "Lohengrin," the German singer, true to
her dramatic instincts, choosing the part of Ortrud. On April 1st
Xavier Scharwenka, who had taken a residence with his brother Philip
in New York, borrowed the company from Mr. Damrosch and on his own
responsibility gave a performance of his opera, entitled "Mataswintha."
The opera was produced under difficulties. It had withstood its baptism
of fire in Weimar seven months before, and Mr. Scharwenka had performed
portions of it at a concert for the purpose of introducing himself to
the people of New York. But the singers had to learn their parts from
the beginning, there was a great deal of pageantry which had to be
supplied from the stock furniture of the Metropolitan stage, the tenor
Ernst Kraus took ill and caused a postponement, and even thus the
chapter of accidents was not exhausted. When the performance finally
took place Herr Stehmann, a barytone, had to sing Herr Kraus's part,
which he had learned in two days. Under the circumstances it may be
the course of wisdom to avoid an estimation of the opera's merits
and defects and to record merely that it proved to be an extremely
interesting work and well worth the trouble spent upon its production.
Under different circumstances it might have lived the allotted time
upon the stage, which, as the knowing know, is a very brief one in the
majority of cases. The story of the opera was drawn from Felix Dahn's
historical novel "Ein Kampf um Rom."

It is high time to get back again to the story of opera at the
Metropolitan Opera House under the direction of the lessees; but before
then chronological orderliness requires that attention be paid to an
incident outside the category of prime importance. This was the first
production in New York of Humperdinck's delightful fairy opera "Hänsel
und Gretel" at Daly's Theater on October 8, 1895. The production was
in English. The venture looked promising, and great interest was felt
in it. Mr. Seidl was charged with the musical direction. A company of
singers was brought together, partly from London, partly enlisted here.
Sir Augustus Harris, director of the opera at Covent Garden, was the
financial backer of the enterprise. As numerous an orchestra as the
score calls for could not be accommodated in the theater, but Mr. Seidl
did the best he could, and the band was commendable. Three of the
singers, Miss Jeanne Douste, Miss Louise Meisslinger, and Mr. Jacques
Bars, disclosed ample abilities; but the English manager had no
knowledge either of the needs of the opera or the demands of the New
York public; Sir Augustus's speech on the opening night, indeed,
disclosed ignorance also of the name of the composer and the history of
the work which he had clothed with considerable sumptuousness. It was
long remembered with amusement that to him Herr Humperdinck was "Mr.
Humperdinckel" and the opera some "beautiful music composed for this
occasion." And so great expectations were disappointed, and, after
worrying along from October 8th to November 15th, the opera was withdrawn
with a record of failure, not deserved by the work and only partly
deserved by the performance. We shall meet the opera again in the story
of opera at the Metropolitan Opera House a decade later, when it came
into its rights, and the public were able to testify their admiration
in the presence of the composer.

The prospectus of Henry E. Abbey and Maurice Grau (which continued to be
the official style of the managers) for the season 1895-96, contained
this announcement: "The management has also decided to add a number of
celebrated German artists and to present Wagner operas in the German
language, all of which operas will be given with superior singers, equal
to any who have ever been heard in the German language. The orchestra
will be increased. . . . The chorus will be strengthened by a number of
young, fresh voices, to which will be added an extra German chorus."
Signor Mancinelli was not re-engaged as conductor, but Anton Seidl was.
After what I have told thus far in this chapter the causes which led to
this change of policy will be readily understood. The augmented company
was a formidable host, though its strength remained in the French and
Italian contingent. Had the German singers been equally capable, the
story of Mr. Damrosch's enterprise might have read differently. Mme.
Calvé returned and revived the furor over "Carmen"; Mesdames Melba,
Nordica, Scaichi, Mantelli, and Messrs. Jean and Édouard de Reszke, Pol
Plançon, Victor Maurel, and Castelmary remained; newcomers were Lola
Beeth, Frances Saville, Marie Brema (who had been brought from Europe by
Mr. Damrosch), Giuseppe Cremonini, Adolph Wallnöfer, Giuseppe Kaschmann
(who had been a member of Mr. Abbey's first company twelve years
before), and Mario Ancona. The regular subscription season consisted of
thirteen weeks (fifty-two performances), beginning on November 18th, and
there was a special subscription, at the same scale of prices, for a
season of ten performances of German operas, beginning on December 5th.
There were also performances at popular prices on Saturday evenings,
and the entire season, excluding the spring season, which developed but
little interest, compassed seventy-four representations. For these and
thirteen Sunday night concerts the public paid about $575,000.

"Oh! how far are we from Covent Garden!" cried Jean de Reszke on the
night of November 27th, and he clipped in his arms the friend who had
come to offer his congratulations to the thunderous plaudits of the
audience. M. de Reszke was in a fine glow of enthusiasm. He had sung
and played Tristan and opened a new era in the style of Wagnerian
performances in New York. A few days later, while the drinking horn
was going from hand to hand at a medieval dinner given in honor of the
principal interpreters of Wagner's love drama (Mme. Nordica, Miss
Brema, the brothers de Reszke, and Mr. Seidl), he responded to a toast,
and in four languages, English, German, French, and Italian, celebrated
the advent of what he called "international opera." Why he neglected
to throw in a few Polish phrases for the benefit of his countryman
Paderewski, who sat opposite him at table, his hosts could not make
out, unless it was because he wanted his expressions of delight at the
achievement and prospect to be understood by all his hearers. High hopes
filled the hearts of all local lovers of the lyric drama at the period.
The promises of Abbey and Grau had stimulated the kindliest, heartiest,
cheeriest feeling on all hands. All bickerings between the adherents of
the various schools were silenced by the promulgation of a policy which
seemed as generous and public-spirited as it was liberal. Whenever it
was practicable New York was to have performances which should respect
not only the tongue, but also the spirit of the works chosen for
representation. That M. de Reszke had been an active agent in the
inauguration of the new régime was an open secret to his acquaintances,
and he bore public testimony when he supplemented his impersonation
of Tristan with a German Lohengrin. The significance of such an act,
coupled with Mme. Nordica's support of him in both performances, seemed
extraordinary even in the minds of those who were not inclined to attach
much importance to the language used in performance, so long as the
performance was imbued with a becoming spirit of sincerity and a desire
to make artistic purpose replace idle diversion. It looked as if through
the example of these two artists, seconded by the liberality of the
management, the people of New York were to take a long step forward in
musical culture--a step toward the foundation of an institution which
should endure and exemplify the esthetic, moral, and physical character
of the people of America.

The expectations aroused by the announcement were woefully disappointed.
There were nights of wondrous brilliancy and of extraordinary splendor
in nearly every department. Some of the refulgence came from the
new ambitions with which M. de Reszke and Mr. Seidl inspired the
organization. The season had no prouder moments than those filled with
the performances of "Tristan" and "Lohengrin" vouchsafed the subscribers
to the regular subscription; but it had no deeper gloom than that which
settled upon the subscribers to the special German season on most of
the occasions set apart for them. The fate of "Fidelio" was utterly
grievous; two representations of "Tristan" filled their souls with
indignation instead of gratitude; there is no saintly intercession
which could have won redemption for "Tannhäuser." The performances of
"Tristan" and of the Italian "Lohengrin" at which Nordica, Brema, and
the brothers de Reszke sang were brilliantly successful, but in each
case the regular performance was made to precede that set apart for
the German subscription. The circumstance would alone have sufficed
to arouse suspicion that the management was at least willing to
discriminate against the special Thursday nights, and the suspicion was
wrought into conviction by the disparity between the performances of the
two subscriptions. If it was the purpose of Abbey & Grau to put German
opera on trial their method looked very unfair. "The drama for its
own sake as an art work, and not for the sake of the singer" is a
fundamental principle of German art, but it can only maintain its
validity with the help of adequate performances. Saving the four singers
who sang in Italian and French as well as German (Mme. Nordica, Miss
Brema, and the brothers de Reszke), the German singers of 1895-96 were
woefully inefficient, and the German season was an indubitable failure.

I shall append a list of performances of the operas presented in the
seasons covered by this chapter and its predecessor, and its perusal
will, I think, enforce even upon a careless reader the fact that,
in spite of the shortcomings to which I have called attention, the
administration of Abbey & Grau yet marked a gigantic step in the
direction of dramatic sanity and sense over the lists which prevailed
in the period when this story began. In the consulship of Mapleson
the repertory might have been turned into verse quite as dramatic as
most of that of the opera books. Thus:


  "Favorita," "Puritani,"
    "Lucia di Lammermoor,"
  "Marta," "Linda di Chamouni,"
    "La Traviata," "Trovatore";
  "Il Barbiere di Siviglia,"
    "Roberto il Diavolo,"
  "Don Pasquale," "Rigoletto,"
    "Faust," "Gli Ugonotti," "Un Ballo,"


and so on for quantity. Of the old hurdy-gurdy list "Favorita,"
"Traviata," "Trovatore," "Lucia," and "Rigoletto" were given, but
unitedly they had only ten representations, and most of them were on
Saturday nights, when popular prices prevailed. Even though Melba sang
in "Lucia," it had to be consorted at the last with "Cavalleria,"
which Mme. Calvé made attractive. Against this fact we have the other
that "Carmen" alone had a greater number of representations than the
entire old-fashioned list, and that the operas which were most popular
after it were "Tristan und Isolde," "Faust," and "Lohengrin."

Of the ten German performances three were devoted to "Tristan," two to
"Tannhäuser," one to "Fidelio," two to "Lohengrin," and two to "Die
Walküre." "Tristan," "Tannhäuser," and "Lohengrin" were in the repertory
of the regular subscription season. Only two unfamiliar works were
brought forward--Bizet's "Pêcheurs de Perles" (two acts only) and
Massenet's "La Navarraise"; but there was an interesting revival of
Boito's "Mefistofele" after a lapse of twelve years, and a more than
interesting revival of "Tristan und Isolde," with Mmes. Nordica and
Brema and the brothers de Reszke in the principal parts. Mme. Melba did
not join the company until December 27th; she added Massenet's "Manon"
to her repertory. Jean de Reszke increased the list of parts in which
he was known by adding Tristan to it and the German Lohengrin. Mme.
Nordica's new rôles were Isolde, Venus in "Tannhäuser," and Elsa in
German. Miss Brema's operas were "Tristan," "Lohengrin," "Orfeo,"
"Aïda," and "Die Walküre," and, like Mme. Nordica, Mlle. Lola Beeth and
Signor Kaschmann, she sang in German as well as Italian. "La Navarraise"
was brought forward for Mme. Calvé on December 11, 1895; the two acts
of "Les Pêcheurs de Perles" at a matinée on January 11, 1896.

Colonel Mapleson provided a prelude to the Metropolitan season of
1896-97 with a short season of Italian opera of the archaic sort at the
Academy of Music. The doughty manager could no longer fly his old London
colors, so he appeared as the sole director of "The New Imperial Opera
Company." With two or three exceptions all his singers were strangers
to the opera-goers of New York. Mme. Scalchi was again with him, and
Signor de Anna; but the rest were newcomers. Among them were Mme.
Hariclée-Darclée, Mme. Bonaplata-Bau, Susan Strong, and Mme. Giuseppina
Huguet, sopranos; Mme. Parsi, Mlle. Ponzano, and Mme. Meysenheim,
contraltos; Signori de Marchi, Randacio, Betti, Olivieri, and Durot,
tenors; Signori Ughetto and Alberti, barytones, and Pinto, Terzi,
Giordano, Borelli, and Dado, basses. The conductors, capable men both
of them, were Signori Bimboni and Tango. Within a fortnight "Aïda,"
"Trovatore," "Traviata," "Les Huguenots," "Sonnambula," and "Faust"
had been sung and a new work brought out. This was "Andrea Chenier,"
by Illica and Giordano, which had its first performance in America on
November 13, 1896, the cast being as follows:


  Andrea Chenier ................................... Durot
  Carlo Gerard ................................... Ughetto
  Maddalena di Coigny ...................... Bonaplata-Bau
  La Mulatta Bersi ............................ Meysenheim
  La Contessa di Coigny .......................... Scalchi
  Madelon .......................................... Parsi
  Roucher ........................................... Dado
  Il Romanziero .................................. Alberti
  Fouquier Tinville ............................... ------
  Mathieu ........................................ Borelli
  Un Incredibile |
  L'Abate, poeta |............................... Giordano
  Schmidt, Carceriere a San Lazzaro ................ Terzi
  Il Maestro di Casa ............................ Olivieri
  Dumas ............................................ Pinto


Tango conducted and the performance had a rude forcefulness quite in
keeping with the character of the opera. Under better conditions "Andrea
Chenier" would doubtless have held its own for a respectable space in
the local repertory. But the seeds of dissolution were germinating in
the company even before the performances began, and Colonel Mapleson did
not dare to appear long in rivalry with the Metropolitan when it opened
its doors on November 16th. In a week or so he went to Boston, where
after one or two performances the orchestra went on strike and the
Imperial Opera Company went to pieces. With it the last effort of the
veteran manager. Mapleson had held out a promise of the likelihood that
Giordano would come to New York to give personal superintendence to
the production of his opera and carried his fiction to the extreme of
telling a reporter of The Sun newspaper that the composer was in the
city. Meeting the reporter in the Academy of Music, I expressed my
doubt touching the correctness of his information, whereupon he pointed
out the gentleman whom Colonel Mapleson had introduced to him as the
composer. It was Giordano, the barytone! After its introduction to
America "Andrea Chenier" disappeared for nearly a dozen years, when,
on March 27, 1908, it had a single performance at the Manhattan Opera
House, so that Mme. Eva Tetrazzini, the wife of Cleofonte Campanini,
who had retired from the stage, might help at a gala representation in
honor of her husband.

No season since the Metropolitan Opera House was opened was so full of
vicissitudes as that of 1896-97. First came the death of Mme. Klafsky,
who, under the reciprocal arrangement between Mr. Damrosch and Abbey &
Grau, was to sing the chief Wagner rôles with Jean de Reszke. This
happened in September, and was followed by the death of Mr. Abbey
(nominally the leader of the managing directors, though from the
beginning it was Mr. Grau who did the practical work of management), and
of Mr. William Steinway, who had formulated and carried through the plan
of reorganization which relieved the firm of Abbey, Schoeffel & Grau of
its burden of indebtedness and transferred it to the shoulders of the
Abbey, Schoeffel & Grau Company (Ltd.). Just before the season began
Mme. Nordica, who had won her way to a high place in the favor of the
public, and whose absence from the company's roster was widely and
sincerely deplored, came forward with a story charging her failure
to secure a re-engagement to the intrigues of Mme. Melba and M. Jean
de Reszke. So far as the gentleman was concerned the story seemed
improbable on its face, and long before the season was over Mme. Nordica
was willing to admit publicly that she had been misinformed as to the
facts in the case. It remained, however, that Mme. Melba had reserved
the exclusive right to herself to sing the rôle of Brünnhilde in
Wagner's "Siegfried." It soon turned out that the failure to secure Mme.
Nordica was to cost the management dear. Mme. Melba sang the part once,
and so injured her voice that she had to retire for the season and cede
the rôle to Mme. Litvinne (the Mlle. Litvinoff of Colonel Mapleson's
company in 1885-86), who up to that time had not succeeded in convincing
the public that she was equal to so great a responsibility, although she
had been engaged to sing the part of Isolde after Mme. Klafsky's death
and the failure of negotiations between Mr. Grau and Mme. Nordica. The
manager's judgment was never at fault in these negotiations; he wanted
to secure the services of Mme. Nordica, for he well knew their value,
but the unhappy contract with Melba stood in his way, and Mme. Nordica
was beyond his reach when the failure of Melba's voice and her departure
for France on January 23d left the company crippled. Happily the
popularity which Mme. Calvé's impersonation of Marguerite in Gounod's
"Faust" had found restored that perennial work to its old position as
one of the principal magnets of the season. Mme. De Vere-Sapio was
engaged to make possible the production of such operas as "Hamlet,"
"Le Nozze di Figaro," and Massenet's "Le Cid." Then there fell a double
blow: Mme. Eames went into a surgeon's hands and Mozart's scintillant
comedy had to be withdrawn. It was to have been given on February 10th.
Flotow's "Martha" was substituted for it, and in the midst of the
performance the representative of Tristan, M. Castelmary, fell on the
stage, fatally stricken with heart disease.

It would be pleasant to say that the facts thus detailed exhaust the
story of the institution's misfortunes; but they do not. I have already
told of its financial outcome. Throughout the season a determined and
wicked effort was made to injure the opera, and was helped along by
columns of idle speculation and gossip in three or four newspapers.
Without ground, so far as anybody could see, the notion was given
publicity that there was grave doubt that opera would be given in the
following year. The talk seemed wholly gratuitous, for if there were
any signs of falling off in popular interest so far as the opera was
concerned or in the confidence and satisfaction of the stockholders
of the opera house company so far as Mr. Grau's administration was
concerned, it escaped the notice of experienced and interested
observers. The total attendance was larger than in the preceding season,
and the interest displayed in the representations was fully as keen. But
the newspaper gossips would have their way, and in the end turned out to
be prophets, for there was no opera in 1897-98, for reasons which will
have to be discussed in the next chapter.

The season began on November 16th. The regular subscription was for
thirteen weeks, three nights a week and Saturday afternoons. Extra
subscription performances were thirteen Saturday nights and three
Wednesday afternoon representations at popular prices and an extra
week--three nights and a matinée--at subscription prices. There were,
therefore, in all, seventy-two performances, at which twenty-four
different operas were brought forward, as shown in the table which is to
follow. There was a less elaborate organization than in the preceding
season, but the average merit of the performances was higher, there
being no ill-equipped German contingent to spoil the record. There were,
however, quite as many German performances without the special singers
and the extra subscription. In place of the latter, an attempt was made
to give extra Wednesday matinées, but the experiment was abandoned after
three weeks.

The most sensational incident of the season was the collapse of Mme.
Melba after her ill-advised effort to sing the music of Brünnhilde. To
the loveliness of her devotion and the loftiness of her ambition honest
tribute must be paid, but it must also be said that nature did not
design her to be an interpreter of Wagner's tragic heroines. Her vocal
and temperamental peculiarities put a bar to her singing the Brünnhilde
music. It did not lie well in her voice, and she was not then, and is
not now, of the heroic mould, and her experience should have taught her
that her voice would not admit of the expansion necessary to fit her
for that mould. That the music wearied her was painfully evident long
before the end of the one scene in which Brünnhilde takes part in
"Siegfried." Never did her voice have the lovely quality which had
always characterized it in the music of Donizetti and Gounod. It lost
in euphony in the broadly sustained and sweeping phrases of Wagner, and
the difference in power and expressiveness between its higher and lower
registers was made pitifully obvious. The music, moreover, exhausted
her. She plunged into her apostrophe with most self-sacrificing vigor
at the beginning of the scene, and was prodigal in the use of her voice
in its early moments; but when the culmination of its passion was
reached, in what would be called the stretto of the piece in the old
nomenclature, she could not respond to its increased demands. It was an
anti-climax. Wagner's music is like jealousy; it makes the meat it feeds
on if one be but filled with its dramatic fervor. Recall what I have
related of Mme. Lehmann's statement of how she was sustained by the
emotional excitement which Wagner's dramas created in her, and how it
made it easier for her to sing the music of Brünnhilde than that of
Norma. But Mme. Lehmann was a woman of intense emotionality, and her
voice was colored for tragedy and equal to its strain. It would be a
happiness to say the same of Mme. Melba, but no judicious person would
dream of saying it. "There is one glory of the sun, and another glory
of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for one star differeth
from another star in glory." Mme. Melba should have been content with
her own particular glory.

Massenet's "Le Cid" was the only novelty of the season It was given on
February 12, 1897, with the following distribution of parts:


  Rodrigue (his original character) ............... Jean de Reszke
  Don Diégue (his original character) .......... Édouard de Reszke
  Le Roi ........................................... Jean Lassalle
  Le Conte de Gormas (his original character) ........ Pol Plançon
  St. Jacques    |
  L'Envoye Maure | .................................. Jacques Bars
  Don Arras ......................................... Signor Corsi
  Don Alonzo ................................. Signor de Vaschetti
  L'Infante ................................... Clementine de Vere
  Chimène ......................................... Felia Litvinne

  Conductor--Signor Mancinelli


The table of performances from 1893 to 1897 follows here:


PERFORMANCES IN REGULAR SUBSCRIPTION SEASONS

   Operas                    1893-94  1894-95  1895-96  1896-97

  "Faust" ..................... 8        7        8       10
  "Philémon et Baucis" ........ 4        0        2        1
  "Cavalleria Rusticana" ...... 7        3        7        4
  "Lohengrin" ................. 5        5        6        6
  "Lucia di Lammermoor" ....... 2        3        3        2
  "Hamlet" .................... 1        0        2        1
  "Roméo et Juliette" ......... 5        4        4        5
  "Orfeo" ..................... 1        0        1        0
  "Pagliacci" ................. 3        2        2        0
  "Les Huguenots" ............. 2        6        5        2
  "Carmen" ................... 12        7       11        7
  "Don Giovanni" .............. 1        3        0        3
  "Rigoletto" ................. 2        4        1        1
  "Die Meistersinger" ......... 3        0        1        3
  "L'Amico Fritz" ............. 2        0        0        0
  "Semiramide" ................ 3        1        0        0
  "Tannhäuser" ................ 2        0        3        3
  "Le Nozze di Figaro" ........ 3        0        0        0
  "La Traviata" ............... 1        1        2        3
  "Guillaume Tell" ............ 0        3        0        0
  "Aïda" ...................... 0        3        4        3
  "Il Trovatore" .............. 0        3        2        2
  "Otello" .................... 0        4        0        0
  "Mignon" .................... 0        1        0        0
  "Elaine" (Bemberg) .......... 0        2        0        0
  "Manon" (Massenet) .......... 0        4        0        0
  "Falstaff" .................. 0        3        3        0
  "Samson et Dalila" .......... 0        1        0        0
  "Tristan und Isolde" ........ 0        0        6        2
  "L'Africaine" ............... 0        1        0        1
  "La Favorita" ............... 0        0        2        2
  "La Navarraise" ............. 0        0        4        0
  "Fidelio" ..................  0        1        0        0
  "Die Walküre" ............... 0        0        2        0
  "Les Pêcheurs de Perles" .... 0        0        1        0
  "Mefistofele" ............... 0        0        2        4
  "Martha" .................... 0        0        0        2
  "Siegfried" ................. 0        0        0        6
  * "Werther" ................. 0        0        0        1
  "Le Cid" .................... 0        0        0        2


* "Werther" had a single performance in the supplemental season
of 1893-94.



CHAPTER XIX

BEGINNING OF THE GRAU PERIOD


From 1896 to the end of the season 1902-03 Maurice Grau was in name as
well as in fact the monarch of the operatic world of America. For a
brief space he also extended his reign to Covent Garden, but the time
was not ripe for that union of interests between London and New York
which has so long seemed inevitable, and his foreign reign was short. So
was his American dictatorship; but while it lasted it was probably the
most brilliant operatic government that the world has ever known from a
financial point of view, and its high lights artistically were luminous
in the extreme. At the end of the period Mr. Grau had retired from
operatic management forever, for though his desire to remain in active
employment was intense, his mental powers unweakened, and his will
strong, his health was hopelessly shattered, and before another lustrum
had passed he had gone down to his death, his last thoughts longingly
fixed on the institution which had brought him fame and fortune in
abundant measure. For several years he had maintained a beautiful summer
home at Croissy-Chatou, on the Seine, about ten miles from Paris. He
died in the French capital on March 14, 1907, of a disease of the heart
which had compelled his abandonment of active managerial life.

Mr. Grau was an Austrian by birth, his birthplace being Brünn; but he
was brought to New York by his parents in 1854, when he was five years
old, and all his education and business training was American. He passed
through the classes of the city's public schools and was graduated from
the Free Academy, now the College of the City of New York, in 1867. He
then entered the Law School of Columbia College, and read law in the
office of Morrison, Lauterbach & Spitgarn. His uncle, Jacob Grau, was
an operatic and theatrical manager, and for him, as a boy, he sold
librettos in his opera house. This opened the way into theatrical life,
which proved to have such fascinations and hold such promises that he
abandoned the law without having sought admission to the bar, and in
1872 also abandoned the service of his uncle and embarked on his career
as manager. In association with Charles A. Chizzola, the joint capital
amounting to $1,500, he engaged Aimée, a French opéra bouffe singer, who
had made a hit two years before at the Grand Opera House, for a season
of seven weeks. His first week, in Bridgeport, Conn., paid the expenses
of the entire engagement. Aimée came to America again and again, and
always under Mr. Grau's management. The same year he managed the
American tours of Rubinstein and Henri Wieniawski, both of whom came to
America with the financial backing of Messrs. Steinway & Sons. It was
before the days of phenomenal honoraria. Rubinstein was content with
$200 a concert, and in eight months his energetic young manager had
cleared $60,000 on his engagement alone. The next year he organized the
Clara Louise Kellogg Opera Company, continued his management of Mlle.
Aimée, and brought to America the Italian tragedian, Tommaso Salvini.
In 1874 he managed three opéra bouffe and operetta companies, besides
Adelaide Ristori, and became lessee of the Lyceum Theater, in Fourteenth
Street. There was a season of financial stress, and in 1875 he severed
his connection with Chizzola, after another period of bad luck. In 1876
he gave concerts, directed by Offenbach, in the Madison Square Garden,
which were a failure, but he recouped his losses from a forfeit of
$20,000, which the Italian Rossi paid to him rather than give up a
successful season in Paris. A highly successful tour of seventeen months
in South America, Cuba, and Mexico with an opéra bouffe troupe, headed
by the tenor Capoul, and Paola Marié continued his successes. In
1883 began his association with Messrs. Abbey and Schoeffel, whose
experiences, together with his own, at the Metropolitan Opera House
have repeatedly formed the subject of discussion in these chapters of
operatic history.

The story of the management of the Metropolitan Opera House ended in
Chapter XVII with an account of the disasters which overtook Abbey,
Schoeffel, and Grau in 1897. Before the end of that season Mr. Grau
announced, what had frequently been hinted at in the newspapers, that
though he should obtain a lease of the opera house he would not give
opera in 1897-98. The announcement had been received with incredulity,
for though misfortune had overtaken the managers in Chicago and some of
their other enterprises had been unfortunate, the New York season had
turned out in all things successful. Besides, though, "Perjuria ridet
amantum Jupiter," the public had long before learned to laugh at the
oaths of managers. It turned out, however, that Mmes. Melba and Eames,
who had become favorites of the stockholders, were not available for
the next season, and the directors, who had learned to have confidence
in Mr. Grau, were willing to let him make the experiment of a year of
famine. As it turned out it cost them nothing except the performances,
and Mr. Grau and the friends who had rallied around him very little
money. The annual rental of $52,000 was made up to them by sub-rentals
of the building to other managers, chiefly to Messrs. Ellis and
Damrosch. Meanwhile the year of quiescence was put to a good purpose in
strengthening the hold which Mr. Grau had resolved to obtain on opera
in London as well as New York. Mr. Grau and his friends organized
the Maurice Grau Opera Company and easily obtained a lease of
the Metropolitan for three years and a release from the bankrupt
corporation, Abbey, Schoeffel & Grau (Ltd.). On May 4th the old company
accepted a report which recited the story of the season 1896-97,
recommended that it go out of business, and released Messrs. Schoeffel
and Grau from an obligation which they had entered into with the company
not to engage in opera management. All that remained for it to do was to
realize on the only valuable asset which it owned--the Tremont Theater,
in Boston. This it soon did by selling the property to Mr. Schoeffel,
who has managed it ever since.

The way now being open, Mr. Grau organized his new company, composed
wholly of his friends. These were Edward Lauterbach, Charles Frazier,
Robert Dunlap, Roland F. Knoedler, Henry Dazian, B. Franklin de Frece,
F. W. Sanger, John W. Mackay, Sr., and Frederick Rullman. The capital
stock, paid up, was $150,000, of which the Metropolitan Opera and Real
Estate Company subscribed to $25,000. Mr. Grau was elected president
and general director, Mr. Lauterbach vice-president, and Mr. Frazier
treasurer. Mr. Sanger was made associate manager, with the specific
duty of looking after the affairs of the house itself, and Mr. Ernest
Goerlitz was appointed secretary.

There was no regular subscription at the opera house in the season of
1897-98, but the public were not without comfort. From January 17 to
February 19, 1898, the Damrosch and Ellis company gave a series of
performances which provided an excellent substitute. Opera-lovers were
not even called on to forego the pleasure of hearing some of the singers
whom they had come to consider essential to their happiness under the
régime of Damrosch and Ellis's rivals. Mme. Melba was "not available"
for Mr. Grau, but she was for Mr. Ellis, who was managing all her
American business, and she headed the company. With her were Mme.
Nordica and Mme. Gadski, and among old popular favorites were Emil
Fischer and David Bispham. Other members of the company were Gisela
Staudigl, who had been heard in the first German seasons; Mlle. Seygard,
Mme. Brazzi, an American contralto with good presence, real warmth of
feeling, and correct instincts; Miss Mattfeld, an extremely serviceable
"juvenile," who remained such for years; Salignac and Rothmühl, tenors
respectively for the Italian and German operas; Campanari, barytone;
Ibos, a tenor, and Boudouresque, a bass whose name was picturesque.
Melba added "Traviata" to her repertory at the opening performance, and
later essayed "Aïda," only to prove, as she had done in the case of
"Siegfried," that there are things in music which are unlike the kingdom
of heaven in that they cannot be taken by violence. The repertory
consisted of "La Traviata," "Tannhäuser" "Die Meistersinger," "Aïda,"
"Lohengrin," "Il Barbiere," "Faust," "Der Fliegende Holländer," "Die
Walküre," "Siegfried," "Götterdämmerung," and "Les Huguenots."

Before the next regular season began under the new Grau administration
Mr. Seidl, who would doubtless have continued in association with the
institution with which he had long and efficiently been connected,
died. The temporary suspension of the Metropolitan subscription season
had forced him more actively than ever into the concert field. He had
succeeded Mr. Theodore Thomas as conductor of the Philharmonic Society,
and continued the popular triumphs of that organization. He had also
organized a series of subscription orchestral concerts at the Hotel
Astoria, and his friends were developing plans for a new endowed
orchestra when he died, after an illness of only a few hours' duration,
supposed to have been caused by ptomaine poisoning. This was on the
night of March 28, 1898. His body was cremated after an imposing public
funeral at the Metropolitan Opera House on March 31st, participated in
by the Musical Mutual Protective Union, Männergesangverein Arion, the
Philharmonic Society, German Liederkranz, the Rev. Merle St. Croix
Wright, who delivered the memorial address, and Mr. H. E. Krehbiel,
chairman of the committee of arrangements, who read a despatch received
from Robert G. Ingersoll, who was absent from the city on a lecture
trip. The pall-bearers were A. Schueler (who had been a classmate of
the dead man at the Leipsic Conservatory); Oscar B. Weber, E. Francis
Hyde (president of the Philharmonic Society); Henry Schmitt, Albert
Stettheimer, Henry T. Finck (musical critic of The New York Evening
Post); Walton H. Brown, Louis Josephtal, H. E. Krehbiel (chairman of
the committee of arrangements and musical critic of The New York
Tribune); Xavier Scharwenka, August Spanuth (musical critic of the New
Yorker Staats-Zeitung); Albert Steinberg (sometime musical critic of
The New York Herald); the Hon. Carl Schurz, Charles T. Barney, Rafael
Joseffy, Julian Rix, James Speyer, Edgar J. Levey (musical, critic of
The New York Commercial Advertiser); Dr. William H. Draper, Richard
Watson Gilder, Paul Goepel, E. M. Burghard, Eugene Ysaye, Victor
Herbert, George G. Haven, Zoltan Doeme, Edward A. MacDowell, and
Carlos Hasselbrink.

Concerning Mr. Seidl's career I have already spoken at some length in
these chapters; it will be long before those who knew him intimately
will cease to talk about his personal characteristics, and to tell
anecdotes which illustrate those characteristics. He was one of those
strong personalities that give an interest to all manner of incidents,
even the commonplace. Like Moltke, he could hold his tongue in seven
languages; but it is a fact that all his friends must have observed
that his taciturnity never made his company any the less entertaining.
Moreover, when the mood was on him, he could talk by the hour, and then
his reminiscences of the years spent in the household of Wagner or the
story of his experiences while carrying the gospel of Wagner through
Europe were full of fascination. But the talkative mood seldom came
when a crowd was about him. He was indifferent to the many and fond of
the few; so his circle of intimate friends never grew large in spite of
the multitudes who sought his acquaintance, and though no combination
of circumstances could disturb his self-possession he seemed to be most
contented and comfortable when seated quietly with a single friend. Even
under such circumstances he could sometimes sit for minutes at a time
without speaking himself or expecting a word from his companion, yet
never show a sign of weariness or ennui. In this particular he was
something like Schumann, of whom it is related that once he spent an
hour with a bright young woman to whom he was fondly attached without
speaking a word. Knowing his peculiarities, she too remained silent, and
was rewarded for her self-restraint when he departed by hearing him say
that the hour had been one in which they had perfectly understood each
other. Seidl's hero, Wagner, was the very opposite of Schumann in this
particular, and there is a story which indicates that he must frequently
have been amused at his pupil's reticence. Coming to a rehearsal once he
found that Seidl had taken a cold which had robbed him completely of his
voice, so that he could give no instructions to the musicians. Wagner
laughed immoderately, and with mock seriousness upbraided him for his
bad habit of talking too much, which had now brought him to the pass
where he could not talk at all.

Seidl's epistolary habits were like his conversational--he wrote as
little as he talked; but as the talking fit sometimes seized him, so did
the writing fit. Then he could devote hours to a letter which had the
proportions and sometimes the style of a formal essay. On such occasions
he was so prone to drop into a pulpit manner that I once taxed him with
it and asked an explanation. He paused for a moment and then smilingly
made a sort of half-confession that he had once been destined for the
priesthood. His Scriptural illustrations and "preachy" manner were
relics which had clung to him from that early day. They were the only
academic traces about him, however. It is doubtful if any of his friends
ever heard him discuss a question in the theory or history of music. How
far his exact knowledge in the art went may not be said; but one thing
is certain--his practical knowledge embraced every measure of Wagner's
works.

He seldom spoke of his conservatory days at Leipsic, and then generally
in a spirit of amusement. Complimented once by me on the excellence
of his pianoforte playing, he said: "Oh, I made quite a stir at a
conservatory examination once with Mendelssohn's 'Rondo Capriccioso.'
I was to be a pianist." That he could have been trained into a virtuoso
of merit I can easily believe, for without paying much regard to the
graces of pianoforte playing he yet had a remarkable command of those
tone qualities which are so helpful in expressive playing. He was
always eloquent at the pianoforte, especially when playing excerpts
from the dramas of Wagner. Then his performances were peculiarly full
and orchestral, a fact largely due to the circumstance that he never
confined himself to pianoforte arrangements, but preferred to play from
the orchestral score. That he appreciated the importance of giving
consideration to the peculiarities of instrumental media he illustrated
once when at a private rehearsal of music for one of my Wagnerian
lectures, at which he had intended to play, but had been prevented by
a sudden duty-call at the opera, he quickened the tempo considerably
for the pianist beyond that heard at his own readings of the opera, and
added in explanation: "Nie langweilig werden am Clavier!" ("One must
never be tedious at the pianoforte!")

A few first representations of operas in this period outside of the
Metropolitan Opera House call for brief mention, if not for the sake of
the excellence of the productions, at least for the sake of completeness
in the record. Thus on May 16, 1898, a company of Italian singers, some
of whom had been singing in Mexico, some in South America, some in San
Francisco--the sort of a gathering that, I think, I have described
in these pages as New York's ordinary summer operatic flotsam and
jetsam--gave in Wallack's Theater the first representation of Puccini's
"La Bohème" which New Yorkers heard in their own city. The company was
first announced as the Baggetto Grand Italian Opera Company, which was
probably its official style in Mexico. In New York a hoary device of
juggling with the name of Italy's chief opera house was resorted to, and
it was called the Milan Royal Opera Company, of La Scala. Under either
title the company proved itself capable of a deal of stressful and
distressful singing, though a good impression was made by Giuseppe
Agostini, a youthful tenor, and Luigi Francesconi, a barytone. "La
Bohème" was performed on the opening night of the company's brief season
(it made shipwreck according to rule within four or five days), with the
following distribution of parts:


  Mimi ........................... Linda Montanari
  Musetta ...................... Cleopatra Vincini
  Rodolfo ...................... Giuseppe Agostini
  Marcello ..................... Luigi Francesconi
  Schaunard ..................... Giovanni Scolari
  Alcidero |
  Benoit   |.................... Antonio Fumagalli
  Parpignol .................... Algernon Asplandi


Needless to say that scant justice was done to the play and score of
"La Bohème" by the vagrant singers, and that the good opinion which the
opera won later was shared by few among critics, lay and professional.
After ten years of familiar acquaintance with the work, I like it better
than I did at first, but it has not yet taken a deep and abiding place
in my affections. I see in it, however, an earnest and ingenious effort
to knit music, text, and action closer together than it was the wont of
Italian composers to do before the advent of Wagner set Young Italy in
a ferment. Music plays a very different rôle in it than it does in the
operas of Donizetti, Bellini, and the earlier Verdi. It does not
content itself with occasionally proclaiming the mood of a situation
or the feelings of a conventional stage person. It attempts to supply
life-blood for the entire drama; to flow through its veins without
ceasing; to bear along on its surface all the whims, emotions, follies,
and incidents of the story as fast as they appear; to body them forth
as vividly as words and pantomime can; to color them, vitalize them,
arouse echoes and reflections of them in the hearts of the hearers. But
this it can do only in association with other elements of the drama, and
when these are presented only in part, and then crudely and clumsily,
it must fail of its purpose. And so it happens that Puccini's music
discloses little of that brightness, vivacity, and piquancy which we are
naturally led to expect from it by knowledge of Mürger's story, on which
the opera is based, and acquaintance with the composer's earlier opera,
"Manon Lescaut." One element the two works have in common: absence of
the light touch of humor demanded by the early scenes in both dramas.
However, this is a characteristic not of Puccini alone, but all the
composers in the Young Italian School. They know no way to kill a
gnat dancing in the sunlight except to blow it up with a broadside of
trombones. Puccini's music in "La Bohème" also seems lacking in the
element of characterization, an element which is much more essential in
comedy music than in tragic. Whether they are celebrating the careless
pleasures of a Bohemian carouse or proclaiming the agonies of a
consuming passion, it is all one to his singers. So soon as they drop
the intervallic palaver which points the way of the new style toward
bald melodrama they soar off in a shrieking cantalena, buoyed up by the
unison strings and imperiled by strident brass until there is no relief
except exhaustion. Happy, careless music, such as Mozart or Rossini
might have written for the comedy scenes in "La Bohème," there is next
to none in Puccini's score, and seldom, indeed, does he let his measures
play that palliative part which, as we know from Wagner's "Tristan" and
Verdi's "Traviata,"--to cite extremes,--it is the function of music to
perform when enlisted in the service of the drama of vice and phthisis.

On October 10, 1898, another band of strolling singers, which endured
for a week at the Casino, also performed "La Bohème," and the Castle
Square Opera Company of Henry W. Savage gave it in English at the
American Theater on November 28th of the same year. It did not reach
the Metropolitan Opera House until the season 1900-01.

Stockholders and subscribers of the Metropolitan Opera House having
endured their year of privation, which, as we have seen, was not without
its moments of refreshment, Mr. Grau opened the regular subscription
season 1898-99 on November 29th. Its incidents of special interest
were not many. One was the return of Mme. Sembrich, who made what Mr.
Sutherland Edwards called Rosina's "double entry" in Rossini's "Barber"
on the second night of the season--November 31st. On the third night
Mme. Melba, who sang by the courtesy of Mr. Ellis, appeared in "Roméo
et Juliette." There were first appearances of several artists whose
names became fixed in the prospectuses for some years to come: Mme.
Ernestine Schumann-Heink as Ortrud in "Lohengrin" on January 9, 1899;
Ernest Van Dyck as Tannhäuser on the opening night; Albert Saléza as
Romeo on December 2, 1898; Suzanne Adams as Juliet on January 4, 1899;
Anton Van Rooy as Wotan in "Die Walküre" on December 14, 1898. Mr.
Franz Schalk, the conductor engaged for the German operas in place
of Mr. Seidl, who had taken part with Mr. Grau in the summer season
at Covent Garden and been engaged for the New York season that was
to follow, introduced himself to New York on the same occasion.

Of acquaintances, more or less old, there were in the company
besides Mmes. Sembrich, Eames, Lehmann, Nordica, and Mantelli, Miss
Meisslinger, Miss Pevny, Frances Saville, Mr. Bispham, Mr. Dippel (who
had been a member of the last German company in 1890-91), Pol Plançon,
and Adolph Mühlmann. Newcomers besides those mentioned were Matilde
Brugière, Herman Devries (son of Mme. Rosa Devries, a dramatic singer
of renown half a century before), Henri Albers, barytone, and Lemprière
Pringle, an English singer, who had worked himself up in the ranks of
the Carl Rosa Opera Company. The two brothers, Jean and Édouard de
Reszke, whom New York had come to look upon as indispensable to perfect
enjoyment, were also members of the company. There were two cyclical
performances of "The Ring of the Nibelung" to keep good Wagnerites in
countenance, but Mr. Grau made his popular hit by a repetition of the
device which had been successful before with "Faust"--he gave "Les
Huguenots" with an "ideal cast." The device was simple, but it served.
Meyerbeer's opera had been given three times, when on February 20th he
announced it with Mme. Sembrich in the cast, and an all-'round advance
on prices on the basis of $7, instead of $5, for orchestra chairs.

Only one novelty was produced in the season. This was Signor
Mancinelli's "Ero e Leandro," which had its first American performance
on March 10, 1899, with the composer in the conductor's chair. The
principal singers were Mme. Eames (Hero), Saléza (Leander), and Plançon
(Ariofarno). Mme. Schumann-Heink was set down to sing the prologue, but
illness prevented at the first representation, and the music was sung
by Mme. Mantelli. The opera had a pretty success and back of it was an
interesting history. Boito wrote the libretto for himself, but put it
aside when the subject of "Mefistofele" took possession of his mind.
Two of the numbers, which he had already composed, found their way into
the score of the later opera, one of them being the beautiful duet,
"Lontano, lontano, lontano," in the classical scene. Boito turned the
book over to Bottesini, who composed it, but failed to make a success
of it. Signor Mancinelli then took the libretto in hand and, having a
commission from the Norwich (England) festival of 1896 for a choral
work, he composed it and handed it in to be sung as a cantata. It
was sung at the festival. The next year it received its first stage
performance at Madrid and by way of Turin and Venice reached Covent
Garden, London, where it was produced on July 15, 1898.

What a simple tale it is that has so twined itself around the hearts of
mankind that it has lived in classic story for ages and gotten into the
folk-tales of more than one European people! Hero is a priestess of
Aphrodite, who lives at Sestos, on the Thracian coast; Leander, a youth,
whose home is at Abydos, on the Asiatic shore, beyond the Hellespont.
The pair meet at a festival of Venus and Adonis and fall in love with
each other at sight. The maiden's parents are unwilling that she shall
cease her sacred functions to become a wife, and Leander swims the
strait every night, while Hero holds a torch at the window to direct him
to her side. One night there arises a tempest and Leander is drowned,
and his body cast up at the foot of the tower. Then Hero throws herself
upon the jagged rocks beside him, and the lovers are united in death.

  "That tale is old, but love anew
   May nerve young hearts to prove as true,"

sang Byron after he had put discrediting doubts to shame by swimming the
Hellespont himself and catching an ague for his pains. A simple tale,
yet I have included more than is ordinarily found in the recital in
order to show how Boito utilized and added to it. A simple tale, but
with what lovely fervor have the poets sung it over and over again!
Byron could smile at his own Quixotic feat in the lines which he wrote
six days after its accomplishment, but in "The Bride of Abydos" he did
not attempt to conceal the affection which he felt for the tale, or his
pride in the fact that Helle's buoyant wave had borne his limbs as well
as Leander's; and who can without emotion call up Keats's picture of

  "Young Leander, toiling to his death,"

pursing his weary lips for Hero's cheek and smiling against her smiles
until he sinks, and

  "Up bubbles all his amorous breath"?

Right nobly, too, did Schiller hymn the lovers and two centuries of
opera-writers--Italian, French, German, English, and Polish--have
sought to weave their pitiful story into lyric dramas.

Boito, as I have said, wrote the book of "Ero e Leandro" for himself,
but eventually gave it to others. I can only speculate as to the cause
of Boito's abandonment of his intellectual child. Probably he concluded
that it lacked the dramatic elements which the composers of the last few
decades, paying tribute, willingly or unwillingly, to Wagner's genius,
have felt to be necessary to the success of a lyric drama. But dramatic
action need not always be summed up in movement. Wagner's greatest
tragedy has scarcely more external incident than "Ero e Leandro," and,
indeed, is like this opera, in that the interest in each of its three
acts centers in a meeting of the lovers and their publication of the
play enacting on the stage of their hearts. But it takes music like
Wagner's, music surcharged with passion, to body forth the growth of
the dramatic personages and make us blind to paucity of incident. When
that cannot be had, then pictures and functions of all kinds, solemn
and festive, must be relied on to hold the interest. Boito built up
such pictures and grouped such functions about his simple tale with a
great deal of ingenuity. The eye is charmed at once with his classic
landscapes in the first act--the cypresses, myrtles, and blooming
oleanders, the temple portico, the statues and altar with its votive
offerings, the kneeling chorus of priestesses and sailors, Hero with her
ravishing robes (think of Mme. Eames in the part), the gallant Leander
and the stately archon Ariofarno. It is the scene of the lovers' meeting
at the festival, and to heighten its interest and provide something else
than hymns and rites, Boito has turned Leander into a victor in the
Aphrodisian games, both as swordsman and cytharist. Hero crowns him
with laurel, and he sings two odes, which Boito cleverly borrows from
Anacreon, the first without, the second with implied, but not expressed
credit. The odes are the most familiar of Anacreon's odes, however, and
no one could think of moral obliquity in connection with Boito's use of
them. They are the address to the lyre which the poet wishes to attune
to heroic measures, but which answers only in accents of love; and the
tale of how the poet took Eros, shivering, out of the cold night and
received a heart wound in return. Charmingly, indeed, do the odes fit
into the dramatic scheme and offer two set pieces as a contrast to the
solemn pronouncements of the archon and the excessive hymning of the
chorus.

The development of the plot is now begun. Boito has created Ariofarno
to fill the place of the wicked nun of the German folk-tales. He is
obsessed with guilty love for Hero and seeks to divert her service from
the celestial Venus to the earthly. She scorns his offers of love, and
he leaves her with threats of vengeance. Filled with forebodings, she
seeks an omen in the voice of a sea shell which had been placed on
the altar of Aphrodite, the Sea-born. The words are charming, and the
occasion prettily prepared for a vocal show piece. She invokes the shell
as the cradle of Aphrodite, hears in its murmurs the song of the sea
nymphs, the humming of bees amid the oleander's aeolian whispers, and
the soft confessions of a mermaid. Then the sounds grow wild, and
stimulate her fancy to a picture of rushing waters, flying foam, and
wrathful surge--the vision which is realized in the last act. Here the
suggestion for musical delineation is obvious, and Signor Mancinelli
has utilized it in such a manner as to make his song (which, for
reasons that I shall not pursue, awakened memories of the ballatella
in "Pagliacci") the first really triumphant thing in the opera. The
rest of the act is chiefly devoted to a love duet, at the close of
which Hero, kneeling before the statue of the god, invokes Apollo to
admonish her of her fate. Ariofarno, in concealment, answers for the
god: "Death!"

In the second act, which plays in the part of the temple of Aphrodite
devoted to the mysteries, Ariofarno carries out his plan of vengeance
against Hero. Professing to have received an oracular command to that
effect, he restores a service in an ancient town by the sea and to it
consecrates Hero, who is powerless to resist his will. The duty of the
priestess is to give warning of approaching storms, so that by priestly
rites the angry waters may be placated. While pronouncing her sentence
he, in an aside, offers to save her if she will accept his love. Again
he is spurned, and when he utters the words which condemn her to the
vigil Leander seeks to attack him. For this he is seized and banished
to the Asian shore. Hero takes the oath, the dancers rush in and begin
a bacchanalian, or Aphrodisian, orgy, while the chorus sings the "Io
paean." Here Signor Mancinelli has really written with a pen of fire.
The music is tumultuously exciting, though built on the learned forms,
and there is the happiest union of purpose and achievement. In the last
act, somewhat clumsily set and unnecessarily ambitious in its strivings
for spectacular realism, the dénoument is reached. Songs of sailors come
up from the sea; Hero sings her love and longing and lights her lover to
his fate. Their love duet is interrupted by the bursting of the tempest,
which had come upon them without being observed. The warning trumpet
which she should have sounded is heard from the vaults below, and the
chant of the approaching priests. Leander throws himself into the sea;
the archon upbraids Hero for neglect of duty and discovers its cause.
Her punishment, death, will be his vengeance, but the lifeless body of
Leander is hurled upon the rocks, and comes into view when a thunderbolt
tears away a portion of the tower wall. Hero sinks dead to the ground;
the archon rages at the escape of his victim, and an invisible choir
sings of a reunion of the lovers in death.

As a composer Signor Mancinelli is an eclectic. It would not be easy
to specify any particular master as a model. He admires Wagner and has
proper appreciation of the dramatic values, the continuity of idea,
and the effect of development which flow from the recurrent use of
significant phrases; but his manner is not at all that of the later
Wagner whose influence, if found at all, must be sought in a few
harmonic progressions and in a belief in the potency of orchestral
color. Nearer to him than the master poet-musician are Verdi,
Ponchielli, Boito, and the eager spirits of Young Italy. His music is
as free as the later Verdi's from the shackles of set forms, but he is,
nevertheless, at his best when the book permits an extended piece of
lyric writing. This being so, it is disappointing that he has done so
little that is good in the opening scene where the book invited him to
consult the wants of the Norwich festival and to write in the cantata
style. In the first act, however, there is little to praise outside of
the settings of the two Anacreonic odes and the song to the shell. There
is much striving, but a paucity of plastic ideas. What might have been
an unconstrained lyrical outpouring, the prologue, mere thundering in
the index, because of the composer's mistaken impression that it ought
to be tragic, and in the "Ercles vein." When the rites begin and a
swelling paean is expected, there is much making of musical faces, but
no real beginning. Matters improve in the second act, where the part of
Ariofarno becomes dramatically puissant. Here there are noble passages
and the duet has moments of passionate intensity; but all these things
pale their ineffectual fires before the "Io paean," which is as thrilling
and well applied as anything that I can recall in the operas of the
decade which preceded "Ero e Leandro."



CHAPTER XX

NEW SINGERS AND OPERAS


There now remained four years of Mr. Grau's administration at the
Metropolitan Opera House. They were years of great activity, during
which the fortunes of the manager and the institution rose steadily. Mr.
Grau was no more of a sentimentalist in art than Mr. Abbey had been. He
was quiet, undemonstrative, alert, and wholly willing to let the public
dictate the course of the establishment. Outwardly he was always calm,
urbane, neither communicative nor secretive. I sat behind him during all
the years of his divided and undivided directorship, and never failed
of a pleasant greeting, no matter what the expression of The Tribune
had been on the morning of the day. He accepted congratulations with a
"Thank you!" which had cordiality in its timbre, and let the subject
fall at once. He met expressions of condolence in the same unperturbed
and uneffusive manner. Only once in all the years during which we sat
neighbors can I recall that he volunteered a remark indicative of
either satisfaction or disappointment. It was on the night of the first
performance of Reyer's "Salammbô," in the season 1900-01. He appeared in
his place early and extended his gloved hand in his ordinary manner, but
this time his eyes took a survey of the audience-room the while. Then,
still half turned, he remarked without a touch of feeling in the tone of
his voice: "Encouraging, isn't it? Some say the public want novelties."
He had expended a large sum on the production, and the public had met
him with half a house.

If the public cared little for new things, it may occasionally have
disturbed the solitary musings of Mr. Grau, but it only emphasized his
public exhibitions of willingness to give the people the old things
which they liked. A strongly popular favorite had a safe hold on a long
tenure of service under him. Changes there had to be from year to year,
but so long as the public manifested a desire to listen to a high-class
singer, and there were no untoward circumstances to interfere, that
singer was re-engaged. Hence there came to be at the Metropolitan in the
higher ranks something like the theatrical stock companies of an earlier
generation. New singers there had to be, from time to time, but year
after year (the serious interruption is not yet) the subscribers were
assured before one season was ended that in the next they would still
be privileged to hear Mmes. Sembrich, Eames, Nordica, Schumann-Heink,
Ternina, Homer, and (until he retired from his active stage career) Jean
de Reszke, and Messrs. Édouard de Reszke, Van Dyck, Dippel, Scotti,
Plançon, Journet, Campanari, Mühlmann, Bispham, and Albert Reiss. The
presence of these artists of the first rank naturally determined the
character of the repertory, which was also cut to a pattern, since the
public always wanted to hear the artists whom they admired in the rôles
in which they were most admirable. The German Contingent made the
Wagnerian list inevitable, just as Mme. Sembrich made inevitable the
operas of the florid Italian school, and Mme. Eames the two favorite
operas of Gounod. These circumstances simplify the presentation of the
significant incidents of the remainder of this history. I have only
to take account of the entrance of a few stars into the Metropolitan
system, and the first production of a few operas--some of which came
only speedily to depart, others of which have remained in the
establishment's repertory.

First, then, as to the American débuts. Newcomers of the first rank
there were none among the ladies in the season 1899-1900: the tenor,
Alvarez, effected his entrance on the Metropolitan stage on the opening
night of the season, December 18th, in Gounod's "Roméo et Juliette";
Signor Scotti, barytone, who has remained a prime favorite ever since,
in "Don Giovanni," on December 27th; Fritz Friedrichs, whose success
in New York was inconsiderable compared with that which he had won in
Bayreuth in his famous character of Beckmesser in "Die Meistersinger,"
on January 24, 1900. The subscription season of fifteen weeks consisted,
with all the extra performances, of 104 performances. It was full of
disappointments because of the illness of singers, and many performances
were slipshod because of evils that have remained with the institution,
in spite of many protests on the part of press and public, and promises
of reform on the part of the management. Several times the company was
divided so that performances might be given simultaneously in New York
and Philadelphia. Even when this was not done, the efficiency of the
forces was sapped by wearisome midnight journeys to and from the latter
city, which prevented adequate rehearsals. Nevertheless, there was a
supplemental season of two weeks. Herr Hofrath Ernst von Schuch,
director of the opera at Dresden, was a visitor, and conducted two
performances of "Lohengrin" and four concerts. No new operas were
produced.

Before the regular subscription season, 1900-01, the Metropolitan Opera
House was the scene of an ambitious effort to habilitate opera in
English, which was made by Henry W. Savage in co-operation with Maurice
Grau. Mr. Savage had some years before established his Castle Square
Opera Company, organized in Boston, in the American Theater. The
repertory of the company was composed largely of operettas at first,
but gradually operas of large dimensions and serious import were added.
After the season 1899-1900 he entered into an arrangement with Grau to
occupy the Metropolitan Opera House from October 1 to December 15, 1900,
and under the title Metropolitan English Grand Opera Company the two
managers issued a prospectus which contained the names of nearly all the
singers then known favorably to the English opera stage in America. Many
of them had also sung in the Carl Rosa Opera Company, of England, and
there was a better command of routine in the organization than had
been known in English performances thitherto. The repertory was quite
as pretentious as that of the company of foreign artists regularly
domiciled at the Metropolitan, save that it did not include the later
dramas of Wagner. Instead, however, it comprised some light operas or
operettas, and some specifically English works. The promises of the
prospectus were fulfilled to the letter in respect both of singers and
operas, and though the enterprise proved to be less successful than had
been those of Mr. Savage in previous years (probably because of the air
of aristocracy which it wore, without being able to assume the social
importance which belonged only to the foreign exotic), it is deserving
of extended record. Some of the names of the singers stand as
prominently in the English record as in the American, and unexpected
laurels have been wound round the brows of some of them in still more
foreign fields. In the list were Ingeborg Ballstrom, Grace Van
Studdiford, Fanchon Thompson, Rita Elandi, Mae Cressy, Grace Golden,
Josephine Ludwig, Zélie de Lussan, Elsa Marny, Louise Meisslinger,
Frieda Stender, Phoebe Strakosch, Minnie Tracey, Barron Berthald, F. J.
Boyle, Philip Brozel, Forrest Carr, Lloyd d'Aubigne, Harry Davies, Harry
Hamlin, Homer Lind, William Mertens, Chauncey Moore, Winifred Goff,
William Paull, Lemprière Pringle, William Pruette, Francis Rogers,
Joseph F. Sheehan, Leslie Walker, William F. Wegener, and Clarence
Whitehill. The conductors were A. Seppilli and Richard Eckhold. The
operas performed were "Faust," "Tannhäuser," "Mignon," "Carmen,"
"Trovatore," "Lohengrin," "The Bohemian Girl," "Traviata," "Romeo and
Juliet," "Cavalleria Rusticana," "Pagliacci," "Martha," "The Mikado,"
and Goring Thomas's "Esmeralda." This last opera, a novelty in
America, was brought forward on November 19, 1900, with the following
distribution of parts: Esmeralda, Grace Golden; Phoebus, Philip
Brozel; Claude Frollo, Lemprière Pringle; Quasimodo, William Paull;
Fleur-de-Lys, Grace Van Studdiford; Marquis de Chereuse, Leslie Walker;
Gringoire, Harry Davies; Clopin, F. J. Boyle.

Before taking up the history of the Metropolitan Opera House, record may
be made of the production of another novelty earlier in the year, also
by Mr. Savage's singers, but under the more democratic conditions which
prevailed at the American Theater. This was Spinelli's "A basso Porto,"
which was given for the first time by the Castle Square Company on
January 22, 1900.

Mr. Grau began the campaign of 1900-01 on the Pacific Coast, his first
performance being in Los Angeles on November 9th. Thence he went to
San Francisco, Denver, Kansas City, Lincoln, and Minneapolis, reaching
New York in time to open the subscription season on December 18th. The
season endured fifteen weeks, within which time eighty-two performances
were given. It was an eventful period. No fewer than eight singers
who achieved significance in the annals of the house effected their
entrances on the New York stage. Mme. Louise Homer made her début in
"Aïda" on December 22d; Mlle. Lucienne Bréval, in "Le Cid," on January
16th; Miss Marguarite Macintyre, in "Mefistofele," on January 14th;
Fritzi Scheff, in "Fidelio," on December 29th; Charles Gilibert, on the
opening night, in "Roméo et Juliette"; Imbart de la Tour, in "Aïda," on
December 22d; Robert Blass, in "Tannhäuser," on December 24th; Marcel
Journet, in "Aïda," on December 22d. The first of the operas given was
"La Bohème," but, as I have already explained, it was no novelty in
New York, having been performed by two Italian opera companies and in
an English version three years before. Novelties in every sense were
Puccini's "Tosca" and Reyer's "Salammbô." The former had its first
representation (it was also its first representation in America) on
February 4, 1901. Signor Mancinelli conducted, and the parts were
distributed as follows: Floria Tosca, Ternina; Cavaradossi, Cremonini;
Angelotti, Dufriche; Il Sacristano, Gilibert; Spoletta, Bars; Sciarrone,
Viviani; Un Carceriere, Cernusco; Scarpia, Scotti.

The restraining influence of music has prevented the lyric drama from
acquiring the variety and scope of subject material adopted by the
spoken drama. For nearly two hundred years after its invention classic
legend and ancient history provided the stories which the opera composer
laid under tribute. Very properly dramatic song occupied itself at the
outset with a celebration of that fabled singer at the sound of whose
voice "rivers forgot to run and winds to blow." In the story of Orpheus
and Eurydice, as told in what is set down in history as the first opera,
music and love were mated; and they have not yet been divorced, though
both have undergone many and great changes of character. Love--gentle,
constant, chivalric, tried, and triumphant--has been hymned amid
pictures suggested by a millennium of human happenings, and its
expression has passed through all the phases that the development of
the most direct vehicle of emotional utterance could place at its
service--from the melodramatic strivings of the amateurs who stumbled
upon opera in their effort to reanimate the Greek drama to the glowing
scores of Richard Wagner, in which high art and profound science are
joined in a product as worthy of admiration as any other product of the
intellect fired by inspiration. In the progress from Peri to Wagner,
however, despite many daring and dubious adventures in new territories,
there has yet been an avoidance of material in itself ugly and
repulsive. We have been asked to contemplate the libertinism of Don
Juan, but at its worst it has served only as a foil to the virtue of
his victims, which in the end emerged triumphant. We have seen exposed
the monstrous double nature of Rigoletto, but only that the pathos of
paternal love should thereby be thrown into brighter relief. We have
seen convention sanctified by nature and approved by communal experience
set at naught by Wagner's treatment of mythological tales of unspeakable
antiquity, but only that the tragedy of human existence in its puissant
types might be kept before the world's consciousness.

The relationship occupied by music to the drama, that is to the words,
the pantomime, the pictures and the play, in "Tosca" is that which it
occupies in melodrama--using the term in its original and correct
sense--with the single difference that the dialogue which is illustrated
and mildly expounded by the music, and which the instruments seek, more
or less vainly, to accentuate, emphasize, and intensify, is not uttered
in the speaking, but the singing voice. Even this difference, however,
disappears at some of the climacteric moments, and the actors resort
to the elocutionary devices which belong to the spoken drama, and,
foregoing pitch and rhythm, shout or whisper or hiss out the words which
tell of the feelings by which they are swayed. Thus the first principle
of music, which is melody, in Wagner as much as it was in Cimarosa or
Mozart, is sacrificed. Quite as significant as the degradation of music
thus illustrated is the degradation of the drama which has brought it
about. There has always been a restrictive and purifying potency in
melody. It has that which has turned our souls to sympathy with the
apotheosis of vice and pulmonary tuberculosis in Verdi's "Traviata,"
which has made the music of the second act and the finale of "Tristan
und Isolde" the most powerful plea that can be made for Wagner's guilty
lovers. Nowhere else is the ennobling and purifying capacity of music
demonstrated as in the death song of Isolde. Without such palliation the
vileness, the horror, the hideousness of a play like "Tosca" is more
unpardonable in an operatic form than in the original. Its lust and
cruelty are presented in their nakedness. There is little or no time to
reflect upon the workings of perverted minds, to make psychological or
physiological studies, to watch the accumulation of causes and their
gradual development of effects, except in the moments, so plentiful
in Puccini's operas, in which music becomes a hindrance and an
impertinence. Dramatic action cannot be promoted by music. The province
of the art is to develop and fix a mood or celebrate a deed. Tosca can
sing of her love, her jealousy, her hate, her hope; she cannot sing her
frantic efforts to escape the lustful arms of Scarpia; she cannot sing
his murder (though she might have chanted its gory glory, if so she held
it, after the fact); nor can she sing her own destruction. In fact,
there is next to nothing in Sardou's drama fit for operatic song, either
in the sense that prevailed at the time of Paisiello or prevails in the
time of Wagner--which is now. In the opera a really fit incident for
the lyric drama borrowed from Sardou is expanded adroitly into a scene
which is both musically and dramatically effective. It is the scene in
which the cantata is sung in the Queen's apartments while Scarpia is
questioning Cavaradossi in his own. Here the set musical composition is
a background for the dramatic dialogue. Parallel scenes provide most of
the opportunities which Puccini has embraced for writing in what may
be called a sustained effort outside of the scenes between Tosca and
her lover in the first act. Thus the first finale has a pompous church
office as its background, with tolling of bells, the booming of cannon,
the pealing of a great organ, through all of which surges a stream of
orchestral melody bearing the declamatory shrieks of Scarpia. All of
this is purely irrelevant and external, and the device is cheap, but
it serves. Similar in musical purpose, but at the opposite end of the
color scheme, is the opening of the third act. The stage picture is
one of great beauty. The foreground shows the platform of the Castle
of St. Angelo. St. Peter's Cathedral and the Vatican are visible in the
background. It is urban Rome alone that is visible, but there are sounds
from the Campagna--the tinkling of sheep bells, the song of a shepherd
lad mingling with a strangely languorous and fragmentary orchestral
song. Then there arises from the distance the sound of church bells,
large and small, while the orchestral song goes on. It is all
mood-music, conceived with no necessary relationship to the drama, but
providing an atmosphere which is really refreshing after the sup of
horrors provided by the preceding act. Therefore, it must be accepted
gratefully like the dance tune over which Scarpia and his associates
declaim before the dreadful business of the second act begins, and the
piteous appeal to the Virgin which Tosca makes before she conceives
the idea of the butchery which she perpetrates a few minutes later.

And the melodramatic music upon which Sardou's play floats,--what is
it like? Much of it like shreds and patches of many things with which
the operatic stage has long been familiar. There are efforts at
characterization by means of melodic, harmonic, and rhythmical symbols,
of which the most striking, and least original, is a succession of
chords which serves as an introduction to the first scene. This and
much else came out of Wagner's workshop, and, like all else of the same
origin in the score, is impotent because there is no trace of Wagner's
logical mind, either in the choice of material or its development.
Phrases of real pith and moment are mixed with phrases of indescribable
balderdash, yet these phrases recur with painful reiteration and with
all the color tints which Puccini is able to scrape from a marvelously
varied and garish orchestral palette. The most remarkable feature, the
feature which shows the composer's constructive talent in its brightest
aspect, is the fluency of it all. Even when reduced to the extremity
of a tremolo of empty fifths on the strings pianissimo, or a single
sustained tone, Puccini still manages to cling to a thread of his
melodramatic fabric and the mind does not quite let go of his musical
intentions.

Reyer's "Salammbô" was brought forward for the first time on March 20,
1901, with the following cast: Salammbô, Lucienne Bréval; Taanach,
Miss Carrie Bridewell; Matho, Albert Saléza; Shahabarim, Mr. Salignac;
Narr-Havas, Mr. Journet; Spendius, Mr. Sizes; Giscon, Mr. Gilibert;
Authorite, Mr. Dufriche; Hamilcar, Mr. Scotti. Signor Mancinelli
conducted. The opera received a brilliant representation. Mr. Grau
had piled up the stage adornments with a lavish hand, and, though it
disappeared from the Metropolitan stage after two performances, material
traces remained for years in the settings of other spectacular operas.
The scenes were all reproductions of the Paris models and exquisitely
painted; the costumes were gorgeous to a degree. Mlle. Bréval's beauty
(Semitic, as became the character) shone radiant in the part of the
heroine, and she sang and acted with an intensity that in its supreme
moments was positively uplifting. Flaubert's brilliant novel supplied
the material out of which "Salammbô" was constructed. The romance has a
large historical incident for a background, namely, the suppression of
a mutiny among the mercenaries of the Carthaginians in the first Punic
war. Running through the gorgeous tissue which the French novelist wove
about this incident is the thread of story which Camille du Locle drew
out for Reyer's use--the story of the rape of the sacred veil of Tanit
by the leader of the revolting mercenaries, his love for Salammbô,
daughter of the Carthaginian general; her recovery of the veil, with its
consequence of disaster to her lover, and the pitiful death of both at
their own hands. The authors of the opera were adepts in the field of
what might be called musical spectacle. M. du Locle had a hand in both
of the operas written for Paris, "Les Vêpres Sicilienne," and "Don
Carlos." Under the eyes of Verdi at Sant' Agata he wrote the prose
scenario of "Aïda," which Ghislanzoni turned into Italian verse for the
composer. If a prodigal and sumptuous heaping up of stage adornments
could make the success of an opera, "Salammbô" would have been one of
the greatest triumphs of the French lyric stage; but pompous pictures
are not the be-all and end-all of opera, even in Paris, and the
fortunate co-operation of du Locle and Verdi was not repeated in the
collaboration of du Locle and Reyer.

There are, however, merits in "Salammbô" which entitle it to a better
fate than befell it in New York. The people in the story have marked
dramatic physiognomies; indeed, had M. Reyer's skill in characterization
been half so great as M. Flaubert's, and M. du Locle's, there would have
been much to praise in the work. The characters are admirably drawn, and
show as much individuality in their intellectual and moral traits as
they do in their physical--the crafty Greek, the treacherous Numidian,
the energetic and manly Carthaginian, the storm-tossed heroine, and the
lovelorn Lybian are good dramatic types, even if stamped with stage
conventions. A genius in musical characterization, like Mozart, Wagner
or Verdi, would have found means for making their utterances as
picturesque as their presences; but this was beyond the powers of Reyer.
His tastes are modern, his aims far above the frivolity which afflicts
some of his colleagues, but his abilities do not keep pace with his
ambition. His models are easily found; he clasps hands most warmly with
Berlioz, and has some of the Frenchman's peculiarly Gallic reverence
for Spontini and Gluck. There are indications in the score that "Les
Troyens" occupied much of his attention while he was engaged upon it,
and I fancy that that ambitiously planned, but star-crossed work, was
also familiar to the librettist. This need not excite special wonder,
for the association of ideas was close enough. The second part of
Berlioz's tragedy is also Carthaginian, and ends with Dido's prophetic
vision of the hero who should avenge her wrongs on Rome. That Reyer also
venerates Wagner but shows itself more in the use of the German master's
harmonic progressions than in the adoption of his methods. He adopts
the device of reiterated phrases, but his purpose in doing so I could
not discover. Two short melodies, which are the themes of his brief
instrumental introduction, are brought forward again and again, but fail
to disclose their relationship to any of the agencies or elements in
the story, and without a sign of that organic development which is the
distinguishing characteristic of Wagner's creative style. Reyer's
orchestration is discreet and free from all taint of that instrumental
Volapük which is so marked in the Young Italian school. His subject
invites the use of Oriental intervals, and he employs them with the
discretion which is noticeable in "Aïda," but not with Verdi's
effectiveness. Some of his devices are admirable, others simply bizarre.
As a whole the music is monotonous in character and color, but it is
dignified and earnest, and for this it deserves praise.

Mme. Sembrich had absented herself from Mr. Grau's company in the season
1900-01 in order to make a tour of the country with a small opera
company of her own; she returned to the Metropolitan fold in the next
season, however, and has not been errant since. The newcomers in 1901-02
were de Marchi, the tenor, who sang first in "Aïda" on January 17, 1902;
Albert Reiss, a German tenor and specialist in Wagner's Mime, and
Tavecchia, bass. The last-named made no deep impression, and faded
out of view, but Mr. Reiss has been a strong prop of the Wagnerian
performances ever since, and has proved himself an exceedingly useful
artist in many respects. Mr. Walter Damrosch joined Mr. Grau's forces as
conductor of the German operas; with him were associated Signor Sepilli
and M. Flon. The record of the subscription season embraced thirty-three
subscription evenings, eleven subscription matinées, the same number of
popular priced performances on Saturday nights, nine extra performances,
including four afternoons devoted to "The Ring of the Nibelung," and a
gala performance in honor of Prince Henry of Prussia. The additions to
the institution's repertory consisted of "Messaline," by Isidore de
Lara, and "Manru," by Ignace Jan Paderewski. Concerning these novelties
I shall have a word to say presently; the importance of the German
prince's visit, from a social point of view, asks that it receive
precedence in the narrative of the season's doings. This right royal
incident took place on the evening of February 25, 1902. The opera house
never looked so beautiful before, nor has it looked so beautiful since,
as when it was garbed to welcome the nation's guest, a brother of
the German Emperor. The material most used in adorning the house was
Southern smilax, which all but hid all that is ordinarily seen of the
auditorium and the corridors. All the box and balcony fronts were
covered with it, and strings of it hung at the sides of the proscenium
opening from the top of the opening to the stage. These strips of green
foliage were thickly studded with white and green electric lights. The
same scheme was carried out above the stage opening, where long garlands
of smilax, gleaming with tiny white and green lamps, were hung in
festoons, while the apex was formed by a standard of American and German
flags and shields. On the balcony and box fronts the screens of smilax
were relieved with frequent bunches of azaleas and marguerites, and with
stars of white lamps shining through the green. The royal box was formed
by removing the partitions separating five boxes in the middle of the
lower tier. The front was decorated with American beauty roses, in
addition to the smilax. The interior was hung with crimson velvet, and
across its front was a canopy of crimson velvet and white satin. Behind
the royal box the corridor on which it opened was cut off from the other
boxes by hangings of tapestry. One of the most beautiful effects of all
was made by the ceiling, where the chandeliers shone through a network
of strings of smilax and white and green electric lights radiating
from the center like the strands of a cobweb. As may be guessed,
the brilliancy of the audience was in harmony with that of the
audience-room. The price of tickets for the stalls on the main floor
was thirty dollars, and the chairs in the other parts of the room cost
proportionately. Persons who could pay such sums to witness the function
could also afford to dress well, and at no public affair in my time has
New York seen such a display of gowns and jewels. The musical program
was elaborate, but that was the least important feature of the evening.
Mr. Grau had determined to disclose the entire strength of his company,
and to that end, settling the order in some diplomatic manner, into the
secret of which he let neither reporter nor public, he made a program
according to which Mesdames Gadski and Schumann-Heink and Messrs.
Dippel, Bispham, Mühlmann, and Édouard de Reszke were to perform the
first act of "Lohengrin," Mesdames Calvé, Marilly, and Bridewell and
Messrs. Alvarez, Declery, Gilibert, Reiss, and Scotti the second act of
"Carmen"; Mesdames Eames and Homer and Messrs. Campanari, Journet, and
De Marchi the third act of "Aïda," Mme. Ternina and Messrs. Van Dyck,
Blass, Bars, Reiss, Mühlmann, Viviani, and Van Rooy the second act of
"Tannhäuser," Mesdames Sembrich and Van Cauteren, and Messrs. Vanni,
Bars, Dufriche, Gilibert, and Salignac the first act of "La Traviata,"
and Mlle. Bréval and Mr. Alvarez the first scene from the fourth act of
"Le Cid." It was a generous rather than a dainty dish to set before a
king's brother, but it served fully to disclose the wealth of resource
in New York's chief operatic institution, and the performances took
on a heightened brilliancy from the beautiful appearance of the
audience-room, and the spirit of joyous excitement which animated the
audience. Up to the last moment no one familiar with the interior
workings of Mr. Grau's harmonious, yet unruly empire, felt certain
that the program would be carried out as planned; and it was not. It
was very late when the curtain of smilax and light fell on the act
of "Tannhäuser," and, the prince having left the house long before,
followed by a large portion of the audience, who had come to see
royalty, not to hear regal singers, Mme. Sembrich put down her little
foot and refused to sing. Otherwise everything went off according to
program.

"Messaline" was produced at the Metropolitan Opera House on January 22,
1902. The list of those who took part in its performance reads thus:


  Messaline ...................................... Mme. Calvé
  Tyndaris ..................................... Miss Marilly
  La Citharode ............................ Miss Van Cauteren
  Tsilla ............................... Miss Juliette Roslyn
  Leoconce .............................. Miss Helen Mapleson
  Helion ........................................ Mr. Alvarez
  Myrtille |
  Olympias | .................................... Mr. Journet
  Myrrho ....................................... Mr. Gilibert
  Gallus ........................................ Mr. Declery
  Un Rameur de Galère .......................... Mr. Dufriche
  Un Mime Alexandrin ............................ Mr. Viviani
  Un Poète d'Atellanes ......................... Mr. Giaccone
  Le Loeno ........................................ Mr. Vanni
  Un Marchand d'Eau ............................. Mr. Maestri
  L'Edile ........................................ Mr. Judels
  Harés .......................................... Mr. Scotti
                   Conductor, M. Flon

When Mr. Grau produced "Salammbô" it was possible for the writers in the
newspapers to give a detailed account of the purport and progress of the
story, and also an account of its panoramic furniture without offending
decency. This is scarcely possible in the present instance. "Salammbô"
was written many years ago, before the conviction had dawned upon the
minds of opera makers that thugs and thieves, punks and paillards, were
proper persons to present as publishers of operatic themes. Since then
there has grown up in Italy a notion that the mud of the slums is
ennobling material for celebration by the most ethereal of the arts,
and in France that lust and lubricity are lofty inspirations for
dramatic song. Gautier's delectable account of one of Cleopatra's
nights has furnished forth an opera book; the mysteries of Astarte
have been hymned, and Phryne, Thaïs, and Messalina have been held up
to the admiring views of the Parisians clothed in more or less gorgeous
sound--and little else. There is no parallel between this movement on
the part of opera and the contemporary tendency of the spoken drama.
Those diligent regenerators of society, Ibsen, Pinero & Co., affect
a moral purpose to conceal an obvious aim from the simpleminded; the
French makers of opera are franker, for they seek to glorify impudicity
in the persons of its greatest historical representatives by lavishing
upon the subject the most gorgeous pictures, the most ingenious
theatrical contrivances, and the most sensuous music at their command.
"Messaline" is a case in point. This work has Armand Sylvestre and
Eugène Morand, two brilliant Frenchmen in their way, for the authors of
its book, and Isidore de Lara, at the time chief of the drawing-room
musicians of London, as its composer. The story of the opera is a sort
of variant of "Carmen" set in an antique key, its heroine being an
historic Roman empress instead of a gipsy cigarette girl. But any one
who shall take the trouble to glance at the sixth satire of Juvenal will
recognize that all its motives were drawn from that source. The likeness
to "Carmen" is accidental, after all, though Bizet's opera was not
without influence upon the work of librettists and composer. Like
Carmen, Messalina, merely to gratify her lust, draws an honest-minded
and supposedly pure man into her toils, and then throws him over for
the next man she meets who is handsomer and lustier. In Bizet's opera
the men are the soldier Don José, and the bullfighter, Escamillo; in
De Lara's Harés, a singer, and Helion, a gladiator. Both operas end with
the arena as a background--the Plaza de Toros in Seville, on the one
hand, the Roman Circus, on the other. But here the resemblances end
unless we pursue the traces of Bizet's music into De Lara's score, and
this I shall not do, out of respect for the most brilliant composer that
France has produced since Berlioz. Echeon, the harper; Glaphyrus or
Ambrosius, the flute players, who are castigated in Juvenal's diatribe
against marriage, are the prototypes of Messaline's first victim, as
also is Pollio, whom a lady of lofty rank so loved that she kept for her
kisses the plectrum with which he had strummed his lyre. That lyre she
had incrusted with jewels, and for the sake of him who twanged it she
had not hesitated to veil her face before the altar of Janus, and speak
the mystic formula after the officiating priest. ("What more could she
do were her husband sick?" asks Juvenal; "what if the physicians had
despaired of her infant son?") As for Helion, his prototype is the
gladiator Sergius, save that we are permitted to find him comely to look
upon, and not as one galled by his helmet, having a huge wen between his
nostrils and "acrid rheum forever trickling from his eye."

So, too, in the exposition of Messalina's character the librettist,
while constructing an entirely fanciful tale, and omitting all reference
to the most notorious of her amours (the one which at the last wrung
the decree of her death from the generally complacent Claudius),
nevertheless managed to indicate Juvenal's description in the song which
Harés sings against her, a recital by Myrrho, a scene in the slums,
which she visits in disguise, and where she is rescued from a gang of
roisterers by Helion, and in the scene of her wooing of the gladiator.
(This scene, as it was played by Mme. Calvé, may not be pictured here.)
A glimmer of palliation might be read out of a few passages in the
book, and at the end there is an indication of something better than
the groveling carnality of the woman whose name has been a byword for
nineteen centuries in her offer of herself to Helion's sword, and her
opening the door to the lurking assassin when the gladiator refuses to
strike in obedience to his old vow to avenge the supposed death of his
brother. But all of the stage Messalina's words and acts up to that time
give the lie to the thought of her capability of feeling a single throb
of pure sentiment. She is presented as all beast, and there is not one
moment of cheer to relieve the horror of a play which shows how her
lewdness compasses the death of two loving brothers, who, unknown
to each other, were both her lovers. At the end the hand of Harés,
stiffened in death, clings to her robe, and brings her face to face with
that death which the veritable Messalina was too cowardly to give to
herself when her own mother pleaded with her to do so at the fateful
meeting in the garden of Lucullus.

But there is often palliation in music. To this fact I have called
attention before. Music can chasten and ennoble; but not music like Mr.
De Lara's, which, when it strives for anything, strives to give an added
atmosphere to the incontinence portrayed by the stage pictures, and
proclaimed in the text. It is not dangerous music, however, for it is
impotent, with all its blatant pretense. The composer seeks to fill
the opening scene with languor and lassitude; he fills it with ennui
instead. If De Lara's music were a hymning of anything, I should say it
was a hymning of sensuality in its lowest terms; but there are neither
eloquent melodies nor moving harmonies in the score. De Lara is a feeble
distemper painter. The current of his music never really flows; it moves
sluggishly now and then, and eddies lazily about every petty incident.
In the scene of debauchery in the second act, it waits for a xylophone
to rattle an accompaniment to the dice; it holds its breath for a
muted horn to obtrude its voice with an inane vulgarity which would be
laughable were it not pitiful to hear it in a work which is admirable
in its dramatic contrivance and scenic equipment.

Mr. Paderewski's opera, "Manru," had its first performance on February
14, 1902. Mr. Damrosch conducted. The composer, who had taken a hand
in the preparations, listened to the representation from a box, and
the list of performers was this:


  Ulana ................................... Mme. Sembrich
  Hedwig ..................................... Mme. Homer
  Asa ................................ Miss Fritzi Scheff
  Manru ........................ Alexander van Bandrowski
  Oros ..................................... Mr. Mühlmann
  Jagu ........................................ Mr. Blass
  Urok ...................................... Mr. Bispham


"Manru" had its original performance at the Court Opera in Dresden, on
May 29, 1901. Before reaching New York it was given in Cracow, Lemberg,
Zurich, and Cologne, and Mr. Bandrowski, whom Mr. Grau engaged to sing
the titular part, had already sung it twenty times in Europe. Its
production at the Metropolitan Opera House brought scenes of gladsome
excitement. Hero worshipers had an opportunity to gratify their passion
in connection with a man who had filled a larger place in the public eye
for a decade than any of his colleagues the world over; students were
privileged to study a first work by an eminent musician, whose laurels
had been won in a very different field; curiosity lovers had their
penchant gratified to the full. The popular interest in the affair was
disclosed by the fact that never before in the season had the audience
at the Metropolitan been so numerous or brilliant; naturally the
presence of the admired composer whetted interest and heightened
enthusiasm. Long before the evening was over Mr. Paderewski was drawn
from his secluded place in a parterre box by the plaudits of the
audience, and compelled to acknowledge hearty appreciation of his
achievement along with the artists who had made it possible. Despite
the flaws which were easily found in the work, "Manru," the performance
showed, is a remarkable first opera. There will scarcely ever be a
critic who will say of it as one of the composers now set down as a
classic said of the first opera of a colleague, that first operas, like
first litters of puppies, ought properly to be drowned. "Manru" has had
its day, but it was brilliant while it lasted, and it is possible that
now it is not dead, but only sleeping. The story, badly told in the
libretto made after a Polish romance by a friend of the composer, Dr.
Nossig, has the charm of novelty, and beneath it there lies a potent
dramatic principle. But more than the story, more than the picturesque
costumes and stage furniture, there is a fascination about the music
which grew with each hearing. Many of its characteristic details are
based upon national idioms, but on the whole Mr. Paderewski wrote like
an eclectic. He paid his tribute to the tendency which Wagner made
dominant (where is the composer of the last thirty years who has not?)
and, indeed, has been somewhat too frank in his acknowledgment of his
indebtedness to that master in falling into his manner, and utilizing
his devices whenever (as in the second act) there is a parallelism in
situation; but he has, nevertheless, maintained an individual lyricism
which proclaims him an ingenuous musician of the kind that the art never
needed so much as it needs it now. As a national colorist Mr. Paderewski
put new things upon the operatic palette.

"Manru" is not an opera to be disposed of with a hurried ultimatum on
either book or music. From several points of view it not only invites,
it clamors for discussion. The book is awkwardly constructed, and its
language is at times amazingly silly; yet the fundamental idea is kept
before the mind persistently and alluringly by the devices of the
composer. A Gipsy who forsakes his wife and child because he cannot
resist the seductions of a maid of his own race would ordinarily be a
contemptible character, and nothing more; but in this case, despite the
want of dramatic and literary skill in the libretto, Manru is presented
as a tragic type who goes to merited destruction, indeed, but doing
so nevertheless creates the impression that he is less the victim of
individual passion than of a fatality which is racial. I can easily
fancy that the Polish novelist from whom the story was borrowed
presented the psychological fact more eloquently than the librettist,
but it is a question whether or not he did so more convincingly than Dr.
Nossig plus Mr. Paderewski. Mr. Leland (after Mr. Borrow the closest of
literary students of the Gipsies) has pictured for us the Romany's love
for roaming, and our sympathy with his propensity. We look wistfully at
the ships at sea, and wonder what quaint mysteries of life they hide;
we watch the flight of birds and long to fly with them anywhere, over
the world and into adventure. These emotions tell us how near we are
to be affected or elected unto the Romany, who belong to out-of-doors
and nature, like birds and bees. Centuries more than we think of have
fashioned that disposition in the black-blooded people, and made it an
irresistible impulse. Thus the poetical essence of Manru's character
is accounted for, and the librettist has given it an expression which
is not inept:


  With longings wild my soul is fill'd,
    Spring's voices shout within me;
  Each fiber in my soul is thrill'd
    With feelings that would win me.
  In bush and brake
  The buds awake,
  Of nature's joy the woods partake,
  And bear me helpless, spent, along
  Where freedom lives far from the throng;
  Thus pours the mountain torrent wild,
    That stubborn rocks would check;
  Thus rolls the molten lava stream,
  Dispersing havoc dire, supreme,
    Enfolding, whelming all in wreck!
  Thus flies the pollen on the breeze
    To meet its floral love;
  The song, outgushing from the soul,
    Thus seeks the starry vault above.
  Is it a curse?
  There is no other life for me.
  'Tis written in the book of fate:
  Thy race must ev'ry pledge abate
  And wander, rove eternally!
    But why? and where?
  I know it not,--
    I needs must fare!


But such a life is lawless, it creates infidelity, nourishes
incontinence; its seeming freedom is but slavery to passion, and
this, too, the poet proclaims in Manru's confession that faithfulness
is impossible to one to whom each new beauty offers irresistible
allurement, and whose heart must remain unstable as his habitation.

Into the music of Manru's songs, which tell of these things, Mr.
Paderewski has poured such passionate emotional expression as makes them
convincing, and he has done more. Music is the language of the emotions,
and the Gipsies are an emotional folk. The people of Hungary have
permitted the Gipsies to make their music for them so long, and have
mixed the Romany and Magyar bloods so persistently, that in music
Gipsy and Hungarian have become practically identical terms. It was a
Hungarian gentleman who said: "When I hear the 'Rakoczy' I feel as if
I must go to war to conquer the whole world. My fingers convulsively
twitch to seize a pistol, a sword, or bludgeon, or whatever weapon may
be at hand; I must clutch it, and march forward." It is because of this
spirit, scarcely overstated in this story, that the Austrian Government,
fearful of the influence of the "Rakoczy" during periods of political
excitement, has several times prohibited its performance on public
occasions, and confiscated the copies found in the music shops. Mr.
Paderewski makes admirable use of this passion as a dramatic motive.
When neither the pleadings of his tribal companions nor the seductive
artifices of Asa suffice to break down Manru's sense of duty to his wife
and child, the catastrophe is wrought by the music of a gipsy fiddler.

As the subject of the opera has to do with the conflict between
Christian and Pagan, Galician and Gipsy, so the music takes its color
now from the folk-song and dance of Mr. Paderewski's own people, and
anon from the Gipsies who frequent the mountainous scenes in which
the opera plays. The use of an Oriental interval, beloved of Poles
and Gipsies, characterizes the melos of the first act; the rhythm of a
peasant dance inspires the ballet, which is not an idle divertissement,
but an integral element of the play, and Gipsy fiddle and cimbalom lend
color and character to the music which tempts Manru to forget his duty.
The contest in Manru's soul has musical delineation in an extended
orchestral introduction to the last act, in which Gipsy and Polish music
are at war, while clouds and moon struggle for the mastery in the stage
panorama.

The season 1902-03 may be said to have been eventful only in its tragic
outcome, of which I have already spoken--Mr. Grau's physical collapse.
There was a painful and most unexpected echo a few weeks after the doors
of the opera house had been closed for the summer vacation in the death
of Mr. Frank W. Sanger, who had been acting as associate manager with
Mr. Grau, and who had been largely instrumental in persuading Mr. Grau
to abandon work and seek health in France. The season covered seventeen
weeks, and comprised sixty-eight subscription nights, seventeen
subscription matinées, seventeen popular Saturday nights, and six extra
performances--ninety-one performances in all. Promises of a serial
performance of the chief works of Verdi and Mozart had to be abandoned,
partly on account of the illness of Mme. Eames. Only one new opera was
brought forward, and that under circumstances which reflected no credit
on the institution or its management, the opera (Miss Ethel Smyth's "Der
Wald") not being worth the labor, except, perhaps, because it was the
work of a woman, and the circumstances that private influences, and not
public service, had prompted the production being too obvious to invite
confidence in the opera. Simply for the sake of the integrity of the
record mention is made that the production took place on March 11, 1903,
that Alfred Hertz conducted, and that Mme. Gadski, Mme. Reuss-Belce,
Georg Anthes, Mr. Bispham, Mr. Blass, and Mr. Mühlmann were concerned
in the performance. The newcomers in Mr. Grau's forces were Mme.
Reuss-Belce, Georg Anthes, Emil Gerhäuser, Aloys Burgstaller, and the
conductor of the German operas, Mr. Hertz, who, like Mr. Burgstaller,
has remained ever since, and they were all active agents in promoting
the sensational feature of the first season of the administration which
succeeded Mr. Grau's. I have tabulated the performances which took place
in the subscription seasons under Mr. Grau as follows:


THE GRAU PERIOD, 1898-1903

   Operas                  1898-1899 *1899-1900 1900-1901 1901-1902 1902-1903

  "Tannhäuser," .............. 6          5         4         2         4
  "Il Barbiere" .............. 4          4         0         0         3
  "Roméo et Juliette" ........ 6          5         4         3         2
  "La Traviata" .............. 2          2         0         1         4
  "Die Walküre" .............. 4          6         3         3         3
  "Siegfried" ................ 1          2         1         1         3
  "Nozze di Figaro" .......... 3          4         0         2         1
  "Carmen" ................... 2         11         0         7         3
  "Lohengrin" ................ 7          7         6         4         7
  "Faust" .................... 7          9         5         5         7
  "Tristan und Isolde" ....... 5          3         4         3         4
  "Don Giovanni" ............. 4          1         1         0         1
  "Aïda" ..................... 3          5         3         5         7
  "Les Huguenots" ............ 4          2         3         3         3
  "Das Rheingold" ............ 1          2         1         1         2
  "Götterdämmerung" .......... 1          2         2         2         2
  "Martha" ................... 1          0         0         0         0
  "L'Africaine" .............. 1          1         1         0         0
  "Rigoletto" ................ 1          1         1         0         1
  "Le Prophète" .............. 2          2         0         0         1
  + "Ero e Leandro" .......... 2          0         0         0         2
  "Lucia di Lammermoor" ...... 1          2         2         0         0
  "Il Trovatore" ............. 0          3         0         0         1
  "Der Fliegende Holländer" .. 0          3         1         0         0
  "Mignon" ................... 0          1         0         0         0
  "Don Pasquale" ............. 0          3         0         1         1
  "Cavalleria Rusticana" ..... 0          6         3         4         1
  "Pagliacci" ................ 0          1         0         1         6
  "Die Meistersinger" ........ 0          4         2         1         2
  "Die Lustigen Weiber" ...... 0          1         0         0         0
  "Fidelio" .................. 0          1         1         0         0
  "The Magic Flute" .......... 0          5         0         3         2
  "La Bohème" ................ 0          0         5         0         3
  "Mefistofele" .............. 0          0         2         0         0
  "Le Cid" ................... 0          0         3         2         0
  + "Tosca" .................. 0          0         3         3         4
  + "Salammbô" ............... 0          0         2         0         0
  "Fille du Régiment" ........ 0          0         0         3         6
  + "Messaline" .............. 0          0         0         3         0
  "Otello" ................... 0          0         0         3         3
  + "Manru" .................. 0          0         0         3         0
  "Ernani" ................... 0          0         0         0         3
  "Un Ballo in Maschera" ..... 0          0         0         0         1
  + "Der Wald" ............... 0          0         0         0         2

  * Performances in the supplementary season included.
  + Novelties.


Massenet's "Manon" had two performances with Saville and Van Dyck in the
season 1898-'99; but both were outside the subscription.



CHAPTER XXI

HEINRICH CONRIED AND "PARSIFAL"


A prologue dealing with other things may with propriety accompany this
chapter, which is concerned with the history of the Metropolitan Opera
House under the administration of Mr. Heinrich Conried. It is called
for by the visit which Pietro Mascagni made to the United States in
the fall of 1902. Signor Mascagni came to America under a contract
with Mittenthal Brothers, theatrical managers, whose activities had
never appreciably touched the American metropolis nor the kind of
entertainment which they sought to purvey. These things are mentioned
thus early in the story so that light may be had from the beginning on
the artistic side of the most sensational fiasco ever made by an artist
of great distinction in the United States. The contract, which was
negotiated by an agent of the Mittenthals in Italy, was for fifteen
weeks, during which time Signor Mascagni obligated himself to produce
and himself conduct not more than eight performances of opera or
concerts a week. For his personal services he was to receive $60,000, in
weekly payments of $4,000, with advances before leaving Italy and on
arriving in New York. The contract called for performances of "Iris,"
"Cavalleria Rusticana," "Zanetto," and "Ratcliff" by a company of
singers and instrumentalists to be approved by Signor Mascagni. The
composer was hailed with gladness on his arrival by his countrymen, and
his appearance and the three operas which were unknown to the American
public were awaited with most amiable and eager curiosity. The first
performance took place in the Metropolitan Opera House on October 8,
1902, and was devoted to "Zanetto" and "Cavalleria Rusticana," both
conducted by the composer. There was a large audience and much noisy
demonstration on the part of the Italian contingent, but the unfamiliar
work proved disappointing and the performance of "Cavalleria" so rough
that all the advantages which it derived from Mascagni's admirable
conducting failed to atone for its crudities. There were three
representations at the Metropolitan Opera House the first week, all
devoted to the same works, and one at the Academy of Music in Brooklyn.
Meanwhile promises of "Iris" and "Ratcliff" were held out, and work
was done most energetically to prepare the former for performance.
Rehearsals were held day and night and the Saturday evening performance
abandoned to that end. "Ratcliff" was never reached, but "Iris" was given
on October 16th with the following cast, which deserves to go on record
since it was the first representation of the opera in the United States.


  Iris .......................................... Marie Farneti
  Osaka ..................................... Pietro Schiavazzi
  Kyoto ..................................... Virgilio Bellatti
  Il Cieco ................................ Francesco Navarrini
  Una Guecha ................................. Dora de Fillippe
  Un Mercianola ............................... Pasquali Blasio
  Un Cencianola ............................ Bernardino Landino


I shall not tell the story of "Iris," which five years after was adopted
into the repertory of the Metropolitan Opera House, it seemed for
the purpose of giving Mme. Eames an opportunity to contend with Miss
Geraldine Farrar in the field of Japanese opera; but the opera calls
for some comment. Why "Iris"? It might be easier to answer the question
if it were put in the negative: Why not "Iris"? The name is pretty.
It suggests roseate skies, bows of promise, flowery fields, messages
swiftly borne and full of portent. The name invites to music and to
radiant raiment, and it serves its purpose. Mascagni and his librettist
do not seem to have been able to find a term with which to define their
creation. They call it simply "Iris"; not a "dramma per musica," as the
Florentine inventors of the opera did their art-form; nor a "melodramma"
nor a "tragedia per musica"; nor an "opera in musica," of which the
conventional and generic "opera" is the abbreviation; nor even a "dramma
lirico," which is the term chosen by Verdi for his "Falstaff" and
Puccini for his "Manon Lescaut." In truth, "Iris" is none of these. It
begins as an allegory, grows into a play, and ends again in allegory,
beginning and end, indeed, being the same, poetically and musically.
Signor Illica went to Sâr Peladan and d'Annunzio for his sources,
but placed the scene of "Iris" in Japan, the land of flowers, and so
achieved the privilege of making it a dalliance with pseudo-philosophic
symbols and gorgeous garments. Now, symbolism is poor dramatic matter,
but it can furnish forth moody food for music, and "Sky robes spun of
Iris woof" appear still more radiant to the eye when the ear, too, is
enlisted. Grossness and purulence stain the dramatic element in the
piece, but when all is over pictures and music have done their work of
mitigation, and out of the feculent mire there arises a picture of
poetic beauty, a vision of suffering and triumphant innocency which
pleads movingly for a pardoning embrace.

There are many effective bits of expressive writing in the score of
"Iris," but most of them are fugitive and aim at coloring a word, a
phrase, or at best a temporary situation. There is little flow of
natural, fervent melody. What the composer accomplished with tune,
characteristic but fluent, eloquent yet sustained, in "Cavalleria
Rusticana," he tries to achieve in "Iris" with violent, disjointed
shifting of keys and splashes of instrumental color. In this he is
seldom successful, for he is not a master of orchestral writing, that
technical facility which nearly all the young musicians have in the same
degree that all pianists have finger technic. His orchestral stream is
muddy; his effects generally crass and empty of euphony. He throws the
din of outlandish instruments of percussion, a battery of gongs, big and
little, drums and cymbals, into his score without achieving local color.
Once only does he utilize it so as to catch the ears and stir the fancy
of the listeners--in the beginning of the second act, where there is a
murmur of real Japanese melody. As a rule, however, Signor Mascagni
seems to have been careless in the matter of local color, properly so,
perhaps, for, strictly speaking, local color in the lyric drama is for
comedy with its petty limitations, not for tragedy with its appeal to
large and universal passions. Yet it was in the lighter scenes, the
scenes of comedy, like the marionette show; the scenes of mild pathos,
like the monologues of Iris, in which the music helped Signorina
Farneti, with her gentle face, mobile, expressive and more than comely,
and her graceful, intelligent action, to present a really captivating
figure of sweet innocence walking unscathed through searing fires of
wickedness and vice, and the scenes of mere accessory decoration, like
that of the laundresses, the mousmé in the first act, with its purling
figure borrowed from "Les Huguenots" and its unnecessarily uncanny
col legno effect conveyed from "L'Africaine," that the music seemed
most effective. "Zanetto" is nothing more than an operatic sketch in one
act. In its original shape, as it came from the pen of François Coppée,
under the title "Le Passant," the story is a gracious and graceful idyl.
A woman of the world, sated and weary with a life of amours, meets a
young singer, feels the sensations of a pure love pulsing in her veins
and sends him out of her presence uncontaminated. Here are poetry and
beauty; but not matter for three-quarters of an hour of a rambling
musical dialogue, such as the librettists and composer of "Cavalleria
Rusticana" have strained and tortured it into. A drawing-room sketch
of fifteen minutes' duration might have been tolerable. To add to the
dulness of the piece, Mascagni, actuated by a conceit which would have
been dainty and effective in the brief sketch hinted at, wrote the
instrumental parts for strings, harp, and an extremely sparing use of
the wood-wind choir and horn. Harmonies there are of the strenuous kind,
but they are desiccated; not one juicy chord is heard from beginning to
end, and the vitality of the listening ear is exhausted long before the
long-drawn thing has come to an end.

Signor Mascagni entered upon his second week with disaster staring him
in the face, and before it was over it was plain to everyone that the
enterprise was doomed to monumental failure. The public after the first
night became curiously apathetic. This apathy would have been justified
had any considerable number of the city's habitual opera-patrons
attended any of the performances. The welcome came from the Italians
dwelling within the city's boundaries; the performances themselves
could arouse no enthusiasm. The singers were on a level with the usual
summer itinerants; the orchestra, made up partly of inexperienced men
from Italy and non-union players from other cities, was unpardonably
wretched. It was foolishly reckless in the composer to think that with
such material as he had raked together in his native land and recruited
here he could produce four of his operas within a week of his arrival in
America. He must have known how incapable, inexperienced, and unripe the
foreign contingent of his orchestra was. The energy with which he threw
himself into the task of trying to repair his blunders won the sympathy
of the members of the critical guild, though it did not wholly atone for
his conscious or unconscious misconception of American conditions. It
was not pleasant to think that he had so poor an opinion of American
knowledge and taste in music that before coming he thought that anything
would be good enough for this country. His experience in Italy ought
to have made him something of a student of musical affairs in other
countries than his own, and he was unquestionably sincere in his hope
that the American tour would win for him and his music the sympathetic
appreciation which his countrymen had begun to withhold from him.
Granting the sincerity of his desire to present himself fairly as a
candidate for the good-will of the American people, it was inconceivable
that he should have connived at or suffered such an inadequate
preparation for the production of his works. Had he come to New York a
month earlier than he did it would not have been a day too early.

After his New York fiasco Signor Mascagni went to Boston, where troubles
continued to pile upon him till he was overwhelmed. He fell out with his
managers, or they with him, and in a fortnight he was under arrest for
breach of contract in failing to produce the four operas agreed upon.
He retorted with a countersuit for damages and attached theatrical
properties in Worcester which the Mittenthals said did not belong to
them, but to their brother. The scandal grew until it threatened to
become a subject of international diplomacy, but in the end compromises
were made and the composer departed to his own country in bodily if not
spiritual peace. One achievement remained: the Musical Protective Union
of New York had asked the federal authorities to deport the Italian
instrumentalists under the Alien Labor Contract Law, and the Treasury
Department at Washington decided in its wisdom that no matter how poor a
musician a musician might be, he was not a laboring man, but an artist,
and not subject to the law. Exit Mascagni.

On February 14, 1903, the directors of the Metropolitan Opera and Real
Estate Company by a vote of seven to six adopted a resolution directing
the executive committee "to negotiate with Mr. Heinrich Conried
regarding the Metropolitan Opera House, with power to conclude a lease
in case satisfactory terms can be arranged." This was the outcome of a
long struggle between Mr. Conried and Mr. Walter Damrosch, a few other
candidates for the position of director of the institution making feeble
and hopeless efforts to gain a position which all the world knew had,
after many vicissitudes, brought fortune to Mr. Grau. The public seemed
opera-mad and the element of uncertainty eliminated from the enterprise.
Mr. Conried had been an actor in Austria, had come as such to New York,
and worked himself up to the position of manager of a small German
theater in Irving Place. He had also managed comic operetta companies,
English and German, in the Casino and elsewhere, and acted as stage
manager for other entrepreneurs. For a year or two his theater had
enjoyed something of a vogue among native Americans with a knowledge
of the German tongue, and Mr. Conried had fostered a belief in his
high artistic purposes by presenting German plays at some of the
universities. He became known outside the German circle by these means,
and won a valuable championship in a considerable portion of the press.
In the management of grand opera he had no experience, and no more
knowledge than the ordinary theatrical man. But there was no doubt about
his energy and business skill, though this latter quality was questioned
in the end by such an administration as left his stockholders without
returns, though the receipts of the institution were greater than they
had ever been in history. He had no difficulty in organizing a company,
which was called the Heinrich Conried Opera Company, on the lines laid
down by Mr. Grau, and acquiring the property of the Maurice Grau Opera
Company, which, having made large dividends for five years, sold to its
successor at an extremely handsome figure. Mr. Conried began his
administration with many protestations of artistic virtue and made a
beginning which aroused high expectations. To these promises and their
fulfillment I shall recur in a résumé of the lustrum during which Mr.
Conried was operatic consul. Also I shall relate the story of the
principal incidents of his consulship, but for much of the historical
detail shall refer the reader to the table of performances covering the
five years. The new operas produced within the period were but few.
Some of them are scarcely worth noting even in a bald record of events;
others have been so extensively discussed within so recent a period that
they may be passed over without much ado here.

Mr. Conried succeeded to a machine in perfect working order, the
good-will of the public, agreements with nearly all the artists who were
popular favorites, an obligation with the directors of the opera-house
company to remodel the stage, and a contract with Enrico Caruso. Mr.
Grau had also negotiated with Felix Mottl, had "signed" Miss Fremstad,
and was holding Miss Farrar, in a sense his protégée, in reserve till
she should "ripen" for America. The acquisition of Caruso was perhaps
Mr. Conried's greatest asset financially, though it led to a reactionary
policy touching the opera itself which, however pleasing to the
boxholders, nevertheless cost the institution a loss of artistic
prestige. I emphasize the fact that Mr. Conried acquired the contract
with Signor Caruso from Mr. Grau because from that day to this careless
newspaper writers, taking their cues from artful interviews put forth
by Mr. Conried, have glorified the astuteness of the new manager in
starting his enterprise with a discovery of the greatest tenor of his
day. Many were the stories which were told, the most picturesque being
that Mr. Conried, burdened with the responsibility of recruiting a
company, had shrewdly gone among the humble Italians of New York and by
questioning them had learned that the name of the greatest singer alive
was Caruso. Confirmed in his decision by his bootblack, he had then gone
to Europe and engaged the wonder. Caruso's reputation was made some
years before he came to America, and Mr. Grau had negotiated with him at
least a year before he got his signature on a contract for New York. Let
the story stand as characteristic of many that enlivened the newspapers
during the Conried period. A dozen of the singers who were continuously
employed throughout the Conried period had already established
themselves in public favor when his régime opened. They were Mme.
Sembrich, Mme. Eames (who was absent during his first year), Mme.
Homer, and Messrs. Burgstaller, Dippel, Reiss, Mühlmann, Scotti,
Van Rooy, Blass, Journet, Plançon, and Rossi. To these Mr. Conried
associated Caruso, Marion Weed, Olive Fremstad, Edyth Walker, Ernst
Kraus (the tenor who had been a member of one of Mr. Damrosch's
companies), Fran Naval, Giuseppe Campanari, Goritz, and a few people of
minor importance. Miss Weed and Miss Fremstad and Messrs. Caruso and
Goritz became fixtures in the institution; Miss Walker remained three
years; Herr Kraus and Herr Naval only one season. The second season
witnessed the accession of Bella Alten, Mme. Senger-Bettaque (who dated
back to the German régime), Mme. Eames (returned), Signora De Macchi
(an Italian singer whose failure was so emphatic that her activity ended
almost as soon as it began), Mme. Melba (for one season), Mme. Nordica
(for two seasons), Josephine Jacoby (for the rest of the term), and a
couple more inconsequential fillers-in. The third year brought Signorina
Boninsegna (who I believe had a single appearance), Lina Cavalieri (who
endured to the end), Geraldine Farrar (still with the company and bearer
of high hopes on the part of opera lovers for the future), Bessie Abott
(a winsome singer of extremely light caliber), Marie Mattfeld (an
acquaintance of the Damrosch days), Mme. Schumann-Heink (returned for
a single season), Marie Rappold, Mme. Kirkby-Lunn, Carl Burrian,
Soubeyran and Rousselière, tenors; Stracciari, barytone, and Chalmin
and Navarini, basses. The list of German dramatic sopranos was augmented
in the last year by Mme. Morena and Mme. Leffler-Burkhardt, the tenors
by Bonci (who had been brought to America the year before as opposition
to Caruso by Mr. Hammerstein), Riccardo Martin (an American), George
Lucas; the basses by Theodore Chaliapine, a Russian, and a buffo,
Barocchi. Among the engagements of the first season which gave rise to
high hopes in serious and informed circles was that of Felix Mottl, as
conductor of the German operas and Sunday night concerts (which it was
announced were to be given a symphonic character and dignity), Anton
Fuchs, of Munich, as stage manager, and Carl Lautenschläger, of the
Prinz Regententheater, Munich, as stage mechanician, or technical
director. These two men did notable work in "Parsifal," but in
everything else found themselves so hampered by the prevailing
conditions that after a year they retired to Germany, oppressed with a
feeling something akin to humiliation. Likewise Herr Mottl, who made an
effort in the line of symphony concerts on the first Sunday night of the
season and then withdrew, to leave the field open to the old-fashioned
popular operatic concert, which Mr. Conried commanded and the public
unquestionably desired. His experiences in putting half-prepared operas
on the stage also discouraged Herr Mottl, and he went through the season
in a perfunctory manner and departed shaking the Metropolitan dust from
his feet, and promptly installed his polished boots in the directorship
of the Royal Court Theater at Munich.

The season opened on November 23, 1903, with "Rigoletto"; Mme. Sembrich
reappeared as Gilda and Caruso effected his American début as the Duke.
His success was instantaneous, though there was less enthusiasm
expressed by far on that occasion than on his last appearance, five
years later. In the interval admiration for a beautiful voice had grown
into adoration of a singer--an adoration which even sustained him
through a scandal which would have sent a man of equal eminence in any
other profession into disgraceful retirement. The season compassed
fifteen weeks, from November 23d to March 5th, within which period there
were ninety-seven performances of twenty-seven works, counting in a
ballet and a single scene from "Mefistofele," in which Mme. Calvé, who
joined Mr. Conried's forces after the season was two-thirds over, and
yet managed to give four performances of "Carmen," helped to improve a
trifle the pitiful showing made by the French contingent in the list.
The French element, which had become a brilliant factor in the Grau
period, began to wane, and subsequently the German was eliminated as far
as seemed practicable from the subscription seasons. The boxholders were
exerting a reactionary influence, and Mr. Conried willingly yielded to
them, since he could thus reserve certain sensational features for the
extra nights at special prices and put money in his purse. This policy
had a speedy and striking illustration in the production of Wagner's
"Parsifal," which made Mr. Conried's first year memorable, or, as some
thought, notorious. Certainly no theatrical incident before or since
so set the world ringing as did the act which had been long in the mind
of the new manager, and which was one of the first things which he
announced his intention to do after he had secured the lease from the
owners of the opera house. The announcement was first made unofficially
in newspaper interviews, and confirmed in the official prospectus, which
set down Christmas as the date of production. A protest--many protests,
indeed--followed. Mme. Wagner's was accompanied with a threat of legal
proceedings. The ground of her appeal to Mr. Conried was that to perform
the drama which had been specifically reserved for performance in
Bayreuth by the composer would be irreverent and illegal. To this Mr.
Conried made answer that inasmuch as "Parsifal" was not protected by
law in the United States his performance would not be illegal, and that
it was more irreverent to Wagner to prevent the many Americans who could
not go to Bayreuth from hearing the work than to make it possible for
them to hear it in America. Proceedings for an injunction were begun in
the federal courts, but after hearing the arguments of counsel Judge
Lacombe decided, on November 24, 1903, that the writ of injunction
prayed for should not issue. The decision naturally caused a great
commotion, especially in Germany, where the newspapers and the
composers, conductors, and others who were strongly affiliated with
Bayreuth manifested a disposition to hold the American people as a
whole responsible, not only for a desecration of something more than
sacrosanct, but of robbery also. The mildest term applied to Mr.
Conried's act, which I am far from defending, was that it was "legalized
theft." It was not that, because in civilized lands thievery cannot be
made lawful. It was simply an appropriation of property for which the
law, owing to the absence of a convention touching copyright and
performing rights between Germany and the United States at the time,
provided neither hindrance nor punishment. Under circumstances not at
all favorable to success, had success been attainable (there was always
something more than a suspicion that the proceedings were fomented by
enemies of Mr. Conried in New York), Mme. Wagner tried by legal process
to prevent the rape of the work, but the courts were powerless to
interfere. Having passed triumphantly through this ordeal, Mr. Conried
found himself in the midst of another. A number of clergymen, some
eminent in their calling and of unquestioned sincerity, others mere
seekers after notoriety, attacked the work as sacrilegious. A petition
was addressed to the Mayor of the city asking that the license of
the Metropolitan Opera House be revoked so far as the production of
"Parsifal" was concerned. The petition was not granted, but all the
commotion, which lasted up to the day of the first performance, was,
as the Germans say, but water for Conried's mill. He encouraged the
controversy with all the art of an astute showman and secured for
"Parsifal" such an advertisement as never opera or drama had in this
world before.

Mr. Conried had concluded at the outset of his enterprise that
"Parsifal" was too great a money-maker to be included in the regular
subscription list of the season. He followed his general prospectus
with a special one, in which he announced five performances of Wagner's
festival drama on special dates, under special conditions, and at
special prices. The first was set down for December 24; the prices for
the stalls on the main floor, the first balcony, and the boxes which
were at his disposal were doubled (orchestra stalls, $10), but seats
in the upper balcony and the topmost gallery were sold at the regular
price. The first performance took place on December 24th, the cast
being as follows:


  Kundry .................................... Milka Ternina
  Parsifal .............................. Alois Burgstaller
  Amfortas ................................. Anton Van Rooy
  Gurnemanz .................................. Robert Blass
  Klingsor ................................... Otto Görlitz
  Titurel .................................. Marcel Journet
  First Esquire ................................ Miss Moran
  Second Esquire ............................ Miss Braendle
  Third Esquire .............................. Albert Reiss
  Fourth Esquire ............................... Mr. Harden
  First Knight .................................. Mr. Bayer
  Second Knight .............................. Mr. Mühlmann
  A Voice .................................... Louise Homer


Anton Fuchs and Carl Lautenschläger were in charge of the stage; Mr.
Hertz conducted. The first half of the season had been sacrificed to the
production. As such things are done at Bayreuth and in the best theaters
of Germany the preparations were inadequate, but the results achieved
set many old visitors to the Wagnerian Mecca in amaze. So far as the
mere spectacle was concerned Mr. Conried's production was an improvement
on that of Bayreuth in most things except the light effects. All of
Wagner's dramas show that the poet frequently dreamed of things which
were beyond the capacity of the stage in his day--even the splendidly
equipped stage of the Festspielhaus in Bayreuth. Later improvements
in theatrical mechanics made their realization in more or less degree
possible. The greatest advance disclosed by New York over Bayreuth was
in the design and manipulation of the magical scenes of the second
act. Such scenes as that between Parsifal and the Flower Maidens
were doubtless in the imagination of Wagner, but he never saw their
realization. Up to the time of which I am writing the Bayreuth pictures
were exaggerated and garish. In New York every feature of the scene
was beautiful in conception, harmonious in color, graceful in action,
seductive as the composer intended it to be--as alluring to the eye
as the music was fascinating to the ear. At a later performance
Weingartner, conductor and composer, now director of the Royal Imperial
Court Opera of Vienna, sat beside me. After the first act he spoke in
terms generally complimentary about the performance, but criticized its
spirit and execution in parts. When the scene of the magical garden was
discovered and the floral maidens came rushing in he leaned forward in
his chair, and when the pretty bustle reached its height he could wait
no longer to give voice to his admiration. "Ah!" he exclaimed in a
whisper, "there's atmosphere! There's fragrance and grace!" The music of
the drama was familiar to New Yorkers from many concert performances.
Once, indeed, there was a "Parsifal" festival in Brooklyn, under the
direction of Mr. Seidl, in which all the music was sung by the best
singers of the Metropolitan Opera House on a stage set to suggest the
Temple of the Grail. Only the action and the pictures were new to the
city's music lovers. Nevertheless the interest on the part of the public
was stupendous. The first five representations were over on January
21st, but before then Mr. Conried had already announced five more,
besides a special day performance on Washington's Birthday, February
22d. After the eleventh performance, on February 25th, Mr. Conried
gave out the statement to the public press that the receipts had been
$186,308; that is, an average of $16,937.17. But this was not the end.
Under Mr. Grau the custom had grown up in the Metropolitan Opera House
of a special performance, the proceeds of which were the personal
perquisites of the director. In all the contracts between the director
and his artists there was a clause which bound the latter to sing for
nothing at one performance. Before his retirement Mr. Grau grew ashamed
of appearing in the light of an eleemosynary beneficiary under such
circumstances, and explained to the newspapers that the arrangement
between himself and the singers was purely a business one. Nevertheless
he continued to avail himself of the rich advantage which the
arrangement brought him, and in the spring closed the supplementary
season with a performance of an olla podrida character, in which all of
the artists took part. Mr. Conried continued the custom throughout his
administration, but varied the programme in his first year by giving a
representation of "Parsifal" instead of the customary mixed pickles.
The act was wholly commercial. That was made plain, even if anyone had
been inclined to think otherwise, when subsequently he substituted an
operetta, Strauss's "Fledermaus," for the religious play, and called on
all of his artists who did not sing in it to sit at tables in the ball
scene, give a concert, and participate in the dancing. A year later he
gratified an equally lofty ambition by arranging a sumptuous performance
of another operetta by the same composer, "Der Zigeunerbaron," and
following it with a miscellaneous concert. That operetta was never
repeated.

In the seasons 1904-05 and 1905-06 "Parsifal" was again reserved for
special performance at double the ordinary prices of admission, and it
was not until a year later that the patrons of the Metropolitan were
permitted to hear it at the ordinary subscription rates. By that time
it had taken its place with the Nibelung tragedy, having, in fact, a
little less drawing power than the more popular dramas in the tetralogy.
The reason was not far to seek. The craze created by the first year
had led to all manner of shows, dramas, lectures with stereopticon
pictures which were a degradation of the subject. Only one of the
results possessed artistic dignity or virtue, and this justified the
apprehension of the poet-composer touching what would happen if his
unique work ever became a repertory piece. Mr. Savage in 1904-05 carried
"Parsifal" throughout the length and breadth of the land in an English
version, starting in Boston and giving representations night after night
just before the Metropolitan season opened in the New York Theater.
Nevertheless there were eight performances at the Metropolitan in that
season and four in the season that followed. At regular rates in 1906-07
only two performances were possible. All of Mr. Conried's artistic
energies in his second season were expended on the production of "Die
Fledermaus," which he gave for his own benefit under the circumstances
already referred to, on February 16th. The season lasted fifteen weeks,
and consisted of ninety-five performances of thirty operas and two
ballets, outside of the supplementary season, which, let me repeat, are
not included in the statistics which I am giving. An incident of the
second season was the collapse of the bridge which is part of the first
scene of "Carmen," and the consequent injury of ten choristers. The
accident happened on the night of January 7, 1905, while the performance
was in progress. Fortunately nobody was killed.



CHAPTER XXII

END OF CONRIED'S ADMINISTRATION


A visit from Engelbert Humperdinck to attend the first German
performance of his "Hänsel und Gretel" on November 25th, a strike of the
chorus which lasted three days, a revival of Goldmark's "Königin von
Saba" which had been the chief glory of the second German season twenty
years before, and the squandering of thousands of dollars and so much
time that nearly all of the operas in the repertory suffered for lack
of rehearsals on a single production of Strauss's operetta "Der
Zigeunerbaron," were the chief incidents of the season of 1905-06. That
is to say, the chief local incidents. Out in San Francisco the company
was overwhelmed by the catastrophe of the earthquake, which sent it back
a physical and financial wreck. The calamity tested the fortitude and
philosophy of Mr. Conried as well as the artists, but through the gloom
there shone a cheering ray when Mme. Sembrich, herself one of the chief
sufferers from the earthquake, postponed her return to her European home
long enough to give a concert for the benefit of the minor members of
the company, and distributed $7,691 to musicians who had lost their
instruments and $2,435 to the chorus and technical staff.

The season of 1906-07 marked highwater in the artistic activities of Mr.
Conried's institution. It was the year of "Salome" and the coming of
Signor Puccini to give éclat to the production of his operas. Outside of
"Salome" there was only one real novelty in the season's repertory, and
that, "Fedora," might easily have been spared; but the current list of
the house was augmented by no less than seven works, namely, "Fedora,"
"La Damnation de Faust," "Lakmé" (which had been absent from the list
for many years), "L'Africaine," "Manon Lescaut," "Madama Butterfly," and
"Salome." Berlioz's dramatic legend, "La Damnation," had been a popular
concert piece ever since its first production by Dr. Leopold Damrosch at
a concert of the Symphony Society more than twenty-five years before,
and its novel features were those which grew out of the abortive efforts
of Raoul Gunsbourg to turn it into a stage play.

In the presence of the composer, who was received with great acclaim by
a gathering notable in numbers and appearance, and amid scenes of glad
excitement which grew from act to act, Puccini's "Manon Lescaut" was
performed for the first time at the Metropolitan Opera House on the
evening of January 18, 1907. Signor Puccini reached the theater in the
middle of the third act and, unnoticed by the audience, took a seat in
the directors' box in the grand tier. After the first act the orchestra
saluted him with a fanfare and the audience broke into applause which
lasted so long that, finding it impossible to quiet it by rising and
bowing his acknowledgments, he withdrew into the rear of the box out
of sight so that the performance might go an. After the second act he
sent the following statement in French to the representatives of the
newspapers:

"I have always thought that an artist has something to learn at any age.
It was with delight, therefore, that I accepted the invitation of the
directors of the Metropolitan Opera House to come to this new world of
which I saw a corner on my visit to Buenos Ayres and with which I was
anxious to get better acquainted. What I have seen to-night has already
proved to me that I did well to come here, and I consider myself happy
to be able to say that I am among my friends, to whom I can speak in
music with a certainty of being understood."

"Manon Lescaut" was not wholly new to the opera-goers of New York, for
it had had one or two performances by a vagrant Italian company at
Wallack's Theater in May, 1898; but to all intents and purposes it was
a novelty, for the musical itinerants of nine years before were not
equal to the task set by Puccini, and gave a perversion rather than a
performance of the opera. Why it should have waited so long and for the
stimulus of the coming of the composer before reaching the Metropolitan
Opera House was not easily explained by those admirers of the composer
who knew or felt that in spite of the high opinion in which. "La
Bohème," "Tosca," and "Madama Butterfly" were held, "Manon Lescaut"
is fresher, more spontaneous, more unaffected and passionate in its
dramatic climaxes, as well as more ingratiatingly charming in its comedy
element, than any of its successors from Puccini's pen. The voice of the
composer rings unmistakably through its measures, but it is freer from
the formularies which have since become stereotyped, and there are a
greater number of echoes of the tunefulness which belongs to the older
period between which and the present the opera marks a transition. Abbé
Prévost's story, familiar to all readers of French romance, had served
at least four opera composers before Signor Puccini. In 1830 Halévy
brought forward a three-act ballet dealing with the story; Balfe wrote a
French opera with the title in 1836, Auber another in 1856, and Massenet
still another in 1884. Scribe was Auber's collaborator, and their opera,
which like Puccini's ended with the scene of Manon's death in America,
received a touch of local color from the employment of Negro dances and
Créole songs. It would be interesting to see the old score now that the
artistic value of the folk-songs of the Southern States as an incentive
to a distinctive school of music has challenged critical attention and
aroused controversy. Massenet's opera, which through the influence of
Minnie Hauk was produced at the Academy of Music on December 23, 1885,
dropped out of the local repertory until the restoration of the Italian
régime as has been related elsewhere in this book. The opening and
closing incidents in Massenet's opera are the same as are used by
Puccini, though MM. Meilhac and Gille, the French librettists, did not
think it necessary to carry the story across the ocean for the sake of
Manon's death scene. In their book she succumbs to nothing that is
obvious and dies in her lover's arms on the way to the ship at Havre
which was to transport her to the penal colony at New Orleans. The third
act of Puccini's opera plays at Havre, its contents being an effort to
free Manon, the deportation of a shipload of female convicts, including
Manon, and the embarkation of des Grieux in a menial capacity on the
convict ship. Here the composer makes one of his most ambitious attempts
at dramatic characterization: there is a roll-call and the woman go to
the gang-plank in various moods, while the by-standers comment on their
appearance and manner. The whole of the last act, which plays on a
plateau near New Orleans, is given up to the lovers. Manon dies; des
Grieux shrieks his despair and falls lifeless upon her body. Puccini has
followed his confrères of the concentrated agony school in introducing
an orchestral intermezzo. He does this between the second and third acts
and gives a clue to its purposed emotional contents by providing it with
a descriptive title, "Imprisonment. Journey to Havre," and quoting a
passage from the Abbé Prévost's book in which des Grieux confesses the
overpowering strength of his passion and determines to follow Manon
wherever she may go, "even to the ends of the world." Here, at least,
we recognize a sincere effort to make the interlude something more than
a stop-gap or a device to make up for the paucity of sustained music
in the course of the dramatic action.

"Madama Butterfly" in the original Italian had been anticipated by a
long series of English performances by Mr. Savage's company at the
Garden Theater, beginning on November 12th. This production is deserving
of record. Walter Rothwell was the conductor, and the principal singers
in the cast were Elza Szamosy, a Hungarian, as Cio-Cio-San; Harriet
Behne as Suzuki, Joseph F. Sheehan as Pinkerton, and Winifred Goff as
Sharpless. The opera reached the Metropolitan Opera House on February
11, 1907, when it was sung in the presence of the composer by the
following cast:


  Cio-Cio-San ........................... Geraldine Farrar
  Suzuki .................................... Louise Homer
  Pinkerton ....................................... Caruso
  Sharpless ....................................... Scotti
  Goro ............................................. Reiss
             Conductor, Arturo Vigna


A great deal of the sympathetic interest which "Madama Butterfly" evoked
on its first production and has held in steady augmentation ever since
was due to the New York public's familiarity with the subject of the
opera created by John Luther Long's story and Mr. Belasco's wonderfully
pathetic drama upon which this much more pretentious edifice of Messrs.
Illica, Giacosa, and Puccini is reared. To the popular interest in story
and play Japan lent color in more respects than one, having at the time
a powerful hold upon the popular imagination. We have had the Mikado's
kingdom with its sunshine and flowers, its romantic chivalry, its
geishas and continent and incontinent morals upon the stage before,--in
the spoken drama, in comic operetta, in musical farce, and in serious
musical drama. Messrs. Gilbert and Sullivan used its external motives
for one of their finest satirical skits, an incomparable model in its
way; but the parallel in serious opera was that created by Signor
Illica, one of the librettists of "Madama Butterfly," and Signor
Mascagni. The opera was "Iris," the production of which at the
Metropolitan Opera House helped to emphasize the failure of the
composer's American visit. "Iris" is a singular blending of allegory
which had a merit quite admirable though ill-applied, and tragedy of the
kind to which I have already several times referred in this book. In
"Iris" as in "Madama Butterfly" we have Japanese music,--the twanging of
samisens and the tinkling of gongs; but it was more coarsely applied,
with more apparent and merely outward purpose, and it was only an
accompaniment of a vision stained all over with purulence and grossness.
"Madama Butterfly" tells a tale of wickedness contrasted with lovely
devotion. Its carnality has an offset in a picture of love conjugal and
love maternal, and its final appeal is one to infinite pity. And in this
it is beautiful. Opera-goers are familiar with Signor Puccini's manner.
"Tosca" and "La Bohème" speak out of many measures of his latest opera,
but there is introduced in it a mixture of local color. Genuine Japanese
tunes come to the surface of the instrumental flood at intervals and
tunes which copy their characteristics of rhythm, melody, and color. As
a rule this is a dangerous proceeding except in comedy which aims to
chastise the foibles and follies of a people and a period. Nothing is
more admirable, however, than Signor Puccini's use of it to heighten the
dramatic climaxes; the merry tune with which Cio-Cio-San diverts her
child in the second act and the use of a bald native tune thundered out
fortissimo in naked unison with periodic punctuations of harmony at the
close are striking cases in point. Nor should the local color in the
delineation of the break of day in the beginning of the third act, and
the charmingly felicitous use of mellifluous gongs in the marriage scene
be overlooked. Always the effect is musical and dramatically helpful.
As for the rest there are many moments of a strange charm in the score,
music filled with a haunting tenderness and poetic loveliness, music
in which there is a beautiful meeting of the external picture and the
spiritual content of the scene. Notable among these moments is the scene
in which Butterfly and her attendant scatter flowers throughout the room
in expectation of Pinkerton's return. Here melodies and harmonies are
exhaled like the odors of the flowers.

Giordano's "Fedora," first performed on December 5, 1906, was given with
this distribution of parts:


  Fedora ................................ Lina Cavalieri
      (Her first appearance.)
  Olga ..................................... Bella Alten
  Dimitri ............................... Marie Mattfeld
  Un piccolo Savojardo ................ Josephine Jacoby
  Loris Ipanow ........................... Enrico Caruso
  De Siriex ............................. Antonio Scotti
  Il Barone Rouvel |
  Desiré           | ........................ Mr. Paroli
  Cirillo .................................... Mr. Bégué
  Borow ................................... Mr. Mühlmann
  Grech ................................... Mr. Dufriche
  Boleslaw Lazinski ........................ Mr. Voghere
  Lorek ................................... Mr. Navarini
          Conductor, Arturo Vigna


The opera is an attempt to put music to the familiar play by Sardou; an
utterly futile attempt. A more sluggish and intolerable first act than
the legal inquest it would be difficult to imagine. Fragments of
inconsequential tunes float along on a turgid stream, above which the
people of the play chatter and scream, becoming intelligible and
interesting only when they lapse into ordinary speech. Ordinary speech,
however, is the only kind of speech that an expeditious drama can
tolerate, and it is not raised to a higher power by the blowing of brass
or the beating of drums. The frankest confession of the futility of
Giordano's effort to make a lyric drama out of "Fedora" is contained in
the fact that only those moments in his score are musical in the
accepted sense when the play stops, as in the case of the intermezzo
which cuts the second act in two, or when the old operatic principles
wake into life again, as in Loris's confession of love. Here, in the
first instance, a mood receives musical delineation, and in the second a
passion whose expression is naturally lyrical receives utterance. One
device new to the operatic stage, in its externals at least, is
ingeniously employed by the composer: the conversation in which Fedora
extorts a confession from Loris is carried on while a pianist entertains
a princess' guests with a solo upon his instrument. But the fact that
singing tones, not spoken, are used adds nothing to the value of the
scene.

On returning from Europe late in the summer of 1906 Mr. Conried
announced his intention to produce Richard Strauss's "Salome," and his
forces had no sooner been gathered together than Mr. Hertz began the
laborious task of preparing the opera--if opera it can be called--for
performance. There can scarcely be a doubt that Mr. Conried hoped for
a sensational flurry like that which had accompanied the production of
"Parsifal"; but, with an eye to the main chance, he confined his first
official proclamation to a single performance, which, in connection with
a concert by all his chief singers not concerned in the opera, was to
be given for his annual benefit. Evidently he felt less sure about the
outcome of this production than he had about that of "Parsifal," and was
bound to reap all the benefits that could come from a powerful appeal to
popular curiosity touching so notorious a work as Strauss's setting of
Oscar Wilde's drama. The performance took place with many preliminary
flourishes beyond the ordinary on January 22d. Two days before there was
held a public rehearsal, which was attended by about a thousand persons
who had received invitations, most of them being stockholders of the
opera house, old subscribers, stockholders of Mr. Conried's company,
writers for the newspapers, and friends of the artists and the
management. The opera was given with the following cast:


  Salome ................................. Miss Fremstad
  Herodias ................................... Miss Weed
  Herodias's Page ..................... Josephine Jacoby
  Herod's Page .......................... Marie Mattfeld
  Herod ................................... Carl Burrian
  Jochanaan ............................. Anton Van Rooy
  Narraboth ............................. Andreas Dippel
  First Jew .................................. Mr. Reiss
  Second Jew ................................. Mr. Bayer
  Third Jew ................................. Mr. Paroli
  Fourth Jew .................................. Mr. Bars
  Fifth Jew ............................... Mr. Dufriche
  First Nazarene ........................... Mr. Journet
  Second Nazarene ........................... Mr. Stiner
  First Soldier ........................... Mr. Mühlmann
  Second Soldier ............................. Mr. Blass
  A Cappadocian .............................. Mr. Lange
               Conductor, Alfred Hertz


Concerning the effect produced upon the public by the performance of the
work I shall permit Mr. W. P. Eaton, then a reporter for The Tribune,
to speak for me.


The concert was over a little after nine, and the real business of the
evening began at a quarter to ten, when the lights went out, there was a
sound from the orchestra pit, and the curtains parted on "Salome." The
setting for "Salome" is an imaginative creation of the scene painter's
art. The high steps to the palace door to the right, the cover of the
cistern, backed by ironic roses in the center, and beyond the deep night
sky and the moonlight on the distant roofs. Two cedars cut the sky,
black and mournful. Against this background "Salome" moves like a
tigress, the costumes of the court glow with a dun, barbaric splendor,
and the red fire from the tripods streams silently up into the night
till you fancy you can almost smell it. Here was atmosphere like
Belasco's, and saturated with it the opera moved to its appointed end,
sinister, compelling, disgusting.

What the opera is is told elsewhere. It remains to record that in the
audience at this performance, as at the dress rehearsals on Sunday, the
effect of horror was pronounced. Many voices were hushed as the crowd
passed out into the night, many faces were white almost as those at the
rail of a ship. Many women were silent, and men spoke as if a bad dream
were on them. The preceding concert was forgotten; ordinary emotions
following an opera were banished. The grip of a strange horror or
disgust, was on the majority. It was significant that the usual applause
was lacking. It was scattered and brief.


In this there is no hyperbole; it fails of a complete description
only in neglecting to chronicle the fact that a large proportion of
the audience left the audience-room at the beginning of the bestial
apostrophe to the head of the Baptist. It was because of this pronounced
rejection of the work by an audience which might have been considered
elected to it in a peculiar manner that it was a sincere cause of regret
that the action of the directors of the Metropolitan Opera and Real
Estate Company caused a prohibition of further performances. It would
have been better and conduced more to artistic righteousness if the
public had been permitted to kill the work by refusing to witness it. In
my opinion there is no doubt but that this would have been the result
had Mr. Conried attempted to give performances either at extraordinary
or ordinary prices. Immediately after his benefit performance he
announced three representations outside of the subscription, the first
of which was to take place on February 1st. Two days after the first
performance, the directors of the opera house company held a meeting and
adopted the following resolution, which was promptly communicated to Mr.
Conried:


The directors of the Metropolitan Opera and Real Estate Company consider
that the performance of "Salome" is objectionable and detrimental to the
best interests of the Metropolitan Opera House. They therefore protest
against any repetition of this opera.


Under the terms of the contract between the directors and Mr. Conried,
such a protest was the equivalent of a command, disobedience of which
would have worked a forfeiture of the lease. Mr. Conried parleyed,
pleading his cause voluminously in the public prints, as well as
before the directors, meanwhile keeping his announcement of the three
performances before the people. But the sale of tickets amounted to next
to nothing, and Mr. Conried yielded with as much grace as possible, when
on January 30th the directors refused to modify their action, though
they expressed a willingness to recoup Mr. Conried for some of his
expenses in mounting the opera. The directors who took this action were
J. P. Morgan, William K. Vanderbilt, G. G. Haven, Charles Lanier, George
F. Baker, D. O. Mills, George Bowdoin, A. D. Juilliard, August Belmont,
and H. McK. Twombly. Representatives of Mr. Conried's company who argued
the case before the directors were Otto H. Kahn, Robert Goelet, James
Speyer, H. R. Winthrop, and R. H. Cottenet. For some time Mr. Conried
talked about performing the opera in another theater, and the directors
of his company formally agreed that he might do so on his own
responsibility; but nothing came of it. Mr. Conried had probably seen
the handwriting on the wall of his box office. The next year there were
more solemn proclamations to the effect that it would be performed
outside of New York. Boston sent in a protest, and the flurry was over,
except as it was kept up in silly and mendacious reports sent to the
newspapers of Germany touching the influences that had worked for the
prohibition. There never was a case which asked for less speculation.
Decent men did not want to have their house polluted with the stench
with which Oscar Wilde's play had filled the nostrils of humanity.
Having the power to prevent the pollution they exercised it.

A reviewer ought to be equipped with a dual nature, both intellectually
and morally, in order to pronounce fully and fairly upon the qualities
of this drama by Oscar Wilde and Richard Strauss. He should be an
embodied conscience stung into righteous fury by the moral stench
exhaled by the decadent and pestiferous work, but, though it make him
retch, he should be sufficiently judicial in his temperament calmly to
look at the drama in all its aspects and determine whether or not as a
whole it is an instructive note on the life and culture of the times
and whether or not this exudation from the diseased and polluted will
and imagination of the authors marks a real advance in artistic
expression, irrespective of its contents or their fitness for dramatic
representation. This is asking much of the harassed commentator on the
things which the multitude of his readers receive as contributions to
their diversion merely and permit to be crowded out of their minds by
the next pleasant or unpleasant shock to their sensibilities. He has not
the time, nor have his readers the patience, to enter upon a discussion
of the questions of moral and esthetic principle which ought to pave the
way for the investigation. If he can tell what the play is, what its
musical investiture is like, wherein the combined elements have worked
harmoniously and efficiently to an end which to their authors seemed
artistic, and therefore justifiable, he will have done much. In the case
before us even this much cannot be done until some notions which have
long had validity are put aside. We are only concerned with "Salome" in
its newest form,--that given it by the musical composer. If it shall
ever win approbation here, as it seems to have done in several German
cities, it will be because of the shape into which Richard Strauss has
moulded it.

Several attempts had been made to habilitate Oscar Wilde's drama on the
New York stage, and had failed. If the opera succeeds it will be because
a larger public has discovered that the music which has been consorted
with the old pictures, actions, and words has added to them an element
either of charm or expressive potentiality hitherto felt to be lacking.
Is that true? Has a rock of offense been removed? Has a mephitic odor
been changed to a sweet savor by the subtle alchemy of the musical
composer? Has a drama abhorrent, bestial, repellent, and loathsome been
changed into a thing of delectability by the potent agency of music?
It used to be said that things too silly to be spoken might be sung;
is it also true that things too vile, too foul, too nauseating for
contemplation may be seen, so they be insidiously and wickedly glorified
by the musician's art? As a rule, plays have not been improved by being
turned into operas. Always their dramatic movement has been interrupted,
their emotional current clogged, their poetry emasculated by the
transformation. Things are better now than they were in the long ago,
when music took no part at all in dramatic action, but waited for a mood
which it had power to publish and celebrate; but music has acquired its
new power only by an abnegation of its better part, by assuming new
functions, and asking a revaluation of its elements on a new esthetic
basis. In "Salome" music is largely a decorative element, like the
scene,--like the costumes. It creates atmosphere, like the affected
stylism of much of Oscar Wilde's text, with its Oriental imagery
borrowed from "The Song of Solomon," diluted and sophisticated; it gives
emotional significance to situations, helping the facial play of Salome
and her gestures to proclaim the workings of her mind, when speech has
deserted her; it is at its best as the adjunct and inspiration of the
lascivious dance. In the last two instances, however, it reverts to
the purpose and also the manner (with a difference) which have always
obtained, and becomes music in the purer sense. Then the would-be
dramatist is swallowed up in the symphonist, and Strauss is again the
master magician who can juggle with our senses and our reason and make
his instrumental voices body forth "the forms of things unknown."

It would be wholly justifiable to characterize "Salome" as a symphonic
poem for which the play supplies the program. The parallelism of which
we hear between Strauss and Wagner exists only in part--only in the
application of the principle of characterization by means of musical
symbols or typical phrases. Otherwise the men's work on diametrically
opposite lines. With all his musical affluence, Wagner aimed, at least,
to make his orchestra only the bearer and servant of the dramatic word.
Nothing can be plainer (it did not need that he should himself have
confessed it) than that Strauss looks upon the words as necessary evils.
His vocal parts are not song, except for brief, intensified spaces at
long intervals. They are declamation. The song-voice is used, one is
prone to think, only because by means of it the words can be made to
be heard above the orchestra. Song, in the old acceptance of the word,
implies beauty of tone and justness of intonation. It is amazing how
indifferent the listener is to both vocal quality and intervallic
accuracy in "Salome." Wilde's stylistic efforts are lost in the flood of
instrumental sound; only the mood which they were designed to produce
remains. Jochanaan sings phrases, which are frequently tuneful, and when
they are not denunciatory are set in harmonies agreeable to the ear.
But by reason of that fact Jochanaan comes perilously near being an
old-fashioned operatic figure--an ascetic Marcel, with little else to
differentiate him from his Meyerbeerian prototype than his "raiment of
camel's hair and a leather's girdle about his loins," and an inflated
phrase which must serve for the tunes sung by the rugged Huguenot
soldier. Strauss characterizes by his vocal manner as well as by his
themes and their instrumental treatment; but for his success he relies
at least as much upon the performer as upon the musical text. A voice
and style like Mr. Van Rooy's give an uplift, a prophetic breadth,
dignity, and impressiveness to the utterances of Jochanaan which are
paralleled only by the imposing instrumental apparatus employed in
proclaiming the phrase invented to clothe his pronouncements. Six horns,
used as Strauss knows how to use them, are a good substratum for the
arch-colorist. The nervous staccato chatter of Herod is certainly
characteristic of this neurasthenic. This specimen from the pathological
museum of Messrs. Wilde and Strauss appears in a state which causes
alarm lest his internal mechanism fly asunder and scatter his corporeal
parts about the scene. The crepitating volubility with which Strauss
endows him is a marvelously ingenious conceit; but it leans heavily for
its effect, we fear, on the amazing skill of Mr. Burrian, not only in
cackling out the words synchronously with the orchestral part, but in
emotionally coloring them and blending them in a unity with his facial
expression and his perturbed bodily movements. Salome sings, often in
the explosive style of Wagner's Kundry, sometimes with something like
fluent continuity, but from her song has been withheld all the
symmetrical and graceful contours comprehended in the concept of melody.
Hers are the superheated phrases invented to give expression to her
passion, and out of them she must construct the vocal accompaniment to
the instrumental song, which reaches its culmination in the scene which,
instead of receiving a tonal beatification, as it does, ought to be
relegated to the silence and darkness of the deepest dungeon of a
madhouse or a hospital.

Here is a matter, of the profoundest esthetical and ethical
significance, which might as well be disposed of now, so far as this
discussion is concerned, regardless of the symmetrical continuity of the
argument. There is a vast deal of ugly music in "Salome,"--music that
offends the ear and rasps the nerves like fiddlestrings played on by a
coarse file. In a criticism of Strauss's "Symphonia Domestica" I took
occasion to point out that a large latitude must be allowed to the
dramatic composer which must be denied to the symphonist. Consort a
dramatic or even a lyric text with music and all manner of tonal devices
may derive explanation, if not justification, from the words. But in
purely instrumental music the arbitrary purposes of a composer cannot
replace the significance which must lie in the music itself--that is
in its emotional and esthetic content. It does not lie in intellectual
content, for thought to become articulate demands speech. The champions
of Richard Strauss have defended ugliness in his last symphony, the work
which immediately preceded "Salome," and his symphonic poems on the
score that music must be an expression of truth, and truth is not always
beautiful. In a happier day than this it was believed that the true and
the beautiful were bound together in angelic wedlock and that all art
found its highest mission in giving them expression. But the drama has
been led through devious paths into the charnel house, and in "Salome"
we must needs listen to the echoes of its dazed and drunken footfalls.
The maxim "Truth before convention" asserts its validity and demands
recognition under the guise of "characteristic beauty." We may refuse
to admit that ugliness is entitled to be raised to a valid principle
in music dissociated from words or stage pictures, on the ground that
thereby it contravenes and contradicts its own nature; but we may no
longer do so when it surrenders its function as an expression of the
beautiful and becomes merely an illustrative element, an aid to dramatic
expression. What shall be said, then, when music adorns itself with its
loveliest attributes and lends them to the apotheosis of that which is
indescribably, yes, inconceivably, gross and abominable? Music cannot
lie. Not even the genius of Richard Strauss can make it discriminate in
its soaring ecstasy between a vile object and a good. There are three
supremely beautiful musical moments in "Salome." Two of them are purely
instrumental, though they illustrate dramatic incidents; the third is
predominantly instrumental, though it has an accompaniment of word and
action. The first is an intermezzo in which all action ceases except
that which plays in the bestially perverted heart and mind of Salome. A
baffled amorous hunger changes to a desire for revenge. The second is
the music of the dance. The third is the marvelous finale in which an
impulse which can only be conceived as rising from the uttermost pit
of degradation is beatified. Crouching over the dissevered head of
the prophet, Salome addresses it in terms of reproach, of grief, of
endearment and longing, and finally kisses the bloody lips and presses
her teeth into the gelid flesh. It is incredible that an artist should
ever have conceived such a scene for public presentation. In all the
centuries in which the story of the dance before Herod has fascinated
sculptors, painters, and poets, in spite of the accretions of lustful
incident upon the simple Biblical story, it remained for a poet of our
day to conceive this horror and a musician of our day to put forth his
highest powers in its celebration. There was a scene before the mental
eye of Strauss as he wrote. It was that of Isolde singing out her life
over the dead body of Tristan. In the music of that scene, I do not
hesitate to say again, as I have said before, there lies the most
powerful plea ever made for the guilty lovers. It is the choicest
flower of Wagner's creative faculty, the culmination of his powers as
a composer, and never before or since has the purifying and ennobling
capacity of music been so convincingly demonstrated. Strauss has striven
to outdo it, and there are those who think that in this episode he
actually raised music to a higher power. He has not only gone with the
dramatist and outraged every sacred instinct of humanity by calling
the lust for flesh, alive or dead, love, but he has celebrated her
ghoulish passion as if he would perforce make of her an object of that
"redemption" of which, again following Wagner but along oblique paths,
he prates so strangely in his opera of "Guntram."

It is obvious on a moment's reflection that, had Strauss desired, the
play might easily have been modified so as to avoid this gruesome
episode. A woman scorned, vengeful, and penitent would have furnished
forth material enough for his finale and dismissed his audience with
less disturbance of their moral and physical stomachs. But Strauss, to
put it mildly, is a sensationalist despite his genius, and his business
sense is large, as New Yorkers know ever since he wound up an artistic
tour of America with a concert in a department store. When Nietszche
was the talk of Germany we got "Also Sprach Zarathustra." Oscar Wilde's
play, too unsavory for the France for which it was written, taboo
in England because of its subject, has been joyously acclaimed in
Germany, where there are many men who are theoretically licentious
and practically uxorious; and Strauss was willing that his countrymen
should sup to their full of delights and horrors.

To think back, under the impressions of the final scene, to the dance
which precipitated the catastrophe is to bring up recollections of
little else than the striking originality of its music, its piquancies
of rhythm and orchestration, its artfully simulated Orientalism, and the
thrilling effect produced by a recurrence to the "love music" ("Let me
kiss thy mouth, Jochanaan,") at a moment before the frenetic close, when
the representation of Salome (a professional dancer, Miss Froehlich, was
deftly substituted for Miss Fremstad at the Metropolitan performance)
approaches the cistern in which the white flesh, black hair, and red
lips of her idolatry are immured, and casts wistful glances into its
depths. Since the outcome was to be what it became it would have been
folly in Mr. Conried's performance to attempt to disguise the true
character of the "Dance of the Seven Veils." Miss Froeblich gave us
quite unconcernedly a danse du ventre; not quite so pronounced as it
has been seen in the Oriental quarters at our world's fairs, not quite
so free of bodily covering as tradition would have justified. Yet it
served to emphasize its purpose in the play. This dance in its original
estate is a dramatic dance; it is, indeed, the frankest example of
terpsichorean symbolism within the whole range of the pantomimic dance.
The conditions under which Wilde and Strauss introduce it in their drama
spare one all need of thought; there is sufficient commentary in the.
doddering debility of the pleading Herod and the lustful attitude of
his protruding eyes. There are fantastical persons who like to talk
about religious symbolism in connection with this dance, and of forms
of worship of vast antiquity. The dance is old. It was probably danced
in Egypt before the Exodus; in Greece probably before Orpheus sang and

  "Ilion, like a mist, rose into towers."

But it is not to be seriously thought that from those days to this
there was ever any doubt as to its significance and its purpose, which
is to pander to prurient appetites and arouse libidinous passions.
Always, too, from those days to this, its performers have been the
most abandoned of the courtesan class.

There is not a whiff of fresh and healthy air blowing through "Salome"
except that which exhales from the cistern, the prison house of
Jochanaan. Even the love of Narraboth, the young Syrian captain, for the
princess is tainted by the jealous outbursts of Herodias's page. Salome
is the unspeakable; Herodias, though divested of her most pronounced
historical attributes (she adjures her daughter not to dance, though
she gloats over the revenge which it brings to her), is a human hyena;
Herod, a neurasthenic voluptuary. A group of Jews who are shown
disputing in the manner of Baxter Street, though conveyed by Wilde from
Flaubert's pages, are used by Strauss to provide a comic interlude.
Years ago a musical humorist in Vienna caused much amusement by writing
the words of a quarrel of Jewish pedlers under the voices of the fugue
in Mozart's overture to "The Magic Flute." Three hundred years ago
Orazio Vecchi composed a burlesque madrigal in the severe style of that
day, in which he tried to depict the babel of sounds in a synagogue.
Obviously the musical Jew is supposed to be allied to the stage Jew and
to be fit food for the humorist. Strauss's music gives a new reading to
Wilde; it is a caricature in which cacophony reigns supreme under the
guise of polyphony. There are five of the Jews, and each is pregnantly
set forth in the theme with which he maintains his contention.

This is but one of many instances of marvelous astuteness in the
delineation and characteristic portions of the music. The quality which
will he most promptly recognized by the public is its decorative and
illustrative element. The orchestra paints incessantly; moods that are
prevalent for a moment do not suffice the eager illustrator. The passing
word seizes his fancy. Herod describes the jewels which he promises to
give to Salome so she relieve him of his oath, and the music of the
orchestra glints and glistens with a hundred prismatic tints. Salome
wheedles the young Syrian to bring forth the prophet, and her cry,
"Thou wilt do this thing for me," is carried to his love-mad brain by a
voluptuous glissando of the harp which is as irresistible as her glance
and smile. But the voluptuous music is no more striking than the tragic.
Strauss strikes off the head of Jochanaan with more thunderous noise
upon the kettle-drums than Wagner uses when Fafner pounds the life
out of Fasolt with his gigantic stave; but there is nothing in all of
Wagner's tragic pages to compare in tenseness of feeling with the moment
of suspense while Salome is peering into the cistern and marveling that
she hears no sound of a death struggle. At this moment there comes an
uncanny sound from the orchestra that is positively blood-curdling. The
multitude of instruments are silent--all but the string basses. Some
of them maintain a tremolo on the deep E flat. Suddenly there comes a
short, high B flat. Again and again with more rapid iteration. Such a
voice was never heard in the orchestra before. What Strauss designed it
to express does not matter. It accomplishes a fearful accentuation of
the awful situation. Strauss got the hint from Berlioz, who never used
the device (which he heard from a Piedmontese double-bass player), but
recommended it to composers who wished to imitate in the orchestra "a
loud female cry." Strauss in his score describes how the effect is to be
produced and wants it to sound like a stertorous groan. It is produced
by pinching the highest string of the double-bass at the proper node
between the finger-board and the bridge and sounding it by a quick jerk
of the bow. This is but one of a hundred new and strange devices with
which the score of "Salome" has enriched instrumental music. The dance
employs a vast apparatus, but the Oriental color impressed upon it at
the outset by oboe and tambour remains as persistent as its rhythmical
figure, which seems to have been invented to mark the sinuous flexure
of the spine and the swaying of the hips of the dancer. Devices made
familiar by the symphonic poems are introduced with increased effect,
such as the muting of the entire army of brass instruments. Startling
effects are obtained by a confusion of keys, confusion of rhythms,
sudden contrasts from an overpowering tutti to the stridulous whirring
of empty fifths on the violins, a trill on the flutes, or a dissonant
mutter of the basses. The celesta, an instrument with keyboard and
bell tone, contributes fascinating effects, and the xylophone is
used;--utterances that are lascivious as well as others that are
macabre. Dissonance runs riot and frequently carries the imagination
away completely captive. The score is unquestionably the greatest
triumph of reflection and ingenuity of contrivance that the literature
of music can show. The invention that has been expended on the themes
seems less admirable. Only the pompous proclamation of the theme which
is dominant in Jochanaan's music saves it from being called commonplace.
A flippant hunter of reminiscences might find its prototype in the "Lady
Moon" chorus of Balfe's "Bohemian Girl." There is no greater originality
in the theme which publishes Salome's amorousness for the white flesh of
Jochanaan, which time and again shows its kinship to the andante melody
in the first movement of Tschaikowsky's "Pathétique" symphony, but
becomes more and more transfigured in its passionate loveliness when it
aids the beatification of the more than ghoulish princess. There is no
escape from the power of the music when it soars to grandiose heights in
the duet between Salome 'and the prophet, the subsequent intermezzo and
the wicked apotheosis. It overwhelms the senses and reduces the nervous
system of the listeners to exhaustion.

The subscription season of 1906-07 at the Metropolitan Opera House began
on November 26th and lasted seventeen weeks, compassing sixty-eight
subscription performances of twenty-three operas and twenty-nine extra
performances. Mr. Conried announced at the close of the supplementary
season that his receipts had aggregated $1,005,770.20; but this sum
doubtless included the receipts from the Boston season. The season
1907-08 began on November 18th and lasted twenty weeks. There were one
hundred subscription performances (Thursday having been added to the
subscription nights), twenty Saturday popular representations, and
three special. Twenty-seven operas were in the list, but only one of
them was new. This was Francesco Cilèa's "Adriana Lecouvreur," which
was brought forward on the opening night of the season, and had one
repetition afterward, notwithstanding that it had been incorporated
in the repertory to give Signor Caruso an opportunity to appear in a
new work together with Mme. Cavalieri. The cast was as follows:


  Adriana Lecouvreur ........................ Lina Cavalieri
  La Principessa .......................... Josephine Jacoby
  Mlle. Jouvenot ............................ Marie Mattfeld
  Mlle. Dangeville ............................. Mme. Girerd
  Maurizio ................................... Enrico Caruso
  L'Abate .................................... Georges Lucas
  Michonnet ................................. Antonio Scotti
  Il Principe ............................... Marcel Journet
  Quinault .................................... Mr. Barocchi
  Poisson ..................................... Mr. Raimondi
  Maggiordomo ................................. Mr. Navarini
                Conductor, Rudolfo Ferrari


Cilèa has in this work attempted to put the familiar play of Scribe and
Legouvé into music. Formerly, as we all know, composers used to try to
make operas out of plays. The result is for the greater part a sort of
spectacle recalling familiar things to the eye, accompanied by an
undercurrent of music occasionally breaking into melody and buoying up
long stretches of disjointed and fragmentary conversation, out of which,
under the best of circumstances, it would be difficult to construct a
drama and from which it is not possible to extract the pleasure which
one can still find in the old-time style of entertainment derisively
called a concert in costume. The manner of "Adriana Lecouvreur" is more
or less that of Puccini, Giordano, and Spinelli--to mention the names
that immediately preceded Cilèa's across the ocean--but it is only in
the manner, not in the matter, except, as some disagreeable seekers
after reminiscences will say, when that matter is borrowed. There is
some graceful music in the score and some strains which simulate.
passion; but to find in any of its parts the kind of music which
vitalizes the word or heightens the dramatic situation is a hopeless
task. It is melodramatic music, which becomes most fluent when there is
least occasion for it, and which makes its best appeal when the heroine
declaims above it in the speaking voice (as she does in the climax of
the third act, when Adrienne recites a speech from Racine's "Phèdre"
in order to accuse the Princess of adultery), when it inspires the
heroine carefully and particularly to blow out every light in a large
drawing-room, or when it accompanies a ballet which is neither a part
of the play nor an incidental divertissement, but only a much-needed
device to give the composer an opportunity for a few symmetrical pieces
of music. Even here, however, this music must serve as a foil for the
everlasting chit-chat of the people of the drama. A pitiful work it
was with which to open a season. Mascagni's "Iris" was brought out
on December 6th, and after it was all too late there was a carefully
studied performance of "Don Giovanni" and a sumptuously, too
sumptuously, mounted production of "Fidelio." These two works
practically summed up the labors accomplished by Gustav Mahler, though
he produced excellent representations (except scenically) of "Tristan"
and "Die Walküre." Mr. Mahler, having laid down the directorship of the
Court Opera at Vienna, was brought to New York by Mr. Conried, and his
coming had raised high the expectations of the lovers of German opera.
The record must also include the enlistment in the Metropolitan forces
of Madame Berta Morena and Madame Leffler-Burckhardt, whose influence
upon the season would have been much more marked had not Mr. Conried's
policy of catering principally to the Italianissimi prevented them
from becoming as large factors as they deserved to be.

When Mr. Conried issued his prospectus for his fifth season it had
already long been an open secret that some of the men whom he had
invited to share the glories and the profits of his administration had
decreed his downfall. During the fourth season he had been ill with
sciatic neuritis, and there was no improvement in his physical condition
when he entered upon his duties in 1907-08. His ability to attend to the
arduous labors of the managing directorate was questioned. Worse than
this, the air for months had been full of whispers of scandalous doings
in the business department, and the chorus of dissatisfaction with
the artistic results of his directorate, which had begun in the first
season, had been swelling steadily. Two seasons before he had put forth
a disingenuous apology for his administration, comparing the cost and
difficulties of producing opera in the preceding season with the cost
and difficulties under Mr. Grau. The matter was one which affected the
stockholders of his company only so far as the finances were concerned;
as to the difficulties, it was not easy to see how they could have been
less formerly than now, when there was so much more money to spend,
and so much more had been spent in improving the facilities for opera
giving. The patrons of the establishment found large ground for
complaint in contrasting the artistic achievements with the flamboyant
promises which had been made when the new administration came in. Mr.
Conried had told them that his first aim was to raise the standard of
performance, and to this end he had banished all thought of profit from
his mind. He was going to continue to employ the most refulgent
"stars" in the world, but to abolish the "star" system. The season in
Philadelphia was to be abandoned so that there might be more time for
rehearsals, and less exhaustion of his artistic forces. Opera in English
was to be added to opera in Italian, French, and German. As for the
French and Italian works they were to be given as they had been under
Mr. Grau, but the German was to be raised to a higher plane. Not one of
these promises was redeemed. Italian operas were given great prominence
over French, and the additions to the Italian list, which were really
new, were of the poorest sort. Perfunctoriness, apathy, and ignorant
stage management marked the German performances, which were all
but eliminated from the subscription list. There were evidences
of high striving at the outset in the engagement of Messrs. Mottl,
Lautenschläger, and Fuchs, as I have already said, but the results were
negligible because the men were unable to employ their capacities.
There were sensational features, like the production of "Parsifal" and
"Salome," but there were humiliating ones, like the prostitution of a
great establishment for the performance of "Die Fledermaus" and "Der
Zigeunerbaron" to deck out the Herr Direktor's benefits. The blight
of commercialism had fallen on the institution. On February 11,
1908, Mr. Conried resigned, and announcement was officially made
of a reorganization of his company, and the engagement of Giulio
Gatti-Casazza and Andreas Dippel as managers of the opera for the
season 1908-09.

Following is a table of performances during the subscription seasons
of Mr. Conried's administration:


THE CONRIED PERIOD: 1902-'08

   Operas                    1903-4  1904-5  1905-6  1906-7  1907-8

  "Rigoletto" ................. 5       2       5       2       4
  "Die Walküre" ............... 4       4       3       2       3
  "La Bohème" ................. 3       3       5       7       7
  "Aïda" ...................... 6       5       4       6       5
  "Tosca" ..................... 4       4       3       6       7
  "Tannhäuser" ................ 5       9       4       5       4
  "Cavalleria Rusticana" ...... 8       3       0       1       0
  "Pagliacci" ................. 5       3       3       4       4
  "Lohengrin" ................. 5       6       5       5       2
  "La Traviata" ............... 3       4       2       3       6
  "Il Barbiere" ............... 4       2       2       0       6
  "Lucia di Lammermoor" ....... 3       3       5       4       1
  "Tristan und Isolde" ........ 4       2       3       4       6
  "The Magic Flute" ........... 4       0       0       0       0
  "Siegfried" ................. 2       2       3       4       3
  "L'Elisir d'Amore" .......... 4       1       2       0       0
  "Carmen" .................... 4       4       2       1       0
  "Coppélia" (ballet).......... 4       1       0       0       0
  "La Dame Blanche" (Ger.) .... 1       0       0       0       0
  "Faust" ..................... 4       4       5       4       6
  "Mefistofele" .............. *2       0       0       0       7
  "Roméo et Juliette" ......... 2       4       0       5       0
  "Nozze di Figaro" ........... 1       2       0       0       0
  + "Parsifal" ............... 11       8       4       2       0
  "Fidelio" ................... 1       1       0       0       3
  "Das Rheingold" ............. 1       2       2       1       0
  "Götterdämmerung" ........... 1       2       3       1       0
  "La Gioconda" ............... 0       4       4       0       0
  "Die Meistersinger" ......... 0       7       4       0       4
  "Lucrezia Borgia" ........... 0       1       0       0       0
  "Don Pasquale" .............. 0       2       2       1       0
  "Die Puppenfee" (ballet) .... 0       1       0       0       0
  "Les Huguenots" ............. 0       4       0       0       0
  "Un Ballo in Maschera" ...... 0       2       0       0       0
  + "Die Fledermaus" .......... 0       4       1       0       0
  "Die Königin von Saba" ...... 0       0       5       0       0
  "Hänsel und Gretel" ......... 0       0      11       8       5
  "La Favorita" ............... 0       0       4       0       0
  "La Sonnambula" ............. 0       0       2       0       0
  "Il Trovatore" .............. 0       0       4       0       6
  "Don Giovanni" .............. 0       0       2       0       4
  "Martha" .................... 0       0       4       3       3
  "Der Zigeunerbaron" ......... 0       0       1       0       0
  + "Fedora" .................. 0       0       0       4       3
  + "La Damnation de Faust" ... 0       0       0       5       0
  "Lakmé" ..................... 0       0       0       3       0
  "L'Africaine" ............... 0       0       0       2       0
  "Manon Lescaut" ............. 0       0       0       3       5
  "Madama Butterfly" .......... 0       0       0       5       6
  + "Salome" .................. 0       0       0       1       0
  + "Adriana Lecouvreur" ...... 0       0       0       0       2
  "Der Fliegende Holländer" ... 0       0       0       0       4
  "Iris" ...................... 0       0       0       0       5
  "Mignon" .................... 0       0       0       0       5

  * One scene only. + Novelties.



CHAPTER XXIII

HAMMERSTEIN AND HIS OPERA HOUSE


Before the close of the season 1905-06 at the Metropolitan Opera House,
Mr. Oscar Hammerstein, who was building a large theater in Thirty-fourth
Street, between Eighth and Ninth avenues, announced that the building
would be called the Manhattan Opera House, that it would be exclusively
his property and under his management, and that it was to be devoted to
grand opera.

It is no reflection on Mr. Hammerstein to say that many who have been
prompt and generous in their recognition of his achievements since,
looked upon his enterprise as quixotic, down to the very day of
the opening of his house. True, he was known to be a manager of
extraordinary resource and indomitable energy, but he had dallied more
or less with the operatic bauble without disclosing any ambition to have
his name written among the managerial wrecks which have been cast upon
the shores of Italian Opera, from Handel's day to ours, It was easy to
recall that the new opera house was not his first, but that he had built
one in the same street, given it the same name thirteen years before,
and begun a season of grand opera with an ambitious novelty, only to
abandon the enterprise after a fortnight. He had even tried German
opera with no less popular an artist than Mme. Lehmann in his earlier
opera house in Harlem, and entered into rivalry with an established
institution in 1891 for the production of "Cavalleria Rusticana," then
the reigning sensation of the hour in Europe.

When the old Manhattan Opera House, so soon abandoned to the uses of
vaudeville, opened its doors with Moszkowski's "Boabdil," on January
23, 1893, there was no rival operatic establishment in the city, for
the interior of the Metropolitan had been destroyed by fire, and
Abbey, Schoeffel & Grau were resting on their oars for a season while
the question whether or not the home of the costly and fashionable
entertainment should be restored was under discussion by its owners.
Yet Mr. Hammerstein was discouraged by two weeks of failure. It was not
strange that many observers refused to believe that he was of the stuff
out of which opera managers are made. He did not seem illogical enough,
though he showed some symptoms of having been bitten by the opera habit.

Neither was there much to encourage belief in his announcements in the
manner in which he put them forth. He began early in the spring by
saying that he had engaged Jean and Édouard de Reszke, and kept their
names before the people almost up to the time of the opening. He went
abroad to engage artists, and even after his return it looked as if it
would be a physical impossibility to complete his theater in time for
the date set for opening. In fact it was not completed, but when the
season arrived he was ready to attempt all that he had said he would do,
except keep some wild promises about singers; and when the season closed
the fact that loomed largest in the retrospect was the undaunted
manner in which he had carried on a difficult and dangerous enterprise,
compelling a large element of the public to respect and admire him, and
making it possible for him to lay out a second season on lines of real
pith and moment, and carry an admirable enterprise to an admirable
conclusion.

Mr. Hammerstein began his first season on December 3, 1906, and closed
it on April 20, 1907. There were a few admirable artists in his company,
but the majority were either inexperienced or of the conventional
Italian type. His principal soprano leggiero was Mlle. Pinkert, a Polish
singer of good routine and fine skill; his dramatic soprano, Mlle. Russ,
whose knowledge of the conventions of the stage was complete, and
expressive powers excellent, though they exerted little charm. He had a
serviceable mezzo in Mme. De Cisneros (formerly a junior member of the
Metropolitan Opera Company, under her maiden name, Broadfoot). Miss
Donalda, a Canadian soprano of no little charm, helped to make the
lyric operas agreeable. But the strength of the company lay in the male
contingent--Bonci, the most famous of living tenors, after Caruso, whom
Mr. Conried thought it wise to carry over to the Metropolitan Opera
House, thus precipitating a controversy, which, as such things go, was
of real assistance to the manager whom the rival sought to injure;
Maurice Renaud, the most finished and versatile of French operatic
artists, whom the foresight of Maurice Grau had retained for the
Metropolitan, but whose contract Mr. Conried canceled at the cost of a
penalty; M. Charles Dalmorès, a sterling dramatic tenor; M. Gilibert, a
French baritone of refined qualities; Mme. Bressler-Gianoli, who, coming
some years before in a peripatetic French company to the Casino, had
stirred the enthusiasm of the critics with her truthful, powerful, and
unconventional performance of Carmen; Ancona, a barytone who had been
an admired member of the Metropolitan company, and a serviceable bass
named Arimondi. Melba and Calvé came later in the season.

Exaggerated stories of Mr. Hammerstein's success followed the close of
his season, and if all that Mr. Hammerstein himself said could have been
accepted in its literalness the lesson of the season would have been
that the people who live in New York and come to New York in the winter
season were willing to spend, let me say, one and three-quarter millions
of dollars every year for this one form of entertainment. It would
appear, also, that fad and fashion were not the controlling impulse in
this vast expenditure; for the chief things which fad and fashion had
to offer at the Metropolitan Opera House were noticeably absent from
the Manhattan. On a score of occasions there were large gatherings
representative of wealth and what is called society at the house in
Thirty-fourth Street, but generally the audiences were distinct in their
composition. It almost seemed as if Mr. Hammerstein had been correct in
his deduction, that there were enough people in New York who wanted to
go to the opera, but were excluded from the Metropolitan by the extent
of the subscription, to support a second house. If this was so it
marked a marvelous change from the time of the last operatic rivalry,
which ruined both Mapleson and Abbey, and destroyed the prestige of the
Academy of Music forever. Perhaps the city's growth in population and
wealth furnished the explanation; I can scarcely believe from a study of
the doings at the two houses that a growth in musical taste and culture
was the determining factor. Twenty years ago such a list of operas as
that presented by Mr. Hammerstein in his first season would have spelled
ruin to any manager. Not even the prestige of Adelina Patti would have
saved it. There was not a novelty in the list.

Many things contributed to the measure of success which Mr. Hammerstein
won. There was a large fascination in the audacity of the undertaking,
and its freedom from art-cant and affectation. Curiosity was irritated
by the manager's daring, and admiration challenged by the manner in
which he kept faith with the public. He seemed to be attempting the
impossible, but he accomplished all that he said he would do. It is
no secret--in fact, Mr. Hammerstein himself proclaimed it--that his
artistic achievements were due in an overwhelming degree to the
efficiency of Signor Cleofonte Campanini, his artistic director. But not
to his efficiency alone--to his devotion and zeal also. Signor Campanini
was not only the artistic director--he was also almost exclusively the
conductor of the performances. His zeal fired all the forces employed at
the opera house. A company gathered together from the ends of the earth
succeeded in giving one hundred and thirteen performances of twenty-two
operas, and making many of the performances of really remarkable
excellence. The reason was obvious at nearly every presentation; from
the principals down to the last person in the chorus and orchestra,
every one had his heart in his work. Not only the desire to do
their duty, but the pardonable ambition to do better than the rival
establishment, inspired singers and players alike. It so happened that
on one Saturday evening the same opera--Verdi's "Aïda"--was performed
at both houses. A newspaper reporter carried the intelligence to
the Manhattan Opera House that half the seats were empty at the
Metropolitan, while the new house was crowded. The curtain was down at
the time, and a score of the performers on the stage, headed by the
conductor himself, at once formed a ring and danced a dance of triumph.

For musical effects, as well as some dramatic, there were distinct
advantages with the new house. The disposition of the seats and stage
brought the listeners and performers nearer together. The acoustical
conditions at the Manhattan Opera House were admirable; there could be
no such feeling of intimacy at the Metropolitan Opera House as existed
here. The quality appealed to the music lover pure and simple, and him
only, however, for in the things which make the opera a fashionable
social diversion the new building was deficient and woefully inferior
to the old.

The lovers of good singing were surprised by the excellence of Mr.
Hammerstein's singers, especially the male contingent--a surprise
which was heightened by the protestations, to which they had long been
habituated, that there was no talent left in Europe comparable with that
engaged at the Metropolitan. When in the face of such assertions the
voices and the art of tenors like Bonci and Dalmores, and of barytones
like Renaud and Ancona, were brought into notice their actual merit
seemed doubled. The women singers of the first rank, save Mmes.
Melba and Calvé, who appeared in what would have been called "star"
engagements under the old theatrical stock régime, were in no way
comparable with those of the Metropolitan Opera House, but those of
the second rank were superior--a circumstance which was emphasized by
the better ensemble performances, for which a discriminating public
soon learned to thank Signor Campanini and the esprit de corps with
which he inflamed the establishment's forces.

The opening of the season, on December 3 1906, had been proclaimed a
week earlier, so as to make it synchronous with that of the Metropolitan
Opera House; but Mr. Hammerstein's house was not ready, nor were his
singers or stage fixtures. The fact looked ominous, and the enterprise
took a lugubrious beginning a week later, when "I Puritani," which had
been chosen as the opening opera because it was looked upon in Europe
as affording to Signor Bonci his finest artistic opportunity, failed to
arouse any public interest. It was an experience which Mr. Hammerstein
was destined to have again and again with operas like "Dinorah,"
"Mignon," "Fra Diavolo," "Il Barbiere," and "Un Ballo in Maschera,"
for which the public seemed suddenly to have lost all liking, while
still clinging to works of equal antiquatedness.

From the opening night to the closing the operas of the list were
produced on the dates and in the succession indicated in the following
table, which tells also the number of times each opera was performed.
It must be stated, however, that there were a number of occasions in
the course of the season when two operas or portions of several operas
were performed on a single evening. This accounts for the large number
of times that Mascagni's "Cavalleria" and Leoncavallo's "Pagliacci"
were given, the latter being also helped in the record by the fact
that it was twice bracketed with Massenet's "Navarraise."


   Opera                      First performance          Times

  "I Puritani" ................. December 3 ............. 2
  "Rigoletto" .................. December 5 ............ 11
  "Faust" ...................... December 7 ............. 7
  "Don Giovanni" ............... December 12 ............ 4
  "Carmen" ..................... December 14 ........... 19
  "Aïda" ....................... December 19 ........... 12
  "Lucia di Lammermoor" ........ December 21 ............ 6
  "Il Trovatore" ............... January 1 .............. 6
  "La Traviata" ................ January 2 .............. 3
  "L'Elisir d'Amore" ........... January 5 .............. 3
  "Gil Ugonotti" ............... January 18 ............. 5
  "Il Barbiere di Siviglia" .... January 21 ............. 2
  "La Sonnambula" .............. January 25 ............. 3
  "Pagliacci" .................. February 1 ............ 10
  "Cavalleria Rusticana" ....... February 1 ............. 8
  "Mignon" ..................... February 7 ............. 3
  "Dinorah" .................... February 20 ............ 1
  "Un Ballo in Maschera" ....... February 27 ............ 2
  "La Bohème" .................. March 1 ................ 4
  "Fra Diavolo" ................ March 8 ................ 4
  "Marta" ...................... March 23 ............... 4
  Manzoni Requiem (Good Fri.) .. March 29 ............... 1
  "La Navarraise" .............. April 10 ............... 2


On three occasions the regular procedure was interrupted for the sake
of matters of temporary and special interest. Thus, on March 2d,
there was a miscellaneous bill, made up of an act of "Dinorah," one
of "Faust," and all of "Cavalleria Rusticana"; on April 19th, the
performance was little else than a concert, at which fragments of six
operas, some of which were not in the repertory, were sung; while on
Good Friday, Verdi's Requiem Mass, composed in honor of Manzoni, took
the place of an opera, and was sung to popular prices, though it was
on a regular opera night.

The subscription was so small that it seemed unnecessary to
differentiate in the table between regular and extra performances. Of
the latter there were twenty on Saturday nights, at popular prices,
besides others given on holidays and for benefits. Though it is to be
noted as a matter of history that the competition of the Manhattan Opera
House did not appreciably affect the subscription of the Metropolitan,
it is also to be noted that as a rule the attendance on the Saturday
night popular performances was larger at the new house.

A few of the incidents of the season deserve to be passed in review.
Of the singers whose presence in Mr. Hammerstein's company lent
distinction to it, Signor Bonci appeared on the opening night in "I
Puritani." The opera failed to awaken interest, but Bonci caught the
popular fancy and held it to the end. Toward the close of February,
however, it was announced that he had made a contract with Mr. Conried
to sing at the Metropolitan Opera House the next season. Mr. Hammerstein
first met the move of his rival by announcing the engagement of Signor
Zenatello, but afterward began legal proceedings to prevent Signor Bonci
from fulfilling his contract with the manager of the house in upper
Broadway. M. Renaud, the great French barytone, effected his entrance
in "Rigoletto," but he was not in his best voice and condition, and
only later conquered recognition for his fine talents. The opera,
however, took its place on the popular list, since it employed, at
different times, the finest talent at the command of the management.
The first large and complete triumph by an opera was won on December
14th, by "Carmen," in which Mme. Bressler-Gianoli appeared as the
heroine. She enacted the part fifteen times before Mme. Calvé came to
take back the territory which had so long belonged to her.

A second success followed hard on the heels of "Carmen." This was
"Aïda," the triumph of which was one of ensemble, in which the chorus,
under Signor Campanini, played no small part. Mme. Melba's coming, on
January 2d, was the signal for the awakening of society's interest in
Mr. Hammerstein's enterprise. She remained until March 25th, when she
said farewell in a performance of Puccini's "Bohème," the production
of which by Mr. Hammerstein in defiance of the rights of Mr. Conried
(according to the allegations of the publishers, Ricordi) and the
legal proceedings ending with the granting of an injunction against
Mr. Hammerstein at the end of his season, was one of the diverting
incidents of the merry operatic war. Mme. Melba sang three times
in "La Traviata," five times in "Rigoletto," twice in "Lucia di
Lammermoor," once in "Faust," and four times in "La Bohème."

The Bonci incident and the interest created in Mr. Hammerstein's
enterprise by Mme. Melba's popularity stimulated interest in the
offerings for a second season, which the manager answered by announcing
the engagement, besides Zenatello and Sammarco, of Nordica and
Schumann-Heink, and the re-engagement of Renaud, Bressler-Gianoli,
Gilibert, and Dalmores. He also opened his subscription for the next
season on March 19th, and announced the day after that he had received
subscriptions amounting to $200,000, of which $110,000 had come from
the four principal ticket speculators in the city. Mme. Calvé, who was
engaged to give éclat to the conclusion of the season, effected her
entrance on March 27th, and sang nine times--four in "Carmen," three
in "Cavalleria Rusticana," and two in "La Navarraise."



CHAPTER XXIV

A BRILLIANT SEASON AT THE MANHATTAN


The prospectus which Mr. Hammerstein published for his second season
was magnificently grandiloquent in its promises, but the season itself
marvelous in its achievements. Eight operas "never produced in this city
or country," "masterpieces of the most celebrated composers," which were
his "sole property," were to be brought forward, in addition to many
familiar works. He announced the engagement of "the greatest sopranos,
mezzo sopranos, contraltos, barytones, and bassos of the operatic
world." The eight new operas were to be Massenet's "Thaïs," Debussy's
"Pelléas et Mélisande," Charpentier's "Louise," Breton's "Dolores,"
Massenet's "Jongleur de Notre Dame," Saint-Saëns's "Hélène," Offenbach's
"Les Contes d'Hoffmann," and "an opera by our American composer, Victor
Herbert." Offenbach's charming opera had been heard in New York before,
from a French company managed by Maurice Grau, but it required a memory
that compassed twenty-five years to recall that fact; so in respect
of it Mr. Hammerstein's slip was venial at the worst. His list of the
greatest singers in the world read as follows: Sopranos: Nellie Melba,
Lillian Nordica, Mary Garden, Gianinna Russ, Camille Borello, Ludmilla
Sigrist, Giuseppina Giaconia, Helen Koelling, Fanny Francisca, Mauricia
Morichina, Jeanne Jomelli, Emma Trentini, and Alice Zeppilli; mezzo
sopranos and contraltos: Ernestine Schumann-Heink, Bressler-Gianoli,
Eleanore de Cisneros, J. Gerville-Reache, Emma Zaccaria, Gina Severina;
tenors: Giovanni Zenatello, Amadeo Bassi, Charles Dalmorès, Jean
Perier, Leone Cazauran, Carlo Albani, Emilio Venturini, Francesco Daddi;
barytones: Maurice Renaud, Charles Gilibert, Mario Sammarco, Vincenzo
Reschiglian, Mario Ancona, Hector Dufranne, Nicolo Fossetta; bassos:
Adamo Didur, Victorio Arimondi, Luigi Mugnoz; basso buffo: Fernando
Galetti-Gianoli. Cleofonte Campanini was again musical director.

These the magnificent promises. Had half of them been kept the fact
would have amazed a public whom long experience had taught to put no
more faith in the promises of impresarios than in those of princes. As
a matter of fact, barring the extravagant attributes alleged to be due
to the singers, the majority of whom were worse than mediocre, more
than half were kept, and the deficiency more than counterbalanced
by new elements which were introduced from time to time, as happy
emergencies called for them. Chief of these was the engagement of Luisa
Tetrazzini; of which more in its proper place. The official announcement
was of subscription performances on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday
evenings, and Saturday afternoons, for twenty weeks. Also there were to
be twenty Saturday evenings at popular prices. Just before the opening
of the season there was semi-official talk of popular performances also
on Tuesday and Thursday evenings, which, had it been realized, would
have kept the opera company as busy with a large repertory as the
ordinary theatrical company with its single play running through a
season. A beginning was made with the Thursday performances, but Mr.
Hammerstein concluded after a short trial of the experiment, that the
game was not worth the candle, and so abandoned it. Before the close of
the season Mr. Hammerstein announced an extra week of five performances,
which he invited his subscribers to enjoy without money and without
price, on the ground that the exigencies of the season had compelled him
to repeat operas on subscription nights. The season of twenty-one weeks,
which began on November 4, 1907, and ended on March 28, 1908, was thus
made to embrace 116 representations in all; that is to say, eighty
subscription nights and matinées, twenty popular Saturday nights,
five performances in the extra week, and eleven special afternoons
and evenings. The discrepancy between these figures and the total of
the last column in the appended table, showing the dates of first
productions in the season, and the number of performances given to each
opera, is accounted for by the fact that nine times in the course of
the season the entertainment consisted of two operas, and once there
was a bill of shreds and patches from various operas.

To complete the statistical record of the company's activity, it must be
added that two performances were given in Philadelphia, and that there
were eighteen concerts on Sunday nights, at the last few of which operas
were given in concert form. Twice the opera house was kept closed on
Sunday nights because of the enforcement of a rigid interpretation of
the law prohibiting theatrical entertainments on Sunday.

A study of the list of performances shows that the 116 performances were
distributed among twenty-three operas. Of these four had never been
given in New York before (they were "Thaïs," "Louise," "Siberia," and
"Pelléas et Mélisande"), three had been given in New York, but so long
ago that they were to all intents and purposes novelties ("Les Contes
d'Hoffmann," "Crispino e la Comare," and "Andrea Chenier"), and three,
though familiar to the public, were new to the house ("La Gioconda,"
"La Damnation de Faust," and "Ernani"); the other thirteen were in the
Manhattan repertory for the season of 1906-07.


   Opera        Composer              First performance   Times given


  "La Gioconda," Ponchielli ................ Nov. 4           4
  "Carmen," Bizet .......................... Nov. 5          11
  "La Damnation de Faust," Berlioz ......... Nov. 6           3
  "Trovatore," Verdi ....................... Nov. 9           5
  "Aïda," Verdi ............................ Nov. 11          9
  "Les Contes d'Hoffmann," Offenbach ....... Nov. 15         11
  "Thaïs," Massenet ........................ Nov. 24          7
  "Faust," Gounod .......................... Nov. 28          4
  * "La Navarraise," Massenet .............. Dec. 9           5
  * "Pagliacci," Leoncavallo ............... Dec. 9           9
  "Ernani," Verdi .......................... Dec. 11          1
  "Rigoletto," Verdi ....................... Dec. 20          5
  "Un Ballo in Maschera," Verdi ............ Dec. 27          4
  "Don Giovanni," Mozart ................... Dec. 28          3
  * "Cavalleria Rusticana," Mascagni ....... Dec. 31          4
  "Louise," Charpentier .................... Jan. 3          11
  "La Traviata," Verdi ..................... Jan. 15          5
  "Lucia di Lammermoor," Donizetti ......... Jan. 20          8
  "Siberia," Giordano ...................... Feb. 5           3
  "Pelléas et Mélisande," Debussy .......... Feb. 19          7
  "Dinorah," Meyerbeer ..................... Feb. 26          1
  "Crispino e la Comare," Ricci brothers ... Mar. 6           3
  "Andrea Chenier," Giordano ............... Mar. 27          1
                                                            ---
                                                            124
  * Parts of double bills.


When Mr. Hammerstein issued his prospectus in the early autumn he
promised to produce no less than eight operas which had never been
performed in America. Managerial promises of this kind are generally
made and accepted in a Pickwickian sense, but Mr. Hammerstein came
nearer than is the custom to keeping his, though the season closed with
his subscribers waiting for "Dolores," by Breton; "Le Jongleur de Notre
Dame," by Massenet, and "Hélène," by Saint-Saëns. He also promised
performances of three German operas ("Lohengrin," "Tannhäuser," and
"Tristan und Isolde"), a new American opera in English, to be composed
by Victor Herbert, and the following operas from the standard list,
viz., "Le Prophète," Massenet's "Manon," "Roméo et Juliette,"
"Mefistofele," and "La Bohème." He had fought in the courts for the
privilege of performing the last opera in the preceding season, but
abandoned it without contention this season in the face of Mr. Conried's
assertion that he had purchased the exclusive rights to all Italian
performances of Puccini's operas in the United States. It is not likely
that the statement about Mr. Herbert's opera was taken very seriously
in any quarter; he is a prolific and marvelously ready writer of comic
operetta scores, but it is not likely that he will ever attempt to find
a suitable grand opera book and set it to music within six or eight
months, while occupied, as he is, with a multitude of other enterprises.
Mr. Hammerstein had promised in his prospectus that there would also be
performances in German of "Lohengrin," "Tannhäuser," and "Tristan und
Isolde." This part of the manager's scheme went by the board early
in the season. It was contingent upon the presence in the company of
singers familiar with the three works of Wagner. Of such there was only
one when the season began, and she, Mme. Nordica, remained a member
of Mr. Hammerstein's forces only six weeks, during much of which time
she was idle. Mme. Schumann-Heink, though announced as a member of the
company, interrupted her concert activity only long enough to sing once,
and then she sang in an Italian opera ("Il Trovatore"), albeit she did
her part in German.

Up to the coming of Signorina Tetrazzini Mr. Hammerstein pinned his
faith on the interest which might be aroused in his French novelties. On
the second subscription night he came forward with Berlioz's "Damnation
de Faust," with which he had contemplated adorning his first season, and
for which he had prepared the scenic outfit. The undramatic character of
the transformed cantata had caused its failure at the Metropolitan Opera
House in the season of 1906-07, and not even the fine performance of M.
Renaud, whose impersonation of Mephistopheles is one of the noblest
memories left by the season, the excellent singing of M. Dalmorès, and
the beautiful pictures could save it. There was a long wait between the
first and second representations, and after one more trial the work was
abandoned. Meanwhile, however, Offenbach's "Contes d'Hoffmann," which
had had a few performances at the Fifth Avenue Theater twenty-five years
before, was brought forward. Again Messrs. Renaud and Dalmorès were
admirably fitted with parts and scant justice done to the opera in
the distribution of the women's rôles; but the charm of Offenbach's
music overcame the defects of performance, and the opera achieved so
pronounced a success that it could be given with profit eleven times
before M. Renaud's departure from New York after the performance of
February 4th.

The libretto of "Les Contes d'Hoffmann" proclaims a phase of French
literary taste which made heroes two generations ago out of two foreign
romancers,--the German E. T. A. Hoffmann and the American Edgar Allan
Poe. Very much alike were these two men in some of their strongest
characteristics. Both were possessed of genius of a high order; both led
lives of dissipation, which wrecked them physically; both found their
fantastic creations in the world of supernaturalism which imagination,
stimulated by alcoholic indulgence, presented to them as realities. This
is literally true, at least, of Hoffmann, who, coming home from his
nightly carouses with the boon companions, whom he has celebrated in
his "Serapion's Brüder" (the coterie somewhat vulgarly parodied in the
beginning and end of Offenbach's opera), was wont to call for his wife
to sit beside him through the remainder of the night to ward off the
ghostly, ghastly, grisly creatures which his own perfervid imagination
had conjured up. Sixty years ago France was full of admiration for the
weird tales of Hoffmann, and in view of the singular vicissitudes of
the fantastic romancer's life, some of them quite as startling as the
adventures which he ascribed to his imaginary creatures, it was not
at all strange that Barbier and Carré should have conceived the idea
of making him the hero of a play dealing with incidents of his own
invention. In 1851 they brought out their play in five acts at the
Odéon. It did not endure long, but it made so deep an impression on
the mind of Offenbach that when he was seized with the ambition to
write a serious work, which he might leave to the world as a legacy,
to prove that his ambitions went beyond the things with which he amused
the careless folk of the Second Empire, he turned to the old play for
his libretto.

In a way it was a happy choice. If an author was to be blended with his
creations and utilized for operatic purposes, history might be searched
in vain for a better subject than Hoffmann. He was jurist, court
councillor, romancer, caricaturist, scene painter, theatrical manager,
and musical composer. In several ways he is living in the musical annals
to-day. His opera, "Undine," is forgotten, though it was highly praised
by Carl Maria von Weber, who had not feared soundly to abuse Beethoven;
but his literary creation, the Chapelmaster Kreissler, lives in
Schumann's "Kreissleriana," and other conceits of his filtered through
Jean Paul, in other compositions by the same master. His criticisms,
though cast in fantastic form, opened the eyes of many to the beauties
of Gluck, Mozart, and Beethoven. His admiration for Mozart went to such
an extreme that he cast aside part of his baptismal name in order to
substitute for it one of the given names of his hero--Amadeus. Of this
admiration neither Offenbach nor his librettists were unaware, for
when Hoffmann and Nicklausse come into the tavern where the roystering
students greet them, in the prologue, they are still so full of the
opera "Don Giovanni," to which they had just been listening, that
Nicklausse quotes the words of Leporello's first song, and Offenbach
reverently quotes the music.

Let no one think that the production of "Les Contes d'Hoffmann" was in
any way analogous with the operetta performances with which Mr. Conried
lowered the status of the Metropolitan Opera House when he performed
"Die Fledermaus" and "Der Zigeunerbaron" at his benefits. No serious
reader of mine will expect to see in this place dispraise of the genius
of Johann Strauss; but the works mentioned are operettas in form and
in spirit, while "Les Contes d'Hoffmann" was conceived in an entirely
different vein, and shows the musician who composed it in a character
that no one would dream was his who knew him only as the composer of the
Bouffes Parisiens. It is a pathetic, but also lovely, document in proof
of the fact that with all his frivolity he wanted to die at least in the
odor of artistic sanctity. The piquant rhythms and prettily superficial
melodies of his musical farces were a perfect reflex of the careless
art-feeling of his day, just as the farces themselves were admirably
adjusted to the taste of the boulevardiers who basked in the sunshine of
Napoleon the Little, and laughed uproariously while their Emperor and
their social institutions were being castigated by the cynical German
Jew and his librettists. "He was the Beethoven of the sneer," said Émil
Bergerat, when Offenbach died, and then with a fantastic pencil worthy
of the caricaturist Hoffmann himself, he drew a dreadful picture of
Offenbach and his times; of the mighty fiddler beating time upon the
well-filled goatskin and sawing away across the strings, his mouth
widened with a grin "like some drunken conception of Edgar Poe's, or
some fantasy of Hoffmann, while the startled birds flew back to heaven,
the moon split herself back to her ears, and the stars giggled behind
their cloud-fans." The planetary system only revolved to frisky rhythms,
and the earth herself, like a mad top, hummed comically about the
horrified sun. En avant la musique! and the old edifice crumbled in dust
around the musician. To Bergerat Offenbach was the great disillusioner
of the age, the incarnation of what he conceived to be the spirit of the
nineteenth century, a spirit that hated and contemned the past, mocked
at the things which the simplicity of preceding centuries held sacred,
threw ridicule upon social sentiments, rank, caste, ceremonialism,
learning, and religion.

The composer of "Les Contes d'Hoffmann" is nothing of this. The opera
was the child of his old age. He loved it, and labored over its score
for years. It is full of lovely melody (the barcarolle of the second act
will always exert a potent and lovely influence) fluent from beginning
to end, and rich in dramatic characterization. No one is likely to
listen to the trio at the culmination of the third act (that dealing
with the fate of a singer's daughter) without realizing what a really
admirable power of expression was that which Offenbach, for reasons
explained by the spirit of the times and his own moral nature, chose
to squander so many years on his opéras bouffes. Frequently the melodic
line in the opera rises to admirable heights; always melody, harmony,
and orchestration are refined, unless a burlesque effect is aimed at,
as in the ballad of "Kleinzack," and Nicklausse's song of the doll.
Offenbach's opera had its first performance on November 14, 1907, the
cast being as follows:


  Olympia ...................................... Zepilli
  Giulietta .................................... Jomelli
  Antonia ...................................... Borello
  Nicklausse ............................... De Cisneros
  A Voice ..................................... Giaconia
  Hoffman ..................................... Dalmorès
  Cornelius   |
  Dappertutto |
  Dr. Miracle | ................................. Renaud
  Spalanzni |
  Grespel   | ................................. Gilibert
  Lindorff   |
  Schlemihl  | .................................. Crabbe
  Cochenille    |
  Pitichinaccio | ................................ Daddi
  Frantz ............................... Gianoli-Galetti
  Hermann .................................. Reschiglian
  Nathaniel .................................. Venturini
  Luther ...................................... Fossetta
            Conductor, Cleofonte Campanini


On November 25, 1907, Mr. Hammerstein brought forward Massenet's
"Thaïs," to signalize the first appearance in America of Miss Mary
Garden. The opera was produced with the following cast:


  Thaïs ....................................... Mary Garden
  Crobyle ........................................ Trentini
  Myrtale ........................................ Giaconia
  Albine .................................. Gerville-Reache
  Athanaël ......................................... Renaud
  Nicias ......................................... Cazouran
  Palemon .......................................... Mugnoz
  Un Serviteur ................................ Reschiglian
                       Conductor, Campanini


With this work French opera won its second triumph. The charm of Miss
Garden's personality was felt, but her singing compelled less tribute,
and though the opera had seven representations before the departure of
M. Renaud compelled its withdrawal, its success was due much more to him
than to his fair companion. The Thaïs of MM. Gallet and Massenet is not
the Thaïs of classical story, who induced Alexander to burn the palace
of the Persian kings at Persepolis--"who like another Helen, fired
another Troy"--but she is of her tribe. Also of the tribe of Phryne,
Laïs, and Messalina, who live in history and in art because of their
beauty and their pruriency, their loveliness and licentiousness. The
operatic Thaïs is the invention of Anatole France, who borrowed her
name for a courtesan of Alexandria some centuries after the historic
woman lived. With the help of suggestions borrowed from the stories of
innumerable saints who fled from the vicious world into the desert,
and industriously cultivated sanctity and bodily filth, of converted
trollops and holy Anthonys, he constructed a tale of how one of these
desert saints, filled with ardor to save the soul of a cyprian who
had the gay world of Alexandria at her feet, went to her, persuaded
her to put her sinful life behind her, enter the retreat of a saintly
sisterhood and die in grace, while he, falling at the last into the
clutches of carnal lust, repented of his good deed and wrought his own
damnation. Changing the name of the unfortunate zealot from Paphnuce to
Athanaël, M. Louis Gallet made an opera-book out of France's story, and
Massenet set it to music. It is a delectable story, but it fell into the
hands of master craftsmen, and the admirers of "art for art's sake" and
at any cost, have cause to rejoice at the treatment which it received.
Glimpses into the life of the frowsy fraternity of cenobites, and
fragments of their doleful canticles are not engaging in themselves, but
they are fine foils to pictures of antique vice and the songs and dances
of classic voluptuaries. There are splendid dramatic potentialities for
those who like such things and those who find profit in exploiting in
the juxtaposition cheek by jowl of saintliness and sin; of Christian
hymning and harlotry; of virtue in a physical wrestle with vice, and
coming out triumphant, but handing the palm over to the real victor at
the end; in the picture of a monk sprinkling the couch of Venus with
holy water, and decking his cowl with roses.

Also there was a large personal note in the original creation of
"Thaïs," and there was a large personal note in its reproduction. It is
not altogether a pleasant one for the lover of real art to listen to.
Had there been no Sybil Sanderson, it is doubtful if Massenet would ever
have been directed to the subject. True, he had shown a predilection
for frail women as his heroines before, as witness Marie Magdalen, Eve,
Herodias, and Manon Lescaut; but in the works which exploited these
women the personal equation did not enter so far as the world knows or
the printed page discloses. But when he wrote "Thaïs" it was neither
histrionic nor musical art that be aimed primarily to exploit, but the
physical charms of an individual. Something was needed for the jaded
boulevardiers of Paris to leer at while they feebly clapped their hands
and piped "Ah, charmante! Ravissante!" It may be that the fine command
of Oriental color which is supposed to have affinity in the idioms of
music with voluptuousness in all its forms, had something to do with
the case, but the whole structure of the piece, superb as it is in its
contrasting elements, and theatrically ingenious and effective, points
nevertheless to the unfortunate Sanderson. And in the same way its
Parisian revival points to Madame Cavalieri and Miss Garden, and its
American production to the latter. For the sake of gifted singers and
accomplished actors merely, the opera was not created, and will not
be kept alive. It rests for its success on the kind of argument which
Phryne, of classic story, presented to her austere judges.

The brilliancy of the play, its masterly handling of contrasts equally
gratifying to the scenic artist, the actor, and the composer, challenged
admiration and won it in large measure at the Manhattan performances.
From the ordinary theatrical point of view it would not be easy to pick
a quarrel with the drama. It would be almost churlish when there is so
much to be grateful for, to pick flaws in M. Massenet's score. In the
first place, compared with the vast volume of stuff poured forth by
his younger colleagues of Italy, and even by some of his confrères of
France, it makes appeal for approval by its evidences of consummate
technical mastery. It never trickles; it never grows stagnant; it never
gropes; it never fails for want of matter and manner in utterance.
Its current is smooth and self-reliant. It carries action and scene
buoyantly and unceasingly, even if it does not always expound them
deeply or give them adequate external adornment. When it has no real
warmth it simulates it admirably. Its texture is well-knit. There is
purpose, not deep, not long-sustained, but, so far as it goes, logical,
in the composer's application of the system of typical or representative
phrases. There is, too, a measure of appositeness in the structure and
character of his themes--the themes of asceticism, of Athanaël, of
Thaïs. There is mastery of local color which makes the composer's use
of Oriental tints as dramatically appropriate as it is engaging in all
the scenes of ancient profligacy which fill the center of the artist's
canvas.

M. Massenet's orchestra is an active agent in the development of the
drama, and the episodes in which it becomes dominant are not pauses
in the action created because of a felt need for something besides an
undercurrent for the inane chatter of dialogue; instead they carry on
the psychological action, the concealed drama which is playing on the
stage of the hearts of the people concerned in the story. There is
fitness in the interlude, in which Thaïs disposes herself to reproduce
the pantomime of the loves of Aphrodite and Adonis, and a pretty touch
of significance in the reminiscence of the music which had disturbed
Athanaël's dream in the first act. There is more than mere musical
charm in the intermezzo which follows the scene in which the monk wakes
into life the conscience of the courtesan. She has defied him to the
last, but the struggle in her soul has begun, and while he sleeps on
the steps of her house the progress and outcome of the struggle are
portrayed in the instrumental number which Massenet has called a
"Religious Meditation." In itself it is not unlike scores of pieces
similarly intituled, but it is made significant by its introduction of
the theme of Thaïs in a chastened mood, in the garb of solemn gravity;
and the melody of the violin solo, borne up by almost indefinable
harmonies, and floated by harp arpeggios, recurs again before the death
scene of Thaïs to delineate her ecstasy and Athanaël's despair. Though
the intermezzo, thus admirably motived, marks the highest flight of
Massenet's genius in this opera, there are many other pages in the score
which might be chosen for praise. Enough that while the admirers of
"Manon" and "Werther" are not likely to find the music of those operas
equaled, they will yet find much to fascinate them in "Thaïs."

I have said, in effect, that the chief triumph in the performance
of Massenet's opera was won by M. Renaud. Miss Garden had, indeed,
established herself as a popular favorite, but it was not until the
production of Charpentier's "Louise," on January 3, 1908, an opera with
which her name was more intimately associated in popular report, that
it could be said without qualification that French opera had won its
battle. The principal parts in this opera were distributed amongst Mr.
Hammerstein's singers thus:


  Louise ..................................... Miss Mary Garden
  Julien .................................. M. Charles Dalmorès
  Mother of Louise ...................... Mme. Bressler-Gianoli
  Father of Louise ........................ M. Charles Gilibert
  Irma ................................... Mlle. Alice Zeppilli
  Camille ..................................... Mlle. Morichini
  Gertrude ..................................... Mlle. Giaconia
  Suzanne ............................... Mlle. Helene Koelling
  King of the Fools .............................. M. Venturini
  A Ragpicker .................................. M. Reschiglian
  A Junkman ......................................... M. Mugnoz
  Elise            |
  A Street Sweeper | ........................... Mlle. Severina
  A Street Arab ................................ Mlle. Trentini
  An Apprentice ................................. Mlle. Sigrist
              Conductor, Campanini


"Louise" had made a great noise, both in a literal and figurative
sense, during the greater part of the preceding eight years. It had
made the rounds of the principal opera houses on the European continent,
but most of the noise came from Paris, and among those who sat in
Mr. Hammerstein's boxes and stalls on the occasion of its American
production there were many who had already made the acquaintance of the
work at the Opéra Comique, in the French capital. It is likely that
their interest in the performance was mingled more or less with curious
questionings touching the attitude which local opera-lovers would assume
toward it. There is a vast difference in the mood in which Americans go
to public entertainments in Paris and at home. In a sense, though not a
large or dignified one, the tragic element in the story of Charpentier's
opera is universal; but its representation is in every particular
the most local and circumscribed of any opera ever written. I am not
disposed to waste much time or space in a discussion of things to
which the patrons of our playhouses have often exhibited a callous
indifference. It is only to justify a hurried analysis of the artistic
nature of the work that attention is called to some of its essential
characteristics. "Louise" is not a French opera, though its score is
French, its people speak French, and its music echoes French measures
when it is original, and also when borrowed or imitated. "Louise" is
Parisian in its gaiety, its passions, its vulgarity, and its artistic
viciousness. If music could in itself give expression to ethical ideas,
it would also be proper to say that this score is Parisian in its
immorality. Coupled with its story, which glorifies the licentiousness
of Paris and makes mock of virtue, the sanctity of the family tie, and
the institutions upon which social stability and human welfare have
ever rested and must forever rest, the music may also be set down as
immoral. Certain it is that there is nothing in it that is spiritually
uplifting, and as little that makes for gentleness and refinement of
artistic taste. It is not French in the historic sense, because it
rudely tramples upon all the esthetic principles for which the French
composers, from Lully to the best of Charpentier's contemporaries have
stood--elegance, grace, and beauty of expression.

It is, however, characteristic of the times--characteristic in subject
and in utterance. To the intellectual and moral anarchism universally
prevalent among the peoples of Western culture, which desires to
have idealism outraged, sacred things ridiculed, high conceptions of
beauty and duty dragged into the gutter, and ugliness, brutality, and
bestiality placed upon a pedestal so long as a consuming thirst for
things hot in the mouth may be slaked, it makes a strong appeal. To
Mr. Hammerstein its success meant much. It was a reward for another
exhibition of a bold and adventurous spirit; of his skill in gathering
together a band of artists splendidly capable of presenting the works
which he was trying to make the prop of a new lyric theater in the
American metropolis; of a daringly enterprising purpose to make all
the elements of his new productions harmonious and alluring--the stage
pictures, the action, the singing, and the instrumental music. This
achievement he accomplished when not only the large and striking
features of the opera--its scenic outfit, its pictures of popular
carousal on the heights of Montmartre, the roystering realism of the
scene in a dressmakers' shop, the splendid acting of Miss Garden and
Mme. Bressler-Gianoli, the fine singing of M. Dalmorès, and the more
than superb acting and singing of M. Gilibert--found their complement
in the finish of a hundred little details, insignificant in themselves,
but singularly potent in helping to create the atmosphere without which
"Louise" would be little better than Bowery melodrama,--a play that
would be a hundred times more effective if its hero and heroine were
represented as living in Williamsburg, swelling at the spectacle of
the lights spanning the East River, and longing for the fleshpots of
the so-called "Tenderloin District" in New York.

The story of "Louise," in brief, is that of a sewing-girl who lives with
her parents on Montmartre, up to which, night after night, blink and
beckon the lights of the gay city. An artist, who is her neighbor, wooes
her and offers marriage, but her parents, a harsh, unsympathetic mother
and a tender-hearted father, are rigid in their objections to him
because of his insufficient means and loose character. Her lover lures
her out of her workshop, and, after he has inculcated in her the
doctrine of free love and free life, she leaves her parents to consort
with him. The artist's jovial companions make her queen of a Montmartre
festival for a purpose wholly extraneous to the story, but one that
serves the composer, who is his own librettist, and in the midst of the
merrymaking the mother appears and pleads with the girl to return to her
home to comfort her dying father. Her lover permits her to do so on her
promise to return to him. At home her father entreats her to give up her
life of dishonor. She listens to him petulantly. The music of a fête in
the city below, voices calling her from a distance, and the flashing
lights in the great city below, throw her into a frantic ecstasy; she
sings of her love and calls to her lover. The mother thinks her mad,
but the father drives her out of the house, only to repent and call
after her a moment later. But she is gone, and the drama ends with the
father shaking his fist at the city, and shrieking at it his hatred
and detestation.

The thoughts of opera-goers will naturally revert to "La Bohème"; but
there are many points of difference between the story which Puccini's
librettist pieced together out of Mürger's tales of bohemian life more
than half a century ago, and this one of to-day. The differences are all
in favor of the earlier opera. It was in a letter written by Lafcadio
Hearn to me that he called attention to the fact that under the levity
of Mürger's picturesque bohemianism there was apparent a serious
philosophy, which had an elevating effect upon the characters of the
romance. "They followed one principle faithfully,--so faithfully that
only the strong survived the ordeal,--never to abandon the pursuit of an
artistic vocation for any other occupation, however lucrative, not even
when she remained apparently deaf and blind to her worshipers." There is
very little in Puccini's opera to justify this observation, but the
significant fact remains that throughout the dramatic development of the
piece the bohemian artists and their careless companions grow in the
sympathy of the audience. For one thing, there is no questioning their
sincerity. For this there is only one parallel in Charpentier's opera.
There is, in fact, only one really dramatic character in it. It is that
of the father; in him there is honest, human feeling, a tenderness and
love which yield only to a moment of passion when he is perplexed in the
extreme and at a moment when the last drop of sympathy for Louise has
oozed away. Her tender regard for her father is pathetic in the first
act, where it is set against the foil of her mother's harshness. In
the last act, however, she is petulant, irascible, and cold, until the
moment of frenzy, when she surrenders to the call of Paris and her
wretched passion. Julien is scantily and unconvincingly sketched. There
is little indeed even to indicate sincerity in his love for Louise; at
first, while she sings of the ecstasy of first love, he calmly reads a
book; and when he responds, it is to invoke her to join him in a paean
in praise, not of their love, but of Paris. Does she find him, when she
rushes down the stairs, pursued by her father's broken-hearted calls?
One can feel no certainty on the point. The last impression is only
that she has gone to plunge into the flood of wickedness, never to be
seen again.

It was said some years ago, when "Louise" was celebrating its first
triumphs, that the opera was the first number of a projected trilogy,
and that Charpentier would tell us the rest of the story of the
sewing-girl in other operas. But the years have passed, the composer
has grown rich and is giving no sign. Instead, there is an organized
"Louise" propaganda in Paris. Funds are raised to send the working girls
of the city to the opera in droves, there to hear the alluring call to
harlotry, under the pretense that the agonies of the father will preach
a moral lesson.

There are dramatic strength and homogeneity only in the first and last
acts of the opera. The scenes between are shreds and patches, invented
to give local color to the story. In the original form the picture
of low life at dawn on Montmartre, in which charwomen, scavengers,
ragpickers, street sweepers, milkwomen, policemen, and others figure,
was enlivened by a mysterious personage called Le Noctambule, who
proclaimed himself to be the soul of the city--the Pleasure of Paris.
It was a part of the symbolism which we are asked also to find in the
flitting visions of low life and the echoes of street cries in the
music. But it was a note out of key, and Mr. Campanini eliminated it,
with much else of the local color rubbish. And yet it is in the use of
this local color that nearly all that is original and individual in the
score consists. Until we reach the final scene of the father's wild
anguish there is very little indeed that is striking in the music,
except that which is built up out of the music of the street. We hear
echoes of the declamatory style of the young Italian veritists in the
dialogue, much that is more than suggestive of the mushy sentimentality
of the worst of Gounod and Massenet in the moments when the music
attempts the melodic vein, and no end of Wagnerian orchestration in the
instrumental passages which link the scenes together. Some of this music
is orchestrated with great beauty and discretion, like the preludes, but
all that is conceived to accompany violent emotion is only fit to "tear
a cat in" or to "make all split." The score, in fact, is chiefly a
triumph of reflection, of ingenious workmanship, and there is scarcely
a moment in the opera that takes strong hold of the fancy, for which
the memory does not immediately supply a model, either dramatic or
musical, or both. Wagner's marvelous close of the second act of "Die
Meistersinger," with the night watchman walking through the quiet
streets flooded with moonlight, singing his monotonous chant, is feebly
mimicked at the close of the first scene of the second act of "Louise,"
when, all the characters of the play having disappeared, an Old Clothes
Man comes down a staircase crying his dolorous (all the street cries
are strangely melancholy) "Marchand d'habits! Avez-vous des habits a
vendr'?" while from the distance arise the cries of the dealers in
birdseed and artichokes. The spinning scene in "The Flying Dutchman,"
which reproduces a custom of vast antiquity, is replaced in "Louise"
with a scene in the dressmaker's workshop, in which the chatter of the
girls and the antics of the comédienne are borne up by the music of the
orchestra, with the click-click of the sewing machines to make up for
the melodious hum of Wagner's spinning wheels. Puccini's bohemians meet
in front of the Café Momus, enlivened by the passing incidents of a
popular fête; Charpentier's bohemians celebrate the crowning of the Muse
of Montmartre with a carnival gathering and ballet. It is this fête, we
fancy, which formed the nucleus around which Charpentier built his work.
Twice before "Louise" was brought forward he had utilized the ideas of
the popular festival at which a working girl was crowned and made the
center of a procession of roysterers, and a musical score with themes
taken from the noises of Paris. His "Couronnement de la Muse," composed
for a Montmartre festival, was performed at Lille in 1898; from Rome he
sent to Paris along with his picturesque orchestral piece, "Impressions
d'Italie," a symphonic drama, "La Vie du Poète," for soli, chorus,
and orchestra, in which he introduced "all the noises and echoes of a
Montmartre festival, with its low dancing rooms, its drunken cornets,
its hideous din of rattles, the wild laughter of bands of revelers, and
the cries of hysterical women." But even here M. Charpentier is original
in execution only, not in plan. There is scarcely a public library in
the large cities of Europe and America which does not contain a copy
of Georges Kastner's "Les Voix de Paris," with its supplement, "Cris
de Paris," a "Symphonie humoristique," with its themes drawn from the
cries of the peripatetic hucksters and street venders of the French
Capital; and as if that were not enough, historic records and traditions
trace the use of street cries as musical material back to the sixteenth
century. There seems even to have been a possibility that a "Ballet des
Cris de Paris" furnished forth an entertainment in which the Grand
Monarch himself assisted, for the court of Louis XIV.

French opera had won its battle; but even now, the way was not wholly
clear and open, for the successful operas were too few and their
repetition caused some grumbling.

At this critical moment the star of Luisa Tetrazzini rose in London
and threw its glare over all the operatic world. Two years before
Mr. Conried had engaged the singer while she was in California, but
had failed to bind the contract by depositing a guarantee with her
banker. He failed, it is said, because when he wanted to complete the
negotiations he could not find her. Mr. Hammerstein also negotiated
with her for the season of 1906-07, so he said, but she proved elusive.
Neither of the managers felt any loss at his failure to secure her. The
London excitement may have set Mr. Conried to thinking; Mr. Hammerstein
it stirred to action. On December 1st he announced that he had engaged
her for the season of 1908-09, and hoped to have her for a few
performances before the end of the season of 1907-08. A fortnight later
he proclaimed that she would effect her New York entrance on January
15th, and that he had secured her for fifteen representations in the
current season, with the privilege of adding to their number. Mr.
Conried threatened proceedings by injunction, but his threats were
brutum fulmen; she made her début on the specified date in "La
Traviata," and when the season closed she had added seven performances
(one in Philadelphia) to the fifteen originally contemplated. In New
York she sang five times in "Traviata," eight times in "Lucia," once
in "Dinorah," three times in "Rigoletto," three times in "Crispino e
la Comare," and once in a "mixed bill." She was rapturously acclaimed
by the public and a portion of the press. It is useless to discuss
the phenomenon. The whims of the populace are as unquestioning and
as irresponsible as the fury of the elements. That was seen in the
Tetrazzini craze in New York and in London; it was seen again in the
reception given to that musically and dramatically amorphous thing,
"Pelléas et Mélisande." This was as completely bewildering to the
admirers of the melodrama as to those who are blind and deaf to its
attractions. It should have been more so, for it is more difficult to
affect to enjoy "Pelléas et Mélisande" than to yield to the qualities
which dazzle in the singing of Tetrazzini. Nevertheless, "Pelléas et
Mélisande" had seven performances within five weeks.

Debussy's opera was performed for the first time on February 19, 1908,
the parts being distributed as follows:


  Arkël ........................................ M. Arimondi
  Pelléas ........................................ M. Perier
  Golaud ....................................... M. Dufranne
  Mélisande .................................... Miss Garden
  Yniold ..................................... Mlle. Sigrist
  Geneviéve ........................... Mme. Gerville-Reache
  Un Médecin ..................................... M. Crabbe
        Conductor, Sig. Campanini


The production of "Pelléas et Mélisande" was the most venturesome
experiment that Mr. Hammerstein had yet made and the one most difficult
to explain on any ground save the belief that a French novelty, no
matter what its character or its merits, would win profitable patronage
in New York at the moment. There was nothing in the history of the work
itself to inspire the confidence that it would make a potent appeal to
the tastes of the opera-lovers of New York. Nowhere outside of Paris
had it gained a foothold, and its success in Paris was like that which
any esthetic cult or pose may secure if diligently and ingeniously
exploited. Mr. Hammerstein knew this and he had seen the work at the
Opéra Comique. It could not have escaped his discerning mind that only
a small element in the population of even so cosmopolitan a city as
New York could by any possibility possess the intellectual and esthetic
qualifications necessary to enthusiastic appreciation of the qualities,
not to say merits, of the work. These qualifications are quite as much
negative as they are positive. It is not enough to the appreciation of
"Pelléas et Mélisande" that the listener shall understand French. He
must have a taste--and this must be an acquired one, since it cannot
be born in him--for the French of M. Maeterlinck's infantile plays,
"Pelléas et Mélisande" being on the border-line between the marionette
drama and that designed for the consumption of mature minds. He must,
moreover, have joined the inner brotherhood of symbol worshipers, and
be able to discern how it is that the world-old story of the union of
December and May, of blooming youth and crabbed age with its familiar
(and, as some poets and romancers would have us believe, inevitable)
consequences, can be enhanced by much chatter about crowns and rings
dropped into wells, white-haired beggars lying in a cave, stagnant and
mephitic pools, fluttering doves, departing ships, kings who lose their
way while hunting and are dashed against trees at twelve o'clock, maids
who know not whence they came or why they are weeping, and a whole
phantasmagoria more, out of all proportion to the simple incidents of
the tragedy itself.

This so far as the literary side of the matter is concerned. On
the musical much more is demanded. He must recognize unrhythmical,
uncadenced, disjointed, and ejaculatory prose dialogue, with scarcely a
lyrical moment in it, as a fit vehicle for music. He must not only be
willing to forego vocal melody, but even the semblance of melody also
in the instrumental music upon which the dialogue floats; for everybody
knows since the Wagnerian drama came into being that words which are in
themselves incapable of melodious flow may be the cause of melody in the
orchestral music which accompanies them. [There is here no allusion to
tune in the conventional sense, tune made up of motive, phrase, period
and section, but to a well modulated succession of musical intervals,
expressing a feeling or illustrating a mood.] He who would enjoy the
musical integument of this play must have cultivated a craving for
dissonance in harmony and find relish in combinations of tones that
sting and blister and pain and outrage the ear. He must have learned
to contemn euphony and symmetry, with its benison of restfulness, and
to delight in monotony of orchestral color, monotony of mood, monotony
of dynamics, and monotony of harmonic device.

It is not at all likely that Mr. Hammerstein expected to find a
sufficient number of opera-goers thus strangely constituted among
the patrons of his establishment to justify him in the astonishing
exhibition of enterprise or venturesomeness illustrated by the
production of "Pelléas et Mélisande" with artists brought especially
from Paris only because they had been concerned in the Parisian
performances, with new scenery, and at the cost of much money and labor
spent in the preparation. It is therefore safe to assume that he counted
on the potent power of public curiosity touching a well-advertised
thing. He had fared well with Mme. Tetrazzini in presenting operas which
represent everything that "Pelléas et Mélisande" is not. In this he had
much encouragement. He played boldly, and won.

"Pelléas et Mélisande" as it came from the hands of M. Maeterlinck, and
in the only form which the author recognizes, had been presented in
New York in an English version. What has been said above about the
qualifications of him who would rise to an enjoyment of the music with
which Debussy has consorted it ought to serve also to characterize that
music. Nothing has been exaggerated, nothing set down in a spirit of
illiberality. No student of music can be ignorant of the fact that the
art, being a pure projection of the human will, is necessarily always
in a state of flux, and in its nature, within the limitations that
bound all the manifestations of beauty, lawless. M. Debussy might have
proclaimed and illustrated that fact without in his capacity of a
critical writer having sought to throw odium on dead masters who were
better than he and living contemporaries who are at least older. The
little Parisian community who pass the candied stick of mutual praise
from mouth to mouth would nevertheless have given him their plaudits. In
his proclamation of the principles of musical composition as applied to
the drama he has proclaimed principles as old as opera. It needed no man
who has outlived the diatonic scale to tell us that vocal music should
be written in accordance with the rhythm and accents of the words, and
that dramatic music should be an integral element of the drama, or, as
he puts it, be "the atmosphere through which dramatic emotion radiates."
The Florentine inventors of monody told us that, Gluck echoed them,
Wagner re-enunciated the principle, and no modern composer has dreamed
of denying its validity. The only question is whether or not such
admirable results have been attained by M. Debussy; whether his music
sweetens or intensifies or vitalizes the play. That question must be
answered by the individual hearer. No one should be ashamed to proclaim
his pleasure in four hours of uninterrupted, musically inflected speech
over a substratum of shifting harmonies, each with its individual tang
and instrumental color; but neither should anybody be afraid to say that
nine-tenths of the music is a dreary monotony because of the absence
of what to him stands for musical thought. Let him admit or deny, as
he sees fit, that the principle of symphonic development is a proper
concomitant of the musical drama, but let him also say whether or
not what to some appears a flocculent, hazy web of dissonant sounds,
now acrid, now bitter-sweet, maundering along from scene to scene,
unrelieved by a single pregnant melodic phrase, stirs within him the
emotions awakened by a union of melody, harmony, and rhythm, either in
the old conception or the new. Debussy has had his fling at Wagner and
his system of construction in the lyric drama; yet he adopts his system
of musical symbols, It is almost a humiliation to say it. There is
sea music and forest music in "Pelléas et Mélisande." What a flight
of gibbering phantoms there would be if the fluttering of Tristan's
pennants or the "hunt's up" of King Mark's horns could be heard even
for a moment!

It would be difficult accurately and honestly to say what was the
verdict of the audience touching the merit of the work; concerning
the performance there was never a question. The first three acts were
followed by a respectful patter of applause. When Mr. Campanini came
into the orchestra to begin the fourth act he received an ovation
which was both spontaneous and cordial. The dramatic climax, which is
accompanied by superb music of its kind, is reached in the scene of
Pelléas's killing at the end of the fourth act. This stirred up hearty
enthusiasm, and after all the artists, Mr. Campanini, and the stage
manager had shared in the expression of enthusiastic gratitude, Mr.
Hammerstein was brought before the curtain. He made a brief speech,
saying that by its appreciation of the opera, with its poetical beauty
and musical grandeur, New York had set itself down as the most highly
cultivated city in the world, and that for himself the only purpose he
had had in producing it was to endear himself to the city's people!
Would that one dared to exclaim: "O sancta simplicitas!"

Mr. Hammerstein did not perform all the novelties which he had promised
in his prospectus, but to make good the loss he brought forward two
operas, one a complete novelty, which he had not promised. This was
Giordano's "Siberia." More surprising was the fact that only one day
before the close of the season he produced the same composer's "Andrea
Chenier" under circumstances which made the occasion a gala one for
Signor Cleofonte Campanini, the energetic and capable director who
more than anyone else had made the marvelous achievements of the
Manhattan company possible. The production of "Andrea Chenier" was not
contemplated when Mr. Hammerstein came forth in the summer with his
official announcement of the season; it had, however, been promised
by Mr. Conried, who seems to have found that the production of two
novelties of a vastly inferior kind taxed to the limit the resources of
the proud establishment in Broadway. There it was permitted to slumber
on with "Otello," "Der Freischütz," and "Das Nachtlager von Granada,"
whose titles graced Mr. Conried's prospectus. That circumstance may
have had something to do with Mr. Hammerstein's resolve at the eleventh
hour to add it to the list of five other new productions which he had
already placed to his credit. If so, he gave no indication of the fact
but permitted the announcement to go out that the performance was a
compliment to Signor Campanini and his wife, who, as Signora Tetrazzini,
had retired from the operatic stage after singing in the opera three
years before. Incidentally the circumstance appealed to whatever
feelings of gratitude the patrons of the Manhattan Opera House felt
toward Signor Campanini and also to the popular curiosity to hear a
sister of the Tetrazzini whose coming to the opera was the season's
chief sensation.

The occasion was well calculated to set the beards of memory mongers to
wagging. Those who could recall some of the minor incidents of a
quarter-century earlier remembered that the indefatigable director of
to-day was a modest maestro di cembalo at the Metropolitan in its
first season, and on a few occasions when his famous brother Italo
Campanini sang was permitted to try his "prentice hand" at conducting.
Next they recalled that four years later, when that brother made an
unlucky venture as impresario and sought to rouse the people of New York
to enthusiasm with a production of Verdi's "Otello" it was Cleofonte
Campanini who was the conductor of the company and Signorina Eva
Tetrazzini who was the prima donna. The original American production
of "Andrea Chenier" took place at the Academy of Music on November 13,
1896. At the revival on March 27, 1908, the parts were distributed as
follows:


  Maddalena de Coigny ................. Mme. Tetrazzini-Campanini
  Andrea Chenier ..................................... Sig. Bassi
  Carlo Gerard ................................... Sig. Sainmarco
  Contessa de Coigny ............................ Sig'ra Giaconia
  Bersi ......................................... Sig'ra Seppilli
  Madelon ...................................... Mme. De Cisneros
  Roucher ........................................... Sig. Crabbe
  Fouquier-Tinville ............................... Sig. Arimondi
  A Story Writer         |
  Mathieu, a sansculotte | ................. Sig. Gianoli-Galetti
  An Incroyable .................................. Sig. Venturini
  Abbé ............................................... Sig. Daddi
  Schmidt, a jailor ............................... Sig. Fossetta
  Major Domo ................................... Sig. Reschiglian
  Dumas, president of the tribunal .................. Sig. Mugnoz
                      Conductor,  Sig. Campanini


"Siberia" was performed on February 5, 1908, with the following cast:


  Stephana ................................... Sig'ra Agostinelli
  La Fanciulla .................................. Sig'ra Trentini
  Nikona ........................................ Sig'ra Zaccaria
  Vassili ........................................ Sig. Zenatello
  Gleby ........................................... Sig. Sammarco
  Walitzin .......................................... Sig. Crabbe
  Alexis .......................................... Sig. Casauran
  Ivan         |
  The Sergeant | ................................. Sig. Venturini
  The Captain ....................................... Sig. Mugnoz
  The Invalid .............................. Sig. Gianoli-Galetti
  Miskinsky .................................... Sig. Reschiglian
  L'Ispravnik   |
  The Cossack   |
  The Inspector | ................................. Sig. Fossetta
                    Conductor, Sig. Campanini


Giordano's opera is an experiment along the lines faintly suggested by
Mascagni in "Iris," but boldly and successfully drawn by Puccini in
"Madama Butterfly" and Charpentier in "Louise." The Italian disciples of
verismo are in full cry after nationalism and local color. A generation
ago the scenes, the characters, and the subject of an opera were of no
concern to the composer. His indifference to anachronism was like that
of Shakespeare, whose stage-folk, whether supposed to be ancient Greeks,
Romans, or Bretons, were all sixteenth-century Englishmen. When Verdi
wrote his Egyptian opera he was content with a little splash of
Orientalism which colors the chant of the priestess in the temple of
Phtha; the rest of the music is Italian. So the Germans remained German
in their music, and the Frenchmen continued to speak their own idioms,
saving a few characteristic rhythms for the incidental ballet. Mascagni
injected a little twanging of the Japanese samiesen into the music of
"Iris" but let the effort to obtain local color stop there.

Nevertheless the hint was seized upon by both Giordano and Puccini, and
apparently at about the same time. The former made an excursion into
Russia, the latter into Japan; Signor Illica acted as guide for both.
The more daring of the two was Puccini, for Japan is musically sterile,
while Russia has a wealth of characteristic folk-song unequaled by
that of any other country on the face of the earth. Nevertheless there
is nothing more admirable in the score of "Madama Butterfly" than the
refined and ingenious skill with which the composer bent the square-toed
rhythms and monotonous tunes of Japanese music to his purposes.

The dramatic structure of "Siberia" is not strong. Incidents of convict
life in Siberia which have formed the staple of Russian fiction for
so long are depended on to awaken interest and provide picturesque
stage-furniture, while sympathy is asked for the heroine who obtains
"redemption" by an honest love and a heroic sacrifice. Of course, that
the requisite degree of piquancy may not be wanting, the martyr is
a bawd who surrenders the luxuries of St. Petersburg provided by a
princely lover, to endure the privations of the Siberian mines with that
lover's successful rival. Only in the "redemption motive," so to speak,
is there any likeness between the story of the opera and Tolstoi's
"Resurrection," or the play based on that book which had been seen in
New York five years before, though the two had been associated in the
gossip of the theaters. There are three acts. The first, in which the
young officer Vassili, with whom the heroine Stephana is in love, draws
his sword against his superior officer, Prince Alexis, and thereby draws
down on himself the sentence of banishment to the mines, plays in a
palace in St. Petersburg, which the Prince had given to Stephana, who is
his mistress. The second act discloses incidents in the journey of the
convicts through Siberia, Vassili being joined at a station by Stephana,
who has sacrificed her all to follow him into exile. In the third act
phases of convict life and customs belonging to the Russian Easter
festival are disclosed, and there is a resumption of the dramatic story
which now hurries rapidly to its tragic conclusion. Gleby, the seducer
of Stephana, is found among a gang of new arrivals at the mines, and the
governor of the province, who had been among her old admirers, renews
his protestations of devotion and promises her liberty and a life of
pleasure. Him she repulses gently and proclaims the joy which Siberia
has brought to her. Gleby also attempts to regain his old influence over
her, but is cast aside with contumely. Thereupon he denounces her to the
community. She and her lover determine to escape but are betrayed and
the heroine is shot in her attempted flight. She dies "redeemed."

"Siberia" has no overture. In place of an instrumental introduction
there is a chorus of mujiks, which, Russian in idea as well as in
harmonization and manner of performance, introduces at once the most
interesting as it is the most effective element in the score. Without
this element the opera would be deplorably dull, so far as its music
is concerned. Giordano's original melody is for the greater part
commonplace and unexpressive. The dramatic scenes between the lovers in
each of the acts are passionate only to ears accustomed or willing to
find passion in strenuousness. Throughout Stephana and Vassili sing as
the Irishman played the fiddle--by main strength. In the second act
there is much more to warm the fancy and delight the ear. Here the
lack of an opening overture is made good by an extended instrumental
introduction of real beauty and power. In a way the music is both
meteorological and psychological; it pictures the dreary waste of
country; it seems to speak of the falling snow and biting frost; but it
also gives voice to the heavy-heartedness which is the prevailing mood
of the act. It introduces, too, as a thematic motive, the opening phrase
of the Russian folk-song which the convicts sing as they enter. This
melody is one of the gems of Russian folk-song so much admired by the
composers of the Czar's empire that there are few of them who have not
put it to artistic use. It is "Ay ouchnem," the song originally created
for the bargemen of the Volga, who to its sighing and groaning measures,
with broad straps across their breasts, towed heavy vessels against the
current of the river. Now it is also used by workmen to assist them in
the lifting and carrying of burdens. Giordano makes excellent use of it
at the end as well as at the beginning of the act, though as a direct
quotation, not for thematic treatment as Puccini uses the Japanese
themes in his score. This is one of the characteristics of Giordano's
opera and one which illustrates his inferiority as a musician to his
more successful rival. In the second act a semi-chorus of women quote
again from Russian folk-song by singing the melody of the air known to
all musical folklorists by its German title, "Schöne Minka." In the
third act there is a Russian Easter canticle which has little of the
Russian character but makes an agreeable impression upon the popular
ear by reason of its effective use of bell-chimes. There is another
folk-melody in the opera which has gained publicity in a manner
different from that which made "Ay ouchnem" and "Schöne Minka" widely
known; it is the melody of the "Glory" song--"Slava"--which Beethoven
used in the scherzo of one of his Rasoumowski Quartets.

The season was not without its humorous incidents. A quarrel of Messrs.
Conried and Hammerstein over MM. Dalmorès and Gilibert, who were enticed
away from their old allegiance by Mr. Conried but would not stay
bought, was one of these. Another was a circular letter sent out by Mr.
Hammerstein on December 23d, scolding his subscribers because they were
not coming up to his help against the mighty. The letter caused much
amused comment amongst the knowing, who asked themselves whether it was
the scolding of the innocent or the coming of "Louise," Tetrazzini,
and "Pelléas et Mélisande" which turned the tables in the favor of the
manager. Mr. Hammerstein seemed to believe that the letter had been
efficacious.



APPENDIX I

THREE SEASONS AT THE METROPOLITAN OPERA HOUSE


Season 1908-1909


The twenty-fourth regular subscription season of grand opera at the
Metropolitan Opera House began on November 16th, 1908, and ended
on April 10th, 1909. The subscription was for one hundred regular
performances in twenty weeks, on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday
evenings, and Saturday afternoons. In their prospectus the directors,
Messrs. Giulio Gatti-Casazza and Andreas Dippel, announced a change of
plan in respect of the Saturday night performances which had been given
for a number of years. Those at the reduced prices which had hitherto
prevailed were to be limited to the first twelve and the last two weeks
of the season; the others were to be at regular rates. From the end of
February till April a series of special performances on Tuesday and
Saturday nights was projected. Wagner's "Parsifal" was to be reserved
for the customary holiday performances, and there were to be two
performances of other works, the proceeds of which were to go into a
pension and endowment fund, the establishment of which, it was hoped,
would help to give greater permanency to the working forces of the
institution. There was a promise of a large increase in the orchestra
as well as the chorus, not only to give greater brilliancy to the local
performances, but also to make possible a division of the company, with
less injury than used to ensue, when it became necessary to give two
performances on the same day--one in the Metropolitan Opera House and
one in Philadelphia or Brooklyn as the case might be.

These plans were carried out practically to the letter, Mr.
Gatti-Casazza reinforcing the Italian side of the house, and Mr. Dippel
the German, with artists, scenery, and choristers, as each thought
best, under the supervision of the Executive Committee of the Board of
Directors of what became the Metropolitan Opera Company as soon as
that style could be legally adopted. The management found it less easy
to keep its word in reference to the repertory. Eight novelties were
promised, viz.: D'Albert's "Tiefland," and Smetana's "The Bartered
Bride" in German; Catalani's "La Wally," Puccini's "Le Villi," and
Tschaikowsky's "Pique Dame" in Italian; Laparra's "Habanera" in French;
Frederick Converse's "Pipe of Desire," and either Goldmark's "Cricket on
the Hearth," or Humperdinck's "Königskinder" in English. Only the first
four of these works was produced. A promise that three operas of first
class importance--Massenet's "Manon," Mozart's "Nozze di Figaro," and
Verdi's "Falstaff"--would be revived was brilliantly redeemed. To the
subscription season of twenty weeks one week was added for Wagner's
Nibelung drama and extra performances of "Aïda" and "Madama Butterfly,"
and Verdi's "Requiem," composed in honor of Manzoni, having been twice
brilliantly performed in the series of Sunday night concerts which
extended through the season, was repeated instead of an opera on the
night of Good Friday. The extra performances, outside of those of
the last week, were the holiday representations of "Parsifal" on
Thanksgiving Day, New Year's Day, Lincoln's birthday, and Washington's
birthday, and benefit performances for the French Hospital, the German
Press Club, the Music School Settlement, and the Pension and Endowment
Fund benefit. To the latter one of the Sunday night concerts was also
devoted. At the operatic benefit performance, as also at a special
representation at which Mme. Sembrich bade farewell to the operatic
stage in America (on February 6th, 1909), the program was made up of
excerpts from various operas--a fact which must be borne in mind (as
must also the double bills at regular performances) when the following
tabulated statement of the season's activities is studied. The table
which now follows gives the list of all the operas performed in the
order of their production and the number of representations given to
each in the entire season of twenty-one weeks:


   Opera                        First performance       Times

  "Aïda" ......................... November 16 .......... 8
  "Die Walküre" .................. November 18 .......... 5
  "Madama Butterfly" ............. November 19 .......... 8
  "La Traviata" .................. November 20 .......... 5
  "Tosca" ........................ November 21 .......... 6
  "La Bohème" .................... November 21 .......... 7
  "Tiefland" ..................... November 23 .......... 4
  "Parsifal" ..................... November 26 .......... 5
  "Rigoletto" .................... November 28 .......... 3
  "Carmen" ....................... December 3 ........... 6
  "Faust" ........................ December 5 ........... 7
  "Götterdämmerung" .............. December 10 .......... 5
  "Le Villi" ..................... December 17 .......... 5
  "Cavalleria Rusticana" ......... December 17 .......... 7
  "Lucia di Lammermoor" .......... December 19 .......... 2
  "Il Trovatore" ................. December 21 .......... 5
  "Tristan und Isolde" ........... December 23 .......... 4
  "L'Elisir d'Amore" ............. December 25 .......... 2
  "Pagliacci" .................... December 26 .......... 5
  "La Wally" ..................... January 6 ............ 4
  "Le Nozze di Figaro" ........... January 13 ........... 6
  "Die Meistersinger" ............ January 22 ........... 5
  "Manon" ........................ February 3 ........... 6
  "Tannhäuser" ................... February 5 ........... 7
  "The Bartered Bride" ........... February 19 .......... 6
  "Fidelio" ...................... February 20 .......... 1
  "Falstaff" ..................... March 20 ............. 3
  "Don Pasquale" ................. March 24 ............. 1
  "Il Barbiere di Siviglia" ...... March 25 ............. 2
  "Siegfried" .................... March 27 ............. 2
  "Das Rheingold" ................ April 5 .............. 1


SUMMARY


  Subscription weeks .......................................... 20
  Extra week ................................................... 1
  Regular performances (afternoons and evenings) ............. 120
  Special representations of the dramas in "Der Ring" .......... 4
  Special benefit and holiday performances .................... 10
  Italian operas in the repertory ............................. 17
  German operas in the repertory .............................. 10
  French operas in the repertory ............................... 3
  Bohemian opera in the repertory .............................. 1
  German representations ...................................... 45
  Italian representations ..................................... 79
  French representations ...................................... 19
  Oratorial performance on opera night ......................... 1
  Double bills ................................................ 11
  Mixed bills .................................................. 2
  Novelties produced ........................................... 4


To arrive at the sum of the company's activities there must be added
fifteen performances given in the new Academy of Music in the Borough
of Brooklyn; twenty-four performances in the Academy of Music,
Philadelphia; and four performances in the Lyric Theater, Baltimore.
Brooklyn and Baltimore were privileged to hear "Hänsel und Gretel,"
which was denied to the Borough of Manhattan.

There was an unusual number of artists new to New York in the company.
With Giulio Gatti-Casazza, the Italian General Manager, came Arturo
Toscanini, who, though an Italian, chose Wagner's "Götterdämmerung" as
the opera in which to make a striking demonstration of his extraordinary
abilities as a conductor. It was he, too, who prepared the revival of
"Falstaff" and the production of the two Italian novelties, "Le Villi"
and "La Wally." His assistant in the Italian department was Signor
Spetrino, to whom was intrusted the Italian and French operas of lighter
caliber. Of the two German conductors, Mr. Mahler and Mr. Hertz, neither
was a newcomer. The former brought about the revival of "Le Nozze di
Figaro" and the production of "The Bartered Bride," two of the most
signal successes of the season. Mr. Hertz placed "Tiefland" on the
stage and added to his long Wagnerian record the first performance
heard in America of an unabridged "Meistersinger." Singers new to
the Metropolitan Opera House Company were Miss Emmy Destinn (whose
engagement had been effected by Mr. Conried some two years before),
Mmes. Alda, Gay, Di Pasquali, L'Huillier, Ranzenberg, and Flahaut; and
Messrs. Amato (an admirable barytone), Grassi, Didur (a bass who had
sung in previous seasons in Mr. Hammerstein's company), Hinckley,
Feinhals, Schmedes, Jörn, and Quarti.

A painful and pitiful incident of the season was the vocal shipwreck
suffered by Signor Caruso. After the first week of March he was unable
to sing because of an affection of his vocal organs. At the last matinée
of the subscription season and again on the following Wednesday evening,
he made ill-advised efforts to resume his duties, but the consequences
were distressful to the connoisseurs and seemed so threatening to his
physician that it was deemed advisable to relieve him of his obligation
to go West with the company.


Season 1909-1910


This, the twenty-fifth subscription season at the Metropolitan Opera
House, began on November 15th, 1909, and ended on April 2nd, 1910,
and thus endured twenty weeks. But the twenty weeks of the local
subscription by no means summed up the activities of the Metropolitan
company; there was a subscription series of twenty representations in
the Borough of Brooklyn, a subscription series of two representations
each week during the continuance of the Metropolitan season at the New
Theater in the Borough of Manhattan, many special performances, and
subscription representations in Philadelphia and Baltimore which,
though they did not belong to the local record must still be mentioned
because of the influence which they exerted on the local performances.
The first performance of the company took place in Brooklyn on
November 8th, and before the season opened at the official home of
the company representations had also been given in the distant cities
mentioned which heard twenty performances each. There were also eleven
performances in Boston, five in January and six in the last week
of March. After all this there still remained before the company a
Western tour and a visit to Atlanta, Ga. The season began with a
proclamation of harmonious cooperation between the General Manager,
Signor Gatti-Casazza, and the Administrative Manager, Mr. Dippel, and
ended with what amounted to the dismissal of the latter, who solaced
himself by accepting the directorship of the Chicago-Philadelphia Opera
Company, which was called into existence after the principal financial
backers of the Metropolitan Opera House had retired Mr. Hammerstein
from the field by the purchase of the opera house which he had built in
Philadelphia and paid him for abandoning grand opera at the Manhattan
Opera House in New York, which had been the Metropolitan's rival for
four years. The season of operas of a lighter character than those given
at the Metropolitan Opera House which was undertaken at the New Theater,
a beautiful playhouse built for high purposes by a body of gentlemen
most of whom were interested in the larger institution, proved to be a
disastrous failure for reasons which are not to be discussed here, but
which were not wholly disconnected with the causes which, a year later,
led to the abandonment of the New Theater to the same uses to which the
other playhouses of the city are put.

The local season can be most clearly and succinctly set forth in tabular
form, it being premised that apparent discrepancies between the number
of meetings and the number of performances are to be explained by the
fact that frequently two, and sometimes three, works were brought
forward on one evening or afternoon. These double and triple bills
came to be very numerous in the last month, when it was found that
the Russian dancers, Mme. Pavlowa and M. Mordkin, exerted a greater
attractive power than any opera or combination of singers:


SUBSCRIPTION SEASON AT THE METROPOLITAN

   Opera                       First performance    Times given

  "La Gioconda" ................. November 15 ......... 5
  "Otello" ...................... November 17 ......... 6
  "La Traviata" ................. November 18 ......... 3
  "Madama Butterfly" ............ November 19 ......... 6
  "Lohengrin" ................... November 20 ......... 6
  "La Bohème" ................... November 20 ......... 6
  "Tosca" ....................... November 22 ......... 6
  * "Cavalleria Rusticana" ...... November 24 ......... 7
  * "Pagliacci" ................. November 24 ......... 7
  "Il Trovatore" ................ November 25 ......... 6
  "Tristan und Isolde" .......... November 27 ......... 5
  "Aïda" ........................ December 3 .......... 6
  "Tannhäuser" .................. December 4 .......... 4
  "Manon" ....................... December 6 .......... 3
  "Siegfried" ................... December 16 ......... 2
  "Orfeo ed Eurydice" ........... December 23 ......... 5
  "The Bartered Bride" .......... December 24 ......... 1
  "Faust" ....................... December 25 ......... 5
  "Rigoletto" ................... December 25 ......... 2
  "Die Walküre" ................. January 8 ........... 3
  "Il Barbiere di Siviglia" ..... January 15 .......... 3
  "Germania" .................... January 22 .......... 5
  "L'Elisir d'Amore" ............ January 27 .......... 1
  * "Hänsel und Gretel" ......... January 29 .......... 1
  "Don Pasquale" ................ February 2 .......... 2
  "Stradella" ................... February 3 .......... 2
  "Fra Diavolo" ................. February 6 .......... 3
  "Falstaff" .................... February 16 ......... 2
  "Das Rheingold" ............... February 24 ......... 1
  "Werther" ..................... February 28 ......... 2
  * "Coppélia" (ballet) ......... February 28 ......... 4
  "Götterdämmerung" ............. March 4 ............. 1
  "Pique Dame" .................. March 5 ............. 4
  "Der Freischütz" .............. March 11 ............ 2
  * "The Pipe of Desire" ........ March 18 ............ 2
  "Die Meistersinger" ........... March 26 ............ 2
  * "Hungary" (ballet) .......... March 31 ............ 2
  "La Sonnambula" ............... April 2 ............. 1

  * Performed only in double bills.


SUMMARY

  Weeks in the season ........................................ 20
  Subscription performances ................................. 120
  Number of operas produced .................................. 36
  German operas .............................................. 11
  Bohemian opera .............................................. 1
  Russian opera ............................................... 1
  English opera ............................................... 1
  Italian operas ............................................. 18
  French operas ............................................... 4
  German performances ........................................ 34
  French performances ........................................ 13
  Italian performances ....................................... 79
  English performances ........................................ 2
  Double bills (including ballets and divertissements) ....... 23
  Number of ballets ........................................... 2
  Performances of complete ballets ............................ 6


EXTRA REPRESENTATIONS AT THE METROPOLITAN OPERA HOUSE

  "Parsifal," Thanksgiving matinée, November 25.
  "Hänsel und Gretel," special matinées, December 21 and 28.
  "La Bohème," benefit of Italian charities, January 4.
  "Manon," benefit of French charities, January 18.
  "Das Rheingold," serial matinées of "Der Ring," January 24.
  "Die Walküre," serial matinées of "Der Ring," January 27.
  "Siegfried," serial matinées of "Der Ring," January 28.
  "Götterdämmerung," serial matinées of "Der Ring," February 1.
  "Stradella," benefit of German Press Club, February 15.
  "Vienna Waltzes," ballet, benefit of German Press Club, February 15.
  "Parsifal," special matinée on Washington's birthday, February 22.
  "La Gioconda," benefit of Italian charities, February 22.
  Mixed bill, benefit of Opera House Pension Fund, March 1
  "Aïda" and ballet divertissement, benefit of the Legal Aid Society, March 15.
  "Hänsel und Gretel" and "Coppélia," ballet, special matinée, March 15.
  "Parsifal," Good Friday matinée, March 25.


SUMMARY


  Total number of extra performances ...................... 16
  German operas ............................................ 7
  German representations .................................. 11
  French opera ............................................. 1
  French representation .................................... 1
  Italian operas ........................................... 3
  Italian representations .................................. 3
  Miscellaneous program .................................... 1
  Double bills (operas, ballets, and divertissements) ...... 5


PERFORMANCES AT THE NEW THEATER


   Opera                                First performance    Times

  "Werther" ................................ November 16 ..... 4
  "The Bartered Bride" ..................... November 17 ..... 2
  "Il Barbiere di Siviglia" ................ November 25 ..... 3
  "Czar und Zimmermann" .................... November 30 ..... 4
  * "Il Maestro di Capella" ................ December 9 ...... 3
  "Cavalleria Rusticana" ................... December 9 ...... 3
  "La Fille de Madame Angot" ............... December 14 ..... 4
  "Don Pasquale" ........................... December 23 ..... 3
  * "Le Histoire de Pierrot" (pantomime) ... December 28 ..... 4
  * "Pagliacci" ............................ January 6 ....... 2
  "Fra Diavolo" ............................ January 11 ...... 2
  "Manon" .................................. February 3 ...... 1
  "L'Elisir d'Amore" ....................... February 4 ...... 1
  "L'Attaque du Moulin" .................... February 8 ...... 4
  "La Bohème" .............................. February 17 ..... 2
  "Stradella" .............................. February 22 ..... 1
  "Madama Butterfly" ....................... March 4 ......... 1
  "Tosca" .................................. March 22 ........ 1
  "La Sonnambula" .......................... March 23 ........ 1
  * "The Awakening of Woman" (ballet) ...... March 31 ........ 1
  * "The Pipe of Desire" ................... March 31 ........ 1
  * "Hungary" (ballet) ..................... March 31 ........ 1
  * "Coppélia" (ballet) .................... April 1 ......... 1

    * In double bills only.


SUMMARY


  Number of performances ................................ 40
  Number of operas produced ............................. 19
  German operas .......................................... 2
  Bohemian opera ......................................... 1
  English opera .......................................... 1
  Italian operas ......................................... 9
  French operas .......................................... 6
  German representations ................................. 7
  French representations ................................ 15
  Italian representations ............................... 20
  English representation ................................. 1
  Double bills (including ballets and divertissements) .. 15
  Pantomime .............................................. 1
  Ballets ................................................ 3


THE BROOKLYN SEASON


    Opera                                      Date of Performance

  "Manon" ........................................ November 8
  "Tannhäuser" ................................... November 15
  "Madama Butterfly" ............................. November 22
  "Tosca" ........................................ November 29
  "Lohengrin" .................................... December 6
  "Martha" ....................................... December 13
  "Il Trovatore" ................................. December 20
  "Il Maestro di Capella" and "Pagliacci" ........ January 3
  "Aïda" ......................................... January 17
  "Faust" ........................................ January 27
  "Fra Diavolo" .................................. January 31
  "Stradella" and divertissement ................. February 7
  "L'Attaque du Moulin" .......................... February 13
  "La Bohème" .................................... February 21
  "Otello" ....................................... February 28
  "La Gioconda" .................................. March 7
  "Il Barbiere" and divertissement ............... March 14
  "Rigoletto" .................................... March 21
  "Der Freischütz" ............................... March 29
  "Madama Butterfly" and "Hungary" (ballet) ...... April 4


There was an extra performance of "Hänsel und Gretel," and ballet
divertissement on Christmas day. New York was never before in its
history so overburdened with opera. The following table offers an
analytical summary of the entire season:


  Subscription performances .................................... 160
  Total performances ........................................... 197
  Operas produced ............................................... 41
  German operas produced ........................................ 13
  Italian operas produced ....................................... 18
  French operas produced ......................................... 7
  Bohemian opera produced ........................................ 1
  Russian opera produced ......................................... 1
  English opera produced ......................................... 1
  German representations ........................................ 56
  Italian representations ...................................... 115
  French representations ........................................ 23
  Double bills (including ballets and divertissements) .......... 48
  Performances of complete ballets .............................. 12


"The Awakening of Woman" and "Hungary" have been treated as ballets in
this record simply for the sake of convenience. They were, in fact, a
testimonium paupertatis to the feature which had aroused the greatest
interest during the dying weeks of the season. The public wanted to see
the two Russians dance; the management cared so little for artistic
integrity that it did not trouble itself to keep its promises even as
to the ballet. "Vienna Waltzes," which had figured in the prospectus,
was performed but once, and then only because it was demanded by the
German Press Club for its annual benefit. "Die Puppenfee," "Sylvia,"
"Les Sylphides," and "Chopin," though on the program, were not given,
short divertissements after long operas being made to take their
place. Operatic novelties promised but not given were: Leo Blech's
"Versiegelt," Goetzl's "Les Précieuses Ridicules," Goldmark's "Cricket
on the Hearth," Humperdinck's "Königskinder," Laparra's "La Habanera,"
Lehar's "Amour des Tziganes," Leroux's "Le Chemineau," Maillart's "Les
Dragons des Villars," Offenbach's "Les Contes d'Hoffmann," Rossini's
"Il Signor Bruschino," Suppé's "Schöne Galatea," and Wolf-Ferrari's "Le
Donne Curiose." The works which had a first production in New York were
Franchetti's "Germania;" Tschaikowsky's "Pique Dame," Converse's "Pipe
of Desire," and Bruneau's "L'Attaque du Moulin." In familiar operas the
public was permitted to see new impersonations of Elsa, Floria Tosca,
and Santuzza by Mme. Fremstad, and of Floria Tosca by Miss
Farrar. Notable achievements from an artistic point of view were the
representations of "Tristan und Isolde" and "Die Meistersinger,"
under the direction of Signor Toscanini, and "Pique Dame," under
Herr Mahler.


SEASON 1910-1911


The twenty-sixth season at the Metropolitan began on November 14th, and
ended on April 15th, thus embracing twenty-two weeks. When the public
was invited to subscribe for the season in the summer, performances were
promised in French, Italian, German, and English. In the preceding two
years there had been talk of producing Goldmark's "Heimchen am Heerd"
("The Cricket on the Hearth") and Humperdinck's "Königskinder" in
English, and so there was again this; but on his return from Europe in
the fall Signor Gatti put a quietus on it immediately by proclaiming
that the project was impracticable. Nevertheless, in midseason he
announced an opera in English by an American composer (Arthur Nevin's
"Twilight"), and withdrew it, although the public had been told to
expect it. Meanwhile a somewhat singular combination of circumstances
led to a partial fulfilment of the promise in the prospectus. Mr.
Dippel, who had undertaken the management of the Chicago Opera Company
(renamed the Philadelphia-Chicago Company after the Chicago season was
over and that in Philadelphia begun), had carried with him from New
York the purpose to give opera in the vernacular. He was encouraged in
this by Mr. Clarence Mackay and Mr. Otto Kahn, the chief backers of
the Chicago institution, but the Chicago season was not long enough
to enable him to bring it to fruition. For his second season at the
Manhattan Opera House, Mr. Hammerstein had promised to produce an
English opera "by our American composer, Victor Herbert" (see p. 372).
This opera, entitled "Natoma," had been offered to Signor Gatti-Casazza,
and an act of it tried with orchestra on the stage of the Metropolitan;
but the director did not care to produce it. It was then offered to
Mr. Dippel, who accepted it, and produced it first in Philadelphia
and then at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York, where the
Philadelphia-Chicago company gave a subscription series of French operas
on Tuesdays from January to April. To this incident there is a pendant
of more serious purport. The Directors of the Metropolitan Opera Company
had met what seemed to them a challenge on the part of Mr. Hammerstein
by offering a prize of $10,000 for the best opera in English by a
native-born American composer. The time allowed for the competition was
two years and the last day for the reception of scores September 15th,
1910. On May 2nd the jury of award, composed of Alfred Hertz, Walter
Damrosch, George W. Chadwick, and Charles Martin Loeffler, announced
that the successful opera was a three-act musical tragedy entitled
"Mona," of which the words were written by Brian Hooker, the music
by Professor Horatio Parker of Yale University.

The change of plan occasioned by the abandonment of the representations
at the New Theater and in Baltimore, the latter city being left to the
ministrations of Mr. Dippel's organization, brought with it a large
reduction of the Metropolitan forces, but the smaller company
nevertheless gave eight performances in Philadelphia and fourteen in
Brooklyn besides those called for by the subscription and special
representations in New York. Support on occasions had been promised by
the affiliated companies in Chicago and Boston, but the little that was
offered was not very graciously received by the New York public. Mme.
Melba sang once in "Rigoletto," and once again in "Traviata," one of the
two performances being in the regular subscription list. Then she was
announced as ill, and departed for England. Mlle. Lipowska sang a few
times, as also did Signor Constantino (who had been a member of Mr.
Hammerstein's company and was now the principal tenor in Boston), but
the public was indifferent to these performances of the old Verdi
operas.

Interesting incidents were the visits of Signor Puccini and Herr
Humperdinck to superintend the rehearsals and witness the first
performances on any stage of their operas, "La Fanciulla del West" and
"Königskinder," the latter of which was sung in the original German
instead of the promised English. For the Italian opera the management
had arranged two special performances at double prices; these were
popular failures in spite of the interest excited by Mr. David Belasco's
play "The Girl of the Golden West," on which the opera was based. The
presence of the Russian dancers, who had won much favor in the preceding
season, was particularly fortunate in the closing weeks of the season,
when another failure of Signor Caruso's voice threatened disaster. Mme.
Pavlowa and her companion, M. Mordkin, supported by a very mediocre
troupe of dancers, had discovered themselves to their admirers before
the opera season opened. They then took part in the Metropolitan
entertainments until the end of the first week of January. Thereupon
they departed, but came back very opportunely for the second fortnight
of March.

The rest of the story may be read out of the following table and
remarks. There were twenty-two weeks of opera with subscription
performances on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday evenings, and
Saturday afternoons. At these performances operas were given as follows:


REGULAR METROPOLITAN SUBSCRIPTION PERFORMANCES


     Opera                              First Performance    Times
  "Armide" ............................... November 14 ....... 3
  "Tannhäuser" ........................... November 16 ....... 5
  "Aïda" ................................. November 17 ....... 6
  "Die Walküre" .......................... November 18 ....... 4
  "Madama Butterfly" ..................... November 19 ....... 5
  "La Bohème" ............................ November 21 ....... 5
  "La Gioconda" .......................... November 23 ....... 6
  "Rigoletto" ............................ November 24 ....... 3
  "Cavalleria Rusticana" (double bill) ... November 25 ....... 5
  "Pagliacci" (double bill) .............. November 25 ....... 7
  "Lohengrin" ............................ November 28 ....... 5
  "Il Trovatore" ......................... December 1 ........ 5
  "Faust" ................................ December 10 ....... 4
  "Orfeo ed Eurydice" .................... December 10 ....... 5
  "La Fanciulla del West" ................ December 26 ....... 7
  "Königskinder" ......................... December 28 ....... 7
  "Tristan und Isolde" ................... January 4 ......... 4
  "Roméo et Juliette" .................... January 13 ........ 2
  "Siegfried" ............................ January 14 ........ 1
  "Die Meistersinger" .................... January 20 ........ 4
  "Germania" ............................. February 1 ........ 2
  "La Traviata" .......................... February 2 ........ 2
  "Tosca" ................................ February 8 ........ 5
  "Die Verkaufte Braut" .................. February 15 ....... 4
  "Otello" ............................... February 27 ....... 5
  "Ariane et Barbe-Bleue" ................ March 29 .......... 4
  "Hänsel und Gretel" (double bill) ...... April 6 ........... 2


There were ten Saturday evening subscriptions at regular prices at
which the following operas were given, viz.: "Cavalleria Rusticana"
and "Pagliacci," "Madama Butterfly," "Il Trovatore," "Parsifal,"
"Lohengrin," "Thaïs" (Chicago Opera Company), "Aïda," "Königskinder,"
"Tannhäuser," and "Tosca." There were holiday, benefit, and special
performances as follows:


EXTRA PERFORMANCES

     Opera                              First Performance    Times

  "Parsifal" ............................ November 24 ........ 3
  "La Traviata" ......................... November 29 ........ 1
  "La Fanciulla del West" ............... December 10 ........ 2
  "Cavalleria" and ballet ............... December 24 ........ 1
  "Hänsel und Gretel" ................... December 26 ........ 4
  "Königskinder" ........................ December 31 ........ 3
  "Aïda" ................................ January 7 .......... 1
  "Rigoletto" ........................... January 14 ......... 1
  "Roméo et Juliette" ................... January 21 ......... 1
  "Die Meistersinger" ................... January 28 ......... 1
  "Das Rheingold" ....................... February 2 ......... 1
  "Madama Butterfly" .................... February 4 ......... 2
  "Die Walküre" ......................... February 9 ......... 1
  "Siegfried" ........................... February 13 ........ 1
  "Götterdämmerung" ..................... February 22 ........ 1
  "La Bohème" and ballet ................ March 30 ........... 1
  Mixed bill ............................ April 6 ............ 1

Twenty-six representations; sixteen operas.


There was also an extra subscription season by the Chicago Opera
Company, which made a showing as follows:


SUBSCRIPTION SEASON OF THE PHILADELPHIA-CHICAGO COMPANY


     Opera                                    First Performance    Times

  "Thaïs" ........................................ January 24 ....... 1
  "Louise" ....................................... January 31 ....... 2
  "Pelléas et Mélisande" ......................... February 7 ....... 1
  "Les Contes d'Hoffmann" ........................ February 14 ...... 1
  "Carmen" ....................................... February 21 ...... 1
  "Natoma" (once in double bill) ................. February 28 ...... 3
  "Il Segreto di Susanna" (in double bill) ....... March 14 ......... 2
  "Le Jongleur de Notre Dame" (in double bill) ... March 14 ......... 1
  "Quo Vadis" .................................... April 4 .......... 1

Eleven evenings, one extra, nine operas, three double bills.


METROPOLITAN PERFORMANCES IN BROOKLYN


     Opera                              First Performance    Times

  "Il Trovatore" ......................... November 19 ....... 1
  "Orfeo ed Eurydice" .................... November 26 ....... 1
  "Tannhäuser" ........................... December 3 ........ 1
  "Cavalleria" (double bill) ............. January 3 ......... 1
  "Pagliacci" (double bill) .............. January 3 ......... 1
  "Lohengrin" ............................ January 17 ........ 1
  "Königskinder" ......................... January 24 ........ 1
  "La Bohème" ............................ January 31 ........ 1
  "Rigoletto" ............................ February 7 ........ 1
  "Madama Butterfly" ..................... February 21 ....... 1
  "Tosca" ................................ February 28 ....... 1
  "Aïda" ................................. March 7 ........... 1
  "Otello" ............................... March 14 .......... 1
  "La Fanciulla del West" ................ March 18 .......... 1
  "Parsifal" ............................. March 21 .......... 1

Fourteen representations, fifteen operas, one double bill.

The novelties produced in the season were Gluck's "Armide," Puccini's
"La Fanciulla del West," Humperdinck's "Königskinder," Dukas's "Ariane
et Barbe-Bleue," Herbert's "Natoma," Wolf-Ferrari's "Il Segreto di
Susanna," and Nouguet's "Quo Vadis."



APPENDIX II

TWO SEASONS AT THE MANHATTAN OPERA HOUSE


The third season of opera under the sole direction of Mr. Oscar
Hammerstein at the Manhattan Opera House, New York, began on November
9th, 1908, and lasted twenty weeks until March 27th, 1909. During
this period there were five regular performances each week. Had there
been no deviation from the rule there would have been one hundred
representations, but advantage was taken of occasions which seemed
auspicious to give extra performances, and therefore there were also
representations on Thanksgiving Day, New Year's Day, Washington's
birthday, and to signalize by special attention (and, incidentally,
special prices) the coming of Richard Strauss's delectable "Salome."
So there were added four performances to the weekly five originally
set down for Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday evenings, and
Saturday afternoons.

In his prospectus, issued in the summer, Mr. Hammerstein specifically
promised to produce "Samson et Dalila," by Saint-Saëns, "Salome," by
Richard Strauss, "Le Jongleur de Notre Dame" and "Grisélidis," by
Massenet, and "Princesse d'Auberge," by Jan Blockx. He brought forward
all of these except "Grisélidis." In the list of operas which he was
less specifically bound to perform were Massenet's "Manon," Bizet's
"Les Pécheurs des Perles," Verdi's "Falstaff," Bréton's "Dolores,"
Giordano's "Andrea Chenier" and "Siberia," Puccini's "Madama Butterfly,"
Donizetti's "Linda di Chamounix," Verdi's "Un Ballo in Maschera" and
"Ernani," all of which fell by the board. The chief features of interest
in the season were the productions of the novelties, "Salome," "Le
Jongleur de Notre Dame" (with Mary Garden in the part of the Juggler,
which was written for a man), and "Princesse d'Auberge," and the series
of performances headed by Mme. Melba, who opened the sixth week of the
season on December 14th in "La Bohème," and concluded her engagement on
January 11th in "Rigoletto." Her performances were confined to these two
operas and "Otello." For the rest let the following table speak:


   Opera                       First performance        Times

  "Tosca" ....................... November 9 ............ 5
  "Thaïs" ....................... November 11 ........... 7
  "Samson et Dalila" ............ November 13 ........... 6
  "Il Barbiere di Siviglia" ..... November 14 ........... 3
  "Lucia di Lammermoor" ......... November 18 ........... 7
  "Gli Ugonotti" ................ November 20 ........... 2
  "Carmen" ...................... November 26 ........... 2
  "Le Jongleur de Notre Dame" ... November 27 ........... 7
  "Cavalleria Rusticana" ........ December 4 ............ 5
  "Pagliacci" ................... December 4 ............ 5
  "Rigoletto" ................... December 5 ............ 5
  "Traviata" .................... December 12 ........... 5
  "La Bohème" ................... December 14 ........... 5
  "Les Contes d'Hoffmann" ....... December 16 ........... 7
  "Otello" ...................... December 25 ........... 6
  "Pelléas et Mélisande" ........ January 6 ............. 4
  "Crispino e la Comare" ........ January 9 ............. 3
  "Salome" ...................... January 28 ........... 10
  "Aïda" ........................ February 10 ........... 2
  "La Sonnambula" ............... February 13 ........... 3
  "Louise" ...................... February 19 ........... 5
  "I Puritani" .................. February 26 ........... 2
  "Il Trovatore" ................ March 1 ............... 1
  "Princesse d'Auberge" ......... March 10 .............. 3
  "La Navarraise" ............... March 20 .............. 1


Total number of performances, 111; number of representations, 104; total
number of operas, 25; operas composed in Italian, 14; in French, 9;
in German, 1; in Flemish, 1; Italian representations, 59; French, 52.
The difference between the number of representations and the total of
performances of the different operas is due to the fact that on seven
occasions two operas were given on the same afternoon or evening.


SEASON 1909-1910

Before beginning his fourth season Mr. Hammerstein opened his house for
a season of "educational" opera, as he called it at first, which began
on August 30th, 1909, and lasted until October 30th, 1909. In this
preliminary season Mr. Hammerstein not only made trial of a considerable
number of singers, some of whom remained with him throughout the regular
season, but also experimented with operas, some of which went over into
the subscription repertory with no considerable change either in casts
or settings, while others, notably "La Juive" and "Le Prophète," might
well have done so. In them also some singers of notable excellence
were heard, like Zerola, the tenor; William Beck, the barytone, and
Marguerite Sylva, but after the regular season got under way they
were heard from chiefly in the newspapers in connection with the
disaffections and disagreements which were almost incessant.

In the season proper Mr. Hammerstein tried to give opéra comique, as he
politely called it, though it was largely opéra bouffe, and when the
experiment proved a failure he courageously abandoned it. The proceeding
has its parallel in the so-called "lyric" opera conducted by the
Metropolitan management of the New Theater. After pondering the matter
for a space, Mr. Hammerstein substituted opera at popular prices on
Saturday evenings for the opéra bouffe, with a result of which we are
not in a position to speak.

The promises of an impresario, whether made positively, like "The
following operas will be performed," or vaguely, like "The repertory
will be selected from the following lists"--an old and favorite
device--are always accepted by the public in a Pickwickian sense. Mr.
Hammerstein did not disturb the precedents in this respect, but he
came creditably near to keeping his definite promises. He said that
"Hérodiade," "Elektra," "Grisélidis," and "Sapho" would be among his
novelties, and they were. He said that "Cendrillon," "Feuersnoth,"
"The Violin Maker of Cremona," and Victor Herbert's "Natoma" would
also be given--and they were not. Of old works the only ones promised
in the list of grand operas and not given were "Crispino e la Comare,"
"Siberia," "Lohengrin," "I Puritani," "Meistersinger," and "Le
Prophète." Most of them were easily spared, especially the two Wagnerian
operas, the futility of which in French must have been obvious after Mr.
Hammerstein had admitted the failure of his French singers to grasp the
spirit of "Tannhäuser."

Here is the tabular record:


   Opera                          First performance        Times

  "Hérodiade" ...................... November 8 ........... 6
  "Traviata" ....................... November 10 .......... 4
  "Aïda" ........................... November 12 .......... 3
  "Thaïs" .......................... November 13 .......... 6
  "Cavalleria Rusticana" ........... November 13 .......... 4
  "Pagliacci" ...................... November 13 .......... 8
  "Lucia di Lammermoor" ............ November 16 .......... 7
  "La Fille de Madame Angot" ....... November 16 .......... 2
  "Sapho" .......................... November 17 .......... 3
  "La Fille du Régiment" ........... November 22 .......... 4
  "Mascotte" ....................... November 23 .......... 1
  "Carmen" ......................... November 25 .......... 6
  "Tosca" .......................... November 26 .......... 3
  "Les Dragons des Villars" ........ November 27 .......... 2
  "Le Jongleur de Notre Dame" ...... December 4 ........... 5
  "Les Cloches de Corneville" ...... December 4 ........... 3
  "Faust" .......................... December 8 ........... 3
  "Tannhäuser" ..................... December 10 .......... 3
  "Les Contes d'Hoffmann" .......... December 25 .......... 8
  "Trovatore" ...................... January 8 ............ 2
  "La Bohème" ...................... January 14 ........... 5
  "Grisélidis" ..................... January 19 ........... 4
  "Samson et Dalila" ............... January 28 ........... 2
  "Elektra" ........................ February 1 ........... 7
  "Rigoletto" ...................... February 11 .......... 4
  "Louise" ......................... February 23 .......... 2
  "La Navarraise" .................. February 28 .......... 2
  "Salome" ......................... March 5 .............. 4
  "Pelléas et Mélisande" ........... March 11 ............. 3
  "Lakmé" .......................... March 21 ............. 1
  Mixed bill ....................... March 25 ............. 1


After the conclusion of the season Mr. Hammerstein sold his Philadelphia
Opera House, which had been opened a week after the performances began
in New York, to a company of gentlemen largely interested in the
Metropolitan, and entered into an obligation with them not to give grand
opera in New York City for ten years. It seems appropriate, therefore,
to print the following tabular record of his performances during his
four years' management of the Manhattan Opera House:


   Operas                   1906-1907  1907-1908  1908-1909  1909-1910

  "Aïda" ..................... 12          9          2          3
  "Andrea Chenier" ............ 0          1          0          0
  "Ballo in Maschera" ......... 2          4          0          0
  "Barbiere di Siviglia" ...... 2          0          3          0
  "Bohème" .................... 4          0          5          5
  "Cavalleria" ................ 8          4          3          4
  "Carmen" ................... 19         11          2          6
  "Contes d'Hoffmann" ......... 0         11          7          8
  "Cloches de Corneville" ..... 0          0          0          3
  "Crispino e la Comare" ...... 0          3          3          0
  "Damnation de Faust" ........ 0          3          0          0
  "Dinorah" ................... 1          1          0          0
  "Don Giovanni" .............. 4          3          0          0
  "Dragons des Villars" ....... 0          0          0          2
  "Elektra" ................... 0          0          0          7
  "Elisir d'Amore" ............ 3          0          0          0
  "Ernani" .................... 0          1          0          0
  "Faust" ..................... 7          4          0          3
  "Fille de Mme. Angot" ....... 0          0          0          2
  "Fille du Régiment" ......... 0          0          0          2
  "Fra Diavolo" ............... 4          0          0          0
  "Gioconda" .................. 0          4          0          0
  "Grisélidis" ................ 0          0          0          4
  "Héodiade" .................. 0          0          0          6
  "Huguenots" ................. 5          0          2          0
  "Jongleur de Notre Dame" .... 0          0          7          5
  "Lakmé" ..................... 0          0          0          1
  "Louise" .................... 0         11          5          2
  "Lucia di Lammermoor" ....... 6          8          7          7
  "Martha" .................... 4          0          0          0
  "Mascotte" .................. 0          0          0          1
  "Mignon" .................... 3          0          0          0
  "Navarraise" ................ 2          5          1          2
  "Otello" .................... 0          0          6          0
  "Pagliacci" ................ 10          9          5          8
  "Pelléas et Mélisande" ...... 0          7          4          3
  "Princesse d'Auberge" ....... 0          0          3          0
  "Puritani" .................. 2          0          2          0
  "Rigoletto" ................ 11          5          5          4
  "Salome" .................... 0          0         10          4
  "Samson et Dalila" .......... 0          0          6          2
  "Siberia" ................... 0          3          0          0
  "Sapho" ..................... 0          0          0          3
  "Sonnambula" ................ 3          0          3          0
  "Tannhäuser" ................ 0          0          0          3
  "Thaïs" ..................... 0          7          7          6
  "Traviata" .................. 3          5          5          4
  "Tosca" ..................... 0          0          5          3
  "Trovatore" ................. 6          5          1          2





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