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Title: Confessions of an Opera Singer
Author: Howard, Kathleen, 1884-1956
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.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Confessions of an Opera Singer" ***

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[Illustration: Photo of Kathleen Howard, Autographed]



CONFESSIONS OF
AN OPERA SINGER

BY KATHLEEN HOWARD

NEW YORK MCMXVIII

ALFRED A. KNOPF

COPYRIGHT, 1918, BY
KATHLEEN HOWARD BAIRD

_Published September 1918_


PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

               _To
             Marjorie_



FOREWORD


So many fantastic tales have come to us of students' life abroad, of
their temptations, trials, finances, successes and failures, that I have
attempted to give here the true story of the preparation for an operatic
career, and its fruition. My road leads from New York to Paris, to
Germany and thence to London, and back to the Metropolitan Opera House.
My operatic experiences in Germany are inalienably associated with the
lives of the people, particularly with the German officer class, viewed
publicly and privately; in fact in the town where I was first engaged,
Metz, I found they were as vital a part of the Opera house life as the
singers themselves. Their arrogance tainted the town life as well, and
here I first became acquainted with the pitiful attempt at swagger and
brilliancy which often covered a state of grinding poverty, or the
thwarted natural domestic instincts which were ruthlessly sacrificed to
the "uniform"--the all-desirable entrée to society, for which no price
was too high to pay. I hope this book will be of interest not only to
those whose goal is the operatic or concert stage, but to those to whom
"human documents" appeal. It is a story of real people, real obstacles
overcome, and contains much intimate talk of back-stage life in opera
houses.



CONTENTS


CHAPTER                                                   PAGE

     I THE WAY IT ALL HAPPENED                              13

    II A STRUGGLE AND A SOLUTION                            21

   III PARIS AT LAST                                        30

    IV PENSION PERSONALITIES                                39

     V OPERATIC FRANCE VERSUS OPERATIC GERMANY              50

    VI PREPARING RÔLES IN BERLIN                            59

   VII MY FIRST OPERATIC CONTRACT SIGNED                    67

  VIII MY ONE LONE IMPROPOSITION                            76

    IX THE MAKINGS OF A SMALL MUNICIPAL OPERA HOUSE         85

     X MY DÉBUT AND BREAKING INTO HARNESS                  100

    XI SOME STAGE DELIGHTS                                 110

   XII MISPLACED MOISTURE AND THE STORY OF A COURT-LADY    123

  XIII HUMAN PASSIONS AND SMALLPOX                         139

   XIV DISCOURAGEMENTS THAT LED TO A COURT THEATRE         153

    XV SALARIES AND A TENOR'S GENIUS                       164

   XVI THE ART OF MARIE MUELLE                             172

  XVII THE NON-MILITARY SIDE OF A GERMAN OFFICER'S LIFE    184

 XVIII GEESE AND GUESTS                                    199

   XIX RUSSIANS, COMMON AND PREFERRED                      206

    XX THE GRANDMOTHERS' BALLET                            220

   XXI STAGE FASHIONS AND THE GLORY OF COLOUR              230

  XXII ROYAL HUMOUR                                        242

 XXIII COVENT GARDEN AND--AMERICA                          257



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS


Kathleen Howard                      _Frontispiece_

  I Carmen as I Used to Dress It                76

 II Carmen as I Now Dress It                    84

  I Amneris as I Used to Dress It              126

 II Amneris as I Now Dress It                  134

  I Dalila as I Used to Dress It               172

 II Dalila as I Now Dress It                   180

  Caruso's Caricature of Kathleen Howard       260



CHAPTER I

THE WAY IT ALL HAPPENED


I was very young and I was engaged to be married. We had just lost our
money in rather dramatic fashion, and we were all doing what we could to
supply the sudden deficit. My sister began to prepare herself to be a
teacher, my brother left his boarding school and came home to go into a
friend's office, and I--well, I accepted the hand and heart of the young
man in our set with whom I had had most pleasure in dancing in winter
and sailing in summer.

My heart didn't lose a beat and turn over when I saw him coming as did
those of the heroines in Marion Crawford's novels, but we were the best
friends in the world, and I thought that anything else must be a
literary exaggeration, put in to make the story more exciting; just as
the heroine's eyelashes were usually exaggerated to the abnormal length
of an inch to make her more beautiful, though none of the girls I knew
had them like that.

He was a young business man, just starting as assistant to his father
whose business was an old established, comfortable sort of family
affair, big enough to supply, in time, an extra income for an
unambitious young couple like ourselves. Every one congratulated us
heartily, and I began to embroider towels and hem table napkins and to
dream about patterns of flat silver.

The whole arrangement was satisfactory to the point of banality, and I
might be quite an old married woman by this time, but--I had a voice.

Nine-tenths of me, at this age, were the normal, rational
characteristics of a well-brought up, bright, good looking girl. But the
last tenth was an unknown quantity, a great big powerful something which
I vaguely felt, even then, to be the master of all the other tenths, a
force which was capable of having its own way with the rest of me if I
should ever give it a chance. My voice, the agent of this vague power,
had developed rather late. It is true that our whole childhood had been
coloured by music, that we read notes before we could read letters, and
that music was our earliest and most natural mode of expression.

My father's greatest joy in life was music, and he always played
imaginative musical games with us in the evenings. The earliest one I
remember was when we were tiny tots. He used to improvise on the small
organ we had and ask us questions which we had to answer, singing to
his accompaniment. I was Admiral Seymour and Marjorie was General
Wolsey.

I remember his singing,

    "And how would you get your ships along, Admiral,
     If your sails and oars were shot overboard?"

I sang solemnly,

    "I'd shubble them along with shubbles."

Afterwards when I began to sing from printed music with him I remember
saying one evening as he was playing hymns and unfamiliar English
ballads for me to sing,

"Papa, please let me look at the music and follow the notes up and
down."

I really began reading music at four years old. We played and sang all
our childhood. When Marjorie was seven and I was six we sang Even-song
at the village church, as the members of the regular choir were ill or
absent. Marjorie had a heavenly childish soprano and I a heavy
nondescript voice. But I always pleased my father by singing real
"second voice" and not just following the soprano in thirds.

He used to give us a note, and we then had to run round our rather large
house humming it. It was the deepest disgrace we ever knew if we had
sharped or flatted when we got back to the starting point. He taught us
musical terms by making us dance to different rhythms he played, and
would call out "Allegro," "Vivace," "Adagio," "Molto allegro," "Legato,"
and so forth, to which we had to change instantly. Whenever any one came
to the house, we played and sang for them, and though it might have been
rather awful for the visitors it was very good for us to get used to an
audience.

He used to arrange fairy tales like "Bluebeard" in doggerel verses and
write accompaniments to them, and we then learned them by heart and
rehearsed them, and some grand night played them for all the neighbours.
I remember the way we showed Bluebeard's chamber where the heads of his
wives were kept. We hung a sheet on the wall and Marjorie and I stood in
front of it, with pale faces, closed eyes and open mouths, and our long
hair pinned up high above our heads on the sheet. Another sheet was then
stretched across us, just below our chins, and the effect was rather
ghastly in a dim light. I remember we sang at the last:

    "Oh, Bluebeard, oh, Bluebeard,
     Frustrated, checkmated,
     Dissipated, agitated,
     Castigated, lacerated,
     Bluebeard!"

When school was over we always gave a dramatic performance; if the
weather was fine enough we held them in the big garden that was our
childhood's playground. We dressed behind a huge flowering-currant bush,
and I can remember a performance of an act of "Twelfth Night," in which
I, aged about seven, was _Malvolio_, Lal, my brother, _Maria_, and
Marjorie, _Olivia_.

I had always been able to sing, but the sudden growth of my voice was a
surprise. One day, in school, we were asked to write a composition on
our favourite wish. All the other girls said they wished for curly hair,
for pretty dresses, for as much candy as they could eat, for any other
frivolous thing that came into their heads. But I took it seriously and
told my dearest wish in all the world--a great voice, a voice with which
I could make audiences cry or laugh at my will. And, strangely enough,
from that time my girlish voice began to grow stronger and stronger,
until I could proudly make more noise with it than any other girl in
school. Then it grew louder and higher, until it was impossible to
ignore such a big possession any longer, and the family decreed that I
must have singing lessons.

I took lessons accordingly from an excellent local teacher, practised
scales and exercises and later studied the classic songs and arias as
seriously as I could, but it was so fatally easy to be interrupted. We
were all out of school for the first time and enjoying our freedom. It
was so much more chic to go down to Huyler's in the mornings, when the
girls only a year younger were hard at their lessons, than in the
afternoon when the whole girl world was at liberty. I would just begin a
morning's work when some one would call me on the telephone to go to the
dressmaker's with her, or help arrange the flowers for a dinner party. I
loved both flowers and dresses, and it was easy to think, "Oh! I'll
practise this afternoon!" and fly off to be gone all day. In the evening
there was my fiancé who had to tell me all the absorbing details of his
office, or there was a dance, or a theatre party, and I took everything
that came my way and enjoyed it all equally. But all the time my voice
was really first in my thoughts, and I longed to study seriously and
intensely, to arrange my whole life for it and its proper development.

The family, it seemed to me, was more interested in my trousseau than in
anything else. They had scraped together five hundred dollars, and I was
to have it all, incredible as it sounded, to buy clothes with.
Subconsciously all day, and compellingly in bed at night, the thought of
what I could do for my voice with that five hundred dollars was with me.
I saw myself only as a singer, and knew that I could never be happy
unless I were allowed first to get my instrument in thorough working
order and then to use it. The phrases, "working out your own salvation,"
"fulfilling your own destiny," "the necessity of self-development," and
all those other nicely turned expressions which most students have at
their tongues' end, were unknown to me. I just _felt_, inarticulately.
But my feeling was strong enough to carry me into action, the step which
phrasemakers, who find complete satisfaction in their phrases, often
omit.

New York was my Mecca. I talked it all over with my fiancé, told him
what a year there would do for me, making it clear that I expected to
sing professionally after our marriage. He agreed to everything and
promised that I should do as I wished. His possible objection disposed
of, only the financial difficulty remained, looming large before me.
Deeply and more deeply I was convinced in my own mind that I might marry
in old clothes, but not with my voice untrained. I finally summoned
courage to propose to my family that I should use the precious five
hundred for a year's study in New York instead of a trousseau.
Miraculous to relate they agreed, and I was boundlessly happy and saw my
path golden ahead of me.

We all spoke and thought of my future as that of a concert singer. My
intention of marrying seemed to make anything else out of the question.
Indeed, at that time, the Metropolitan in New York formed the only
oasis in the operatic desert of America. There were spasmodic attempts
at travelling companies in English, but no other sign of a permanent
institution throughout the length and breadth of the country. I must
confess, however, that the operatic bee buzzed considerably at times in
the less conspicuous portions of my bonnet. One or two musicians of
standing, who heard me sing, pronounced mine "an operatic voice," and
strange longings stirred inside me when I saw the Metropolitan singers
on the boards.



CHAPTER II

A STRUGGLE AND A SOLUTION


That winter in New York was a revealing experience to me in many ways.
Numbers of things assumed different values in my estimation. One of the
first new things I learned was the comparative insignificance of $500 as
a provision for a year's expenses. I lived at one of those boarding
houses which are called both "reasonable" and respectable, but are
vastly inferior in both comfort and society to the European pension
which costs a good deal less. I had lessons in singing, diction and
French, all of which counted up to a great many dollars a week. My five
hundred began to shrink at an alarming rate, and I don't know what I
should have done if a friend had not advised me to try for a "church
position," that invaluable means of adding to the resources of a
student, which is possible only in America. Besides offering a splendid
chance of financial assistance, the church position system is an
infallible test of the money value of one's voice. How many girls have I
known in Europe embarking upon the expensive and dreadfully laborious
preparation for an operatic career, without possessing a single one of
the qualifications necessary to success, without even an adequate, to
say nothing of an unusual, voice! Their singing of "Because I love you!"
has been the admiration of their local circle, even less musical than
themselves, and this little success has been enough to start them on a
career, doomed to certain failure. If they had only tried for church
positions in a large city in America, had competed in the open market of
their own country, they would have been saved a heartbreak and much good
money besides.

I won a $1000 position almost at once, over the heads of many older and
more experienced competitors, on the merits of my voice alone. The
salary was my financial salvation, but, besides this, my general
musicianship was much improved by the practice in sight-reading and
_ensemble_ singing. I grew used to facing an audience, and found a
chance to put into use what I learned in my singing lessons. Blessed be
the quartet choir of America, say I; an invaluable institution for the
musical sons and daughters of our country.

The church in which I sang had many wealthy members, and the
dress-parade on Sundays used to be quite a sight. Our place, as choir,
was directly facing the congregation, in a little gallery, so that our
hats and dresses were subjected to very searching scrutiny. The
furnishing of suitable garments for such an exalted position became
quite a problem. The soprano was a well-known singer, who, in addition
to a good salary, had many concert and oratorio engagements; and her
furs and ostrich feathers were my despair. I would sit up half the night
to cover a last-year's straw hat with velvet. I made an endless
succession of smart blouses which, as we were hidden below the waist by
the railing, I wore with the same "utility" black broadcloth skirt. I
constructed the most original collars and jabots for them out of odds
and ends.

I remember one was made of a packet of silver spangles sewn in rows
overlapping each other like fish scales. One of my engagement presents
had been a silver mesh bag, and when I wore it at my belt, and the
collar round my neck, the choir used to call me "Mrs. Lohengrin." As we
took off our outdoor wraps to sing, my smartness in the gallery was
assured, but the cleverest manager can't contrive at home a substitute
for furs, and the soprano had chinchilla! I was years younger than the
others and they were very sweet to me.

Living at my boarding house was a young doctor, who also would have
liked to be nice to me. But my exaggerated conscientiousness would not
allow me to have anything to do with one man while I was engaged to
another, and I refused all his invitations to the theatre and to
Saturday afternoon excursions. My one indulgence was in standing-room
tickets for the Metropolitan. What a boon to girls in my situation would
be the inexpensive municipal opera and endowed theatres of Germany with
their system of _Schule Vorstellungen_ (students' performances) of
standard plays and operas at prices that put a comfortable seat within
the means of even the most humble purse! This was the lack the Century
Opera would have supplied.

My church engagement was to come to an end May first. The thought of
turning my back on the start I had made depressed me fearfully. I had
given my word to marry and did not think of wavering. But the letters of
my fiancé and his rare visits to New York had not helped us to
understand each other better. Many hours I walked the floor longing for
advice, and wrestling with myself. I said to my sister, "I have my foot
on the first rung of the ladder and now I must take it off." It all
seems so simple now. Almost any other girl would have broken her
engagement without much thought. But I had not been brought up that way,
and so I had hours and days of misery.

The one thought that comforted me was that I could go on at any rate as
well as it was possible in my own town, and though it would be much
harder to make a career from there, it _could_ be done with the
co-operation of my husband. It was hard for me to talk in those days,
but one day driving down Fifth Avenue in a hansom, a rare treat, I
remember my feelings were too much for me, and I burst through my
repression and told him how I _must_ develop that side of me, and he
said, "And I'll help you, little girl; you can count on me." I believed
him of course. But while I was dreadfully serious, he, as I learned
later, ranked my singing with the china-painting and fancy-work of his
relations, as a sort of harmless pastime, to occupy my leisure moments.
The truth was, of course, that, as often happens, he had entirely
mistaken my character, had made his ideal woman out of his head, given
her my outward appearance, and fallen in love with her. The real "me"
was a disconcerting stranger, of whom he caught only occasional
glimpses.

About the first of May, I returned home. They were all at the station to
meet me; my fiancé had even broken into his office hours to be there
too. We had seen each other seldom during my absence from home, for New
York was a long way off, and he was saving his pennies religiously for
the great event. When we married, our income would be a tight fit in
any case, and I could not help rejoicing that my singing might add
considerably to it. There were no $1000 church positions in our town,
but one or two of the churches paid respectable salaries to their
quartets, and I hoped soon to begin to make a concert career.

For a little while after my return I was very happy. Every one was so
nice to me and seemed to think I had done remarkable things already. Our
church asked me to sing a solo the Sunday when the bishop was expected,
and I held a sort of reception afterwards and heard many pleasant things
about my progress. After my hard work and self-denial, the rest, the
gentle flattery, and the comfort of home surroundings were very welcome.

Only with my fiancé things were not so satisfactory. Something, I did
not know what, was the matter; but it all culminated one evening in his
saying that no married woman should follow a profession, that she should
find "occupation enough in her own home." This was really a great shock
to me, as he had promised me his support in my work so often. Imagine my
surprise after a three years' engagement, when he had his family tell me
just three weeks before the wedding that I was to give up all hope of
singing professionally after encouraging me in it during the entire
time. I knew by then that I could never be happy nor make him happy if
I gave up all thought of singing professionally.

I asked him very quietly if those were his convictions, and, on his
affirmative answer, I took off his ring, returned it to him, and went
upstairs without one more word, feeling as if I had been awakened out of
a nightmare, and though still palpitating from the shock was
experiencing relief at finding it over. In my own room I stretched my
arms above my head and said, "_Free!_" A marvellous vista of freedom
opened to me after the months of strain. I could hardly bear to go to
sleep; it was so wonderful to plan how I could go ahead and study,
study.

The next morning I saw my mistake in supposing the affair to be over,
for there ensued many trying days and floods of tears all round. Then
came the solemn and awkward returning of all the engagement cups and
saucers and knicknacks, to nearly our whole circle of acquaintance. My
family stood by me and performed this unattractive task, while I packed
up to return to New York.

I had given up my choir, and now found it a difficult matter to get
another. All the churches had made their arrangements for the year and
the best I could hope for was occasional substituting in case one of the
altos was unable to sing. I made the round of the agents' offices. Some
heard me and were complimentary, some refused as their lists were full.
But when I mentioned the word "engagement," I was always met by the
rejoinder "No experience." I used to say to them, "But how can I ever
get experience if you won't give me a chance?" They would shrug and
answer that that wasn't their affair.

It seemed a hopeless deadlock. No one would engage me without experience
and no one would give me an opportunity to become experienced. I knew
that the one way out of the difficulty was to go abroad and get
experience there. I have said that the idea of singing in opera had
always made a strong appeal to me, and I knew that I had some of the
qualifications necessary for the stage--a big voice, good
stage-appearance, and ability to act (we had always acted) as well as a
great capacity for hard work. But the essential qualification, without
which the others were all ineffective, was the financial support
necessary to get me there and to provide means of studying and of living
adequately while I prepared myself for opera.

I despaired of obtaining this, but the way was suddenly opened for me in
what seemed a miraculous manner. Friends of mine in the church, Frank
Smith Jones and his wife, offered to finance me through my years of
preparation and for as long afterwards as I might need their aid. These
real friends were behind me for years, and I owe them more than I could
ever repay. They made it possible for me to have my sister with me, for
me, a rather delicate girl, an inestimable benefit. In the seventh
heaven of joy, I prepared to go to Paris to study with Jacques Bouhy,
recommended to me by my New York teacher. I packed my few clothes, some
songs, and a boundless enthusiasm, and set sail.



CHAPTER III

PARIS AT LAST


I crossed on one of the steady big boats of the Atlantic Transport Line.
I remember only one passenger, a boy of even then such personal
magnetism that he stands out in my recollection as clearly as any one I
have ever met, though he was then only a young fellow and unknown to
fame. His name was Douglas Fairbanks and his ambition was to go on the
stage. He said as we neared England: "Well, some day we'll read,
'Conried of the Metropolitan Opera House presents Miss Kathleen Howard,'
and 'Charles Frohman presents Mr. Douglas Fairbanks.'" His prophecy,
which I recall even to the spot on the boat where he made it, and the
expression of his eyes which matched mine at that moment, has almost
been fulfilled.

I reached Paris in the beginning of September with "my instrument" in
working order, with a smattering of French, a letter of credit for
$1000, and a large supply of courage. I found my voice adequate to all
my demands upon it, but the money just half enough (it was increased
the next year). As for my courage, I have had to go on renewing that
ever since, until it has become the largest factor in my success. Emma
Juch told me once that she always said it was not difficult to attain
success and make a career. Perhaps her success was made at a time when
the competition was less keen, but I at any rate could never agree with
her.

I arrived in Paris early in the morning and went to a small hotel in the
rue Cambon. It quite thrilled me to ask the chambermaid for _eau chaude_
instead of "hot water"; and I felt proud of knowing that the midday meal
was called _déjeuner à la fourchette_. I remember that meal to this
day--it began with radishes and butter, those inseparable companions in
France, went on to omelette, then cold meat and salad, with small
clingstone peaches and little white grapes for dessert. Red or white
wine was "_compris_," and the bread was a yard long, cut half through
into sections, and laid down the middle of the table. It was all
half-miraculous to me, and afterwards when I went out to stroll under
the arches of the rue de Rivoli I thought myself in fairyland. The
jewelry, lingerie and photograph shops delighted me, as they have
innumerable tourists, and the name "Redfern" over a doorway gave me a
thrill. The Place de la Concorde seemed one of the most beautiful places
I had ever seen, an opinion which I still hold, by the way, and I felt
like a queen when I called an open _fiacre_ and drove in state toward
the Arc de Triomphe, stopping to buy a big bunch of red roses for twenty
cents from a ragged man who ran shouting beside my carriage. In the
evening I went to the opera and wondered at the great stairway and at
the big auditorium, and still more at the poor performance I saw there
but which I accounted for by the fact that September is the dull season.

That first day was all thrills. The next was spent in arranging hours
for lessons, and collecting pension addresses from all my acquaintances,
as I saw that it would be impossible to do my work in a hotel. I set
bravely out on my hunt for a dwelling place. Prices have increased
considerably since those days, for at that time it was possible to get
very good board and lodging on the left bank of the Seine for five
francs a day. My professor, Jacques Bouhy, however, lived near the Arc
de Triomphe, and I wished to be within walking distance. I toiled up and
down a great many stairs, and peeped into a great many rooms without
finding what I sought. I could not bear to wait a day to begin working,
and was just a bit discouraged, when I had the good fortune to meet two
girls from home, who gave me the address of the pension where they had
stayed. I rushed off at once to see it, and found a very nice house of
several floors, situated in a _cité_, a sort of garden behind the first
row of houses on the street, so that its windows faced a view of trees
and flowerbeds with circular gravel walks around them, instead of
cobblestones.

The head of the pension was an old woman who looked like a Bourbon but
was really a bourgeoise. It was nearly noon when I arrived, but she was
still in a wonderful dressing gown of purple and yellow stripes, with
_chaussons_, cloth slippers, on her feet, and an elaborate coiffure of
dyed black hair above her yellow old face. She came to me in the salon,
a long narrow room with French windows framing tree-tops, the windows
and doors all hung with rose-red velvet which looked as if it had been
in place since the First Empire. There were sofas of rose, and chairs of
the same with black wooden rims, tables and mantel-pieces with thousands
of things on them, and an old-fashioned square piano in the corner.
Madame was most gracious, remembered the name of her former lodgers,
said they were _très gentilles_, turned a neat compliment to the
American nation, and showed me the rooms herself.

I chose a back one of good size, nicely furnished and hung with a pretty
chintz. It had a _cabinet de toilette_, or large cupboard for washstand
and trunks, opening off it, and I was to have it with complete board,
for two hundred francs a month ($40). The price was really higher, but
my arrangement was for the winter. I was to pay extra for light and
heat. The room had an open fireplace with a _grille_ or fire-basket in
it, for which I could buy _boulets_, coal dust pressed into egg-shaped
balls, for three francs a sack. Later, I could have had a _salamandre_,
one of the excellent small stoves which fit into the fireplace, really
warm a room, and require filling only once in twenty-four hours. But I
wanted something to poke, and I had an idea that Paris winters were not
very formidable. As a matter of fact, anything more penetrating than
their damp sunless cold it is impossible to imagine.

For light, there was a huge lamp for which I could buy _luciline_, a
kind of highly refined kerosene which has no odour and burns well. I
made my bath arrangements with Jean, Madame's old servant, who with his
wife, Eugénie, was the real head of the establishment. I had bought a
collapsible rubber tub, and Jean was to bring me a big can of hot water
every morning. I found that I had to tip occasionally or the water
became as cool as Jean's manners. Madame showed me her dining room, and
told me with pride that her cuisine was of an excellence renowned. I
went to fetch my trunks and hire a piano, glad that my long search was
over. The piano was a small upright, a tin pan for tone, as are all
Parisian pianos _en location_, and it was to cost me ten francs a month,
with eight francs for carting. They are more expensive now. When it was
installed, my Lares and Penates on top of it, and my music on a stool
beside it, I felt that my feet were firmly planted on the ladder leading
to success.

Then I began to work. And how I did work that winter! I had two singing
lessons a week, and a session with the opera class lasting three hours
in which we went through the dramatic action of our rôles. I slaved at
my repertoire working three hours a week with a coach, and spending
hours and hours a day learning by heart at home. Of course I began with
the very biggest rôles--we all do. The personalities of _Amneris_,
_Carmen_, _Dalila_, _Azucena_ in turn, all in their French version of
course, occupied my mind waking and sleeping.

Jacques Bouhy was always kind, grave and courteous with me. The thought
of his having created _Escamillo_ and his real knowledge of French
traditions thrilled me. He lent me his copy of "Samson et Dalila" from
which to copy the French words. It had an inscription from Saint-Saens
"À M. Bouhy, _grand prêtre et grand artiste_." He created the rôle of
the Grand Priest.

The only time I ever saw him upset was one day after the Opera class. We
all thought him safely out riding as he always was on Mondays. My
letter, written at that time to my mother, says:

"This morning in the opera class we had rather an unpleasant time.
Little N., with the beautiful tenor voice, has learned in one week the
first half of the _Samson_ duet for me. He has had to learn it from a
score which has only his voice part written in it. He is frightfully
down on his luck and with the gorgeous voice and speaking French can't
get anything to do, and has no money, not a cent to his name. We had
done that, some one else had sung, and having ten minutes left, Valdejo
told N. to sing again if he would. He was tired, but jumped up and began
the first part of "Faust." He kept forgetting it. Suddenly the door
opened and in walked Bouhy as white as a sheet. He commanded N. to stop
singing and to learn his things before coming again to the class. Said,
why did he sing like a baritone when he was a tenor, mocked him, told
him he was ashamed to have such sounds made _chez lui_, that he had been
a year on "Faust." What example was he to the others? Every one else had
always worked seriously. He stormed for five long minutes, N. standing
quite still, with his brown dog's eyes fixed on him--then he left the
room. It was frightfully uncomfortable for us too. I am sure I have
done just such rotten work so it may be my turn next. Of course Bouhy
was right. N. has been there a year and ought to know it; but he is just
tired out, and never sleeps he says. They say Bouhy is beginning to show
his age. This week he bounced his cook whom he has had for years."

I had two French lessons a week, and should have had at least one
diction lesson besides, but for an invaluable course which I had taken
in New York with the Yersin sisters. These lessons were a nerve-racking
experience from which I used to emerge with my feathers all rubbed the
wrong way from the strain of trying to imitate the intangible
differences between the various French "e's." But I have always been
grateful for this rigid training, from the time when I first reached
Paris, and, though speaking very little French, could give an address to
a _cocher_ without having to repeat it, until now, when I can thank my
trained ear for a perfect accent in singing foreign languages.

I think no one ever studied more unrelentingly than I, during that first
year of hot enthusiasm. I began early in the morning, and the only
reason that I did not burn the midnight oil was that I found it cost me
too much in kerosene and firing. I could keep warm in bed for nothing,
and _boulets_ were my pet economy. Coming from a country where a warm
room was taken for granted, and where the furnaces in hotels and
boarding houses might have been supplied by Elijah's ravens for all I
knew about it, I just couldn't bear to see my money burning away bit by
bit in a grate; and many a time I have put on my fur-lined coat rather
than add fuel to the dying heap of dreadfully expensive ashes in the
_grille_.



CHAPTER IV

PENSION PERSONALITIES


At first I had no companionship and very little recreation, beyond the
ever fresh wonder and delight of the Paris streets as I saw them in my
daily constitutional. One day I went with a girl friend to visit her
_atelier_. I wrote to my mother:

"We spent a long time in the life-class room--nude, (not us but the
model). It was a mixed class. A large oblong room, filled with I should
think over a hundred students, mostly men. They sat in a circle facing
the model throne. The floor is not raised, but the effect of an
amphitheatre is produced by rush bottom stools of different heights.
They rest their pads or drawing portfolios on a railing in front of
them. The room is intolerably hot because of the model. What struck us
most was the intense silence and atmosphere of earnestness; no one
speaks and there is only the gentle rub-rub of the charcoal, crayon, or
pencil against the paper. The students look quickly up and down and
never move their glance except from their sketch to the model and back
again. She was a very pretty young girl and took graceful half-hour
poses. The one interruption was a quiet voice at the end of a half-hour,
'_C'est l'heure_'; and they stopped for a few minutes' rest. We went
into another room, where a picturesque old wretch with long black curls,
red velvet waist-coat, long blue cape, well thrown back, black, grimy
hands clasped around his knee, and clumsy, rusty boots stuck out in
front of him, was seated."

Later one of these old models used to come to my brother. He had a card
on which was printed the list of poses he was prepared to take.--"The
twelve Apostles," "The Eternal Father" and "The God Jupiter."

I found a little English tea-room about a mile away, and often went
there for tea and muffins which in those days were hardly procurable in
French places. The tea-habit is only about ten years old in France. The
people in the shop soon knew me by sight, which was just as well, as I
would begin going over the words of some part in my head and walk out
serenely, quite forgetting to pay for my tea. I still go there
occasionally when I am in Paris and remind them of that. I sometimes
went to the two operas and to the theatre, but not nearly often enough,
as I could spare neither time nor money, and the late hours made a
concentration on the next morning's work more difficult. The concert
world was a great disappointment to me. I think I longed for nothing so
much that year, as to hear great orchestral music well performed; but
the Lamoreux and Chevillard concerts did little to satisfy this craving,
and I was amazed at the roughness of the strings and the narrow scope of
the programs. Many of the great artists avoided Paris in their tours,
the reason given being lack of suitable concert halls.

On the other hand, a whole new school of composition was opened to me
that winter by a fellow _pensionnaire_. Charles Loeffler and Henry
Hadley spent part of the winter in our pension, and Mr. Loeffler
introduced me to the French modernists. Later in the winter we often
talked over their works together. He used to stroll into my room about
tea time, saying he liked to watch me make tea for I had such attractive
fingers. He used to take me to the odd corners of his beloved Paris,
_cafés_ haunted by long-haired _Sorbonne_ students, and _cafés
chantants_, where the frank improprieties of the ditties were for me so
impenetrably disguised by the _argot_ in which they were written that I
did not understand a word of them. "When your French gets more
colloquial," he used to say, "I shan't be able to bring you here any
more. Oh! if you were only a man!" He always ended with this
exclamation, and I never knew why, for my woman-hood did not seem to
disturb him particularly. Perhaps he felt the want of a sort of Fidus'
Achates to confide in. He took me to two famous places, and this is my
description of them in a letter to my mother:

"We went first to the famous 'Noctambules' in the Quartier Latin. It is
where the wittiest men of their _genre_ are to be found. They are many
of them decorated by the government. One hears witty topical songs,
_chansons d'amour_, and absurdities telling of the eels and fishes in
amorous conversation, such extravagances as the French love. There is no
vulgarity. Their diction is marvellous, and of course they sacrifice,
entirely, their tone to their words. All around the walls are posters
and drawings of famous artists and caricatures of Parisians. The
performers are called on in turn by the master of ceremonies, and take
their stand on a little platform in front of the piano half way up the
room. When they have finished, if they have been popular, we are all
called on to join in the _doublement_ for Monsieur so and so. This
consists of clapping to a certain rhythm, which is thumped on the piano:
1 2 3 4 5,--1 2 3 4 5,--1 2 3 4 5--1 2 3--and over again."

In those days Charles Fallot was still at the "Noctambules" and used to
arise, very black and white and thin, and gaze at himself in the big
mirror opposite, while he gestured with his long, skinny arms and
thoroughly French hands, and delivered himself of his witty _double
entendre chansons_. Another night we went to a famous Montmartre place,
Boite à Fursy, but it was not at all the same thing, and we neither of
us liked it.

Henry Hadley had the room above me, and often told me my hours of
playing "Carmen," etc., nearly maddened him. I always studied in bed or
at the piano, without singing, and rarely used my voice when committing
rôles to memory. Hadley often had Cyril Scott, the English composer, in
his rooms, and I used to listen with joy to Scott's imaginative playing.
It was like birds sweeping and swooping, all keys and intervals were
interwoven. He always said, one hand on his forehead, "I have no
understanding for limitations of harmony or rules of tempo." And indeed
why should one have? He liked nothing older than Debussy and was
unspeakably bored by Gluck or Beethoven and their ilk, though he loved
"Carmen." Hadley still retained a strong admiration for Wagner and
respect for the old school, though he much appreciated the moderns and
the modern orchestra. I first saw Mary Garden as _Mélisande_ with him.
We both sat rapt and spellbound to the end, transported by what was to
me a perfect revelation as to scoring for modern orchestra, the
intangible operatic form, and most of all the subtle imaginative acting
of Mary Garden. Her power of suggestion in those days was capable of
conveying any shade of thought or delicate mood to the spectator. That
performance has always been and will always be an inspiration to me.

Hadley was always starting off on impossible journeys to Egypt and the
Orient, in search of "material." His talk was filled with the strangest
scraps of out-of-the-way information, like bright-coloured rags in a
dust heap. Bauer lived a door or two away, and I used to hear him
practising and then hear his concerts. A wordy war would rage at our end
of the table at dinner, while old Madame, from her seat of honour in the
centre, would cry, "_Mais français, parlez français, mes enfants!_ You
crush my ears with your English!" Of course, no attention was paid to
her. Joining passionately in the discussions, though not themselves of
the _métier,_ were two American girls, living on the top floor, who were
supposed to be writing a play together. One or another of the composers
was usually more or less in love with one or other of the girls, and
they took sides accordingly, for and against the recognized masters of
the past. The two were amusing, always doing something eccentric.

At one time they had an incubator in their room, the gift of a passing
admirer, and we engaged passionately in raising chickens. The machine
was heated by a huge kerosene lamp, and they were always turning it too
high and having it fill the room with blacks and smoke, or letting it go
out altogether. However, two or three chicks, more strenuously
determined to live than the rest, managed to struggle out at length, and
their advent was heralded by the whole pension. We had marked our
initials on the eggs, one egg each, and when mine showed the first signs
of life, I held it in my hand till it was partly hatched. The little
pecks inside the shell were fascinating to feel in one's palm. As soon
as the chicks could walk, they were taken downstairs into the _cité_,
and their attempts to scratch gravel were hailed by the assembled
inhabitants of the garden in a rapture of several languages. One
Englishman wanted to make them little jackets, so he could take them for
walks in the _Bois_.

Discussion was meat and drink to all these people. Their cry was
"Sensations, sensations! Let the artist experience everything in his own
person!" This doctrine sounded rather a menace to conduct, but talking
endlessly about sensations seemed to be equivalent in most cases to
experiencing them. Nevertheless, some of them indulged in desperate
orgies of black coffee and cigarettes as an invocation to their muse;
and one of the composers assured me that the great symphonic poem on
which he was at work, had been inspired by breaking a bottle of
Houbigant's _Idéal_ in a closed cab and driving for hours in the _Bois_,
inhaling the perfume. They loved to recount these Gargantuan excesses,
and were extravagant in praise of midnight oil, attic windows, and the
calm inspiration of early dawn after nights of frantic toil. They were
dreadfully sincere, and very amusing to watch, but it seemed to me that
there was a great deal of stage setting for very little play. They
tended the green shoot of their artistic development with such fantastic
care, that it was in danger of dying from too much consideration.
Personally, I was too busy, either for sensations or the analysis of
them, though I used to wonder what this Paris could be like into which
they journeyed and from which they returned full of tales of affairs and
lovely women and gorgeous houses. It all seemed most romantic and
interesting to me.

The other end of the dinner table represented staid conventionality in
contrast to our anarchism. In the centre sat Madame and beside her her
life-long friend, the editor of one of the Paris newspapers. Some hinted
that he was something more than a friend, in spite of Madame's seventy
years. Opposite her, was Madame M----, once an American in the days of
long ago, but with no trace of it left except in her persistent accent.
She was reputed to possess one hundred dresses, and certainly the
variety of her costume was amazing; but as she was at least fifty-five
and had preserved every gown for the last thirty years, her annual dress
expenditure, after all, was probably not extravagant. Her old husband
was never allowed a word when she was present, so he revenged himself
for the privation by interfering with every game started after dinner in
the _salon_--bridge, poker, patience, no matter what it was, he always
insisted that the players were quite wrong and that he could show them
how it was done in the clubs.

There was a young Russian girl with a pretty face and pretty clothes,
whose hands, however, betrayed her peasant origin. Her beautiful sister
was engaged at the Grand Opera, so she was an object of great interest
to me. There were some Swedes, and nondescript Americans, and a charming
French family, a mother and two daughters, bearers of an historic name,
who had come up from their _château_ in the South of France that the
girls might have masters in various "accomplishments," and were living
in the _pension_ from motives of economy. On Sundays their brother, a
young naval officer, used to dine with them. With his pale, aristocratic
face, and with little side-whiskers, the high stock of his uniform, his
strapped trousers and narrow, arched feet, he was like a John Leech
drawing come to life. Then there was a large Frenchwoman, Madame la
Marquise de Quelquechose, who lent the lustre of her title and her
ancestral jewels to our _bourgeois_ board. At least, she said her jewels
were heirlooms, but her ancestors must have had a prophetic taste in
jewelry, as I often saw replicas of her ornaments in the shops of the
rue de Rivoli. An old Englishwoman completed our list of permanencies.
In spite of twenty years' residence in Paris, she would still ask for
"oon petty poo de pang" in a high, drawling voice. There were transients
of many nationalities, but these were our regular inmates.

An interesting man sometimes dined with us. Writing my mother about him
I say:

"Last night Mr. H---- dined here and told us many yarns about Sarah
Bernhardt. He said once when he was in California he was asked to meet
her and they all went on a hunting picnic together. She dropped her robe
when she got to the island where they had _déjeuner_, undoing a wide,
heavy, Egyptian gold and precious-stone belt, and appeared attired in a
man's velvet hunting-suit. He says she adores to talk _cancan_, and
referred to the manager as 'that _cochon_.' After breakfast, she threw
the champagne bottles far into the lake and shot them to pieces at the
first shot. The only posey thing she did was when she undid her belt and
threw it far across the road, and when he asked her if that was the way
she treated such beautiful things, she said that the man who gave it to
her was domestic!... It is colder than charity here at present, at least
I feel it so in the house. I shall start my fire today for the first
time. Yesterday I bought a bunch of violets, and do you know why? To
keep myself from buying chestnuts, which are bad for the voice. You see,
if I spent my _sous_ for violets I could not afford more for chestnuts.
Thus prevented I myself."



CHAPTER V

OPERATIC FRANCE VERSUS OPERATIC GERMANY


After a few months of strenuous endeavour on my part, I began to be a
little dissatisfied and restless. I saw clearly that in a year's time,
working at such pressure, I should have a sufficient repertoire to begin
my apprenticeship on the stage; but I did not see my way to a _début_
quite so clearly. I talked with the other pupils, to get their ideas of
progression. They all said, "When I make my _début_ at the Opera," or
"the Comique." They were all sure of an opening at the top and
apparently would consider nothing less than leading rôles in a world
capital. That was not my idea at all. I did not care about a _début_. I
wanted to learn to act, to do my big parts over and over again before an
audience, to sing them into my voice, to learn to make voice, face, and
my whole body an articulate expression of all that the rôle had to say.

I tried to find out how the singers of the two operas had made their
careers. Some, I learned, though doing leading work, still paid for
their performances by taking so and so many francs worth of seats every
time they sang. Some had gained a hearing by the influence of their
teachers. Some were there by "protection." The Russian girl's sister was
very beautiful, but she was not very gifted either vocally or
histrionically, and I wondered at her engagement, until I heard that she
was the _protégée_ of a certain rich man. The winners of the first prize
at the Conservatoire had a chance given them, and one or two had made
good to a certain extent, and still sang occasionally. But, I thought,
if the débutantes of the Conservatoire must be given an opportunity,
there can be very little room for other inexperienced singers, and
certainly none for foreigners. The "France for the French" spirit had
impressed me tremendously, as it must all foreigners in Paris. Generous
as the city is to them, she rightly gives her rewards to those of her
own race first.

The opera class was another source of annoyance to me. The one idea was
"copy what I show you"--make a faithful imitation whether it expresses
what you feel or not; it doesn't matter what you feel so long as you
pour everything into the same moulds and turn out neat little shapes,
labelled "love," "hate," "despair," all ready for use, and all "true to
the traditions of the French school." The first lessons of all were in
standing and walking, and there began my sadness. The traditions
demanded that one's feet be set eternally at "ten minutes to two." Mine
would deviate from this rule, and I aided and abetted them in their
mutiny. My instinct was to sit down occasionally with my knees together,
instead of always draping one leg at the side of the chair. I often felt
like singing quite a long phrase with no gestures at all, instead of
keeping up a succession of undulating arm-movements.

Our dramatic coach, a fiery individual, who chewed coffee-berries
persistently, struggled in vain to teach me to lay one hand on my heart
in the traditional manner, two middle fingers together, little one
crooked, thumb in. Sometimes mine looked like a starfish, and sometimes
like a fist, and both were taboo. Gestures had to melt into each other;
there were different ones for different emotions, and woe betide you if
you mixed them! There was a sort of test speech beginning, "_Moi, qui
vous parle._" The hand at "_moi_" had to be laid upon the chest in the
approved manner. I have forgotten the middle, but the end was, "_Et vous
jure, que je le ferai jamais!_" At _jure_ one elevated the right hand,
the first two fingers raised, and at _jamais_ the right arm described a
figure eight across the upper half of the body, with the gesture of
tearing away a long beard. We did this all winter and never reached
perfection, that is, an exact copy of Valdejo, our instructor.

We had to practice the classic walk--slowly advancing, foot dragging,
stomach out, very lordly to see, one arm bent from the elbow with the
forearm and hand resting against the body--a most difficult thing. The
different versions were very comic, but the idea was excellent and I
used it later in "Orfeo." Certainly a pulled back tummy would not be in
character in a Greek tunic.

Later, we had to act scenes from our operas, and there I got on better.
I used to get absorbed in the character to the extent of becoming
perfectly oblivious of my surroundings. I remember once, as _Dalila_,
throwing myself so hard upon the supposed couch of _Dalila_, that I
thumped my head on the marble mantel behind me. My watching class mates
burst into a snicker, and I into real tears of anger, not of pain. I had
entirely forgotten them when their giggles wrenched me back into the
present; but their great pride was never to forget themselves and always
to be ready to imitate the coach in cold blood. He, however, appreciated
that I had something in me, and used to thump me on the back, and call
me "Canaille!" when I did anything that pleased him--a curious
expression of approval.

I am not denouncing the ordinary "opera class." This method of slavish
imitation doubtless has its usefulness for some people. The old order of
opera singer was often trained by such schooling. But Mary Garden had
opened my eyes to the new order of singing actors, and the old method
was no help to me. I longed for a real stage on which to try out my own
ideas, and find by experience whether they were right or wrong. I wanted
to gain that subtle quality, "authority," which is nearly as important
as voice itself, that routine which makes one forget the four long bones
of the body, and blends all its members into an instrument of
expression, homogeneous and harmonious.

In my researches into the life-stories of French singers, I heard much
of "the French provinces" as a training school, and turned my attention
to accumulating all the information on that subject that I could gather.
I heard tales of southern audiences who cheered their singers to the
echo, waited in a mob to tear the horses from their carriages after a
performance, pelted them with flowers and expressed their approval in
other picturesque fashions. The reverse side of these tales is of
directly opposite character, when benches are torn up and flung over the
gallery by the "gods," disappointed at not hearing a favourite singer,
and the head of the unlucky substitute is the target for their missiles
till he makes good with a high note loud enough to pierce the din of
their protestation. If a wretched singer clears his throat loud enough
to be heard, he will be greeted at each entrance by a chorus of
throat-clearing from the gallery. If his acting of a part strikes them
as being pretentious or over-solemn, groans and cries of
"Shakespear-r-r-e" reward his efforts. To crack on a high note is the
certain signal for a riot of yelling and jeers, but the unhappy singer
must stick it out at any cost, for if he leaves the stage, they wait for
him outside and set upon him bodily.

"If you've made the round of the Provinces," as Harry Weldon, who has
done so, once said to me, "you can sing in Hell!"

Of course, not all provincial audiences are so "temperamental" as the
southerners, but, as far as I could learn, paid performances and
protection seemed to exist everywhere in greater or less degree. The
repertoire was limited and old-fashioned--the standard French operas,
"Faust," "Mignon," "Carmen," "Hamlet," were performed, with "Traviata,"
"Trovatore," "Aida," "The Barber," some Meyerbeer, and many of the
lighter works, like "La Fille du Regiment." Among the more modern works
were "Werther" and "Manon" of Massenet, with "Bohème" and "Butterfly"
and perhaps "Louise." "Lohengrin" and "Tannhäuser" were sometimes given,
but the big Wagner dramas, the classics of Mozart, Weber and Gluck, and
the moderns like Debussy, Dukas, Strauss, Humperdinck, seemed
neglected. Over all there hung a general lack of method, musical
thoroughness and discipline. I must confess that I judge largely by
hear-say, as the only provincial French opera house of which I have any
personal knowledge is that of Nancy. So it may be that I do "The
Provinces" an injustice. Of course, both Monte Carlo and Nice offer many
novelties. But then Monte Carlo is not a provincial French opera at all.

On the other hand, the stories I heard of the great operatic machinery
of Germany began to attract me irresistibly. The organized system of
opera, the great chain of opera houses, the discipline of their rigid
schooling, the concentration and deep musical sincerity of their
musicians, the simplicity of German life, all seemed to offer what I was
looking for. The dramatic quality of my voice would have more scope in
their more varied repertoire, while surely in their hundred-odd opera
houses I might find a place to work out my ideas in peace.

Every one thought me crazy. My teachers tried their hardest to dissuade
me, promising me a great career in France. But I felt a call to Germany
where I hoped to find the right conditions for my own development which
seemed lacking in France. The great barrier was the language--the
difficulty of singing in it, to say nothing of learning it, for I did
not know one word. Jean de Reszke said to me later, speaking of German
as a language for singing: "_Avec cette langue, vous n'arriverez
jamais._" (With that language, you will never succeed.) However, I have
said that I had a good deal of courage in those days, and I determined
to go to Berlin to try my luck.

Not that I was tired of Paris. It is still my favourite city offering a
wonderful opportunity for broadening culture to those who can get into
touch with its art life. I owe it a great debt for deepening my artistic
perception, and developing that sense of true proportion which keeps one
from exaggeration on the one hand and pedantry on the other. But I
should not recommend Paris as the best school for the ordinary American
student of singing, who has no opportunity to penetrate into real French
life. There is no lack of sincerity in the real French institutions, the
Conservatoire, the schools of art, the Sorbonne--there are found
concentration, competition, and keenness enough. But the foreign student
of singing does not ordinarily come into contact with these
institutions. In the Paris vocal studios, as I know them, there is a
dissipation instead of a conservation of energy. The students expect to
win the crown without running the race, and money and influence play too
great a rôle. They (vocal students, I mean) tend to exaggerate their
little emotions into _grandes passions_, and hold the most
disproportionate views of their own importance. I do not mean to say
that I agree with a certain singer who brought back harrowing tales of
immorality among American students in Europe. Amongst all the hundreds
of vocal students I have known, I never met one case of flagrant
misbehaviour. In general the girls live quietly and strive according to
their lights, though there is not one in twenty with resolution enough
to concentrate on the hard work necessary for a great career. The
temptation is to fritter away both time and money on the things that
don't matter.



CHAPTER VI

PREPARING RÔLES IN BERLIN


The first of September, without a word of German, I set out for Berlin.
My mother had come over during the preceding Spring, to make her home in
Paris with my sculptor brother Cecil and my sister. From this time on I
went to them for the summers, and my sister joined me when I went to
Metz, and has never left me since. It made it harder to leave both
family and Paris behind and go into an unknown land, but I felt it to be
the best way.

Lilli Lehmann's studio was my objective point. I found her address in a
musical journal, and armed with that, and the address of an inexpensive
_pension_, I took the train. Arrived in Berlin, I took a _Droschke_,
directing the driver to my pension by showing him the street and number
on a piece of paper. Somewhere between that _Droschke_ and my room, my
travelling clock got lost, and what a time I had to recover it! The
apple-cheeked maid knew of the existence of no other language beside
her own. In vain I made a pendulum of my finger and tirelessly repeated
"tick, tick"--no gleam of intelligence dawned in her Prussian blue eyes.

The first few days brought a series of disappointments. The Lehmann idea
had to be abandoned. She was out of town and recommended me by letter to
a certain Herr----, to whom she was sending every one who applied to
her. I found him a dear old man indeed, but one who had nothing to say
to me on the subject of voice production which I had not heard already.
However, I decided to begin the study of German repertoire with him,
painstakingly re-learning the operas I already knew in French, and
adding the new ones required for a German engagement. Later I found a
good _répétiteur_, who knew the operas thoroughly, quite sufficient and
much cheaper, as he charged only four marks ($1.00) an hour. I studied
the words of my rôles with Herr----'s wife, who had been an actress and
a good one, and who laid the foundation of what I am proud to say is now
a perfect German accent. These lessons were five marks an hour and were
quite worth it. I would learn a rôle by heart, sentence by sentence,
looking up every word in the dictionary and writing in the translation
over the German, spending hours in fruitless search for a past
participle which did not look as if it belonged to its infinitive, the
only part of the verb, of course, to be given in the dictionary! Then,
sentence by sentence, I would go over it with Frau----, repeating each
word after her, sometimes twenty times! We also used those splendid
books, known I found afterwards to every German actor, in which
paragraphs of words with the same vowel sound or combination of vowel
and consonants are given to be repeated over and over again. Besides
this drudgery, I had German lessons for four months (at three marks or
seventy-five cents) for which I had to translate and write exercises.
All the labyrinths of the declension of articles, nouns and adjectives
in three genders and plurals, lay before me to be explored. The datives
and accusatives haunted my dreams by night, and by day I was reduced to
the sign language.

I had left my first pension, and crushing down the temptation to live in
one of the big, gay German-American pensions, where justice is tempered
with mercy, so to speak, I moved myself and my piano into a real German
one, where I was the only alien. It was one floor of a large house in a
quiet side street--the top floor, and no elevator! I climbed
eighty-seven steps by actual count every time I came home from a lesson.
I had a huge room, heated by steam, with board for four marks a day. The
meals were _echt Deutsch_. Breakfast was set ready on the dining-room
table at some unearthly hour, and the guests went in and helped
themselves when they chose. The coffee and hot milk were kept warm over
little alcohol flames, and there were delicious Berlin rolls and the
best of unsalted butter. Dinner was at two, and was good in its plain
way. We had some North German dishes which one had to learn to enjoy,
like olives. Hot chocolate soup I grew quite fond of, but beer soup,
sorrel soup, and cabbage soup with cherries in it were never exactly
intimates of mine. One dish of baked ham with dumplings and hot plum jam
sounds strange, but improves on acquaintance; _Pumpernickel_, and
_Schmierkaese_ are better than their names, and _Kartoffelpuffen mit
Preisselbeeren_ (potato cakes with cranberries) are delicious. We had
good plain puddings and black coffee for dessert every day, and quite
wonderful roast Pomeranian goose and _Eistorte_ with whipped cream on
Sundays. Supper was at eight, and the menu was certainly a model for the
simple life. Bread and butter with slices of sausage and cold ham,
sometimes big dishes of roast chestnuts instead of cold meat, or
potatoes in their jackets, or some of the endless variety of
North-German cheeses--to drink, tea or beer, and that was all.

My fellow pensionnaires were nearly all teachers, or students preparing
to be teachers. They all spoke German and nothing but German, and, at
first, I used to think my mind would drown in the overwhelming floods of
it that assailed my ears. Gradually it came to sound like individual
words and phrases, and soon I dared occasionally to launch a small
conversational barque upon it, avoiding the disastrous rocks of gender
as skilfully as possible, though often at first, by the time that my
genders and cases were all arranged for a sentence, the subject had
changed, and I could not use it. We had a Fräulein Lanz, Fräulein Franz,
and Fräulein Kranz, four or five other Fräuleins and no males at all.

Another American student of singing came to live there, and in the
evening we used to go to the opera or to concerts together. Everything
begins early in Berlin, and those who had tickets for some entertainment
missed the eight o'clock supper. So plates of _belegte Broedchen_ (rolls
with cold meat) would be set out for them on the dining-table, and all
the others would be sitting there with their needle-work, and would
demand "_Nun, wie war es?_" when we came in. On Saturdays the evening
paper announced the program at the opera for the week, and we could
hardly wait to look at it. The cheaper seats are in great demand.
Students wait for hours, sometimes from earliest dawn, outside the box
office on Sunday mornings when the sale for the week begins. We had an
arrangement with the keeper of a little fruit and vegetable shop, to
save ourselves the wait. We would decide what we wished to see and go
over to his shop on Saturday evening to order the seats from him. He
then went down early enough to secure the front row in the top gallery
for us at two marks fifty, and we paid him twelve cents for his trouble.
Sixty-two cents is quite a high price in comparison to those of the rest
of the Opera House, for the orchestra chairs cost only eight marks. The
top gallery is vast, and the back rows are much cheaper, but the
authorities show their sense in keeping up the price of the front rows
and I don't think there is ever an empty seat there. To concerts we were
often admitted free, on saying that we were students, unless the artist
was a great favourite, and in that case we could buy standing room, or
seats in the gallery for one mark. We always went and came home in the
street cars, paying the two cent fare with a one cent tip to the
conductor, and dressing in our ordinary street clothes, with scarves
over our hair. I used to go alone sometimes, and was never spoken to or
molested in any way. No one looked at you twice, unless you looked at
him three times.

On Sundays I would take a day off, and, in true German fashion, make an
expedition; in bad weather to some museum or picture gallery, in Autumn
or Spring to some out-of-door restaurant. Sometimes I was too tired to
go further than the _Tiergarten_. Then I would stroll gently across it
and have coffee and cakes at the _Zelt_, or big open-air refreshment
gardens where the band plays. They are the resort of _hoi polloi_ of
Berlin in countless family groups: the father rather fat with hirsute
adornments, the mother also rather massive, and their plump children,
all drinking beer out of tall glasses and mugs, or coffee in inch-thick
white cups, and eating wedges of highly decorated _Torte_, with or
without the addition of heaped-up whipped cream.

If I felt more strenuous, I would take a car out to the Grunewald, a
villa-colony suburb, with roads winding through pine woods. I would sit
under the trees and invite my soul. As I sat there, some girl or boy's
school would come trooping by, singing a _Volkslied_ of interminable
verses, in four parts, having tramped all day for the pure joy of motion
in the open air. Then I would have coffee and a triangle of cherry pie,
and what cherry pie! at the _Hundekehle_, an immense restaurant on the
border of a small lake, accommodating I don't know how many fat
Prussians at once with refreshments. Every German town has some such
resort, where inexpensive creature comforts are the reward of a long
walk. Such an expedition of the whole family is their greatest treat,
and one in which they have the sense to indulge as often as possible.
Even on week day afternoons the housewives find time for a stroll, a
reviving cup of coffee, and a little gossip, though of course that is
not the same thing as going _en masse_ with Hans and the Kinder. Of
course, this was long before the war.



CHAPTER VII

MY FIRST OPERATIC CONTRACT SIGNED


By the first of December I had broken the back of the German
declensions, understood a good part of an ordinary conversation, and had
painfully acquired three or four rôles in German. The gadfly of my
ambition began to torment me again, and I determined to look for a
"job."

Students often ask me "How did you get your first engagement?" This is
how. I went to see the best agent in Berlin, Herr Harder, a man of the
highest reputation for fair dealing, who was the recognized head of his
profession. Opinion as to the agent's powers of usefulness is divided
among singers. Some maintain that they have made all their good
engagements independently, others tell you that you are safe only in the
hands of a reputable agent. I have closed contracts in both ways. The
agent is not omnipotent. It is his business to watch the operatic field
and notify you when there is a vacancy that he thinks would suit you. He
is apt to know first where such vacancies are likely to occur. Directors
who are looking for singers sometimes go straight to their favourite
agent. Then he, the agent, sends you word that Herr Direktor So and So
will be at his Bureau on such a day to hear singers. When you respond,
you may find yourself the only contralto among many other voices, or you
may find yourself one of six or seven all wanting the same engagement.
The agent keeps contract blanks in his office, and when he hears of a
vacancy in an opera house, he fills in a blank with your name, the name
of the theatre, and tentatively the salary he thinks they will pay, and
sends it to you. You sign it if it suits you, and return it to the
agent. This is really nothing more than a notification that there is, or
will be, such a vacancy, and is not worth the paper it is written on.
American girls, who do not understand this, will tell you that they have
"been offered Berlin, or Vienna, or Munich," when they have merely
received one of these _Agenten-Verträge_. A contract is worth nothing as
such, until it is countersigned by the director of the opera house, and
yourself as singer. Even then, it is not valid until you have sung as
many "trial performances" at the opera house as the contract calls for,
and for which you may have to wait six months.

I told Herr Harder what I wanted--a chance to do big rôles somewhere,
salary no particular object, as I should look upon the experience as the
completion of my training. I sang for him, left with him my repertoire
and photographs, and he promised to let me know of the first opportunity
that presented itself. In a short time, he sent for me to come and see
the Director of the Theater des Westens, a Berlin theatre which at that
time was the home of a sort of popular opera. I sang for the manager,
and he was very complimentary. He offered to engage me at once, but he
added, curiously enough, that I was too good for him! They gave only the
older operas like "Trovatore," on which the copyright had expired, and
of these only the ones which the Hofoper did not give, so that I should
have no chance to sing my big parts. At the same time, he said he would
very much like to have me. The offer did not suit my plans, and I
decided to refuse it. I went on with my work until just before
Christmas, when Herr Harder made me a second proposal. This was the
position of first contralto in the garrison town of Metz in
Alsace-Lorraine. The opera was a municipal one, that is it was
subsidized by the town, they played a season of seven months, and gave a
large repertoire including some of the Ring dramas. I was to go down
there, sing for the management, and if they liked me, begin my
engagement the following September, giving me time to make additions to
my German repertoire. As I was a beginner of course I could not give the
usual guest performances.

_Vorsingen_ is a trying ordeal. The great theatres have regular days for
hearing aspirants, but this was a small theatre. The appointment is
usually made on the stage, sometimes during, sometimes just after a
rehearsal. Groups of the singers regularly engaged in the opera house
stand in the wings, and you feel a nameless hostility emanating from all
of them, especially from the one whom you are going to try to supplant.
The theatre is like a cavern, and the acoustic is of course totally
unknown to you. Two or three pale spots down in the orchestra chairs
indicate the whereabouts of the director and perhaps the stage manager
and first Kapellmeister who have come to hear you. The overhead
"rehearsal lights" are very unbecoming and you are quite conscious of
it. If you are to sing with orchestra, the conductor presents you to the
players, "_Meine Herren, Fräulein----._" You bow, and your insides slip
a few inches lower. My first _Vorsingen_ was with the piano. It stood at
one side of the stage, and a whipper-snapper of a third Kapellmeister
dashed more or less accurately into the prelude of the second aria from
"Samson et Dalila."

Then came a momentous interview in the Director's office. I had sung
such good German, thanks to Frau----, that he had no idea that I
understood only about three words in five of what he said. For form's
sake he kept saying, "_Sie verstehen mich, Fräulein?_" and when I
answered "_Ja_," he was satisfied. His wife, who thought she spoke
English, was present, and tried to say a great deal, but my German
proved the more serviceable of the two. I gathered that I was offered a
two season contract, to sing the leading contralto parts, at the
princely salary of 150 marks a month! (about $35). There was no
_Spielgelt_. Salaries are usually divided into so much per month down,
and so much per performance, the number of performances per month
guaranteed; that is, one is paid for a certain number whether one sings
them or not, and any performances over and above this number are paid
extra. If a performance is lost by one's own fault, through illness for
example, the _Spielgelt_ for that performance is forfeited. Three days
absence from the cast through illness, even though one may be scheduled
to sing only once during those days, is counted as one _Spielgelt_.

Illness is, in fact, almost a crime. In addition to losing your money,
you have to have witnesses to prove that you are really ill, for theatre
directors in Germany are a suspicious lot and take nothing for granted.
If you wake on the morning of a performance with laryngitis, that dread
enemy of the voice, or if you fall downstairs on your way to the theatre
and sprain your ankle, you must notify the theatre before a certain
hour in the day, perhaps ten or twelve, or four o'clock, that you cannot
sing that night. Your word for it alone won't do. Every theatre has
special doctors on its list, and you must call in one of these, whether
he is your regular physician or not. He makes an examination and gives
you a signed statement that you are unable to appear, adding, if the
disorder be serious, how many days it will be in his opinion, before you
can return to work. It often happens that the man most experienced in
treating your illness, the best throat specialist in town, for example,
is not on the books as "Theater-Arzt," and then if you wish to be
treated by him, you sometimes have trouble with the theatre doctor. In
the theatre in which I was first engaged, I had a disagreeable
experience of this kind. I was ill with bronchitis, and sent word to the
theatre the day before, that I should not be able to sing _Marta_, in
"Faust," on the night scheduled for it. I had already committed the
deadly crime of illness once before that season, and this time my
defection was particularly annoying to the management because they had
to get a guest for "Faust" anyway, and they would be forced to send
posthaste for another to sing the _Nurse_. Their irritation with me was
equalled, if not surpassed, by that of the regular theatre doctor, whose
professional honour had been outraged the last time by my insistence
upon the services of a very clever throat specialist who lived in the
town, and whose aid I had had the bad taste to prefer to his own.
Between them, I was the corn between the upper and nether millstone.
Next day the theatre sent word that they would accept nothing but a
certificate from their own doctor, and the doctor shortly after appeared
at my bedside. I could hardly speak out loud, but managed to whisper a
request that he would write me an "_Attest_" for three days. To my
surprise he began to hem and haw, and finally stammered out: "There is
really no reason in my opinion, why you shouldn't sing this evening!" I
was so furious I saw red. I sat up in bed, and whispered savagely:

"You say I can sing tonight! Very well, get out of my room, and I'll go
to the theatre and sing this evening, with my voice in this condition,
and _you_ will be responsible for the consequences!" He got up, twisting
his hat in his hands, and stammering something. I simply fixed my eyes
on him, and fairly glared him out of the room. Then I dressed like a
hurricane and rushed to the director's office.

"I have come to sing _Marta_," I announced hoarsely.

"Oh! _liebes Fräulein_----" began the director, positively scared by my
pale face and furious eyes, "_Of course_ we don't want you to sing when
you are so hoarse. Doctor---- was quite mistaken; please go home and
take care of yourself. We'll get a guest for the _Nurse_ at once!"

"Very well," I said, "I will go home if you say so; but remember
Doctor---- says I can sing, and I am ready to do so on his
responsibility."

I went back after my illness to see the director, who to my surprise
began to attack me violently about my absence. He stormed, and thumped
the desk, and would listen to nothing I said. I tried to tell him he had
no right to speak to me in that way, as I had really been ill, and had
always done my duty when well. He raved back that I had _not_ done my
duty, and it seemed to me so futile to argue, that I walked out without
answering and left him raving. I went home and stayed there for five
days, and at the end of that time the director sent his secretary "to
explain" and ask me to return to my duty. It was an awkward interview
for him, poor man, so I let him off easily, graciously accepted the
somewhat disguised apology, and, as I was quite recovered and eager to
sing again, signified my willingness to appear the following night.

To return to my first contract.--There was a formidable list of rôles
which I must agree to have ready, and the director also insisted on my
studying with a certain well-known woman teacher in Berlin! I conveyed
to him as well as I could, that I would settle all this with my agent,
as I had no intention of agreeing to all of it, and was afraid to trust
my German to say so diplomatically. He added, "Of course you are too
good for us, Fräulein." This was the second time I had been told I was
too good for an engagement. Every one seemed to think I ought to aim at
a secondary position in one of the big opera houses, rather than a
leading one in a smaller place. The prospect of singing pages or
confidants in a capital city, with perhaps one good rôle in a season,
did not meet my needs at all; but no one seemed to sympathize with my
ideas. I wanted to make a career in Germany, as if I were a German
singer, having my own recognized place in the opera house in which I was
engaged, singing the big rôles by right, without intriguing or fighting
for them.

On returning to Berlin, I wrote to Herr Harder that I would learn a
certain specified number of rôles in addition to those I already knew,
making about twelve in all, and ignored the singing-teacher proposition
altogether as I had formed the intention of going to coach with Jean de
Reszke. On these terms the contract was returned to me signed by the
director, and I was engaged.



CHAPTER VIII

MY ONE LONE IMPROPOSITION


"When I make my début" was the phrase that I had heard so often on the
lips of my American fellow students. Each one had chosen her opera
house, and decided in which rôle she would dazzle a clamouring public.
Sometimes one more modest would choose Monte Carlo in preference to
Paris, or if she intended to make a career in Germany, she might
hesitate between the rival merits of Dresden and Berlin. But that the
theatre should be one of the half-dozen leading ones in the world, and
the rôle her favourite, were foregone conclusions before she left
America.

In this respect, I quite shattered the tradition of the prima donna, for
I sang my first part in a small provincial German opera house, at
twenty-four hours' notice, and it was one of those which I have least
pleasure in singing. I remember that a well-known American writer,
living in Paris, said patronizingly to my mother à propos of my first
appearance, "Let us hope that she will make a real début later, for
this can hardly be called one, can it?" "Well, after all," answered
my mother, "who knows where most of the great singers of today made
their débuts?"

[Illustration: I CARMEN AS I USED TO DRESS IT]

Contemporary fiction is full of opera singing heroines who jump into
fame in a single night, like Minerva springing full armed from the head
of Jupiter. Well, perhaps some of them do so--but I have never met a
singer, even of the highest international reputation, who has not had
some dark checkers of disappointment in his career. All his clouds may
have had silver linings, but sometimes the silver gets mighty tarnished
before he succeeds in struggling through the cloud, and sometimes
another singer gets through first and steals the silver outright. I
cannot say that I have ever been in great danger morally on the stage,
but my courage, my nerve, has been sometimes severely threatened, and I
have needed to summon the most dogged determination to keep it from
failing altogether. I feel sure that all successful singers share my
experience in greater or less degree, especially those who have been
trained in foreign countries. Not all of them, by any means, have been
through as severe a school as mine; few American singers at any rate,
have made a career in a foreign country exactly as if they had been a
native of it. Many have been engaged for special rôles in one of the
larger opera houses, and after several years of experience, have sung
but a few parts, all of which have been those most suited to them. I
have sung, on the contrary, the entire repertoire of a typical German
opera house, where operas are regularly given of which the Metropolitan
audience has never even heard.

In my first season, I sang in all fifteen different rôles in the first
seven months of my career. I have appeared in eighty-five, ranging from
the Wagner music dramas to the "Merry Widow" and singing many of the
rôles in three different languages. It has been "the strenuous life" in
its severest form, but I do not regret any of it, nor feel that my
effort has been wasted, for I know that I understand my _métier_,
comprehensively and in detail, and nothing can take away the
satisfaction of that.

The beginning of the season found my sister and myself in the town of
Metz, as according to contract we had arrived six days before the
opening. The weather was hot and dusty, and the town seemed deserted,
for the regiments which gave it life and colour was still away at the
Autumn manoeuvres. We felt very forlorn at first, strangers in a
strange land with a vengeance, and without the least idea of what the
immediate future might hold for us. My German had improved considerably
since my interview with the director, but my sister did not know one
word. Luckily for her there was almost as much French spoken in the
town as German. There were many shops of absolutely French character,
where she was treated with great consideration as coming from Paris.
Even the officials of the town, the post office employés, custom
officers, and others with whom she came in contact, though rather deaf
in their French ear, would make shift to understand her if necessary,
adding an extra touch of rigidity to their already sufficiently severe
manner, in order to nip any "French familiarity" in the bud.

We went to the hotel that had been recommended to us, as the principal
one in the town was in the process of reconstruction and swarmed with
plasterers and carpenters. It was rather a dreadful place, with enormous
dark rooms, dingily furnished with heavy old-fashioned furniture; but it
was very near the theatre and as we meant to find lodgings later, we
tried not to be depressed by its gloominess.

Of course, the first thing we did was to visit the theatre. To reach it
one crossed a bridge over the river, picturesquely bordered with old
overhanging houses, then a cobblestone "Platz," and there, rather shabby
but still quite imposing, it stood. On the way I read my name for the
first time on a German poster, with a distinct thrill. I knew my way to
the stage-entrance, and through it to the Direktor's Bureau, where
several shocks awaited me. I learned that the man who had engaged me
had been superseded by a new one, who had not yet arrived. Matters were
in charge of the stage manager, a huge, towering creature, with a great
bass voice, who was a rather remarkable actor. He had come down in the
world, having begun life as a cavalry officer, and he had strange gleams
of the gentleman about him, even then. He was, by the way, the one man
in the profession who ever made me a questionable offer. He grew to
admire me very much as time went on, and one day, after I had been there
some time, he asked me to sign a further contract with the theatre.

"You'll never get anything very much better," he said, "as you are a
foreigner. We'll make a good contract with you, and perhaps, later--who
knows?--you may have a 'protection salary.'"

He paused to see the effect of his proposal, and was met with absolute
non-comprehension on my part, as I really did not understand, at the
time, the German words he was using. He dropped his proposal there and
then, and the affair had no unpleasant consequences for me, as he never
referred to it again. And that is the single instance of that sort which
I have encountered. Nevertheless, I might possibly have had further
trouble with him, for my appearance really seemed to appeal to him very
much, later in the winter. Just before Christmas, however, he died,
almost overnight, as we were in the midst of rushing a production of
"Trompeter von Säkkingen." He had informed me on Friday night that I
should have to sing the _Countess_ on the following Tuesday. I did not
know a word of it, and was on the way on Saturday morning to get the
score, when I heard that he was dangerously ill--and by Sunday morning
he was dead. Poor man! he had some good qualities and real talents, but
it turned out that he was a great scoundrel and had been robbing the
direction left and right, under the pretence of assisting the new
director.

This new director, who had never even heard my voice, had been a
well-known Wagnerian singer in his day and intended to take some of the
principal baritone rôles in his new position, to the intense disgust of
the regular _Heldenbariton_. All the outstanding contracts had been
taken over in his name. This sudden change of management, during
vacation time, made a little trouble for me as it happened. None of the
present staff had heard me sing. They knew only that I was a foreigner
without experience, heard that my conversational German was not yet
perfect (a much rarer accomplishment than a perfect accent in singing),
and therefore doubted my ability to do the work of the first contralto.
So they had engaged a native, which meant that it was "up to me" to
prove myself capable at the first opportunity or lose the chance of
doing first rôles or perhaps be dismissed altogether.

Our hotel was impossible for a long stay, and, of course, after my
Berlin experience, my first idea was a good German pension. We went to
the _Verkehrsverein_--the Information Bureau which is a feature of all
German towns, and asked for a pension address. The man in charge shook
his head. There was only one such place, he said, and he feared that it
would not suit us, but we might go and see. We went accordingly, and
found a nice-enough looking house in the newest quarter, quite the other
side of the town from the theatre. The inside of the house, however,
told its own story--concrete floors, whitewashed walls with garish
religious prints on them, and deal furniture with red and white table
covers much in evidence. The bedrooms were cell-like and garnished with
mottoes, while a Bible and candlestick by each bedside were the only
other decorations.

"What is this institution?" we asked.

"It is the German Young Ladies Evangelical Home, for Protestants only,"
we were told.

We thanked the Matron, and decided that we were neither German,
Evangelical nor young enough for such a home, even though we might be
ladies and Protestants.

Disappointed in our hope of finding a pension, we returned to our
friend of the Information Bureau, this time to ask for addresses of
furnished rooms with a decent landlady to attend to them for us. He
shook his head once more--it was very difficult in a garrison town, he
said, to be certain of the character of a house which had furnished
rooms to let.

"But where do the artists of the theatres usually live?" we asked.

"Oh! they either take furnished rooms, or bring their own furniture," he
answered, "or live in the smaller hotels. But then they are Germans and
used to judging in such cases. There is, however, an English lady living
here who knows the town thoroughly, and you had better go to her and get
her to find rooms for you."

As we felt that we could not possibly ask a totally unknown Englishwoman
to find lodgings for us, my sister set out on the hunt alone. As a
foreigner speaking no German, and a woman looking for rooms all by
herself, she was received in a very curious manner by most of the
landladies she visited, and evidently looked upon with strong suspicion.
We were getting desperate, as the time of my début was coming nearer and
nearer and we were still unsettled. Finally we resolved to throw
ourselves upon the mercy of the unknown Englishwoman after all, and
wrote her a note begging her assistance in finding two furnished rooms
near the theatre, with a _Hausfrau_ who would look after them and serve
our breakfast. We had to find a furnished apartment as we were not like
some of my colleagues who possess their own furniture and pass their
lives in a sort of singing journey through the country, always
surrounded by their own household goods.

[Illustration: CARMEN AS I NOW DRESS IT]



CHAPTER IX

THE MAKINGS OF A SMALL MUNICIPAL OPERA HOUSE


Early the next morning, before we were up, our English friend kindly
came to see us, and with her help we soon discovered just what we were
looking for, in an eminently respectable house, where the _Hausfrau_ was
the wife of a policeman, so that we were under the shadow of the majesty
of the law.

A young doctor had the rooms, but she assured us that he was moving
immediately, and that we might send our trunks the following day. We
duly arrived the next afternoon with an avalanche of baggage and found
that the poor young man had had no intention of leaving before the end
of the month and had even invited guests for that very evening! Floods
of German ensued between him and the _Hausfrau_, while we sat
philosophically on our trunks in the hall and waited. Presently she
emerged, rather heated of countenance, to say that it was all arranged,
and to begin moving our things into the bedroom. The doctor called us
into the sitting-room, waived aside our explanations and thanks for his
gallantry, and shutting all the doors mysteriously, proceeded to the
only revenge in his power--to defame the character and impugn the
honesty of our future hostess.

"Keep things locked, I warn you, keep them locked!" he repeated
earnestly, all the while cramming books, bottles and garments
promiscuously into a trunk.

We made allowances for his need of reprisal, and took his warning with a
grain of salt; and as a matter of fact our landlady never touched
anything of ours except what she doubtless considered her proper
"commission" levied upon our coal and kerosene. She was quite
satisfactory on the whole, except that she _would_ quarrel very noisily
with her policeman from time to time, or rather he with her. When we
remonstrated and said that we could not stand it and that she shouldn't,
she answered that she would be only too glad to get out of her bargain,
but that she had put her money into this marriage and therefore had to
stay in it!

Her small boy was named Karl, but she always called him "Schweinsche'."
She had a few wisps of greyish drab hair wound round a sort of
steering-wheel of celluloid in the back. On Christmas my sister hunted
for hours for a present for her, and finally returned with a
magnificent set of rhinestone-set haircombs. I have always wondered what
the poor woman did with them, as her hair could not have covered an
eighth of their prongs.

The reason for the summary dismissal of her former tenant was, of
course, the extra money that she made out of our being foreigners who
did not know the tariff, and the fact that there were two of us to be
served. We paid sixty marks, fifteen dollars, a month for the rooms,
service and breakfast of coffee and rolls, and little as this seems, I
don't suppose the doctor had paid a penny over forty. Our colleagues
thought us spendthrifts and gullible foreigners, as they paid about
thirty marks and got their own breakfast.

My sister had two chafing dishes on which she cooked our supper, but the
two o'clock dinner was a problem. I was too tired after the strenuous
morning rehearsals beginning at ten o'clock, and the strain of trying to
follow all the directions I received in German, to go to the Hotels or
restaurants for dinner, as most of my colleagues did. Our landlady
suggested that she should have it fetched from the officers' mess of the
crack cavalry regiment, whose barracks were near by. She said this was a
usual arrangement. We bought a sort of tier of enamelled dishes, fitting
into each other and carried in a kind of wickerwork handle. One
contained soup, the next meat, the third vegetable, while bread or
dessert reposed in the top. We can testify that even crack regiments are
not unduly pampered in the Fatherland, for anything plainer, or more
unappetizing than these dinners, I have never tried to eat. Perhaps they
gained something when served hot in the officers' _Casino_, but we found
it almost impossible to down them, eaten out of our enamel-ware dishes.
After a time, when the newness of everything in the theatre had worn off
a little, and I began "to feel my feet," we arranged to dine at the
hotel where many of the colleagues met daily. This was a far better
plan, as, in addition to a really hot meal, we had a splendid
opportunity to improve our German. I was naturally making rapid progress
in it, but my sister still had to confine herself to the shops where
they understood French. One day when I came home from rehearsal, she
told me that our _Hausfrau_ had repeated to her a long piece of gossip
in German. Seeing by my sister's face that she had not understood, the
woman said, "Oh, you don't understand, Fräulein. Well, I'll say it all
over again in French." Then she proceeded to repeat it again, very
loudly and slowly--in German!

Of course it is rather dreadful to be called just "Fräulein" by your
landlady in Germany, but the social standing of the singers and players
in a provincial theatre is usually not high enough to warrant anything
else. A position in an opera house in a capital city, or in a
Hoftheater, confers social importance enough upon its holder to entitle
her to the prefix _gnädiges_ (gracious) before the ignominious
_Fräulein_, which in society is properly used to designate only a
governess, a companion, or a saleswoman in a shop.

Titles and forms of address are a ticklish subject in the Fatherland, at
any time. It is hard to comprehend the mazes of male progression from
the simple "Rat," through the subsequent variations of Hofrat (court
councillor), Geheimer Hofrat (privy court councillor), Geheimrat (privy
councillor), Wirklicher Geheimrat (really truly privy councillor), to
the lofty dignity of Excellenz.

Old-fashioned ladies used to employ the feminized version of their
husband's titles, and I once knew an old dame who insisted upon being
addressed as "_Frau Oberlandgerichtsräthin_." The bourgeoisie used to
copy the aristocracy in this respect, and at the afternoon
Kaffeeklatsch, Frau Hofcondittor Meyer would inquire about the health of
Herr Strassenbahnsinspektor Braun, from his wife the Frau
Strassenbahnsinspektorin (street car inspectoress). Modern life is too
crowded perhaps for such lengthy addresses, but Frau Meyer and Herr
Braun are certainly less picturesque cognomens. Among the artistocracy
the proper titles and forms of address have many pitfalls for the
foreigner, though I used to dodge them fairly successfully by addressing
every woman older than myself as "_Gnädige Frau_" irrespective of her
"handle," and the men by no title at all, except in the case of a prince
not of royal blood, who has to be called by the mouth-filling courtesy
title of _Durchlaucht_.

Of course in letter-writing this way round is not always possible, and
here the complications are simply terrifying. The salutation of a lady
without any title at all ranges all the way from "Wertes Fräulein"
(Worthy Miss), almost an insult to a person of any gentility, to the
punctilious "Hochvereherte und gnädige Frau" (Highly honoured and
gracious lady) of high society. Even the envelope provides a subtle form
of insult or of flattery. In Germany one is simply born, well-born,
highly well-born, or high born as the case may be. If you are rightly
entitled to the third, how irritating to be publicly branded on the
outside of a letter as only well-born. On the other hand, if you really
belong among the merely born, what a delicate attention to be
acknowledged "_Hochwohlgeborene_" for all the world, including the
_Portier's Frau_ to see! Shops in writing to you (as long as your credit
is good) love to employ the latter on the envelope, repeat it in the
body of the letter which always begins "Highly honoured and gracious
Miss" and sign themselves "Mit Vorzüglicher Hochachtung"--"with
magnificent respect." Friends, of course, call you just Fräulein
So-and-so, as we should say "Miss Brown," except if they are young men,
when they usually stick to the "gracious Miss." You must never inquire
for the members of a person's family without the Mr., Mrs., or Miss
being added: "How is your Frau Mother, Herr Father, or Fräulein Sister?"
There is a curious phrase for parents--"How are your _Herren_ Parents?"
being the strictly correct form of question.

Yes! Etiquette is very complicated in Germany and requires a great deal
of study from the "Out-lander."

To return to the theatre--we expected that my sister would have the run
of my dressing-room, and that she might be present at the rehearsals. We
found on the contrary that the most rigorous rules were enforced to
forbid entrance to the theatre to any one not a regular member of the
staff. No one else was allowed to pass the porter's lodge. There were
regular dressers provided by the theatre, and my sister was present only
once or twice at rehearsals during my two seasons in Metz and then only
by special request.

The rehearsals for the next day were posted at the stage door. They were
not printed or typed, but written in German script, with chalk on the
blackboard. They would be placed there at six o'clock every evening, and
my sister used to go over to find out for me what they were. She could
not read German script at all, neither could I, very well; so she used
to take paper and pencil and laboriously draw everything on the board,
chorus calls and all, for fear of missing something. Then, letter by
letter, we would puzzle it out, and find out the hours of my rehearsals,
as if they had been written in cipher. She was always present at my
performances.

I had to write, "I beg in the most polite manner for a seat for my
sister for this evening's performance," and drop it into a special box
before half past eleven in the morning. Then in the evening, if there
were a vacant place in the orchestra chairs, she would have it. On
Sundays the house was often _ausverkauft_, sold out, so we generally
bought a seat if I were singing on that night, so as to be on the safe
side. The prices ranged from four marks for box seats, to five cents in
the gallery. The orchestra chairs cost three marks (75 cents), but
nearly every one had an _Abonnement_, or sort of season ticket, which
made them much cheaper. The rates for officers were very low indeed. The
chief cavalry regiments had the boxes between them, and the less
important lieutenants of the infantry or the despised engineers had
seats in the first balcony. Years ago, in the old unregenerate days,
these boxes full of young cavalrymen furnished almost more entertainment
than the stage. The boxes had curtains to be drawn at will, and the
young rascals would order champagne served to them there, and drink
toasts loudly to their favourite singers in the midst of their
performances. Some of the frail fair ones of the town would visit them
behind the drawn curtains, and there were high times generally. This has
all come to an end, gone the road of other equally charming old customs,
and I saw very little misbehaviour among the lieutenants, except
sometimes when the provocation was really too strong for them. One
evening a very solemn young White Dragoon, over six feet tall, coming in
in the half darkness after the curtain was up, missed his chair and
plumped down, sabre and all, on the floor of the box instead, to the joy
of his comrades; and once in a Christmas pantomime, they all forgot
their military dignity at the spectacle of a very fat young chorus girl,
whom bad judgment on the part of the ballet mistress had costumed most
realistically for the part of a white rabbit.

Sunday is usually chosen for the first night, as a larger proportion of
the inhabitants is at liberty on that day. At our theatre, performances
of opera were given on Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday nights, with
plays or _Possen mit Gesang_ (farces with singing) on alternate nights.
The bill changed every night, but each standard opera was repeated three
or four times in the season. New operettas like the "Merry Widow" were
also produced, and, if successful, ran eight or ten times during the
seven months of the season. There was a company of singers consisting of
a "high dramatic" soprano, a "young dramatic," a coloratura, and an
"opera soubrette," all sopranos. There was a leading contralto, a second
contralto to do the very small parts, who was usually a volunteer
without pay, and a "comic old woman," who also took part in the plays.
There was sometimes another volunteer soprano to do pages and the like.
Then there was the "heroic tenor," who is a sort of King and is treated
by the management with some of the ceremony used toward royalty, and the
lyric tenor, quite humble in comparison, and a tenor-buffo for "funny
parts," with sometimes a special operetta tenor when the theatre was
prospering. There were two baritones, "heroic" and "lyric," a "serious"
and a "comic" bass, and one or two other men of more or less anomalous
position who "fill in" and act in the plays. The only singers who never
did anything but sing, were the two "dramatic" sopranos, the first
contralto, and the heroic tenor and baritone. There was a company of
actors besides and all of these, no matter what their standing, were
expected to appear in such operas as "Tannhäuser" in the singing
contest, in the church scene of "Lohengrin," and as _Flora's_ guests in
"Traviata," to help "dress the stage."

It is not the least of one's troubles as a beginner to stand on the
stage as _Ortrud_, perhaps, and see these supercilious real actresses
come filing out dressed as court beauties, cynically watching your
attempt at acting.

Actors have their proper range of parts, called _Fach_ in Germany, and
special designations like the singers. The chief of them are the
_Jugendlicher Held_ or Young Hero, corresponding to the Heroic Tenor,
and his partner the _Erste Heldin_. Nearly as important, however, are
the _Erster Liebhaber_, or Young Lover, and the _Jugendliche Liebhaberin
und Erste Salondame_--Young Lovehaveress and First Drawingroom Lady.
There are the _Helden Vater_ and _Heldin Mutter_, the _Intrigant_ or
Villain, and the _Bon Vivant_ (pronounced Bong Vivong) who is a sort of
general good fellow and occasional hero. The _Erster Komiker_ is always
a popular figure with the public and has his subordinate funnyman,
usually much younger. There is a soubrette to do the saucy maid parts,
a _Naive_, what we should call Ingenue, and a _Komische Alte_, or funny
old woman; several "drawingroom ladies" and "gentlemen" and minor
"_Chargen Spieler_" or character actors. The small parts are usually
filled by chorus men and women, and the opera soubrette or the operetta
tenor, have to double and do the cheeky maids or giggly school girls and
giddy young officers in the plays. Many of the minor actors were, or
were assumed to be, sufficiently musical to take small parts in operas
requiring a large cast, appearing as _Telramund's_ four nobles, and as
_Meister_ in the first act of "Meistersingers" or as competitors in the
_Preissingen_ in "Tannhäuser." The opera gains very much by having these
experienced actors in the small rôles.

Our chorus was composed of about thirty members, and the orchestra of
from forty to fifty, reinforced in the brass and wind instruments from
the local military bands. Three Kapellmeisters held sway over them: the
First Kapellmeister an autocrat with arbitrary power who directed the
important operas, the second who lead the old stagers like "Martha" and
"Trovatore" and the operettas, and the third who was usually a volunteer
learning his profession, and who acted as répétiteur for the soloists
and directed pantomimes, the songs in the farces, and "Haensel und
Gretel" once a year if he was good. He was always on duty during
performances to direct any music behind the scenes. In good theatres
there are several of these young men, as in "Rheingold" for example each
Rhine daughter ought to have one to herself, and there is a special
répétiteur for the chorus or chorus master besides.

Our ballet was composed of a solo dancer and about sixteen coryphées,
directed by a _Balletmeisterin_ who also shared the leading parts with
the solo dancer. One of the girls,--Irene, was a big handsome creature
who usually danced the boy's parts. She had a little girl of about six,
who had apparently no father. During the second year I was told one day:
"This is Irene's wedding day; will you say something to her?" It
appeared she and her clown husband had been devoted to each other for
years, but had neglected the ceremony as they neither of them could earn
enough alone to support the two. The clown ("August," of course) could
not find an engagement in the theatre and so they had just waited. He
had just returned from a long world tour and now they were to be
married. Every one was delighted.

Last but not least, came the supers, called in Germany _Statisten_, who
held spears in "Aida" and returned victorious in "Faust." They were
drawn from the infantry regiments and received thirty pfennigs (7-1/2c)
a night. They arrived with their _Unteroffizier_ an hour before they
were wanted and were turned into a big room to be made into warriors,
captives, or happy peasantry. The result was sometimes amusing. In
"Aida" they used to put on their pink cotton tights over their
underwear, so that one saw the dark outline of socks and the garters
gleaming through, and they all kept on their elastic-sided military
boots, with the tabs to pull them on by, sticking out before and behind.
Fortunately the audience had but a brief glimpse of them before they
were ranked in a conglomerate mass at the back of the stage. Sometimes
on our walks we would meet these men on sentry duty, or in batches with
their _Unteroffizier_, who would call out, "_Au-gen rechts!"_ (Eyes
right!) and give us the officers' salute with mighty grins of
recognition.

The principals of the opera are usually talented young singers on the
way up, or older singers of some reputation on the way down, with
perhaps a sprinkling of those who have obtained their engagements by
influence. The contracts are usually for from two to three years, and
are not very often renewed. The talented ones go on to better
engagements, and it is "better business" for the theatre to have a
change of principals. Great favourites remain longer unless they get
something better. Many of those who were engaged with me in Metz have
made careers. Two were at the Charlottenburg Opera House in Berlin at
the outbreak of the war, and one in Hamburg, both in leading positions.
One was a stage-manager at the Volksoper in Vienna, and one teacher in a
conservatory.



CHAPTER X

MY DÉBUT AND BREAKING INTO HARNESS


I had to sing _Azucena_, my first part on any stage, without rehearsal.
The reason for this dawned upon me afterwards. Though I sang German well
by this time, my conversational powers still left something to be
desired. I have explained that the present director had never heard my
voice; no one knew of what I was capable, and they quite expected that I
would prove incompetent, and had engaged a native born contralto to
provide for this contingency.

When I heard one evening, that I should have to sing _Azucena_ on the
next, I confess that something rather like panic assailed me for a few
minutes. The stage manager called me onto the stage, and spent half an
hour in showing me the entrances and exits, and giving me the merest
outline of the positions. That is all the preparation I had for my
so-called début. The other members of the cast had sung the opera
together many times the year before, which made the performance
possible. The lyric tenor was a decent enough colleague, though an
absolute peasant in behaviour, with an extraordinary high voice which
was rapidly degenerating from misuse. The baritone was of the tried and
true type, and a great favourite, and the soprano was easy to get on
with. They were all nice enough to me, if somewhat uninterested and
indifferent, for I had had as yet so little to do with them that we
hardly knew each other. They thought me a rich dilettante at that time I
fancy. I was so horribly nervous all that day that I fainted whenever I
tried to stand up, and when I began to sing my sister did not recognize
my voice. However, I was very well received indeed, all the criticisms
the next day were favourable, and there was no question after that as to
who should sing the leading rôles.

It was fortunate for me that I succeeded in pulling myself together
sufficiently to make a success, as at that time the old system of
_Kündigung_ was still in force. I have said that a contract was not
valid until the singer had successfully completed the number of guest
performances stated therein. I had not been called upon for these
_Gastspiele_ because I was a beginner, but they are almost invariably
included in the contract. Now-a-days your engagement is settled after
you have successfully made these trial appearances, and you then remain
in that engagement for a full season; and the management must let you
know before February first (sometimes January first) whether you are to
be re-engaged or not. This is in order to give the singer time to make
arrangements for the coming season. When I was engaged in Metz the
management of a theatre had the right to dismiss any singer after three
weeks, whether he had made his guest appearances beforehand or not, if
he had failed in that time to make good with the public. He was also
liable to dismissal after his first appearance, if he proved quite
impossible. This was what they were expecting in my case. The
arrangement was most unfair to the poor singer, leaving him stranded
(with practically no chance of work that year) after he had moved all
his possessions and thought himself established for the season. The big
artists' society, the _Genossenschaft_, which is the only protective
institution for singers in Germany, has at last succeeded in abolishing
this unjust condition of affairs. There was a flagrant case of this kind
in the theatre during the first three weeks of my engagement. The "high
dramatic" soprano had finished the first three weeks of her engagement,
during which she had had to learn two new parts, providing costumes, at
her own expense, for a rôle which she had not expected to have to sing.
She had had a fair success and thought herself secure. In the meantime,
the management had had no idea of keeping her on permanently, but had
merely engaged her to fill in the time, while they were waiting for
another singer, who was filling an out-of-season engagement elsewhere,
and could not report for three weeks. When she was free, they told the
first one that she had not pleased sufficiently and dismissed her. The
good theatres did not take advantage of this privilege of course, even
while it still existed.

My second rôle was a very small one, one of the court ladies of "Les
Huguenots." A native first contralto would probably not have been asked
to do such a small part, but there being no regular part for my voice in
the opera, I think they were glad to use my good stage appearance, and
of course, as a beginner I made no protest, being glad of every chance
to become more used to the stage. The part was sprung upon me suddenly,
and I had no dress for it. The second contralto also had a court lady to
do, and the good creature offered to lend me a gorgeous Elizabethan
dress of white satin and silver (which, she told me, she also intended
to wear as _Amneris_!) and she would "go in black." I was touched, but I
could not deprive her of her splendour, so we arranged something out of
the pointed pink bodice of one of my other gowns, and the long white
skirt of a summer dress, with a ladder arrangement of pink velvet bands
sewn on up the front.

I remember as I made my entrance, looking up suddenly and seeing the
sinister eyes of Carlhof the stage manager, fixed on me from the wings.
He proceeded to mock my walk, which was no doubt very American, and not
that of a court lady at all. I never forgot the mental jolt it gave me
and the sudden realization that every rôle should have a different walk.

The range of parts that one is called upon to perform is astonishing.
Formerly the limits of a _Fach_ (line of parts) were more rigidly
observed than at present, when the personality of a singer in relation
to a rôle is more often taken into consideration. Still, if a rôle
definitely belongs to the _Fach_ of a certain singer, he is supposed to
have first right to it. Difficulties arise in apportioning the parts in
very modern operas, whose composers seem no longer disposed to write
definitely for a coloratura soprano or a serious bass, but mix up the
voice range and styles of singing indiscriminately in one part. My
second real part was _Fricka_ in "Walkuere," in which I had a great
success vocally, but unfortunately looked a great deal younger than the
portly _Brünnhilde_ and far more like her daughter than her stepmother.
Then came the _Third Lady_ in "Magic Flute," the _Third Grace_ in
"Tannhäuser," _Martha_ in "Faust," _Orlofsky_ in "Fledermaus," _Frau
Reich_ in the "Merry Wives of Windsor," the _Gräfin_ in "Trompeter von
Säkkingen," _Pamela_ in "Fra Diavolo," _Witch_ in "Haensel und Gretel";
and finally "Carmen." All these before Christmas of my first year. I did
not have one of them on my repertoire when I arrived in Metz, except
_Fricka_ and _Carmen_, and the latter in French.

The three graces in "Tannhäuser" were done by the beauties of the
theatre, two premières danseuses and myself! We were to dress in white
Greek draperies with jewels, and of course, as we were to be seductive,
pink roses. I wore my beautiful _Bergcrystal_ necklace, made for me in
Paris. The ladies could not contain their jealousy and said of course,
"aufgedonnert" (thundered out) like that I naturally would stand out
from them. Annoyed at their pettiness I removed the diamonds and flowers
and all ornaments. They then said of course to go without any ornaments
was palpably the best way of all to make myself conspicuous. So I let it
go at that.

I well remember the _Third Lady_, for there are spoken passages in this
opera, and I had to speak German for the first time before an audience
of critically listening natives, and Mozartian German at that! _Pamela_
nearly gave me nervous prostration. They were determined that I should
do it because she had to speak German with an English accent, so they
said it was made for me. As a matter of fact, after the months I had
spent in carefully eradicating my English accent it was difficult
suddenly to exaggerate it to order. I had to learn, rehearse and play
the entire part in five days, and I thought I should go mad. I had never
seen the wretched thing, so the baritone who played my husband kindly
came over to help me with the business. Otherwise my sister and I hardly
left the piano to eat and sleep. The dialect part of the libretto was in
an ancient manuscript copy, torn, marked and dog's-eared, and written in
an almost illegible German script. I could not take time enough to
puzzle it out, so my sister spent hours poring over it, deciphering the
German letters literally one by one by aid of a key, and writing it
again in Latin script. I had no clothes for it, as it was not on my
repertoire and it plays in 1820, but they costumed it for me in modern
dress, so again my summer wardrobe was called into service.

I learned it so quickly that the colleagues called me "Die
Notenfresserin" or note-eater, but the strain was awful. I remember when
I was studying _Pamela_ the Kapellmeister told me at least ten times,
how the contralto who played the _Pamela_ in his father's theatre and
who was also an English-speaking woman, had so caught his father's fancy
in that rôle, that from then on he had a tremendous affair with her.
This he repeated to me again and again, but I never seemed to take the
hint.

As _Erda_ in "Siegfried" I had a most trying experience. The director
had been, as I have said, a well-known Bayreuth singer, and he thought
no one could sing Wagner but himself. Unfortunately he had a strong
tendency to "look upon the wine," and when he had a part to sing
nervousness attacked him to such an extent that he began drinking in
self-defence to enable him to stand the strain. Perhaps his beverages
were more potent than usual, but that night he was decidedly
irresponsible. He struggled through the _Wanderer's_ first scene, and
conscious that he was doing it badly, he sent out for a bottle of
champagne as a bracer. The consequence was that in our scene in the
third act, he was utterly incapacitated. He sang all kinds of things not
in the text, bits from _Hunding_ in "Walkuere," from _Daland_ in
"Hollaender," from "Fidelio." He rolled about the stage and lurched in
my direction with his spear pointed at me, shouting _Pogner's_ advice to
_Eva_ while I was singing _Erda's_ responses. It seemed to go on for
ages, but at last _Siegfried_, waiting for his cue in the wings,
realized that he must save the scene, entered and escorted his befuddled
relation from the stage. I had made up with a creamy white grease paint
and no red. My sister said, "Why did you make up with rouge and not
have the pallor we agreed upon?" My cheeks were so scarlet from
mortification that no grease paint would have paled them.

The audience took it splendidly, I must confess, and refrained from any
expression of disapproval or joy--though it _must_ have been funny! The
next day there were announcements in all the papers that he had had a
temporary lapse of memory owing to grief over the sudden death of his
mother, who, as the stage manager cynically informed us, had reached out
a hand from the grave to save her son, she having been dead for ten
years! The director went to Berlin and stayed there for weeks. We
afterwards learned that it was a plot, deliberately planned and put
through by Carlhof to gain the direction of the theatre. I can see him
now stalking around, six foot four, chewing his rag of a dyed moustache,
his face pale and his eyes glittering with anxiety as to the success of
his plan to encourage the director to drink. The director once told me
the hours between the last meal and the time to go to one's dressing
room to begin making up are the dangerous ones. He said, "First one
takes a glass of wine to steady one's shaking nerves; later a glass is
not enough so it becomes a bottle, then two bottles and so on till
control is lost." It is easy for any singer to understand, and the best
remedy is to omit that first glass.

"Carmen" was the second opera which I had to do without rehearsal. The
soprano had failed in it and it was promised to me to keep if I could do
it _ohne probe_ (without rehearsal). I sang it for the first time,
quaking with nerves, on Christmas Day, and my nick-name after that was
"Die schoene Carmen." After Christmas we produced the "Merry Widow"
which was new then, and I was cast for the _Dutiful Wife_. There was
plenty of variety in my work. I would sing _Carmen_ on Sunday,
_Orlofsky_ in "Fledermaus" on Tuesday, speaking German with a Russian
accent, _Pamela_ on Thursday night with an English accent, and _Frau
Reich_ on Friday night with no accent at all! I dressed _Frau Reich_ in
a gown of the time of Henry V while the rest of the cast "went
Shakespearean." We were far too busy for dress rehearsals of an old
opera, and I supposed of course that it would be costumed in the real
period of the play. When I appeared on the stage, they all demanded "And
what, pray, are _you_ supposed to represent?" "I am playing
Shakespeare's _Frau Reich_," I answered with dignity--"and I am the only
person on the stage who is properly dressed." But you have to know your
colleagues well before you can make an answer like that successfully,
without their hating you for it.



CHAPTER XI

SOME STAGE DELIGHTS


We had also what is known as _Abstecher_, on off nights. That is,
performances in a neighbouring and still smaller town about once a
month. We would travel altogether, taking our costumes and make-up with
us, principals second class and chorus third. Our fare was paid, and the
generous management allowed us two marks apiece (50c) extra for
expenses! As we left at five P.M. returning at one or two in the
morning, this allowance was not excessive for food alone, but the
thrifty took black bread and sausage with them, and expended only
fifteen pfennigs (3-1/2c) for beer. Our _Abstecher_ was a village with a
cavalry barracks, a railroad station, and not much else. The theatre was
built over a sort of warehouse and stable combined, and we fell over
bales and packing cases at the entrance. The dressing rooms were tiny
boxes, with a shelf, one gas light in a wire globe, and a red-hot stove
in each room, and no window. We dressed three in a room. The stage was
so small that once, as _Nancy_, I played a whole scene with the tail of
my train caught in the door by which I had entered, and never knew it!
We were always given a rapturous welcome. Sometimes one of the
principals would miss the train and be forced to come on by a later one,
and then the sequence of scenes in the opera would be changed quite
regardless of the plot, for we would play all the scenes, in which he
did not appear, first, and do his afterwards. After the opening chorus,
the soprano would go on for her aria, and while she was singing it, we
would decide what to give next. "I'll do my aria!" "Oh no! Not the two
arias together!" "Let's have the duet from the third act, and then the
soprano and tenor can just come in casually and we'll do the big
quartet, and then you can do your aria!" We would see the audience
hunting in a confused sort of way through their libretto, with
expressions rather like Bill the Lizard. This happened once in the
"Merry Wives," which is confusing at best.

After the performance there was no place in which to wait but the café
of the station. I was looked upon as recklessly extravagant because I
would order a _Wiener Schnitzel mit Salat_ for sixty pfennigs (15¢) and
when I took two cents' worth of butter too, they would raise their
eyebrows and murmur, "_Diese Amerikaner!_" Sometimes the Director came
with us, and then the principals would be invited to his table and
treated to (German) champagne. But we were always glad when he stayed at
home, because we were much freer over our beer. There are always one or
two members of the company who are extremely amusing, and their antics,
imitations and reminiscences make the time fly. There was one little
chap, the son of a Rabbi, who lived on nothing a day and found himself,
and was an extraordinary mimic. His imitations of a director engaging
singers, the shy one, the bold one, the beginner; and his marvellous
take-off of the members of the company kept us in roars of laughter. He
could imitate anything--a horse, a worn-out piano--and is now one of the
most successful "entertainers" in Berlin. The ones in whose compartment
he travelled on the train thought themselves lucky and often arrived so
hoarse from laughing that they could hardly sing.

All this experience is invaluable for the beginner, his
self-consciousness melts like snow in July, and it gives him, as nothing
else can, that poise and authority on the stage which are almost as
important as the voice itself. But the work, especially for a foreigner,
is killing. It is not so much the performances themselves, great as the
strain of these actually is, but the constant, never-ceasing learning by
heart, and the drag of continuous rehearsing. The "room rehearsals" of
the music alone, take place, in a theatre of this kind, in one of the
dressing rooms where there is a piano. The room is almost always small
and very close, and there are eight or ten people packed into it, all
singing hard and exhausting the little air there is. The stage
rehearsals with the almost invariable and inevitable shouting and
excitement are very trying to the nerves, especially when one is making
two or three débuts a week, that is, singing a new part for the first
time almost every other night as I did, at the beginning of my career.
The better the theatre, of course, the greater the smoothness and lack
of confusion at stage rehearsals. The singers and orchestra men are more
experienced, and more competent, and the manners of the Kapellmeister
improve in ratio to the importance of the opera house. A little extra
excitement is permissible when a new production is being put on, but at
the rehearsals of repetitions undue exhibitions of "temperament" on
either side are discouraged, and the powers that be have to mind their
manners and stick to the conventional forms of address. The
_Heldentenor_ may sometimes have to allow his artistic nature to get the
better of him for a moment, but no one else may claim such license.

The stage during rehearsals is like a workshop--a certain amount of
noise and confusion is necessitated by the labour going on in it, but
no one has time to spare from his share of the job in hand, and the
discipline in a good theatre is remarkable. The native German is
trained, of course, both to give and take orders well, the result of the
whole system of government, both of the family and of the nation. Stage
etiquette and the relationship between principals and chorus, _erste und
zweite Kräfte_ (principals of first and second rank) singers and the
management, grows more conventional and regulated according to the class
of the theatre. Those in authority may exact perfect obedience, but they
must ask for it properly; and while an individual is entitled to proper
consideration, he must never forget that he is but a unit of the whole.

The dressing-room arrangements in Metz were rather primitive. The
theatre was 100 years old, for one thing, and no one had ever had the
money to install new conveniences. In a good German theatre, the
dressing rooms are rarely used for rehearsing, and the principals dress
alone, at least when they have a big rôle to sing. In Metz I shared my
room with several other women and had only a corner of it which I could
call my own. Long shelves with lockers under them ran down two sides of
the room, with lights over them at intervals, and under every light a
singer "made up." There was a long glass at one end of the room, but we
had to provide individual mirrors for ourselves. There was no running
water, only a couple of jugs and basins stood in one corner of the
shelf. Good routined dressers were provided by the theatre. Mine was an
Alsatian who loved to speak French with me, but whom I discouraged as I
wanted all the practise I could get in German. She used to call me
"Fräulein Miss"--pronouncing the latter like the German word _miess_
which means mediocre, but she meant to be particularly respectful. I
have always found that it pays a hundred fold to make friends of the
dressers, stage-doorkeeper, property-man, carpenter, head scene-shifter,
fireman and all the other workers whose co-operation is necessary for a
good _ensemble_. It is usually quite easy to be on good terms with them,
and they have unlimited opportunities for making things go smoothly for
you, or the reverse.

Women's costumes are not kept in the theatre; as they are the personal
property of the singer they must be kept at home, and be sent over to
the theatre on the morning of a performance. A _Korbträger_ (basket
carrier) is usually provided to whom you give from 75 cents to $1.00 a
month, and who performs this service for you--but many singers send
their maids. With the usual discrimination against our sex, men's
costumes are provided in opera houses of all grades. In the largest
theatres the women's are furnished also, and you even have to have
special permission to wear your own.

The scenery and costumes in Metz were often surprisingly good when one
considered that so few "sets" must do such varied things. Our property
man was an inventive genius at making something out of nothing. He
prided himself upon certain realistic details. If the piece called for
coffee, the real article, though of some dreadful variety unknown to
contemporary culinary science, was provided, and really poured into the
cups. If a meal were to be served on the stage, some sort of real food
was there for the actors to eat, even if it were only slices of bread
served elaborately as the most _recherché_ French supper, though usually
it was ladyfingers. Eating scenes are usually confined to the drama,
though there are some operas in which a meal "comes before" as the
Germans say. In the "Merry Wives of Windsor" for example, the scene
containing _Anna's_ letter aria opens with the company at supper in
_Frau Reich's_ home. The wives are explaining their tricks and plotting
_Falstaff's_ final discomfiture in spoken dialogue. One night when I was
singing _Frau Reich_ in Metz there was a particularly attractive dish of
real apples on the stage supper table. The _Herr Reich_ was the serious
bass, a thrifty individual who couldn't bear to let a penny's worth of
anything escape him. As his guests rose to go he picked up the dish of
apples and pressed it upon them.

"Here," he improvised, "take these home to the children. Oh! You have no
children--well, take them anyway--the children will come later."

His hospitable wishes were received with bewilderment by the audience,
but as he made his exit with his guests and immediately began to eat the
apples, he bore his scolding from the _régisseur_ very philosophically.
On some stages where the provisions are more elaborate, the actors in
certain plays make a regular practise of eating their suppers on the
stage. In "Divorçons" for example or in the "Anatol Cyclus" of
Schnitzler.

Our property man in Metz, with the historic Shakespearean name of
Mondenschein, (Moonshine) was an ardent lover of drapery. An
artistocratic interior, to his mind, must be entirely filled with as
many different materials as possible, all hanging in folds. He had three
pairs of near-silk portières, bright pink, dull green, and pale yellow,
and the combinations that he made with those six curtains were endless.
Garlands of roses, too, were a great resource of his--draped round a
couch with a fur rug upon it, and a red light over all, they transformed
the scene into the bower of a Messalina. In a white light festooned
upon a mantel-piece, or above a doorway, they could be depended upon to
supply the appropriate setting of the _Erste Naive's_ most appealing
scene. The young lovehaveress and first salon lady, had to receive them,
wired together into a bunch, with the same delightful surprise, and put
them into the same Japanese jar without any water in it, in play after
play. But the property man always squandered a perfectly new, uncreased
piece of paper for every performance with which to make a cornucopia for
them, in the approved German style. He was quite a specialist in such
matters as the colour of telegrams in different countries, and in the
manner of folding newspapers, points which are sometimes neglected in
many better theatres. Of course his talents in this direction had a
better chance in the dramatic than in the operatic productions.

It is a curious thing to note in this connection, how archaic the
arrangement of such details remains in operatic performances even on the
best stages. How in "Carmen" for example, the singers must pretend to
drink to _Escamillo_ out of perfectly dry tin cups, instead of using
real wine and glasses, as a quite second-rate dramatic company would do.
How _Butterfly_ and _Suzuki_ are never given real tea to serve to the
_Consul_ or _Yamadori_. Or how the girls in "Thais" bring up their
water-jars out of the well with the outsides quite dry.

Of course in theatres of the Metz class matters of costuming are
simplified, and historical accuracy is not one of the aims. For example,
everything before Christ is done in fur rugs and winged helmets for the
men, and flannel nightgowns and long hair for the women. Any period up
to the thirteenth century is costumed in mantles and gowns of furniture
brocade, after that it is _Alt-deutsch_ (old German), or _Spanisch_
(Shakespearean--mostly black velvet and jet or white satin and silver),
until it turns safely into _Rococo_, which means white wigs. After that
it is all _Modern_, and even the chorus has to supply its own modern
clothes. The men principals have their historical costumes, with the
exception of wigs, tights, and shoes, supplied to them, but the women
must have their own. The collection of men's clothes in an old theatre
is sometimes quite remarkable, some of the suits of a hundred years ago
being actually of the period.

They retain the smells of the period also, many of them; for in a
theatre like that of Metz I don't believe the men's clothes were ever
cleaned. Things which have been worn several times a week for seven
months a year during the past hundred years, accumulate a richness and
variety of odours which must be sniffed to be appreciated--a very
ancient and fish-like smell indeed. I often wished at Metz that I had no
use of my nose, and I have wished it many times since. As _Amneris_, to
force your way for the entrance in the triumph scene, through an
Egyptian populace composed of German Infantrymen, is a squeamish
business at best; but when they are attired in clothes that haven't been
washed for years, it is a feat before which any one may quail,
especially if he belongs to the number of unfortunates, unluckily far
from rare among singers, whose stomach nerves are affected in any case
when they have a big part before them.

Washing was not any too popular in Metz even among the principals. I
have dressed with leading women whose arms showed streaks of white where
the water had run down as they washed their hands, stopping
conscientiously at the wrists. Their make-up would be removed with the
same dirty rag night after night during the whole season; and their
personal garments under more or less smart outer raiment, had often done
overlong service. I must hasten to say, however, that this state of
affairs was the exception rather than the rule, and that in better
theatres, the women principals were always scrupulously cleanly.

Over ornamentation or fineness in undergarments is usually looked upon
as rather questionable, among the solid middle classes in Germany. My
mother had made me a dainty supply of be-ribboned linen, and I was told
after I had been in Metz for some time, that at first, the Alsatian
woman who dressed me reported me to be "_beaucoup trop soignée de ne pas
avoir un amant_." However, she changed her mind later on, and put it
down to American extravagance--always a safe play. Some of the men were
much more careless than the women. Our operetta tenor played the whole
season in the same shirt, powdering the bosom freshly each evening with
a yellowish powder which he used for his face.

At Carnival time, some of the Schauspieler remained for three days in
the clothes in which they had played on Saturday night, never going to
bed, or even removing their make-up till the fun came to an end early
Wednesday morning.

Many of the older members dyed their hair, as it had begun to turn grey.
Of course they did not have it done by competent people, or nearly often
enough, and the shades of rusty brown, green, or purple it assumed were
quite startling. Our first Kapellmeister used to dye his hair a rich
black. He was a good-looking man and very vain. He was also portly and
easily became over-heated. Of course when this happened, the
perspiration running down his neck was dyed black too, and he would be
intensely worried for fear we should see it. We knew his sensitiveness,
and took delight in sitting directly behind him at the piano, though he
would urge, beg, and finally command us to sit beside him. He was
kindhearted in his way, and I remember one instance of this. The stage
manager, in a vile humour, had come storming into the midst of a room
rehearsal one day, with some trivial complaint against me, and had
succeeded in making me cry, not a difficult matter at that time as I was
always in a state of nerve strain owing to continuous over-fatigue. The
Kapellmeister did his best to comfort me, telling me not to mind,
praising my work, and finally pressing upon me his huge, brand new silk
handkerchief--a real sacrifice, as he had probably intended to use it
for days! His fingertips used to split in the cold weather from much
piano pounding and I won his heart by prescribing collodion for them. He
continually praised my sight reading and quickness in learning and it
was he who gave me the nick-name of "Notenfresserin."



CHAPTER XII

MISPLACED MOISTURE AND THE STORY OF A COURT-LADY


The Bohemian, Hungarian and Croatian singers nearly always add to one's
joy in work by eating garlic. The "high dramatic" soprano in my next
engagement was from Croatia. The first time I went to Prague to sing, on
alighting from the train I sniffed a strangely familiar odour. The
impression of familiarity grew stronger and stronger as I drove to the
hotel--but I couldn't place it. At last it came to me--the whole town
smelled like our soprano! I have often wished, while on the stage, for
temporary atrophy of the senses. In addition to the fustiness of much
worn clothes and infrequent bathing, you really have all kinds of
horrors to endure.

Some terrible creatures with a passion for distinct enunciation and with
unfortunate dental formation, spray you copiously when uttering words
like _Mutter_ or _Freude_. This always seems to happen in some
impassioned scene when you simply can't get away from them, and have
absolutely no defence. Others have painfully hot and wet, or painfully
cold and wet hands with which they persistently paw you. I remember one
lyric tenor who was my bugbear because he had hands like a fresh, cold
fish. The soprano and I had a scene with him in one opera, in which she
had to say, "_Die Hand, so weich, so warm_" (the hand, so soft, so
warm), speaking of his clammy member. I dared her one night, to say
instead, "_Die Hand, so feucht, so kalt_" (The hand, so moist, so cold),
and when it came to the point, sure enough she did so, her voice so
shaky with suppressed laughter, that it came out in a tremulous
pianissimo. We both had to turn away from the front in silent
convulsions, but not a soul in the house was the wiser.

This is a horrible subject and I might enlarge upon it endlessly,
recalling for example, the pleasures of being folded in the embrace of a
large, warm, damp tenor smelling at best of onions; or still worse the
large drops which rain upon you during the most touching love scene from
his manly brow, while you, though shuddering with disgust, daren't try
to dodge them, or even change the wistfully adoring expression of your
countenance. It may be honest sweat, but it is a demned moist unpleasant
kind of honesty in my opinion. Goritz told me that he once, as
_Kurwenal_, in the last act of "Tristan," dripped on a prostrate
_Tristan's_ eye so long that the poor tenor was blind for days after.
This is German efficiency!

Some of the colleagues at Metz were a great contrast to others in their
scrupulous care of their personal appearance. The lyric baritone, a
youngster from the Rhineland making his début in opera, attracted me at
the very first rehearsal by his groomed look and beautifully manicured
finger-nails. He came from quite ordinary people, and had been brought
up to be a "Tapizierer," curtain hanger, upholsterer, etc. He had never
met any Americans before and we grew to like him very much, and used to
let him go for walks with us, and come to us for tea. He was always
wanting to _tapizieren_ for us and criticizing the hang of the curtains,
etc., in our rooms. We taught him to play Canfield, more to keep him
from talking than for any other reason, for my sister and I used to play
patience for hours, so that we should not be tempted to talk when I was
resting my voice in the brief intervals between rehearsals and
performances. We used to play with pretty little German patience cards
in a pocket size, and he was simply infatuated with the game. He showed
all his friends how to play, and dozens of packs of these cards were
imported from Frankfort where they are made.

The craze spread rapidly; all the officers began to play in their
Casinos, and the principals in the theatre were always being roared at
for keeping the stage waiting during rehearsals, when they missed their
cues by being absorbed in the game of Canfield. It became the great
resource of those who had small parts in the first act of an opera, and
then had to wait in costume and make-up until the very end like the
_Meister_ in "Meistersinger," or _Mary_ in "Fliegender Holländer" who
has a seemingly interminable wait after her one scene at the beginning
of the second act, until at the very last of the third she has to rush
in for the single phrase "_Senta, Senta, wass willst du tun?_"

In return for our tea, the little baritone would tell us amusing tales
of his experiences in a cavalry regiment while doing his military
service. His high spirits and his beautiful voice made him popular with
officers and men, but he was quite unamenable to discipline, and had
spent something like ninety days in prison during his first year, for
such offences as refusing to stop singing on the march, or for cheeking
an officer. He used to call us his goddesses, and speak to us as
"Fräuleinchen." Our rooms, through him, were the starting place of new
culinary ideas in Metz. We taught him to make and like such American
delicacies as salted almonds, chocolate fudge, and hot chocolate
sauce for ice cream, an unheard of combination. We tried to make him
like fruit salad with mayonnaise; but the mixture of sweet with oil and
vinegar was too much for his burgher palate, and he used to quote to us
the Bavarian proverb, "_Was der Bauer net kennt frisst er net._" (What
the peasant doesn't know he doesn't eat.)

[Illustration: AMNERIS AS I USED TO DRESS IT]

The country round Metz is rarely beautiful, in its half-French,
half-German character. It retains its typical French poplars, planted in
long lines, which turn pure gold in autumn. A placid river, the Moselle,
runs between hills covered with orchards and vineyards, with picturesque
villages of grey stone and red tiling, piled steeply up their sides. The
meadows in the fall are filled with lavender crocuses--the kind that
Meredith's Diana got up at four A.M. to gather. Every village has of
course its "Gasthaus," some still absolutely French in the arrangement
of their marble topped tables, mirrors, and red upholstered benches
running round three sides of the room. We have drunk coffee in autumn,
and _Maibowle_ in spring in every one of them, I think. I dare say many
of them are still using the same card board circles under their
customers' beer-glasses which we marked with our initials. Can you flip
them from the edge of the table into your own hand?

The town of Metz itself is interesting enough, and we explored it
thoroughly. It is very ancient ground indeed, and there are Roman walls
still to be seen, with characteristically beautiful brick-work; old
chapels, a Gothic cathedral, and the remains of the mediaeval wall and
moat which once surrounded the town, with great arched fortified gates
at its east and west entrances.

On returning once from a long walk with the little baritone we entered
by the eastern gate, and as he was doing a small part that evening, and
it was getting unpleasantly near the hour of the performance, we took a
short cut through an unfamiliar part of the town. We soon found
ourselves in a narrow street of respectable enough looking houses, but
as we passed, out of nearly every window on both sides, a female head
was thrust, all in varying degrees of frowsiness, and remarks and
comments in half unintelligible dialect were yelled at us with shrieks
of hideous laughter. Our little escort grew purple with confusion,
walking faster and faster, and when we reached an open square he broke
into the most fervent apologies for unwittingly leading us into such a
street. It was a curious and unpleasant little experience and reminded
me of certain quarters in oriental cities of which I had heard tales. We
named it "the street of queer women" and avoided the eastern gateway in
our walks thereafter.

Later in the season another colleague sometimes joined our tea parties
and walking expeditions. This was an immensely talented youth, attached
to the theatre in an anomalous position of third Kapellmeister, in
reality a volunteer without pay, hoping to pick up an occasional chance
to gain experience in conducting an orchestra. He was a Frenchman of
excellent family who had studied in one of the great conservatories and
thought he spoke the German language. Such German I have never heard
before or since. His French inability to aspirate an "h," a pronounced
stutter, and the most nonchalant disregard of gender, formed a
combination which was enough to upset the gravity of a German customs
house official himself! It was his business among other things, to
"_einstudieren_" the new members of the chorus in any opera which they
did not know, but of course his version of their language rendered any
authority he might have had over them quite ineffectual, and his
position was anything but enviable. At the same time he was a really
magnificent pianist, a composer of promise, and a thorough musician; but
if ever a creature was out of his element he was that creature as
Kapellmeister in Metz. And yet what is a young fellow in his position to
do? The desire to conduct, the longing to interpret the great masters
through the medium of an orchestra, possessed him to the point of
obsession; but where to find an orchestra to conduct was a problem. The
barrier "no experience" was erected across his path as it had been
across mine, though he must serve an apprenticeship somewhere.

The musical life of Germany attracted him for the same reasons as it had
attracted me, and so he endured a veritable martyrdom in the pursuance
of his dream. He was a pupil of Nikisch and told us Nikisch had told him
he made half his career with his cuffs. Whoever has watched him shoot
them gently out as he begins to conduct will know what he meant.

Our rooms were a sort of haven for this boy, I think, where he could
talk of the things that absorbed him in a language that was his servant
instead of his master. In return he would play so gorgeously for us,
that our little upright piano rocked under the strain. He could suggest
a whole orchestra in his playing. Strauss' "Salome" was brand new then
and he revelled in it, and adopted the motif of _Jochanaan_ as a signal
which he and the baritone would whistle under our windows. Sometimes he
would get lost at the piano and play for hours, till our supper time was
past, and our good friend Emma Seebold, the "_Hoch Dramatische_," would
rush in and urge us to hurry and get ready for some mythical dinner to
which we were invited. This was always successful, owing to Seebold's
talent.

We grew very fond of her and often spent our evenings together. She had
a lovely voice and would put her head back on her chair sometimes in the
evening and sing us languorous Austrian peasant songs with her
fascinating Viennese accent. Her passion was remnants, and she would
send home boxes of scraps of passementerie and odds and ends of silk
trimmings which she would sew all over her costumes. The richness she
saw in it was pathetic. Bargain gloves were also irresistible, and she
had green ones and purple ones, spotted and mildewed ones, and loved
them all because they were cheap.

The pianist and the baritone often met at our rooms and got on
surprisingly well considering their utter lack of points of contact and
the natural contempt that they felt for each other. The Frenchman was
certainly mildly crazy. He believed that his astral body, or psychic
envelope, or something was visible as an aura of light around his hand,
and he would hold it up and look at it and say, "_Ah, oui, elle est
là--je vais bien aujourd'hui_," or shake his head and say, "_Non, pas là
aujourd'hui--je ne suis rien!_" He was good looking, bearing a strong
resemblance to the portraits of Oscar Wilde. He dressed well, and his
washing bills--amounting as we were told, with bated breath, to ten and
fifteen marks a week--were the scandal of the theatre! Since those days
he has gone back to his piano, though he persevered in the theatre long
enough to obtain a second Kapellmeister position in a good opera house.
I have met him casually all over Europe, and he is one of the very few
of the old _Kollegen_ from Metz whom I have ever seen again.

These three were the only ones that season whom we cared about, though
we were friendly enough with all of them after Christmas, and as I have
said, we dined at the hotel with a group of them every day. They were
all types in their way. First the director--a survival of the old
school, with rather long dyed hair and enormous dyed moustache, always
in _Gehrock_ (frock coat) with a large tie in which reposed a royal
monogram in pearls and diamonds presented to him by the Hereditary Grand
Duke of Glumphenbergen-Schlimmerheim or something, during his career as
_Heldenbariton_. In the street he wore a soft black felt hat which would
have done for the _Wanderer_ in "Siegfried," and of course a fur-lined
coat whenever the weather gave the least excuse for one. Champagne was
his universal panacea--his very present help in trouble. If he had a
disagreement with a singer for any cause and wished to make it right
again, he would always send a bottle of _Sekt_ if it were a woman, or
present the money to buy one if it were a man. He had been a famous
singer in his day, and known others far more so, and his reminiscences
could be interesting enough. His stories of Bayreuth under the old
régime, were really interesting, with the prescribed position of every
finger, every gesture studied to an inch, every tone closed, opened,
coloured according to strictest rule, every syllable enunciated with
minutest care, and the effect of all this schooling on the singer--the
strained and broken nerves, the wrecked voices that were the result of
it. Diction--_Aussprache_--was naturally enough his hobby, but his ideas
were absurdly exaggerated and caused much more or less hidden amusement
among the _Personal_. He insisted, for example, upon so much "t" in a
phrase like Mignon's "_Dahin, dahin, moecht ich mit dir_," that it
sounded like "_Moecht tich mit tier_." Anything of that sort among
colleagues is looked upon as a tremendous joke, especially when it is on
the director.

One result of his former glory was that famous people came to this
theatre to _gastieren_ and it also seemed to us as if every former
singer or actor in Germany of any pretension to fame, who had a son or
daughter to launch in either profession, sent them to our director for a
début. This was looked upon by us as a bore; but the famous guests were
rather amusing, because when they had gone, the director used to relate
all kinds of derogatory stories about them. Possart---- Ritter, Ernst
von---- was perhaps the most renowned. He came to recite Manfred at a
special performance with our soloists and chorus. The director told us
how, during the most impassioned speeches of Goethe or Shakespeare his
eye would be on the upper gallery, counting empty places, and how after
the performance when the box office sheet showed an _ausverkauftes Haus_
he would demand, "What about those three empty seats in the second row
of the top gallery, at the left?"

He told a similar tale of a famous Austrian guest-artist, the leading
Teutonic exponent of his day of the negative side in the never-ending
argument of stage technique "to feel or not to feel." He had mechanical
as well as histrionic genius, and his dramatic art had become so
mechanical too, towards the end of his career, that he could utilize
such places in his great parts as Hamlet's soliloquy for thinking out
scientific puzzles, although his power over the emotions of his audience
never lost its effect.

[Illustration: AMNERIS AS I NOW DRESS IT]

The director's own story was a real romance. While still on the upward
side of the hill of fame, he had met and loved the wife of a nobleman,
the scion of an ancient house. She had been maid-of-honour at the most
exclusive court in Europe, the confidante of the royal family, and
was said to know the true story of many of the mysterious incidents in
court history. In fact she was supposed to have been married off
hurriedly to her much older husband to get her away from the royal
circle of whose secrets she knew altogether too many. The infatuation of
the singer for the lady was mutual, and in course of time a boy was born
to them, who reached the age of six years before the noble husband
consented to divorce his wife, or rather, I think, his lawyers consented
for him, as by that time dissipation had quite softened whatever brain
he may have had to begin with. This mental condition of his gave her the
care of their children, and in Metz their youngest son, their daughter a
girl of about twenty, and the director's little boy all lived together.
At holiday times another of her sons, a most charming young fellow, a
lieutenant in a crack cavalry regiment, used to visit them too. She
invited my sister and me to meet him, and the whole family often
attended the opera together. He liked me in several rôles and used to
send me wonderful flowers. I still have a huge green bowl which he sent
me filled with violets, in return for the photograph for which he had
begged. He was an example of the most elegant type of young officer, the
aristocrat of _Uradlige Familie_, fair, with delicate features; his six
feet of slimness, with long slender limbs and very little body, clothed
in his glove-fitting uniform. He had the fashionable three creases
across the front of his smart Hussar jacket where his tummy should have
been. His poor little story turned into tragedy. He contracted
consumption and did not tell his people, but used their influence to get
himself transferred to German West Africa, on the plea of wanting to see
service. Arrived there, he quietly shot himself one evening as the
easiest way out of a life that promised him nothing but misery. A sort
of malignant fate seemed to pursue the children of that first marriage,
for the charming young daughter also came to a sudden and most tragic
end, as I shall tell later on.

The director's wife was very nice to us. She often invited us to visit
her although we did so but seldom. Her rooms were filled with relics of
her former life--portraits of herself as lady-in-waiting to the Empress
of Austria, in court dress, portraits of her Empress, old photographs of
groups on terraces and at castle gates, almost every person in them a
"personage." She herself still wore her hair as her Empress had done, in
a coronet of narrow braids set round her head. She said that they were
sewn together with the same coloured silk as the hair every morning
after being braided, to make them stand up. With us she always played
the _grande dame_, apparently quite without effort, but there were
stories about her which seemed to show that she could be something very
different.

She certainly could talk most interestingly of her former grandeur. One
of her tales was of a lady of the court who owned the smallest dog that
any one had ever seen. It was so tiny that she used to carry it, when in
evening dress, in the front of her décolletage. One night at dinner as
she leaned forward to eat her soup, the dog fell into the plate. There
was vermicelli in the soup, and before she could fish it out of this
entanglement, the poor little thing was drowned! Another time the Frau
Direktor showed us a photograph of a very slim and shapely young dragoon
in full regalia, cloak and all, holding a letter up to hide his face. As
there was evidently a story we begged her to tell it to us. She said
that there had been a certain young married Countess of the court, who
was known as a great prude and was always boasting of her exaggerated
wifely devotion. Her airs became, said the Frau Direktor, quite
insufferable, and so she herself resolved to put such armour-plate
virtue to the test. At Carnival time, therefore, she dressed herself as
a young officer for a ball at which the _Hofgesellschaft_ was to be
present, and a very dashing figure she made, according to the picture.
In this disguise she then proceeded to give the Countess the rush of her
life. The gallant pursued the virtuous Countess all the evening, and
was rewarded by being asked to escort her ladyship to her home. In the
carriage the "Lieutenant's" attentions became still more pressing, when
to his secret dismay, the fair creature suddenly melted entirely, cast
herself into his arms, and swore she adored him. Arrived at her house,
the "Lieutenant" beat a hasty retreat vowing all sorts of things for
their next meeting, which naturally never took place. But the vanished
Lieutenant did not resemble the gentlemen of Virginia who kiss and never
tell, for the Countess' share in the story leaked out, and her
reputation for unassailable devotion was irreparably damaged, to the
great satisfaction of all her acquaintance.



CHAPTER XIII

HUMAN PASSIONS AND SMALLPOX


At the beginning of the season, the director's family was still in the
country, where they remained until the opera had been running for some
time. We met his wife and daughter for the first time at a luncheon
given by him at the hotel where we had arranged to take our two o'clock
dinner, after trying all sorts of unsuccessful ways of dining in
private. The stage manager of the drama, the first and second
Kapellmeister, the "Bureau Chef," the Heldentenor, Heldenbariton, High
Dramatic, Coloratura, my sister and myself were all invited. Just as we
were seating ourselves, the _Schauspiel Regisseur_, Herr S----, noticed
that there were thirteen at table. He turned as white as a sheet, jumped
up, and scarcely stopping to apologize, hurriedly left the room, nor
could he be prevailed upon to return, although the director followed him
into the hall to remonstrate. He protested that one of our number was
certain to die within the year as it was, and he wished to insure its
not being himself by refusing to sit down at all. Curiously enough, his
prophecy came true, for the Director's young step-daughter died very
suddenly soon after.

Herr S---- was a most unpleasant person, as I discovered later, and I
was always thankful that my identification with the _Opern-Personal_
kept me out of his way. He had a sort of spurious veneer and
ingratiating manner, which was at variance with his hard, square,
passion-scarred countenance. He pretended an enormous admiration for the
American woman, and that very day before luncheon, he showed me with
great pride a small American-made patent-leather shoe, which he took out
of the tail pocket of his frock-coat, telling me with a leer that it
belonged to a girl of _my_ country, where the women had the most
beautiful feet in the world, and that it was his talisman and never left
him! He bore a bad name among the women players in the company. One of
the little actresses, a girl of good family, in her first season, used
to tell me unpleasant tales of him in her rapid, ungrammatical French,
whenever I met her; and she always referred to him as "That beast!"

Our Heldentenor of that season was an uninteresting personage, a quite
elderly man of enormous routine and mediocre equipment, who had sung in
all sorts of opera houses and was on the last lap of a long career. He
was said to be nearly sixty, and was quite bald, but he managed to make
a surprisingly youthful appearance on the stage. He had been at it so
long that he could make an attempt at acting almost anything--even
youth. His sprightly legs in "Fra Diavolo" were quite adolescent. He
kept himself discreetly to himself, and was never seen in the cafés, nor
on the streets with his colleagues.

His greatest joy was a tiny dog, whose tricks he delighted to show off
to every one. The little thing would whine for a soprano, growl for a
bass, howl for a tenor, bark when told "The Direktor's coming," and sit
up and beg at the word _Gage_ (salary,) in a very amusing way, and his
master was intensely proud of his accomplishments.

The lyric tenor of the first season was a peasant from Swabia, with a
droll accent and a lovely voice which he forced in a most agonizing
manner. He would shake all over when he sang a high note, and yet his
natural voice ranged easily to high D sharp--I have even heard him sing
an E. His dialect and his ignorance made him the butt of the company,
but he was very goodnatured and took it all in good part. He used to
say: "Yes, I know--my wife is a French woman and she tells me to say
_Mignon_, but I'm a peasant--I say _Mischnong_." She was years older
than he and of better class. She had helped him to the little study that
he had had, and out of gratitude he had married her, but they were said
to disagree very consistently.

The Heldenbariton was quite a nice fellow, big and burly with a good
voice; he was a great favourite with the public, whom he had pleased by
marrying, out of the chorus, a townswoman who adored him.

The second Kapellmeister was a vague, weak creature, henpecked by his
vain little wife who was never happy unless she was the centre of some
one's admiration. She was inordinately proud of her small feet, and our
little friend the lyric baritone used to make her furious, by insisting
that mine were smaller! Her dream was to go on the stage too, if only to
sing pages in "Lohengrin" and "Tannhäuser," and later her hope was
realized, I heard, when several of them went off together in April to a
"Monatsoper" on the _Russische Grenze_ (Russian Frontier). The
coloratura soprano was a Dutch woman, speaking German with more accent
than I did. She was very fair, very fat, and very lazy, and she had a
capacity for food that I have seen equalled but never surpassed. She
dined with us daily, and woe to the person who had to serve himself from
a dish that had been passed to her! Eat until you could hold no more was
a part of the creed of all my colleagues. Anything short of absolute
repletion, and the meal was considered a failure. "_Sind Sie satt?_"
They would ask each other gravely--"_Ich bin nicht satt!_" Meaning
literally, "Are you full?" "_I_ am _not_ full." And this was a grave
cause of resentment against the hotel management. I must say that most
of them reached this desirable consummation long before the coloratura
soprano, for she continued placidly as long as there was any food in
sight. She would even finish anything left on another's plate, and our
table always looked as if a horde of locusts had visited it.

Those colleagues of my first engagement are stamped upon my
memory--representing as they did so much that was new to me,--a new
nationality, a new profession, and in many cases a new social class.
Take them all together they were a pretty decent lot considering their
antecedents and surroundings. As a general rule, I think the actors are
apt to be of a somewhat higher social class than the singers, as a
remarkable voice occurs when and where it will, while a vocation for the
acting stage presupposes a certain amount of education and refinement of
surroundings, although there have been, of course, some notable
exceptions.

They wanted us to meet the officers of the different smart regiments.
The Red Dragoons in particular were supposed to be all-powerful in
deciding the success or failure of a singer, and the colleagues kindly
thought we ought all to have the advantage of this. One or two of the
women of course had affairs with them, and as Marjorie and I did not
care to meet the officers in just that society, we were sometimes hard
put to it to find a good excuse. Once my sister went to bed, though
perfectly well, for several days, to avoid a particularly pressing
invitation. Later we met these officers through letters from our
relatives, and liked some of them tremendously. Even their affairs were
the outcome of the system, and did no particular harm to any one.

The opera soubrette had one of years' standing with a tall ungainly
White Dragoon. He was a harmless idiot, and she a smart German-Polish
Jewess, a nice little thing. We each had a "Benefiz" before leaving the
Metz engagement, when we were showered with flowers and gifts from our
friends and admirers, also sharing in the box-office receipts. R----,
the soubrette, told us the day after hers, still breathless from rage,
that "_Er_"--she never called him anything but "He"--had sent her an
umbrella, bound in the middle of a huge sheaf of roses. He had not
passed it over the footlights, so that every one might see its
splendour, but had left it at her rooms. When he called on her expecting
soft thanks, she berated him soundly, and succeeded in so enraging his
usually placid self that he threw his big sabre through the window,
sending it crashing into the court below.

One handsome Red Dragoon, a notorious connoisseur of music and women,
and believed absolutely irresistible, always sat in a box at our right
from the stage. His one reputable passion was music. He had at that time
an affair with a Dutch woman, who had been handsome and distinguée--she
was pitifully his slave. Going to the theatre one evening we saw her
approaching from one direction in the big court in front of the theatre,
as he approached from another. She smiled infatuatedly at him but he
passed her without a look--perhaps his idea of a tribute to my sister
and me. I felt sorry for her as the joy left her face.

Several years after, while touring in Holland, in a charming little
place where we went to pass a free afternoon, we saw this same woman.
She had found the strength to shake off her German master, had married a
countryman and looked prosperous and happy.

Neither Marjorie nor I ever received an offensive word or look from an
officer. They used sometimes to send me postcards after a _Carmen_ or
_Amneris_ night, closely scribbled over with signatures and greetings
and phrases of admiration, all highly respectful. It always pleased me
very much to receive these cards.

The _Genossenschaft_ members of most theatres organize a _fête_ every
year for the benefit of their society, and that spring we had a fancy
dress ball. A lady is chosen at these balls by popular vote to be Rose
Queen. I was chosen that time and had to parade around the room on the
arm of a portly Major, who often sent me flowers and books of his own
poems. I wore my _Carmen_ dress of black satin, with gold flowers, and
my scarlet Spanish shawl. There was much cheap champagne drunk to the
popular toast of "General Quenousamong." This was originally "_Que nous
aimons_" (To those we love), and the "general" meant that every one was
to join in. The French touch was considered elegant, just as _Couzank_
was the polite word for cousin, and _Satank_ for satin. Balls of this
kind are highly popular and a great contrast to the usually simple lives
of these small-town people.

One form of simplicity I never adopted was the quite general one of
eating their evening supper, consisting usually of a bit of sausage, and
black bread and butter, out of bits of paper casually put down amongst
the objects on the table in their bedrooms. When you had finished, you
simply rolled up and threw away the greasy papers and the thing was
over.

Sometimes a meal may be captured free. One of our "comics" in Metz had
to fish at the back of the stage in an operetta. He was always furnished
with a salt herring by the property man, which he would suspend solemnly
out of sight of the audience for a while, then slowly draw up, and
proceed to eat. A clean picked spine was all that remained by the end of
the act, and he had had his supper.

Often the performances supplied me with welcome comic relief behind the
scenes. I learned for instance, that the text of the Anvil chorus sung
round me, as I lay on the canvas rock couch of _Azucena_, in
"Trovatore," was: "_Ich habe Dir schon laengst gesagt, die Wurst sie
schmeckt nach Seife_"--"I told you long ago, the sausage tastes of
soap." Also the soldiers in "Faust" made their rollicking return from
the wars to the words: "_He--ring und Apfel--Kartoffelnsalat._" "Herring
and apple--potato salad." _Siegmund_ grows woefully vulgar, and the
opening bars of his love song to his sister always say now to me:
"_Winter Struempfe riechen im Monat Mai._"

Once in "Tiefland" the old man in the first act was presented with a
large lump of Limburger cheese, which he had to sniff and hold
gratefully for a long time, while his rejoicing colleagues slapped their
knees with glee in the wings. Sometimes the humour was replaced by other
less agreeable emotions. For my _Benefiz_, the last year of my
engagement, I was to sing _Carmen_. I wanted a popular guest tenor from
a neighbouring _Hoftheater_ to be my _José_, and he finally agreed to
come. He would not come in time for rehearsal and I did not see him
until I turn my head in the first recitative and see him making his
sword chain. From then on, he directed me in lordly tones throughout the
first act. I had often sung _Carmen_ in Metz and the audience knew most
of my business and expected it; also as I had prepared the rôle in Paris
and spent months of study on it I did not see why all of my business
should be changed on my own festive night. Therefore in our short talk
before the second act, I told him my positions as nicely as I could, he
saying to everything, "_Aber warum? Warum?_" (But why, why?). I stood
this as long as I could and told him all the warums, till finally I said
"Because I want to!" At this he lost his temper and left the stage. I
was surprised, but supposed he was nervous. From then on, things went
from bad to worse. Everything _Carmen_ said to _José_, he thought Howard
was saying to him. I tried to whisper that I meant nothing by it--that
that was the way I played it, but he grew blacker and blacker. Finally
in the last act I struck him with my fan, my usual business to make
_José_ let _Carmen_ pass. He rushed at me and caught my wrists and
shouted, "_Was faellt Ihnen denn ein_" ("What's the matter with you?")
I was frightfully upset and nearly crying by then, but had to go on. At
the last as I lay on the floor and he stood over me, he deliberately
threw his heavy dagger in my face, and I, a corpse, had to move my head
to avoid being hurt. He rushed to his dressing room and cried and
shouted for a half hour before his wife dared to go in and calm him. I
believe it was all jealousy. He had been most popular in the town, and
could not bear to share a performance with any one. The next day I could
hardly hobble; all my bones seemed wrenched; but every one was most
sympathetic and kind.

The bells in Metz were most numerous and depressing. The cathedral near
us chimed all day an out-of-tune singsong, which the natives said was,
"_Ich bin todt und komm' nicht wieder!_" ("I am dead and shall not come
again!")

The depression of the first year culminated in a smallpox epidemic,
which broke out shortly before the theatre closed. Marjorie dreamed of
it just before it happened, and that I died of it, which, of course,
haunted her all through the outbreak. It was frightfully mismanaged by
the authorities. The suspects were called for by policemen and carried
from the houses to an open wagon, (this in February and March,) and
driven to the hospitals. The _Kaserne_ or barracks where cases
occurred, were isolated; but in our daily walks we passed them with
shudders. We were both so tired and had had so many shocks and
eye-openers as to what life really is, that this last nightmare
completely obsessed and unnerved us. Our policeman neighbour carried
suspects, and of course his uniform was never even fumigated and we knew
it.

The dear little daughter of the director's wife was taken away from home
one night, in spite of her parents' remonstrances. She was ill of
rheumatic fever, and the authorities heard of it, pronounced it
smallpox, and took her away in the open carriage. She died in a few
days, and no one ever knew whether it was smallpox or not. Her mother
never quite got over it; the child was so sweet and young.

The wagon used to stand in the street before a suspect house, with
children playing around it. The police seemed to run the whole thing,
and would carry bedding out of the houses and leave it to be burned in
the street. We were told that the very poor used to steal this bedding
at night. Of course we were vaccinated, but it did not take. The last
performances of the season were abandoned, as every one was afraid of
crowded places, and I left for Berlin on business. While there my throat
became frightfully sore, and of course I thought, "Aha! I have it!" And
of course I didn't have it. I returned worn out to Paris and rested
there.

About this time I went first to Jean de Reszke. His beautiful house,
near the _Bois_, with its little theatre, was the scene of much
nervousness and struggles to become _prime donne_. The master opened my
eyes to the beauties of style. His Wagner, better than the best
Wagnerian singer I have ever heard, his French style, the wonderfully
Italian and yet manly interpretations he gave the Puccini and Verdi
rôles, were all a marvellous inspiration to me. With a pupil he
considered intelligent he would take no end of trouble, and a "_Bien_"
from him was a jewel above price. The tales de Reszke pupils sometimes
tell me of the wonderful things he told them and predicted for them have
always amused me, because in all the time I have been in his studio I
have never heard anything like it.

I was so infatuated by my work with him, and so humbled at the vista of
endless effort it opened before me, before his ideas could be carried
out in every tone one sang, that I asked him one day if I should not
spend the next winter in his studio, and leave the stage for a year. He
thought it over seriously, and advised me to go on with the stage work,
for the routine I was getting was as valuable a teacher as he was. It
would have been a great privilege to have spent an entire year with him,
and if I could have afforded it, I should have done so.



CHAPTER XIV

DISCOURAGEMENTS THAT LEAD TO A COURT THEATRE


The second year of my first engagement was drawing to a close, and I was
much exercised over the next step. I wanted to try for one of the
_Hoftheaters_, not the very largest and most famous, but a place with a
good orchestra and carefully prepared productions. There seemed to be no
vacancy in just such a theatre, and my agent offered me a contract for a
great _Stadttheater_, probably the first municipal opera house in
Germany. Their contralto, who was a great favourite, had a contract for
a big Royal Opera, and they felt sure she would be engaged. With some
misgivings, I signed the _Vertrag_, and then began the long dickering to
arrange the guest performances which should decide my fate. They finally
asked me to sing _Azucena_ at an afternoon performance. It had taken so
long to find a date which suited us both, that a good deal of time had
elapsed between the signing of the contract and their letter. I, of
course, refused to sing an afternoon performance, and it was finally
arranged that I should sing _Carmen_ on a certain date. There is a sort
of unwritten law that they shall choose one part, and you another, but
it is not always observed. This difficulty over the rôle should have
warned me that there was something wrong. Such a disagreement is a
pretty good indication that your contract will not be made _perfekt_.

I travelled all night, and arrived to find a rehearsal on the same day
as the performance. It was what is called an _Arrangier Probe fuer den
Gast_, rehearsal without orchestra, of the scenes in which the "Guest"
takes part. All the colleagues were nice to me, but I saw the contralto
watching from the wings, and she gave me a dagger glare; so I thought
that there was "something rotten in the state of Denmark," as she was
supposed to be leaving voluntarily. I sang well that night, and had a
real success with the audience, and with my colleagues. They all said to
me, "Oh, you are certainly engaged after a hit like that." But I felt a
premonition which increased to a certainty when I heard that the
Director had not troubled to watch my performance, but had left the
theatre in the middle of the first act.

I left the next morning, and in a day I received a letter from the
Director saying that I had not had quite enough experience to sing their
repertoire. I learned some time afterwards that their contralto had
sung one of her guest-performances before I went there, had failed to
make a sufficient impression, and had decided to remain where she was.
This had been settled between her and the Direction before I sang at
all; still they had let me sing with no prospect of an engagement, and
allowed it to appear to be my fault that I was not engaged. Legally, of
course, they were quite within their rights, as I could have sued them
if they had not given me a chance to sing the _Gastspiel_ called for in
my contract. But any singer, in such circumstances, would infinitely
prefer to be told the facts. Later, I once begged a director to tell me
if it were really worth while to _gastieren_ in his opera house. He
said, certainly, they were not considering any one else and really
wanted to hear me. I sang there with one of the biggest personal
successes I have ever made, the _Bürgermeister_ and all the Committee
(it was a municipal theatre managed by a Committee with the Mayor at the
head) came on the stage to congratulate me, and I had to take nine
curtain calls alone after the last act. I was not engaged, however, and
found out that they had already decided to engage a contralto who had
sung one _Gastspiel_ before me and the other directly afterwards. This
sort of thing happens even to the most experienced native-born singer.
One tenor in D. sang a guest performance _auf Engagement_, and learned
that he was the seventh who had tried for that position in the same
part, and they kept on their original one after all! Of course, these
performances are paid, but the fact that one has sung without being
engaged becomes known everywhere through the weekly theatrical paper,
which gives the repertoire and singers in each opera, of all the
reputable opera houses in Germany. But the fact that the management
never intended to engage you is not generally known. If you have bad
luck like this three or four times, it injures your standing as an
artist. The _Genossenschaft_ or stage society is trying to make each
theatre confine itself to issuing only one contract at a time to fill
any vacancy they may have, which will largely prevent this evil.

A second disappointment followed right on the heels of the first one. I
had a second string to my bow, as there was a vacancy in a very good
_Stadttheater_ for which I was anxious to try. I opened negotiations
with them through my agent, and after the usual delay arranged the
_Gastspiels_. Their contralto was also leaving voluntarily. I was to
sing the two _Erdas_ and _Ulrica_ in the "Masked Ball." When I got
there, I found this changed to the _Erdas_ and _Fricka_, which I had not
sung for a year. Then they demanded _Frau Reich_ in "Merry Wives"
without a rehearsal instead of the "Siegfried" _Erda_. I was very
unhappy, for I knew from this that things were going badly, and that
they had no intention of engaging me, no matter how or what I sang. The
Direction wrote me that, in spite of my great talents, my voice was not
quite large enough for their house. The truth was that their contralto,
who was a Jewess and therefore of the same religion as most of the
committee, had been offered an increase of salary to remain, and had
accepted. The Direction themselves felt badly over the way they had
treated me, and the _Intendant_ telephoned to a _Hoftheater_, not far
off, where he knew there was going to be a vacancy, to recommend me to
their Director in the highest terms.

This was Darmstadt, the capital of a small principality, famous for its
opera house, which had existed for a hundred years. It is a town of
about 100,000 inhabitants, and the residence of the reigning Grand Duke,
Ernst Ludwig. His mother had been the Princess Alice of England,
daughter of Queen Victoria. He and his second wife, Eleanore, lived with
their two little sons at the palace Princess Alice's money had built for
them. It was really not a palace at all, but a large, roomy, comfortable
house. His beautiful sister, Alexandra, married the Czar of Russia;
another sister married the Kaiser's brother, Prince Henry of Prussia.

The opera house, called _Hoftheater_, stood high in the second class. In
the first class are Berlin, Vienna, Dresden and Münich, with possibly
Hamburg. Then come Cologne, Frankfurt and Leipsic, and the _Hoftheaters_
Hanover, Stuttgart, Mannheim, Wiesbaden, Darmstadt, etc. In the third
class are the smaller _Hoftheaters_ like Coburg, and the _Stadttheaters_
like Mainz. In the fourth, are the smallest _Stadttheaters_, and last of
all come the little towns which have _Monatsoper_, or a one month season
of opera in the year, after the seven month theatres are closed. The
first class houses are open all the year, with a four or six weeks'
vacation for the singers at different times, so that they shall not all
be away together. The next class has a nine months' season, but in the
_Hoftheaters_ the salary is paid in monthly instalments for twelve
months in the year.

I took the train for the town, not caring much whether they wanted me or
not. Perhaps that was the right attitude, for after hearing one song
with piano accompaniment, the _Intendant_ offered me a five-year
contract. I asked them to make it three; the town seemed so small and
quiet that I did not like the sound of five years in it. The salary was
the highest they had ever paid a contralto. The Director said at once,
"How much did they offer you in----?" and agreed to pay me only 500
marks a year less. I arranged to _gastieren_ very soon in _Carmen_,
with _Nancy_ and one other part to follow. I sang only the _Carmen_ on
trial, however, as the Grand Duke, who had come in especially from his
country place to hear me, engaged me personally after the first act. I
had a wonderful and rare chance to "be grand" when the Director told me
this. He asked me if I would be willing to sing my other _Gastspiel_ of
_Nancy_. I replied loftily that I really could not do so, as I must
return to Paris.

Six days before the opening of the season, according to contract, I
arrived with my sister in the town which was to be my home for the next
three years. It is surrounded by forests and looked very pretty; but oh!
so quiet! The _Hoftheater_ stands in a park, and is a classic-looking
structure seating 1,400 persons. It has been there for a hundred years,
and runs by clockwork. A building behind it, more than half as large as
the theatre itself, contains the ballet school and scene-painting lofts
and a complete dressmaking and tailoring establishment, with the
wardrobe mistress and master at the head, where all costumes are made.
They are also kept here, and the collection is a very complete one, with
endless sets of uniforms, armour and historical costumes of all kinds.
Men's dress is supplied; women who have a salary of more than 3600 marks
($900) are supposed to supply their own, but if you are nice to the
wardrobe mistress she will usually contrive to find what you want,
though you must get permission from the Direction to wear it. Excellent
dressers are provided for the principals, and a hair-dresser to put on
your wig. There is a small charge if it requires dressing. The theatre
pays these people, but you are supposed to tip them on New Year's Day,
also the stage doorkeeper, the man who brings you the scores of your
parts, and any one else you like, though only the first four expect it;
and 10 marks ($2.50) is a liberal tip. You are expected to keep your
costumes at home, and send them over in a basket-trunk on the morning of
the performance for your dresser to unpack, press and hang up. You pay a
man $1.00 a month to do this, though many singers send their servant.

There are four Kapellmeisters, the first one who rejoiced in the title
of _Hofrat_ (Court councillor), the second, and third, and a fourth for
the chorus. Felix Weingartner is now first conductor there. The
orchestra consists of sixty musicians, and is really good. They have
played together so long, that they can play almost anything, and they
excel in Mozart, whom, with Wagner, they adore, while they look with
condescension upon the works of Puccini. The scenery of this particular
opera house used to be famous. They were the first to have moons which
really rose about as slowly as the real one, and they are still unique
in possessing a wonderful clock-work sun, which contracts as it rises.
The _Ring_ dramas, with their complicated settings, are given without a
single hitch; the "Magic Flute" is presented with some nineteen scenes,
all dark changes; and this is one of the four theatres in the world
where Goethe's "Faust" is given entire, on four consecutive evenings.
The artist, Kempin, who is responsible for all new scenery, is a man of
considerable reputation, outside the town as well as in it, as a
painter. He does excellent things when he is allowed a free hand, as he
inclines very strongly toward modern _styliziert_ (conventionalized)
scenery _à la Reinhardt_. His production of "La Belle Hélène" was worth
seeing, and his "_Gretchen's_ room" in "Faust" is one of the most
charming stage settings I have ever seen.

There is a large, thoroughly trained chorus, each with a repertoire of
over fifty operas, whose members are paid, as a rule, about 125 marks a
month ($26), everything but modern dress supplied. None receives more,
except those who fill small "speaking parts." In a ballet of forty the
dancers receive from 75 to 80 marks apiece with all costumes furnished.
Knowing these figures, as I do, it is hard for me to credit those I once
saw quoted in a music journal from a German book on the subject. The
author stated that the ballet girls in Hanover receive only 10 marks
($2.50) a month. Hanover, being a larger city and affiliated with Berlin
pays better salaries than this opera house of which I am writing. He
also said that the "leading lady" in Eisenach had only 15 marks a month!
As I, as a beginner and foreigner, in Metz, received $35 a month, I
cannot but think that he had forgotten to add the cipher and meant 150
marks! The costume expenses that he spoke of, are certainly a great tax
upon the German _actresses_ in smaller theatres; but I think I have
shown how greatly the wardrobe of a _singer_ in such a theatre may be
simplified, especially by a thrifty German woman, up to all the dodges
of different pairs of sleeves for the same gown. After all, costume
expenses are as high or as low as one makes them. None of our American
girls thinks of becoming an actress on the European stage, so these
costume expenses need not trouble her personally, and the majority of
German actresses manage to live on their earnings. The principals in my
theatre received from $900 to $3500 a year, which last named sum is paid
to the _Heldentenor_, and on which he is rich. The rent of a good flat
is 700-800 marks a year ($180-$200). I paid 1100 marks ($275) for mine
because it was situated on the best street, near the palace. It
contained four rooms, with kitchen, bath, maid's room and two balconies.
A good general servant receives 25 marks a month ($6.24). Her wages and
everything about her are regulated by police inspection. The _Polizei_,
in fact, regulates the whole town, even the closing of the theatre,
which can only be shut in case of destruction by fire, serious epidemic
or martial law.

The same system of alternating plays with opera obtains in all but the
very largest German cities. We had some splendid actors in our cast,
some of whom are now in leading positions in the greatest theatres. The
repertoire, for a town of 100,000 people, is extraordinary. The German
classics, Goethe and Schiller, alternate with Shakespeare; the modern
poetic dramas, the plays of Hebbel, Grillpartzer, the sparkling comedies
of Schnitzler are interchanged with translations of Ibsen, Bernard Shaw,
Pinero, etc. Sudermann and Hauptmann may follow the latest French salon
comedy, or a new farce; and the good old ones that everybody knows like
"Kyritz Pyritz," and "Charley's Aunt" are not allowed to die. Then there
are peasant plays in dialect and fairy plays for the children at
Christmas.



CHAPTER XV

SALARIES AND A TENOR'S GENIUS


If you make a hit with the audience your residence in the town is made
very pleasant. Even the conductors and motormen of the street cars used
to greet me as they passed and all the policemen were my friends. I had
letters to some of the people in the town through relations, and took as
much part as I had time for in the really charming, if slightly narrow,
social life of the place. The centre of everything was, of course, the
Court. The Grand Duke took a great interest in the theatre, and used to
watch the productions notebook in hand. Any detail which did not please
him was immediately noted and sent then and there to the stage manager
to be changed. We had some special privileges as we were classed as
_Beamten_ or official servants of the government. One was the right to
wine from the ducal cellars at cost price, or duty free. Another was a
10 per cent. discount at all the shops.

Extra money is often to be picked up by a _Gastspiel aushilfsweise_,
that is, an emergency call from a neighbouring theatre. Our opera
soubrette once received a hurry call to another _Hofoper_ one hour's
journey away. The train would have made her too late, so she took an
automobile and her costume with her, and drove at breakneck speed
through the woods to the town. She was to sing _Cherubino_ in "Figaro"
and, as she dressed in the auto to save time, the surprise of the
chauffeur may be imagined when, instead of a brunette girl, a blond boy
emerged from his car!

I made my first appearance as a regular member of the company as
_Dalila_. The only comment afterwards of the first Kapellmeister, who
directed the performance, was, "Why did you make the eighth note in such
and such a phrase a sixteenth?" I repeat this, in order to give an idea
of the standard of thoroughness with which the musical part of the opera
was prepared. When we were rehearsing _Dalila_ on the stage, I, having
studied the rôle in Paris and being imbued with the spirit of the French
performers, occasionally gave that swing from the hips on a particularly
luscious phrase, using as faithfully as I could remember it de Reszke's
masterly interpretation and flow of line. The _Hofrat_ rapped on his
desk, and half patronizingly, half contemptuously, with a pitying smile,
bade me not indulge in _franzoesische Manniere_--French mannerisms. As
many room rehearsals were held as were necessary before the singers
could sing their parts, giving every note its exact value. A singer
might make mistakes during the performance, but the _Hofrat_ always
mentioned it afterwards. My _Samson_ was, of course, the _Heldentenor_,
and he was a character; a tall, good-looking man, with an immense,
ill-used voice, but a wonderful actor. He had a great success with the
ladies, and his adventures, matrimonial and otherwise, were the
principal source of gossip of the town. His lady-love at this time was a
certain Baroness, whom he afterwards married. Their great amusement was
rushing about the country together in a white automobile filled with
flowers. She used to hang fascinated over the edge of her box, high
above the stage, watching his every look and gesture, her large bust on
the edge of the box. When he left the stage she would sink back in her
chair, really exhausted, and rub her eyes with her hand. He was the only
person who was allowed to disturb the orderly rehearsals. Every one was
afraid of him when he lost his temper and raged up and down the stage,
shouting what he would do to his enemy when he caught him. One day, I
remember, he was furious with the _Intendant_ because birthday honours
had been distributed by the Grand Duke, in the form of decorations, and
he had received none. He made sure that it was the _Intendant's_ spite
against him, but it was in reality, of course, his notorious way of
living that prevented his being decorated. He shouted that he would "buy
himself two cents' worth of soft soap and grease his back with it and
make the _Intendant_ climb up it!" Then that he would get him in the
woods and run his auto over him, and run it back and forth, and back and
forth, until there was nothing left but apple sauce! Finally the
Direction could stand him no longer, great actor as he was, and his
contract was broken on the pretext of his having been absent from the
town without leave. You are supposed not to go further than a certain
stated distance from the theatre without due notification and
permission. He left the place with his Baroness, and his return to it
was characteristic. The first time that Zeppelin's airship passed over
the town, he was in it, hanging out of the car, shouting and throwing
down postcards!

As _Siegfried_ in "Goetterdaemmerung," he left an ineffaceable
impression on me. I have never seen it equalled by any tenor. When he
gazes at _Brünnhilde's_ ring, and his memory fails to recall just what
it means to him, his puzzled look of baffled memory, the ray of
understanding that almost pierced his forgetfulness, all were suggested
in so tremendous a way that one saw inside his brain,--and all this
utterly without exaggerated mannerisms.

I seemed to find favour in his sight, and during the _Dalila_ rehearsals
he made hot love to me. In the performance, when _Dalila_ sinks into his
arms on the couch, he nearly upset me by saying fervently out loud:
"_Ach! endlich weiss man was est ist ein schoenes Weib im Arm zu
haben?_" ("Ah! at last one knows what it is to have a beautiful woman in
one's arms.") I considered this a distinct reflection on his adoring
Baroness, and withheld the signs of delight he no doubt expected. He
told me once, one only wish he had,--just to see my _Spinne_, or
_lingerie_ closet. One day, as we were all in the greenroom, during a
rehearsal, waiting our turn to be called to the stage, I saw S----'s
eyes transfixed with horror. Looking in the direction he pointed I saw
the opera soubrette Z----, putting on her rubbers and crossing her legs
in doing so. This action revealed to our delighted gaze trouserettes of
red striped canton flannel, shirred into a band half way between calf
and ankle, and there adorned with a blanket-stitched frill of the same
material. S---- was too sickened by the sight to do more than helplessly
gasp, "Typical!" to me. A curious person; fastidious, sensual,
unquestionably endowed with genius, he just couldn't behave.

He was asked to sing _Siegfried_ once, at a neighbouring opera house, on
very short notice. He had to dress in the train in order to be there on
time when the curtain went up. Fellow travellers, who saw him enter the
train dressed in the ordinary way, were rather horrified to see a
half-naked savage emerge at the journey's end; but S---- was quite
impervious to the sensation he created. He never wore the hideous tights
most _Siegfrieds_ try to make you think are skin, but his splendid
shoulders rose naked from his bearskin, and his bare legs were bound
with furry thongs.

The _Heldenbariton_ was of another type. He had been twenty-five years
on the stage, and twenty in this theatre. Opera singing for him was like
going to his office. He had his house with a charming garden, his
family, and a circle of friends and acquaintances, which included nearly
the whole population. There are many cases like his in this class of
theatre, and a pleasant life they lead. After eight years in the same
_Hoftheater_ they are eligible for a pension, a certain proportion of
their salary, which increases with their years of service, up to a fixed
point. Only certain _Hoftheaters_ have this pension fund; it is very
nice for some singers, but a great hardship for others. If you leave
that theatre before your eight years are up, you lose all that you have
paid during your engagement. Contribution to the pension fund is
compulsory for all singers and actors in that theatre. One singer whom
I knew had spent sixteen years in different theatres, always paying a
pension tax, and never receiving the benefit of one penny from the
money, as her engagement in each place came to an end before the
stipulated eight years. Unscrupulous directors take advantage of this to
fail to renew a singer's contract when it gets near the eighth year. The
invaluable _Genossenschaft_ is also trying to remedy this abuse.

Some of the regular members of a _Hoftheater_ have enviable concert
reputations as well, though in Germany the two professions are quite
separate, and concert singing is generally looked upon as the higher
branch of art. The critics are suspicious of the opera singer in
concert, to such an extent that I was advised, at my first Berlin
recital, to keep my real standing in the profession dark and present
myself without my title of _Hofopernsängerin_. I suggested to my agent
that, as I was quite unknown in Berlin, it might be well to spend a
little money in extra advertising. "Advertising?" said he, "they will
think you are a soap!" So I sang unheralded except by the usual
half-inch in the daily papers. In contrast to the publicity campaigns
and press-agents of this country, let me give another instance of how
they did things in Germany before the war. On being engaged at this
_Hoftheater_, I thought I ought to let the public know it. I wrote my
agent, Herr Harder, asking him to spend 1000 marks ($250) for me in
judicious advertising of my engagement. He answered that there was no
way in which he could place the money to further my interests, and
returned it! The first contract which was offered me for a concert tour
in America, provided for $2,000 to be paid down for advertising before
the tour began.



CHAPTER XVI

THE ART OF MARIE MUELLE


One factor in my success was the beautiful wardrobe I was enabled to
have through the kindness of Mr. and Mrs. Frank S. Jones. The first
clothes I ordered from Marie Muelle in Paris, the summer before I went
to Metz, I left entirely to her. She showed me designs and had bolts of
wonderful shimmering silks unrolled for my inspection, and brought out
boxes of curious embroideries, which she kept for her special friends.
The _Amneris_ and _Dalila_ costumes she made me were very French of that
period of the _Comique_; pale pinks and greens and everything in long
wigs. I wore them a few seasons, but as I grew more in knowledge I did
not feel at all Egyptian in pink _crêpe de Chine_, nor Syrian in pale
green. My brother Cecil and I love the Egyptian part of the Louvre, and
have spent hours there together. We found a fascinating bronze princess
of the right period, which we proceeded to try and copy for me for
_Amneris_.

[Illustration: DALILA AS I USED TO DRESS IT]

We were staying out of town at Giverny, the artist colony made famous by
Monet, Macmonnies, Friesieke, the A. B. Frost family and many artist
friends. I had a big studio with my brother, and he made huge designs of
the wings the princess used for her skirt, pinning them on the wall of
the studio, then colouring them in the tones of the mummy cases,
allowing for their fading through the ages. These designs we took to
Muelle, who was most enthusiastic. We worked hard and long on that
costume, getting the headdress just right, and making it practical as
well as correct. The jewelry I made myself, from wooden beads painted
the right colour and in the rue de Rivoli I found just the right
Egyptian charms and figures of blue earthenware to hang on the necklace.
My wig maker could not seem to satisfy me, so I finally took a
short-haired black wig, and braided into it one hundred strands, made of
lustreless wool. The dress seemed to lack something when on, so I
twisted ropes of turquoise beads round the wrists and the blue accented
the whole.

The _Dalila_ clothes I had been wearing then seemed hopelessly pale,
washy and conventional, so we hunted the shops of Berlin and Paris for
vivid embroideries and searched museums for Syrian women. They did not
seem at all popular, though we found magnificent reliefs of men. Taking
these as a basis, we built some barbaric robes of scarlet and purple,
added a fuzzy short black wig, and I felt much more "like it." I found a
necklace of silver chains with clumps of turquoise matrix, in Darmstadt,
and had a headdress made to match it. A comparison of the _Amneris_ and
_Dalila_ photos will show how one's sense of costuming develops.

We bought all the books on the subject we could find, and studied them
for hours. We cut out reproductions of historic portraits and invested
largely in photos in the different art galleries we haunted, and pasted
them into scrap books. Caps and headdresses have always interested me
intensely. The one I wear in "Meistersinger" I copied from a portrait in
Antwerp. The Norwegian one I wear as _Mary_ in "Fliegender Hollaender" I
bought in Norway, together with the rest of my costume.

Nothing gives such character to a silhouette as a characteristic head,
and having to do endless old women, I could give them all just as
endless changes of headgear. A comparison of the photos will also show
how one grows into the rôle with years of playing, and how one's eyes
"come to," how one develops histrionically--how the silhouette acquires
snap and vim and carrying power at a distance, and outlines become crisp
and authoritative.

My first _Carmen_ clothes were very _Opéra Comique_ and not at all
Spanish gipsy. I studied the Spanish cigarette girls and those of gipsy
blood as carefully as possible, and my idea of the rôle changed
naturally. I went to Muelle one summer, and told her that I was no
longer happy in satin princess dresses. She said that Zuloaga had just
designed and superintended the making of Breval's clothes for the
_Comique's_ real Spanish revival of _Carmen_. She could duplicate these
for me as she knew just where to send in Spain for the flowered cottons
in garish colours, and the shot silk scarfs that Zuloaga had imported
for Breval. I was delighted at this and adapted the costumes to my
needs, using the last one exactly as Zuloaga had intended, with the huge
red comb, made specially in Spain.

When I sang _Carmen_ before Prince Henry of Prussia in Darmstadt, he
sent word to me that my skirts were too long, no Spanish woman wore them
so long. I knew, however, that they were the right length, and any one
can see by studying Zuloaga's paintings that the soubrette length skirt
is not worn on the proud, swinging hips of the Spanish girl. I have been
told by Spaniards that I am an exact reproduction of a Spanish gipsy as
_Carmen_, which shows my studies were not in vain. People have said that
Merimée's and Bizet's _Carmen_ is not Spanish, and perhaps they are
right; but in aiming to portray a Spaniard, what model can one take but
a real one?

My _Orfeo_ clothes I have never changed. The _crêpe de chine_ for them
was imported by Mounet-Sully for one of his characters, and Muelle gave
me the piece that was left over. Its beautiful creamy colour and thick
softness cannot be improved upon, to my mind.

Marie Muelle is now the first operatic costumer of the world. This
reputation she has built unaided through her own unfailing energy.
Through her rooms pass the most fabulous-priced opera singers, the
greatest actors, the stage beauties, famous managers, producers, and
designers, the ladies of the great world seeking costumes for wonderful
private _fêtes_--and gentlemen seeking the ladies--all the varied crowd
of many nationalities to whom the old childish pastime of "dressing up"
is a business or a pleasure. The present establishment in the rue de la
Victoire is quite impressive. The hall is usually half-filled with the
trunks of "Muelle artists" engaged in America, who bring their things
into New York in bond to avoid paying the ruinous customs charges, and
are therefore forced to go through the weary round of dispatching the
same old stage wardrobe out of the country and bringing it back again
every season. Even when the clothes are quite reduced to shreds and
patches the rags have to be elaborately packed, identified by lynx-eyed
officials, and sent at least outside the three-mile limit of the
American Continent to be thrown away!

The first big white reception room of the Maison contains a long table
usually littered with samples, some chairs, and a large mirror lit like
that of a star's dressing room. There is a mantelpiece covered with
photographs of singers of all grades of celebrity, each dedicated with a
message of admiring affection to Marie Muelle. Around the wall are
various _armoires_, one containing a library of works on costume,
another a glittering collection of stage jewelry, a third many
portfolios of water-colour designs for every sort and kind of theatrical
garment for every rôle.

Oh! those designs! A young soprano has won an engagement in Monte Carlo
and wants a stage wardrobe for her repertoire. Out comes the "Modern
French" portfolio with a bewildering series of blonde and sinuous
_Thaises_, Moyen-Age _Mélisandes_, a scintillating _Ariane_ in contrast
to a demure little work-a-day _Louise_; and the lady spends a delightful
afternoon in selecting her favourites.

Then Muelle sends for an armful of samples--

"_Crêpe de chine_, of course, for the _Thais_. Yes, in flesh pink with
plenty of embroidery. Here is an _échantillon_"--and she pins it to the
drawing.

The singer picks out a scrap of heavy, lustrous crêpe--

"No, not that quality. That is something special, and there is no more
to be had for love or money."

Colours and fabrics are decided upon, all tested for becomingness under
the bunched electric lights, which mimic the strong light of the stage.
Each design has an assortment of tags of material pinned where many
others have been pinned before. Muelle is an expert in colours for the
stage. She doesn't talk learnedly of synthetic dyes, processes, or
German competition, but she can give you a bright blue that is warranted
to stay blue, no matter what vagaries of lighting a stage manager may
indulge in.

Her pale colours never turn insipid, nor her dark ones muddy. She keeps
a special dyeing establishment busy with her orders alone, and
twenty-four hours seems time enough to obtain any shade known to the
palette.

The textiles once chosen, Camille is called to "take measures" and
arrange for the fittings.

"And now, one question," says Mademoiselle, "Is your stage level, or
does it slope towards the back? Very well, that is all."

When the singer arrives for her first trying-on, the fitting room is
filled with lengths of material, and Mademoiselle herself stands in the
midst, brandishing a huge pair of shears. She throws a length of silk
over one of your shoulders, puts in two pins, and bunching the material
in her left hand, gives a slash with the scissors in her right, with a
recklessness that makes you shudder. A pull here, a fold there, two more
pins--and the stuff hangs as almost no one else can make it hang,
accentuating a good figure and disguising a poor one.

Occasionally in filling a regular order she will stumble upon an unusual
effect. One day they were making Moyen-Age sleeves for the dress of a
well-known singer whom Mlle. Muelle has gowned for years, but who has
never been included in the list of her special favourites. The sleeve
was of slashed silvery grey, lined with cerise, the lining showing on
the edges. She picked up a bit of cloth of silver and pulled it through
the slashes. The effect charmed her.

"_Tenez!_" she said, "That is too good for her. We'll keep that for La
Belle Geraldine."

"La Belle Geraldine," as Miss Farrar is known in Paris, is one of
Muelle's most constant patrons. Ever since her Berlin days she has been
costumed by the Maison Muelle, and she stands very high in the list of
Mademoiselle's favourites.

The outer room may contain the photographs of celebrities great and
small, but in the inner room there are just two--a portrait of Miss
Farrar as _Elizabeth_ and one of myself as _Carmen_.

Opening off the main reception and fitting rooms are others lined with
_armoires_ and stacks of boxes running to the ceiling. Then come the
rooms for cutting and sewing, and the embroidery rooms. Muelle uses
quantities of solid embroidery and _appliqué_ work, where other
costumers are content with stenciling and gilding. She has the secret of
a metal thread that does not tarnish. Her idea is that the use of
first-class materials, good silks and satins, real velvets is a
necessity in these days of electric lighting, which is as revealing as
sunlight; that the substitution of imitation fabrics went out with the
use of gas in the theatre, and that the superior wearing qualities alone
of the best materials justify the greater expense.

The capacity of her _armoires_ and the size of the accumulated
collections they contain were tested some years ago by the special
production of Strauss's "Salome" at the Châtelet Theatre in Paris, when
Muelle was called upon, at ridiculously short notice, to furnish all
costumes for a cast of 150 people. There was a royal ransacking of
cupboards and jewel cabinets, but everything was ready on time for the
dress rehearsal.

[Illustration: DALILA AS I NOW DRESS IT]

A greater feather in her cap was the order to costume the new
productions of the Russian Ballet, from designs by no less a
personage than the great Leon Bakst himself. Then ensued a dyeing of
silks and a printing of chiffons, a stringing of beads and knotting of
fringes which set the whole establishment humming like a beehive.

For all their thousand problems, the costumes were finished and
delivered at the appointed time.

Since that triumph there has been hardly an important costume event in
all Paris in which Muelle has not had a share, if not entire charge. She
costumed Astruc's first season in the Théâtre des Champs Elysées. She
has been responsible for the costuming of many productions of the
Russian Ballet, and for great spectacles like Debussy's "St. Sebastien"
and "La Pisanelle" of D'Annunzio. Society knows her as well as the
stage, for she has been the presiding genius at many an exquisite fête,
Greek, Roman, or Persian, held in lovely gardens behind the prosaic
exteriors of exclusive Parisian homes.

But all this has not turned her head, nor changed her toward her old
friends. She still loves a good gossip. Many a note have we had from
her--"I am delighted that Mademoiselle is returning to Paris, and hope
that she will come to see me. I have quantities of stories to tell her,
and we shall die of laughing."

But though she enjoys a choice tidbit, she will tolerate no malicious
tale-bearing. She refused an order, tactfully and firmly, from one
singer because the lady tried to tell tales out of school against one of
Muelle's chosen favourites. Her revenge in this case was typical. She
knows that advancing age is the enemy _par excellence_ of popularity for
stage people, so she makes a point of always referring to the delinquent
as "La Mère So-and-So!"

The list of her kindnesses to artists is unending. One case that I know
of personally is typical. A girl with an unusually beautiful voice had
arranged a début, leading to a first engagement, and she ordered her
wardrobe from Muelle. She failed to be engaged after her début, however,
and one disappointment after another came to her, so that it seemed
impossible for her to make a start at all. But Muelle had faith in her,
and kept the beautiful clothes, unpaid for, hanging in her presses for
several years. At last the girl made a great hit in Russia, and is now a
well-known singer, and, needless to say, a faithful adherent of the
Maison Muelle. This is only one instance of the kind, and, of course,
there are many, many more in which Mademoiselle's kindness does not find
a monetary reward.

Often have I heard her suggesting economy to those whose salaries are
not in the "fabulous" class. She will show a girl how to costume two
rôles, with the same dresses, by combinations and changes so cleverly
thought out that the keenest public won't detect them. _Elizabeth_ and
_Elsa_ may wear the same mantle, right side out in one rôle and wrong
side out in the other. An extra tabard of brocade or embroidery will
allow an _Ophelia_ to wear the gowns of _Marguerite_--all tricks of the
trade, and well understood in the Maison Muelle.

Brilliantly clever, immensely capable, good-natured, and big-hearted, a
splendid organizer and the faithfulest of friends, Marie Muelle has
earned by the hardest of hard work, and now justly enjoys her title of
"First Theatrical Costumer," not only of Paris, but of the world.



CHAPTER XVII

THE NON-MILITARY SIDE OF A GERMAN OFFICER'S LIFE


One of the first things you do on arriving at a new residence in Germany
is to acquaint the police of your presence. This is called _Anmeldung_.
It is a fearsome experience and admits of no trifling. You go to the
appointed stuffy office, and tell your nationality, birthplace with date
of birth, your parents' names, their profession if any, and your own,
their birthplaces and ages, if they are dead and what they died of,
whether you are married or single, number, names and ages of your
children, and any little extra detail that may occur to the official in
Prussian blue who holds the inquisition. If you have an unusual name, he
won't believe you when you claim it. A girl I knew was christened Jean,
but she is down in the police records of Berlin as Johanna, because her
policeman said that Jean was a man's name, and French at that!

Every servant maid has a book, which must be signed by the police when
you engage her, and when she leaves you, before she may take another
place. When you engage her she must be _angemeldet_ too, in order that
she may be charged with her proper insurance tax. This amounts to about
five dollars a year; the employer pays one-half, the servant the other.
Many employers pay it all. This entitles the servant to treatment at the
dispensary or in the hospital if she is ill. The police are very careful
of her comfort, and pay a visit to the house in which she is employed to
see that her room is big enough, airy enough, warmed in winter, and that
her bed is comfortable! She has a long list of "rights" including so
many loaves of black bread and so many bottles of beer per week; and she
dare not be offended if you keep everything under lock and key.

You have not yet finished your _Anmeldung_ if you keep a dog, for he
must be registered, too, and you pay highly for the luxury. The
_Polizei_ decides when you may and may not play on your piano or sing.
Before nine in the morning, after nine at night, all musical instruments
are taboo. The sacred sleeping hour after dinner, from two to four, must
also be observed in silence in Berlin. Nothing dare interfere with the
after-dinner nap; even the banks are closed from one to two, or even
three. You write to the _Polizei_ in Germany where the Englishman writes
to the _Times_. I remember a perfect avalanche of anonymous cards in
Darmstadt because a child in our house would practise with her windows
open and neighbours thought it was the _Hofopernsaengerin_ Howard.

The intricacies of paying your taxes take some study. Foreigners must
pay taxes on money earned in the country; town and county taxes are
payable every three months, on alternate months, in two different parts
of the town. You arrive at the _Staedtische Halle_ to pay your town
taxes, and you are very lucky if, after picking out the right month, you
succeed in hitting the day when the place is open. A small sign on the
locked door may greet you: "Closed on the ninth and fifteenth of every
month." If day and month are right, you may easily strike the wrong
hour, for town taxes are payable, say, from eight to ten A. M., and two
to five P. M., while county ones are from nine to twelve, and four to
seven. There are church taxes besides, very small if you are Catholic
and larger if you are Evangelical. I succeeded in getting out of these
by declaring myself neither. Unfortunately I did not know the word for
undenominational and so had to say that we were "heathen." My sister was
asked in a rasping official voice, filled with the large contempt for
women which a certain type of German official always reeks with, "_Sind
Sie ledig?_" She, poor dear, had never heard "_ledig_" before, and
stammered "_Was?_" The question was rapped out again, and she said,
"_Ich--weiss nicht._" When she got home and looked up _ledig_, she found
the man had been asking if she were married or single. What he made of
her answer we never knew.

All these little things are very amusing in Germany. The way everything
seems _verboten_, at first is annoying, but later amusing. The paths in
the Tiergarten in Berlin always used to tempt me to be bad. I always
wanted to walk on the path reserved for bicyclists, or horses, or sit on
the benches reserved for children only. The letter boxes say to you,
"_Aufschrift und Marke nicht vergessen!_" ("Address and stamp not to be
forgotten!") The door mat shrieks at you, "_Bitte, Fuesse Reinigen!_"
("Please wipe your feet.") Towels, brushes, etc., all say "_Bitte_" at
you. I believe one could travel all through Germany with just "_Bitte_,"
and get an insight into the different phases of German character through
the intonations of this word.

A rather annoying custom in Darmstadt was the way the bakers
over-celebrated every holiday. They had usually the "_Erster, Zweiter,
und Dritter Feiertag_"--first, second and third holiday, and they toiled
not on those three days. All the bread you could get, if you had
neglected to provide enough, was square pretzels, baked exceptionally
large and hard. This may have been a Darmstadt custom only, as they
vary so all over Germany, that what holds good in the north may be quite
unknown in the south. For instance, cream is _Sahne_ in Berlin, _Rahm_
in Darmstadt, and has even a third name in other parts of Germany, which
I have forgotten. You can get a wonderful _Sandtorte_--a firm, delicious
cake, in Berlin, but I never succeeded in getting it just right in
Southern or Middle Germany.

A quaint old custom in Darmstadt was always observed on the first Sunday
in Advent. The Grand Duke always did his shopping for Christmas on that
day, and the country people thronged into the town. A band used to play
before the shop in which the Grand Duke was, and move as he moved. We
gave an extra long performance at the opera, "Goetterdaemmerung," or
some such serious business, but the Grand Duke never could honour us
with his presence, as every one in town would have felt cheated if he
had.

The shopping in Darmstadt was really quite remarkable. We always thought
it an excellent thing that after eleven o'clock in the morning not a
scrap of meat was visible in the white-tiled butcher shops, everything
being put away on ice.

Food is taken very seriously, of course, and asparagus is honoured above
any other vegetable by having its own subscription season. That is, you
subscribe at the beginning of the season, so much a day, and asparagus
is delivered to you daily while it lasts at that price, the sum not
varying with the fluctuations of the market.

The old market place was a delight on full market days. The grumpy old
women would sit in the middle of their piles of fruit and vegetables,
while you threaded your way along the uneven cobblestone lanes they had
left in between their stalls. Brilliant awning umbrellas have been
adopted and glow in the sun, against the darkly moist, old walls of the
frowning castle just behind. The old Dames call out to you, "Well,
Madamsche', nothing from me today? Aren't my things good enough for
you?" "Madamsche'" is a left-over from ancient French times, and the
final "n" is left off, as are all "n's" in Hessen dialect.

This dialect also lacks "r's." They tell a tale of the Railroad
conductors calling out "Station Daaaaamstadt!" so loudly and
persistently as to annoy Grand Ducal ears, and they were ordered to pay
more attention to their "r's." Now they call out in a superior tone
"Starrrr-rtion--Damstadt!" and feel sure every one is satisfied.

We had exceptional opportunities of knowing Germans of all classes, from
the cleaning women in the theatre to royalty. The military types are
most varied, ranging from the Prussian Junker to the _gemuetlicher
Bayer_, with his easy South German ways. We met many officers and their
families, both in Metz and Darmstadt. In Metz, during the last year, we
grew to know and be fond of a young Bavarian lieutenant. With him we
drove and picnicked in the lovely Metz country. It was early spring, and
we would take the train to some little village near by, and have our tea
in the woods or at one of the thousands of _Gasthäuse_ that dot Germany.
I remember one Sunday afternoon in a still, steep-sided ravine, the
walls of it rising sharply on either side, thickly wooded with giant
beeches; the sun-flecked grass aquiver with myriads of white ethereal
wind-flowers. A shrine, with a blue-robed Virgin looked down on us, and
the wood-hush was only broken by the songs of birds, twittering and
gurgling high above us in the branches. Suddenly far off the sound of
singing; and slowly a procession of children came into view, singing in
well-harmonized parts as they walked. They all genuflected before the
Virgin and wound off into the woods, their voices dying away in the
distance.

We often studied the old battlefields, so fiercely contested in 1870,
and F---- would point out to us just where the different regiments
advanced and fell. A long way off seemed the horrors of war, and we
never dreamed what much greater horrors were soon to descend on us.

We loved the Bavarians with their kind artistic souls in those days, and
yet they tell me they were among the worst in the early days in Belgium.

The military spirit was rampant in Metz, of course, and we got to know
that side of it well, as some of the officers had English wives, who
were very good to us. The delightful manners of the officers always
charmed us; we were told they are trained to social manners by their
superior officers. The cavalry regiments were the smartest ones, both in
Metz and Darmstadt, the Infantry being solidly aristocratic, but less
dashing. The _Pioniere_ (Engineers) were rather despised socially, while
the poor _Train_ or Commissariat, was utterly looked down upon and
hardly bowed to. The Bavarian infantry has its special social standing,
because the old nobility is largely represented in it. What they lack in
riches they make up in pride. All the other German infantry regiments
wear dark blue trousers, no matter what colour their tunics; the
Bavarians, however, have stuck to their light blue trousers, in spite of
all attempts to change them. The Prince Regent was famous for wearing
his much too long, and very wrinkled over badly fitting boots. The
smartest officers wore the _Ballon Muetze_ (balloon cap) introduced by
the Crown Prince and ineffectually forbidden by his father. It is called
"balloon" because it is much higher than the ones worn by less smart
officers. The height of the collar is the other important thing. In a
sterling officer of the old school, it is low and comfy; the smarter you
are the higher your collar. If they are fat, the two or three creases at
the back of the neck above the collar, always look to me
unmistakably--German.

The life they lead is in general very simple, according to our ideas.
Their Casino is their meeting place in the evening, like an officers'
club. Some of them are tremendously hard workers, most ambitious, and
showing real interest in their men. F---- used to teach his more
illiterate ones to read and write, and many were the stories he told of
the thick-headed Bavarian peasants. The difference in these men, when we
saw them arriving in the fall, as rookies, and after a year's training,
was absolutely amazing; slumped shoulders had straightened, lower jaws
had decided to connect with upper ones, and eyes focused intelligently.
Each officer has his _Bursch_ or private servant, who usually chooses to
be one. These are treated as friends by their masters, if the latter
happen to be non-Prussian in character. I said once to F----, "Is Karl
your servant?" "No, he is _mein Freund_" he said.

An officer in Diedenhofen where we occasionally sang while I was with
the Metz opera, used to send me gorgeous flowers. He had a way of
sitting near the stage and applauding by flapping his handkerchief
against the palm of his white kid glove, which so enraged me that I
never acknowledged the flowers. One night, an ugly old contralto took my
part, as I was laid up, and that was the night the officer had selected
to present me with a huge basket of white azaleas and blue satin ribbon.
The old dame rewarded the house in general with a false-teeth smile on
receiving them over the footlights, which must have discouraged my
admirer as the flowers stopped abruptly.

We quite often saw young officers very drunk on the streets in Metz, at
about five in the afternoon. Asking F---- about this, we were told that
it was only the young ones, if we would notice, and that they were
obliged to empty their glasses, when toasted by superior officers at
regimental dinners. If these gentlemen caught their eyes, as they raised
their glasses, many times during the two o'clock dinner, the silly young
fellows' heads naturally grew befuddled, but it was not etiquette to
refuse to empty their glass. This custom was very hard on a _Faehnrich_
or Ensign, and was later done away with.

The smartest officers had English dogcarts, and were certainly most
dashing. Many clever ones in the cavalry made money out of horses,
buying and selling them amongst themselves. In Darmstadt they introduced
the English hunt, and wore the pink. We used to go up to Frankfort for
the "gentlemen races," and often saw our own Northern cousins, whose
names we knew, but whom we never had the opportunity of meeting, riding
with great skill and daring. These races were much encouraged by the
Kaiser, and sometimes giant Eitel-Fritz would come and look on, or the
dandy Prince Schaumberg-Lippe would make his horse mince round the ring.
He was a great beau and ladies' favourite and the horrible accident that
has deprived him of his beauty in the battlefield, seems an impossible
thing to have happened to just him.

Our friend F---- was known in his regiment as "Revolver mouth." This
title he earned through his witty tongue and his habit of hitting the
bull's-eye in his table conversation. His great friend, a smart young
_nouveau riche_, in the most exclusive cavalry regiment, who had much
more money than brains, was the butt of much goodnatured chaff from
F----. One evening F---- recounted to a group of brother officers how
S----, who was notorious for his absent-mindedness and poor memory, was
seen miles away from home, galloping down a dusty road. F---- hailed him
and said, "But where's your horse?" "That's true," said S---- looking
down in utter astonishment, "I must have forgotten to get on him."

S---- was famous for his sharpness in choosing and trading horseflesh,
and F---- used to call him on the 'phone, saying "Is this Herr S----?
_Guten tag!_ I am Graf Pumpernickel." Then he would elaborately arrange
a rendezvous in some very public spot in Metz, at which S---- was to
appear with the horse he wished to trade. Of course when poor S---- kept
the appointment, only a group of jeering young rascals greeted him, and
S---- never discovered who Graf Pumpernickel was, though the joke was
often repeated.

The money question of the poorer officers, often proves very serious.
They are forbidden to earn money in any way except by writing. They
cannot marry the girl they choose unless between them they have a
certain sum, a minimum; this keeps many fine young officers and charming
girls from matrimony; and frequently results on the man's side in
far-reaching evils of entangling affairs, and illegitimate children. An
officer said to me once, he _thought_ he had no children, but a pretty
woman who kept a shop in the Kathedral Plate once sent him a baby's
pillow and he never was quite sure just what that meant. The Berlin
demi-mondaines are certainly fascinating creatures, dressed in the most
exquisite Paris clothes, and it is easy to understand how some penniless
Graf may become hopelessly involved in an affair with one of them.
Officially such things are frowned on. Talking of officers' troubles one
day, F---- told me that suicide was often the _only_ possible solution,
and for the honour of one's regiment one was sometimes expected to end
one's life. An acquaintance of his had had a revolver sent him by his
commanding officer as a gentle hint, on finding himself involved in a
scandalous affair.

In one Bavarian regiment, if you had debts, you were liable to be
summoned at literally a moment's notice before your Colonel, and ordered
to pay your debts in so many days, or leave the regiment. The usual
thing was then to obtain the hand in marriage of the most attractive
girl you knew with the most attractive bank-account. Sometimes they
disappeared to America. Frau Seebold told us once, while she was singing
in New York one winter, with an Austrian prima donna, that a man applied
at the door for work during a heavy fall of snow. She told him to clear
it away, and then come in for his money. He came, and noticing her
strong accent, asked if she had long left the Fatherland. On her
replying "no," he burst into a flood of German, and told her his pitiful
story, while she made him hot coffee and tried to comfort him. He had
been a lieutenant in a smart regiment, had gotten into trouble through a
brother officer betraying his trust in him, and had had to disappear to
America for the honour of the regiment. The poor fellow put his head on
the kitchen table and sobbed as he told her how he sank lower and lower,
till finally he shovelled snow. He also told her there was a club in New
York where ex-officers who were coachmen, truck drivers, or waiters by
day, could be gentlemen and comrades by night. He said their crests were
carved above their places on the wall, and no one could belong except
those of high birth. All this was years ago, and I have no idea whether
such a place still exists.

When a sudden silence falls on a party in Germany they say, "A
Lieutenant pays his debts." Promotion is very slow, and to arrive at a
decent income takes years. A Bavarian Colonel has only eight thousand
marks a year. The equipment of an officer is very expensive; their
Parade uniforms must always be spotless, and though you may wear tricot
cloth every day, your parade uniform must be of finest broadcloth, and
your sword knots of shining silver though a dash of rain ruins both. The
scarlet collars are more extravagant even than the white cloth ones, as
white may be cleaned at least once with gasoline, but scarlet is too
delicate, and the slightest perspiration makes a lasting stain. This was
all before the war, though, and perhaps the dazzling uniforms have given
place for ever to dull khaki. If so Germany is the drabber, for the
colour was a thing to make one's heart leap. In Darmstadt the first four
rows in the orchestra were reserved for officers at reduced rates, and
that beautiful border of colour always framed the stage in a brilliant
band on opera nights.

In Metz the rule against appearing in "Civil" on the street was very
strict, and F---- used to come to see us in a full set of tennis
flannels brandishing a racket, though he had never played in his life!
In Darmstadt the same strictness prevailed. A friend of ours, a Major
holding a very high position, had to dodge round corners, when he was
out of uniform, in case the terrible General Plueskow should see him,
and order him twenty-four hours' room arrest! By the way, when General
Plueskow, who was about six feet seven, was in France as a young man,
the French made a quip about him, "Who is the tallest officer in the
German army?" was the question, and the answer was "Plueskow, because he
is _Plus que haut_."



CHAPTER XVIII

GEESE AND GUESTS


I was on the whole very happy in Darmstadt. All the leading contralto
work came to me by right, and it was brightened by an occasional rôle in
operetta. They found they could use me for smart ladies in such things
as "Dollar Prinzessin," and I greatly enjoyed the dancing and gaiety of
those performances. We had many operas in the repertoire that are seldom
or never heard of in this country, "Evangelimann," "Hans Heiling,"
"Sieben Schwaben," all the Lortzings, "Undine," "Wildschuetz," "Zar und
Zimmermann," "Weisse Dame," etc. Such things as "Fra Diavolo," and
"Lustige Weiber," were always delightful to play.

We gave "Koenigskinder" the first year it was brought out in Germany.
Our clever Kempin designed charming sets for it, lit in the modern way,
and the soprano, though a plain little thing, had a heavenly sympathetic
voice, with a floating quality most appealing in the high part. During
the _Première_ at the end of the last act, just as we were taking our
calls from an enthusiastic public, a strange bearded man stepped out of
the wings and joined us. Humperdinck, of course, whom I recognized in a
minute from his photos. He said nothing to any of us, and we often
speculated as to why he did not. He must have been pleased with the
production, or he would not have shown himself; indeed we heard he was
pleased, but no word was vouchsafed us.

For our geese we had grey Pomeranian beauties and immense white birds
from Italy. The Italians, besides being bigger were more numerous; they
saw their opportunity to bully the Teutons within an inch of their
lives, and they took it. There was a tank of real water on the stage, in
which they loved to splash, but do you suppose a German goose was ever
allowed to go near it? Ominous hisses kept them away, and they hated
hissing as all actors do. The foreigners gobbled up all the food, before
the others could get it, and the only time that there was any unanimity
among them was when they were doing something they should not. One night
the largest Italian stepped into a depression near the footlights,
caught his foot, squawked loudly and passed on. The second largest
immediately followed suit; there were eleven of them, and they all in
turn caught a foot, squawked and waddled on, to the great delight of
the audience. It was agonizing for us on the stage, waiting for each
squawk.

Animals were always a trial to the performers, though considered to lend
a sure magnificence from the manager's point of view. We used to have a
pack of hounds in the first act finale of "Tannhäuser." They always
behaved beautifully and were allowed to run without leashes. One night,
however, our little round _Souffleuse_, as the prompter is called, named
"Bobberle" by the tenor as she was as broad as she was long, had taken
her bread and sausages into her tiny pen. The dogs suddenly winded this,
made a dive for the _Souffler Kasten_ (prompter's box), scratched out
the package, devoured the contents and then politely left their cards on
the box; poor Bobberle in helpless rage prompting the while. Since that
night the dogs have been chained two and two.

We often had famous guests. Edith Walker sang several times with us, and
Knote quite as often. Schumann-Heink, a great friend of the Grand Duke's
(she told me she would go through fire for him), sang _Azucena_. She had
always been my girlhood's idol, and my ideal of an artist, so I embraced
the opportunity to send her a wreath. They said she was much pleased by
the attention from a contralto! She used some of my _Schmink_ to make up
with, and I proudly have the stubs to this day. She made us all laugh
in rehearsal. When she says in the last act that they will find only a
skeleton when they come to drag her from her prison, she passed her
hands over her ample contours and emitted a spontaneous chuckle that was
irresistibly infectious. Bahr Mildenburg came to us also and revealed to
me what _Ortrud_ might be. Especially in the first act is she
overwhelming. In playing the part later I always felt her influence, and
many things I do in that act were inspired by thoughts she gave me.
Watch most _Ortruds_ in that scene. They simply stand in what they
consider mantled inscrutability, trying to portray evil in a heavy,
unsubtle manner; and then see Bahr Mildenburg, if you can. All the
really great people I have ever met are unpretentious and absolutely
charming to work with. Only the near-great seem to consider it necessary
to remind you all the time that they are other than you. The greater the
man the simpler his manner, I have always found, and I think many will
agree with me.

There was an excellent store of men's costumes to call on; beautiful
embroidered coats and waistcoats from the eighteenth century, real
uniforms of many regiments of bygone days, and the best Wagnerian
barbaric stuff I have ever seen, with the exception of van Rooy's.

One of the principal men singers was a tall dark fellow, with a most
passionate disposition. We played together often and he fell very much
in love with me. One day when we were all together at a wood coffee
house, his wife asked him how he had broken his watch which she found
smashed on the floor one morning. He said he had dropped it while
reading the night before, but he told me he had been sitting thinking of
me long after his wife had retired, and suddenly saw his watch shattered
in a thousand pieces on the floor across the room, where he had hurled
it. He was devoted to his little son, a charming sunny little chap, with
the dark colouring of his mother.

When I think of these good comrades of mine I cannot but wonder what the
war has done to them. The Hun element seemed to be in very few of them,
but I can remember it in one. This impossible person, frightfully
conceited, lacking absolutely in humour, annoyed and goaded me through
two long years with his boorish manners, low ideas of American life,
loudly expressed, and crass ignorance of all ideals of living. I came to
rehearsal one day and found the colleagues assembled in the green room
looking very grave over something. This man H---- said "Ah, here she
is!" Then he proceeded to hand round to every one a clipping, which
seemed to hurt and annoy them all. He would not show it to me,
insinuating that I knew all about it. This I stood for an hour and a
half; finally I insisted on seeing the clipping which was from the
leading paper of a neighbouring city. The critic reviewed a _première_
we had just given, slating every one but myself, and saying that I
belonged on the world-stage. This had been sufficient grounds for my
persecutor to explain the bad criticisms of my other colleagues to them,
by telling them that I had an affair with this to me of course, utterly
unknown, unheard of critic. When I realized just what he meant, I saw
black, seized a property crook stick that lay on the table, and struck
him violently on the arm. I then came to, and rushed to the window to
cool off. He took the blow without a word, and when I finally turned
back from the window ready in a revulsion of feeling to tell him that I
was sorry to have hurt him, I found the others all smiling broadly, in
relief that I had cleared the matter up. Of course none of them had
believed for a second what he had tried to make them believe.

We gave the whole of Goethe's "Faust" in four evenings. We had Lassens'
music and I sang two angels and an archangel, a sphinx and a siren
during the performances. The mechanical part of the production with its
flying witches, flying swings for _Faust_ and the devil, traps, dark
changes, built-up effects reaching from the footlights to almost the top
of the proscenium arch at the back of the stage, and a thousand and one
details were managed without a hitch.

"Butterfly" we gave for the first time while I was there, and the Grand
Duke took a great interest in the performance. He sent down some
beautiful kimonos from his private collection for the _Butterfly_ to
wear, but paid me the compliment of letting me get my own. I had
searched costumers and Japanese shops in vain, in London, Paris and
Berlin, for a plain coloured kimono such as servants wear, and finally
got one direct from Japan. The _Suzukis_ I have always seen have been
attired like second editions of _Butterfly_ not realizing in the least
the value of the contrast to them if they look like a real servant. I
have had letters from people who knew the East intimately, who have said
very flattering things about my portrayal of the manner of a Japanese,
after they have seen my performance, in company with real Japanese.
This, considering my height, has always pleased me immensely. If you can
feel in a vast audience that even one person knows, understands and
appreciates the study you have put upon a rôle to make it true to life,
you are rewarded for your pains.



CHAPTER XIX

RUSSIANS, COMMON AND PREFERRED


The Grand Duke was always very good to me. He liked talking English with
my sister and me, and always referred to the Germans as "they," never as
"we." He asked me to the palace one evening to dinner. We dined in a
room hung with portraits of his beautiful sisters. They looked like fair
angels, the portraits having been painted when both the Czarina of
Russia and her sisters were quite young girls. We were told by friends
that the Czarina used to be perfectly exquisite as a young woman,
usually gowned in pale grey with a huge bunch of violets. After dinner
we went up to the Grand Duke's own private music room where guests were
seldom invited. The piano was set high, on a hollow inlaid sounding box,
an idea of His Royal Highness's which improved the tone immensely.
Behind it on the wall was a life size painting of a Buddha-like female
figure. This was in creamy brown and gold, inlaid with chrysophrases,
and lit mysteriously at will from either side, on top, or bottom. The
lighting he preferred, and which he told me he used when he played for
hours--he knew not what--was provided by four rings of glass, suspended
horizontally from the ceiling, through which a radiant sapphire light
poured. I don't know how it was managed, but it was very beautiful. In
one corner of the room was a grotto, also blue lit with a charming,
quiet, nude figure, and a fountain that drip-dripped as you listened.

I sat down at the piano and played and sang all the negro melodies my
father had collected in the Bahamas years before. I think the guests
were rather bewildered by the swift pattering English, but the Grand
Duke and his cousin, the Princess Victoria of Schleswig-Holstein were
charmed with them. Princess Victoria and her mother, Princess Christian,
King Edward's sister, were afterwards good enough to be patronesses at
my first recital in London.

The Grand Duke loved beautiful Oriental effects, and never seemed to me
to be in the least German. He came to a supper-dance once, given by a
Baronin O----, dressed as an oriental potentate of sorts. He kept the
several hundred guests, and the good dinner waiting over an hour,
because he insisted on making up the whole court himself. His wife wore
a wonderful headdress she made herself, copied from the fresco in his
music room. It was all gold beads and emeralds. Round her neck was a
huge pear-shaped green stone. I was thinking of the chrysophrases I had
seen inset in the wall of the music room, and said: "What wonderful
chrysophrases, Your Royal Highness." "Not chrysophrases, emeralds," she
gently corrected me.

The Baroness had engaged some people to entertain the Grand Duke at
supper, served in the huge new ball-room, but two days before the ball,
she telephoned she was in despair as the people had _abgesagt_, and she
could get no one else. Would I be so awfully kind as I was coming
anyway, to help her out? Every one in town knew all my intimate songs as
I had sung them at various functions where the court was invited, so
Marjorie and I had to put on our thinking caps to find a new "stunt."
Marjorie played the _Laute_, that big, graceful instrument so popular
with the love-sick girl in Germany, and I knew some old French songs
like "Claire de Lune," that I sang to her accompaniment. I went to the
theatre and borrowed the tenor's Pagliacci costume, whitened my face and
dressed Marjorie as a _Pierrette_. At a given signal I sprang from
between purple curtains, put my finger to my lips, turned and beckoned
to _Pierrette_ and led her to the little stage the Baroness had built.
The songs went off very well, and the day was saved. Later I changed to
a _Dalila_ costume, and danced with the Grand Duke, dances he invented
as we went along, a favourite amusement of his. He always held his
partner to the side, with one arm about her waist, and I must say it was
very practical and comfortable. He danced beautifully and his favourite
partner was a tall Fräulein von B---- a friend of ours. Once returning
from a concert in a little town in the Bergstrasse where I had been
singing, and which had been attended by part of the court, this same
Hofdame and a famous violinist happened to be with us. We took
fourth-class tickets which entitle you to travel with the peasants in
large wooden box-cars, with benches running round the walls. We all
danced to the violinist's playing, while the peasants looked solemnly on
from their benches. I collected _pfennige_ in a hat which the violinist
then put on his head, _pfennigs_ and all. It was a lovely trip.

We heard some of the formal court balls were most amusing. We never went
to them as we had not had ourselves presented formally, though this
could have been easily arranged. The supper usually consisted largely of
ham and spinach, typical of the German Royal simplicity. The dancing was
conducted under difficulties. Reversing was not allowed, and all the
dancers had to go in the same direction. When the Grand Duke wished to
dance, his Chamberlain went in front of him to clear the way, as it was
always dreadfully crowded. The women were not permitted to pick up their
gowns, although trains were _de rigueur_ and no short skirts allowed. As
nearly all the men are in uniform, including spurs, the ladies have to
make frequent trips to the dressing room to repair damages. And yet it
is fatal to wear an old gown, as the Grand Duke has a terrific memory
and will say: "Oh, that is the charming gown you wore at Kiel two years
ago, isn't it?"

All the officers and their wives above the rank of Major must be invited
to the court balls, and, in a small principality like this, those of
lower rank receive invitations too. One Lieutenant, a member of one of
the oldest and poorest Darmstadt families, brought his bride to her
first court ball. She was pretty, but beneath him in social position,
and he had forgotten to tell her the rule about the trains. She lifted
her bridal finery out of the way of the devastating spurs, and was
politely requested by a messenger from Royalty to drop it again. Alas!
She forgot the warning and again switched her train up from the floor,
upon which the oldest _Ehrendame_ (Maid of honour), requested her to
leave the dancing floor. The poor husband felt it so keenly that he
asked to be transferred to a regiment in another town, and his request
was granted.

They have a custom of choosing an _erster Taenzer_ for every big ball.
He is usually one of the young officers of the highest birth, and his
duties are to assist the hostess in every possible way, and lead all the
dances.

Court etiquette is really a most hampering institution. In talking to
the Grand Duke for instance, I might not introduce a topic, he had to
give all the leads. This naturally has a deadening effect on the
conversation. At first the tongue-paralyzing "Yes, Your Royal Highness,"
"No, Your Royal Highness," even more paralyzing in German, "_Ja wohl,
Koenigliche Hoheit_," "_Nein, Koenigliche Hoheit_," had to be gone
through with, but after a few minutes' conversation I might follow the
simple English custom in talking with Royalty, and say "Yes, Sir," or
"No, Sir." When the Grand Duchess left a crowded ball-room it was
painful both for her and for us. As she advanced, modest and
self-conscious, one made a low _Knix_; to one lady she would give her
hand, always bristling with rings, and you had to kiss the back of it,
risking cutting your lip on the rings; to another merely a glance of the
eye, or a nod of the head, and so the slow, tortuous exit was made. In
the town on muddy days, you might come on the Grand Duke suddenly in a
narrow street and you had to back up against the wall to let him pass,
at the same time dragging your best skirt in the dirt in the
knee-straining curtsey.

I often thought how immensely popular would be the Prince or Grand Duke
or King, who would one day say, "Oh, stop it, all of you, and give me
your hands and your eyes like human beings." But _what_ would the Kaiser
say?

Before we went to Darmstadt the Grand Duke had had a tragedy from which
they said he had never recovered. His adored little daughter Elisabeth
was the idol of every one, and the town children's fairy princess. She
was asked to visit her aunt, the Czarina, at Petrograd. While there she
died very suddenly, though in perfect health when she left Darmstadt.
She is believed to have eaten some poisoned food prepared for the Czar's
own children. A monument to her in the _Herren Garten_ at Darmstadt,
shows a glass coffin of the fairytale type; in it lies sleeping
"Snow-White," with the gnomes around her. Above, a weeping willow
brushes soft fingers over the sleeping princess.

We had several _Backfisch_ admirers; the English "Flapper" comes nearer
to translating this strange word than anything I know. These girls
followed us closely in the streets for a year and finally met us. At
first my sister had her band and I had mine. Finally they dwindled to
just two, very sweet, charming young girls, of whom we became very fond.
Marjorie's was the daughter of a colonel, a count, who was very strict
and military with his delicate flower of a girl.

As I have said, strange revealing glimpses of the Hun element came to us
now and then, the spirit which now seems to engulf all the better German
people. Two of our girl friends were daughters of a famous noble house.
Their father was a very old General who lived in great seclusion. His
pretty, fair daughters L---- and E----, were often at our house, and
were very fond of my mother who lived with us then. The old General
finally died, and the girls were worn and bent with grief from his long
illness and the trials of nursing him. Their brother was with his
regiment, and for some reason could not get to them in time to make
arrangements for the funeral. The girls were left badly off, and could
not afford a pretentious ceremony. When they tried to explain this to
the undertaker, he was incredulous, but finally said with a brutal
sneering laugh: "Of course you can have a _pauper's_ funeral if you want
one." Everything was done in a way to make it all as hard as possible
for the poor girls by these brutes, and they used to come and tell us
with floods of tears of the insults they had to swallow. At last the
brother arrived, and of course as soon as he appeared in _uniform_ he
was bowed down to and served as only a uniform is served in Germany by
such brutal types.

During the second year in October word came to us that the Czar of
Russia was coming to rest with his family at the Grand Duke's hunting
lodge, just outside Darmstadt. We were nervous at the thought of all the
Russian students who always throng the Technical School at Darmstadt. It
seemed such an easy thing to bomb a man in such a small quiet town. They
took great precautions, however, and nothing happened.

I sang many times for the Czar, in "command performances" of _Dalila_,
etc. When he left he was good enough to send me a brooch "as a
remembrance of his wife." It is the Imperial crown, with sapphire eyes,
surrounded by a laurel wreath. He used to sit in a box nearest the stage
with the Grand Duke. In the next box were the little Grand Duchesses,
Olga, Tatiana and Marie, and sometimes Anastasia, the littlest one of
all. They would call in the intervals, "Papa, come in here; _do_ Papa
dear." They always spoke English together. He would go to them and they
would climb all over him, petting him and playing with his hair. It was
rather charming to watch.

Prince Henry of Prussia was there too, as these three, the Grand Duke,
Czar, and Prince Henry are, or were, fast friends. When they left the
theatre a curious crowd always gathered to see them, but we never had so
much as a glimpse of them, for five black, mysterious motors, closely
hooded, left in a procession, and no one ever knew which one the Czar
was in. The Czarina never came to the theatre; she was intensely nervous
just then, and went nowhere.

The Czar was to leave Darmstadt on the Monday, and on Sunday we were to
sing "Meistersinger" for him. The day before I had felt frightfully ill,
and suffered as I had been doing for several weeks with pains in my
side. Sunday morning I sent for a doctor, the pain being so bad I was
afraid I would not be able to get through the performance that night.
The doctor in turn sent for the surgeon, who packed me off in an hour to
the hospital for an appendicitis operation. The next morning I was
operated upon, and they told me the Grand Duke had sent to ask how I
was, as the Czar wished to know if the operation was successful before
he left town. I thought it showed a charming, kindly thoughtfulness of
others.

The nurses were all most kind to me in the hospital, but the surgeon was
utterly uninterested in anything but the healing of the wound itself,
and paid absolutely no attention to the other rather distressing
occurrences of my illness. One could see that a highly strung, nervous
American woman would have fared badly with him.

Sazonoff was with the Czar's suite, and I remember the Darmstadtites
were much insulted because he always took the train to Frankfurt half an
hour away, or to Wiesbaden (one hour), for luncheon or dinner, as he
said there was nothing fit to eat at the local hotels. I secretly quite
agreed with him.

We often went ourselves to Frankfurt for tea, or a wild American craving
would come over me for lobster or chicken salad, and we would up and
away to Wiesbaden for supper. Darmstadt was very conveniently situated
for short trips, surrounded as it is by interesting towns--Heidelberg
only a short distance south of us, or Mannheim close enough for a day's
visit. I sang _Niklaus_ in "Hoffmann" in Mannheim for the first time
without a rehearsal, having learnt the part in my room at the piano
without a Kapellmeister to give me the _tempi_, and never having seen
the opera. That was a trying experience, not helped by the tenor
knocking me flat down in the Venetian scene as I rushed on to tell him
that the watch was coming. He weighed about two hundred and fifty
pounds, and colliding with him in midcareer, I gave him right of way by
going down flat on my back.

At Frankfurt we heard a wonderful performance of "Elektra" with Richard
Strauss conducting and Bahr-Mildenburg as _Klytemnestra_. I shall never
forget her in it, nor the orchestral effects Strauss produced. I felt at
the end as if I had been watching an insane woman, so marvellous was
Bahr-Mildenburg's portrayal of the half-demented creature. Her large
face, pale, with haunting, sick eyes, her scarlet, gold-embroidered
draperies, the clutching, bony fingers on her jewelled staff, the
swaying body she seemed barely able to keep erect, the psychology of the
queen's character, all this together combined to give the exact effect
she wanted, and to convey it strongly and clearly to the farthest seat
in the big theatre.

We grew to know very well a Russian boy, whose family had interests in
Darmstadt. He told us much of Russia and he and his sister seemed
creatures of a different world to us. She was frail and exotic looking,
with very curly, bronze hair, a skin like a gardenia petal, and the
tiniest full-lipped, blood-red mouth I have ever seen. At home she spent
most of her time in the saddle or in the stables. She had men's uniforms
made, and rode out with the officers dressed as they were. They could
both drink enormous quantities of _Bowle_ and follow it up with
champagne and Swedish punch, and never even flush pink. Only S---- used
to become very talkative and spout Greek verses by the hour. At that
time we lived in a pension, and every Saturday night or after a big
performance of mine, say "Carmen," he would arrange an elaborate fête.
Sometimes we all had to appear dressed as Romans in sheets and wreaths,
before he was satisfied. One night I remember I grew tired of our all
being so monotonously beautiful, and came down dressed as a Suffragette,
with the false nose I wear as the _Witch_ in "Haensel und Gretel,"
flowing grey locks, spectacles, and some ridiculous costume, half Greek
and half witch. S---- was so horrified that he never once looked at me
during the evening and I finally saw that he was so genuinely unhappy
that I changed to something more esthetic.

He had as much spending money apparently as he desired, but his sister
never had a cent. She had no evening gown and only shabby clothes. She
seemed blissfully unaware of any shortcomings of her wardrobe, however,
and only once felt the lack of a party dress. We arranged something for
her that time, as she had no money to spend, and her brother did not
seem to think it necessary to give her any. After a particularly
successful fête, S---- would wander the deserted streets and kneel
before fountains in the public squares, dipping water from them with
his derby hat, and pouring it on the earth as libations to Pallas
Athene, as he always called me. And he was not in the least drunk, if
you will believe me, only fearfully Russian.

When they left the pension their luggage at the station consisted of a
pile of shabby hand-baggage, mostly newspaper parcels. The girl had no
purse but a soldier's little coin case of goatskin, so Frau von A----
emptied her own bag, and stuffed L----'s possessions into it. Their
indifference to all these things which would all have been regulated and
in keeping with their position if they had belonged to any other country
than Russia, I believe was quite typical and seemed to me rather
sublime.

S---- afterwards made a trip round the world. Goodness knows how he
found out whether I was singing or not, but some night after singing one
of my big rôles I would receive a monstrous basket of red roses, or an
armful of orchids, cabled for from Honolulu or China. He even remembered
my _Dachshund's_ birthday, and cabled the baker to send Peter a
wonderful _Torte_ with birthday candles.



CHAPTER XX

THE GRANDMOTHERS' BALLET


All this time I was working very hard at the opera. Our repertoire was
very large, including nearly all the Italian operas, from Verdi to
Wolf-Ferrari, and the German operas from the time of Weber and Mozart up
to Humperdinck. Everything was given in German, some of the translations
good and some poor. At first it had seemed terribly difficult to
accustom myself to the German sounds in _Dalila_ or _Carmen,_ after the
sonorous French, but latterly German came to seem quite as natural,
though never so beautiful nor singable. Every one in the audience,
however, understood the text, and surely this is the important thing.
How can they enter into the spirit of an opera when they are guessing
whether that is a love phrase or an insult that the tenor is singing?
The prejudice against translating into the vernacular has had to be
overcome in nearly all European countries and will, I suppose, be only a
question of time with us. In Russia, operatic composers flowered and
reached their world prominence only after the Russian language was used
for the libretto. In Germany Italian was discarded for the language of
the singers only after a long struggle, but the great abundance of
German operas came after it was adopted, not before. In France also
Italian libretti were used for generations, but can any one imagine a
Debussy composing a "Pelléas et Mélisande" to an Italian libretto? Each
school must find itself in its own tongue, and I question whether these
matters can be hurried.

I have always thought a good English translation would contribute more
to the general pleasure of the audience than a misunderstood gabble of
words, even though English is perhaps lacking in the subtle charm worked
upon us by foreign speech.

My colleagues by this time accepted me almost as a German, and I did the
routine work as though I were a German. Surely this experience is more
profitable than an occasional appearance on a more famous stage, such as
many of my own country-women aimed at. I often heard of their struggles
against intrigue, and long pauses between rôles, while they waited
hoping for a chance. We all worked steadily through the season and
rehearsed every day. The scheme of rehearsals was worked out and given
to us every two weeks on a printed _Spielplan_. This showed us exactly
which operas and plays were scheduled for the next fortnight, and all
the rehearsals we should have to attend, beginning with the room
rehearsals for the soloists alone, then the stage rehearsals without
chorus, the stage rehearsal with chorus and piano, and finally the
_General Probe_, or last orchestra rehearsal on the stage, with
everything as at a performance. At the side of the _Spielplan_ was a
tentative list of works in preparation with their probable dates of
appearance. All this made the work very systematic, and I knew exactly
what time I should have for study and what for myself. If a rare week
passed without my singing at least once I grew restless and unhappy. My
constant aim was to learn and develop, and every rôle taught me
something. Versatility is a most useful attribute on the operatic stage,
and if you play all the way from _Fides_ to soubrette parts in operetta,
and the audience sticks to you, you may be considered fairly versatile.

I remember one strenuous week in particular. I had to sing _Dalila_ in
Prague on Wednesday evening. "Zauberfloete" was scheduled for Tuesday in
Darmstadt, and by taking a late train I could arrive in Prague in time
to dress for _Dalila_. I had to sing the last bit of the _Third Lady_ in
"Zauberfloete" in travelling dress with a black cloak thrown over me and
then rush straight to the train. We travelled all night, changing at
Dresden in the middle of the night, and waiting at the noisy station
for some time. Arrived at Prague I went straight to the theatre, the old
one with gas lamps for footlights. "Don Giovanni" of Mozart was given
for the first time in this very theatre they told me, and was, I
believe, directed by Mozart himself. I duly sang my _Dalila_ and sped
back to Darmstadt, where I had to sing _Frau Reich_ Thursday night; and
this tiring lady has to have a certain lightness of touch no matter how
much train smoke you have swallowed. My troubles were not over yet as I
had to take the train that night for Edinboro, Scotland, where I was to
appear with the orchestra, and on the following night in Glasgow. The
journey was long and tedious, and the only bright spot I can remember
was while we crossed a bit of Belgium. We had had a lunch basket handed
in with the typical bottle of _vin rouge_, and neither Marjorie nor I
wanted it. The next time our train slowed down we happened to have an
engine beside us, and I handed the wine through the window to the
driver, who received it with true Belgian imperturbability.

I was very tired and very sick crossing the channel. We arrived in
London in a terrible storm, feeling absolutely exhausted. Marjorie said,
"The only thing that hasn't happened is, that we have not yet lost our
baggage." We waited on the cold platform--it was November,--till all the
luggage had been taken out of the vans--no familiar trunks for us. I
went worn out to the hotel, leaving poor Marjorie to struggle. She made
the round of the stations where possible trains from the coast might be
met--all of no avail. The next day was Sunday and we could not possibly
have found a gown for me to use at the concert. We slept that night in
towels and underclothes, and if you've ever done it you know what sort
of an all-night funeral _that_ is. The next morning early the missing
trunks were found and we continued our journey. We were much amused when
we found that no trains left for Scotland during the day on Sunday, and
that they had to wait for the friendly cover of the night before they
dared nefariously to slip out and break the Sabbath calm. Monday night I
almost broke down on the platform during the concert, in one of the
hugest halls in the world. Marjorie comforted me and sent for some
whiskey which I gulped down between songs. Gradually the chilled blood
in me thawed, and my voice with it, my nerve came back and I scored a
success, as I did the following night in Glasgow. We then went back to
Darmstadt the quickest possible way, having been in six countries in as
many days.

We walked a great deal in the beautiful country round Darmstadt, and I
sometimes rode over the miles of charming bridle paths. We made
expeditions into the beautiful Taunus country, all gold and scarlet in
autumn. The delightful custom of having _Wald Haeuse_ at convenient
distances in every direction round the city, makes these expeditions a
great pleasure. The coffee is usually good, and the cakes always so.

Darmstadt is on the Bergstrasse, almost a highway through that part of
Germany, and we were pestered one year with a constant stream of
beggars. They were usually ex-theatre people they said, and I found they
only came to me and not to my colleagues, so word must have been passed
round that an "easy" and extremely rich American lived in the town, who
was good for at least a mark.

The strangest stories circulated about us, and why we should choose
Germany to live in. One was that I was the illegitimate daughter of King
Edward, therefore a cousin of the Grand Duke, which explained a likeness
to him which I could see myself. They said my sister and mother were
really no relation to me, but simply paid to take care of me.

As I have said we had several picturesque privileges because I was a
_Grossherzogliche Beamtin_--an employée of the Royal house. I used to go
on certain days to the old Schloss near the theatre, no longer the
residence of the reigning family as it was too old to be comfortable. I
passed under shadowy arches and through cobblestone courts, surrounded
by aged windows, till I came to where the _Schloss Kellermann_ lived. I
went down a steep old stone stair into the bowels of the earth, where I
was greeted by the Head Cellarman, who wore a white apron and took
orders at a candle-lit table. I told him just how much Rotwein I wanted,
or perhaps a bottle of champagne for a treat, and paid a ridiculously
small sum for it all. The Grand Duke got it duty free and at special
rates, and we, as his employés were entitled to this rate too. For a
small fee two large flunkies in _Grossherzogliche_ uniforms would
deliver it to my apartment later in the day. I believe the cellars were
very wonderful, but I never was asked to investigate.

I think only the principals had this privilege, neither the chorus nor
the ballet sharing it, but I may be mistaken.

Our ballet was rather pitiful. Kind-hearted directors hesitated to
dismiss faithful servants of years' standing, and the result was a
phalanx of grandmothers at the back of the stage. I used to give my old
clothes to the chorus and ballet women, and one family in particular I
almost adopted. The poor mother was a handsome creature of about
forty-five. Her eldest son was twenty-four and a carpenter, and two
babies were born while I was in Darmstadt. Children of all ages came in
between. The father drank and used to ill-treat the mother, who had to
dance gaily as a peasant boy or gypsy, and then go home to all that
misery. Little by little I told the officers' wives I knew about these
things and they were very kind about sending their worn clothing to me
to distribute amongst the women. I believe it amused them very much to
see their old evening gowns washed, always washed, and refurbished,
doing duty as "Empire" gowns, or as the latest thing in Paris creations
on the backs of the walk-on ladies in the French comedies. Eighty marks
a month is not much, even if it is paid all the year round, and somebody
has got to help.

We had a school of forestry in the town, largely attended by American
boys. It was in the period when our Western boys padded their shoulders
tremendously and wore hump-toed boots. These boys were all husky
specimens, who dressed in the most foresty of forest clothes, boots
laced to the knee, wide western hats and flannel shirts. The woods round
Darmstadt are all most tame and well looked after, but the boys seemed
to think they were dressing the part correctly. When left to themselves
these boys were quite well behaved, but the German students tried to
bully them. The beer-drinking type of student, with his ridiculous
little coloured cap stuck on one side of his head, thinks he owns his
own particular café where his _Stamm-Tisch_ may happen to be. They
objected to various mannerisms of the American boys who visited these
cafés, and the American boys replied in their own western way by
knocking the Germans down. This method of fist fighting was quite
unknown to the Germans, who replied by sending a challenge to duel
according to their custom. The American boys in turn knew nothing of
duelling and refused to fight except with fists. I think a good many fat
Germans bit the dust and got up swearing vengeance. Finally, we heard,
the American boys wired to their fellow countrymen who were students in
Frankfort, "Come over tonight and clean up." Exactly what happened we
never heard, but as both sides grew to understand and respect each other
more, the trouble gradually subsided. The Russian element, usually
rather undesirable in Darmstadt, contributed largely to the
disturbances.

There were several duelling corps in town, and an American friend of
ours, a student at the technical college, told us of witnessing their
extremely bloody combats. Part of the glory is to have yourself sewed up
without an anesthetic, and go on fighting, and we heard sickening
details. It is supposed to make your nerve tremendously steady, and the
ones who go through the stated number of duels, fighting their way
slowly through a regular course of progression, always the winner, must
indeed be shock and disgust proof. The authorities frowned on the
practice but it existed in force nevertheless. One boy killed another
while we were there; he was imprisoned, but on his return was treated as
a conquering hero by the members of his corps. That surely belongs to
Hun training.



CHAPTER XXI

STAGE FASHIONS AND THE GLORY OF COLOUR


We played continuously nine months from September to June, and then
scattered for the holidays. I often went to Munich for the Wagnerian
_Festspiel_. We have many German relatives (though not a drop of German
blood), as three of my grandfather's sisters married German officers.
Through remote ancestors we also have dozens of cousins in the north of
Germany. The Munich relations I dearly loved. The son of the famous
court architect, von Klenze, who built nearly all the noble buildings in
Munich for the old King Ludwig of Bavaria, who abdicated his
throne--married my mother's aunt, and their descendants were always very
charming to me. The northern cousins who lived in East and North Prussia
we always heard were quite different, cold, critical, and not warm, and
artistic, and friendly, as I found our southern relations. In Darmstadt
they seem between the two peoples in character, and of course in the
theatre one meets all sorts.

Our _Souffleuse_, "Bobberle," was from Schwabia, and her sister was a
character. She proved her elegance by wearing the most brilliant colours
on her fat little body, and plastering the family jewelry all over
herself. She screamed remarks about the members of the company to her
friends between the acts, and the remarks were not as undiscerning as
you might think.

The top box on the right side of the house, was reserved for the humble
hangers-on of the _Personal_. My sister used often to sit up there as
she could just walk in without my having to ask for a seat, while my
mother sat in state in a specially reserved seat in the orchestra, for
which I had to ask each time. The oldest mothers and the _Souffleuse's_
sister used to be an unending joy to my sister, in their comments. The
order of their seats was theirs by divine right, they thought, and woe
betide some comparatively new-comer who would venture to take one-eyed
Frau S----'s or fat Frau W----'s chair. It was called the _Raben's
Nest_ (the raven's nest), and we felt its influence hanging over us on
the stage. I was quite familiar with the remarks that were made nightly:

"_Ach! unsere Kaethe spielt ja Heute!_" ("Oh! our little Katy plays
tonight"), the mother of Katy would announce rapturously, and settle
down with her chin on the rail, and her back bent like a jack-knife,
for three hours of proud but critical joy. She had probably toiled most
of the night with her little seamstress to turn out the marvels Kaethe
wore.

There are certain props that lend an unfailing air of gorgeousness to
the provincial German mind, whether viewed from in front of, or behind
the footlights. An aigrette does duty for years and has a sure-fire
elegance; pinned on a winter hat of black velvet, or a summer leghorn,
or worn with a bow in an evening coiffure, you know its wearer belongs
to the most exclusive social set. Our coiffeur had only one eye, but
used to bring that one as close as possible to the head of her victim
and make it do duty for two. She turned out wonderful puffs and curls.
In "Dollar Prinzessin" I introduced a new style of hair dressing from
Paris: the hair parted, and a multitude of close curls at the back of
the head, the whole surrounded by a rather broad band of ribbon of the
shade one desired. This took Darmstadt by storm, and was repeated for
two years in every conceivable version. The curls I am sorry to say,
turned into tight sausages, but how much more _praktisch_! Couldn't the
curls then be worn at least three times without being re-dressed?

A lorgnon is of course "Hoch elegant," also quite irresistibly snorty,
if you are playing an elderly Duchess type of person. If you read that
tunics are worn in Paris you put them on all your gowns, though they
may be hideously unbecoming to you. Even the time-honoured
hat-on-the-back-of-the-head outline had to be renounced one season, and
every one peered out at you from a hat or toque brim almost down on the
bridge of the nose in front, and cocked up in the back. Unbecoming--it
was admitted--, but "man" did it in Paris and should Darmstadt lag
behind?

The problem of clothes for the actress is a terrific one, and I think
almost every one in town knows and makes allowances for this. The men go
further astray in the quest of fashion, or perhaps it is that the
slightest lapse from rigid formality is so noticeable in their dress of
today. In Metz dickeys, or small false fronts, were worn as a matter of
course in the place of evening shirts. If you were long and the dickey
was short you stuck a jaunty, flaming silk handkerchief in your vest in
front, to hide dangerous glimpses of Jaegers. And then why stick
slavishly to the bow tie of white cotton? A black or scarlet string tie
was distinctly more novel, and attracted attention at once if worn with
an otherwise conventional evening coat.

In Darmstadt the men knew better, but some of them tried to ape the
officers in walk, monocle, or hair brushing, to the huge delight of the
officers. One clever actor always made his greatest climax by suddenly
throwing back his coat edge as he finished a "There, what do you say to
that?" speech, and so revealing the gorgeous black satin lining. This of
course was unanswerable, and never failed of its effect. You knew at
once you had a man of the world before you, a man familiar with the most
exclusive club life, valeted, perfumed and manicured irreproachably, and
you succumbed accordingly.

The Grand Duke would sit, lynx-eyed, up in his box, and take this all
in. I always felt he never missed anything, and it was inspiring to play
to him. When his box was empty I always missed this scrutiny.

Sometimes one gets messages that well-known people have been out in
front, and this knowledge, and the thought that some wandering
_Intendant_ in search of talent may be watching you, always spurs you on
if you are tired. Once a famous Dutch painter saw me as _Amneris_. He
was of course quite unknown to me, but sent me word later to say what
pleasure I had given him by recreating in his mind the Egyptian
silhouettes and colouring he loved. I had striven so hard to do this, it
was a great pleasure to know that I had succeeded in suggesting it.

A dear old gentleman in town, who had travelled much, sent me many
postcards from Spain, because my _Carmen_ brought back to him his happy
days there. He sent me a real Russian "Order" for my _Orlofsky_ in
"Fledermaus," which I always afterwards wore with that gentleman's
severe court dress. Laurel wreaths and wreaths of heavy silvered leaves
were sent to me, with gold lettered inscriptions, and I kept them for
ages in my music room.

During the last winter in Darmstadt I went up to Berlin to give a
try-out recital. It was managed by the great Wolf Bureau, and my friend
Mr. Fernow at once took an interest in me, which continued as long as I
was in Germany. I heard of Coenraad von Bos, and wanted to have him play
for me. We rehearsed the day before the concert, and I soon found I had
made another real friend in Bos. He said afterwards, when he was told I
wanted just one rehearsal for a Berlin recital, he thought to himself I
must be either very bad or very good. The truth was I could not get a
longer leave of absence from the opera and so more than one rehearsal
was impossible. I have always adored rehearsing, especially for a
concert, with such an artist as Bos to play for me, and one of the
greatest joys of my life was preparing a program with Erich Wolf for a
later Berlin recital. To go back to my concert--Bos worked very hard
that evening to make it a success, calling up all of his musical friends
to tell them of his new find. It _was_ a great success and I have never
read such notices as I received from all the papers. They told me no
foreigner had ever had such unanimous and extraordinary praise for a
first recital, and Papa Fernow kissed me in the green room.

I should have immediately followed up that concert with two or three
more, but I was obliged to return to my duties, and so lost the
opportunity of reaping the reward of an unusual beginning.

They wanted me to sign on in Darmstadt, but I felt that I had sung the
repertoire faithfully for three years, and that I wanted more worlds to
conquer, and a bigger town to criticize my work.

I went to Munich to sing for Baron S----, who liked me and offered me a
contract, depending on the outcome of two _Gastspiele_, or guest
performances, to be absolved the following October, my contract then to
go into effect.

My farewell in Darmstadt was "Carmen" and the people _were_ good to me.
After the last curtain I left the stage for a minute, and when I came
back to take my calls the stage was filled from side to side with
flowers; they were banked and grouped all round me. The curtain then
went up and down innumerable times, till I felt like weeping at leaving
all these kind friends. For some reason my cab did not come for me and
when I left the theatre the crowd waiting at the stage door followed me
home, calling out "Come back soon," "Auf Wiedersehen," and many kind
things. These are not perhaps great triumphs, but they make an artist's
life very happy, and the life I led for those three years, comes very
near being the ideal one for an opera singer.

I think it was two years before this, on returning to Paris, that I took
part in Strauss' "Salome." We gave six performances at the Châtelet. I
took the page's small part, just for the fun of it, and so as to study
the opera. The stage manager was a German of course, and spoke very
little French. The singers were all Germans, and the "figurants,"
supers, all French. Things did not go well at rehearsals. Burrian, as
the King would cry for wine or grapes, and no one moved to get what he
wished, as no one understood what he was saying, and so could not get
the musical cue. I was the only person able to speak the two languages
fluently, and finally the stage manager asked me to take charge of all
the business on my side of the stage. "_Suivez Madame!_" he would yell.
So I said "Remove throne." "Bring golden vessels." "Clear stage," etc.,
to the intelligent crowd of supers, many of whom were young actors, who
wanted as I did to study the opera. I remember one hideous little girl,
who had an unattractive sore lip. Some one told her that it did not
matter much, trying to comfort her, as she seemed so depressed about
it, but she was inconsolable, and replied darkly, "it was always seven
days lost." This brave effort to create the impression of an otherwise
lurid existence deceived no one however, though they were too polite to
show their doubt.

Destinn's voice rose thrillingly in the love phrases that _Salome_ pours
at _John_; and though she wore a costume that my young French friends
considered consisted chiefly of _chats enragés_,--mad cats,--as it had
two huge animal heads of gold, where such types of stage villainesses
are always heavily protected, the tense quality of her voice, and the
simple strength of her acting suited the character as Strauss had
painted it with his music, and she achieved results that no other singer
I know of could have done.

I had gone back as usual to de Reszke to have my voice put in order, and
was having, at the same time, my taste put in order by my sculptor
brother Cecil, in our walks and talks about Paris and its museums. My
brother's wonderfully clear vision of art and beauty is never clouded,
and I owe much to my association with him. We used to go to all the
Salons, and I remember vividly the first time we stumbled on a specimen
of the modern Spanish school, then quite new to us. We had looked at
dreary wastes of raspberry jam Venuses, resting on the crests of most
solid waves, dozens of canvases still in the Louis XVI era, and much
pastel-coloured mediocrity, when suddenly I called out "Look, Cec,
something new!" It was a big square of flaming colour--women and a child
in red checked cotton, picking scarlet tomatoes from high-trained vines,
in the brilliant sun. It glowed and fairly zizzed with colour, and had
that radiating, vibrating quality that things have in the hot sunshine.
We had had the "confetti" and "spot" types of work for some years, but
this canvas dwarfed anything modern I had seen in Paris. We have never
found another one by the same man, and have often wondered what became
of his work.

I think that was when I first fell in love with colour _per se_, though
I had flirted with it before. We had loved Monet and the opalescent,
shimmering lights in his water-garden series, but never had I been so
stirred and thrilled by mere paint on canvas as I was by this Spaniard's
work. It seems that a man only rarely can put colours together that will
have the living dazzling look that one sees in nature. Matisse was a
past master of it, and even though one might not agree with him
otherwise, his colour was a joy.

Later the Cubists and Futurists invaded Paris. When I am with Cecil and
he talks to me of their work, I see their aims quite clearly, and
understand what they are trying to express, for their "line of talk" is
much more lucid than their work: but when I am not with my brother I
must confess my understanding is dimmed, and I forget the arguments he
used.

We lived very simply in Paris, having our meals sometimes at the
_quartier_ restaurants, and sometimes getting _filets_ of fresh
mushrooms, peas, and delicious Paris potatoes, with big strawberries
shaped like little whisk-brooms, and _crême d' Isigny_ in its stubby
little earthen pots, and preparing them at home. I had a small apartment
in the same house as my mother, and my brother had his studio some
blocks from us.

We met Spaniards, Norwegians, French, anything but Americans, of whom we
knew but few--we learnt so much more through talking with people of
other nationalities than our own. Paris is such a marvellous place for
development. As my brother said, he never knew when some one whose
opinion he must respect might not drop into the studio, and give his
work a searching inspection. The atmosphere of having to keep constantly
at your very best because of the rigid intellectual criticism you
encounter at every turn, is most stimulating.

Rembrandt Bugatti was a great friend of my brother's, of whom I think he
was really fond, and this was a priceless association for a young
student. Bugatti was a genius, unrivalled by any other man of his age,
and very few of any other age, and his tragic death is a great loss to
the art world. His growing deafness and his acute sensitiveness must
have made life impossible for him. His recollection of the happy years
spent in Antwerp, when he and my brother were well-known figures
there--wearing long, swinging, dark blue, Italian cavalry capes, smoking
eternal pipes and working all day in the open air in the Zoo--compared
to what the Germans have made of Belgium, proved too great a spiritual
burden for him.



CHAPTER XXII

ROYAL HUMOUR


During that summer Baron S---- died in Munich. This of course was a
great blow to me and I did not know what I could do about my contract. I
went to Berlin to see Herr Harder, who told me I must _gastieren_
according to contract in October, but as the new _Intendant_ was not to
come into office till November, no one could really engage me,
especially as a very exacting new musical director was coming from
Vienna later in the season, and they would both undoubtedly want to
choose their own first contralto.

However, I went and sang under trying circumstances, with a very sore
throat and a sinking heart. The colleagues thought I would be engaged,
but I did not see who was to do it, and as it turned out I was
right--and there _was_ no one to do it. This depressed me extremely, but
I resolved to return to Berlin, and devote the year to following up my
previous recital. As a matter of fact, this apparent blow turned out to
be all for the best, as so often happens, for otherwise I should have
been caught in Germany at the beginning of the war, and my career upset,
which happened to several other girls.

The concert field is a rich one in Europe and I had made a good
beginning. I booked a tour in Holland, through the kindly offices of
Bos, where I was as well received as I had been in Berlin. The critics
wrote such eulogies that I almost blush to read them. People quite
unknown to me would go from town to town to hear me, and I would see
them at Rotterdam or Utrecht smiling up at me. I have never sung to such
adorable audiences. They seem to understand all languages, and a "Claire
de Lune" sung in French seems to please them as much as Schubert's
magnificent "Allmacht."

The "coffee pause" half way down the program, was quite a shock to me
the first night, but I soon grew to look for it, and enjoyed the smell
of the strong smoking coffee the waiters used to carry round on trays to
the audience. It was rather disturbing, however, to have to watch the
waiters finish up the contents of the pots, at the back of the hall,
while I began on the second half of the program. Evidently to them the
coffee, and the audience, were of first importance, and the mere singer
quite secondary; all of which is point of view.

My sister and I lived at The Hague, and Holland is so delightfully
small that we could nearly always return there, after the evening's
concert in another town. I went back in the spring for another series of
recitals and felt that I was returning to old friends. I was offered a
tour to Java, and would love to have undertaken it, but could not see my
way clear just then.

In December I was in Berlin for a week or two, and Harder sent me word
to come and sing for Mr. Percy Pitt of Covent Garden. The two contracts
I had held so far had been closed with a minimum of delay and trouble,
and now I was to make the biggest one of my career in the same simple
way. I was not in the best of voice when I sang for Mr. Pitt, but I sang
the Siegfried _Erda_, and was disgusted with myself for singing so
badly. He asked me if I were ready to sing the list of leading rôles
which he read to me, and on my answering in the affirmative engaged me
on the spot; proving, to me at least, that successful or unsuccessful
_Vorsingen_ and even _Gastspiele_ have very little to do with most
engagements. In the case of a singer of any reputation at all, the
Director has usually made up his mind pretty well beforehand what he is
going to do. If he wants you he takes you, even if you have sung badly
that particular time, and if he does not want you, nothing that I have
heard of can make him engage you.

This contract was for the following spring. We were to give the "Ring"
of Wagner, three times, and Arthur Nikisch was to conduct. Also
"Koenigskinder" was to be given for the first time at Covent Garden, and
I was one of the few who had sung the _Witch_ at that time. "The Flying
Dutchman" completed the list of operas I was to sing in.

After closing the contract we left for Bergen, Norway, where I had a
concert engagement. One great advantage of having my dear friends, the
Jones, back of me, was, that I could take a big journey like this; and
though it might eat up all of my profit I did not have to refuse it on
that account.

We were fascinated by Scandinavia, and though I went to sing with the
orchestra in one concert only, I remained in Bergen to give three
recitals by myself. The trip across the Finse railway, over the snowy
glaciers, I shall never forget. The line had only recently been opened,
and very few passengers shared the trip with us. We saw a herd of
reindeer, and I fed some of them with coarse salt at one of the
stations. Bergen itself was warm and muggy and smelt of fish. Everything
in the place smelt of fish, even the hotel towels. Two kindly women
managers took charge of my concerts, and I felt far away from America
till I saw a portrait of Miss Emma Thursby in their music shop.

The warm-hearted Norwegians were delightful to us, and we met many of
Grieg's relations, and heard tales of him. One of his cousins, I think,
came all the way to Berlin to study with me, but to my great regret I
had no time to give her.

I was interviewed on my first day by a nice little fellow, who could
hardly speak German, and no English nor French. Our conversation was
conducted under difficulties, but was most enjoyable none the less. The
next day I received a request for a photo from him, with a card saying:
"_Seit ich Ihnen sah bin ich sterblich verliebt._"--This bad German
means approximately, "Since I saw you I am mortally in love."

We loved our stay in Scandinavia. I remember when we first arrived in
Christiania we could not make out why the streets were thronged with
good looking men and women, from two o'clock till three in the
afternoon, and quite empty after that. We walked through the snowy,
glittering avenues, and met all these healthy red-cheeked pedestrians
talking and laughing and having a wonderful social time. We then
discovered their meal times are quite different from ours. You have an
early cup of coffee, then a light breakfast at eleven o'clock, then
dinner at three or four, preceded sometimes by this walk. Supper is
served at eight-thirty or nine, and is usually laid out on a long table
in the centre of the room. There are cold meats and salads; cold fish
and pickled fish; queer breads; and, of course, you go first for the
wonderful _hors d'oeuvres_ of countless varieties, for this is where
they grow.

A Swede once told me you could always tell a German travelling in
Sweden, because when the _Schwedische Platte_ or _hors d'oeuvres_ were
passed to him, he made a meal of the dainty mayonnaise and savoury
morsels, instead of eating them as an appetizer, as is intended. In the
beautiful station of Copenhagen, decorated in the old Norse style, with
scarlet-painted wooden carved beams, we were served with all we could
eat of these dainties with bread and butter, for about forty cents--and
I wished I were a German!

On the way home, we were storm-bound at Copenhagen, and I at once fell
in love with that city, and its wonderful blond race of big men and
women. We heard stories of divorces and passionate love affairs, that
made other nations pale by contrast. One delightful man told us he had
had no objection to his wife having _one_ lover, but when he found she
had seven, he thought it time to get a divorce! He still quite often saw
her, and said they were the best friends in the world. He liked to take
her out to dinner and the theatre and tell her all about everything. He
called us "The Misses Chickens Howard," and was only restrained by
business engagements from following us from place to place. That was a
hobby of his, he said, when he found a sympathetic artist.

We crossed back to Germany, and I sang with Nickisch for the first time,
in Hamburg. His room behind the stage swarmed with ladies, in the
_entr'acte_, and the concert master told me it was always so. A valet
looked him over carefully before he went on the stage, pulled down his
coat, and patted the Herr Professor's shoulders. I remembered the cuff
story in Metz and watched through the crack of the door to see if it
still held good--and it did!

Later I sang with Mengelberg in Frankfort. He said to me, eating apples
the while: "I engaged you because friends of mine in Holland told me you
could sing. Can you?" After the concert he came to me again, still
eating apples, and said: "_Es is wahr. Sie haben eine Prachtvolle
Stimme, und koennen prachtvoll singen_," and kissed my hand.

To hear Mengelberg direct "Tod und Verklaerung" of Strauss, with his own
orchestra is one of the most tremendous things I have ever experienced.
One is transported. A little man with a tight mouth and an aureole of
fair hair, he is feared by his men, but _how_ he is respected! That
winter he spent almost every night in the train, as he conducted
regularly in Holland, Germany and Russia.

I have always been able to get on with really great musicians, and have
found only the second best _difficile_ and small. The path seems
suddenly smooth when in rehearsal, you feel this wealth of absolute
knowledge and authority supporting, leading and inspiring you. Anxiety
vanishes and one's best pours from one without effort, only with the
sensation of wringing every last drop of beauty from the phrase.

We returned to Sweden to concerts with Stenhammer, and I should have
crossed to Helsingfors to sing _Dalila_, but had to return on account of
engagements in Germany.

Through our forbears, as I have said, we have many relations in Germany;
and in Berlin we enjoyed immensely knowing our cousins the von M---- s.
The General had just been moved back to Berlin to fill an extremely high
military position, and as he was musical we, of course, had much in
common. The daughters were all beautifully brought up; simple girls,
frank and natural as German aristocrats are. They gave a musical, at
which the General and I both sang. Their apartment was very large, but
was so crowded for the concert that I felt as though the Duchess of
Dalibor sat almost in my throat as I sang, and her enormous pearls
distracted me in the "Sapphische Ode." I have never seen such
unbelievably huge pearls. We were asked to stay to _Abendessen_ after
the concert, and it consisted chiefly of the sandwiches and refreshments
left over from the party. This showed us again the absolute simplicity
of the well-born German of irreproachable position.

The girls were very intimate with the Kaiser's only daughter, Princess
Victoria Louise, and when her marriage to the Duke of Brunswick's son,
was celebrated, Irma was one of the bride's-maids. Onkle Geo, as we
called him, told us about the Kaiser, to whom he was devoted. At the
dinner table, he said, His Majesty would usually talk only with the men
present, ignoring completely the ladies who might be present.

When the General made his re-entry into court for the first time after
receiving his high office, all the courtiers present watched to see just
how he would be received by His Majesty, which would then give the
keynote for his treatment by the whole court. After the general
reception, General von M---- was invited to go into a more private room
with several more gentlemen. This promised well, as it was in this room
that the Kaiser talked more intimately with the guests of his choosing.

The General held his helmet with its _Feder-busch_, or crest of white
feathers on his arm, and felt the eyes of all assembled on him as the
Kaiser came quickly into the room, and made his way to him. Now was the
critical moment that might have everlasting consequences. Onkle Geo
confessed to nervousness, but His Majesty guessed the situation, and
said, "Hum! _You_ need a new helmet, that _Feder-busch_ is shabby," in a
bantering tone. The courtiers knew this was meant for friendly, humorous
comment, and was intended to be laughed at, so they laughed accordingly
at Onkle Geo's confusion, and the ice was broken. "And my helmet was
quite new!" said Onkle Geo, half indignantly, half laughing.

The court was very simple, and we heard stories of this through other
friends who had the _entrée_. A Graefin D----, returning one evening
from a court ball given in honor of the then Regent of Bavaria, gave me
a bon-bon done up in silver paper, with a little photo of the Kaiserin
on it. The bon-bon was white, and the Graefin said as long as any one
could remember, these had been the official souvenirs of court dinners:
only the photo varied.

One charming girl we knew, a great favourite of the Empress, came back
from the Palace one Christmas day, and told us what she had received
from Her Majesty as a Christmas greeting--a small, old-fashioned tippet
and muff of woolly white Angora, and two small, cheap Japanese vases,
that some one had given the Empress the year before. The Royal
magnificence one would expect gave way to--extreme simplicity let us
call it.

The Kaiser took a keen interest in the opera, and gave wonderful
presents to his favourite singers. We saw a spectacle at the opera house
that he was supposed to have inspired, and which was carried out under
his direction. It was a sort of panorama of scenes in Corfu, where he
spent much time. It must have been horribly expensive, for I never saw
so much scenery at any performance, and it really was exquisite to see
those beautifully reproduced scenes unfold before one.

Such things, however, as painted castles and woods and flowers always
seem to me excessively naïve. The Russian idea of a wonderful
imaginative back-drop is infinitely more stimulating to a performance.
Of course, there are places where it cannot be used. If the scene is
laid in a Childs' restaurant a back-drop might perhaps be comic to a
mind not yet used to making its own pictures; but I hope and believe the
aim is towards simplicity in this direction; but the simplicity must be
carried out by artists, and first-rate ones. Who, who has seen the
leaping figures of the Russian Ballet in "Prince Igor," has felt a lack
on the scenic side because the tents with their feather of smoke were
suggested on a flat back-drop? Who longed for real, that is, one-side
real, tents--with steam escaping from a semi-hidden pipe through the
top? The luridness was suggested by colour far more skilfully than if
rocks, thinly swaying and lit by red lights, had cluttered up the wings.
Make the audience do the thinking, blend stimulation with simulation,
and if your artist has been a true one no one will cry for flapping
pillars, or crumpled leaves on a net.

"Boris Goudonow," as it used to be given at the Metropolitan, is a good
example of what real artist vision can do with colour. Those who saw
those figures in brilliant green, kneeling with their backs to the
audience, barring off the procession scene, while the towering minaret
of the cathedral carried the eye up and up at the back, will surely
never forget the light and shade grouping. It has since, I am sorry to
say, lost some of its skilful arrangement, which I suppose is
unavoidable, but the performance is still homogeneous and a unit, as to
_décors,_ score and costumes.

It was on the Kaiser's birthday that we saw "Corfu," and afterwards we
went to the newly-opened Hotel Esplanade for supper. I have never seen
such a sight. All imaginable uniforms were there, on all types of
officers and foreign diplomats. Some looked magnificently romantic, and
some as if they had stepped from the comic opera stage. The women, as
usual in Germany, though plentifully be-jewelled, looked dull and
inadequate beside the men.

One summer night in Berlin, we went to Max Reinhardt's small theatre,
the Kammerspiel, to see "Fruehlingserwachen." My dear friend, Oscar
Saenger, was in town, and I had happened to see him in a box at the
opera the evening before. He had come to see Berger, the giant baritone
whom he had transformed into a tenor, in his first performance of
_Siegmund_. I think Putnam Griswold, that splendid type of the best
American singer, sang the _Wanderer_ that night. Saenger asked us to go
to the theatre with him, as we had not met in years, and by chance we
chose "Fruehlingserwachen" of Wedekind. Never shall I forget that
evening. The quiet, dark wooden walls of the theatre, and the
comfortable box they showed us into, in which we sat, seeing but unseen
in the obscurity; the lack of applause when the curtain fell, and
then--the performance. German actors lead the world, in my opinion, and
the intensity of those players, the skill with which they played those
most unhappy children, the tremulous, inadequate mother, that dark scene
with its girl-women shriek, left us breathless and dazed.

The highest possible tribute I pay to German actors, and to some of
those gathered together that winter in that theatre. Such a _Falstaff_
I never saw as we saw there in "Henry V," nor such marvellous
presentations of Shakespeare. Moissy as _Prince Hal_ in his father's
deathbed scene; the _Doll Tearsheet_; the collection of hangers-on in
the Inn Scene, the understanding of the spirit of Shakespeare--all these
were priceless joys. Shakespeare does not spell bankruptcy in Germany,
and the people really love it, and perhaps there is a reason why.

The next night in the same house, you might see a translation of a
French drawingroom comedy. With the exception of one or two, these
people were quite as at home in that as in classic drama. That I had
never believed possible till I saw it proven. It had always seemed to me
that the French were absolutely unrivalled in such things as "Mlle.
Georgette, ma femme"; but they were even more sincerely, yet just as
lightly done by Reinhardt's people. It was always such a joy in Europe
to go to the theatre in London, Paris or Berlin. To see Lavallière with
her inimitable _gamine_ ways, was the most delicious of pleasures; and
the polish of the older actors of the French stage, the _Marquis_ or
_Marquise_, or old butler or housekeeper, as the case may be, is a
wonderful model for the student. French actors seem to be able to come
into a room, sit down at a table and talk for half an hour, using almost
no gestures, without becoming in the least boresome or monotonous. When
scenes of strong passion are wanted, the Germans, I think, excel their
French rivals. A Frenchman, or, for that matter, any Latin, is inclined
to rant just a bit, and become unconvincing, at least to an Anglo-Saxon
mind; but the German, when called upon for strength and power of
passion, rises thrillingly and gloriously, and completely sweeps you
away.

Even in Darmstadt we had many notable performances. That of the
"Versunkene Glocke," for instance, was most memorable. We had a splendid
old actor for the _Well Spirit, Nickelmann,_ and nothing could have been
wetter or more unearthly than his sloshing slowly up from the depth of
the well, his webbed, greenish fingers appearing clutchingly first, and
then his grating, fishy croak, "_R-r-r-rautendelein! R-r-r-r-rautendelein!_"
The faun was also excellently done by a young fellow with marvellous
faun-like agility; altogether these unpretentious people realized the
fairy-tale spirit, the wood feeling of the story, in a most imaginative,
subtle way. Where in America in a town of Darmstadt's size could you see
such a performance?



CHAPTER XXIII

COVENT GARDEN AND--AMERICA


In due time we set out for London. One of our cousins had found us
delightful diggings in M---- Street, which I was able to enjoy, as dear
Mr. and Mrs. Jones sent me an extra cheque to impress London with. We
were waited upon by an old butler, and his wife did the cooking. Such
legs of lamb, and deep plum tarts, with lashings of clotted cream! Such
snowy napery, and silver polished as only English butlers can polish it.

It was not by any means my first visit to London, professionally. I had
sung in private drawingrooms in previous seasons, and had also given a
recital. Her Royal Highness Princess Christian of Schleswig-Holstein,
and her daughter, Princess Victoria, graciously consented to be my
patronesses at this concert. I had not the slightest idea how to arrange
for them, after they had kindly consented to be present, but I gathered
that a special pair of comfortable chairs must be put directly below the
stage, with a little table. Then I thought "Flowers or no flowers?" I
should have loved to send them, but English Royalties are so simple and
natural I instinctively felt that any ostentation would be distasteful.
Somehow one hates to do the wrong thing in the presence of Personages;
it is an un-American feeling, but a human one.

They applauded me a great deal, and after a bow of acknowledgment to the
nice audience I gave the Princesses each time an English,
straight-up-and-down curtsey, and I hope that was right. In Germany a
back-swaying, one-toe-pointed-in-front curtsey was demanded. These
things are at once trivial and vastly important.

The decent getting Their Royal Highnesses in and out of the hall I left
to the capable manager, to whom Princess Christian said as she passed,
"She ought to be singing in Covent Garden." I very soon was.

I was rather nervous at the beginning at Covent Garden. Most of the
others were so famous, and all of them so much older than I. However, I
soon got recognition and they were all very nice to me. I enjoyed
especially talking to Van Rooy. He told me all about the wonderful
armour he wore in the "Ring." Never have I seen his equal as the
_Wanderer_. As he himself said, the old line of singers, the giants, the
de Reszkes, Terninas, Lehmanns and Brandts, seemed to have died out. I
often look for the grand line, the dignity, the flowing, noble breadth
of gesture one saw in the older Wagnerian singers, but how often does
one see it now? Of course, my memories of them are those of a very young
girl, but I saw the same thing in Van Rooy, though his voice showed
wear, and the bigness of their impersonations is stamped indelibly on my
memory, dwarfing the lesser ones.

Nikisch came for the last few rehearsals. He took that raw,
English-sounding orchestra, with its unrelated sounds of blaring brass,
and rough strings, and unified and dignified it by his personality, his
work and his brain power till it produced what he would have--Wagner in
his glory. His gestures were like a sculptor's. My brother, who came to
stay with us, also noticed this. Nikisch seemed to sculpt the phrases
out of the air, and brought home again to us both the close relation
between the lines of music and the lines of noble sculpture. The
Parthenon freeze--is it not music? My brother says the Air of Bach is
absolutely one with the outlines of this masterpiece, just as pure,
noble and majestically simple, moving in slow, stately rhythm.

We gave the "Ring" three times and I sang the _Erdas_ and _Fricka_ and
_Waltrautes_. The latter in "Goetterdaemmerung" I enjoyed doing so much
with Nikisch. We only rehearsed it at the piano, and he said as he sat
down: "_Jetzt bin ich neugierig. Entweder kann die Waltraute
wunderschoen sein, oder sehr langweilig._" ("Now I am curious.
_Waltraute_ can either be very beautiful or very uninteresting.") He did
not find it _langweilig_ however.

I had one of my fits of depression I so often get after singing, (when I
feel I must leave the stage, I am so hopelessly bad, and nothing any one
can do or say cheers me inwardly), and it was particularly abysmal, the
day after _Waltraute_. One never sings just as one would like to, and in
my head I hear the phrase so much more beautifully done than any one but
Caruso can do it. That day I sat at lunch with my faithful Marjorie, who
always puts up with me. We were lunching in a little place near us, and
I was deep in the blues. Marjorie's eye fell on the _Daily Telegraph_
and we saw a wonderful criticism by Robin Legge; just a few words, but
so sincere and appreciative. It helped such a lot. Criticism can mean so
much to one for good or evil. The thought of a cruelly amusing phrase
the critic has coined, unable to resist the very human temptation, will
come winging to you the next time you step out on the stage to sing the
same rôle, and you feel that sardonic wave striking you afresh and
jangling your already quivering nerves. It takes courage after that to
go on. On the contrary, a few words of appreciation of what you have
tried so hard, through such long years to do, will tide you over many
black hours of discouragement, and you think: "I can't be so absolutely
rotten, didn't X---- write that about me? and he's supposed to know
something about it." An intelligent constructive criticism is the most
helpful thing possible, and stimulates one to work to correct one's
faults. Personal remarks wound one's feelings deeply, and one is obliged
to swallow hard and go bravely on, but the policeman's life is not a
happy one.

[Illustration: CARUSO'S CARICATURE OF KATHLEEN HOWARD]

The Royal Opera is in the middle of the vegetable market, and on the
days when produce arrives, the streets are full of cockney porters. It
was rather amusing one day, going to rehearsal. I was dressed in my new
black satin suit from Paris, and a smart little white hat. A porter
caught sight of me, pushed back the other men on both sides of me, and
said, "Get out of the loidy's wy, cahn't yer, Bill? That's roight, Miss,
I always loikes to see the lydies wen Ahm workin', that's right, Miss,
very neat, too." The next day it was raining and I was not so smart, and
the same man saw me and said with an air of disappointment, "Ah don't
like it 'aaf so well as yisterdy, Miss."

I have often heard of American singers who could "bluff" or "hypnotize"
directors into giving them chances which they thought they were entitled
to, and from which they always emerged with flying colours. This is the
tale of how I once, and only once, tried to "bluff," and how I nearly
got caught at it.

When the list of rôles for Convent Garden was submitted to me in Berlin
I had actually sung on the stage all of them but one, _Brangaene_. I
always found this lady so weak, compared to _Isolde_, that she had never
interested me especially, and I had never studied her. I decided,
however, that having sung ninety-nine per cent. of the rôles they wanted
I could risk the one per cent., _Brangaene_, hoping that Kirkby-Lunn
would not relinquish her. I learned the rôle, though, in record time
between concert dates, and trusted to "luck." The season was drawing to
a close, and all the operas had passed off well, when, just as we were
going to dinner one evening, I was called to the 'phone and told Madame
Kirkby-Lunn had been taken suddenly ill at the beginning of the first
act of "Tristan," would probably not be able to go on in the second, and
would I please come right down and make up.

In a nervous tremor, for _Brangaene_ is not easy without orchestra
rehearsal, and I was not quite sure of all the business cues, I went
down, hunted out something to wear, put on my trusty "beauty" wig,
hurriedly went over the second act with an assistant conductor, finding
my memory was standing the strain, and then stood trembling in the
wings. I thought to myself "Nemesis!" and shivered. What I hoped
was--that if Madame really was going to have to give up it might be just
before the lovely "Warnung" behind the scenes, because I had always
wanted to sing that.

There I stood and the rouge soaked into my face as it always
mysteriously does, when one is not at one's best, leaving me pale and
anxious--a real _Brangaene_. Poor Madame Kirkby-Lunn sang just as
beautifully as ever though, but fainted after the second act. I went
into her dressing room and offered to do the last bit and let her go
home after her plucky fight. She, however, said she realized it was a
thankless task for a singer to finish another singer's performance, and
that she would not think of asking me to do it. She rested awhile, I
still hovering, as requested by the management, till all was over; and I
then went home, more exhausted than if I had sung a performance, but
resolved to sin no more, and thanking my gods that I had not had to face
that critical assemblage without adequate preparation.

The Italian season was to come directly after ours, and they all came
drifting in during our last days, to report for rehearsal. One day as I
was up in my dressing room, preparing for a matinée, I heard a golden
droning below me, rising and falling on half breath--Caruso at a room
rehearsal. Words cannot describe the beauty of it, but it gave me
exquisite pleasure. A day or two later I was at the Opera House on some
errand and chanced to hear the rehearsal of "Pagliacci." Caruso was
strolling about the stage, beautifully dressed as usual, with a pale
grey Derby hat, gloves of wash-leather and light-coloured cane. The time
came for his famous solo. He stood near the footlights with his eyes on
the conductor, as we usually do when running over a familiar rôle with
an unfamiliar conductor. He began softly with his wonderful effortless
stream of tone, so characteristic, and so impossible of imitation. As
the music worked on his emotions, always just below the surface with
this great artist, his voice thrilled stronger and stronger in spite of
him, till suddenly in full flood it poured out its luscious stream--and
one thanked God anew for such a voice.

Covent Garden on the night of a Court ball holds the most brilliant
audience I have ever seen. The English woman is at her best in evening
dress, the jewels are fabulous and the whole affair most dazzling. I
remember one evening seeing King Manoel of Portugal in a box. It was
shortly after his hasty flight from his own country, and by an odd
chance his box was just under a very large "Exit" sign, the pertinence
of which was striking.

Destinn was our _Senta_ in "Holländer." She was just back from America,
and at rehearsal she had to cut out several portamenti which, she said,
she had contracted from the Italians, but which infuriated the German
conductor. At the stage rehearsals she directed everything in accordance
with Bayreuth tradition, which attaches the utmost importance to every
slightest stage position; and the other singers followed her directions
with an almost reverent devotion. At the performance she was wonderful,
as usual. She wore a real Norwegian bridal headdress, a sort of basket
of flowers. A Cockney super, on his way out, remarked in passing me, "I
s'y, wot price Destinn's hat?"

It was strange, coming from Germany, where every word almost is
understood by the audience, to sing to people whose facial expression
did not respond to the text; one feels that the inner meaning of the
words is lost, is going for nothing, and this leads to a vague sense of
irritation, if one allows the impression to dominate.

There were several young Americans with us with glorious voices,
straight from Jean de Reszke's studio. They were to sing the
_Rheintöchter_, and some of the _Walküren_ in the "Ring." One or two
were full of ambition and thankful for the experience they were
receiving, while being paid. Some of them, however, showed a quite
extraordinary attitude, not rare among students of the moneyed class.
The air was filled with their complaints at the length of rehearsals, at
the discomfort of the swings for the _Rhinemaidens_, at anything and
everything. I was present one day when one of them called Mr. Percy Pitt
aside and gravely took him to task for not having the swings adjusted to
her comfort--thereby incidentally killing her chances with the
management, for a beginner is before anything a beginner in a great
Opera House, and is supposed to find her level and make no fuss about
it. These girls constantly spoke loftily of their displeasure at the way
things were run. When they were offered an extension of their contracts,
owing to the repetitions of the "Ring," they could hardly be brought to
consider signing on. I said to them, knowing the game, "Girls, some day
you will be on your knees to get such engagements as you now hold. You
have the chance of singing difficult parts with a great Master in a
great Opera House, and you don't seem in the least to realize what that
means."

I regret to say my prophecy was nearly correct, for I think only one, a
really serious girl, has prospered in her career. The attitude one
assumes to one's operatic work in early years is surely reflected later,
and the best advice a student can follow is that given me by
Schumann-Heink, "Sing everything, no matter what they ask you to do."

It was very amusing to hear the discussions as to what the audience
should wear. We gave the performances more or less on the Bayreuth plan,
beginning early and with one unusually long pause. As it was broad
daylight at the hour set for the curtain to go up, and as the perfect
Londoner loathes to be about after dark in anything but evening dress,
the problem bothered many. Besides, evening dress is _de rigueur_ at
Covent Garden. Some rushed home in the longest pause to dress and dine;
some frankly omitted the first acts and came late, splendidly
be-jewelled; some wore evening dresses and kept on their evening coats
till the sun was decently down; and then bared their suitably naked
shoulders. Others were just dubby and high-necked, and brought
sandwiches in their pockets, feeling the holier and more Germanly
reverent in consequence.

       *       *       *       *       *

It is a great help to be able to afford to have some one with you in
opera life. Home surroundings are the most conducive to good work, and
it is hard to make a home alone; but you do not absolutely _need_ any
one, if this is not possible. My "morals" were never in danger--no
"infamous proposals" were made to me by agent, conductor or director. In
my first engagement, one or two of the giddier members of the company
had affairs with young officers--in no case a flagrant scandal, as with
a married man. Their relations to each other in the theatre were all
that could be demanded. The most exaggeratedly correct behaviour was
exacted from me. One day in Metz, for example, we went for a walk in the
country with the lyric baritone, a nice little chap, who was a great
friend of ours. It was a lovely, frosty day in autumn, and we were
walking fast through a forest road, when we passed a carriage with the
very prim wife of an officer sitting in it. The next day, an
acquaintance of ours told us, as a joke, that the same woman had said
that afternoon to her, "I thought you told me that Fräulein Howard was a
lady?" "So she is," said our friend. "Oh, no," said the other, "she
can't be. I saw her and her sister walking with one of the singers from
the theatre, and they were behaving very badly." "What were they doing?"
asked our friend. "They were all three holding on to his stick!" said
she, in a horrified tone!

I went abroad to learn my business and I learned it. There is much talk
about it not being necessary to go abroad to prepare oneself for an
operatic career, but the time has not yet come in America when the
student can find the same opportunity to practice, or work out _on the
stage_ her beginner's faults. In Europe you can do this in blissful
semi-obscurity. I hope and believe the time will come when a girl will
not have to go through all I went through in order to develop her
talent, but may do it in her own country. But the wonderfulness of
Europe for those whose eyes are open cannot yet be replaced by America,
and a real artist will surely flower more perfectly on that side of the
water.

To those who go I can only say that I hope they may have the tremendous
advantage of fairy god-parents, as I had, and perhaps a sister Marjorie.

After the season closed at Covent Garden I met the manager of the new
Century Opera, soon to be opened in New York. He offered me a long
contract, and I finally decided to return to America. I saw a photograph
of Edward Kellogg Baird in a musical paper at this time, and read of his
connection with the enterprise. I said to myself, "That is the type of
man I shall marry--if I ever do marry."

I came to the Century, met my husband, E. K. B., and worked with him for
the success of the opera, which lay very near our hearts; but the war
and other unfortunate circumstances proved too much to overcome, and we
were forced to suspend. I finally attained the Metropolitan Opera, which
I find the most absorbingly interesting house with which I have ever
been connected, and which is the greatest school of all.



REPERTOIRE


 1. Carmen                 In French, German, English.

 2. Amneris                (Aida) French, German, English, Italian.

 3. Azucena                (Trovatore) Italian, German, English.

 4. Fides                  (Prophète) French, German.

 5. Dalila                 (Samson et Dalila) French, German, English.

 6. Martha                 (In Faust) French, German, English.

 7. Siebel                 (In Faust) French, German, English.

 8. Maddalena              (In Rigoletto) Italian, German, English.

 9. Nancy                  (In Marta) Italian, German, English.

10. Ortrud                 (Lohengrin) German, English.

11. Lucia                  (Cav. Rus.) Italian, German, English.

12. Lola                   (Cav. Rus.) Italian, German, English.

13. Mary                   (Flieg. Hollaender) German.

14. Erda                   (Siegfried).

15. Erda                   (Rheingold).

16. Schwertleite           (Walkuere).

17. Grimgerde              (Walkuere).

18. Waltraute              (Walkuere).

19. Waltraute              (Goetterdaemmerung).

20. Erste Norn             (Goetterdaemmerung).

21. Fricka                 (Walkuere).

22. Flosshilde             (Goetterdaemmerung).

23. Flosshilde             (Rheingold).

24. Hexe                   (Haensel und Gretel) German, English.

25. Nicklaus               (Hoffman) German, English.

26. Valencienne            (Merry Widow).

27. Frederika              (Waltzertraum).

28. Dritte Dame            (Zauberfloete).

29. Oeffentliche Meinung   (Orpheus in der Unterwelt).

30. Orfeo                  (Gluck).

31. Molly                  (Geisha).

32. Georgette              (Gloeckchen).

33. Pamela                 (Fra Diavolo).

34. Graefin                (Trompeter).

35. Orlofsky               (Fledermaus).

36. Frau Reich             (Lustige Weibe).

37. Page                   (Salome).

38. Olga                   (Dollar Prinzessin).

39. Magdalena              (Meistersingers).

40. Graefin                (Heilige Elisabeth) German, English.

41. Martha                 (Undine).

42. Hedwig                 (Wilhelm Tell) German, English.

43. Gertrude               (Hans Heiling).

44. Marzellina             (Figaro) Italian, German.

45. Graefin                (Wildschuetz).

46. Ascanio                (Benvenuto Cellini).

47. Jacqueline             (Arzt wieder willen) German, English.

48. Gertrude               (Romeo and Juliet) German.

49. Stephano               (Romeo and Juliet) German, English.

50. Hexe                   (Sieben Schwaben).

51. Ulrica                 (Masken Ball) Italian, German.

52. Hexe                   (Koenigskinder).

53. Cleo                   (Kuhreigen).

54. Suzuki                 (Butterfly) English, Italian, German.

55. Magdalena              (Evangelimann).

56. Carmela                (Jewels of the Madonna) English, Italian, German.

57. Mother                 (Louise).

58. Cieca                  (Giaconda) German, English, Italian.

59. Nutrice                (Boris).

60. Blumenmaedchen         (Parsifal).

61. Annina                 (Rosenkavalier).

62. Albine                 (Thais).

63. Mistress Benson        (Lakme).

64. Margarethe             (Weisse Dame).

65. Cypra                  (Zigeuner Baron).

66. Fattoumah              (Marouf).

67. Amelfa                 (Le Coq d'Or).

68. Mrs. Everton           (Shanewis).

Etc., etc.


STUDIED NOT SUNG

  Brangaene                  (Tristan).

  Mutter Gertrud             (Haensel und Gretel)

  Etc., etc.


THE END





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