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Title: My Recollections
Author: Massenet, Jules, 1842-1912
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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MY RECOLLECTIONS

[Illustration: The Master, Jules Massenet]



MY RECOLLECTIONS

BY

JULES MASSENET
(1842-1912)

THE AUTHORIZED TRANSLATION DONE AT THE

MASTER'S EXPRESS DESIRE

BY HIS FRIEND

H. VILLIERS BARNETT

Authorized Translator of

H. S. H. the Prince of Monaco's Autobiography:
_La Carrière d'un Navigateur_

[Illustration]

BOSTON

SMALL, MAYNARD & COMPANY
PUBLISHERS

Copyright, 1919,

By SMALL, MAYNARD & COMPANY
(INCORPORATED)

TO

LUCY ARBELL

CONSUMMATE DRAMATIC ARTIST

AND

GREATEST CONTRALTO SINGER

OF OUR TIME

IN AFFECTIONATE ADMIRATION

I DEDICATE

THIS ENGLISH VERSION

OF HER

BELOVED MASTER'S BOOK

"_Chère amie, gardez aussi sa réligion, et qu'elle vous conduise, ferme
et courageuse, au milieu des cahots de la vie, jusq'au paradis des
arts._"



FOREWORD


I have been often asked whether I put together the recollections of my
life from notes jotted down from day to day. To tell the truth I did,
and this is how I began the habit of doing so regularly.

My mother--a model wife and mother, who taught me the difference between
right and wrong--said to me on my tenth birthday:

"Here is a diary." (It was one of those long-shaped diaries which one
found in those days at the _little_ Bon Marché, not the immense
enterprise we know now.) "And," she added, "every night before you go to
bed, you must write down on the pages of this memento what you have
seen, said, or done during the day. If you have said or done anything
which you realize is wrong, you must confess it in writing in these
pages. Perhaps it will make you hesitate to do wrong during the day."

How characteristic of an unusual woman, a woman of upright mind and
honest heart this idea was! By placing the matter of conscience among
the first of her son's duties, she made Conscience the very basis of her
methods of teaching.

Once when I was alone, in search of some distraction I amused myself by
foraging in the cupboards where I found some squares of chocolate. I
broke off a square and munched it. I have said somewhere that I am
greedy. I don't deny it. Here's another proof.

When evening came and I had to write the account of my day, I admit that
I hesitated a moment about mentioning that delicious square of
chocolate. But my conscience put to the test in this way conquered, and
I bravely recorded my dereliction in the diary.

The thought that my mother would read about my misdeed made me rather
shamefaced. She came in at that very moment and saw my confusion; but
directly she knew the cause she clasped me in her arms and said:

"You have acted like an honest man and I forgive you. All the same that
is no reason why you should ever again eat chocolate on the sly!"

Later on, when I munched other and better chocolate, I always obtained
permission.

Thus it came about that from day to day I have always made notes of my
recollections be they good or bad, gay or sad, happy or not, and kept
them so that I might have them constantly in mind.



CONTENTS

CHAPTER                                                             PAGE


       FOREWORD                                                      vii

I      MY ADMISSION TO THE CONSERVATOIRE                               1

II     YOUTHFUL YEARS                                                 11

III    THE GRAND PRIX DE ROME                                         20

IV     THE VILLA MEDICI                                               29

V      THE VILLA MEDICI (CONTINUED)                                   37

VI     THE VILLA MEDICI (CONTINUED)                                   43

VII    MY RETURN TO PARIS                                             53

VIII   MY DEBUT AT THE THEATER                                        63

IX     THE DAYS AFTER THE WAR                                         74

X      JOY AND SORROW                                                 82

XI     MY DEBUT AT THE OPÉRA                                          93

XII    THE THEATERS IN ITALY                                         103

XIII   THE CONSERVATOIRE AND THE INSTITUTE                           114

XIV    A FIRST PERFORMANCE AT BRUSSELS                               123

XV     THE ABBÉ PREVOST AT THE OPÉRA-COMIQUE                         136

XVI    FIVE COLLABORATORS                                            148

XVII   A JOURNEY TO GERMANY                                          161

XVIII  A STAR                                                        173

XIX    A NEW LIFE                                                    186

XX     MILAN--LONDON--BAYREUTH                                       199

XXI    A VISIT TO VERDI--FAREWELL TO AMBROISE THOMAS                 208

XXII   WORK! ALWAYS WORK!                                            217

XXIII  IN THE MIDST OF THE MIDDLE AGES                               231

XXIV   FROM _Chérubin_ TO _Thérèse_                                  242

XXV    SPEAKING OF 1793                                              254

XXVI   FROM _Ariane_ TO _Don Quichotte_                              267

XXVII  A SOIRÉE                                                      278

XXVIII DEAR EMOTIONS                                                 288

XXIX   THOUGHTS AFTER DEATH                                          302



ILLUSTRATIONS


The Master, Jules Massenet                                 _Frontispiece_

                                                                    sPAGE

Massenet at Égreville                                                 44

One of the last portraits of Massenet                                 68

Mme. Pauline Viardot                                                  84

Titta Ruffo, Caruso and Chaliapine                                   110

The Forum from the First Act of _Roma_ (_See page 300_)              154

Posthumia (_Roma_) (_See page 297_)                                  170

Lucy Arbell                                                          212

Persephone in _Ariane_                                               244

Queen Amahelly (_Bacchus_)                                           268

Dulcinée (_Don Quichotte_)                                           282

Facsimile of Massenet's Reply to an Invitation to Visit America      296



MY RECOLLECTIONS



CHAPTER I

MY ADMISSION TO THE CONSERVATOIRE


Were I to live a thousand years--which is hardly likely--I should never
forget that fateful day, February 24, 1848, when I was just six years
old. Not so much because it coincided with the fall of the Monarchy of
July, as that it marked the first steps of my musical career--a career
which, even yet, I am not sure was my real destiny, so great is my love
for the exact sciences!

At that time I lived with my parents in the Rue de Beaune in an
apartment overlooking the great gardens. The day promised to be fine,
but it was very cold.

We were at luncheon when the waitress rushed into the room like a
maniac. "_Aux armes, citoyens!_" she yelled, throwing rather than
placing the plates on the table.

I was too young to understand what was going on in the streets. All I
can remember is that riots broke out and that the Revolution smashed
the throne of the most debonair of kings. The feelings which stirred my
father were entirely different from those which disturbed my mother's
already distracted soul. My father had been an officer under Napoleon
Bonaparte and a friend of Marshal Soult, Duke of Dalmatia. He was all
for the Emperor, and the atmosphere of battles suited his temperament.
My mother, on the other hand, had experienced the sorrows of the first
great revolution, which dragged Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette from
their throne, and thrilled with worship for the Bourbons.

The memory of that exciting meal remained the more deeply fixed in my
mind because on the morning of that historic day, by the light of tallow
candles (wax candles were only for the rich) my mother for the first
time placed my fingers on the piano.

In order best to introduce me to the knowledge of this instrument, my
mother--she was my music teacher--stretched along the keyboard a strip
of paper upon which she wrote the notes corresponding to each of the
black and white keys, with their position on the five lines. It was most
ingenious; no mistake was possible.

My progress on the piano was so pronounced that three years later, in
October, 1851, my parents thought I ought to apply at the Conservatoire
for the entrance examination to the piano classes.

One morning that month we went to the Rue de Faubourg-Poissonnière. The
Conservatoire National de Musique was there then, and it remained there
until it was moved to the Rue de Madrid. The large room we entered--like
all the rest in the place at that time--had walls painted a bluish gray,
spotted with black. A few old benches were the only furniture in this
anteroom.

M. Ferrière, a harsh, severe looking man--he was one of the upper
employees--came out to call the candidates by flinging their names into
the crowd of relatives and friends that accompanied them. It was like
summoning the condemned to execution. Then he gave each candidate the
number of his turn before the jury which had already assembled in the
rooms where the sessions were held.

This room was intended for examinations and was a sort of small theater
with a row of boxes and a circular gallery in the Consulate style. I
confess that I have never entered that room without feeling emotion. I
have always fancied that I saw, seated opposite in a first-tier box, as
in a black hole, Bonaparte, the First Consul, and Josephine, the sweet
companion of his early years. He with his forceful, handsome face; she
with her kind and gentle glances, for both used to come to such
occasions. By her visits to this sanctuary dedicated to Art and by
bringing him, so preoccupied with many cares, good and noble Josephine
seemed to wish to soften his thoughts and to make them less stern by
contact with the youth who some day perforce would not escape the
horrors of war.

From the time of Sarette, the first director, until recently, all the
examinations for classes in the institution, both tragedy and comedy,
were held in this same small hall, but it should not be confused with
the hall so well known as the Salle de la Société des Concerts du
Conservatoire.

The organ class was also held there several times a week for at the
back, hidden behind a large curtain, was a great organ with two
keyboards. Beside that old, worn, squeaky instrument was the fateful
door through which the pupils came on to the platform that formed the
small stage. Again, this same small hall, for many a year, was the
judgment seat for the award of prizes for musical composition known as
the _Prix de Rome_.

But to return to the morning of October 9, 1851. When all the youngsters
had been informed of the order in which we must take our examinations,
we went into an adjoining room which led into the hall through the
"fateful" door, and which was only a sort of dusty, disordered garret.

The jury whose verdict we had to face was composed of Halèvy, Carafa,
Ambroise Thomas, several professors of the school, and the director, who
was also the president of the Conservatoire, Monsieur Auber. We rarely
said just Auber when we spoke of this French master, the most eminent
and prolific of all who made the opera and opéra-comique of that time
famous.

At this time Monsieur Auber was sixty-five. He was universally respected
and everyone at the Conservatoire adored him. I shall always remember
his pleasing, unusually bright black eyes, which remained the same until
his death in May, 1871.

May, 1871! We were then in open insurrection, almost in the last throes
of the Commune ... and Monsieur Auber, still faithful to his beloved
boulevard near the Passage de l'Opéra--his favorite walk--met a friend
also in despair over the terrible days we were passing through, and said
to him, in an accent of utter weariness,

"Ah! I have lived too long!" Then he added, with a slight smile, "One
should never abuse anything."

In 1851--the date when I became acquainted with Monsieur Auber--he had
already lived a long time in his old mansion in the Rue St. George,
where I remember having been received soon after seven in the morning,
the master's work was finished by that time, the hour at which he gave
himself to the calls he welcomed so simply.

Then he went to the Conservatoire in a tilbury which he ordinarily drove
himself. At sight of him one was instantly reminded of the opera _La
Muette de Portici_, which had exceptional good luck, and which was the
most lasting success before _Robert le Diable_ made its appearance at
the Opéra. To speak of _La Muette de Portici_ is to be vividly reminded
of the magical effect which the duet in the second act, _Amour sacre de
la patrie_, produced on the patriots in the audience when it was
produced at the Théâtre de la Monnaie at Brussels. In very truth it gave
the signal for the revolution which broke out in Belgium in 1830 and
which brought about the independence of our neighbors on the north. The
whole audience was wild with excitement, and sang the heroic strain with
the artists, repeating it again and again without stopping. What master
can boast of a success like that in his own career?

       *       *       *       *       *

When my name was called, all of a tremble, I made my appearance on the
stage. I was only nine years old and I had to play the finale of
Beethoven's Sonata, Opus 29. What ambition!

They stopped me in the usual way after I had played two or three pages.
I was utterly embarrassed as I heard Monsieur Auber's voice calling me
before the jury. To get down from the stage, I had to descend two or
three steps. I paid no attention to them and would have gone head first
if Monsieur Auber had not kindly called out, "Take care, my little man."
Then he immediately asked me where I had studied so well. After replying
with some pride that my mother had been my only teacher, I went out,
absolutely bewildered, almost at a run, but entirely happy. _He_ had
spoken to me!

Next morning my mother received the official notice. I was a pupil at
the Conservatoire.

At this time there were two teachers of the piano at the great
school--Mamontel and Laurent. There were no preparatory classes. I was
assigned to Laurent's class, and I remained there two years while I
continued my classical studies at college. At the same time I took
_sol-fa_ lessons from M. Savard who was excellent.

Professor Laurent had been _Premier Prix de piano_ under Louis XVIII.
Then he was a cavalry officer, but left the army to become a professor
in the Royal Conservatoire of Music. He was goodness itself, realizing
the ideal of that quality in the fullest sense of the word. He placed
entire confidence in me.

M. Savard was an extraordinarily erudite man. He was the father of one
of my pupils, a Grand Prix de Rome, now the director of the
Conservatoire at Lyons. (What a number of my old pupils are or have been
directors of conservatoires!) His heart was as large as his learning was
extensive. It is pleasant to recall that when I wanted to work at
counterpoint, before I entered the class in fugue and composition--Ambroise
Thomas was the professor--M. Savard was quite willing to give me
lessons. I went to his house to take them, and every evening I went down
from Montmartre where I lived to Number 13, Rue de la Vielle-Estrpade,
behind the Pantheon.

What wonderful lessons I had from that simple, learned man! How
courageous I was as I walked the long way I had to go to his house from
which I returned each evening about ten o'clock full of the wise and
learned advice he had given me!

As I said, I made the trip on foot. I did not even ride on the top of an
omnibus in order to set aside sou by sou the price I would have to pay
for my lessons. I had to follow this system; the shade of Descartes
would have congratulated me.

But note the delicacy of that charitable-hearted man. When the day came
for him to take what I owed him, M. Savard told me that he had some work
for me--the transcription for a full orchestra of the military band
accompaniment to Adolphe Adam's mass, and he added that the work would
net me three hundred francs!!...

His purpose was obvious, but I did not see it. It was not till long
afterwards that I understood that M. Savard had thought of this way of
not asking me for money--by making me think that the three hundred
francs represented the fee for his lessons; that, to use a fashionable
phrase, they "compensated" him.

After all the years which have gone since he was no more, my heart still
says to that master, to that charming, admirable soul, "Thank you!"



CHAPTER II

YOUTHFUL YEARS


When I took my seat on the benches of the Conservatoire, I was rather
delicate and not very tall. This was the excuse for the drawing which
the celebrated caricaturist Cham made of me. He was a great friend of
the family and often came to spend the evening with my parents. They had
many talks which the brilliant craftsman enlivened with his sprightly
and witty enthusiasms, seated around the family table lighted by the dim
light of an oil lamp. (Kerosene was scarcely known and electricity had
not come into use for lighting.)

We used to drink a sweet syrup on such occasions, for this was before a
cup of tea was the fashionable drink.

I was often asked to play, so that Cham had every opportunity to draw my
profile. He represented me as seated on five or six folios of music with
my hands in the air, scarcely reaching the keyboard. This was obviously
an exaggeration, but there was enough truth in it to show that it was
founded on fact.

I often went with Cham to see a lovely and lovable friend of his in the
Rue Tarranne. Naturally I was asked to "play the piano." I remember that
on one evening when I was asked to play I had just received third place
in a prize competition both on the piano and in solfeggio, and to prove
it I had two heavy bronze medals inscribed "Conservatoire impérial de
musique et de déclamation." It is true that they listened to me no
better on this account, but I was affected by the honor nevertheless.

Some years later, in the natural course of events, I learned that Cham
had secretly married the beautiful lady of the Rue Tarranne. As he was
somewhat embarrassed by the marriage, he did not send announcement cards
to his friends, much to their surprise. When they asked him about it, he
replied, wittily,

"Of course I sent announcements.... They were anonymous."

In spite of my mother's extreme watchfulness, I escaped from home one
evening. I knew that they were giving Berlioz's _L'Enfance du Christ_
at the Opéra-Comique and that the great composer was to conduct. I could
not pay my way in, but I had an irresistible desire to hear the work,
especially as it was a creation of Berlioz's, who aroused the enthusiasm
of all our young people. So I asked my companions who sang in the
children's chorus to take me in and let me hide among them. I must
confess that I secretly wanted to get behind the scenes of a theater.

As might be imagined, my escapade rather upset my mother. She waited up
for me until after midnight ... she thought I was lost in this vast
Paris.

Needless to say that, when I came in abashed and shamefaced, I was well
scolded. I bore up under two storms of tears--if it is true that a
woman's wrath, like the rain in the forests, falls twice; still, a
mother's heart cannot bear anger forever--and I went to bed made easy on
that scare. Nevertheless I could not sleep. I recalled all the beauties
of the work I had just heard and before my mind's eye I saw again the
tall and impressive figure of Berlioz as he directed the superb
performance in masterly style.

My life ran on happily and industriously, but this did not last. The
doctors ordered my father to leave Paris, as the climate did not agree
with him, and to take treatment at Aix-les-Bains in Savoy. My mother and
father followed this advice and went to Chambéry taking me with them. My
artistic career was interrupted, but there was nothing else for me to
do.

I stayed at Chambéry for two long years; still the life there was not
monotonous. I passed the time in classical studies, alternating with
diligent work on scales and arpeggios, sixths and thirds, as if I were
going to be a fiery pianist. I wore my hair ridiculously long, as was
the style with every virtuoso, and this touch of resemblance harmonized
with my dreams. It seemed to me that wild locks of hair were the
complement of talent.

Between times I took long rambles through the delightful country of
Savoy which was still ruled by the King of Piémont; sometimes I went to
the Dent de Nicolet, sometimes as far as Les Charmettes, that
picturesque dwelling made famous by Jean Jacques Rousseau's stay there.

During my enforced rustication I found, by sheer accident, some of
Schumann's works which were then little known in France and still less
in Piémont. I shall always remember that everywhere I went I did my
share by playing a few pieces on the piano. I sometimes played that
exquisite thing entitled _Au Soir_ and that brought me one day this
singular invitation, "Come and amuse us with your Schumann with its
detestable false notes." It is unnecessary to repeat my childish
outburst at these words. What would the good old people of Savoy say if
they could hear the music of to-day?

But the months went on, and on, and on ... until one morning, before the
first signs of day-break had come over the mountains, I escaped from the
paternal homestead and started for Paris without a sou or even a change
of clothes. For Paris, the city with every artistic attraction, where I
should see again my dear Conservatoire, my masters, and the "behind the
scenes," for the memory of them was still with me.

I knew that in Paris I should find my good older sister, who, in spite
of her modest means, welcomed me as though I were her own child and
offered me board and lodging; a very simple lodging and a very frugal
table, but made so delightful by the magic of greatest kindliness that I
felt exactly as though I were in my own home.

Imperceptibly my mother forgave me for running away to Paris.

What a good devoted creature my sister was! Alas! she died January 13,
1905, just as she was glorying in attending the five hundredth
performance of _Manon_, which took place the very evening of her death.
Nothing can express the sorrow I felt.

       *       *       *       *       *

In the space of two years I had made up for the time I had lost in Savoy
and I had won a prize. I was awarded a first prize on the piano, as well
as one in counterpoint and fugue, on July 26, 1859.

I had to compete with ten of my fellow students and by chance my name
was number eleven in the order. All the contestants were shut up in the
foyer of the concert hall of the Conservatoire to wait until their names
were called.

For a moment Number Eleven found himself alone in the foyer. While
waiting for my turn, I studied respectfully the portrait of Habeneck,
the founder and the first conductor of the orchestra of the Société des
Concerts. A red handkerchief actually blossomed in his left buttonhole.
If he had become an officer of the Legion of Honor and had several
orders to accompany that, he certainly would have worn, not a rosette,
but a rose.

Then I was called.

The test piece was the concerto in F minor by Ferdinand Hiller. At the
time it was pretended that his music was so like that of Niels Gade that
they would think it was Mendelssohn's.

My good master M. Laurent stayed close to the piano. When I had
finished--concerto and sight reading--he threw his arms about me without
thought of the public which filled the hall and I felt my face grow
moist from his dear tears.

Even at that age, I was apprehensive about success, and during my whole
life I have always fled from public rehearsals and first nights,
thinking it better to learn the worst ... as late as possible.

I raced all the way home, running like a gamin, but I found no one
there, for my sister had gone to the prize contest. However I did not
stay long, for I finally decided to go back to the Conservatoire. I was
so excited that I ran all the way. At the corner of the Rue
Sainte-Cécile I met my boon companion Alphonse Duvernoy, whose after
career as a teacher and composer was most successful, and I fell into
his arms. He told me what I might have known already, that Monsieur
Auber had announced the decision for the jury, "Monsieur Massenet is
awarded the first prize on the piano."

One of the jury was Henri Ravina, a master who was one of the dearest
friends I ever had, and my thoughts go out to him in affectionate
gratitude.

I scarcely touched the ground in getting from the Rue Bergère to the Rue
de Bourgogne where my excellent master M. Laurent lived. I found my old
professor at lunch with several generals who had been his comrades in
the army.

He had hardly caught sight of me when he held out two volumes to me: the
orchestral score of _Le Nozze di Figaro_, _dramma giocoso in quarti
atti_. _Messo in musica dal Signor W. Mozart._

The binding bore the arms of Louis XVIII and the following
superscription in gold letters: _Menus plaisirs du Roi_. _École royale
de musique et de déclamation. Concours de 1822. Premier prix de piano
décerné à M. Laurent._

My honored master had written on the first page:

     "Thirty-seven years ago I won, as you have done, my child, the
     prize for the piano. I do not think that there is any more pleasing
     gift I could give you than this with my sincerest friendship. Go on
     as you have begun and you will be a great artist.

     "This is the opinion of the jury which to-day awarded you this fine
     reward.

     "Your old friend and professor,

     "LAURENT."

It was indeed a fine thing for an honored professor to speak like this
to a youth who had hardly begun his career.



CHAPTER III

THE GRAND PRIX DE ROME


So I had won the first prize on the piano. I was doubtless as fortunate
as I was proud, but it was out of the question for me to live on the
memory of this distinction. The necessities of life were pressing,
inexorable, and they demanded something more real and above all more
practicable. I really could not go on accepting my dear sister's
hospitality without contributing my personal expenses. So to ease the
situation I gave lessons in solfeggio and on the piano in a poor little
school in the neighborhood. The returns were small, but the labor was
great. Thus I drew out a precarious and often difficult existence. I was
offered the post of pianist in one of the large cafés in Belleville; it
was the first café to provide music, a scheme invented to hold the
customers, if not to distract them. The place paid me thirty francs a
month!

_Quantum mutatus_.... Like the poet I may say, "What changes since that
time?" To-day even the young pupils have only to _enter_ a competition
to get their pictures in the papers and at the very outset of their
careers they are anointed great men. All this is accompanied by
Bacchanalian lines and they are fortunate if in their exalted triumph
they do not add the word "colossal." That is glory; deification in all
its modesty. In 1859 we were not glorified in any such way.

But Providence--some called it Destiny--watched over me.

A friend, who to my great joy is still living, got me better lessons. He
was not like so many friends I met later, who are ever in need of one's
assistance; those who slink away when you want to be comforted in
poverty; the friends who are always pretending that they defended you
last night against malevolent attacks in order to show you their fine
opinions, but at the same time torturing you by repeating the wounding
words directed at you. I must add, however, that I have had truly
genuine friendships, as I have found in my hours of weariness and
discouragement.

The Théâtre-Lyrique was then on the Boulevard du Temple and it gave me a
place in its orchestra as kettle-drummer. Then, good Father Strauss, the
orchestra leader at the Opéra balls, let me play the bass drum, the
kettle-drums, the tam-tam, and all the rest of the resonant instruments.
It was dreadfully tiring to sit up every Saturday from midnight until
six in the morning, but all told I managed to make eighty francs a
month. I felt as rich as a banker and as happy as a cobbler.

The Théâtre-Lyrique was founded by the elder Alexander Dumas as the
Théâtre-Historique, and was established by Adolphe Adam.

I was living at the time at No. 5, Rue de Ménilmontant, in a huge
building, almost a city in itself. My neighbors on the floor, separated
only by a narrow partition, were the clowns--both men and women--of the
Cirque Napoléon which was near our house.

From my attic window I was able to enjoy--for nothing of course--whiffs
from the orchestra which escaped from the popular concerts that
Pasdeloup conducted in the circus every Sunday. This happened whenever
the audience packed in the overheated hall shouted loudly for air and
they opened the casement windows on the third floor to satisfy them.

From my perch--that is the only thing to call it--I applauded with
feverish joy the overture of _Tannhauser_, the _Symphonie Fantastique_,
in short the music of my gods: Wagner and Berlioz.

Every evening at six o'clock--the theater began very early--I went by
the way of the Rue des Fossés-du-Temple, near my house, to the stage
door of the Théâtre-Lyrique. In those days the left side of the
Boulevard du Temple was one unbroken line of theaters. Consequently I
went along the back of the Funambules, the Petit-Lazari, the
Délassements-Comiques, the Cirque Impérial and the Gaîté. Those who did
not know that corner of Paris in 1859 can have no idea of it.

The Rue des Fossés-du-Temple, on which all the stage doors opened, was a
sort of wonderland where all the supers, male and female, from all the
theaters waited in great crowds on the dimly lighted pavements. The
atmosphere was full of vermin and microbes. Even in our Théâtre-Lyrique
the musicians' dressing room was only an old stable in which the horses
used in historical plays were kept.

Still, my delight was too great for words and I felt that I was to be
envied as I sat in the fine orchestra which Deloffre conducted. Ah!
those rehearsals of _Faust_! My happiness could not be expressed when,
from my own little corner, I could leisurely devour with my eyes our
great Gounod who managed our work from the stage.

Many times later on when we came out, side by side, from the sessions of
the Institute--Gounod lived in the Place Malesherbes--we talked over the
time when _Faust_--now past its thousandth performance--was such a
subject for discussion and criticism in the press, while the dear
public--which is rarely deceived--applauded it.

_Vox Populi, vox Dei!_

I also remember that while I was in the orchestra I assisted at the
performances of Reyer's _La Statue_, a superb score and a tremendous
success.

I can still see Reyer in the wings during the performances eluding the
firemen and smoking interminable cigars. It was a habit he could not
give up. One day I heard him tell about being in Abbé Liszt's room in
Rome. The walls were covered with religious pictures--Christ, the
Virgin, and the Saints--and he blew out a cloud of smoke which filled
the room. In reply to his witty excuses about incommoding the "august
persons," he drew the following reply from the great abbé. "No," said
Liszt, "it is always incense."

For six months, under the same conditions of work, I substituted for one
of my fellows in the orchestra at the Théâtre-Italien.

As I had heard the admirable Mme. Miolan-Carvalho in _Faust_--excellent
singing--I now heard the tragediennes like Penco and Frezzolini and such
men as Mario, Graziani, Delle Sedie, and the buffo Zucchini.

The last is no longer alive and our great Lucien Fugère of the
Opéra-Comique of to-day reminds me of him almost exactly. There is the
same powerful voice and the same perfect artistic comedy.

But the time for the competition of the Institute approached. During our
residence _en loge_ at the Institute we had to pay for our meals for
twenty-five days and also the rent of a piano. I got out of that
difficulty as best I could; at any rate I forestalled it. All the same
the money I had been able to put aside was insufficient and acting on
the advice of a friend (giving and acting on advice are two entirely
different things) I went to a pawnshop and pawned my watch ... a gold
one. It had adorned my fob since the morning of my first communion.
Alas! it must have been light weight, for they offered me only ...
sixteen francs!!! This odd sum, however, enabled me to pay for my meals.

But the charge for the piano was so exorbitant--twenty francs!--that I
couldn't afford it. I did without it much more easily, for I have never
needed its help in composing.

I would have hardly imagined that my neighbors would have bothered me so
by their pounding on their pianos and by their singing at the top of
their lungs. It was impossible to divert my thoughts or to escape their
noise, as I had no piano, and, in addition, the corridors of our garrets
were unusually reverberant.

On my way to the Saturday sittings of the Académie des Beaux-Arts I
often cast a sad glance at the grated window of my cell; it can be seen
from the Cour Mazarine to the right in a recess. Yes, my glance is sad,
for I left behind those old bars the dearest and most affecting
recollections of my youth, and because they cause me to reflect on the
unhappy times in my long life.

In the trial competition in 1863 I was examined first and I kept the
same place in the choral work. The first test was in the large hall of
the École des Beaux-Arts which is entered from the Quai Malaquais.

The final decision was made the next day in the hall used for the
regular sittings of the Académie des Beaux-Arts.

My interpreters were Mme. Van den Heuvel-Duprez, Roger and Bonnehée, all
three from the Opéra. With such artists I had to triumph. And that is
what happened!

I went in first--there were six competitors--and as at that time one
could not listen to the work of the other candidates--I went wandering
haphazard down to the Rue Mazarine ... on the Pont des Arts ... and,
finally, in the square court of the Louvre where I sat down on one of
the iron seats.

I heard five o'clock strike. I was very anxious. "All must be over by
now," I said to myself. I had guessed right, for suddenly I saw under
the arch three people chatting together and recognized Berlioz, Ambroise
Thomas and Monsieur Auber.

Flight was impossible. They were in front of me almost as if they barred
my escape.

Ambroise Thomas, my beloved master, came towards me and said, "Embrace
Berlioz, you owe him a great deal for your prize."

"The _prize_," I cried, bewildered, my face shining with joy. "I have
the prize!!!" I was deeply moved and I embraced Berlioz, then my master,
and finally Monsieur Auber.

Monsieur Auber comforted me. Did I need comforting? Then he said to
Berlioz pointing to me,

"He'll go far, the young rascal, when he's had _less_ experience!"



CHAPTER IV

THE VILLA MEDICI


The winners of the Grand Prix de Rome for 1863 in painting, sculpture,
architecture, and engraving, were Layraud and Monchablon, Bourgeois,
Brune and Chaplain. Custom decreed--it still does--that we should all go
to the Villa Medici together and should visit Italy. What a changed and
ideal life mine now was! The Minister of Finance sent me six hundred
francs and a passport in the name of Napoleon III, signed by Drouyns de
Luys, Minister of Foreign Affairs.

I then met my new companions and we went to pay the formal calls on the
members of the Institute before our departure for the Académie de France
at Rome.

On the day after Christmas, in three open carriages, we started to pay
our official calls which took us into every quarter of Paris where our
patrons lived.

The three carriages, crowded with young men, real _rapins_, I had almost
said gamins, mad with success and intoxicated by thoughts of the
future, made a veritable scandal in the streets.

Nearly all the gentlemen of the Institute sent out word that they were
not at home--to avoid making a speech. M. Hirtoff, the famous architect,
who lived in the Rue Lamartine, put on less airs and shouted out to his
servant from his bedroom, "Tell them I'm not in."

I recall that of old the professors accompanied their pupils as far as
the starting place of the diligences in the Rue Notre-Dame-des-Victoires.
One day as the heavy diligence with the students packed on the rear--the
cheapest places which exposed them to all the dust of the road--was
about to start on the long journey from Paris to Rome, M. Couder, Louis
Philippe's favorite painter, was heard to say impressively to his
special pupil, "Above all don't forget my style." This was a
delightfully naïve remark, but it was touching nevertheless. He was the
painter of whom the king said, after he had given him an order for the
museum at Versailles, "M. Couder pleases me. His drawing is correct; his
coloring satisfies, and he is not dear."

Oh, the good, simple times, when words meant what they seemed to and
admiration was just without that deifying bombast that is so readily
heaped on one to-day!

I broke the custom and went on alone after making arrangements to meet
my comrades on the road to Genoa where I would overtake them driving an
enormous coach drawn by five horses. My plans were first to stop at
Nice, where my father was buried, and then to go to embrace my mother
who was living at Bordighera. She had a modest villa in a pleasant
location in a forest of palms overlooking the sea. I spent New Year's
with my mother, the anniversary of my father's death, hours filled to
overflowing with tenderness. All too soon I had to leave her, for my
joyous comrades awaited me in their carriage on the road of the Italian
La Corniche. My tears turned to laughter. Such is youth!

Our first stop was at Loano about eight o'clock in the evening.

I have confessed that I was almost gay and this is true. Nevertheless I
was a prey to indefinite thoughts; I felt myself almost a man,
henceforth to be alone in life. I pondered over such thoughts, too
reasonable perhaps for my years, while Italy's blossoming mimosas, lemon
trees and myrtles threw around me their sweet disturbing odors. What a
pleasant contrast it was for me who until then had only known the sour
smell of the faubourgs of Paris, the trampled grass of their
fortifications, and the perfume--I mean perfume--of my beloved wings of
the stage.

We spent two days in Genoa visiting the Campo-Santo, the city's
cemetery, so rich in the finest marble monuments, reputed to be the most
beautiful in Italy. After that who can deny that self-esteem survives
after death?

Next I found myself one morning on the Place du Dôme at Milan walking
with my companion Chaplain, the famous engraver of medallions, and later
my confrère at the Institute. We shared our enthusiasms before the
marvellous cathedral of white marble dedicated to the Virgin by that
terrible partisan leader Jean Galeas Visconti as a repentance for his
life. "In that epoch of faith the world covered itself with white
robes," thus spake Bossuet whose weighty eloquence comes back to me.

We were completely carried away by Leonardo da Vinci's "Last Supper." We
found it in a large hall which the Austrian soldiers had used as a
stable and they had cut a door--Horrors! Abomination of
abominations!--in the central panel of the picture.

The masterpiece is gradually fading away. In time it will have entirely
disappeared, but it is not like "La Giaconda" easier to carry away than
the wall thirty feet high on which it is painted.

We went through Verona and made the obligatory pilgrimage to the tomb of
Juliet, the beloved of Romeo. That excursion satisfies the inmost
feelings of every young man in love with Love. Then Vienza, Padua,
where, while I was looking at Giotto's paintings on the story of Christ,
I had an intuition that Mary Magdalene would occupy my life some day,
and then Venice!

Venice! One might have told me that I still lived although I would not
have believed it, so unreal were the hours I passed in that matchless
city. As we had no Baedeker--his guide was too costly for us--it was
only through a sort of divination that we discovered all the wonders of
Venice without directions.

My companions admired a painting by Palma Vecchio in a church whose name
they did not know. How was I to find it among the ninety churches in
Venice? I got into my gondola alone and said to my "barcaiollo" that I
was going to Saint Zacharie; but I did not find the picture, a Santa
Barbara, so I had him take me to another saint. A new deception! As this
kept repeating and threatened never to end, my gondolier laughingly
showed me another church--All Saints--and said to me, mockingly, "Go in
there; you'll surely find yours."

I pass over Pisa and Florence which I shall describe in detail later.

When we came near the Papal territory, we decided to add a picturesque
touch to our journey and instead of entering Rome in the conventional
way by Ponte-Moll, the ancient witness of the defeat of Maxentius and
the glorification of Christianity, we took a steamer from Leghorn to
Civitta Vecchia. It was the first sea voyage that I went through ...
almost decently, thanks to some oranges which I kept in my mouth all the
time.

At last we reached Rome by the railroad from Civitta Vecchia to the
Eternal City. It was the pensionnaires' dinner hour and they were
nonplussed at seeing us, for we had deprived them of a holiday in going
to meet our coach on the Flammian Way. Our welcome was spontaneous. A
special dinner was hastily got together and this started the jokes
practised on newcomers, who were called "_Les Affreux Nouveaux_."

As a musician I was instructed to go bell in hand to call dinner through
the numerous walks of the Villa Medici, now plunged in darkness. As I
did not know the way, I fell into a fountain. Naturally the bell stopped
ringing and the boarders, who were listening to the sound and rejoicing
in the fun, burst into hearty laughter at the sudden cessation of the
noise. They understood what had happened and came to fish me out.

I had paid my first debt, the debt of entrance to the Villa Medici.
Night was to bring other trials.

The dining room of the pensionnaires, which I found so pleasant the next
day, was transformed into a den of bandits. The servants, who ordinarily
wore the green livery of the Emperor, were dressed as monks with short
blunderbusses across their shoulders and with pistols in their belts.
Their false noses were modeled by a sculptor and were painted red. The
pine table was stained with wine and covered with dirt.

Our seniors wore proud and haughty looks, but this did not prevent
them, at a given signal, from telling us that while the food was simple,
all lived in the most fraternal harmony. Suddenly, after a discussion of
art which was carried on facetiously, there was a hub-bub and amid
frightful shouts all the plates and bottles went flying through the air.

At a signal from one of the supposed monks there was instant silence and
we heard the voice of the oldest pensionnaire, Henner, saying gravely,
"Here all is harmony."

It was well that we knew we were the butts for jokes. I was a little
embarrassed. I did not dare to move, and I sat with my head down,
staring at the table, where I read the name of Herold, the author of the
_Pré aux Clercs_, cut with a knife when he was a pensionnaire at this
same Villa Medici.



CHAPTER V

THE VILLA MEDICI


As I had foreseen and gathered from the meaning looks which the
pensionnaires exchanged, another joke, the masterpiece of the hazing,
was arranged for us. We had hardly left the table when the pensionnaires
wrapped themselves in the huge capes that were fashionable in Rome at
the time and obliged us, before we went to rest in the rooms assigned to
us, to take a constitutional (Was it really necessary?) to the Forum,
the ancient Forum which all our memories of school recalled to us.

We knew nothing of Rome by night, or by day for that matter, but we
walked on surrounded by our new school fellows who acted as guides. It
was a January night and very dark, and favorable for the schemes of our
cicerones. When we got near the Capitol, we could scarcely distinguish
the outlines of the temples in the hollows of the famous Campo Vaccino.
Their reproductions in the Louvre are still one of the masterpieces of
Claude Lorrain.

In those days, under the rule of His Holiness Pope Pius IX, no official
excavations had been begun even in the Forum. The famous place was only
a heap of stones and shafts of columns buried in the weeds on which
herds of goats browsed. These pretty creatures were watched over by
goatherds in large hats and wrapped in great black cloaks with green
linings, the ordinary costume of the peasant of the Roman campagna. They
were armed with long pikes to drive off the wild cattle which splashed
about in the Ostian marshes.

Our companions made us cross the ruins of the basilica of Constantine.
We could just make out the immense coffered vaults. Our admiration
changed to fright when we found ourselves a moment later in a place
entirely surrounded by walls of indescribably colossal proportions. In
the middle of this place was a large cross on a pedestal formed by
steps--a sort of Calvary. When I reached this point, I could no longer
see my companions and on turning back I found that I was alone in the
middle of the gigantic amphitheater of the Colosseum in a silence which
seemed frightful to me.

I tried to find a way which would lead me back to the streets where
some late but complacent passerby might direct me to the Villa Medici.
But my search was in vain. I was so exasperated by my fruitless attempts
that I fell on one of the steps of the cross overcome by weariness. I
cried like a child. It was quite excusable, for I was worn out with
exhaustion.

Finally, daylight appeared. Its rays showed me that I had gone round and
round like a squirrel in a cage and had come across nothing save the
stairways to the upper tiers. When one thinks of the eighty tiers which
in the time of Imperial Rome held a hundred thousand spectators, this
round of mine could easily have been endless for me. But the sunrise was
my salvation. After a few steps I was happy to see that, like Little Tom
Thumb lost in the woods, I was following the path which would take me on
the right road.

I reached the Villa Medici at last and took possession of the room which
had been reserved for me. The window looked out on the Avenue du Pincio;
my horizon was the whole of Rome and ended in the outlines of the dome
of St. Peter's at the Vatican. The Director, M. Schnetz, a member of the
Institute, took me to my room. He was tall and he had willingly wrapped
himself in a capacious dressing gown and had put on a Greek cap
bedizened, like the gown, with magnificent gold tassels. M. Schnetz was
the last of that generation of great painters which had a special
reverence for the country about Rome. His studies and pictures were
conceived in the midst of the Sabine brigands. His strong, determined
appearance made his hosts in his adventurous wanderings respect and fear
him. He was a perfect father to all the children of the Académie de
France at Rome.

The bell for luncheon sounded. This time it was the real cook who rang
it and not I who had been so kindly given the duty the evening before.
The dining room had taken on its comfortable every-day appearance. Our
companions were positively affectionate. The servants were no longer the
pseudo monks we had seen at the first meal. I learned that I had not
been the only one to be hoaxed.

The Carnival festivities at Rome were just ending with their wild
bacchanalian revelries. While they were not so famous as those of
Venice, they had, nevertheless, just as much dash and life. Their
setting was altogether different--more majestic if not more
appropriate. We all participated in a large car built by our architects
and decorated by our sculptors. We spent the day in throwing confetti
and flowers at all the lovely Roman girls, who replied with bewitching
smiles from their palace balconies on the Corso. Surely when Michelet
wrote his brilliant and poetic study _La Femme_, the sequel to his
_L'Amour_, he must have had in his mind's eye, as we saw them in life,
these types of rare, sparkling and fascinating beauty.

What changes have taken place in Rome since such careless freedom and
gaiety were the usual thing! The superb Italian regiments march on this
same Corso to-day, and the rows of shops for the most part belong to
German shopkeepers.

Progress! How many are thy blows!

One day the Director told us that Hippolyte Flandrin, the famous leader
of the religious movement in Nineteenth Century Art, had reached Rome
the night before and wanted to meet the students.

I little thought that forty-six years later I should recall this visit
in the speech I would deliver as president of the Institute and the
Académie des Beaux Arts.

In this speech I said:

"On the Pincio, opposite the Académie de France, is a small bubbling
fountain shaped like an ancient vase, which, beneath a bower of green
oaks, stands out against the horizon with its fine lines. There, when
after thirty-two years he returned to Rome a great artist, Hippolyte
Flandrin, before he entered the temple, dipped his fingers as in a holy
font and crossed himself."

The sorrow stricken arts to which he had contributed so much went into
mourning at almost the very moment we were getting ready to go to thank
him officially for his consideration of us. He lived in the Piazza della
Spagna, near the Villa Medici where he wanted to be. In the church of
Santa Luigi della Francese we laid on his coffin wreaths of laurel from
the garden of the Villa, which, as a student, he had loved so well. He
was a comrade at the Villa of his beloved musician Ambroise Thomas, whom
he saw for the last time at the height of his glory....

Some days later Falguière, Chaplain and I started for Naples, by
carriage as far as Palestrina, on foot to Terracina, at the southern end
of the Pontian marshes, then again by carriage to Naples!...



CHAPTER VI

THE VILLA MEDICI


What never to be forgotten times they were for youthful artists, when we
shared our enthusiasms for all we saw in these pleasantly picturesque
villages--a picturesqueness which has certainly gone by now.

Our lodgings were in the most primitive inns. I remember that one night
I was greatly disturbed by the feeling that my neighbor in the garret
had set the miserable hovel on fire. Falguière had the same idea too. It
was only imagination. It was the bright starlight shining through the
dilapidated ceiling.

As we passed through the woods of Subiacco, a shepherd's _zampogna_ (a
sort of rustic bagpipe) sounded a burst of melody which I presently
noted down on a bit of paper loaned me by a Benedictine monk in a
neighboring monastery. These measures became the first notes of
_Marie-Magdeleine_, the sacred drama which I was already planning for my
first venture.

I still have the sketch Chaplain made of me at the moment.

As was the custom in the olden times of the pensionnaires of the Villa
Medici, we lodged in Naples at the Casa Combi, an old house overlooking
the Quay Santa Lucia. The fifth floor was reserved for us. It was an old
ruin with a pink rough-cast front and windows framed in mouldings shaped
in small figures and cleverly painted, like those one sees all over
Italy as soon as one crosses the Var.

A vast room held our three beds. As for the dressing room and the rest,
they were on the balcony, where, according to the local custom, we hung
our clothes to dry.

In order to travel as comfortably as possible, we had rigged ourselves
out at Rome with three suits of white flannel with blue stripes.

_Risum teneatis_, as that delightful poet Horace would have said. First,
listen to this.

[Illustration: Massenet at Egreville]

From the moment of our arrival at the station in Naples we were watched
with surprising perseverance by the gendarmes. In addition, the
passersby observed us with the utmost astonishment. We were intensely
curious and wondered what the reason was for all this. We did not
have long to wait. Our landlady, Marietta, told us that the Neapolitan
convicts wore almost exactly the same costume. The laughter which
greeted this revelation led us to complete the resemblance. So we went
to the Café Royal in the Piazza S. Ferdinando, the three of us dragging
our right legs as if they were fastened to a ball and chain as the
convicts were.

We almost lived in the galleries of the Borbonico Museum during our
first days in Naples. The most wonderful of the discoveries in the ruins
of Herculanum, Pompeii, and their neighbor Stabies had been placed
there. We were astonished at it all, enraptured, charmed by endless and
ever new discoveries.

In passing I must recall our dutiful ascent of Vesuvius, whose plume of
smoke we could see in the distance. We came back carrying our burned
shoes in our hands and with our feet wrapped in flannel which we had
bought at Torre del Greco.

We took our meals at Naples on the seashore on the Quay Santa Lucia,
almost opposite our house. For twelve grani, about eight sous, we had an
exquisite soup of shellfish, fish fried in an oil which had been used
for that purpose for two or three years at least, and a glass of Capri
wine.

Then, there were walks to Castellamare at the end of the Gulf of Naples,
where we enjoyed a wonderful view; and to Sorrento so rich in orange
trees that the arms of the city are interwoven in the form of a crown of
orange leaves. At Sorrento we saw where Tasso was born--the famous
Italian poet, the immortal author of "Jerusalem Delivered."

A simple terra cotta bust decorates the front of this half ruined house!
Thence to Amalfi, once almost the rival of Venice in the size of its
commerce.

If Napoleon got the itch through handling the gun sponge of a dirty
artilleryman, we owe it to the truth to state that the morning after we
passed the night in the place all three of us were covered with lice. We
had to have our heads shaved, which added to our resemblance to
convicts.

We were somewhat consoled for this adventure by sailing to Capri. We
left Amalfi at four o'clock in the morning, but we did not reach Capri
until ten at night. The island is delightful and the views bewitching.
The top of Mount Solaro is 1800 feet above the sea and about nine and a
half miles around. The view is one of the most beautiful and extensive
in all Italy.

We were overtaken by a frightful storm on our way to Capri. The boat was
loaded with a large quantity of oranges and the wild waves swept over
everything to the great despair of the sailors who outshouted each other
in calling on St. Joseph, the patron saint of Naples.

There is a pretty legend that St. Joseph, grieved by the departure of
Jesus and the Virgin Mary for Heaven, ordered his Son to come back to
him. Jesus obeyed and came back with all the saints in Paradise. The
Virgin came back, too, to the conjugal roof escorted by eleven thousand
virgins. When the Lord saw Paradise depopulated in this way and not
wanting to put St. Joseph in the wrong, he declared that the latter was
the stronger and so Heaven was repopulated by his permission. The
veneration of the Neapolitans for St. Joseph is surprising, as the
following detail illustrates.

In the Eighteenth Century the streets of Naples were hardly safe, and it
was dangerous to pass through them at night. The king had lanterns
placed at the worst corners to light the passersby, but the _birbanti_
broke them as they found they interfered with their nocturnal deeds.
Whereupon some one was struck with the idea of placing an image of St.
Joseph beside each lantern, and thereafter they were respected to the
great joy of the people.

To be in and live in Capri is the most ideal existence that one can
dream of. I brought back from there page after page of the works which I
intended to write later.

Autumn saw us back in Rome.

At that time I wrote my beloved master Ambroise Thomas as follows:

"Last Sunday Bourgault got up an entertainment to which he invited
twenty Transtévérins and Transtévérines--plus six musicians, also from
the Transtérvère. All in costume!

"The weather was fine and the scene was simply wonderful when we were in
the 'Bosco,' my sacred grove. The setting sun lighted up the old walls
of ancient Rome. The entertainment ended in Falguière's studio, lighted
_a giorno_, our doing. There the dance became so captivating and
intoxicating that we finished vis-à-vis to the Transtévérines in the
final _salturrele_. They all smoked, ate, and drank--the women
especially liked our punch."

One of the greatest and most thrilling periods of my life was now at
hand. It was Christmas Eve. We arranged an outing so that we might
follow the midnight masses in the churches. The night ceremonies at
Sainte Marie Majeure and at Saint Jean de Latran impressed me most.
Shepherds with their flocks, cows, goats, sheep and pigs were in the
public square, as if to receive the benediction of the Savior, recalling
in this way His birth in a manger. The touching simplicity of these
beliefs really affected me and I entered Sainte Marie Majeure
accompanied by a lovely goat which I embraced and which did not want to
leave me. This in no way astonished any of the crowd of men and women
packed in that church, kneeling on those beautiful Mosaic pavements,
between a double row of columns--relics taken from the ancient temples.

The next day--a day to be marked with a cross--on the staircase with its
three hundred steps which leads to the church of Ara Coeli, I passed two
women, obviously fashionable foreigners. I was especially charmed by the
appearance of the younger. Several days later I was at Liszt's who was
preparing for his ordination, and I recognized among the famous
master's visitors the two women whom I had seen at Ara Coeli.

I learned almost at once that the younger had come to Rome with her
family on a sightseeing trip and that she had been recommended to Liszt
so that he might select for her a musician capable of directing her
studies. She did not want to interrupt them while she was away from
Paris. Liszt at once proposed me. I was a pensionnaire at the Académie
de France and was supposed to work there, so that I did not want to
devote my time to lessons. The young girl's charm, however, overcame my
reluctance.

You may have already guessed that this beautiful girl was the one who
was to become my wife two years later, the ever-attentive, often-worried
companion of my life, the witness of my weaknesses as well as of my
bursts of energy, of my sorrows and my joys. With her I have gone up the
steps of life, already long, but not so steep as those which led to Ara
Coeli, that altar of the skies which recalls to Rome the pure and
cloudless celestial abodes, which have led me along a way sometimes
difficult and where the roses have been gathered in the midst of
thorns. But is not life always so?

In the following spring came the pensionnaires' annual entertainment,
which took place as was customary at Castel Fusano on the Roman
Campagna, a couple of miles from Ostia in a magnificent pine forest
divided by an avenue of beautiful evergreen oaks. I brought away with me
such an agreeable remembrance of the day that I advised my fiancée and
her family to make the acquaintance of this incomparable spot.

In that splendid avenue paved with old marble slabs I recalled Gaston
Boissier's story, in his "Promenades Archelogiques," of Nisus and
Euraylus, those unfortunate young men who were sent to their downfall by
Volscens, as he came from Laurentium, to bring part of his troops to
Turnus.

The thought that in December my two years' stay would be up and that I
would have to leave the Villa Medici and return to France made me
extremely sad. I wanted to see Venice again. I stayed there two months
and during the time I jotted down the rough sketch of my first _Suite
d'Orchestra_.

I noted the strange and beautiful notes of the Austrian trumpets which
sounded every evening as they closed the gates for the night. And I used
them twenty-five years later in the fourth act of _Le Cid_.

My comrades bade me good-by on December seventeenth, not only at the
last sad dinner at our large table, but also at the station in the
evening. I had given over the day to packing, gazing meditatively the
while at the bed in which I should never sleep again.

All the souvenirs of my two years in Rome--palms from Palm Sunday, a
drum from the Transtévère, my mandolin, a wooden Virgin, a few sprays
and branches from the Villa's garden, all my souvenirs of a past which
would be with me always, went into my trunk with my clothes. The French
Embassy paid the carriage.

I was unwilling to leave my window until the setting sun had disappeared
behind St. Peter's. It seemed as if Rome in its turn took refuge in
shadow--a shadow which bade me farewell.



CHAPTER VII

MY RETURN TO PARIS


My comrades went with me to the station "dei Termini," hard by the
Diocletian ruins. They did not leave until we had embraced warmly and
they stayed until my train disappeared beyond the horizon. Happy beings!
they would sleep that night at the Académie, while I was alone, torn by
the emotions of leaving, numbed by the keen, icy December cold, shrouded
in memories, and, unless fatigue aided me, unable to sleep. Next day I
was in Florence.

I wanted to see again this city with the richest collections of art in
Italy. I went to the Pitti Palace, one of the wonders of Florence. In
going through the galleries it seemed to me as though I were not alone,
but that the living remembrance of my comrades was with me, that I was a
witness of their enthusiasms and raptures before all the masterpieces
piled in that splendid palace. I saw again the Titians, the Tintorets,
the works of Leonardo, the Veronese, the Michel Angelos, and the
Raphaels.

With what delightfully charmed eyes I admired anew that priceless
treasure, Raphael's masterpiece of painting, the "Madonna della
sedella," then the "Temptation of St. Anthony" by Salvator Rosa placed
in the Hall of Ulysses, and in the Hall of Flora Canova's "Venus,"
mounted on a revolving base. I studied, too, the works of Rubens,
Rembrandt and Van Dyck.

From the Pitti Palace I went to be astounded anew by the Strozzi Palace,
the most beautiful type of Florentine palace. Its cornice, attributed to
Simon Pollajo, is the most beautiful known to modern times. I saw once
more the Buboli gardens, beside the Pitti Palace, designed by Tribolo
and Buontalenti.

I finished the day with a walk in the so-called Bois de Boulogne de
Florence, the Cascine Walk, at the western gate of Florence, between the
right bank of the Arno and the railroad. It is the favorite walk of the
elegant and fashionable world of Florence, the city called the Athens of
Italy. I remember that evening had already fallen and as I was without
my watch--I had left it at the hotel--I asked a peasant I met on the
road what time it was. The answer I received was so poetically turned
that I can never forget it, "_Sono le sette, l'aria ne treme
ancor!..._"

"It is seven o'clock. The air still trembles from the sound."

I left Florence to continue my trip by the way of Pisa.

Pisa seemed to me as depopulated as if it had been swept by the plague.
When one considers that in the Middle Ages it was a rival of Genoa,
Florence, and Venice, one feels puzzled by the comparative desolation
that envelops it. I remained alone for nearly an hour on the Piazza del
Duomo, looking with curiosity on the masterpieces which raise their
artistic beauty there, the Cathedral or Le Dôme de Pisa, the Campanile,
better known as the Leaning Tower, and last, the Baptistière.

Between the Dôme and the Baptistière stretches the Campo Santo, the
famous cemetery. The earth for this cemetery was brought from Jerusalem.

It seemed to me that the Leaning Tower was only waiting until I had
passed, unlike the Campanile of Venice, in order to bring down deadly
destruction on me. On the contrary, it appears that the tower, which
aided Galileo in making his famous experiments on gravitation, was
never more secure. This is proved by the fact that the seven great
bells which sound in full swing several times a day have never affected
the strength of this curious structure.

Here I come to the most interesting part of my journey--after I left
Pisa, huddled under the top of the diligence, which followed the shores
of the Mediterranean, by Spezzia as far as Genoa. What an unreal journey
that one of mine was along the ancient Roman Way on the top of the rocks
which overlook the sea! I journeyed as though I were in the car of a
capricious balloon.

All the way the road skirted the sea, sometimes cutting through forests
of olives, and again rising over the tops of the hills where one
overlooked a wide horizon.

It was picturesque everywhere; there was always a variety of astonishing
views along this way. Traveling as I did by the light of a magnificent
moon, it was most ideally beautiful in its originality with its villages
in which one saw at times a lighted window in the distance and this sea
into which one could see to fathomless depths.

During this journey it seemed to me that I had never accumulated so many
ideas and projects, obsessed as I was by the thought that in a few
hours I would be back in Paris and that my life was about to commence.

I traveled from Genoa to Paris by rail. When one is young, one sleeps so
well! I woke up shivering. It was freezing. The piercing cold of the
night had covered the car windows with frosty ornaments.

We went by Montereau, and Paris was almost in sight! I could not imagine
then that some years later I should own a summer house in this country
near Égreville.

What a contrast between the beautiful sky of Italy, that eternally
beautiful sky, sung by the poets, which I had just left, and the one I
saw again, so dark, gray, and sullen!

When I had paid for my journey and a few small expenses, I had left in
my pockets the sum of ... two francs!

How joyful I was, when I reached my sister's house! Also, what
unforeseen good fortune!

It was raining in torrents and my precious two francs went to buy that
indispensable _vade mecum_, an umbrella. I had not needed one during my
entire stay in Italy. Protected from the weather I went to the Ministry
of Finance where I knew I should find my allowance for the first
quarter of the new year. At this time the holders of the Grand Prix
enjoyed a pension of three thousand francs a year. I was still entitled
to it for three years. What good luck!

The good friend, whom I have already mentioned, had been forewarned of
my return and had rented a room for me on the fifth floor of No. 14, Rue
Taitbout. From the calm and quiet beauty of my room at the Académie, I
had fallen into the midst of busy, noisy Paris.

Ambroise Thomas introduced me to wealthy friends who gave famous musical
evening entertainments. I saw there for the first time Léo Delibes,
whose ballet _La Source_ had already won him a great reputation at the
Opéra. I saw him direct a delightful chorus sung by fashionable ladies
and I whispered to myself, "I, too, will write a chorus. And it will be
sung." Indeed it was, but by four hundred male voices. I had won the
first prize in the Ville de Paris competition.

My acquaintance with the poet Armand Silvestre dates from this time. By
chance he was my neighbor on the top of an omnibus, and, one thing
leading to another, we got down the best of friends. He saw that I was
a good listener, and he told me some of the most drolly improper
stories, in which he excelled. But to my mind the poet surpassed the
story teller and a month later I had written the _Poème d'Avril_,
inspired by the exquisite verses in his first book.

As I speak of the _Poème d'Avril_, I remember the fine impression it
made on Reyer. He urged me to take it to a publisher. Armed with a too
flattering letter from him I went to Choudens to whom he recommended me.
After four futile attempts I was finally received by the wealthy
publisher of _Faust_. But I was not even to show my little manuscript. I
was immediately shown out. The same sort of reception awaited me at
Flaxland's, the publisher, Place de la Madeleine, and also at Brandus's,
the owner of Meyerbeer's works. I considered this altogether natural,
for I was absolutely unknown.

As I was going back (not too bitterly disappointed) to my fifth floor on
the Rue Taitbout, with my music in my pocket, I was accosted by a fair,
tall young man, with a kindly, intelligent face, who said to me:
"Yesterday I opened a music store near here in the Boulevard de la
Madeleine. I know who you are and I am ready to publish anything you
like." It was Georges Hartmann, my first publisher.

All I had to do was to take my hand from my pocket and give him the
_Poème d'Avril_ which had just received such a poor reception elsewhere.

It is true that I made nothing out of it, but how much I would have
given--had I had it--to have it published. A few months later lovers of
music were singing:

    _Qu'on passe en aimant!_
    _Que l'heure est donc brève_

As yet I had neither honor nor money, but I certainly had a good deal of
encouragement.

Cholera was raging in Paris. I fell ill and the neighbors were afraid to
come and see how I was. However, Ambroise Thomas learned of my dangerous
illness and my helpless distress and visited me in my room accompanied
by his doctor, the Emperor's physician. This brave and fatherly act on
the part of my beloved master affected me so much that I fainted in bed.
I must add that this illness was only fleeting and that I finished ten
pieces for the piano for which Girod, the publisher, paid me two
hundred francs. A louis a page! To that benevolent publisher I owed the
first money I made from music.

       *       *       *       *       *

The health of Paris improved.

On the eighth of October I was married in the little old church in the
village of Avon near Fontainebleau.

My wife's brother and my new cousin, the eminent violinist Armingaud,
the founder of the famous quartet, were my witnesses. However, there
were others too. A flock of sparrows came in through a broken window and
out-chirped one another so that we could scarcely hear the words of the
good curé.

His words were a kindly homage to my new companion and encouragement for
my still uncertain future.

After the wedding ceremony we walked in the beautiful forest of
Fontainebleau, where I seemed to hear, in the midst of the magnificence
of nature, verdant and purple in the warm rays of the bright sun,
caressed by the songs of the birds, the words of that great poet Alfred
de Musset:

"_Aime et tu renaîtrais; fais-toi fleur pour éclore._"

We left Avon to pass a week at the seashore, in a charming solitude _à
deux_, often the most enviable solitude. While I was there, I corrected
the proofs of the _Poème d'Avril_ and the ten piano pieces.

To correct proofs! To see my music in print! Had my career as a composer
really begun?



CHAPTER VIII

MY DÉBUT AT THE THEATER


On my return to Paris I lived with my wife's family in a lovely
apartment whose brightness was calculated to delight the eye and charm
the thoughts. Ambroise Thomas sent me word that at his request the
directors of the Opéra-Comique, Ritt and de Lewen, wanted to entrust to
me a one-act work. This was _La Gran'Tante_, an opéra-comique by Jules
Adenis and Charles Grandvallet.

This was bewildering good fortune and I was almost overcome by it.
To-day I regret that at that time I was unable to put into the work all
of myself that I might have wished. The preliminary rehearsals began the
next year. How proud I was when I received my first notices of
rehearsals and when I sat in the same place on the famous stage which
had known Boïeldieu, Herold, M. Auber, Ambroise Thomas, Victor Massé,
Gounod, Meyerbeer!...

I was about to learn an author's trials. But I was so happy in doing so!

A first work is the first cross of honor. A first love.

I had everything except the cross.

The first cast was: Marie Roze, in all the splendor of her youthful
beauty and talent; Victor Capoul, the idol of the public; and Mlle.
Girard, the spirited singer and actress, the delight of the
Opéra-Comique.

We were ready to go on the stage when the cast was upset. Marie Roze was
taken away from me and replaced by a seventeen year old beginner, Marie
Heilbronn, the artist to whom I was to entrust the creation of _Manon_
seventeen years later.

At the first rehearsal with the orchestra I was unconscious of what was
going on, I was so deeply absorbed in listening to this and that, in
fact to all the sonorousness of the work, which did not prevent me,
however, telling every one that I was entirely pleased and satisfied.

I had the courage to attend the first performance--in the wings, which
reminded me of Berlioz's _L'Enfance du Christ_ which I had attended
secretly.

That evening was both exciting and amusing.

I spent the entire afternoon in feverish agitation.

I stopped at every poster to look at the fascinating words so large with
promise:

    First Performance of _La Grand'Tante_
          Opéra-Comique in One Act

I had to wait to read the authors' names. That would come only with the
announcement of the second performance.

We served as a curtain raiser for the great success of the moment, _La
Voyage en Chine_ by Labiche and François Bazin.

I had been a pupil of the latter for a brief while at the Conservatoire.
His pilgrimages to the land of the Celestials had not deprived his
teaching of that hard, unamiable form which I suffered from with him,
and I left his class in harmony a month after I joined it. I went into
the class of Henri Reber of the Institute. He was a fine, exquisite
musician, of the race of Eighteenth Century masters. All his music
breathed forth pleasant memories.

One fine Friday evening in April, at half-past seven, the curtain rose
at the Opéra-Comique. I was in the wings near my dear friend Jules
Adenis. My heart throbbed with anxiety, seized by that mystery to which
for the first tune I gave myself body and soul, as to an unknown God.
To-day that seems a little exaggerated, rather childish.

The piece had just begun, when we heard a burst of laughter from the
audience. "Listen, _mon ami_, what a splendid start," said Adenis. "The
audience is amused."

The audience was indeed amused, but this is what happened. The scene
opened in Brittany on a stormy, tempestuous night. Mlle. Girard had
faced the audience and sung a prayer, when Capoul entered, speaking
these words from the text:

"What a country! What a wilderness! Not a soul in sight!" when he saw
Mlle. Girard's back and cried:

"At last.... There's a face!"

He had scarcely uttered this expression when the roars of laughter we
had heard broke loose.

However, the piece went on without further incident.

They encored Mlle. Girard's song, _Les filles de la Rochelle_.

They applauded Capoul and gave the young debutante Heilbronn a great
welcome.

The opera ended in sympathetic applause, whereupon the stage manager
came out to announce the names of the authors. Just then a cat walked
across the stage. This was the cause of fresh hilarity which was so
great that the authors' names went unheard.

It was a day of mishaps. Two accidents on the same evening gave grounds
for fear that the piece would fail. There was nothing in it, however,
and the press showed itself really indulgent. It sheathed its claws in
velvet in its appreciation.

Théophile Gautier, a great poet and an eminent critic, was kind enough
to fling a few of his sparkling bits at the work, proof of his obvious
good feeling.

_La Grand'Tante_ was played with _La Voyage en Chine_, a great financial
success, and I lived fourteen evenings. I was in raptures. I no longer
consider only fourteen performances; they scarcely count.

The orchestral score (it was not engraved) was lost in the fire at the
Opéra-Comique in 1887. It was no great loss to music, but I should be
happy to have the evidence of the first steps in my career.

At this time I was giving lessons in a family at Versailles, with which
I am still in touch. I was caught in a heavy shower on my way there one
day. That rain was good to me, verifying the adage, "Every cloud has a
silver lining." I waited patiently in the station for the rain to stop,
when I saw near me Pasdeloup who was also waiting until the shower was
over.

He had never spoken to me. The wait at the station and the bad weather
were an easy and natural excuse for the conversation we had together. On
his asking me whether in my work at Rome I had not written something for
the orchestra, I replied that I had a _Suite d'Orchestra_ in five parts
(the one I had written in Venice in 1865); he begged me point blank to
send it to him. I sent it the same week.

I take extreme pleasure in paying homage to Pasdeloup. He not only aided
me generously on this occasion, but he was also the creative genius of
the first popular concerts which aided so powerfully in making music
understood outside the theater.

[Illustration: One of the last portraits of Massenet]

In the Rue des Martyrs one rainy day (Always rain! Truly Paris is not
Italy!) I met one of my confrères, a violoncellist in Pasdeloup's
orchestra. While we were chatting, he said, "This morning we read a very
remarkable _Suite d'Orchestra_. We wanted to know the author's name, but
it wasn't on the orchestral parts."

I jumped up at once. I was greatly excited. Was it my work or that of
some one else?

"In this _Suite_," I asked him with a start, "is there a fugue, a march,
and a nocturne?"

"Exactly," he replied.

"Then," I said, "it is mine."

I rushed to the Rue Lafitte and flew up the stairs like a madman to tell
my wife and her mother.

Pasdeloup had given me no warning.

On the program for the next day but one, Sunday, I saw my first
orchestral suite announced.

How was I to hear what I had written?

I paid for a place in the third balcony and listened, lost in that dense
crowd, as it was every Sunday, in that gallery where they even had to
stand. Each passage was well received. The last had just ended when a
young fellow near me hissed twice. Both times, however, the audience
protested and applauded all the more heartily. So the kill-joy did not
gain the effect he wanted.

I went back home all of a tremble. My family had also gone to the Cirque
Napoléon and came to find me at once. If my people were happy at my
success, they were still more pleased to have heard my work.

One would have thought no more about that misguided hisser, except that
the next day Albert Wolf devoted a long article on the front page of the
_Figaro_, as unkind as it could be, to breaking my back. His brilliant,
cutting wit was amusing reading for his public. My friend, Theodore
Dubois, as young as I was in his career, had the fine courage to reply
to Wolf at the risk of losing his position. He wrote a letter worthy in
every way of his great, noble heart.

Reyer for his part consoled me for the _Figaro_ article by this curious,
piquant bon-mot: "Let him talk. Wits, like imbeciles, can be mistaken."

I owe it to the truth to say that Albert Wolf regretted what he had
written without attaching any importance to it except to please his
readers, and never thinking that at the same time he might kill the
future of a young musician. Afterwards he became one of my warmest
friends.

Emperor Napoleon III opened three competitions, and I did not wait a
single day to enter them.

I competed for the cantata _Prométhée_, the opéra-comique _Le
Florentin_, and the opera _La Coupe du Roi de Thulé_.

I got nothing.

Saint-Saëns won the prize with his _Prométhée_; Charles Lenepveu was
crowned for his _Le Florentin_--I was third--and Diaz got first place
with _La Coupe du Roi de Thulé_. It was given at the Opéra under
marvellous conditions of interpretation.

Saint-Saëns knew that I had competed and that the award had wavered
between me and Diaz who had won. Shortly after this he met me and said:

"There are so many good and beautiful things in your score that I have
just written to Weimar to see if your work can't be performed there."

Only great men act like that!

Events, however, decreed otherwise, and the thousand pages of
orchestration were for thirty years a well from which I drew many a
passage for my subsequent works.

I was beaten, but not broken.

Ambroise Thomas, the constant, ever kind genius of my life, introduced
me to Michel Carré, one of the collaborators on _Mignon_ and _Hamlet_.
The billboards constantly proclaimed his successes and he entrusted me
with a libretto in three acts which was splendidly done, entitled
_Méduse_.

I worked on this during the summer and winter of 1869 and during the
spring of 1870. On the twelfth of July of that year the work had been
done for several days, and Michel Carré made an appointment to meet me
at the Opéra. He intended to tell the director, Emile Perrin, that he
must put the work on and that it would pay him to do so.

Emile Perrin was not there.

I left Michel Carré, who embraced me heartily and said, "Au revoir. On
the stage of the Opéra."

I went to Fontainebleau where I was living, that same evening.

I was going to be happy....

But the future was too lovely!

The next morning the papers announced the declaration of war between
France and Germany and I never saw Michel Carré again. He died some
months after this touching meeting which seemed so decisive to me.

Good-by to my fine plans for Weimar, my hopes at the Opéra, and my own
hopes too. War, with all its alarms and horrors, had come to drench the
soil of France with blood.

I went.

       *       *       *       *       *

I will not take up my recollections again until after that utterly
terrible year. I do not want to make such cruel hours live again; I want
to spare my readers their mournful tale.



CHAPTER IX

THE DAYS AFTER THE WAR


The Commune had just gasped its last breath when we found ourselves
again at the family abode in Fontainebleau.

Paris breathed once more after a long period of trouble and agony;
gradually calm returned. As if the lesson of that bloody time would
never fade away and as if its memory would be perpetual, bits of burnt
paper were brought into our garden from time to time on the wings of the
wind. I kept one piece. It bore traces of figures and probably came from
the burning of the Ministry of Finance.

As soon as I saw again my dear little room in the country, I found
courage to work and in the peace of the great trees which spread over us
with their sweetly peaceful branches I wrote the _Scénes Pittoresques_.

I dedicated them to my good friend Paladilhe, author of _Patrie_, later
my confrère at the Institute.

As I had undergone all kinds of privation for so many months, the life
I was now living seemed to me most exquisite; it brought back my good
humor and gave me a calm and serene mind.

On this account I was able to write my second orchestral suite which was
played some years later at the Chatelet concerts.

But I went back to Paris before long, for I wanted to see, as soon as
possible, the great city which had been so sorely tried. I had hardly
got back when I met Emile Bergerat, the bright and delightful poet, who
later became Théophile Gautier's son-in-law.

How dear a name in French letters is that of Théophile Gautier! What
glory he heaped on them--that illustrious Benvenuto of style as they
called him!

Bergerat took me with him one day to visit his future father-in-law.

My sensations in approaching that great poet were indescribable! He was
no longer in the dawn of life, but he was still youthful and vivacious
in thought, and rich in images with which he adorned his slightest
conversation. And his learning was extremely wide and varied. I found
him sitting in a large armchair with three cats about him. I have always
been fond of the pretty creatures, so I at once made friends with them
which put me in the good graces of their master.

Bergerat, who has continued to be a charming friend to me, told him that
I was a musician and that a ballet over his name would open the doors of
the Opéra to me. He developed on the spot two subjects for me: _Le
Preneur de Rats_ (The Rat Catcher) and _La Fille du Roi des Aulnes_. The
recollection of Schubert frightened me off the latter, and it was
arranged that the _Rat Catcher_ should be offered to the director of the
Opéra.

Nothing came of it as far as I was concerned. The name of the great poet
was so dazzling that the poor musician was completely lost in its
brilliance. It was said, however, that I would not remain a nonentity,
but that I would finally emerge from obscurity.

Duquesnel, an admirable friend, then the director of the Odéon, at the
instance of Hartmann, my publisher, sent for me to come to his office at
the theater and asked me to write the stage music for the old tragedy
_Les Erinnyes_ by Leconte de Lisle. He read several scenes to me and I
became enthusiastic at once.

How splendid the rehearsals were! They were under the direction of the
celebrated artist Brindeau, the stage manager at the Odéon, but Leconte
de Lisle managed them in person.

What an Olympian attitude was that of the famous translator of Homer,
Sophocles, and Theocritus, those geniuses of the past whom he almost
seemed to equal! How admirable the expression of his face with his
double eye-glass which seemed a part of him and through which his eyes
gleamed with lightning glances!

How could they pretend that he did not like music when they inflicted so
much of it on him, in that work at any rate? It was ridiculous. That is
the sort of legend with which they overwhelm so many poets.

Théophile Gautier, who, they said, considered music the most costly of
all noises, knew and liked other marvellous artists too well to
disparage our art. Besides, who can forget his critical articles on
music which his daughter Judith Gautier, of the Goncourt Academy, has
just collected in one volume with pious care, and which are uncommonly
and astonishingly just appreciations.

Leconte de Lisle was a fervent admirer of Wagner and of Alphonse
Daudet, of whom I shall speak later, and had a soul most sensitive to
music.

In spite of the snow I went to the country in December to shut myself up
for a few days with my wife's good parents and I wrote the music of _Les
Erinnyes_.

Dusquesnel placed forty musicians at my disposal, which, under the
circumstances, was a considerable expense and a great favor. Instead of
writing a score for the regular orchestra--which would have produced
only a paltry effect--I had the idea of having a quartet of thirty-six
stringed instruments corresponding to a large orchestra. Then I added
three trombones to represent the three Erinnyes: Tisiphone, Alecto and
Megere, and a pair of kettle-drums. So I had my forty.

I again thank that dear director for this unusual luxury of instruments.
I owed the sympathy of many musicians to it and to him.

As I was already occupied with an opéra-comique in three acts which a
young collaborator of Ennery's had obtained for me from the manager of
the theater--how my memory flies to Chantepie, vanished from the stage
too early--I received a letter from du Locle, then director of the
Opéra-Comique, telling me that this work, _Don César de Bazan_, must be
ready in November.

The cast was: Mlle. Priola, Mme. Galli Marie, already famous as
_Mignon_, later the never to be forgotten _Carmen_, and a young beginner
with a well trained voice and charming presence, M. Bouchy.

The work was put on hastily with old scenery, which so displeased Ennery
that he never appeared in the theater again.

Madame Galli took the honors of the evening with several encores. The
_Entr'acte Sevillana_ was also applauded. The work, however, did not
succeed for it was taken off the bill after the thirteenth performance.
Joncières, the author of _Dimitri_, pled my cause in vain before the
Société des Auteurs, of which Auguste Maquet was president, arguing that
they had no right to withdraw a work which still averaged so good
receipts. They were kind words lost! _Don César_ was played no more.

I recall that later on I had to re-write the whole work at the request
of several provincial houses so that it might be played as they wished.
The manuscript of the score (only the entr'acte was engraved) was
burned in the fire of May, 1887, as was my first work.

An invincible secret power directed my life.

I was invited to dine at the house of Mme. Pauline Viardot, the sublime
lyric tragedienne. In the course of the evening I was asked to play a
little music.

I was taken unawares and I began to sing a bit from my sacred drama
_Marie Magdeleine_.

Although I had no voice, at that age I had a good deal of go in the
manner of singing my music. Now, I speak it, and in spite of the
insufficiency of my vocal powers, my artists get what I mean.

I was singing, if I may say so, when Mme. Pauline Viardot leaned over
the keyboard and said with an accent of emotion never to be forgotten,

"What is that?"

"_Marie Magdeleine_," I told her, "a work of my youth which I never even
hope to put on."

"What? Well, it shall be and I will be your Mary Magdalene."

I at once sang again the scene of Magdalene at the Cross:

    _O bien-aimé! Sous ta sombre couronne_....

When Hartmann heard of this, he wanted to play a trick on Pasdeloup, who
had heard the score not long before and who had refused it almost
brutally, so he created, in collaboration with Duquesnel at the Odéon,
the Concert National. The leader of the orchestra at this new popular
concert was Edouard Colonne, my old friend at the Conservatoire, whom I
had already chosen to conduct _Les Erinnyes_.

Hartmann's publishing house was the rendezvous for all the youngsters,
including César Franck whose lofty works had not yet come into their
own.

The small shop at 17 Boulevard de la Madeleine became the center of the
musical movement. Bizet, Saint-Saëns, Lalo, Franck, and Holmès were a
part of the inner circle. Here they chatted gaily and with every
enthusiasm and ardor in their faith in the great art which was to
ennoble their lives.

The first five concerts at the Concert National were devoted to César
Franck and to other composers. The sixth and last was given to the full
performance of _Marie Magdeleine_.



CHAPTER X

JOY AND SORROW


The first reading of _Marie Magdeleine_ to the cast took place at nine
o'clock one morning in the small hall of the Maison Erard, Rue de Mail,
which had been used heretofore for quartet concerts. Early as the hour
was Mme. Viardot was even earlier, so eager was she to hear the first
notes of my work. The other interpreters arrived a few moments later.

Edouard Colonne conducted the orchestra rehearsals.

Mme. Viardot took a lively interest in the reading. She followed it like
an artist well acquainted with the composition. She was a marvellous
singer and lyric tragedienne and more than an artist; she was a great
musician, a woman marvellously endowed and altogether unusual.

On the eleventh of April the Odéon received the public which always
attends dress rehearsals and first nights. The theater opened its doors
to All Paris, always the same hundred persons who think it the most
desirable privilege in the world to be present at a rehearsal or a first
night.

The press was represented as usual.

I took refuge with my interpreters in the wings. They were all there and
they were highly excited. In their emotion it seemed as if they were to
pass a final sentence on me, that they were about to give a verdict on
which my life depended.

I can give no account of the impression of the audience. I had to leave
the next day with my wife for Italy, so I had no immediate news.

The first echo of _Marie Magdeleine_ reached me at Naples in the form of
a touching letter from the ever kindly Ambroise Thomas.

This is what the master, always so delicately attentive to everything
which marked the steps of my musical career, wrote:

     PARIS, April 12, 1873

     As I am obliged to go to my country place to-day, I shall, perhaps,
     not have the pleasure of seeing you before your departure. In the
     uncertainty I cannot postpone telling you, my dear friend, how
     pleased I was last evening and how happy I was at your fine
     success.

     It is at once a serious, noble work, full of feeling. It is of
     _our times_, but you have proved that one can walk the path of
     progress and still remain clear, sober, and restrained.

     You have known how to move, because you have been moved yourself.

     I was carried away like everyone else, indeed more than anyone
     else.

     You have expressed happily the lovely poetry of that sublime drama.

     In a mystical subject where one is tempted to fall into an abuse of
     somber tones and severity of style, you have shown yourself a
     colorist while retaining charm and clearness.

     Be content; your work will be heard again and will endure.

     Au revoir; with all my heart I congratulate you.

     My affectionate congratulations to Madame Massenet.

     AMBROISE THOMAS.

I read and re-read this dear letter. I could not get it out of my
thoughts so agreeable and precious was the comfort it brought me.

[Illustration: Mme. Pauline Viardot]

I was lost in such delightful revery when, as we were taking the steamer
for Capri, I saw a breathless hotel servant running towards me with a
package of letters in his hands. They were from my friends in Paris who
were delighted with my success and who were determined to express
their joy to me. A copy of the _Journal des Debats_ was enclosed. It
came from Ernest Reyer and contained over his signature an article which
was most eulogistic of my work, one of the most moving I have ever
received.

I had now returned to see this charming and intoxicating country. I
visited Naples and Capri, then Sorrento, all picturesque places
captivatingly beautiful, perfumed with the scent of orange trees, and
all this on the morrow of a never to be forgotten evening. I lived in
the most unutterable raptures.

A week later we were in Rome.

We had scarcely reached the Hôtel de la Minerve when there arrived a
gracious invitation to lunch from the director of the Académie de
France, a member of the Institute, the illustrious painter Ernest
Hébert.

Several students were invited to this occasion. We breathed the warm air
of that wholly lovely day through the open windows of the director's
salon where De Troy's magnificent tapestries representing the story of
Esther were hung.

After lunch Hébert asked me to let him hear some of the passages from
_Marie Magdeleine_. Flattering accounts of it had come to him from
Paris.

The next day the Villa's students invited me in their turn. It was with
the keenest emotion that I found myself once more in that dining room
with its arched ceiling, where my portrait was hung beside those of the
other Grand Prixs. After lunch I saw in a studio opening into the garden
the "Gloria Victis," the splendid masterpiece which was destined to make
the name of Mercié immortal.

I must confess in speaking of _Marie Magdeleine_ that I had a
presentiment that the work would in the end gain honors on the stage.
However I had to wait twenty years before I had that pleasant
satisfaction. It verified the opinion I had formed of that sacred drama.

M. Saugey, the able director of the Opéra at Nice, was the first to have
the audacity to try it and he could not but congratulate himself. On my
part I tender him my sincere thanks.

Our first _Marie Magdeleine_ on the stage was Lina Pacary. That born
artist, in voice, beauty and talent was fitted for the creation of this
part, and when the same theater later put on _Ariane_, Lina Pacary was
again selected as the interpreter. Her uninterrupted success made her
theatrical life really admirable.

The year following my dear friend and director Albert Carré put the work
on at the Opéra-Comique. It was my good fortune to have as my
interpreters Mme. Marguerite Carré, Mme. Aïno Ackté, and Salignac.

So I lived again in Rome in the most pleasant thoughts of _Marie
Magdeleine_. Naturally it was the topic of conversation on the ideal
walks I took with Hébert in the Roman Campagna.

Hébert was not only a great painter but also a distinguished poet and
musician. In the latter capacity he played in a quartet which was often
heard at the Académie.

Ingres, also a director of the Académie, played the violin. Delacroix
was asked one day what he thought of Ingres's violin playing.

"He plays like Raphael," was the amusing answer of this brilliant
colorist.

So delightful was our stay in Rome that it was with regret that we left
that city so dear to our memories and went back to Paris.

I had hardly got back to No. 46 Rue du General Foy--where I lived for
thirty years--than I became absorbed in a libretto by Jules Adenis--_Les
Templiers_.

I had hardly written two acts when I began to worry about it. The piece
was extremely interesting, but its historical situations took me along
the road already travelled by Meyerbeer.

Hartmann agreed with me; indeed my publisher was so outspoken about it
that I tore into bits the two hundred pages which I had submitted to
him.

In deep trouble, hardly knowing where I was going, I happened to think
of calling on Louis Gallet, my collaborator in _Marie Magdeleine_. I
came from this interview with him with the plan of _Le Roi de Lahore_.
From the funeral pyre of the last Grand Master of the Templars, Jean
Jacques de Molay, whom I had given up, I found myself in the Paradise of
India. It was the seventh heaven of bliss for me.

Charles Lamoureux, the famous orchestra leader, had just founded the
Concerts de l'Harmonie Sacrée in the Cirque des Champs Élysées, which
to-day has disappeared. (What a wicked delight they take in turning a
superb theater into a branch of the Bank or an excellent concert hall
into a grass plot of the Champs Élysées!)

As everyone knows Händel's oratorios made these concerts famous and
successful.

One snowy morning in January Hartmann introduced me to Lamoureux who
lived in a garden in the Cité Frochot. I took with me the manuscript of
_Ève_, a mystical play in three acts.

The hearing took place before lunch. And by the time we had reached the
coffee we were in complete accord. The work was to go to rehearsal with
the following famous interpreters: Mme. Brunet Lafleur and Mm. Lasalle
and Prunet.

Les Concerts de l'Harmonie Sacré had _Ève_ on the program of the
eighteenth of March, 1875, as had been arranged.

In spite of the superb general rehearsal in the entirely empty
hall--that was the reason I was there, for I had already begun to avoid
the excitements of public performances--I waited in a small café nearby
for the news brought by an old comrade, Taffanel, then the first flute
player at the Opéra and at the Concerts de l'Harmonie Sacrée. Ah, my
dear Taffanel, my departed friend, whom I loved so well, how dear to me
were your affection and your talent when you conducted my works at the
Opéra!

After each part Taffanel ran across the street and told me the
comforting news. After the third part he was still encouraging, and he
told me hastily that it was all over, that the audience had gone, and
begged me to come at once and thank Lamoureux.

I believed him, but what a fraud he was! No sooner was I in the
musicians' foyer than I was blown like a feather into my confrères arms,
which I grabbed as hard as I could, for I now understood the trick. But
they put me down on the stage before the audience which was still there
and still applauding and waving their hats and handkerchiefs.

I got up, bounced like a ball, and disappeared--furious!

I have drawn this doubtless exaggerated picture of my success because
the moments which followed were terrible for me and showed in contrast
the vanity of the things of this world.

A servant had been searching for me all the evening as she did not know
my whereabouts in Paris and she found me at last at the door of the
concert hall. With tears in her eyes she bade me come to my mother who
was very ill. My dear mother was living in the Rue Notre-Dame-de-Lorette.
I had sent her seats for herself and my sister and I felt sure that both
of them had been at the concert.

The servant and I jumped into a cab, and when I reached the landing, my
sister, with outstretched arms and sobbing, cried, "Mamma is dead ... at
ten o'clock this evening."

Words cannot express my deep grief at this announcement of the terrible
misfortune which had come upon me. It darkened my days just at the time
when it seemed as if a kind heaven wished to drive away the clouds.

In accordance with my mother's last wishes, she was embalmed the next
day. My sister and I, both prostrated by grief, were there, when we were
surprised by the sudden appearance of Hartmann. I dragged him swiftly
away from the painful sight, and he hurried out, but not before he had
said,

"You are down for the cross!"

Poor mother! how proud she would have been!

     March, 21, 1875

     _Dear Friend:_

     If I had not lost your card and, consequently, your address, for
     which I searched for a quarter of an hour in the _Testaccio_ of my
     papers, I would have told you yesterday of my keen joy and deep
     emotion at hearing your _Ève_ and at its success. The triumph of
     one of the Elect should be a festival for the Church. And you are
     one of the Elect, my dear friend; Heaven has marked you with a sign
     as one of its children; I feel it in everything which your
     beautiful work has stirred in my heart. But prepare for the
     martyr's rôle--for the part which must be played by all who come
     from on high and offend what comes from below. Remember that when
     the Lord said, "He is one of the Elect," he added, "And I will show
     him how greatly he must suffer in my name."

     Wherefore, my dear friend, spread forth your wings boldly, and
     trust yourself fearlessly to the lofty regions where the lead of
     earth cannot hit the bird of heaven.

     Yours with all my heart,

     CH. GOUNOD.



CHAPTER XI

MY DÉBUT AT THE OPERA


Death, which by taking away my mother had stricken me in my dearest
affections, had also taken her mother from my dear wife. So we lived the
next summer at Fontainebleau in a sorrowful house of mourning.

Remembrance of the dear departed still hung over us, when I learned on
the fifth of June of the death of Bizet. The news came like a thunder
clap. Bizet had been a sincere and affectionate comrade, and I had a
respectful admiration for him although we were about the same age.

His life was very hard. He felt the spirit within him, and he believed
that his future glory would outlive him. _Carmen_, famous for forty
years, appeared to those called upon to judge a work which contained
good things, although it was somewhat incomplete, and also--what did
they not say at the time?--a dangerous and immoral subject.

What a lesson on too hasty judgments!...

On returning to Fontainebleau after the gloomy funeral I tried to take
up my life again and work on _Le Roi de Lahore_ on which I had already
been busy for several months.

The summer that year was particularly hot and enervating. I was so
depressed that one day when a tremendous storm broke I felt almost
annihilated and let myself fall asleep.

But if my body was lulled to sleep, my mind remained active; it seemed
never to stop working. Indeed my ideas seemed to profit from this
involuntary rest imposed by Nature to put themselves in order. I heard
as in a dream my third act, the Paradise of India, played on the stage
of the Opéra. The intangible performance had, as it were, filled my
mind. The same phenomenon happened to me on several subsequent
occasions.

I never would have dared to hope it. That day and those which followed I
began to write the rough draft of the instrumental music for that scene
in Paradise.

Between times I continued to give numerous lessons in Paris, which I
found equally oppressive and enervating.

I had long since formed the habit of getting up early. My work absorbed
me from four o'clock in the morning until midday and lessons took up the
six hours of the afternoon. Most of the evenings were given to my
pupils' parents. We had music at their homes and we were made much of
and entertained. I have been accustomed to working in the morning like
this all my life, and I still continue the practice.

After spending the winter and spring in Paris we returned to our calm
and peaceful family home in Fontainebleau. At the beginning of the
summer of 1876 I finished the whole of the orchestral score for _Le Roi
de Lahore_ on which I had now spent several years.

Finishing a work is to bid good-by to the indescribable pleasure which
the labor gives one!

I had on my desk eleven hundred pages of orchestral score and my
arrangement for the piano, which I had just finished.

What would become of this work was the question I asked myself
anxiously. Would it ever be played? As a matter of fact it was written
for a large stage--that was the danger, the dark spot in the future.

During the preceding winter I had become acquainted with that soulful
poet Charles Grandmougin. The delightful singer of the Promenades and
the impassioned bard of the French Patrie had written a sacred legend in
four parts, _La Vierge_, which he intended for me.

I have never been able to let my mind lie idle, and I at once started in
on Grandmougin's beautiful verses. Why then should bitter discouragement
arise? I will tell you later. As a matter of fact I could stand it no
longer. I must see Paris again. It seemed to me that I would come back
relieved of my weak heartedness which I had undergone without noticing
it much.

I went to Paris on the twenty-sixth of July intending to bother Hartmann
with my troubles by confessing them to him.

But I did not find him in. I strolled to the Conservatoire to pass the
time. A competition on the violin was in progress. When I got there,
they were taking a ten minute rest, and I took advantage of it to pay my
respects to my master Ambroise Thomas in the large room just off the
jury-room.

As that place, then so delightfully alive, is to-day a desert which has
been abandoned for other quarters, I will describe what the place was in
which I grew up and lived for so many years.

The room of which I have spoken was reached by a great staircase entered
through a vestibule of columns. As one reached the landing he saw two
large pictures done by some painter or other of the First Empire. The
door opposite opened on a room ornamented by a large mantelpiece and
lighted by a glass ceiling in the style of the ancient temples.

The furniture was in the style of Napoleon I.

A door opened into the office of the director of the Conservatoire, a
room large enough to hold ten or a dozen people seated about the green
cloth table or seated or standing at separate tables. The decoration of
the great hall of the Conservatoire was in the Pompeiian style in
harmony with the room I have described.

Ambroise Thomas was leaning on the mantelpiece. When he saw me, he
smiled joyfully, held out his arms into which I flung myself, and said
with an appearance of resignation, delightful at the time, "Accept it;
it is the first rung."

"What shall I accept?" I asked.

"What, you don't know? They gave you the cross yesterday?"

Émile Réty, the valued general secretary of the Conservatoire, took the
ribbon from his buttonhole and put it in mine, but not without some
difficulty. He had to open it with an ink eraser which he found on the
jury's table near the president's desk.

That phrase "the first rung," was delightful and profoundly encouraging.

Now, I had only one urgent errand--to see my publisher.

I must confess to a feeling which enters into my tastes to such an
extent as to be indicative of my character. I was still so youthful that
I felt uneasy about the ribbon which seemed to blaze and draw all eyes.

My face was still moist from those lavish embraces and I was planning to
go home to the country when I was stopped on the corner of the Rue de la
Paix by M. Halanzier, the director of the Opéra. I was surprised the
more, for I believed that I was only moderately thought of at the Great
House as a result of the refusal of my ballet, _Le Preneur de Rats_.

But M. Halanzier had a frank and open mind.

"What are you doing?" he asked. "I hear nothing of you."

I may add that he had never spoken to me before.

"How could I dare to speak of my work to the director of the Opéra?" I
replied, thoroughly confused.

"And if I want you to?"

"Well, I have a simple work in five acts, _Le Roi de Lahore_, with Louis
Gallet."

"Come to my house, 18 Place Vendome, to-morrow and bring your
manuscript."

I rushed to tell Gallet, and then went home to Fontainebleau, carrying
my wife the two bits of news, one obvious in my buttonhole, and the
other the greatest hope I had ever had.

I was at the Place Vendome the next morning at nine o'clock. Gallet was
there already.

Halanzier lived in a beautiful apartment on the third floor of the
superb mansion which formed one of the corners of the Place Vendome.

I began the reading at once. Halanzier stopped me so little that I went
right through the whole of the five acts. My voice was gone ... and my
hands were useless from fatigue.

As I put my manuscript back into my old leather portfolio and Gallet and
I prepared to go:

"Well! So you leave me no copy?"

I looked at Gallet in stupefaction.

"Then you intend to perform the work?"

"The future will tell."

I was scarcely reinstalled in our apartment in the Rue du General Foy on
my return to Paris in October, than the morning's mail brought me the
following bulletin from the Opéra:

    _Le Roi
    2 heures----Foyer_

The parts had been given to Mlle. Josephine de Reszke--her two brothers
Jean and Edouard were to ornament the stage later on--Salomon and
Lassalle, the last creating a rôle for the first time.

There was no public dress rehearsal. It was not the custom then as it is
nowadays to have a rehearsal for the "couturières," then for the
"colonelle" and, finally, the "general" rehearsal.

In spite of the obviously sympathetic demonstrations of the orchestra
and all the personnel at the rehearsal, Halanzier announced that as they
were putting on the first work of a debutant at the Opéra, he wanted to
look after everything himself until after the first performance.

I want to record again my deep gratitude to that singularly good
director who loved youth and protected it.

The staging, scenery and costumes were of unheard-of splendor; the
interpretation of the first order....

The first performance of _Le Roi de Lahore_, the twenty-seventh of
April, 1877, was a glorious event in my life.

Apropos of this I recall that on that morning Gustave Flaubert left his
card with the servant, without even asking for me. On it were these
words:

"This morning I pity you; to-night I shall envy you."

These lines show so well the admirable understanding of the writer of
_Salammbo_ and that immortal masterpiece _Madame Bovary_.

The next morning I received the following lines from the famous
architect and great artist Charles Gamier:

     "I do not know whether it is the hall which makes good music; but,
     _sapristi_, what I do know is that I lost none of your work and
     found it _admirable_. That's the truth.

     "Your

     "CARLO."

The magnificent Opéra had been opened sixteen months previously, January
5, 1875, and the critics had considered it their duty to attack the
acoustics of that marvellous house built by the most exceptionally
competent man of modern times. It is true that the criticism did not
last, for when one speaks of Garnier's magnificent work it is in words
which are eloquent in their simplicity, "What a fine theater!" The hall
obviously has not changed, but the public which pays to Garnier his just
and rightful homage.



CHAPTER XII

THE THEATERS IN ITALY


The performances of _Le Roi de Lahore_ were running on at the Opéra and
they were well attended and finely done. At least that is what I heard
for I had already stopped going. Presently I left Paris where, as I have
said, I devoted myself to giving lessons, and went back to the country
to work on _La Vierge_.

In the meantime I had learned that the great Italian publisher Guilio
Ricordi had heard _Le Roi de Lahore_ at the Opéra and had come to terms
with Hartmann for its production in Italy. Such a thing was really
unique, for at that time the only works translated into Italian and
given in that country were those of the great masters. And they had to
wait a long time for their turn, while it was my good fortune to see _Le
Roi de Lahore_ played on the morrow of its first performance.

The first house in Italy at which this honor fell to me was the Regio in
Turin. What an unexpected good fortune it was to see Italy again, to
know their theaters from more than the outside, and to go into their
wings! I found in all this a delight which I cannot express and in this
state of rapture I passed the first months of 1878. Hartmann and I went
to Italy on the first of February, 1878.

With the Scala at Milan, the San Carlo at Naples, the Communal Opéra at
Boulogne, the old Apollo at Rome--since demolished and replaced in
popular favor by the Costanzi--with the Pergola at Florence, the Carlo
Felice at Genoa, and the Fenice at Venice, the beautiful Regio Theater,
built opposite the Madame Palace on the Piazza Castella, is one of the
most noted in all Italy. It rivaled then--as it does now--the most
famous houses of that classic land of the arts to which it was always so
hospitable and so receptive.

The manners at the Regio were entirely different from those at Paris and
were, as I discovered later, much like those in Germany. Absolute
deference and punctilious exactness are the rule, not only among the
artistes but also among the singers of the minor rôles. The orchestra
obeys the slightest wish of the director.

The orchestra at the Regio at that time was conducted by the master
Pedrotti who was subsequently the director of the Rossini Conservatory
at Pesaro. He was known for his gay, vivacious melodies and a number of
operas, among them _Tutti in maschera_. His death was tragic. I can
still hear honest Pedrotti saying repeatedly to me:

"Are you satisfied? I am so much."

We had a famous tenor of the time, Signor Fanselli. He had a superb
voice, but a mannerism of spreading his arms wide open in front of him
with his fingers opened out. In spite of the fact that an excessive
fondness for this method of giving expression is almost inevitably
displeasing, many other artists I have known use it to express their
feelings, at least they think they do, when, as a matter of fact, they
feel absolutely nothing.

His open hands had won for this remarkable tenor the nickname, _Cinque e
cinque fanno dieci!_ (Five and five make ten!)

Apropos of this first performance I will mention the baritone Mendioroz
and Signorina Mecocci who took part in it.

Such goings about became very frequent, for scarcely had Hartmann and I
got back to Paris than we had to start off again for Rome where _Il Re
di Lahore_ had the honor of a first performance on March 21, 1879.

Here I had still more remarkable artists: the tenor Barbaccini, the
baritone Kashmann, both singers of great merit; then Signorina Mariani,
an admirable singer and tragedienne, and her younger sister who was
equally charming. M. Giacovacci, the director at the Apollo, was a
strange old fellow, very amusing and gay, especially when he recalled
the first performance of _The Barber of Seville_ at the Argentine
Theater in the days of his youth. He drew a most interesting picture of
the young Rossini and his vivacity and charm. To have written _The
Barber of Seville_ and _William Tell_ is indeed a most striking evidence
of wit personified and also of a keen mind.

I profited by my stay in Rome to revisit my dear Villa Medici. It amused
me to reappear there as an author ... how shall I say it? Well (and so
much the worse) let us say, an enthusiastically applauded author.

I stopped at the Hotel de Rome, opposite the San Carlo, on the Corso.

The morning after the first performance, they brought a note to my
rooms--I was hardly awake, for we had come in very late--which bore
these words:

     "The next time you stay at a hotel, let me know beforehand, for I
     haven't slept all night with all their serenading and toasting you!
     What a row! But I am pleased for your sake.

     "Your old friend,

     "DU LOCLE."

Du Locle! How could it be he! But there he was--my conductor at the
birth of _Don César de Bazan_. I hastened to embrace him.

The morning of March 21 brought hours of magical delight and alluring
charm. I count them as among the best that I remember.

I had obtained an audience with the newly enthroned Pope Leo XIII. The
grand salon where I was introduced was preceded by a long antechamber.
Those who had been admitted like myself were kneeling in a row on each
side of the room. The Pope blessed the faithful with his right hand and
spoke a few words to them. His chamberlain told him who I was and why I
had come to Rome, and the Sovereign Pontiff added to his benediction
words of good wishes for my art.

Leo XIII combined an unusual dignity with a simplicity which reminded me
forcibly of Pius IX.

After leaving the Vatican I went at eleven o'clock to the Quirinal
Palace. The Marchese di Villamarina was to present me to Queen
Margherita. We passed through a suite of five or six rooms and in the
one where we waited was a crape-covered glass case in which were
souvenirs of Victor Emanuel who had died only recently. There was an
upright piano between the windows. The following detail was almost
theatrical in its impression. I had noticed that an usher was stationed
at the door of each of the salons through which I had come, and I heard
a distant voice, evidently in the first room, announce loudly, La
Regina, then nearer, La Regina, then nearer still, La Regina, and again
and louder, La Regina, and finally in the next salon, in ringing tones,
La Regina. And the Queen appeared in the salon where we were.

The Marchese di Villamarina presented me, bowed to the Queen, and went
out.

Her Majesty, in a charming voice, asked me to excuse her for not going
to the opera the evening before to hear _Il Capolavoro_ of the French
master, and, pointing to the glass case, said, "We are in mourning."
Then she added, "As I was deprived of the evening, will you not let me
hear some of the motifs of the opera?"

As there was no chair beside the piano, I began to play standing. Then I
saw the Queen looking about for a chair and I sprang towards one, placed
it in front of the piano and continued playing as she had asked so
adorably.

I was much moved when I left her Majesty and I was deeply gratified by
her gracious reception. I passed through the numerous salons and found
the Marchese di Villamarina whom I thanked heartily for his great
courtesy.

A quarter of an hour later I was in the Via delle Carozze, visiting
Menotti Garibaldi to whom I had a letter of introduction from a friend
in Paris.

That was no ordinary morning. Indeed it was unusual in view of the
personages I had the honor to see: His Holiness the Pope, her Majesty
the Queen, and the son of Garibaldi.

I was presented during the day to Prince Massimo of the oldest Roman
nobility. When I asked, perhaps indiscreetly but with genuine curiosity
nevertheless, whether he were descended from Emperor Maximus, he
replied, simply and modestly, "I do not know certainly, but they have
been sure of it in my family for eighteen hundred years."

After the theater that evening (a superb success), I went to supper at
the house of our ambassador, the Duke de Montebello. At the request of
the duchess I began to play the same motifs I had given in the morning
before her Majesty the Queen. The duchess smoked, and I remember that I
smoked many cigarettes while I played. That gave me the opportunity, as
the smoke rose to the ceiling, to contemplate the marvellous paintings
of the immortal Carrache, the creator of the famous Farnese Gallery.

Again, what never to be forgotten hours!

I returned to my hotel about three in the morning where the serenade
with which they entertained me kept my friend du Locle awake.

Spring passed rapidly on account of my memories of my brilliant winter
in Italy. I set to work at Fontainebleau and finished _La Vierge_. Then
my dear wife and I set out for Milan and the Villa d'Este.

[Illustration: _By permission of Ad. Braun and Cie., Paris_

Titta Ruffo, Caruso and Chaliapine, three artists who sang in Massenet's
works]

That was a year of enthusiasms, of pure, radiant joy, and its hours of
unutterable good fortune left a mark on my career, which was never to
be erased.

Giulio Ricordi had invited Mme. Massenet and me, together with our dear
daughter, still quite a child, to spend the month of August at the Villa
d'Este in that marvellously picturesque country about Lake Como. We
found there Mme. Giuditta Ricordi, the wife of our amiable and gracious
host, their daughter Ginette, a delightful playmate for my little girl;
and their sons Tito and Manuel, small boys then but tall gentlemen
since. We also met there a lovely young girl, a rose that had as yet
scarcely blossomed, who during our stay worked at singing with a
renowned Italian professor.

Arrigo Boito, the famous author of _Mefistole_, who was also a guest at
the Villa d'Este, was as impressed as I was with the unusual quality of
her voice. That prodigious voice, already so wonderfully flexible, was
that of the future artiste who was never to be forgotten in her creation
of _Lakme_ by the glorious and regretted Léo Delibes. I have named Marie
Van Zandt.

One evening as I entered the Hotel Bella Venezia, on the Piazza San
Fedele at Milan (where even to-day I should be glad to alight) Giulio
Ricordi came to see me and introduced me to a man of great distinction,
an inspired poet, who read me a scenario in four acts on the story of
Herodias, which was tremendously interesting. That remarkable man of
letters was Zanardini, a descendant of one of the greatest families of
Venice.

It is easy to see how suggestive and inspiring the story of the Tetrach
of Galilee, of Salome, of John, and of Herodias would become under a pen
so rich in colors as that of the man who had painted it.

On the fifteenth of August during our stay in Italy, _Le Roi de Lahore_
was put on at the Vienza Theater, and on the third of October came the
first performance at the Communal Theater at Bologna. That was the
reason for our prolonged stay in Italy.

Our return to Fontainebleau followed immediately and I had to take up my
normal life again and my unfinished work.

To my surprise I received a visit from M. Émile Réty the day after my
return! He came from Ambroise Thomas to offer me the place of professor
of counterpoint, fugue and composition at the Conservatoire to replace
François Bazin who had died some months before. He advised me at the
same time to become a candidate for the Académie des Beaux Arts as the
election of a successor to Bazin was at hand.

What a contrast to the months of agreeable nonsense and applause in
Italy! I thought that I was forgotten in France, whereas the truth was
the direct opposite.



CHAPTER XIII

THE CONSERVATOIRE AND THE INSTITUTE


I received the official notice of my nomination as professor at the
Conservatoire and I went to Paris. I would have hardly imagined that I
had said good-by to my beloved house at Fontainebleau with no hope of
seeing it again.

The life which had now begun for me transplanted my summers of work in
the midst of quiet and peaceful solitude--those summers which I had
passed so happily far from the noise and tumult of the city. If books
have their destiny as the poet says (_habent sua fata libelli_), does
not each one of us follow a destiny which is just as certain and
irrevocable? One cannot swim against the stream. It is easy to swim with
it, especially if it carries one to a longed for shore.

I gave my course at the Conservatoire twice a week, on Tuesdays and
Fridays at half past one.

I confess that I was both proud and happy to sit in that chair, in the
same classroom where as a child I had received the advice and lessons
of my master. I looked upon my pupils as other or as new
children--grandchildren rather--who received the teaching which had come
to me and which seemed to filter through the memories of the master who
had imbued me with it.

The young people with whom I had to do seemed nearly my own age, and I
said to them by way of encouraging them and urging them on to work: "You
have but one companion the more, who tries to be as good a pupil as you
are yourselves."

It was touching to see the deferential affection which they showed me
from the first day. I was completely happy when I surprised them
sometimes chatting and telling their impressions of the work given the
day before or to be given to-morrow. At the beginning of my
professorship that work was _Le Roi de Lahore_.

Thus I continued for eighteen years to be both friend and "patron," as
they called me, of a considerable number of young composers.

Since I took such joy in it, I may perhaps recall the successes they won
each year in the contests in fugue, and how useful this teaching was to
me, for it obliged me to be very clever, face to face with a task, in
finding quickly what should be done in accordance with the rigorous
precepts of Cherubini.

How delighted I was for eighteen years when nearly annually the Grand
Prix de Rome was awarded to a pupil in my class! I longed to go to the
Conservatoire and heap the honors on my master.

I can still see, at evening in his peaceful salon with the windows
overlooking the Conservatoire's courtyard--deserted at that hour--the
good Administrator-General Émile Réty listening to me as I told him of
my happiness in having assisted in the success of "my children."

A few years ago I received a touching expression of their feeling toward
me.

In the month of December, 1900, I saw come to my publishers, where they
knew they could find me, Lucien Hillemacher, since dead, alas,
accompanied by a group of old Grand Prix. He delivered to me on
parchment the signatures of more than five hundred of my old pupils. The
pages were bound into a thin octavo volume, bound luxuriously in Levant
morocco, spangled with stars. On the fly-leaves in brilliant
illumination, along with my name, were the two dates: 1878-1900.

The signatures were preceded by the following lines:

     _Dear Master:_

     Happy at your nomination as Grand Officer of the Legion of Honor,
     your pupils unite in offering you this evidence of their deep and
     affectionate gratitude.

     The names of the Grand Prix of the Institute who showed me their
     gratitude in this way were: Hillemacher, Henri Rabaud, Max
     D'Ollone, Alfred Bruneau, Gaston Carraud, G. Marty, André Floch, A.
     Savard, Crocé-Spinelli, Lucien Lambert, Ernest Moret, Gustave
     Charpentier, Reynaldo Hahn, Paul Vidal, Florent Schmitt, Enesco,
     Bemberg, Laparra, d'Harcourt, Malherbe, Guy Ropartz, Tiersot,
     Xavier Leroux, Dallier, Falkenberg, Ch. Silver, and so many other
     dear friends of the class!

Ambroise Thomas saw that I had no thought of standing for the Institute
as he had done me the honor of advising me and was good enough to warn
me that I still had two days left in which to send out the letter of
candidature for the Académie des Beaux Arts. He advised me to make it
short, adding that the mention of titles was necessary only when one
was able to ignore them. This sensible remark rather wounded my
modesty....

Election day was fixed for Saturday, November 30. I knew that there were
many candidates and that first and foremost among them was Saint-Saëns,
whose friend and great admirer I was and always have been.

I yielded to Ambroise Thomas without the slightest expectation of being
elected.

I had spent the day as usual giving lessons in the various parts of
Paris. That morning, however, I had said to Hartmann, my publisher, that
I should be at the house of a pupil, No. 11, Rue Blanche, that evening
between five and six. And I said, laughing, that he would know where to
find me to announce the result whatever it was. Whereupon Hartmann said
grandiloquently, "If you are a member of the Institute this evening, I
will ring twice and you will understand me."

I was about to begin work at the piano, my mind all on my work, on the
_Promenades d'un Solitaire_, by Stephen Heller (What a dear musician,
that Alfred de Musset of the piano, as they called him!) when two sharp
rings of the bell sounded. My heart stopped. My pupil could not make
out what was the matter.

A servant dashed in and said, "There are two gentlemen who want to
embrace your professor." Everything was explained. I went with those
"Messieurs," even more startled than happy, and leaving my pupil
probably better pleased than I was.

When I reached home I found that I had been preceded by my new and
famous colleagues. They had left their congratulations with my concierge
signed Meissonier, Lefeul, Ballu, Cabanel. Meissonier had brought the
report of the sitting signed by him, which showed the two votes, for I
was elected on the second ballot. That was certainly an autograph the
like of which I would not receive twice in my life!

A fortnight later, according to the custom, I was introduced in the
Salle des Séances of the Académie des Beaux-Arts by Comte Delaborde, the
permanent secretary.

A new member had to wear a black coat and a white tie, and going to the
reception in dress clothes at three o'clock in the afternoon, one would
have thought I was on my way to a wedding.

I took my place in the chair which I still occupy. That takes me back
more than thirty-three years!

A few days later I wanted to take advantage of my privileges by
attending the reception of Renan. The ushers did not know me yet, and I
was the Benjamin of the Académie. They would not believe me and refused
to let me in. One of my colleagues, and not the least of them, Prince
Napoleon, who was going in at the same time, told them who I was.

While I was making the usual round of visits of thanks, I called on
Ernest Reyer at his picturesque apartment in the Rue de la Tour
d'Auvergne. He opened the door himself and was much surprised to see me
for he knew I must know that he had not been altogether favorable to me.
"I know," I said, "that you did not vote for me. What touched me was
that you did not vote against me!" This put Reyer in good humor, for he
said, "I am at lunch. Share my fried eggs with me!" I accepted and we
talked a long time about art and its manifestations.

For over thirty years Ernest Reyer was my best and firmest friend.

As one might imagine, the Institute did not sensibly modify my
position. Indeed it made it somewhat more difficult, as I wanted to get
on with the score of _Hérodiade_, and so stopped several lessons which
were my most certain sources of revenue.

       *       *       *       *       *

Three weeks after my election a monster festival took place at the
Hippodrome. More than twenty thousand people took part. Gounod and
Saint-Saëns conducted their own works. I had the honor of directing the
finale of the third act of _Le Roi de Lahore_. Everyone remembers the
prodigious effect of that festival which was organized by Albert
Vizentini, one of the best companions of my childhood.

While I was waiting in the green-room for my turn to go on, Gounod came
in haloed with triumph. I asked him what he thought of the audience.

"I fancied that I saw the Valley of Jehosophat," he said.

An amusing detail was told me afterwards.

There was a considerable crowd outside and the people kept on trying to
get in notwithstanding the loud protests of those already seated. Gounod
shouted so as to be heard distinctly, "I will begin when everyone has
_gone out!_" This amazing exclamation worked wonders. The groups which
had blocked the entrance and approaches to the Hippodrome recoiled. They
vanished as if by magic.

The second of the Concerts Historiques, founded by Vaucorbeil, the
Director of the National Academy of Music at the time, took place at the
Opéra on May 20, 1880. He gave my sacred legend _La Vierge_. Mme.
Gabrielle Krauss and Mlle. Daram were the principals and splendid
interpreters they were.

That work is a rather painful memory in my life. Its reception was cold
and only one fragment seemed to satisfy the large audience which filled
the hall. They encored three times the passage which is now in the
repertoire of many concerts, the prelude to Part IV, _Le Dernier Sommeil
de la Vierge_.

Some years later the Société des Concerts du Conservatoire twice gave
the fourth part of_ La Vierge_ in its entirety. Mme. Aïno Ackté was
really sublime in her interpretation of the rôle of the Virgin. This
success was completely satisfying to me; I had nearly said, the most
precious of revenges.



CHAPTER XIV

A FIRST PERFORMANCE AT BRUSSELS


My trips to Italy, journeys devoted to following, if not to the
preparation of, the successive performances of _Le Roi de Lahore_ at
Milan, Piacenza, Venice, Pisa and Trieste on the other side of the
Adriatic, did not prevent my working on the score of _Hérodiade_ and it
was soon finished.

Perhaps such wanderings are surprising since they are so little to my
taste. Many of my pupils, however, have followed my example in this
regard and the reason is obvious. At the beginning of our careers we
have to give hints to the orchestras, the stage manager, the artists and
costumers; the why and wherefore of each scene must, oftentimes, be
explained, and the tempo, as given by the metronome, is little like the
true one.

I have let such things go for a long time for they take care of
themselves. It is true that, since I have been known for so many years,
it would be difficult to make a choice and decide where I ought to go.
And where should I begin--'twere among my keenest desires--personally
to express my gratitude to all the directors and artists who now know my
work. As to the hints I might have given them, they have gone ahead and
departures from the true rendering have become rare, much more so than
in the beginning when both directors and artists ignored my wishes and
could not foresee them; in short, when my works were, to them, those of
an unknown.

I must recall, and I do so with sincere emotion, all I owe in the great
provincial houses to those kind directors, so affectionately devoted to
me: Gravière, Saugey, Villefranck, Rachet, and many others who can claim
my thanks and my most grateful congratulations.

During the summer of 1879 I lived at the seashore at Pourville near
Dieppe. Hartmann, my publisher, and Paul Milliet, my collaborator, spent
the Sundays with me. When I say with me, I abuse the words for I kept
company but little with these excellent friends. I was accustomed to
work fifteen or sixteen hours a day, sleep six hours, and my meals and
dressing took the rest of the time. It is only through such tireless
labor continued without ceasing for years that works of great power and
scope can be produced.

Alexander Dumas, the Younger, whose modest contemporary I had been at
the Institute for a year, lived in a superb property at Puys near
Dieppe. His being near often furnished me with delightful pleasures. I
was never so happy as when he came for me at seven o'clock in the
evening to take me to dinner. He brought me back at nine o'clock so as
not to take up my time. He wanted me to have a friendly rest, and indeed
it was a rest which was both exquisite and altogether delightful. It is
easy to imagine what a treat the vivacious, sparkling, alluring
conversation of the celebrated Academician was to me.

How I envied him then for those artistic joys which he had tasted and
which I was to know later! He received and kept his interpreters at his
home and made them work on their parts. At this time Mme. Pasca, the
superb comedienne, was his guest.

The score of _Hérodiade_ was finished at the beginning of 1881. Hartmann
and Paul Milliet advised me to inform the directorate of the Opéra. The
three years I had given to _Hérodiade_ had been one uninterrupted joy to
me. They were marked by a never to be forgotten and unexpected
concentration.

In spite of the dislike I have always had for knocking at the doors of a
theater, I had, nevertheless, to decide to speak of this work and I went
to the Opéra and had an interview with M. Vaucorbeil, the Director of
the National Academy of Music. Here is the conversation I was honored
with:

"My dear Director, as the Opéra has been in a small way my house with
_Le Roi de Lahore_, permit me to speak of a new work, _Hérodiade_."

"Who is your librettist?"

"Paul Milliet, a man of considerable talent whom I like immensely."

"I like him immensely too; but with him one needs ... (thinking of a
word) ... a _carcassier_."

"_A carcassier!_" I replied in utter astonishment; "_a carcassier!_ What
kind of an animal is that?"

"A _carcassier_," added the eminent director, sententiously, "a
_carcassier_ is one who knows how to fix up in solid fashion the carcass
of a piece, and I may add that you are not enough of a _carcassier_ in
the strictest sense of the word. Bring me another work and the National
Theater of the Opéra will be open to you."

I understood. The Opéra was closed to me, and some days after this
painful interview I learned that the scenery of _Le Roi de Lahore_ had
been relegated irrevocably to the storehouse in the Rue Richer--which
meant the final abandonment.

One day that same summer I was walking on the Boulevard des Capuchines,
not far from the Rue Daunou; my publisher, George Hartmann, lived in a
ground-floor apartment at the end of the court at No. 20 of this street.
My thoughts were terribly dark. I went along with careworn face and
fainting heart deploring the deceitful promises the directors had
sprinkled on me like holy water, when I was suddenly saluted and stopped
by one whom I recognized as M. Calabrési, director of the Théâtre Royal
de la Monnaie at Brussels.

I stopped nonplussed. Must I put him too in my collection of
wooden-faced directors?

"I know," said M. Calabrési, as he accosted me, "that you have a great
work, _Hérodiade_. If you will give it to me, I will put it on at once
at the Théâtre de la Monnaie."

"But you don't know it," I said.

"I would never dream of asking a hearing--of you!"

"Well," I replied at once, "I will inflict it on you."

"But I am going back to Brussels to-morrow morning."

"This evening, then," I retorted. "I shall expect you at eight o'clock
in Hartmann's shop. It will be closed by that time ... we shall be
alone."

I hurried to Hartmann's, radiant, and told him, laughing and crying,
what had happened to me.

A piano was brought immediately, and Paul Milliet was hurriedly
informed.

Alphonse de Rothschild, my colleague at the Académie des Beaux Arts,
knew that I had to go to Brussels very often for the rehearsals of
_Hérodiade_. They were about to begin at the Théâtre Royal de la
Monnaie, and he wanted me to avoid delays at the stations so he gave me
a pass.

They became so accustomed to seeing me cross the frontier at Feignies
and Quevy that I became a real friend of the customs' officers,
especially of those on the Belgian side. I remember that to thank them
for their kind attentions I sent them seats for the Théâtre de la
Monnaie.

A real ceremony took place at the Théâtre Royal in the month of October
of this same year 1881. As a matter of fact _Hérodiade_ was the first
French work to be created on the superb stage of the capital of Belgium.

On the appointed day, my two excellent directors, Stoumon and Calabrési,
went with me as far as the great public foyer. It was a vast place with
gilt paneling and was lighted from the colonnaded peristyle of the
theater on the Place de la Monnaie. On the other side of the Place (a
relic of old Brussels) was the Mint and, in a corner, the Stock
Exchange. These buildings have since disappeared and have been replaced
by a magnificent Post Office. The Exchange has been moved to a
magnificent palace a short ways away.

In the middle of the foyer to which I was taken was a grand piano about
which there were twenty chairs arranged in a semi-circle. Besides the
directors, there were my publisher and my collaborator, as well as the
artists we had selected to create the parts. At the head of these
artists was Martha Duvivier, whose talent, fame, and beauty fitted her
for the rôle of Salome; Mlle. Blanche Deschamps, later the wife of the
famous orchestra leader Leon Jehin, had the rôle of Hérodiade; Vernet,
Jean; Manoury, Herod; the elder Gresse, Phanuel. I went to the piano,
turned my back towards the windows, and sang all the rôles including the
choruses.

I was young, eager, happy, and, I add to my shame, very greedy. But if I
accuse myself, it is to excuse myself--for leaving the piano so often to
get a bite at a table laden with exquisite food spread out on a
plentiful buffet in the same foyer. Every time I got up, the artists
stopped me as if to say, "Have pity.... Keep on.... Continue.... Don't
stop again." I ate almost all the food which had been prepared for us
all. The artists were so much pleased that they thought more of
embracing me than of eating. Why should I complain?

I lived at the Hotel de la Poste, Rue Fossé-aux-Loups, beside the
theater. In the same room, on the ground floor on the corner of the
hotel overlooking the Rue d'Argent, I wrote, the following autumn, the
rough draft of the Seminaire act of _Manon_. Later on I preferred to
live in the dear kindly Hotel du Grand-Monarque, Rue des Fripiers, and
I continued to do so until 1910.

This hotel plays a part in my deepest memories. I lived there often with
Reyer, the author of _Sigurd_ and of _Salammbo_, my colleague at the
Académie des Beaux-Arts. There, we both lost our collaborator and friend
Ernest Blau. He died here, and in spite of the custom that no funeral
black shall be hung in front of a hotel, Mlle. Wanters, the
proprietress, insisted that the obsequies should be public and should
not be concealed from the people who lived there. In the salon among
strangers we said the tender words of farewell to the collaborator on
_Sigurd_ and _Esclarmonde_.

A grim detail! Our poor friend Blau dined the evening of his death at
the house of Stoumon, the director. As he was early, he stopped in the
Rue des Sablons to look at some luxurious coffins displayed in an
undertaker's shop. As we had just paid our last farewell and had placed
the mortal remains of Blau in a temporary vault beside the casket of a
young girl, which was covered with white roses, one of the bearers
observed that if he had been consulted the deceased could not have
chosen a better neighborhood. The head undertaker reflected: "We have
done things well. M. Blau noticed a fine coffin and we let him have it
cheap."

As we came from that vast cemetery, comparatively empty at that time, we
were all impressed by the poignant grief of Mme. Jeanne Raunay, the
great artiste. She walked slowly by the side of the great master
Gevaert.

Oh, mournful winter day!

       *       *       *       *       *

The rehearsals of _Hérodiade_ went on at the Monnaie. They were full of
delirious joy and surprises for me. Its success was considerable. Here
is what I find in the papers of the times.

       *       *       *       *       *

At last the great night came.

From the night before--Sunday--the public formed lines at the entrance
to the theater (the cheaper seats were not sold in advance at that
time). The ticket sellers spent the whole night in this way, and while
some sold their places in line at a high price on Monday morning, others
held on and sold places in the pit for sixty francs on the average. A
stall cost one hundred and fifty francs.

That evening the auditorium was taken by storm.

Before the curtain rose, the Queen entered her stage box accompanied by
two ladies of honor and Captain Chrétien, the King's orderly.

In the neighboring box were their Royal Highnesses the Count and
Countess of Flanders, accompanied by the Baron Van den Bossch d'Hylissem
and Count Oultremont de Duras, grand master of the princely household.

In the Court Boxes were Jules Devaux, chief of the King's cabinet;
Generals Goethals and Goffinet, aides-de-camp; Baron Lunden, Colonel
Baron Anethan, Major Donny, Captain Wyckerslooth, the King's orderlies.

In the principal boxes: M. Antonin Proust, Minister of Fine Arts in
France, with Baron Beyens, Belgian Minister to Paris, the heads of the
cabinet, and Mme. Frère Orban, etc.

In the lower stage box: M. Buls, recently elected Burgomaster, and the
aldermen.

In the stalls and balcony were numerous people from Paris: the
composers, Reyer, Saint-Saëns, Benjamin Godard, Joncières, Guiraud,
Serpette, Duvernois, Julien Porchet, Wormser, Le Borne, Lecocq, etc.,
etc.

This brilliant emotional audience, said the chronicles of the time, made
the work a delirious success.

Between the second and the third acts Queen Marie Henriette summoned the
composer to her box and congratulated him warmly, as well as Reyer
whose _Statue_ had just been given at the Monnaie.

The enthusiasm swelled crescendo to the end of the evening. The last act
ended amid cheers. There were loud calls for the composer and the
curtain was raised several times, but the "author" did not appear. As
the audience was unwilling to leave the house, the stage manager,
Lapissida, who had staged the work, finally had to announce that the
author had left as soon as the performance ended.

Two days after the Première the composer was invited to dine at Court
and a royal decree appeared in the _Moniteur_ naming him Chevalier de
l'Ordre de Léopold.

The dazzling success of the first performance was trumpeted through the
European press, which, almost without exception, praised it in
enthusiastic terms. As to the enthusiasm of the first days, it continued
persistently through fifty-five consecutive performances, which,
according to the papers, realized four thousand francs every evening
above the subscriptions.

_Hérodiade_, which made its first appearance on the stage of the Monnaie
December 19, 1881, under the exceptionally brilliant circumstances just
quoted from the newspapers of Belgium as well as of other countries,
reappeared at this theater, after many revivals, during the first
fortnight of November, 1911--nearly thirty years later. _Hérodiade_ long
ago passed its hundredth performance at Brussels.

And I was already thinking of a new work.



CHAPTER XV

THE ABBE PREVOST AT THE OPÉRA-COMIQUE


One autumn morning in 1881 I was much disturbed, even anxious. Carvalho,
the director of the Opéra-Comique, had entrusted to me the three acts of
_Phoebé_ by Henri Meilhac. I had read and re-read them, but nothing in
them appealed to me; I clashed with the work which I had to do; I was
nervous and impatient.

With fine bravery I went to see Meilhac. The happy author of so many
delightful works, of so many successes, was in his library, among his
rare books in marvellous bindings, a fortune piled up in his rooms on
the mezzanine floor in which he lived at 30 Rue Drouot.

I can still see him writing on a small round table beside a large table
of the purest Louis XIV style. He had hardly seen me than he smiled his
good smile, as if pleased, in the belief that I brought news of our
_Phoebé_.

"Is it finished?" he asked.

I retorted _illico_ to this greeting, in a less assured tone:

"Yes, it is finished; we will never speak of it again."

A lion in his cage could not have been more abashed. My perplexity was
extreme; I saw a void, nothingness, about me, when the title of a work
struck me as a revelation.

"_Manon!_" I cried, pointing to one of Meilhac's books.

"_Manon Lescaut_, do you mean _Manon Lescaut_?"

"No, _Manon_, _Manon_ short, _Manon_, it is _Manon!_"

Meilhac had separated from Dudovic Halévy a little while before and had
associated himself with Philippe Gille, that fine, delightful mind, a
tender-hearted and charming man.

"Come to lunch with me to-morrow at Vachette's," said Meilhac, "and I
will tell you what I have done...."

It is easy to imagine whether in keeping this engagement I had more
curiosity in my heart or appetite in my stomach. I went to Vachette's
and there to my inexpressible and delightful surprise I found beneath my
napkin--the first two acts of _Manon_. The other three acts followed
within a few days.

The idea of writing this work had haunted me for a long time. Now the
dream was realized.

Although I was much excited by the rehearsals of _Hérodiade_ and greatly
upset by my frequent trips to Brussels, I was already at work on _Manon_
in the summer of 1881.

Meilhac went to live that summer in the Pavillion Henri IV at
Saint-Germain. I used to surprise him there about five o'clock in the
afternoon, when I knew the day's work would be done. Then, as we walked,
we worked out new arrangements in the words of the opera. Here we
decided on the Seminaire act, and, to bring off a greater contrast at
the end of it, I demanded the act of Transylvania.

How pleased I was in this collaboration, in that work in which we
exchanged ideas with never a clash, in the mutual desire of reaching
perfection if possible.

Philippe Gille shared in this useful collaboration from time to time,
and his presence was dear to me.

What tender, pleasing memories I have of this time at Saint-Germain,
with its magnificent terrace, and the luxuriant foliage of its
beautiful forest. My work was well along when I had to return to
Brussels at the beginning of the summer of 1882. During my different
sojourns at Brussels I made a delightful friend in Frédérix, who showed
rare mastery of the pen in his dramatic and lyric criticism in the
columns of the _Indépendance belge_. He occupied a prominent position in
journalism in his own country and was highly appreciated as well by the
French press.

He was a man of great worth, endowed with a charming character. His
expressive, spirituel, open countenance rather reminded me of the oldest
of the Coquelins. He was among the first of those dear good friends I
have known whose eyes have closed in the long sleep, alas! and who are
no more either for me or for those who loved them.

Our Salome, Martha Duvivier, had continued to sing the rôle in
_Hérodiade_ throughout the new season, and had installed herself for the
summer in a country house near Brussels. My friend Frédérix carried me
off there one day and, as I had the manuscript of the first acts of
_Manon_ with me, I risked an intimate reading before him and our
beautiful interpreter. The impression I took away with me was an
encouragement to keep on with the work.

The reason I returned to Belgium at this time was that I had been
invited to go to Holland under conditions which were certainly amusing.

A Dutch gentleman, a great lover of music, with phlegm more apparent
than real, as is often the case with those Rembrandt's country sends us,
made me the most singular visit, as unexpected as it well could be. He
had learned that I was working on the romance of the Abbé Prevost, and
he offered to install my penates at the Hague, in the very room in which
the Abbé had lived. I accepted the offer, and I went and shut myself
up--this was during the summer of 1882--in the room which the author of
_Les Memories d'un homme de qualité_ had occupied. His bed, a great
cradle, shaped like a gondola, was still there.

The days slipped by at the Hague in dreaming and strolling over the
dunes of Schleveningin or in the woods around the royal residence. There
I made delightfully exquisite little friends of the deer who brought me
the fresh breath of their damp muzzles.

It was now the spring of 1883. I had returned to Paris and, as the work
was finished, an appointment was made at M. Carvalho's. I found there
our director, Mme. Miolan Carvalho, Meilhac, and Philippe Gille. _Manon_
was read from nine in the evening until midnight. My friends appeared to
be delighted.

Mme. Carvalho embraced me joyfully, and kept repeating,

"Would that I were twenty years younger!"

I consoled the great artiste as best I could. I wanted her name on the
score and I dedicated it to her.

We had to find a heroine and many names were suggested. The male rôles
were taken by Talazac, Taskin and Cobalet--a superb cast. But no choice
could be made for Manon. Many had talent, it was true, and even great
fame, but I did not feel that a single artist answered for the part as I
wanted it and could play the perfidious darling Manon with all the heart
I had put into her.

However, I found a young artist, Mme. Vaillant Couturier, who had such
attractive vocal qualities that I trusted her with a copy of several
passages of the score. I made her work at them at my publisher's. She
was indeed my first Manon.

They were playing at this time at Les Nouveautes one of Charles Lecocq's
great successes. My great friend, Marquis de la Valette, a Parisian of
the Parisians, dragged me there one evening. Mlle. Vaillant--later Mme.
Couturier--the charming artiste of whom I have spoken, played the
leading part adorably. She interested me greatly; to my eyes she greatly
resembled a young flower girl on the Boulevard Capucines. I had never
spoken to this delightful young girl (_proh pudor_) but her looks
obsessed me and her memory accompanied me constantly; she was exactly
the Manon I had had in my mind's eye during my work.

I was carried away by the captivating artiste of Les Nouveautes, and I
asked to speak to the friendly director of the theater, a free and open
man, and an incomparable artist.

"_Illustrious master_" he began, "what good wind brings you? You are at
home here, as you know!"

"I came to ask you to let me have Mlle. Vaillant for a new opera."

"Dear man, what you want is impossible; I need Mlle. Vaillant. I can't
let you have her."

"Do you mean it?"

"Absolutely, but I think that if you would write a work for my theater,
I would let you have this artiste. Is it a bargain, _bibi_?"

Matters stayed there with only vague promises on both sides.

While this dialogue was going on, I noticed that the excellent Marquis
de La Valette was much occupied with a pretty gray hat covered with
roses passing back and forth in the foyer.

All at once I saw the pretty hat coming towards me.

"So a debutant no longer recognizes a debutante?"

"Heilbronn!" I exclaimed.

"Herself!"

Heilbronn recalled the dedication written on the first work I had done
and in which she had made her first appearance on the stage.

"Do you still sing?"

"No, I am rich, but nevertheless---- Shall I tell you?--I miss the
stage. It haunts me. Oh, if I could only find a good part!"

"I have one in _Manon_."

"_Manon Lescaut_?"

"No, _Manon_. That is all."

"May I hear the music?"

"When you like."

"This evening?"

"Impossible, it is nearly midnight."

"What? I can't wait till morning. I feel that there is something in it.
Go and get the score. You will find me in my apartment (the artiste
lived in the Champs Élysées) with the piano open and the lights lit."

I did as she said.

I went home and got the score. Half-past four had struck when I sang the
final bars of Manon's death.

During my rendering Heilbronn was moved to tears. I heard her sigh
through her sobs, "It is my life ... that is my life."

This time, as ever has been the case, the sequel showed that I was right
to wait, to take time in choosing an artist who would have to live my
work.

The day after he heard _Manon_, Carvalho signed the contract.

The following year, after more than eighty consecutive performances, I
learned of Marie Heilbronn's death!...

I preferred to stop the performances rather than to see it sung by
another. Some time afterwards the Opéra-Comique went up in flames.
_Manon_ was not given again for ten years. Dear unique Sybil Sanderson
took up the work at the Opéra-Comique and she played in the
two-hundredth performance.

A glory was reserved for me on the five hundredth performance. _Manon_
was sung by Marguerite Carré. A few months ago this captivating,
exquisite artist was applauded on the evening of the 740th performance.

In passing I want to pay tribute to the beautiful artistes who have
taken the part. I will mention Mlles. Mary Garden, Geraldine Farrar,
Lina Cavalieri, Mme. Bréjean-Silver, Mlles. Courtenay, Geneviève Vix,
Mmes. Edvina and Nicot-Vauchelet, and still other dear artistes. They
will pardon me if all their names do not come to my grateful pen at the
moment.

The Italian Theatre (Maurel's Season), as I have already said, put on
_Hérodiade_ two weeks after the first performance of _Manon_, with the
following admirable artists: Fidès Devriès, Jean de Reszke, Victor
Maurel, Edouard de Reszke.

As I write these lines in 1911, _Hérodiade_ continues its career at the
Théâtre-Lyrique de la Gaîté (under the management of the Isola brothers)
who put on the work in 1903 with the famous Emma Calvé. The day after
the first performance of _Hérodiade_ in Paris I received these lines
from our illustrious master, Gounod:

     Sunday, February 3, '84.

     My dear Friend:

     The noise of your success with _Hérodiade_ reaches me; but I lack
     that of the work itself, and I shall go to hear it as soon as
     possible, probably Saturday. Again new congratulations, and

     Good luck to you, CH. GOUNOD.

Meanwhile _Marie Magdeleine_ went on its career in the great festivals
abroad. I recall the following letter which Bizet wrote me some years
before with deep pride.

     Our school has not produced anything like it. You give me the
     fever, brigand.

     You are a proud musician, I'll wager.

     My wife has just put _Marie Magdeleine_ under lock and key!

     That detail is eloquent, is it not?

     The devil! You've become singularly disturbing.

     As to that, believe me that no one is more sincere in his
     admiration and in his affection than your,

     BIZET.

That is the testimony of my excellent comrade and affectionate friend,
George Bizet--a friend and comrade who would have remained steadfast had
not blind destiny torn him from us in the full bloom of his prodigious
and marvelous talent.

Still in the dawn of life when he passed from this world, he could have
compassed everything in the art to which he devoted himself with so much
love.



CHAPTER XVI

FIVE COLLABORATORS


As is my custom, I did not wait for _Manon's_ fate to be decided before
I began to plague my publisher, Hartmann, to wake up and find me a new
subject. I had hardly finished my plaint, to which he listened in
silence with a smile on his lips, than he went to a desk and took out
five books of manuscript written on the yellow paper which is well known
to copyists. It was _Le Cid_, an opera in five acts by Louis Gallet and
Edouard Blatt. As he offered me the manuscript, Hartmann made this
comment to which I had nothing to reply, "I know you. I had foreseen
this outburst."

I was bound to be pleased at writing a work based on the great
Corneille's masterpiece, the libretto due to the fellow workers I had
had in the competition for the Imperial Opera, _La Coup de roi de
Thulé_, in which, as I have said, I failed to win the first prize.

I learned the words by heart, as I always did. I wanted to have it
constantly in my thoughts, without being compelled to keep the text in
my pocket, so as to be able to work at it away from home, in the
streets, in society, at dinner, at the theater, anywhere that I might
find time. I get away from a task with difficulty, especially when, as
in this case, I am gripped by it.

As I worked I remembered that d'Ennery sometime before had entrusted to
me an important libretto and that I had found a very moving situation in
the fifth act. While the words did not appear sufficiently worth while
to lead me to write the music, I wanted to keep this situation. I told
the famous dramatist and I obtained his consent to interpolate this
scene in the second act of _Le Cid_. Thus d'Ennery became a
collaborator. This scene is where Chimène finds that Rodriguez is her
father's murderer.

Some days later, as I was reading the romance of Guilhem de Castro, I
came across an incident which became the tableau where the consoling
apparition appears to the Cid as he is in tears--the second tableau in
the third act. I was inspired to this by the apparition of Jesus to
Saint Julien the Hospitalier.

I continued my work on _Le Cid_ wherever I happened to be, as the
performances of _Manon_ took me to the provincial theaters where they
alternated it with _Hérodiade_ both in France and abroad.

I wrote the ballet for _Le Cid_ at Marseilles during a rather long stay
there. I was very comfortably established in my room, at the Hotel
Beauveau, with its long latticed windows which looked out on the old
port. The prospect was actually fairylike. This room was decorated with
remarkable panels and mirrors, and when I expressed my astonishment at
seeing them so well preserved, the proprietor told me that the room was
an object of special care because Paganini, Alfred de Musset and George
Sand had all lived there once upon a time. The cult of memories
sometimes reaches the point of fetishism.

It was spring. My room was scented with bunches of carnations which my
friends in Marseilles sent me every day. When I say friends, the word is
too weak; perhaps it is necessary to go to mathematics to get the word,
and even then?

The friends in Marseilles heaped upon me consideration, attention and
endless kindness. That is the country where they sweeten the coffee by
placing it outside on the balcony, for the sea is made of honey!

Before I left the kind hospitality of this Phocean city, I received the
following letter from the directors of the Opéra, Ritt and Gailhard:

     "My dear Friend,

     "Can you set the day and hour for your reading of Le Cid?

     "In friendship,

     "E. Ritt."

But I had brought from Paris keen anguish about the distribution of the
parts. I wanted the sublime Mme. Fidès Devriès to create the part of
Chimène, but they said that since her marriage she no longer wanted to
appear on the stage. I also depended on my friends Jean and Edouard de
Reszke, who came to Paris especially to talk about _Le Cid_. They were
aware of my plans for them. How many times I climbed the stairs of the
Hotel Scribe where they lived!

At last the contracts were signed and finally the reading took place as
the Opéra requested.

As I speak of the ballet in _Le Cid_ I remember I heard the motif, which
begins the ballet, in Spain. I was in the very country of _Le Cid_ at
the time, living in a modest inn. It chanced that they were celebrating
a wedding and they danced all night in the lower room of the hotel.
Several guitars and two flutes repeated a dance tune until they wore it
out. I noted it down. It became the motif I am writing about, a bit of
local color which I seized. I did not let it get away. I intended this
ballet for Mlle. Rosita Mauri who had already done some wonderful dances
at the Opéra. I even owed several interesting rhythms to the famous
dancer.

The land of the Magyars and France have been joined at all times by
bonds of keen, cordial sympathy. It was not a surprise, therefore, when
the Hungarian students invited forty Frenchmen--I was one--to go to
Hungary for festivities which they intended to give in our honor.

We started--a joyous caravan--one beautiful evening in August for the
banks of the Danube, François Coppée, Léo Delibes, Georges Clairin,
Doctors Pozzi and Albert Rodin, and many other comrades and charming
friends. Then, some newspaper men went along. Ferdinand de Lesseps was
at our head to preside over us, by right of name if not by fame. Our
illustrious compatriot was nearly eighty at the time. He bore the weight
of years so lightly that for a moment one would have thought he was the
youngest in the lot.

We started off in uproarious gaiety. The journey was one uninterrupted
flow of jests and humorous wit, intermingled with farce and endless
pleasantries.

The restaurant car was reserved for us. We did not leave it all night
and our sleeping car was absolutely unoccupied.

As we went through Munich, the Orient Express stopped for five minutes
to let off two travelers, a man and a woman, who, we did not know how,
had contrived to squeeze into a corner of the dining car and who had
calmly sat through all our follies. As they left the train, they made in
a foreign accent this rather sharp remark, "Those distinguished persons
seem rather common." We certainly did not intend to displease that
puritanical pair and we never overstepped the bounds of joviality and
fun.

That fortnight's journey continued full of incidents in which jokes
contended with burlesque.

Every evening, after the warmly enthusiastic receptions of the Hungarian
youth, Ferdinand de Lesseps, our venerated chief, who was called in all
the Hungarian speeches the "Great Frenchman," would leave us after
fixing the order of the next day's receptions. As he finished arranging
our program, he would add, "To-morrow morning, at four o'clock, in
evening dress." And the "Great Frenchman" would be the first one up and
dressed. When we congratulated him on his extraordinary youthful energy,
he would apologize as follows: "Youth must wear itself out."

During the festivities of every kind which they got up in our honor,
they arranged for a gala spectacle, a great performance at the Théâtre
Royal in Budapest. Delibes and I were both asked to conduct an act from
one of our works.

When I reached the orchestra, amid hurrahs from the audience, only in
Hungary they shout, "Elyen," I found on the desk the score ... of the
first act of _Coppelia_, when I had expected to find before me the third
act of _Hérodiade_ for me to conduct. So much the worse! There was no
help for it and I had to beat time--from memory.

The plot thickened.

[Illustration: The Forum from the First Act of Roma. _See page 300_]

When Delibes, who had received the same honors that I had, saw the third
act of _Hérodiade_ on his desk, with me rejoining my companions in
the audience, he presented a unique spectacle. My poor dear great friend
mopped his brow, turned this way and that, drew long breaths, begged the
Hungarian musicians--who didn't understand a word he said--to give him
the right score, but all in vain.

He had to conduct from memory. This seemed to exasperate him, but
Delibes, the adorable musician, was far above a little difficulty like
that.

After this entertainment we were all present at an immense banquet where
naturally enough toasts were de rigeur. I offered one to that great
musician, Franz Liszt--Hungary was honored in giving him birth.

When Delibes's turn came, I suggested to him that I collaborate in his
speech as we had done at the Opéra with our scores. I spoke for him; he
spoke for me. The result was a succession of incoherent phrases which
were received by the frantic applause of our compatriots and by the
enthusiastic "Elyens" of the Hungarians.

I will add that Delibes and I, like all the rest, were in a state of
delightful intoxication, for the marvellous vineyards of Hungary are
verily those of the Lord himself. Something must be the matter with
one's head, if he does not enjoy the charm of those wines with their
voluptuous, heady bouquet.

Four o'clock in the morning! We were, as ordered, in evening dress
(indeed we had not changed it) and ready to go to lay wreaths on the
tomb of the forty Hungarian martyrs who had died to free their country.

But through all these mad follies, all these distractions, and
impressive ceremonies, I was thinking of the rehearsals of _Le Cid_
which were waiting for my return to Paris. When I got back, I found
another souvenir of Hungary, a letter from the author of _La Messe du
Saint Graal_, the precursor of _Parsifal_:

     "Most Honored Confrère:

     "The Hungarian _Gazette_ informs me that you have testified
     benevolently in my favor at the French banquet at Budapest. Sincere
     thanks and constant cordiality.

     "F. Liszt."

     26 August, '85. Weimar.

The stage rehearsals of _Le Cid_ at the Opéra were carried on with
astonishing sureness and skill by my dear director, P. Gailhard, a
master of this art who had been besides the most admirable of artists
on the stage. He did everything for the good of the work with an
affectionate friendship. It is my pleasant duty to pay him honor for
this.

Later on I found him the same invaluable collaborator when _Ariane_ was
put on at the Opéra.

On the evening of November 20, 1885, the Opéra billed the first
performance of _Le Cid_, while the Opéra-Comique played the same evening
_Manon_, which had already passed its eightieth performance.

In spite of the good news from the general rehearsal of _Le Cid_, I
spent the evening with the artists at _Manon_. Needless to say all the
talk in the wings of the Opéra-Comique was of the first performance of
_Le Cid_ which was then in full blast.

Despite my apparent calmness, in my inmost heart I was extremely
anxious, so the curtain had hardly fallen on the fifth act of _Manon_
than I went to the Opéra instead of going home. An irresistible power
pulled me thither.

As I skirted the outside of the house from which an elegant and large
crowd was pouring, I overheard a snatch of conversation between a well
known journalist and a reporter who hurriedly inquired the results of
the evening. "It is splitting, my dear chap."

I was greatly troubled, as one would be in any case, and ran to the
directors' room for further news. At the artists' entrance I met Mme.
Krause. She embraced me in raptures and said, "It's a triumph!"

Need I say that I preferred the opinion of this admirable artiste. She
comforted me completely.

I left Paris (what a traveler I was then!) for Lyons, where they were
giving both _Hérodiade_ and _Manon_.

Three days after my arrival there, as I was dining at a restaurant with
my two great friends Josephin Soulary, the fine poet of _Les Deux
Cortèges_, and Paul Marieton, the vibrant provincial poet, I was handed
the following telegram from Hartmann:

"Fifth performance of _Le Cid_ postponed a month. Enormous advance sale
returned. Artists ill."

I was nervous at the time; I fainted away and remained unconscious so
long that my friends were greatly alarmed.

At the end of three weeks, however, _Le Cid_ reappeared on the bills,
and I realized once more that I was surrounded by deep sympathy, as the
following letter shows:

     "My dear Confrère:

     "I must congratulate you on your success and I want to applaud you
     as quickly as possible. My turn for my box does not come around
     until Friday, December 11th, and I beg you to arrange for _Le Cid_
     to be given on that day, _Friday, December 11._

     "H. d'Orleans."

How touched and proud I was at this mark of attention from his Royal
Highness the Duc d'Aumale!

I shall always remember the delightful and inspiring days passed at the
Chateau de Chantilly with my confrères at the Institute Léon Bonnat,
Benjamin Constant, Edouard Detaille, and Gérôme. Our reception by our
royal host was charming in its simplicity and his conversation was that
of an eminent man of letters, erudite but unpretentious. It was
captivating and attractive for us when we all gathered in the library
where the prince enthralled us by his perfect simplicity as he talked
to us, pipe in his mouth, as he had so often done in camp among our
soldiers.

Only the great ones of earth know how to produce such moments of
delightful familiarity.

And _Le Cid_ went on its way both in the provinces and abroad.

In October, 1900, the hundredth performance was celebrated at the Opéra
and on November 21, 1911, at the end of twenty-six years, I read in the
papers:

"The performance of _Le Cid_ last night was one of the finest. A packed
house applauded enthusiastically the beautiful work by M. Massenet and
his interpreters: Mlle. Bréval, Mm. Franz and Delmas, and the star of
the ballet, Mlle. Zambelli."

I had been particularly happy in the performances of this work which had
preceded this. After the sublime Fidès Devriès, Chimène was sung in
Paris by the incomparable Mme. Rose Caron, the superb Mme. Adiny, the
moving Mlle. Mérentié, and particularly by Louise Grandjean, the eminent
professor at the Conservatoire.



CHAPTER XVII

A JOURNEY TO GERMANY


On Sunday, August first, Hartmann and I went to hear _Parsifal_ at the
Wagner Theater at Bayreuth. After we had heard this _miracle unique_ we
visited the capital of Upper Franconia. Some of the monuments there are
worth while seeing. I wanted especially to see the city church. It is an
example of the Gothic architecture of the middle of the Fifteenth
Century and was dedicated to Mary Magdalene. It is not hard to imagine
what memories drew me to this remarkable edifice.

After running through various German towns and visiting different
theaters, Hartmann, who had an idea of his own, took me to Wetzler,
where he had seen Werther. We visited the house where Goethe had written
his immortal romance, _The Sorrows of Young Werther_.

I knew Werther's letters and I had a thrilling recollection of them. I
was deeply impressed by being in the house which Goethe made famous by
having his hero live and love there.

As we were coming out Hartmann said, "I have something to complete the
obviously deep emotion you have felt."

As he spoke, he drew from his pocket a book with a binding yellow with
age. It was the French translation of Goethe's romance. "This
translation is perfect," said Hartmann, in spite of the aphorism
_Traduttore traditore_, that a translation utterly distorts the author's
thought.

I scarcely had the book in my hands than I was eager to read it, so we
went into one of those immense beer halls which are everywhere in
Germany. We sat down and ordered two enormous bocks like our neighbors
had. Among the various groups were students who were easily picked out
by their scholars' caps and were playing cards or other games, nearly
all with porcelain pipes in their mouths. On the other hand there were
few women.

It is needless to tell what I endured in that thick, foul air laden with
the bitter odor of beer. But I could not stop reading those burning
letters full of the most intense passion. Indeed what could be more
suggestive than the following lines, remembered among so many others,
where keen anguish threw Werther and Charlotte into each other's arms
after the thrilling reading of Ossian's verses?

"Why awakest me, breath of the Spring? Thou caresseth me and sayeth I am
laden with the dew of heaven, but the tune cometh when I must wither,
the storm that must beat down my leaves is at hand. To-morrow the
traveler will come; his eye will seek me everywhere, and find me no
more...."

And Goethe adds:

"Unhappy Werther felt crushed by the force of these words and threw
himself before Charlotte in utter despair. It seemed to Charlotte that a
presentiment of the frightful project he had formed passed through her
soul. Her senses reeled; she clasped his hands and pressed them to her
bosom; she leaned towards him tenderly and their burning cheeks
touched."

Such delirious, ecstatic passion brought tears to my eyes. What a moving
scene, what a passionate picture that ought to make! It was _Werther_,
my third act.

I was now all life and happiness. I was wrapped up in work and in an
almost feverish activity. It was a task I wanted to do but into which I
had to put, if possible, the song of those moving, lively passions.

Circumstances, however, willed that I put this project aside for the
moment. Carvalho proposed _Phoebé_ to me and chance led me to write
_Manon_.

Then came _Le Cid_ to fill my life. At last in the summer of 1885,
without waiting for the result of that opera, Hartmann, Paul Milliet, my
great, splendid collaborator in _Hérodiade_, and I came to an agreement
to take up the task of writing _Werther_.

In order to incite me to work more ardently (as if I had need of it) my
publisher--he had improvised a scenario--engaged for me at the
Reservoirs at Versailles, a vast ground floor apartment on the level of
the gardens of our great Le Notre.

The room in which I was installed had a lofty ceiling with Eighteenth
Century paneling and it was furnished in the same period. The table at
which I wrote was the purest Louis XV. Hartmann had chosen everything at
the most famous antiquarians.

Hartmann had special aptitude for doing his share of the work. He spoke
German very well; he understood Goethe; he loved the German mind; he
stuck to it that I should undertake the work.

So, when one day it was suggested that I write an opera on Murger's _La
Vie de Bohème_, he took it on himself to refuse the work without
consulting me in any way.

I would have been greatly tempted to do the thing. I would have been
pleased to follow Henry Murger in his life and work. He was an artist in
his way. Théophile Gautier justly called him a poet, although he
excelled as a writer of prose. I feel that I could have followed him
through that peculiar world he created and which he has made it possible
for us to cross in a thousand ways in the train of the most amusing
originals we had ever seen. And such gaiety, such tears, such outbursts
of frantic laughter, and such courageous poverty, as Jules Janin said,
would, I think, have captivated me. Like Alfred de Musset--one of his
masters--he had grace and style, ineffable tenderness, gladsome smiles,
the cry of the heart, emotion. He sang songs dear to the hearts of
lovers and they charm us all. His fiddle was not a Stradivarius, they
said, but he had a soul like Hoffman's and he knew how to play so as to
bring tears.

I knew Murger personally, in fact so well that I even saw him the night
of his death. I was present at a most affecting interview while I was
there, but even that did not lack a comic note. It could not have been
otherwise with Murger.

I was at his bedside when they brought in M. Schaune (the Schaunardo of
_La Vie de Bohème_). Murger was eating magnificent grapes he had bought
with his last louis and Schaune said laughing, "How silly of you to
drink your wine in pills!"

As I knew not only Murger but also Schaunard and Musette, it seemed to
me that there was no one better qualified than I to be the musician of
_La Vie de Bohème_. But all those heroes were my friends and I saw them
every day, so that I understood why Hartmann thought the moment had not
come to write that so distinctly Parisian work, to sing the romance that
had been so great a part of my life.

As I speak of that period which is already in the distant past, I glory
in recalling that I knew Corot at Ville-d'Avray, as well as our famous
Harpignies, who despite his ninety-two years is, as I write, in all the
vigor of his immense talent. Only yesterday he climbed gaily to my
floor. Oh, the dear great friend, the marvellous artist I have known for
fifty years!

When the work was done, I went to M. Carvalho's on the twenty-fifth of
May. I had secured Mme. Rose Caron, then at the Opéra, to aid me in my
reading. The admirable artiste was beside me turning the pages of the
manuscript and showing the deepest emotion at times. I read the four
acts by myself, and when I reached the climax, I fell exhausted,
annihilated.

Then Carvalho came to me without a word, but he finally said:

"I had hoped you would bring me another _Manon_! This dismal subject
lacks interest. It is damned from the start."

As I think this over to-day, I understand his impression perfectly,
especially when I reflect on the years I had to live before the work
came to be admired.

Carvalho was kind and offered me some exquisite wine, claret, I believe,
like what I had tasted one joyous evening I read _Manon_.... My throat
was as dry as my speech; I went out without saying a word.

The next day, _horresco referens_, yes, the next day I was again struck
down, the Opéra-Comique was no more. It had been totally destroyed by
fire during the night. I hurried to Carvalho's. We fell into each
other's arms, embraced each other in tears and wept. My poor director
was ruined. Inexorable fate! The work had to wait six years in silence
and oblivion.

Two years before the Opéra at Vienna had put on _Manon_; the hundredth
performance was reached and passed in a short time. The Austrian capital
had given me a friendly and enviable reception; so much so that it
suggested to Van Dyck the idea of asking me for a work.

Now I proposed _Werther_. The lack of good will on the part of the
French directors left me free to dispose of that score.

The Vienna Opéra was an imperial theater. The management asked the
Emperor to place an apartment at my disposal and he graciously offered
me one at the famous Hotel Sacher beside the Opéra.

My first call after my arrival was on Jahn, the director. That kindly,
eminent master took me to the foyer where the rehearsals were to be
held. It was a vast room, lighted by immense windows and provided with
great chairs. A full length portrait of Emperor Francis Joseph
ornamented one of the panels; there was a grand piano in the center of
the room.

All the artists for _Werther_ were gathered around the piano when Jahn
and I entered the foyer. As they saw us they rose in a body and bowed in
salutation.

At this touching manifestation of respectful sympathy--to which our
great Van Dyck added a most affectionate embrace--I responded by bowing
in my turn; and then a little nervous and trembling all over I sat down
at the piano.

The work was absolutely in shape. All the artists could sing their parts
from memory. The hearty demonstrations they showered on me at intervals
moved me so that I felt tears in my eyes.

At the orchestra rehearsal this emotion was renewed. The execution was
perfection; the orchestra, now soft, now loud, followed the shading of
the voice so that I could not shake off the enchantment.

The general rehearsal took place on February fifteenth from nine o'clock
in the morning until midday and I saw (an ineffable, sweet surprise) in
the orchestra stalls my dear publisher, Henri Heugel, Paul Milliet, my
precious co-worker, and intimate friends from Paris. They had come so
far to see me in the Austrian capital amid great and lively joys, for I
had really been received there in the most exquisite and flattering
manner.

The performances that followed confirmed the impressions of the
beautiful first performance of February 16, 1892. The work was sung by
the celebrated artists Marie Renard and Ernest Van Dyck.

That same year, 1892, Carvalho again became the director of the
Opéra-Comique, then in the Place du Chatelet. He asked me for _Werther_,
and in a tone so full of feeling that I did not hesitate to let him have
it.

The same week Mme. Massenet and I dined with M. and Mme. Alphonse
Daudet. The other guests were Edmond de Goncourt and Charpentier, the
publisher.

After dinner Daudet told me that he wanted me to hear a young artiste.
"Music herself," he said. This young girl was Marie Delna! At the first
bars that she sang (the aria from the great Gounod's _La Reine de Saba_)
I turned to her and took her hands.

[Illustration: Posthumia (_Roma_) _See page 297_]

"Be Charlotte, our Charlotte," I said, utterly carried away.

The day after the first performance at the Opéra-Comique, in January,
1893, I received this note from Gounod:

     "Dear Friend:

     "Our most hearty congratulations on this double triumph and we
     regret that the French were not the first witnesses."

     The following touching and picturesque lines were sent me at the
     time by the illustrious architect of the Opéra.

     "Amico mio,

      Two eyes to see you,
      Two ears to hear you,
      Two lips to kiss you,
      Two arms to enfold you,
      Two hands to applaud you.
    and

     "Two words to give thee all my compliments and to tell thee that
     thy _Werther_ is an excellent hit--do you know?--I am proud of you,
     and for your part do not blush that a poor architect is entirely
     satisfied with you.

     "CARLO."

In 1903, after nine years of ostracism, M. Albert Carré revived this
forgotten work. With his incomparable talent, his marvellous taste, and
his art, which was that of an exquisite man of letters, he knew how to
present the work to the public so as to make it a real revelation.

Many famous artistes have sung the rôle since that time: Mlle. Marie de
l'Isle, who was the first Charlotte at the revival and who created the
work with her fine, individual talents; then Mlles. Lamare, Cesbron,
Wyns, Raveau, Mmes. de Nuovina, Vix, Hatto, Brohly, and ... others whose
names I will give later.

At the revival due to M. Albert Carré, _Werther_ had the great good
fortune to have Léon Beyle as the protagonist of the part; later Edmond
Clément and Salignac were also superb and thrilling interpreters of the
work.



CHAPTER XVIII

A STAR


But to go back to the events the day after the destruction of the
Opéra-Comique.

The Opéra-Comique was moved to the Place du Chatelet, in the old theater
called Des Nations, which later became the Théâtre Sarah Bernhardt. M.
Paravey was appointed director. I had known him when he directed the
Grand-Théâtre at Nantes with real talent.

Hartmann offered him two works: Edouard Lalo's _Le Roi d'Ya_ and my
_Werther_ on sufferance.

I was so discouraged that I preferred to wait before I let the work see
the light.

I have just written about its genesis and destiny.

One day I received a friendly invitation to dine with a great American
family. After I had declined, as I most often did--I hadn't time, in
addition to not liking that sort of distraction--they insisted, however,
so graciously that I could not persist in my refusal. It seemed to me
that perhaps my afflicted heart might meet something there which would
turn aside my discouragements. Does one ever know?...

I was placed beside a lady who composed music and had great talent. On
the other side of my neighbor was a French diplomat whose amiable
compliments surpassed, it seemed to me, all limits. _Est modus in
rebus_, there are limits in all things, and our diplomat should have
been guided by this ancient saying together with the counsel of a
master, the illustrious Talleyrand, "_Pas de zele, surtout_!"

I would not think of telling the exact conversation which occurred in
that charming place any more than I would think of giving the menu of
what we had to eat. What I do remember is a salad--a disconcerting
mixture of American, English, German, and French.

But my French neighbors occupied my entire attention, which gave me the
chance to remember this delightful colloquy between the lady composer
and the diplomat.

The Gentleman.--"So you are ever the child of the Muses, a new Orphea?"

The Lady.--"Isn't music the consolation of souls in distress?"

The Gentleman (insinuatingly).--"Do you not find that love is stronger
than sounds in banishing heart pain?"

The Lady.--"Yesterday, I was consoled by writing the music to 'The
Broken Vase.'"

The Gentleman (poetically).--"A nocturne, no doubt...."

I heard muffled laughter. The conversation took a new turn.

After dinner we went into the drawing room for music. I was doing my
best to obliterate myself when two ladies dressed in black, one young,
the other older, came in.

The master of the house hastened to greet them and I was presented to
them almost at once.

The younger was extraordinarily lovely; the other was her mother, also
beautiful, with that thoroughly American beauty which the Starry
Republic often sends to us.

"Dear Master," said the younger woman with a slight accent, "I have been
asked to come to this friendly house this evening to have the honor of
seeing you and to let you hear my voice. I am the daughter of a supreme
court judge in America and I have lost my father. He left my mother, my
sisters, and me a fortune, but I want to go on the stage. If they blame
me for it, after I have succeeded I shall reply that success excuses
everything."

Without further preamble I granted her desire and seated myself at the
piano.

"You will pardon me," she added, "if I do not sing your music. That
would be too audacious before you."

She had scarcely said this than her voice sounded magically, dazzlingly,
in the aria, "Queen of the Night," from the _Magic Flute_.

What a fascinating voice! It ranged from low G to the counter G--three
octaves--in full strength and in pianissimo.

I was astounded, stupefied, subjugated! When such voices occur, it is
fortunate that they have the theater in which to display themselves; the
world is their domain. I ought to say that I had recognized in that
future artiste, together with the rarity of that organ, intelligence, a
flame, a personality which were reflected luminously in her admirable
face. All these qualities are of first importance on the stage.

The next morning I hurried to my publisher's to tell him about the
enthusiasm I had felt the previous evening.

I found Hartmann preoccupied. "It concerns an artist, right enough," he
said. "I want to talk about something else and ask you, yes or no,
whether you will write the music for the work which has just been
brought me." And he added, "It is urgent, for the music is wanted for
the opening of the Universal Exposition which takes place two years from
now, in May, 1889."

I took the manuscript and I had scarcely run through a scene or two than
I cried in an outburst of deep conviction, "I have the artiste for this
part. I have the artiste. I heard her yesterday! She is Mlle. Sibyl
Sanderson! She shall create Esclarmonde, the heroine of the new opera
you offer me."

She was the ideal artiste for the romantic work in five acts by Alfred
Blau and Louis de Gramont.

The new director of the Opéra-Comique, who always showed me deference
and perfect kindness, engaged Mlle. Sibyl Sanderson and accepted without
discussion the salary we proposed.

He left the ordering of the scenery and the costumes entirely to my
discretion, and made me the absolute master and director of the
decorators and costumers whom I was to guide in entire accordance with
my ideas.

If I was agreeably satisfied by this state of affairs, M. Paravey for
his part could not but congratulate himself on the financial results
from _Esclarmonde_. It is but just to add that it was brought out at the
necessarily brilliant period of the Universal Exposition in 1889. The
first performance was on May 14 of that year.

The superb artists who figured on the bill with Sibyl Sanderson were Mm.
Bouvet, Taskin, and Gibert.

The work had been sung one hundred and one consecutive times in Paris
when I learned that sometime since the Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie at
Brussels had engaged Sibyl Sanderson to create _Esclarmonde_ there. That
meant her enforced disappearance from the stage of the Opéra-Comique,
where she had triumphed for several months.

If Paris, however, must needs endure the silence of the artiste,
applauded by so many and such varied audiences during the Exposition, if
this star who had risen so brilliantly above the horizon of the artistic
heavens departed for a time to charm other hearers, the great
provincial houses echoed with the success in _Esclarmonde_ of such
famous artistes as Mme. Bréjean-Silver at Bordeaux; Mme. de Nuovina at
Brussels, and Mme. Verheyden and Mlle. Vuillaume at Lyons.

Notwithstanding all this, _Esclarmonde_ remained the living memory of
that rare and beautiful artiste whom I had chosen to create the rôle in
Paris; it enabled her to make her name forever famous.

Sibyl Sanderson! I cannot remember that artiste without feeling deep
emotion, cut down as she was in her full beauty, in the glorious bloom
of her talent by pitiless Death. She was an ideal Manon at the
Opéra-Comique, and a never to be forgotten Thaïs at the Opéra. These
rôles identified themselves with her temperament, the choicest spirit of
that nature which was one of the most magnificently endowed I have ever
known.

An unconquerable vocation had driven her to the stage, where she became
the ardent interpreter of several of my works. But for our part what an
inspiring joy it is to write works and parts for artists who realize our
very dreams!

It is in gratitude that in speaking of _Esclarmonde_ I dedicate these
lines to her. The many people who came to Paris from all parts of the
world in 1889 have also kept their memories of the artiste who was their
joy and who had so delighted them.

A large, silent, meditative crowd gathered at the passing of the cortège
which bore Sibyl Sanderson to her last resting place. A veil of sorrow
seemed to be over them all.

Albert Carré and I followed the coffin. We were the first behind all
that remained of her beauty, grace, goodness, and talent with all its
appeal. As we noted the universal sorrow, Albert Carré interpreted the
feeling of the crowd towards the beautiful departed, and said in these
words, eloquent in their conciseness and which will survive, "She was
loved!"

What more simple, more touching, and more just homage could be paid to
the memory of her who was no more?

It is a pleasure to recall in a few rapid strokes the happy memory of
the time I spent in writing _Esclarmonde_.

During the summers of 1887 and 1888 I went to Switzerland and lived in
the Grand Hotel at Vevey. I was curious to see that pretty town at the
foot of Jorat on the shores of Lake Geneva and which was made famous by
its Fête des Vigerons. I had heard it praised for the many charming
walks in the neighborhood and the beauty and mildness of the climate.
Above all I remembered that I had read of it in the "Confessions" of
Jean Jacques Rousseau, who, at any rate, had every reason to love
it,--Mme. de Warens was born there. His love for this delightful little
city lasted through all his wanderings.

The hotel was surrounded by a fine park which afforded the guests the
shade of its large trees and led to a small harbor where they could
embark for excursions on the lake.

In August, 1887, I wanted to pay a visit to my master Ambroise Thomas.
He had bought a group of islands in the sea near the North Coast and I
had been there to see him. Doubtless my visit was pleasant to him, for I
received from him the next summer in Switzerland the following pages:

     ILLIEC, Monday, August 20, 1888

     Thanks for your good letter, my dear friend. It has been forwarded
     to me in this barbarous island where you came last year. You remind
     me of that friendly visit of which we often speak, but we regret
     that we were only able to keep you two days.

     It was too short!

     Will you be able to come again, or rather, shall I see you here
     again? You say you work with pleasure and you appear content.... I
     congratulate you on it, and I can say without envy that I wish I
     were able to say as much for myself. At your age one is filled with
     confidence and zeal; but at mine!...

     I am taking up again, not without some difficulty, a work which has
     been interrupted for a long time, and what is better, I find that I
     am already rested in my solitude from the excitement and fatigue of
     life in Paris.

     I send you the affectionate regards of Mme. Ambroise Thomas, and I
     say au revoir, dear friend, with a good grip of the hand.

     Yours with all my heart,

     AMBROISE THOMAS.

Yes, as my master said, I did work with pleasure.

Mlle. Sibyl Sanderson, her mother and three sisters were also living at
the Grand Hotel at Vevey and every evening from five o'clock until seven
I made our future Esclarmonde work on the scene I had written that day.

After _Esclarmonde_ I did not wait for my mind to grow fallow. My
publisher knew my sad feelings about _Werther_ which I persisted in
being unwilling to have given to a theater (no management had then made
advances to obtain the work) and he opened negotiations with Jean
Richepin. They decided to offer me a great subject for the Opéra on the
story of Zoroaster, entitled _Le Mage_.

In the course of the summer of 1889 I already had several scenes of the
work planned out.

My excellent friend the learned writer on history, Charles Malherbe, was
aware of the few moments I made no use of, and I found him a real
collaborator in these circumstances. Indeed, he chose among my scattered
papers a series of manuscripts which he indicated to me would serve in
the different acts of _Le Mage_.

P. Gailhard, our director at the Opéra, was as ever the most devoted of
friends. He put the work on with unheard of elaborateness. I owed to him
a magnificent cast with Mmes. Fierens and Lureau Escalaïs and Mm.
Vergnet and Delmas. The ballet was important and was staged in a
fairylike way and had as its star Rosita Mauri.

Although it was knocked about a good deal by the press, the work ran for
more than forty performances.

Some were glad of the chance to seek a quarrel with our director who had
played his last card and had arrived at the last month of his privilege.
It was useless trouble on their part. Gailhard was shortly afterwards
called upon to resume the managerial scepter of our great lyric stage. I
found him there associated with E. Bertrand when _Thaïs_, of which I
shall speak later, was put on.

Apropos of this, some verses of the ever witty Ernest Reyer come to
mind. Here they are:

    _Le Mage_ est loin, _Werther_ est proche,
        Et déjà _Thaïs_ est sous roche;
        Admirable fécondite ...
        Moi, voilà dix ans que je pioche
        Sur _Le Capuchin enchanté_.

You may be astonished at never having seen this work of Reyer's played.
Here is the theme as he told it, with the most amusing seriousness, at
one of our monthly dinners of the Institute, at the excellent Champeaux
restaurant, Place de Bourse.

    First and Only Act!

The scene represents a public square; on the left the sign of a famous
tavern. Enter from the right a Capuchin. He stares at the tavern door.
He hesitates; then, finally, he decides to cross the threshold and
closes the door. Music in the orchestra--if desired. Suddenly, the
Capuchin comes out again--enchanted, assuredly enchanted by the cooking!

Thus the title of the work is explained; it has nothing to do with
fairies enchanting a poor monk!



CHAPTER XIX

A NEW LIFE


The year 1891 was marked by an event which had a profound effect on my
life. In the month of May of that year the publishing house of Hartmann
went out of business.

How did it happen? What brought about this catastrophe? I asked myself
these questions but could get no answer. It had seemed to me that all
was going as well as could be expected with my publisher. I was utterly
stupefied at hearing that all the works published by the house of
Hartmann were to be put up at auction; that they would have to face the
ordeal of a public sale. For me this was a most disturbing uncertainty.

I had a friend who had a vault, and I entrusted to him the orchestral
score and piano score of _Werther_ and the orchestral score of _Amadis_.
He put these valueless papers beside his valuables. The scores were in
manuscript.

I have already written of the fortunes of _Werther_, and perhaps I
shall of _Amadis_, the text of which was by our great friend Jules
Claretie of the French Academy.

As may be imagined, my anxiety was very great. I expected to see my
labor of many years scattered among all the publishers. Where would
_Manon_ go? Where would _Hérodiade_ bring up? Who would get _Marie
Magdeleine_? Who would have my _Suites d'Orchestra_? All this disturbed
my muddled brain and made me anxious.

Hartmann had always shown me so much friendliness and sensitiveness in
my interests, and he was, I am sure, as sorrowful as I was about this
painful situation.

Henri Heugel and his nephew Paul-Émile Chevalier, owners of the great
firm Le Ménestrel, were my saviors. They were the pilots who kept all
the works of my past life from shipwreck, prevented their being
scattered, and running the risks of adventure and chance.

They acquired all of Hartmann's assets and paid a considerable price for
them.

In May, 1911, I congratulated them on the twentieth anniversary of the
good and friendly relations which had existed between us and at the
same time I expressed the deep gratitude I cherish towards them.

How many times I had passed by Le Ménestrel, and envied without
hostility those masters, those published, all those favored by that
great house!

My entrance to Le Ménestrel began a glorious era for me, and every time
I go there I feel the same deep happiness. All the satisfactions I enjoy
as well as the disappointments I experience find a faithful echo in the
hearts of my publishers.

       *       *       *       *       *

Some years later Léon Carvalho again became the manager at the
Opéra-Comique. M. Paravey's privilege had expired.

I recall this card from Carvalho the day after he left in 1887. He had
erased his title of "directeur." It expressed perfectly his sorrowful
resignation:

     "_My dear Master_,

     "I scratch out the title, but I retain the memory of my great
     artistic joys where _Manon_ holds a first place....

     "What a fine diamond!

     "LEON CARVALHO."

His first thought was to revive _Manon_ which had disappeared from the
bills since the fire of mournful memory. This revival was in October,
1892.

Sibyl Sanderson, as I have said, had been engaged for a year at the
Théâtre de la Monnaie at Brussels. She played _Esclarmonde_ and _Manon_.
Carvalho took her from the Monnaie to revive _Manon_ in Paris. The work
has never left the bills since and, as I write it, has reached its 763rd
performance.

At the beginning of the same year _Werther_ was given at Vienna as well
as a ballet: _Le Carillon_. The applauded collaborators were our Des
Grieux and our German Werther: Ernest Van Dyck and de Roddaz.

It was on my return from another visit to Vienna that my faithful and
precious collaborator Louis Gallet paid me a visit one day at Le
Ménestrel. My publishers had arranged a superb study where I could
rehearse my artists from Paris and elsewhere in their parts. Louis
Gallet and Heugel proposed to me a work on Anatole France's admirable
romance _Thaïs_.

I was immediately carried away by the idea. I could see Sanderson in the
rôle of Thaïs. She belonged to the Opéra-Comique so I would do the work
for that house.

Spring at last permitted me to go to the seashore where I have always
liked to live and I left Paris with my wife and daughter, taking with me
all that I had composed of the work with so much happiness.

I took with me a friend who never left me day or night--an enormous gray
Angora cat with long silky hair.

I worked at a large table placed on a veranda against which the waves of
the sea sometimes broke heavily and scattered their foam. The cat lay on
the table, sleeping almost on my pages with an unceremoniousness which
delighted me. He could not stand such strange noises and every time it
happened he pushed out his paws and showed his claws as if to drive the
sea away.

I know some one else who loves cats, not more but as much as I do, the
gracious Countess Marie de Yourkevitch, who won the grand gold medal for
piano playing at the Imperial Conservatoire of Music at St. Petersburg.
She has lived in Paris for some years in a luxurious apartment where she
is surrounded by dogs and cats, her great friends.

"Who loves animals, loves people," and we know that the Countess is a
true Maecenas to artists.

The exquisite poet Jeanne Dortzal is also a friend of these felines with
the deep-green enigmatic eyes; they are the companions of her working
hours.

I finished _Thaïs_ at the Rue du General Foy, in my bedroom where
nothing broke the silence except the crackling of the Yule logs which
burned in the fireplace.

At that time I did not have a mass of letters which I must answer, as is
the case now; I did not receive a quantity of books which I must run
over so that I could thank the authors; neither was I absorbed in
incessant rehearsals, in short, I did not lead the sort of a life I
would willingly qualify as infernal, if it were not my rule _not_ to go
out in the evening.

At six in the morning I received a call from my masseur. His cares were
made necessary by rheumatism in my right hand, and I had some trouble
with it.

Even at this early morning hour I had been at work for some time, and
this practitioner, Imbert, who was in high good standing with his
clients, brought me morning greetings from Alexander Dumas the Younger
from whose house he had just come. As he came, he said, "I left the
master with his candles lighted, his beard trimmed, and comfortably
installed in his white dressing gown."

One morning he brought me these words--a reply to a reproach I had
allowed myself to make to him:

     "Confess that you thought that I had forgotten you, man of little
     faith.

     "A. DUMAS."

Between whiles, and it was a delightful distraction, I had written _Le
Portrait de Manon_, a delightful act by Georges Boyer, to whom I already
owed the text of _Les Enfants_.

Some good friends of mine, Auguste Cain, the famous sculptor of animals,
and his dear wife, had been generous and useful to me in difficult
circumstances, and I was delighted to applaud the first dramatic work of
their son Henri Cain. His success with _La Vivandière_ affirmed his
talent still more. The music of this work in three acts was the swan
song of the genial Benjamin Godard. Ah! the dear great musician who was
a real poet from his youth up, in the first bars he wrote. Who does not
remember his masterpiece _Le Tasse_?

As I was strolling one day in the gardens of the dismal palace of the
dukes d'Este at Ferrare, I picked a branch of oleander which was just in
blossom and sent it to my friend. My gift recalled the incomparable duet
in the first act of _Le Tasse_.

During the summer of 1893 my wife and I went to Avignon. This city of
the popes, the _terre papale_, as Rabelais called it, attracted me
almost as much as that other city of the popes, ancient Rome.

We lived at the excellent Hotel de l'Europe, Place Grillon. Our hosts,
M. and Mme. Ville, were worthy and obliging persons and were full of
attention for us. That was imperative for I needed quiet to write _La
Navarraise_, the act which Jules Claretie had entrusted to me and my new
librettist Henri Cain.

Every evening at five o'clock our hosts, who had forbidden our door all
day with jealous care, served us a delicious lunch. My friends, the
Provençal poets, used to gather around, and among them was Felix Gras,
one of my dearest friends.

One day we decided to pay a visit to Frédéric Mistral, the immortal poet
of Provence who played a large part in the renaissance of the poetic
language of the South.

He received us with Mme. Mistral at his home--which his presence made
ideal--at Millane. He showed when he talked that he knew not only the
science of Form but also that general knowledge which makes great
writers and makes a poet of an artist. As we saw him we recalled that
_Belle d'aout_, the poetical story full of tears and terrors, then the
great epic of _Mirelle_, and so many other famous works besides.

By his walk and vigor one recognized him as the child of the country,
but he was a gentleman farmer, as the English say; although he is not
any more a peasant on that account, as he wrote to Lamartine, than
Paul-Louis Courier, the brilliant and witty pamphleteer, was a
cultivator of vineyards.

We returned to Avignon full of the inexpressible enveloping charm of the
hours we had passed in the house of this great, illustrious poet.

The following winter was entirely devoted to the rehearsals of _Thaïs_
at the Opéra. I say at the Opéra in spite of the fact that I wrote the
work for the Opéra-Comique where Sanderson was engaged. She triumphed
there in _Manon_ three times a week.

What made me change the theater? Sanderson was dazzled by the idea of
entering the Opéra, and she signed a contract with Gailhard without even
taking the mere trouble of informing Carvalho first.

Heugel and I were greatly surprised when Gailhard told us that he was
going to give _Thaïs_ at the Opéra with Sibyl Sanderson. "You've got the
artist; the work will follow her!" There was nothing else for me to say.
I remember, however, how bitterly Carvalho reproached me. He almost
accused me of ingratitude, and God knows that I did not deserve that.

_Thaïs_ was interpreted by Sibyl Sanderson; J. F. Delmas, who made the
rôle of Athanaël one of his most important creations; Alvarez, who
consented to play the rôle of Nicias, and Mme. Heglon, who also acted in
the part which devolved upon her.

As I listened to the final rehearsals in the depths of the empty
theater, I lived over again my ecstatic moments before the remains of
Thaïs of Antinoë, beside the anchorite, who had been bewitched by her
grace and charm. We owed this impressive spectacle which was so well
calculated to impress the imagination to a glass case in the Guimet
Museum.

The evening of the dress rehearsal of _Thaïs_ I escaped from Paris and
went to Dieppe and Pourville, with the sole purpose of being alone and
free from the excitements of the great city. I have said already that I
always tear myself away in this fashion from the feverish uncertainties
which hover over every work when it faces the public for the first time.
No one can tell beforehand the feeling that will move the public,
whether its prejudices or sympathies will draw it towards a work or turn
it against it. I feel weak before the baffling enigma, and had I a
conscience a thousand times more tranquil, I would not want to attempt
to pierce the mystery!

The day after my return to Paris Bertrand and Cailhard, the two
directors of the Opéra, called on me. They appeared to be down at the
mouth. I could only get sighs from them or a word or two, which in their
laconicism spoke volumes, "The press! Immoral subject! It's done for!"
These words were so many indications of what the performance must have
been.

So I told myself. Nevertheless seventeen years have gone and the piece
is still on the bills, and has been played in the provinces and abroad,
while at the Opéra itself _Thaïs_ has long since passed its hundredth
performance.

Never have I so regretted letting myself go in a moment of
disappointment. It is true that it was only a passing one. Could I
foresee that I should see again this same score of _Thaïs_, dated 1894,
in the salon of Sibyl Sanderson's mother, on the music rest of the very
piano at which that fine artiste, long since no more, studied?

To accustom the public to the work, the directors of the Opéra
associated with it a ballet from the repertoire. Subsequently Gailhard
saw that the work pleased, and in order to make it the only performance
of the evening he asked me to add a tableau, the Oasis, and a ballet to
the third act. Mlle. Berthet created this new tableau and Zambelli
incarnated the new ballet.

Later, the title rôle was sung in Paris by Mlles. Alice Verlet and Mary
Garden and Mme. Kousnezoff. I owe some superb nights at the Opéra to
them. Geneviève Vix and Mastio sang it in other cities. I wait to speak
of Lina Cavalieri for she was to be the creator of the work at Milan,
October, 1903. This creation was the occasion for my last journey to
Italy up to now.



CHAPTER XX

MILAN--LONDON--BAYREUTH


I regret all the more that I have given up traveling, for I seem to have
become lazy in this regard, since my visits to Milan were always so
delightful--I was going to say adorable--thanks to the friendly Edouard
Sonzogno, who constantly paid me the most delicate and kindly
attentions.

What delightful receptions, and perfectly arranged and elaborate
dinners, we had at the fine mansion at 11 Via Goito! What bursts of
laughter and gay sallies there were; what truly enchanted hours I passed
there, with my Italian confrères, invited to the same love-feast as I,
at the house of the most gracious of hosts: Umberto Giordano, Cilea and
many others!

In this great city I had excellent friends and illustrious ones as well,
as Mascagni and Leoncavallo, whom I had known before and had had as
friends in Paris. They did not then foresee the magnificent situation
they would create for themselves one day at the theater.

In Milan my old friend and publisher Giulio Ricordi also invited me to
his table. I was sincerely moved at finding myself again in the bosom of
the Ricordi family to whom I was attached by so many charming memories.
It is unnecessary to add that we drank to the health of the illustrious
Puccini.

Among my memories of Milan I have kept the recollection of being present
at Caruso's debut. The now famous tenor was very modest then; and when,
a year afterwards, I saw him wrapped in an ample fur-coat, it was
obvious that the figures of his salary must have mounted _crescendo_. As
I saw him I did not envy him his brilliant fortune or his undoubted
talent, but I did regret--that winter especially--that I could not put
his rich warm coat on my back.... It snowed, indeed, in Milan, in large
and seemingly endless flakes. It was a hard winter. I remember that once
I hadn't enough bread from my breakfast to satisfy the appetite of some
thirty pigeons which, shivering and trembling with cold, came to my
balcony for shelter. Poor dear little creatures! I regretted that I
could not do more for them. And involuntarily I thought of their
sisters in the Piazza Saint Marc, so pretty, so friendly, who at that
instant must be just as cold.

I have to confess to a flagrant but entirely innocent joke that I played
at a dinner of Sonzogno's, the publisher. Everyone knew of the strained
relations between him and Ricordi. I slipped into the dining room before
any of the guests had gone in and placed under Sonzogno's napkin an
Orsini bomb, which I had bought and which was really awe inspiring--be
reassured, it was only of cardboard and from the confectioner's. Beside
this inoffensive explosive I placed Ricordi's card. The joke was a great
success. The diners laughed so much that during the whole meal nothing
else was talked about and little attention was paid to the menu, in
spite of the fact that we knew that it must inevitably be appetizing,
like all those to which we had to do honor in that opulent house.

I always had the glorious good fortune to have as my interpreter of
_Sapho_ in Italy La Bellincioni, the Duse of opera. In 1911 she
continued her triumphal career at the Opéra in Paris.

I have mentioned that Cavalieri was to create _Thaïs_ in Milan. Sonzogno
insisted strongly that I should let her see the part before I left. I
remember the considerable success she had in the work--_al teatro
lirico_ of Milan. Her beauty, her admirable plasticity, the warmth and
color of her voice, her passionate outbursts simply gripped the public
which praised her to the skies.

She invited me to a farewell dinner at the Hotel de Milan. The table was
covered with flowers and it was laid in a large room adjoining the
bedroom where Verdi had died two years before. The room was still
furnished just as it had been when the illustrious composer lived there.
The great master's grand piano was still there, and on the table where
he had worked were the inkstand, the pen and the blotting paper which
still bore the marks of the notes he had traced. The dress shirt--the
last one he wore--hung on the wall and one could still see the lines of
the body it had covered.... A detail which hurt my feelings and which
only the greedy curiosity of strangers can account for, was that bits of
the linen had been boldly cut off and carried away as relics.

Verdi! The name signifies the whole of victorious Italy from Victor
Emanuel II down to our own times. Bellini, on the other hand, is the
image of unhappy Italy under the yoke of the past.

A little while after the death of Bellini in 1835--that never to be
forgotten author of _La Somnanbula_ and _La Norma_--Verdi, the immortal
creator of so many masterpieces, came on the scene and with rare
fertility never ceased to produce his marvellous works which are in the
repertoire of all the theaters in the world.

About two weeks before Verdi's death I found at my hotel the great man's
card with his regards and best wishes.

In a remarkable study of Verdi Camille Bellaigue uses the following
words about the great master. They are as just as they are beautiful.

"He died on January 27, 1901, in his eighty-eighth year. In him music
lost some of its strength, light and joy. Henceforth a great, necessary
voice will be missing from the balance of the European 'concert.' A
splendid bower has fallen from the chaplet of Latin genius. I cannot
think of Verdi without recalling that famous phrase of Nietzsche, who
had come back from Wagnerism and had already turned against the
composer: 'Music must be Mediterraneanized.' Certainly not all music.
But to-day as the old master has departed, that glorious host of the
Doria palace, from which each winter his deep gaze soared over the azure
of the Ligurian sea, one may well ask who is to preserve the rights and
influence of the Mediterranean in music?"

       *       *       *       *       *

To add another of my memories of _Thaïs_ I recall two letters which must
have touched me deeply.

     August 1, 1892

...I brought a little doll Thaïs to the Institute for you, and as I
     was going to the country after the session and you were not there,
     I left it with Bonvalot and begged him to handle her carefully....

     I return in a day or so, for on Saturday we receive Frémiet who
     wishes me to thank you for voting for him.

     GEROME.

I wanted this colored statuette by my illustrious colleague to place on
my table as I wrote _Thaïs_. I have always liked to have before my eyes
an image or a symbol of the work on which I am engaged.

The second letter I received the day after the first performance of
_Thaïs_ at the Opéra.

     _Dear Master_:

     You have lifted my poor _Thaïs_ to the first rank of operatic
     heroines. You are my sweetest glory. I am delighted. "Assieds-toi
     près de nous," the aria to Love, the final duet, is charmingly
     beautiful.

     I am happy and proud at having furnished you with the theme on
     which you have developed the most inspiring phrases. I grasp your
     hand with joy.

     ANATOLE FRANCE.>

I had already been to Covent Garden twice. First, for _Le Roi de
Lahore_, and then for _Manon_ which was sung by Sanderson and Van Dyck.

I went back again for the rehearsals of _La Navarraise_. Our principal
artists were Emma Calvé, Alvarez and Plancon.

The rehearsals with Emma Calvé were a great honor for me and a great joy
as well, which I was to renew later in the rehearsals for _Sapho_ in
Paris.

The Prince of Wales, later Edward VII, attended the first performance of
_La Navarraise_.

The recalls of the artists were so numerous and enthusiastic that
finally they called for me. As I did not appear, for the good reason
that I was not there, and could not be presented to the Prince of Wales
who wanted to congratulate me, the manager could find only this way to
excuse me both to the prince and to the public. He came on the stage and
said, "M. Massenet is outside smoking a cigarette and won't come."

Doubtless this was true, but "the whole truth should not always be
spoken."

I returned on board the boat with my wife, Heugel, my dear publisher,
and Adrien Bernheim, the Governmental Commissary General of the
subsidized theaters, who had honored the performance with his presence.
Ever since he has been one of my most charming and dearest friends.

I learned that her Majesty Queen Victoria summoned Emma Calvé to Windsor
to sing _La Navarraise_, and I was told that they improvised a stage
setting in the queen's own drawing room, which was most picturesque but
primitive. The Barricade was represented by a pile of pillows and down
quilts.

Have I said that in the month of May preceding _La Navarraise_ in London
(June 20, 1894), the Opéra-Comique gave _Le Portrait de Manon_, an
exquisite act by Georges Boyer, which was delightfully interpreted by
Fugère, Grivot and Mlle. Lainé?

Many of the phrases of _Manon_ reappeared in the work. The subject
prompted me to this, for it is concerned with Des Grieux at forty, a
poetical souvenir of Manon long since dead.

Between whiles I again visited Bayreuth. I went to applaud the
_Meistersingers of Nuremburg_.

Richard Wagner had not been there for many a long year, but his titanic
soul ruled over all the performances. As I strolled in the gardens about
the theater at Bayreuth, I recalled that I had known him in 1861. I had
lived for ten days in a small room near him in the Chateau de
Plessis-Trévise, which belonged to the celebrated tenor Gustave Roger.
Roger knew German and offered to do the French translation of
_Tannhauser_. So Richard Wagner came to live with him properly to set
the French words to music.

I still remember his vigorous interpretation when he played on the piano
fragments of that masterpiece, then so clumsily misunderstood and now so
much admired by the whole world of art and music.



CHAPTER XXI

A VISIT TO VERDI FAREWELL TO AMBROISE THOMAS


Henri Cain had accompanied us to London and came to see me at the
Cavendish Hotel, Jermyn Street, where I was staying.

We remained in conference for several hours reviewing different subjects
which were suitable for works to occupy me in the future. Finally we
agreed on the fairy story of Cinderella: _Cendrillon_.

I returned to Pont de l'Arche--a new home for my wife and me--to work
during the summer.

Our home was most interesting and even had a historical value. A massive
door hung on enormous hinges gave access on the street side to an old
mansion. It was bordered by a terrace which looked down on the valley of
the Seine and the Andelle. La Belle Normandie indeed offered us the
delightful spectacle of her smiling, magnificent plains and her rich
pastures stretching to the horizon and beyond.

The Duchess of Longueville, the famous heroine of La Fronde, had lived
in this house--it was the place of her loves. The seductive Duchess with
her pleasant address and gestures, together with the expression of her
face and the tone of her voice, made a marvellous harmony. So much so
that a Jansenist writer of the period said, "She was the most perfect
actress in the world." This splendid woman here sheltered her charms and
rare beauty. One must believe that they have not exaggerated about her
for Victor Cousin became her posthumous lover (along with the Duc de
Coligny, Marcillac, the Duc de la Rochefoucauld, and the great Turenne;
he might have been in less brilliant company); but as we said, the
illustrious eclectic philosopher dedicated to her a work which was no
doubt admirable in style but which is still considered one of the most
complete examples of modern learning.

She was born a Bourbon Condé, the daughter of the Prince of Orleans, and
the fleurs de lys which were hers by right were still visible on the
keystones of the window arches of our little chateau.

There was a large white salon with delicately carved woodwork, which was
lighted by three windows overlooking the terrace. It was a perfectly
preserved masterpiece of the Seventeenth Century.

The room where I worked was also lighted by three windows and here one
could admire a mantel, a real marvel of art in Louis XIV style. I found
a large table of the same period at Rouen. I was at ease at it because I
could arrange the leaves of my orchestral score on it.

It was at Pont de l'Arche that I learned one morning of Mme. Carvalho's
death. This was bound to plunge the art of singing and the stage in deep
mourning for she had been with her masterly talent the incarnation of
both for long years. Here too I received the visit of my director, Léon
Carvalho, who was terribly stricken by her death. He was overcome by
this irreparable loss.

Carvalho came to ask me to finish the music of _La Vivandière_, a work
on which Benjamin Godard was working, but which the state of his health
led them to fear he would never finish.

I refused this request curtly. I knew Benjamin Godard and his
strong-mindedness as well as the wealth and liveliness of his
inspiration. I asked Carvalho not to tell of his visit and to let
Benjamin Godard finish his own work.

That day ended with a rather drole incident. I set out to get a large
carriage to take my guests to the station. At the appointed time an open
landau appeared at my door. It had at least sixteen springs, was lined
with blue satin, and one got in by a triple step-ladder arrangement
which folded up when the door was closed. Two thin, lanky white horses,
real Rossinantes, were harnessed to it.

My guests at once recognized this historic looking coach for they had
often met its owners riding in it on the Bois de Boulogne. Public malice
had found these people so ridiculous that they had given them a nickname
which in the interests of decorum I must refrain from mentioning. I will
only say that it was borrowed from the vocabulary of zoology.

Never had the streets of that little town, usually so calm and peaceful,
echoed with such shouts of laughter. They did not stop till the station
was reached, and I will not swear that they were not prolonged after
that.

       *       *       *       *       *

Carvalho decided to give _La Navarraise_ at the Opéra-Comique in May,
1895.

I went to Nice to finish _Cendrillon_ at the Hotel de Suede. We were
absolutely spoiled by our charming hosts M. and Mme. Roubion. When I was
settled at Nice, I got away to Milan for ten days to give hints to the
artists of the admirable La Scala Theatre who were rehearsing _La
Navarraise_. The protagonist was Lison Frandin, an artist known and
loved by all Italy.

As I knew that Verdi was at Genoa, I took advantage of passing through
that city on the way to Milan to pay him a visit.

When I arrived at the first floor of the old palace of the Dorias, where
he lived, I was able to decipher on a card nailed to the door in a dark
passage the name which radiates so many memories of enthusiasm and
glory: Verdi.

He opened the door himself. I stood nonplussed. His sincerity,
graciousness and the nobility which his tall stature gave his whole
person soon drew us together.

I passed unutterably charming moments in his presence, as we talked with
the most delightful simplicity in his bedroom and then on the terrace of
his sitting room from which we looked over the port of Genoa and beyond
on the deep sea as far as the eye could reach. I had the illusion
that he was one of the Dorias proudly showing me his victorious
fleets.

[Illustration: Lucy Arbell]

As I was leaving, I was drawn to remark that "now I had visited him, I
was in Italy."

As I was about to pick up the valise I had left in a dark corner of the
large reception room, where I had noticed tall gilt chairs which were in
the Italian taste of the Eighteenth Century, I told him that it
contained manuscripts which never left me on my travels. Verdi seized my
luggage, briskly, and said he did exactly as I did, for he never wanted
to be parted from his work on a journey.

How much I would have preferred to have had his music in my valise
instead of my own! The master even accompanied me across the garden of
his lordly dwelling to my carriage.

       *       *       *       *       *

When I got back to Paris in February, I learned with the keenest emotion
that my master Ambroise Thomas was dangerously ill.

Although far from well he had dared the cold to attend a festival at the
Opéra where they had played the whole of that terrible, superb prelude
to _Françoise de Rimini_.

They encored the prelude and applauded Ambroise Thomas.

My master was the more moved by this reception, as he had not forgotten
how cruelly severe they had shown themselves toward this fine work at
the Opéra.

He went from the theater to the apartment he occupied at the
Conservatoire and went to bed. He never got up again.

The sky was clear and cloudless that day, and the sun shone with its
softest brilliance in my venerated master's room and caressed the
curtains of his bed of pain. The last words he said were a salutation to
gladsome nature which smiled upon him for the last time. "To die in
weather so beautiful," he said, and that was all.

He laid in state in the columned vestibule of which I have spoken, at
the foot of the great staircase leading to the president's loge which he
had honored with his presence for twenty-five years.

The third day after his death, I delivered his funeral oration in the
name of the Société des Auteurs et Compositeurs Dramatiques. I began as
follows.

"It is said that a king of France in the presence of the body of a
powerful seigneur of his court could not help saying, 'How tall he
was!' So he who rests here before us seemed tall to us, being of those
whose height is only realized after death.

"To see him pass in life so simple and calm, in his dream of art, who of
us, accustomed to feel him kindly and forbearing always at our sides,
has seen that he was so tall that we had to raise our eyes to look him
fairly in the face."

Here my eyes filled with tears and my voice seemed to die away strangled
with emotion. Nevertheless I contained myself, mastered my grief, and
continued my discourse. I knew that I should have time enough for
weeping.

It was very painful to me on that occasion to see the envious looks of
those who already saw in me my master's successor at the Conservatoire.
And as a matter of fact, this is exactly what happened, for a little
afterwards I was summoned to the Ministry of Public Instruction. At the
time the Minister was my confrère at the Institute, Rambaud the eminent
historian, and at the head of the Beaux-Arts as director was Henri
Roujon, since a member of the Académie des Beaux-Arts and the permanent
secretary.

The directorship of the Conservatoire was offered me. I declined the
honor as I did not want to interrupt my life at the theater which took
my whole time.

In 1905 the directorship was offered me again, but I refused for the
same reason.

Naturally, I tendered my resignation as professor of composition at the
Conservatoire. I had only accepted and held the situation because it
brought me in touch with my Director whom I loved so much.

Free at last and loosed from my chains forever, during the first days of
summer my wife and I started for the mountains of Auvergne.



CHAPTER XXII

WORK! ALWAYS WORK!


At the beginning of the preceding winter, Henri Cain proposed to Henri
Heugel a text for an opera based on Alphonse Daudet's famous romance
_Sapho_. He went to Heugel in order that I might the more certainly
accept it, for he knew the influence my publisher had with me.

I had gone to the mountains with a light heart. There was to be no
directing the Conservatoire and no more classes; I felt twenty years
younger. I wrote _Sapho_ with an enthusiasm I had rarely felt up to that
time.

We lived in a villa, and I felt far removed from everything, the noise,
the tumult, the incessant movement and feverish activity of the city. We
went for walks and excursions through the beautiful country which has
been praised so much for the variety of its scenery, but which was still
too much unknown. The only accompaniment of our thoughts was the murmur
of the waters which flowed along the roadside; their freshness rose up
to us, and often it was from a bubbling spring which broke the quiet of
luxuriant nature. Eagles, too, came down from their steep rocks,
"Thunder's abode," as Lamartine said, and surprised us by their bold
flights as they made the air echo with their shrill, piercing cries.

Even while I journeyed, my mind was working and on my return the pages
accumulated.

I became enamored with this work and I rejoiced in advance at letting
Alphonse Daudet hear it, for he was a very dear friend whom I had known
when we were both young.

If I insist somewhat of speaking of that time, it is because four works
above all others in my long career gave me such joy in the doing that I
freely describe it as exquisite: _Marie Magdeleine_, _Werther_, _Sapho_,
and _Thérèse_.

At the beginning of September of that year an amusing incident happened.
The Emperor of Russia came to Paris. The entire population--this is no
exaggeration--was out of doors to see the procession pass through the
avenues and boulevards. The people drawn by curiosity had come from
everywhere; the estimate of a million people does not seem exaggerated.

We did what everyone else did, and our servants went at the same time;
our apartment was empty. We were at the house of friends at a window
overlooking the Parc Monceau. The procession had scarcely passed when we
were suddenly seized with anxiety at the idea that the time was
particularly propitious for burglarizing deserted apartments and we
rushed home.

When we reached our threshold whispers were coming from inside, which
put us in a lively flutter. We knew our servants were out. It had
happened! Burglars had broken in!

We were shocked at the idea, but we went in ... and saw in the salon
Emma Calvé and Henri Cain who were waiting for us and talking together
in the meantime. We were struck in a heap. Tableau! We all burst out
laughing at this curious adventure. Our servants had come back before we
had, and naturally opened the door for our friendly callers who had so
thoroughly frightened us for a moment. Oh power of imagination, how
manifold are thy fantastic creations!

       *       *       *       *       *

Carvalho had already prepared the model of the scenery and the costumes
for _Cendrillon_, when he learned that Emma Calvé was in Paris and put
on _Sapho_. In addition to the admirable protagonist of _La Navarraise_
in London and in Paris, our interpreters were the charming artiste Mlle.
Julia Guiraudon (later the wife of my collaborator Henri Cain) and M.
Lepreste who has since died.

I have spoken of the extreme joy I experienced in writing _Sapho_, an
opera in five acts. Henri Cain and dear Arthur Bernéde had ably
contrived the libretto.

Never before had the rehearsals of a work seemed more enrapturing. The
task was both easy and agreeable with such excellent artists.

While the rehearsals were going on so well, my wife and I went to dine
one evening at Alphonse Daudet's. He was very fond of us. The first
proofs had been laid on the piano. I can still see Daudet seated on a
cushion and almost brushing the keyboard with his handsome head so
delightfully framed in his beautiful thick hair. It seemed to me that he
was deeply moved. The vagueness of his short sightedness made his eyes
still more admirable. His soul with all its pure, tender poetry spoke
through them.

It would be difficult to experience again such moments as my wife and I
knew then.

As they were about to begin the first rehearsals of _Sapho_, Danbé, who
had been my friend since childhood, told the musicians in the orchestra
what an emotional work they were to play.

Finally, the first performance came on November 27, 1897.

The evening must have been very fine, for the next day the first mail
brought me the following note:

     _My dear Massenet:_

     I am happy at your great success. With Massenet and Bizet, _non
     omnis moriar_.

     Tenderly yours, ALPHONSE DAUDET.

I learned that my beloved friend and famous collaborator had been
present at the first performance, at the back of a box, although he had
stopped going out save on rare occasions.

His appearance at the performance touched me all the more.

One evening I decided to go to the playhouse, in the wings, and I was
shocked at Carvalho's appearance. He was always so alert and carried
himself so well, but now he was bent and his eyes were bloodshot behind
his blue glasses. Nevertheless his good humor and gentleness toward me
were the same as ever.

His condition could but cause me anxiety.

How true my sad presentiments were!

My poor director was to die on the third day.

Almost at the same time I learned that Daudet, whose life had been so
admirably rounded out, had heard his last hour strike on the clock of
time. Oh mysterious, implacable Timepiece! I felt one of its sharpest
strokes.

Carvalho's funeral was followed by a considerable crowd. His son burst
into sobs behind his funeral car and could scarcely see. Everything in
that sad, impressive procession was painful and heartrending.

Daudet's obsequies were celebrated with great pomp at Sainte Clotilde.
_La Solitude_ from _Sapho_ (the entr'acte from the fifth act) was played
during the service after the chanting of the _Dies Irae_.

I was obliged to make my way almost by main force through the great
crowd to get into the church. It was like a hungry, eager reflection of
that long line of admirers and friends he had during his lifetime.

As I sprinkled holy water on the casket, I recalled my last visit to the
Rue de Bellechasse where Daudet lived. I had gone to give him news of
the theater and carried him sprays of eucalyptus, one of the trees of
the South he adored. I knew what intense pleasure that would give him.

       *       *       *       *       *

Meanwhile _Sapho_ went on its way. I went to Saint Raphael, the country
where Carvalho had liked to live.

I relied on an apartment which I had engaged in advance, but the
landlord told me that he had let it to two ladies who seemed very busy.
I started to hunt another lodging when I was called back. I learned that
the two who had taken my rooms were Emma Calvé and one of her friends.
The two ladies doubtless heard my name mentioned and changed their
itinerary. However, their presence in that place so far from Paris
showed me that our _Sapho_ had necessarily suspended her run of
performances.

What whims will not one pardon in such an artiste?

I learned that in two days everything was in order again at the theater
in Paris. Would that I had been there to embrace our adorable fugitive!

Two weeks later I learned from the papers in Nice that Albert Carré had
been made manager of the Opéra-Comique. Until then the house had been
temporarily under the direction of the Beaux-Arts.

Who would have thought that it would have been our new manager who would
revive _Sapho_ considerably later with that beautiful artiste who became
his wife. But it was she who incarnated the Sapho of Daudet with an
unusually appealing interpretation.

Salignac, the tenor, had a considerable success in the rôle of Jean
Gaussin.

At the revival Carré asked me to interweave a new act, the act of the
Letters, and I carried out the idea with enthusiasm.

_Sapho_ was also sung by that unusual artiste Mme. Georgette Leblanc,
later the wife of that great man of letters Maeterlinck.

Mme. Bréjean-Silver also made this rôle an astonishingly lifelike
figure.

How many other artists have sung this work!

The first opera put on under the new management was Reynaldo Hahn's
_L'Ile de Rêve_. He dedicated that exquisite score to me. That music is
pervading for it was written by a real master. What a gift he has of
wrapping us in warm caresses!

That was not the case with the music of some of our confrères. Reyer
found it unbearable and made this image-raising remark about it:

"I just met Gretry's statue on the stairs; he had enough and fled."

That brings to mind another equally witty sally which du Locle made to
Reyer the day after Berlioz's death,

"Well, my dear fellow, Berlioz has got ahead of you."

Du Locle could permit himself this inoffensive joke for he was Reyer's
oldest friend.

I find this word from the author of _Louise_ whom I knew as a child in
my classes at the Conservatoire and who always felt a family affection
for me:

     Midnight, New Year's Eve.

     _Dear Master_:

     Faithful remembrance from your affectionate on the last day which
     ends with _Sapho_ and the first hour of the year which will close
     with _Cendrillon_.

     GUSTAVE CHARPENTIER.

_Cendrillon_ did not appear until May 24, 1899. These works presented
one after another, at more than a year's interval however, brought me
the following note from Gounod:

"A thousand congratulations, my dear friend, on your latest fine
success. The devil! Well, you go at such a pace one can scarcely keep up
with you."

As I have said, the score of _Cendrillon_, written on a pearl from that
casket of jewels "Les Contes de Perrault," had been finished a long
time. It had yielded its turn to _Sapho_ at the Opéra-Comique. Our new
director Albert Carré told me that he intended to give _Cendrillon_ at
the first possible chance, but that was six months away.

I was staying at Aix-les-Bains in remembrance of my father who had lived
there, and I was deep in work on _La Terre Promise_. The Bible furnished
a text and I got out an oratorio of three acts. As I said, I was deep in
the work when my wife and I were overcome by the terrible news of the
fire at the Charity Bazaar. My dear daughter was a salesgirl.

We had to wait until evening before a telegram arrived and ended our
intense alarm.

A curious coincidence which I did not learn until long afterwards was
that the heroine (Lucy Arbell) of _Perséphone_ and _Thérèse_, as well as
the beautiful Dulcinée (in _Don Quichotte_) was also among the
salesgirls. She was only twelve or thirteen at the time, but in the
midst of the general panic she found an exit behind the Hotel du Palais
and succeeded in saving her mother and several others. This showed rare
decision and courage for a child.

Since I have spoken of _La Terre Promise_, I may add that I had an
entirely unexpected "hearing." Eugene d'Harcourt, who was so well
thought of as a musician and a critic, the greatly applauded composer of
_Tasse_ which was put on at Monte Carlo, proposed to me that he direct a
performance at the church of Sainte Eustache with an immense orchestra
and chorus.

The second part was devoted to the taking of Jericho. A march--seven
times interrupted by the resounding outbursts from seven great
trumpets--ended with the collapse of the walls of that famous city which
the Jews had to take and destroy. The resounding clamor of all the
voices together was joined to the formidable thunder of the great organ
of Saint Eustache.

With my wife I attended the final rehearsal in a large pulpit to which
the venerable curé had done us the honor of inviting us.

That was the fifteenth of March, 1900.

       *       *       *       *       *

I return to _Cendrillon_. Albert Carré put on this opera with a stage
setting which was as novel as it was marvellous.

Julia Guiraudon was exquisite in the rôle of Cendrillon. Mme. Deschamps
Jehin was astonishing as a singer and as a comedienne, pretty Mlle.
Emelen was our Prince Charming and the great Fugère showed himself an
indescribable artist in the rôle of Pandolphe. He sent me the news of
"victory" which I received the next morning at Enghien-les-Bains, which
with my wife I had chosen as a refuge near Paris from the dress
rehearsal and the first performance.

More than sixty continuous performances, including matinées, followed
the Première. The Isola brothers, managers of the Gaîté, later gave a
large number of performances, and a curious thing for so Parisian a work
was that Italy gave _Cendrillon_ a fine reception. This lyric work was
given at Rome thirty times--a rare number. The following cablegram came
to me from America:

_Cendrillon hier, success pheno menal_.

The last word was too long and the sending office had cut it in two.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was now 1900, the memorable time of the Great Exposition.

I had scarcely recovered from the fine emotion of _La Terre Promise_ at
Saint Eustache than I fell seriously ill. They were then going on with
the rehearsals of _Le Cid_ at the Opéra which they intended to revive.
The hundredth performance was reached in October of the same year.

All Paris was en fête. The capital, one of the most frequented places in
the world, became even more and better than that: it was the world
itself, for all people met there. All nations jostled one another; all
tongues were heard and all costumes were set off against each other.

Though the Exposition sent its million of joyful notes skyward and could
not fail to obtain a place of honor in history, at nightfall the immense
crowd sought rest from the emotions of the day by swarming to the
theaters which were everywhere open, and it invaded the magnificent
palace which our dear great Charles Gamier had raised for the
manifestations of Lyric Art and the religion of the Dance.

Gailhard had come to call on me in May when I was so ill and had made me
promise to be present in his box at the hundredth performance which he
more than hoped to give and which as a matter of fact took place in
October. That day I yielded to his invitation.

Mlle. Lucienne Bréval and Mm. Saléza and Frédéric Delmas were applauded
with delirious enthusiasm on the night of the hundredth performance. At
the recall at the end of the third act, Gailhard, in spite of my
resistance, pushed me to the front of his box....

It is easy to imagine what happened on the stage, in the Opéra's superb
orchestra, and in the audience packed to the roof.



CHAPTER XXIII

IN THE MIDST OF THE MIDDLE AGES


I became very ill at Paris. I felt that the path from life to death was
so easy, the way seemed so gentle, so restful, that I was sorry to find
myself back in the harsh, cutting troubles of life.

I had escaped the sharp cold of winter; it was now spring, and I went to
my old home at Égreville to find nature, the great consoler, in her
solitude and peace.

I brought with me a voluminous correspondence, letters, pamphlets and
rolls of manuscript which I had never opened. I intended doing so on the
way as a distraction from the boredom of the journey. I had opened
several letters and was about to unroll a manuscript, "Oh, no," I said,
"that's enough." As a matter of fact I had happened on a work for the
stage.

Must the stage follow me everywhere, I thought. I longed to have nothing
more to do with it. So I put the importunate thing aside. Yet as I
journeyed along, to kill time, as they say, I took it up again and
settled myself to run through that famous manuscript notwithstanding
whatever desire I may have had to the contrary.

My attention was at first superficial and inattentive, but gradually it
became fixed. Insensibly I began to read with interest; so much so that
I ended by feeling real surprise--I must confess that it even became
stupefaction.

"What," I exclaimed, "a play without a part for a woman except for the
speechless apparition of the Virgin!"

If I was surprised and stupefied, what would be the feelings of those
who were used to seeing me put on the stage Manon, Sapho, Thaïs and
other lovable ladies. That was true, but in that they would forget that
the most sublime of women, the Virgin, was bound to sustain me in my
work, even as she showed herself charitable to the repentant Juggler.

I had scarcely run through the first scenes, when I felt that I was face
to face with the work of a true poet who was familiar with the archaism
of the literature of the Middle Ages. The manuscript bore no author's
name.

I wrote to my concierge to find out the origin of this mysterious
package, and he told me that the author had left his name and address
with explicit instructions not to divulge them to me unless and until I
had agreed to write the music for the work.

The title _Le Jongleur de Notre Dame_ followed by the sub-title "Miracle
in Three Acts" enchanted me.

The character of my home, a relic of the same Middle Ages, the
surroundings in which I found myself at Égreville, were exactly suited
to give me the desired atmosphere for my work.

The score was finished and the time came to communicate with my unknown.

At last I learned his name and address and wrote to him.

There is no doubt about the joy with which I did so, for the author was
none other than Maurice Léna, the devoted friend I had known at Lyons
where he held the chair of Philosophy.

My dear Léna then came to Égreville on August 14, 1900. We hurried to my
place from the little station. We found in my room spread out on the
large table (I flatter myself it was a famous table for it had belonged
to the illustrious Diderot) the engraved piano and vocal score for _Le
Jongleur de Notre Dame_.

Léna was dumbfounded at sight of it. He was choked by the most
delightful of emotions.

Both of us had been happy in the work. Now the unknown faced us. Where
and in what theater were we to be played?

It was a radiant day. Nature with her intoxicating odors, the fair
season of the fields, the flowers in the meadows, the agreeable union
which had grown up between us in producing the work, everything in fact
spoke of happiness. Such fleeting happiness, as the poetess Mme. Daniel
Lesaeur has told us, is worth all eternity.

The fields recalled to us that we were on the eve of the fifteenth of
August, the Feast of the Virgin, whom we had sung in our work.

As I never had a piano at home, especially at Égreville, I was unable to
satisfy my dear Léna's curiosity and let him hear the music of this or
that scene.

We were strolling together near the hour of vespers towards the old,
venerable church, and we could hear from a distance the chords of its
little harmonium. A mad idea struck me. "Hey! What if I should suggest
to you," I said to my friend, "what if I propose to you something which
would be impossible in that sacred place in any other way, but
certainly very tempting! Suppose we go into the church as soon as it is
deserted and returned to holy obscurity. What if I should let you hear
fragments of our _Le Jongleur de Notre Dame?_ Wouldn't it be a divine
moment which would leave its impression on us forever?" And we continued
our stroll, the complacent shade of the great trees protecting the paths
and roads from the sting of a too ardent sun.

On the morrow--sad morrow--we parted.

The following autumn, the winter, and finally the spring of the
succeeding year passed without any one coming to me from anywhere with
an offer to produce the work.

When I least thought of it, I had a visit as unexpected as it was
flattering from M. Raoul Gunsbourg.

I delight in recalling here the great worth of that close friend, his
individuality as a manager, and his talent as a musician, whose works
triumph on the stage.

Raoul Gunsbourg brought me the news that on his advice H. S. H. the
Prince of Monaco had designated me for a work to be put on the stage of
the theater at Monte Carlo.

_Le Jongleur de Notre Dame_ was ready and I offered it. It was arranged
that his Serene Highness should deign to come to Paris and hear the work
in person. That hearing occurred, as a matter of fact, in the beautiful,
artistic home of my publisher Henri Heugel. The Prince was entirely
satisfied; he did me the honor to express several times his sincere
pleasure. The work was put in study and the later rehearsals were in
Paris under Raoul Gunsbourg's direction.

In January, 1902, my wife and I left Paris for the Palace of Monaco,
where his Serene Highness had most cordially invited us to be his
guests. What a contrast it was to the life we had left behind!

One evening we left Paris buried in glacial cold beneath the snow, and,
behold, some hours later we found ourselves in an entirely different
atmosphere. It was the South, La Belle Provence, the Azure Coast. It was
ideal! For me it was the East almost at the gates of Paris!

The dream began. It is hardly necessary for me to tell of all the
marvelous days which went like a dream in that Dantesque Paradise, amid
that splendid scenery, in that luxurious, sumptuous palace, all balmy
with the vegetation of the Tropics.

The first performance of _Le Jongleur de Notre Dame_ was given at the
Monte Carlo Opéra on Tuesday, February 18, 1902. The superb protagonists
were Mm. Renaud, of the Opéra, and Maréchal, of the Opéra-Comique.

A detail which shows the favor with which the work was received is that
it was given four times in succession during the same season.

Two years later my dear director Albert Carré gave the first performance
of _Le Jongleur de Notre Dame_ at the Opéra-Comique with this ideal
cast: Lucien Fugère, Maréchal, the creator of the part, and Allard.

The work long ago passed its hundredth performance at Paris, and as I
write these lines _Le Jongleur de Notre Dame_ has had a place in the
repertoire of the American houses for several years.

It is interesting to note that the Juggler was created at the
Metropolitan Opera House by Mary Garden, the dazzling artist who is
admired as much in Paris as in the United States.

My feelings are somewhat bewildered, I confess, at seeing the monk
discard his frock after the performance and resume an elegant costume
from the Rue de la Paix. However, in the face of the artist's triumph I
bow and applaud.[1]

     [1] The transposition of the tenor part to the soprano register
     seems an intolerable musical solecism, and a woman playing a
     serious and inevitably male character grotesquely absurd. The terms
     in which Massenet here expresses his objections to this
     indefensible procedure are gentle and but mildly ironical compared
     with those he used to the translator. Massenet was simply furious.
     With flaming eyes--and how his wonderful eyes could flame!--and
     voice vehement with indignation and unutterable scorn, he said to
     me, "When I wrote that work I little thought the monk's habit would
     ever be disguised in a petticoat from the Rue de la Paix."]

As I have said, this work had to wait its turn, and as Carvalho had
previously engaged me to write the music for _Griseldis_, a work by
Eugene Morand and Armand Silvestre, which was much applauded at the
Théâtre-Français. I wrote the score at intervals between my journeys to
the South and to Cap d'Antibes. Ah, that hotel on the Cap d'Antibes!
That was an unusual stay. It was an old property built by Villemessant,
who had christened it correctly and happily "Villa Soliel," and which he
planned for journalists overtaken by poverty and old age.

Imagine, if you can, a large villa with white walls all purple from the
fires of the bright sun of the South and surrounded by a grove of
eucalyptus trees, myrtles and laurels. It was reached by shady paths,
suffused with the most fragrant perfumes, and faced the sea--that sea
which rolls its clear waters from the Azure Coast and the Riviera along
the indented shores of Italy as far as ancient Hellas, as if to carry
thither on its azured waves which bathe Provence the far off salutation
of the Phocean city.

How pleased I was with my sun-flooded room, where I worked in peace and
quiet and in the enjoyment of perfect health!

As I have spoken of _Griseldis_, I will add that as I had two works
free, that and _Le Jongleur de Notre Dame_, my publisher offered Albert
Carré his choice and he took _Griseldis_. That is why, as I have said,
_Le Jongleur de Notre Dame_ was put on at Monte Carlo in 1902.

So _Griseldis_ got the first start and was given at the Opéra-Comique
November 20, 1901.

Mlle. Lucienne Bréval made a superb creation of it. The baritone,
Dufranne, made his first appearance in the rôle of the marquis,
Griseldis's husband, and made a brilliant success from the moment he
came on the stage; Fugère was extraordinary in the rôle of the Devil,
and Maréchal was a tender lover in the part of Alain.

I was very fond of this piece. Everything about it pleased me.

It brought together so many touching sentiments: the proud chivalric
appearance of the great, powerful seigneur going on the Crusades, the
fantastic appearance of the Green Devil who might be said to have come
from a window of a medieval cathedral, the simplicity of young Alain,
and the delightful little figure of the child of Griseldis! For that
part we had a tiny girl of three who was the very spirit of the theater.
As in the second act the child on Griseldis's knees should give the
illusion of falling asleep, the little artiste discovered all by herself
the proper gesture which would be understood by the distant audience;
she let her arms fall as if overcome with weariness. Delightful little
mummer!

Albert Carré had found an archaic and historic oratory which was
artistically perfect, and when the curtain rose on Griseldis's garden,
it was a delight. What a contrast between the lilies blooming in the
foreground and the dismal castle on the horizon!

And the scene of the prologue with its living background was a fortunate
discovery.

What joys I promised myself in being able to work at the theater with my
old friend Armand Silvestre. A year before he had written me, "Are you
going to let me die without seeing _Griseldis_ at the Opéra-Comique?"
Alas, that was the case, and my dear collaborator, Eugene Morland,
helped with his poetical and artistic advice.

As I was working on _Griseldis_, a scholar who was entirely wrapped up
in the literature of the Middle Ages and was interested in a subject on
that period, entrusted me with a work which he had written on that time,
a very labored work of which I was not able to make much use.

I had shown it to Gérôme, whose mind was curious about everything, and
as Gérôme, the author and I were together, our great painter whose
remarks were always so apropos, ready and amusing said to the author who
was waiting for his opinion, "How pleasantly I fell asleep reading your
book yesterday."

And the author bowed entirely satisfied.



CHAPTER XXIV

FROM CHÉRUBIN TO THÉRÈSE


I happened to see played at the Théâtre-Français three entirely novel
acts which interested me very much. It was _Le Chérubin_ by Francis de
Croisset. Two days later I was at the author's house and asked him for
the work. His talent, which was so marked then, has never ceased highly
to confirm itself.

I remember that it was a rainy day, as we were coming back by the Champs
Élysées from the glorious ceremony at the unveiling of the statue of
Alphonse Daudet, that we settled the terms of our agreement.

Title, subject, action, everything in that delightful _Chérubin_ charmed
me. I wrote the music at Égreville.

His Serene Highness the Prince of Monaco heard that _Le Chérubin_ was
set to music, and he remembered _Le Jongleur de Notre Dame_ which he had
welcomed so splendidly and which I had respectfully dedicated to him. He
had M. Raoul Gunsbourg propose to me that the first performance be
given at Monte Carlo. It is not difficult to imagine with what
enthusiasm I accepted this offer. Mme. Massenet and I went again to that
ideal country in that fairy-like palace of which we have retained such
imperishable memories.

_Le Chérubin_ was created by Mary Garden, the tender Nina by Marguerite
Carré, the bewitching Ensoleillad by Cavalieri, and the part of the
philosopher was filled by Maurice Renaud.

It was a really delightful interpretation. The evening was much drawn
out by the applause and the constant encores which the audience demanded
of the artists. It literally held them in an atmosphere of the wildest
enthusiasm.

Our stay at the palace was one continual series of inexpressible
delights which we were to experience again as the guests of that
high-souled prince of science.

Henri Cain, who had been my collaborator with Francis de Croisset in _Le
Chérubin_, amused me between times by making me write the music for a
pretty, picturesque ballet in one act, _Cigale_. The Opéra-Comique gave
it February 4, 1904. The bewitching, talented Mlle. Chasle was our
Cigale, and Messmaecker, of the Opéra-Comique, clowned the rôle of Mme.
Fourmi, Rentière, in a mirth provoking manner!

I was by far the most entertained of those who attended the rehearsals
of _Cigale_. At the end was a scene which was very touching and
exquisitely poetical, where an angel with a divine voice appears and
sings in the distance. The angel's voice was Mlle. Guiraudon who became
Mme. Henri Cain.

A year later, as I have said, on February 14, 1905, _Le Chérubin_ was
sung at Monte Carlo and on the twenty-third of the following May the
Opéra-Comique in Paris closed its season with the same piece. The only
changes at the latter were that Lucien Fugère took the rôle of the
philosopher and added a new success to the many that artist had already
achieved and that the rôle of Ensoleillad was given to the charming
Mlle. Vallandri.

[Illustration: Persephone in _Ariane_]

       *       *       *       *       *

You will perhaps observe that I have said nothing about _Ariane_. The
reason for this is that I never talk about a work until it is finished
and engraved. I have said nothing about _Ariane_ or about _Roma_, the
first scenes of which I wrote in 1902, enraptured by the sublime
tragedy, _Rome_ _Vaincue_ by Alexandre Parodi. As I write these words
the five acts of _Roma_ are in rehearsal at Monte Carlo and the Opéra,
but I have already said too much.

So I resume the current of my life.

_Ariane! Ariane!_ The work which made me live in such lofty spheres! How
could it have been otherwise with the superb, inspired collaboration of
Catulle Mendes, the poet of ethereal hopes and dreams!

It was a memorable day in my life when my friend Heugel told me that
Catulle Mendes was ready to read the text of _Ariane_ to me.

For a long time I had wanted to weep the tears of Ariane. I was thrilled
with all the strength of mind and heart before I even knew the first
word of the first scene.

We engaged to meet for this reading at Catulle Mendes's house, in the
artistic lodging of that great scholar and his exquisite wife who was
also a most talented and real poet.

I came away actually feverish with excitement. The libretto was in my
pocket, against my heart, as if to make it feel the throbs, as I got
into a victoria to go home. Rain fell in torrents but I did not notice
it. Surely Ariane's tears permeated my whole being with delight.

Dear, good tears, with what gladness you must have fallen during the
rehearsals! I was overwhelmed with esteem and attention by my dear
director, Gailhard, as well as by my remarkable interpreters.

In August, 1905, I was walking pensively under the pergola of our house
at Égreville, when suddenly an automobile horn woke the echoes of that
peaceful country.

Was not Jupiter thundering in the heavens, _Caelo tonantem Jovem_, as
Horace says in the Odes. For a moment I could believe that such was the
case, but what was my surprise--my very agreeable surprise--when I saw
get down from that thundering sixty miles an hour two travelers, who, if
they did not come from heaven, nevertheless let me hear the accents of
Paradise in their friendly voices.

One was Gailhard, the director of the Opéra, and the other the learned
architect of the Garnier monument. My director had come to ask me how I
was getting on with _Ariane_ and if I were willing to let the Opéra have
it.

We went up to my large room which with its yellow hangings of the period
might have easily been taken for that of a general of the First Empire.
I at once pointed out a heap of pages on a large black marble table--the
whole of the finished score.

At lunch, between the sardines of the hors d'oeuvre and the cheese of
the dessert, I declaimed several situations in the work. Then my guests,
put in a charming humor, were good enough to accept my invitation to
make a tour of the property.

It was while we paced under the pergola of which I have spoken, in the
delightfully fresh, thick shade of the vines whose leaves formed a
verdant network that we settled on the cast.

Lucienne Bréval was to have the rôle of Ariane; Louise Grandjean that of
the dramatic Phèdre, and by common consent, in view of her talent for
tragedy and her established success at the Opéra, we decided on Lucy
Arbell for the rôle of the somber, beautiful Queen of Hell.

Muratore and Delmas were plainly indicated for Thésée and Pirithoüs.

As he was going away, Gailhard, remembering the simple, confiding
formula by which our fathers made contracts in the good old days,
plucked a branch from a eucalyptus in the garden and said, waving it at
me:

"This is the token of the promises we have exchanged to-day. I carry it
with me."

Then my guests got into their auto and disappeared in the whirling dust
of the road. Did they carry away to the great city the near realization
of my dearest hopes, was what I asked myself as I climbed to my room. I
was tired and worn out by the emotions of the day and I went to bed. The
sun still shone on the horizon in all the glory of its fire. It
crimsoned my bed with its dazzling rays. I dreamt as I slept the most
beautiful dream that can delude us when a task has been fulfilled.

       *       *       *       *       *

I now record a detail which is of some importance.

My little Marie Magdeleine came to Égreville to spend a few days with
her grandparents. I yielded to her curiosity and told her the story of
the piece. I had reached the place where Ariane is drawn into Hell to
find the wandering soul of her sister Phèdre, and as I stopped, my
grand-child exclaimed at once:

"And now grandpapa we are going to be in Hell!"

The silvery wheedling voice of the dear child, her sudden, natural
question produced a strange, almost magical, effect on me. I had had the
intention of asking them to suppress that act, but now I suddenly
decided to keep it, and I answered the child's fair question, "Yes, we
are going into Hell." And I added, "We shall see there the affecting
figure of Perséphone finding again with delight the roses, the divine
roses which remind her of the beloved earth where she lived of old, ere
she became the Queen of that terrible place with a black lily in her
hand for a scepter."

That visit to Avernus necessitates a stage setting and an interpretation
which I will deliberately designate as intensive. I had to go to Turin
(my last journey to that beautiful country) in pretty cold weather,
December 14, 1907, accompanied by my dear Henri Heugel to be present at
the last rehearsals at the Regio, the royal theater, where they were
putting on _Ariane_ for the first time in Italy. The work had a
luxurious stage setting and remarkable interpreters. The great artiste
Maria Farneti had the rôle of Ariane. I noticed particularly the special
care with which Serafin, the eminent conductor who was acting as stage
manager, staged the act in Hell. Our Perséphone was as tragic as one
possibly could be; the aria of the Roses, however, seemed to me to be
lacking in emotion. I remember that I told her at the rehearsal,
throwing an armful of roses into her wide open arms, to press them to
her heart ardently, as she would do, I added, with a husband or a
beloved sweetheart whom she had not seen for twenty years! "From the
roses which disappeared so long ago to the dear adored one who is at
last found again is not so far! Think of that, Signorina, and the effect
will be sure!" The charming artiste smiled, but had she understood?

So _Ariane_ was finished. My illustrious friend, Jules Claretie, learned
of this and recalled to me the promise I had made him of writing
_Thérèse_, a lyric drama in three acts. He added:

"The work will be short, for the emotion it lets loose cannot be
prolonged."

I went to work on it, but I will deal with that presently.

I have alluded to the pleasure I felt at every rehearsal at the constant
happy discoveries in scenery or in feeling. Ah, with what constantly
alert and devoted intelligence our artists followed the precious advice
of Gailhard!

The month of June was, however, marked by dark days. One of our artistes
fell seriously ill and they fought with death for thirty-six hours in
order to save her. The work was all ready for the stage and as that
artiste was necessarily missing for several weeks, they suspended the
rehearsals during the summer. They were resumed at the end of September
when our artists were all well and together again. These rehearsals were
in a general way to go on during the month of October and we were to
appear at the end of the month.

What was said was done; rare promptness for the stage. The first
performance was on October 31, 1906.

Catulle Mendes, who had often been severe on me in his criticisms in the
press, had become my ardent collaborator, and, something worth noting,
he appreciated joyfully the reverence I had brought to the delivery of
his verses.

In our common toil, as well as in our studies with the artists at the
playhouse, I delighted in his outbursts of devotion and affection and in
the esteem in which he held me.

The performances followed each other ten times a month, a unique fact in
the annals of the theater for a new work, and this went on up to the
sixtieth performance.

Apropos of this, they asked Lucy Arbell, our Perséphone, how many times
she had sung the work, feeling sure that her answer would be wrong.

"Why," she exclaimed, "sixty times!"

"No," replied her questioner, "you have sung it one hundred and twenty
times, for you are always encored in the aria of the Roses."

I owed that sixtieth performance to the new directors, Mm. Messager and
Broussan, and that seems to be the last of a work which started off so
brilliantly.

What a difference, I say again, between the manner in which my works
have been mounted for some years and the way they were put on when I was
beginning!

My first works were put on in the provinces with old scenery, and I was
compelled to hear the stage manager say things like this:

"For the first act we have found an old background from _La Favorita_;
for the second two sets from _Rigoletto_," etc., etc.

I recall an obliging director who on the eve of a first performance,
knowing that I lacked a tenor, offered me one, but warning me, "This
artist knows the part, but I ought to tell you that he is always flat in
the third act."

Which reminds me that in the same house I knew a basso who had a strange
pretension, still more strangely expressed, "My voice," said our basso,
"goes down so far that they can't find the note on the piano."

Oh, well, they were all valiant and honest artists. They did me service
and had their years of success.

But I see that I am loitering on the way in telling of these old times.
I have to tell of the new work which was in rehearsal in Monte Carlo--I
mean _Thérèse_.



CHAPTER XXV

SPEAKING OF 1793


One summer morning in 1905 my great friend, Georges Cain, the eminent
and eloquent historian of Old Paris, got together the beautiful,
charming Mme. Georges Cain, Mlle. Lucy Arbell, of the Opéra, and a few
others to visit what had once been the convent of the Carmelites in the
Rue de Vaugirard.

We had gone through the cells of the ancient cloister, seen the wells
into which the blood stained horde of Septembrists had thrown the bodies
of the slaughtered priests, and we had come to the gardens which remain
so mournfully famous for those frightful butcheries. Georges Cain
stopped in the middle of his recital of these dismal events, and pointed
out to us a white figure wandering alone in the distance.

"It is the ghost of Lucile Desmoulins," he said. Poor Lucile Desmoulins
so strong and courageous beside her husband on his way to the scaffold
where she was so soon to follow him!

It was neither shade nor phantom. The white figure was very much alive!
It was Lucy Arbell who had been overcome by deep emotion and who had
turned away to hide the tears.

_Thérèse was already revealed_....

A few days afterwards I was lunching at the Italian Embassy. At dessert
the kindly Comtessa Tornielli told us, with that charming grace and
delightful eloquence which were so characteristic of her, the story of
the ambassdorial palace, Rue de Grenelle.

In 1793 the palace belonged to the Gallifet family. Some of the members
of that illustrious house were guillotined, while others went abroad. It
was determined to sell the building as the property of the people, but
this was opposed by a servant of firm and decided character. "I am the
people," he said, "and you shall not take from the people what belongs
to it. I am in my own place here!"

When one of the surviving Gallifet emigrés returned to Paris in 1798,
his first thought was to go and see the family home. He was greatly
surprised when the faithful servant whose vigorous speech had prevented
its destruction received him and said, falling at his master's feet,
"Monseigneur, I have taken care of your property. I give it back to
you."

The text of _Thérèse_ was foretold. That revelation was its
presentiment.

I had the first vision of the music of the work at Brussels in the Bois
de la Cambre in November of that year.

It was a beautiful afternoon under a dim autumnal sun. One knew that the
beneficent sap was slowly running down in the beautiful trees. The gay
green foliage which had crowned their tops had disappeared. One by one
at the caprice of the wind the leaves fell, dried up, reddened and
yellowed by the cold, taking in the gold, irony of Nature! its very
brilliance, and shadings and most varied tints.

Nothing resembled less the poor sorry trees of our Bois de Boulogne. In
the mighty spread of their branches those magnificent trees remind one
of those which are so much admired in the parks at Windsor and Richmond.
I walked on the dead leaves, scuffling them with my feet. Their rustling
pleased me and were a delightful accompaniment to my thoughts.

I was closer to the heart of my work, "in the bowels of the subject,"
for among the four or five people with me was the future heroine of
_Thérèse_.

I searched everywhere, greedily, for all that had to do with the
horrible period of the Terror, in all the engravings which would give me
the sinister dark story of that epoch, in order to make the scenes in
the second act as true as possible, and I confess that I like it.

I returned to Paris to my room Rue de Vaugirard, and wrote the music of
_Thérèse_ during the winter and spring (I finished it in the summer at
the seashore).

I remember that one morning the work on one situation demanded the
immediate assistance of my collaborator, Jules Claretie, and that it
unnerved me a good deal. I decided forthwith to write to the Minister of
Posts, Telegraphs and Telephones and ask him to grant me an almost
impossible thing: to place a telephone in my room before four o'clock.

Naturally the tone of my letter reflected that of a deferential
petition.

How could I have hoped for it? When I returned from my affairs, I found
on my mantel a pretty telephone apparatus which was quite new.

The Minister, M. Bérard, one of our most distinguished men of letters,
had felt bound to interest himself in my capricious wish on the spot. He
had sent a crew of twenty men with everything required for a rapid
installation.

Dear, charming minister! I love him the more for his kindly word one
day. "I was happy," he said, "to give you such pleasure, to you who have
given me so much pleasure at the theater with your works."

_Pari pari refertur_, yes, it was returning like for like, but done with
a grace and kindness which I appreciated highly.

Hello!... Hello! At the first attempt I was very clumsy of course. All
the same I managed to hold a conversation.

I also learned, another useful kindness, that my number would not appear
in the Annuaire. Consequently nobody could call me up. I was the only
one who could use the marvellous instrument.

I did not wait long to call up Claretie and he was much surprised by the
call from the Rue Vaugirard. I told him my ideas about the difficult
scene which had brought about the installation of the telephone.

The difficulty was in the final scene.

I telephoned to him,

"Cut Thérèse's throat and it will be all right."

I heard an unknown voice crying excitedly (our wire was crossed):

"Oh, if I only knew who you were, you scoundrel, I would denounce you to
the police. A crime like that! Who is to be the victim?"

Suddenly Claretie's voice:

"Once her throat is cut she will be put in the cart with her husband. I
prefer that to poison."

The other man's voice:

"Oh, that's too much! Now the rascals want to poison her. I'll call the
superintendent. I want an inquiry!"

A terrible buzzing ensued; then a blissful calm.

It was time; with a subscriber roused to such a pitch, Claretie and I
ran the chance of a bad quarter of an hour! I still tremble at the
thought of it.

After that I often worked with Claretie over the wire. The Ariane thread
also took my voice to Perséphone, I should say ... Thérèse, whom I let
hear in this way this or that vocal ending, so as to have her opinion
before I wrote down the notes.

One beautiful spring day I went to revisit the Garden at Bagatelle and
its pretty pavilion, then still abandoned, which the Comte d'Artois had
built under Louis XVI. I fixed thoroughly in my memory that delightful
little chateau which the triumphant Revolution allowed to be exploited
for picnic parties after despoiling its oldtime owner of it. When he got
it back under the Restoration, the Comte d'Artois called it Babiole,
Bagatelle or Babiole it's all the same; and this same pavilion was
occupied almost to our own time by Sir Richard Wallace, the famous
millionaire, philanthropist and collector.

Later on I wanted the scenery of the first act of _Thérèse_ to reproduce
it exactly. Our artiste (Lucy Arbell) was especially impressed with the
idea. It is well known that her ancestry makes her one of the
descendants of the Marquis of Hertford.

When the score was finished and we knew the intentions of Raoul
Gunsbourg, who wanted the work for the Monte Carlo Opéra, Mme. Massenet
and I were informed that H. S. H. the Prince of Monaco would honor our
modest home with his presence, and with the chief of his household, the
Comte de Lamotte d'Allogny, would lunch with us. We immediately invited
my collaborator and Mme. Claretie and my excellent publisher and Mme.
Heugel.

The Prince of Monaco with his deep simplicity was good enough to sit
near a piano I had got in for the occasion and listen to passages from
_Thérèse_. He learned the following detail from us. During the first
reading Lucy Arbell, a true artist, stopped me as I was singing the last
scene, where Thérèse gasps with horror as she sees the awful cart
bringing her husband, André Thorel, to the scaffold and cries with all
her might, _"Vive le Roi_!" so as to ensure that she shall be reunited
with her husband in death. Just then, our interpreter, who was deeply
affected, stopped me and said in a burst of rapture, "I can never sing
that scene through, for when I recognize my husband who has given me his
name and saved Armand de Clerval, I ought to lose my voice. So I ask you
to _declaim_ all of the ending of the piece."

Only great artists have such inborn gifts of instinctive emotion.
Witness Mme. Fidès Devriès who asked me to re-write the aria of Chimène,
_"Pleurez mes yeux_." She found that while she was singing it she
thought only of her dead father and almost forgot her friend,
Rodriguez.

A sincere touch was suggested by the tenor, Talazac, the creator of Des
Grieux. He wanted to add _toi_ before _vous_ which he uttered on finding
Manon in the seminaire of Saint Sulpice. Does not that _toi_ indicate
the first cry of the old lover on seeing his mistress again?

The preliminary rehearsals of _Thérèse_ took place in the fine
apartment, richly decorated with old pictures and work of art, which
Raoul Gunsbourg had in the Rue de Rivoli.

It was New Year's and we celebrated by working in the salon from eight
o'clock in the evening until midnight.

Outside it was cold, but a good fire made us forget that, as we drank in
that fine exquisite atmosphere champagne to the speedy realization of
our common hopes.

How exciting and impressive those rehearsals were as they brought
together such fine artists as Lucy Arbell, Edmond Clément and Dufranne!

The first performance of _Thérèse_ came the next month, February 7,
1907, at the Monte Carlo Opéra.

That year my dear wife and I were again the guests of the Prince in
that magnificent palace my admiration for which I have already told.

His Highness invited us to his box--the one where I had been called at
the end of the première of _Le Jongleur de Notre Dame_ and where the
Prince of Monaco himself had publicly invested me with the Grand Cordon
of the Order of St. Charles.

It is a fine thing to go to the theater, but it is an entirely different
thing to be present at a performance and listen to it. So the evening of
_Thérèse_ I again took my accustomed place in the Prince's salon.
Tapestries and doors separated it from the box. I was alone there in
silence, at least I might expect to be.

Silence? The roar of applause which greeted our artists was so great
that neither doors nor hangings could muffle it.

At the official dinner given at the palace the next day our applauded
creators were invited and fêted. My celebrated confrère Louis Diémer,
the marvellous virtuoso, who had consented to play the harpsichord in
the first act of _Thérèse_, Mme. Louise Diemér, Mme. Massent and I were
there. To reach the banquet hall my wife and I had to go up the Stairs
of Honor. It was near our apartment--that ideally beautiful apartment,
truly a place of dreams.

For two consecutive years _Thérèse_ was played at Monte Carlo and with
Lucy Arbell, the creator, we had the brilliant tenor, Rousselière and
the master professor, Bouvet.

In March, 1910, fêtes of unusual and unheard of splendor were given at
Monaco at the opening of the colossal palace of the Oceanographic
Museum.

_Thérèse_ was given at the gala performance before an audience which
included members of the Institute, confrères of his Serene Highness, a
member of the Académie des Sciences. Many illustrious persons, savants
from the whole world, representatives of the Diplomatic Corps, as well
as M. Loubet, ex-president of the Republic, were there.

The morning of the formal inauguration the Prince delivered an admirable
address, to which the presidents of the foreign academies replied.

I was already much indisposed and I could not take my place at the
banquet at the palace, after which the guests attended the gala
performance of which I have spoken.

Henry Roujon, my confrère at the Institute, was good enough at the
banquet the following day, to read the speech I would have delivered
myself had I not been obliged to stay in bed.

To be read by Henri Roujon is both honor and success.

Saint-Saëns was also invited to the fêtes and he too stayed in the
palace. He lavished the most affectionate care on me constantly. The
Prince himself deigned to visit me in my sick room and both told me of
the success of the performance and of our Thérèse, Lucy Arbell.

The doctor had left me quieter in the evening and he too opened my door
about midnight. He doubtless did so to see how I was, but he also told
me of the fine performance. He knew it would be balm of certain efficacy
for me.

Here is a detail which gave me great satisfaction.

They had given _Le Vieil Aigle_ by Raoul Gunsbourg in which Mme.
Marguerite Carré, the wife of the manager of the Opéra-Comique, was
highly applauded. Albert Carré had been present at the performance and
he met one of his friends from Paris and told him that he was going to
put on _Thérèse_ at the Opéra-Comique with its dramatic creatrix.

As a matter of fact four years after the première at Monte Carlo and
after many other houses had performed the work, the first performance of
_Thérèse_ was given at the Opéra-Comique on May 28, 1911. _L'Echo de
Paris_ was so kind as to publish for the occasion a wonderfully got up
supplement.

As I write these lines, I read that the second act of _Thérèse_ is a
part of that rare program of the fête offered to me at the Opéra on
Sunday, December 10, 1911, by the organizers of the pious French popular
charity, "Trente Ans de Théâtre," the useful creation of my friend,
Adrian Bernheim, whose mind is as generous as his soul is great and
good.

A dear friend said to me recently, "If you wrote _Le Jongleur de Notre
Dame_ with faith, you wrote _Thérèse_ with all your heart."

Nothing could be said more simply, and nothing could touch me more.



CHAPTER XXVI

FROM ARIANE TO DON QUICHOTTE


I never deliver a work until I have kept it by me for months, even for
years.

I had finished _Thérèse_--long before it was produced--when my friend
Heugel told me that he had already made arrangements with Catulle Mendes
to write a sequel to _Ariane_.

Although to our way of thinking _Bacchus_ was a distinct work, it should
form a whole with _Ariane_.

The text for it was written in a few months and I took great interest in
it.

And yet--and this is entire accord with my character--hesitation and
doubt often bothered me.

Of all the fabulous stories of the gods and demigods of antiquity those
which relate to the Hindu heroes are perhaps the least known.

The study of the fables of mythology, which has had until recently only
the interest of curiosity in even the most classical learning, has,
thanks to the work of modern scholars, acquired a higher import as they
have discovered its rôle in the history of religion.

To allow the inspiration of his poetic muse, which was always so ardent
and finely colored, wander at will in such a region was bound to delight
the well informed mind of Catulle Mendes.

Palmiki's Sanscrit poem, the Ramayana, is at once religious and epic.
For those who have read that sublime poem it is more curious and greater
than even the Nibelungen, Germany's epic of the Middle Ages, which
traces the struggle between the family of the Nibelungen with Etzel or
Attila and their consequent destruction. There is nothing exaggerated in
calling the Ramayana the Iliad or Odyssey of India. It is as divinely
beautiful as the immortal work of old Homer which has come down through
the centuries.

I knew the legend through reading and rereading it, but what I had to do
in my work was to add to my thought what the words, the verses, and the
situations even could not explain clearly enough to the often
inattentive public.

My work this time was intense, obstinate, implacable. I literally
fought; I cut out, and I replaced. At last I finished _Bacchus_--after
devoting many days and months to it.

[Illustration: Queen Amahelly (_Bacchus_)]

The cast selected by the new management at the Opera, Mm. Messager and
Broussan, was as follows: Lucienne Bréval reappeared as Ariane; Lucy
Arbell, in memory of her success as Perséphone was Queen Amahelly in
love with Bacchus; Muratore, our Thesus, doubled in the part of Bacchus,
and Gresse accepted the rôle of the fanatical priest.

The new management was not yet firmly in the saddle and wanted to give
our work a magnificent setting.

Even as they had been previously cruel to _Le Mage_ and to our excellent
director, Gailhard (which did not prevent his going back there soon
afterwards, better liked than ever) now they were hard on _Bacchus_.

When _Bacchus_ went on both the press and the public were undecided
about the real worth of the new management.

Giving a work under such conditions was running a danger a second time.
I saw it, but too late; for the work, in spite of its faults, did not
seem to warrant such an amount of abuse.

The public, however, which lets itself go in the sincerity of its
feelings, showed a very comforting enthusiasm in certain parts of the
work. It received the first scene of the third act, especially, with
applause and numerous recalls. The ballet in the forests of India was
highly appreciated. The entrance of Bacchus in his car (admirably
staged) was a great success.

With a little patience the good public would have triumphed over the ill
will of which I had been forewarned.

One day in February, 1909, I had finished an act of _Don Quichotte_ (I
will speak of that later on)--it was four o'clock in the afternoon--and
I rushed to my publishers to keep an appointment with Catulle Mendes. I
thought I was late, and as I went in I expressed my regret at keeping my
collaborator waiting. An employee answered me in these words:

"He will not come. He is dead."

My brain reeled at the terrible news. I would not have been more knocked
out if some one had hit me over the head with a club. In an instant I
learned the details of the appalling catastrophe.

When I came to myself I could only say, "We are lost as far as _Bacchus_
is concerned at the Opéra. Our most precious support is gone."

The anger his keen, fine criticism aroused against Catulle Mendes was a
pretext for revenge on the part of the slaughtered.

These fears were only too well justified by the doubts of which I have
spoken and if, in the sequel, Catulle Mendes had been present at our
rehearsals he would have been of great assistance.

My gratitude to those great artists--Bréval, Arbell, Muratore,
Gresse--is very great. They fought brilliantly and their talents
inspired faith in a fine work. It was often planned to try to counteract
the ill feeling. I thank Mm. Messager and Broussan for the thought
although it came to nothing.

I wrote an important bit of orchestration (with the curtain down) to
accompany the victorious fight of the apes in the Indian forests with
the heroic army of Bacchus. I managed to make real--at least I think I
did--in the midst of the symphonic developments the cries of the
terrible chimpanzees armed with stones which they hurled from the tops
of the rocks.

Mountain passes certainly don't bring good luck. Thermopylae and
Ronceval as Roland and Leonidas learned to their cost. All their valor
was in vain.

While I was writing this music I went many times to the Jardin des
Plantes to study the habits of these mammals. I loved these friends of
which Schopenhauer spoke so evilly when he said that if Asia has her
monkeys Europe has her French. The German Schopenhauer was not very
friendly to us.

Long before they decided, after many discussions, to start rehearsing
_Bacchus_ (it did not appear until the end of the season of 1909) it was
my good fortune to begin work on the music in three acts for _Don
Quichotte_. Raoul Gunsbourg was exceedingly anxious to have both the
subject and the cast at the Monte Carlo Opéra.

I was in very bad humor when I thought of the tribulations _Bacchus_ had
brought on me without there being anything with which I could reproach
myself either as a man or as a musician.

So _Don Quichotte_ came into my life as a soothing balm. I had great
need of it. Since the preceding September I had suffered acute rheumatic
pains and I had passed much more of my existence in bed than out of it.
I had found a device which enabled me to write in bed.

I put _Bacchus_ and its uncertain future out of my thoughts, and day by
day I advanced the composition of _Don Quichotte_.

Henri Cain, as is his way, built up very cleverly a scenario out of the
heroic play by Le Loraine, the poet whose fine future was killed by the
poverty which preceded his death. I salute that hero to art whose
physiognomy resembled so much that of our "Knight of the Doleful
Countenance."

What charmed me and decided me to write this work was Le Loraine's
stroke of genius in substituting for the coarse wench at the inn,
Cervantes's Dulcinée, the original and picturesque La Belle Dulcinée.
The most renowned French authors had not had that idea.

It brought to our piece an element of deep beauty in the woman's rôle
and a potent poetical touch to our Don Quixote dying of love--real love
this time--for a Belle Dulcinée who justified the passion.

So it was with infinite delight that I waited for the day of the
performance which came in February, 1910. Oh beautiful, magnificent
première!

They welcomed our marvellous artists with great enthusiasm. Lucy Arbell
was dazzling and extraordinary as La Belle Dulcinée and Gresse was an
extremely comical Sancho.

In thinking over this work which they gave five times in the same season
at Monte Carlo--a unique record in the annals of that house--I feel my
whole being thrill with happiness at the thought of seeing again that
dreamland, the Palace of Monaco, and his Serene Highness on the
approaching occasion of _Roma_.

New joys were realized at the rehearsals of _Don Quichotte_ at the
Théâtre Lyrique de la Gaîté, where I knew I should receive the frankest,
most open and affectionate welcome from the directors, the Isola
brothers.

The cast we had at Monte Carlo was changed and at Paris we had for Don
Quixote that superb artist Vanni Narcoux and for Sancho that masterly
comedian Lucien Fugère. Lucy Arbell owed to her triumph at Monte Carlo
her engagement as La Belle Dulcinée at the Théâtre Lyrique de la Gaîté.

But was there ever unalloyed bliss?

I certainly do not make that bitter reflection in regard to the
brilliant success of our artists or about the staging of the Isola
brothers which was so well seconded by the stage manager Labis.

But judge for yourselves. The rehearsals had to be postponed for three
weeks on account of the severe and successive illnesses of our three
artists. A curious thing, however, and worthy of remark was that our
three interpreters all got well at almost the same time, and left their
rooms on the very morning of the general rehearsal.

The frantic applause of the audience must have been a sweet and
altogether exquisite recompense for them when it broke out at the dress
rehearsal, December 28, 1910, which lasted from one till five in the
afternoon.

My New Year's Day was very festive. I was ill and was on my bed of pain
when they brought me the visiting cards of my faithful pupils, happy at
my success, beautiful flowers for my wife, and a delightful bronze
statuette, a gift from Raoul Gunsbourg, which recalled to me all that I
owed him for _Don Quichotte_ at Monte Carlo, for the first performances
and the revivals of the same house.

The first year of _Don Quichotte_ at the Théâtre Lyrique de la Gaîté
there were eighty consecutive performances of the work.

It is a pleasure to recall certain picturesque details which interested
me intensely during the preliminary rehearsals.

First of all, the curious audacity of Lucy Arbell, our La Belle
Dulcinée, in wanting to accompany herself on the guitar in the song in
the fourth act. In a remarkably short time, she made herself a virtuoso
on the instrument with which they accompany popular songs in Spain,
Italy, and even in Russia. It was a charming innovation. She relieved us
of that banality of the artist pretending to play a guitar, while a real
instrumentalist plays in the wings, thus making a discord between the
gestures of the singer and the music. None of the other Dulcinées have
been able to achieve this tour de force of the creatrix. I recall, too,
that knowing her vocal abilities I brightened the rôle with daring
vocalizations which afterwards surprised more than one interpreter; and
yet a contralto ought to know how to vocalize as well as a soprano. _Le
Prophète_ and _The Barber of Seville_ prove this.

The staging of the windmill scene, so ingeniously invented by Raoul
Gunsbourg, was more complicated at the Gaîté, although they kept the
effect produced at Monte Carlo.

A change of horses, cleverly hidden from the audience, made them think
that Don Quixote and the dummy were one and the same man!

Gunsbourg's inspiration in staging the fifth act was also a happy
chance. Any artist, even though he is the first in the world, in a scene
of agony wants to die lying on the ground. With a flash of genius
Gunsbourg cried, "A knight should die standing!" And our Don Quixote
(then Chaliapine) leaned against a great tree in the forest and so gave
up his proud and love lorn soul.



CHAPTER XXVII

A SOIRÉE


In the spring of 1910 my health was somewhat uncertain. _Roma_ had been
engraved long before and was available material; _Panurge_ was finished
and I felt--a rare thing for me--the imperative need of resting for some
months.

But it was impossible for me to do absolutely nothing, to give myself up
completely to _dolce farniente_, delightful as that might be. I looked
around and found an occupation which would weary neither my mind nor
heart.

I have told you that in May, 1891, when the house of Hartmann went
under, I entrusted to a friend the scores of _Werther_ and _Amadis_. I
am speaking now only of _Amadis_. I went to my friend who opened his
strong box and brought out, not banknotes, but seven hundred pages (the
rough draft of the orchestration) which formed the score of _Amadis_ and
which had been composed at the end of 1889 and during 1890. The work had
waited there in silence for twenty-one years!

Amadis! What a pretty libretto I had in _Amadis_! What a really novel
viewpoint! The Knight of the Lily is poetically and emotionally
attractive and still remains the type of the constant, respectful lover.
The situations are enchanting. In short what resurrection could be more
pleasing than that of the noble heroes of the Middle Ages--those
doughty, valiant, courageous knights.

I took this score from the safe and left in its place a work for a
quartet and two choruses for male voices. _Amadis_ was to be my work for
that summer. I began to copy it cheerfully at Paris and went to
Égreville to continue on it.

In spite of the fact that this work was easy and seemed to me such a
soothing and perfect sedative for the discomfort I felt, I found that I
was really very ill. I said to myself that I had done well in giving up
composing in my precarious state of health.

I went to Paris to consult my physician. He listened to my heart, and
then, without hiding from me what his diagnosis had revealed, said,

"You are very sick."

"What," I exclaimed, "it is impossible. I was still copying when you
came."

"You are seriously ill," he insisted.

The next morning the doctors and surgeons made me leave my dear quiet
home and my beloved room.

A motor ambulance took me to the hospital in the Rue de la Chaise. It
was some consolation not to leave my quarter! I was entered on the
hospital records under an assumed name for the physicians feared
interviews, however friendly, which would have been demanded and which I
was absolutely forbidden to grant.

My bed, through a most gracious care, was in the best room in the place
and I was much moved by this attention.

Surgeon Professor Pierre Duval and Drs. Richardière and Laffitte gave me
the most admirable and devoted care. And there I was in a quiet which
wrapped me in a tranquillity the value of which I appreciated.

My dearest friends came to see me whenever they were allowed. My wife
was much upset and had hurried from Égreville bringing me her tender
affection.

I was better in a few days, but the compulsory rest imposed on my body
did not prevent my mind working.

I did not wait for my condition to improve before I busied myself with
the speeches I would have to deliver as president of the Institute and
of the Académie des Beaux-Arts (the double presidency fell to me that
year) and though I was in bed packed in ice, I sent directions for the
scenery of _Don Quichotte_.

Finally I got back home.

What a joy it was to see my home again, my furniture, to find the books
whose pages I loved to turn, all the objects that delighted my eyes and
to which I was accustomed, to see again those who were dear to me, and
the servants overflowing with attentions. My joy was so intense that I
burst into tears.

How happy I was to take up again my walks, although I was still
uncertain from weakness and had to lean on the arm of my kind brother
and on that of a dear lady! How happy I was during my convalescence to
walk through the shady paths of the Luxembourg amid the joyous laughter
of children gamboling there in all their youthfulness, the bright
singing of the birds hopping from branch to branch, content to live in
that beautiful garden, their delightful kingdom....

Égreville, which I had deserted when I so little dreamed of what was to
happen to me, resumed its ordinary life as soon as my beloved wife, now
tranquil about my fate, was able to return.

The summer which had been so sad came to an end and autumn came with its
two public sessions of the Institute and the Académie des Beaux-Arts, as
well as the rehearsals of _Don Quichotte_.

An idea of real interest was submitted to me between times by the
artiste to whom the mission of making it triumph was to fall later. I
turned the idea to account and wrote a set of compositions with the
title proposed by the interpretess, _Les Expressions Lyriques_. This
combination of two forces of expression, singing and speaking,
interested me greatly; especially in making them vibrate in one and the
same voice.

Moreover, the Greeks did the same thing in the interpretation of their
hymns, alternating the chant with declamation.

And as there is nothing new under the sun, what we deemed a modern
invention was merely a revival from the Greeks. Nevertheless we honored
ourselves in doing so.

[Illustration: Dulcinée (_Don Quichotte_)]

Since then and ever since I have seen audiences greatly captivated by
these compositions and deeply affected by the admirable personal
expression of the interpretess.

       *       *       *       *       *

As I was correcting the last proofs of _Panurge_ one morning, I received
a kindly visit from O. de Lagoanère, the general manager of the Théâtre
Lyrique de la Gaîté. The libretto of _Panurge_ had been entrusted to me
by my friend Heugel and its authors were Maurice Boukay, the pseudonym
of Couyba, later Minister of Commerce, and Georges Spitzmuller. De
Lagoanère came in behalf of the Isola brothers to ask me to let them
have _Panurge_.

I answered to this proceeding, which was as spontaneous as it was
flattering, that the gentlemen's interest in me was very kind but that
they did not know the work.

"That is true," the amiable M. Lagoanère answered at once, "but it is a
work of yours."

We fixed on a date and before we separated the agreement was signed,
including the names of the artists proposed by the directors.

Some weeks ago my good friend Adrien Bernheim came to see me and between
two sugar plums (he is as much of a gourmand as I am) proposed that I
should take part in a great performance he was organizing in my honor
to celebrate the tenth anniversary of that French popular charity
"Trente Ans de Théâtre." "In my honor!" I cried in the greatest
confusion.

No artist, even the greatest, could help being delighted at lending his
presence at such an evening.

After that, day by day, and always at my house, in the sitting room in
the Rue de Vaugirard, I saw gathered together, animated by an equal
devotion of making a success, the general secretaries of the Opéra and
the Opéra-Comique, Mm. Stuart and Carbonne, and the manager of the
Théâtre Lyrique de la Gaîté, M. O. de Lagoanère. My dear Paul Vidal,
leader of the orchestra at the Opéra and professor of composition at the
Conservatoire, was also there.

The program was settled out of hand. The private rehearsals began at
once. Nevertheless the fear that I felt and that I have always had when
I make a promise, that I may be ill when the moment for fulfilment
comes, caused me more than one sleepless night.

"All's well that ends well," says the wisdom of the nations. I was
wrong, as you will see, to torture myself through so many nights.

As I have said, no artist would have felt happy, if he had not shared in
that evening by giving his generous assistance. Our valiant president,
Adrian Bernheim, by a few words of patriotism induced all the professors
of the Opéra orchestra to come and rehearse the various acts
interspersed through the program at six twenty-five in the evening.
Nobody dined; everyone kept the appointment.

To you all, my friends and confrères, my sincere thanks.

I cannot properly appraise this celebration in which I played so
personal a part....

There is no circumstance in life, however beautiful or serious, without
some incident to mar it or to provide a contrast.

All my friends wanted to give evidence of their enthusiasm by being
present at the soirée at the Opéra. Among them was a faithful frequenter
of the theaters who made a point of coming to express his regret at not
being able to be present at this celebration. He had recently lost his
uncle, who was a millionaire and whose heir he was.

I offered my condolences and he went.

What is funnier is that I was obliged to hear fortuitously the strange
conversation about his uncle's funeral he had with the head undertaker.

"If," said the latter, "Monsieur wants a first class funeral, he will
have the entire church hung in black and with the arms of the deceased,
the Opéra orchestra, the leading singers, the most imposing catafalque,
according to the price."

The heir hesitated.

"Then, sir, it will be second class; the orchestra from the
Opéra-Comique, second rate singers--according to the amount."

Further hesitation.

Whereupon the undertaker added in a sad tone,

"Then it will be third class; but I warn you, Monsieur, it will not be
gay!" (sic).

As I am on this topic I will add that I have received a letter of
congratulations from Italy which concludes with the usual salutations,
but this time conceived as follows:

"Believe, dear sir, in my most sincere _obsequies_." (Free translation
of _ossequiosita_.)

Sometimes death has as amusing sides as life has sad ones.

Which brings to mind the fidelity with which the Lionnet brothers
attended burials.

Was it sympathy for the departed or ambition to see their names among
those distinguished persons mentioned as having been present? We shall
never know.

One day in a funeral procession Victorien Sardou heard one of the
Lionnets say to one of his neighbors, with a broken-hearted air, while
giving the sad news about a friend's health, "Well, it will be his turn
soon."

These words aroused Sardou's attention, and he exclaimed, pointing to
the brothers,

"They not only go to all the burials; they announce them!"



CHAPTER XXVIII

DEAR EMOTIONS


During the summer of 1902 I left Paris and went to my home in Égreville.
Among the books and pamphlets I took with me was _Rome Vaincue_ by
Alexandre Parodi. That magnificent tragedy had had a never to be
forgotten success when it was played on the stage of the
Comédie-Française in 1876.

Sarah Bernhardt and Mounet-Sully, then in their youth, were the
protagonists in the two most impressive acts of the work; Sarah
Bernhardt incarnated the blind grandmother, Posthumia, and Mounet-Sully
interpreted the Gallic slave Vestapor.

Sarah in all the flower of her radiant beauty had demanded the rôle of
the old woman, so true is it that the real artiste does not think of
herself, but knows when it is necessary to abstract from self, to
sacrifice her charms, her grace and the light of her allurements to the
higher exigencies of art.

The same remark could be applied at the Opéra thirty years later.

I remember those tall bay windows through which the sunshine came into
my great room at Égreville.

After dinner I read the engaging brochure, _Rome Vaincue_, until the
last beams of daylight. I could not get away from it I became so
enthusiastic. My reading was stopped only by

    ... l'obscure clarté qui tombe des étoiles
    Bientôt avec la nuit....

as our great Corneille said.

Need I add that I was unable to resist the desire to go to work
immediately and that during the following days I wrote the whole scene
for Posthumia in the fourth act? One might say that in this way I worked
by chance, as I had not yet distributed the scenes in accord with the
necessities of an opera. All the same I had already decided on a title:
_Roma_.

The complete concentration with which I threw myself into this work did
not prevent my realizing that in default of Alexandre Parodi who died in
1901, I needed the authority of the heirs. I wrote, but my letter
brought no response.

I owed this contretemps to a wrong address. Indeed the widow of the
illustrious poet of tragedy told me afterwards that my request never
reached its destination.

Parodi! Truly he was the _vir probus dicendi peritus_ of the ancients.
What memories I have of our strolls along the Boulevard des Batignolles!
How eloquently he narrated the life of the Vestals which he had read in
Ovid, their great historian!

I listened eagerly to his colorful talk, so enthusiastic about things of
the past. Ah, his outbursts against all that was not elevated in
thought, his noble pride in his intentions, dignified and simple in
form--how superb, I say, these outbursts were, and how one felt that his
soul thrilled in the Beyond! It was as if a flame burned in him searing
on his cheeks the signs of his inward tortures.

I admired him and loved him deeply. It seems to me that our work
together is not finished, but that some day we shall be able to take it
up again in that mysterious realm whither we go but from which none ever
returns.

I was entirely led astray by the silence which followed the sending of
my letter and I was going to abandon the project of writing _Roma_,
when a master poet came into my life. He offered me five
acts--_Ariane_--for the Opéra, as I have said already.

Five years later, in 1907, my friend Henri Cain asked me if I intended
to resume my faithful collaboration with him.

As he chatted with me, he remarked that my thoughts were elsewhere and
that I was preoccupied with another idea. That was it exactly. I was
drawn to confess my adventure with _Roma_.

My desire to find in that work the text of my dreams was immediately
shared by Henri Cain; forty-eight hours afterwards he brought me the
authorization of the heirs. They had signed an agreement which gave me
five years in which to write and put on the work.

It is an agreeable thing to thank again Mme. Parodi, a woman of unusual
and real distinction, and her sons, one of whom holds a high place in
the Department of Public Instruction.

As I have already said, I found myself in February, 1910, at Monte Carlo
for the rehearsals and first performance of _Don Quichotte_. I again
lived as before in that apartment in the Hotel du Prince de Galles which
has always pleased me so much. I always returned to it with joy. How
could it be otherwise?

The room in which I worked looked out on the level of the boulevards of
the city and I had an incomparable view from my windows.

In the foreground were orange, lemon, and olive trees; on the horizon
the great rock rising out of the azure waves, and on the rock the old
palace modernized by the Prince of Monaco.

In this quiet peaceful home--an exceptional thing for a hotel--in spite
of the foreign families installed there, I was stirred to work. During
my hours of freedom from rehearsals I busied myself in writing an
overture for _Roma_. I had brought with me the eight hundred pages of
orchestration in finished manuscript.

The second month of my stay at Monte Carlo I spent at the Palace of
Monaco. I finished the composition there amidst enchantment, in its
deeply poetic splendor.

When I was present at the rehearsals of _Roma_ two years later and first
heard the work played at sight by the artists of the Opéra conducted
with an extraordinary art by that master Leon Jehin, I thought of the
coincidence that these pages had been written on the spot so near where
they were to be played.

When I returned to Paris in April, after the sumptuous fêtes with which
the Oceanographic Museum was opened, I received a call from Raoul
Gunsbourg. He came in the name of his Serene Highness to learn whether I
had a work I could let him have for 1912. _Roma_ had been finished for
some time; the material for it was all ready, and in consequence I could
promise it to him and wait two years more. I offered it to him.

My custom, as I have said, is never to speak of a work until it is
entirely finished, and the materials which are always important are
engraved and corrected. It is a considerable task, for which I want to
thank my dear publishers, Henri Heugel and Paul-Émile Chevalier, as well
as my rigid correctors at the head of whom I love to place Ed. Laurens,
a master musician. If I insist on this, it is because up to now, nothing
has been able to prevent the persistence of this formula, "M. Massenet
is hurrying to finish his score in order to be ready for the first
performance." Let us record it and get on!

It was not until December, 1911, that the rehearsals of the artists in
_Roma_ began at Raoul Gunsbourg's, Rue de Rivoli.

It was fine to see our great artists enamored of the teachings of
Gunsbourg who lived the rôles and put his life into it in putting them
on the stage.

Alas for me! An accident put me in bed at the beginning of those
impassioned studies. However, every evening from five to seven I
followed from my bed, thanks to the telephone, the progress of the
rehearsals of _Roma_.

The idea of not being able, perhaps, to go to Monte Carlo bothered me,
but finally my excellent friend, the eminent Dr. Richardière, authorized
my departure. On January 29 my wife and I started for that country of
dreams.

At the station in Lyons, an excellent dinner! A good sign. Things look
well.

The night, always fatiguing in a train, was endured by means of the joy
of the future rehearsals. Things looked better!

The arrival in my beloved room at the Prince de Galles. An intoxication.
Things look better still!

What an incomparable health bulletin, is it not?

Finally, the reading of _Roma_, in Italian with the orchestra, artists
and chorus. There were so many fine, kindly manifestations, that I paid
for my warm emotions by catching cold.

What a contrast; what irony! However why be surprised? Are not all
contrasts of that kind?

Happily my cold did not last long. Two days later I was up again, better
than ever. I profited by this by going with my wife, always curious and
eager to see picturesque places, to wander in an abandoned park. We were
there in the solitude of that rich, luxuriant nature, in the olive
groves, which let us see through their grayish green leaves, so tender
and sweet, the sea in its changeless blue, when I discovered ... a cat!

Yes, a cat, a real cat, and a very friendly one! Knowing without a doubt
that I had always been friendly with his kind, he honored me with his
society and his insistent and affectionate mewings never left me. I
poured out my anxious heart to this companion. Indeed, it was during my
hours of isolation that the dress rehearsal of _Roma_ was at its height.
Yes, I said to myself, just now Lentulus has arrived. Now Junia. Behold
Fausta in the arms of Fabius. At this very moment Posthumia drags
herself to the feet of the cruel senators. For we, we others, have, and
it is a strange fact, an intuition of the exact moment when this or that
scene is played, a sort of divination of the mathematical division of
time applied to the action of the theater. It was the fourteenth of
February. The sun of that splendid day could not but brighten the joy of
all my fine artists.

     Monte Carlo,

     Feb. 29, 1912.

     Dear great friend,

     You do me the honor to ask me for these lines for reproduction in
     America.

     In America!...

     It will be my glory to send thither my thought, full of admiration
     for that great country, for its choice public, for its theaters in
     which my works have been given. You honor my artists and myself so
     much by speaking of _Roma_, and I am the prouder of your words
     because they will present that _tragic opera_ with your talent's
     high authority.

     MASSENET.

[Illustration: Facsimile of Massenet's Reply to an Invitation to Visit
America]

I cannot speak of the superb first performance of _Roma_ without a
certain natural embarrassment. I leave that task to others, but I permit
myself to reproduce what anyone could read in the next day's papers.

       *       *       *       *       *

The interpretation--one of the most beautiful that it has been our lot
to applaud--was in every way worthy of this new masterpiece of
Massenet's.

A remarkable thing which must be noted in the first place is that all
the parts are what are termed in theatrical parlance "good rôles." Every
one of them gives its interpreter chances for effects in singing and
acting which are calculated to win the admiration and applause of the
audience.

Having said this much in praise of the work, let us congratulate the
marvellous interpreters in their order on the program.

Mlle. Kousnezoff with her youth, fresh beauty and superb dramatic
soprano voice was a feast to the eyes and the ears and she will continue
to be for a long time the prettiest and most seductive Fausta that one
might wish for.

The particularly dramatic part of the blind Posthumia was the occasion
of a creation which will rank among the most extraordinary in the
brilliant career of that great operatic tragedienne Lucy Arbell.
Costumed with perfect esthetic appreciation in a beautiful dark robe of
iron gray silk, with her face artificially aged but beautiful along
classic lines, Lucy Arbell moved and stirred the audience profoundly, as
much by her impressive acting as by the deep velvety notes of her
contralto voice.

Mme. Guiraudon in her scene in the second act achieved a great personal
success, and never so much as yesterday did the Paris critic regret that
this young, exquisite artist had abandoned prematurely her career as an
artist and consents to appear hereafter but rarely and ... at Monte
Carlo.

Mme. Eliane Peltier (the High Priestess) and Mlle. Doussot (Galla)
completed excellently a female cast of the first order.

Furthermore the male parts were no less remarkable or less applauded.

M. Muratore, a grand opera tenor of superb appearance and generous
voice, invested the rôle of Lentulus with a vigor and manly beauty which
won all hearts, and which, in Paris as at Monte Carlo, will ensure him a
brilliant and memorable triumph.

M. J. F. Delmas with his clear diction and lyrical declamation, which is
so properly theatrical, was an incomparable Fabius and was no less
applauded than his comrades from the Opéra, Muratore and Noté. The
latter in fact was marvellous in the part of the slave Vestapor whose
wild imprecations resounded to the utmost in his great sonorous
baritone.

Finally, M. Clauzure, whose Roman mask was perfect, achieved a
creation--the first in his career--which places this young Premier Prix
of the Conservatoire on an equal footing with the famous veterans of the
Paris Opéra beside whom last night he fought the good fight of art.

The chorus, both men and women, patiently trained by their devoted
master M. Louis Vialet, and the artists of the Opéra, who anew affirmed
their mastery and homogeneity, were irreproachable under the supreme
direction of the master Leon Jehin. All the composers whose works he
conducts justly load him down with thanks and felicitations, and his
talent and indefatigable power are acclaimed constantly by all the
dilettanti of Monte Carlo.

M. Visconti, who in his way is one of the indispensable artistic
mainsprings of the Théâtre de Monte Carlo, painted five scenes of
_Roma_, better five masterly paintings, which were greatly admired and
which won great admiration and prolonged applause. His "Forum" and
"Sacred Grove" are among the most beautiful theatrical paintings ever
seen here.

As for M. Raoul Gunsbourg, the stage manager in whose praise it is
henceforth superfluous to speak, it is sufficient to say that _Roma_ is
one of the scores he has put on with the most pleasure and the most
sincere veneration. That is to say that he brought to bear on it all his
care, and all his dictatorial and artistic mind.

With such a combination of the elements of success put into _Roma_,
victory was certain. Last night's triumph was one of the most complete
that we have had to chronicle here for fifteen years. And it is with joy
that we affirm this to the glory of the Master, Massenet, and of the
Monte Carlo Opéra.

       *       *       *       *       *

That year the days passed at the Palace were all the sweeter to my heart
as the Prince showed me an even more touching affection, if that were
possible.

I was honored by the duty of attending in the salon adjoining the
Prince's box (everyone knows that I do not attend first performances)
and I recall that his Serene Highness at the end of the first act, in
front of the attentive assemblage, said to me, "I have given you all I
could; I have not yet embraced you." And as he said this his Highness
embraced me with keen emotion.

       *       *       *       *       *

Here I am in Paris, on the eve of the rehearsals and first performance
of _Roma_ at the Opéra. I have hope ... I have such admirable artists.
They have already won the first battle for me. Will they not be able to
triumph in the second?



CHAPTER XXIX

THOUGHTS AFTER DEATH


I have departed from this planet and I have left behind my poor earthly
ones with their occupations which are as many as they are useless; at
last I am living in the scintillating splendor of the stars, each of
which used to seem to me as large as millions of suns. Of old I was
never able to get such lighting for my scenery on the great stage at the
Opéra where the backdrops were too often in darkness. Henceforth there
will be no letters to answer; I have bade farewell to first performances
and the literary and other discussions which come from them.

Here there are no newspapers, no dinners, no sleepless nights. Ah! if I
could but counsel my friends to join me here, I would not hesitate to
call them to me. But would they come?

Before I came to this distant place where I now sojourn, I wrote out my
last wishes (an unhappy husband would have taken advantage of the
occasion to write with joy, "my first wishes").

I had indicated that above all I wanted to be buried at Égreville, near
the family abode in which I had lived so long. Oh, the good cemetery in
the open fields, silent as befits those who live there!

I asked that they should refrain from hanging black draperies on my
door, ornaments worn threadbare by use. I expressed the wish that a
suitable carriage should take me from Paris, the journey, with my
consent, to begin at eight in the morning.

An evening paper (perhaps two) felt it to be its duty to inform its
readers of my decease. A few friends--I still had some the day
before--came and asked my concierge if the news were true, and he
replied, "Alas, Monsieur went without leaving his address." And his
reply was true for he did not know where that obliging carriage was
taking me.

At lunch acquaintances honored me among themselves with their
condolences, and during the day here and there in the theaters they
spoke of the adventure,

"Now that he is dead, they'll play him less, won't they?"

"Do you know he left still another work?"

"Ah, believe me, I loved him well! I have always had such great success
in his works."

A woman's lovely voice said that.

They wept at my publishers, for there they loved me dearly.

At home, Rue de Vaugirard, my wife, daughter, grandchildren and
great-grandchildren gathered and almost found consolation in their sobs.

The family was to reach Égreville the same evening, the night before my
burial.

And my soul (the soul survives the body) listened to all these sounds
from the city left behind. As the carriage took me farther and farther
away, the talking and the noises grew fainter and fainter, and I knew,
for I had my vault built long ago, that the heavy stone once sealed
would be a few hours later the portal of oblivion.


THE END





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