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Title: Stars of the Opera
Author: Wagnalls, Mabel, 1871-1946
Language: English
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STARS OF THE OPERA

BY

MABEL WAGNALLS

[Illustration: Photographs Copyright by Aimé Dupont and Falk, New York.

"STARS OF THE OPERA."]

STARS OF THE OPERA

A Description of Operas & a Series of Personal Interviews
with Marcela Sembrich, Emma Eames, Emma Calve,
Lillian Nordica, Lilli Lehmann, Geraldine Farrar
&
Nellie Melba

BY
MABEL WAGNALLS
Author of "Miserere," "Selma, the Soprano," etc.

REVISED AND ENLARGED EDITION

FUNK & WAGNALLS COMPANY
NEW YORK & LONDON
1909

Copyright, 1899, and 1907

BY
FUNK & WAGNALLS COMPANY

Registered at Stationers' Hall, London
[Printed in the United States]

AUTHOR'S NOTE

_All the interviews in this book have been
proof-read by the singers_

Published, September, 1907

To those who love music but have
no opportunity to familiarize themselves
with grand opera this
book is respectfully
dedicated



TABLE OF CONTENTS


                                                                    PAGE

AN INTERVIEW WITH MARCELLA SEMBRICH                                   13

"SEMIRAMIDE"                                                          25

A CALL ON EMMA EAMES                                                  43

"FAUST"                                                               57

"WERTHER"                                                             79

CALVÉ AND "CARMEN"                                                   105

"CARMEN"                                                             117

"HAMLET"                                                             143

A TALK WITH LILLIAN NORDICA                                          169

"LOHENGRIN"                                                          185

"AIDA"                                                               215

"THE HUGUENOTS"                                                      239

AN HOUR WITH LILLI LEHMANN                                           265

"THE FLYING DUTCHMAN"                                                279

MELBA, THE AUSTRALIAN NIGHTINGALE                                    303

"LAKME"                                                              315

"I PAGLIACCI"                                                        337

"ORPHEUS AND EURYDICE"                                               357

THE GENIUS OF GERALDINE FARRAR                                       369

"MADAME BUTTERFLY"                                                   379



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS


                                                                  FACING
                                                                    PAGE

Group of Miniature Portraits, "Stars of the Opera"         _Frontispiece_

Marcella Sembrich                                                     15

Sembrich as Rosina in "The Barber of Seville"                         22

Emma Eames                                                            45

Melba as Marguerite in "Faust"                                        64

Emma Calvé                                                           107

Calvé as Carmen                                                      128

Calvé as Ophelia in "Hamlet"                                         164

Lillian Nordica                                                      171

Nordica as Brunhilde in "Siegfried"                                  182

Eames as Elsa in "Lohengrin"                                         202

Nordica as Aida                                                      220

Lilli Lehmann                                                        267

Lehmann as Isolde in "Tristan and Isolde"                            270

Lehmann as Venus in "Tannhäuser"                                     276

Nellie Melba                                                         305

Melba as Elizabeth in "Tannhäuser"                                   312

Geraldine Farrar                                                     371

Miss Farrar as "Madame Butterfly"                                    384



An Interview
with

Marcella Sembrich

[Illustration: Copyright by Aimé Dupont, N. Y.

MARCELLA SEMBRICH.]



STARS OF THE OPERA



AN INTERVIEW WITH MARCELLA SEMBRICH


Early in the season of 1898-99 there was a performance of "Traviata" in
the Metropolitan Opera-House which might be described as "an occasion of
superlatives"--including the largest auditorium, the biggest audience,
the finest singers.

Grand opera in itself is a culmination and combination of the greatest
efforts of the greatest minds. There is, in the first place, the plot of
the libretto, which in the case of "Traviata" was the masterpiece of
Dumas, France's greatest dramatist--a man who labored all his life as
tho achievement required only work, and who yet possessed such mental
power as no amount of work could achieve.

After Dumas comes the librettist who transposed the story into suitable
Italian verse to be set to music. And then we have the work, the inmost
thoughts, of Giuseppe Verdi, Italy's greatest living composer. There was
a day when each of these sparkling melodies that now delight the whole
world was born in the soul of Verdi, and heard by him alone. But he
patiently put upon paper every note that his years of study and his
gifted soul impelled.

The work of the composer, the dramatist, and the librettist belongs to
the past, however, and that audience of five thousand people did not
bestow much thought on them. Nor did they think very often of the
orchestra, composed of fifty thorough musicians, who really worked more
during the performance than any of the other participants.

It may be mentioned here that in all grand operas the orchestra plays
continually; it is the wall upon which the picture is hung. There may
be pauses in the singing, but the conductor's baton never rests.

People seldom appreciate the vast knowledge of music and the remarkable
ability in sight-reading which these orchestra players possess. Not one
of them but has worked at his art from childhood; most of them play
several different instruments; and they all hold as a creed that a false
note is a sin, and a variation in rhythm is a fall from grace. The
director is their temporary deity who commands the orchestra beneath and
the stage above--a little universe of music. He holds all together and
dictates the tempo, the expression, and the phrasing. His commands are
for the time being immutable as the laws of nature, for any serious
disobedience would cause the whole structure to fall to pieces.

The five thousand listeners gave some applause to the director after the
playing of the introduction, and they gave a little more to the
chorus--those earnest workers who serve grand opera as the stokers do a
ship. Then the tenor received a good deal of applause--his reward for
training his voice, studying music, memorizing operas, overcoming
nervousness, and singing in public twenty years.

But the great applause, the "bravos," the cheering, the excitement, were
reserved for the star, the soprano--Marcella Sembrich! It is always
impressive to witness such a success. It is inspiring to know that one
woman can so stir the hearts of the people.

Madame Sembrich's voice is as perfect a voice as the world has ever
heard. Yet her greatness consists more in her art than in her voice. She
has not been satisfied merely to use her gift as nature gave it, but she
has acquired a mastery of tone-coloring so that every tone has a meaning
of its own, and seems to express a distinct emotion. In the last act of
"Traviata" the quality of her tones, always beautiful, but ever varying
as her art dictates, conveys to the listener surely and truly the
approach of death and the hope of heaven. This is great art indeed. No
wonder the audience fairly gasps as the last sweet tone leaves the lips
of the pale Violetta and soars away into infinite space.

It was the day after "Traviata," when, in response to a knock at Madame
Sembrich's door in the Hotel Savoy, a mellow voice said, "Come in."

On my obeying this summons, the singer was "discovered"--as the
librettos have it--standing near her grand piano, alone, and as
unostentatious as your own sister.

There was no effect of the impressive prima donna, all flowers and
frills and _frou-frou_. She was quite alone, just as lesser mortals
sometimes are; and she furthermore spared her visitor from any sense of
interrupted work, or great haste, or the magnitude of the occasion.

She was just a courteous, quiet lady who seated herself beside the
visitor and talked earnestly about music and work.

When asked how early she began to study the art seriously, she replied:
"When I was six years old. My father taught me the piano until I was
ten. He was a very gifted man. Then I also studied for a while with Dr.
Stengel, who is now my husband, and with Epstein in Vienna."

On learning that her visitor was acquainted with Vienna, Madame
Sembrich's face lighted up (she has a radiant smile): "Ach! then you
speak German?" And from this point she talked altogether in German,
which is more akin to her native Polish.

She is fluent, however, in all the continental languages. "We have to
know them all, for we need them constantly," she explained. In reply to
other questions, the singer told enthusiastically of her early work.

"I can not say I was ever discouraged, for I so enjoyed my art that it
was always of absorbing interest; but my whole life has been made up of
hard work, always work. I also studied the violin and composition, and I
used to rise early and go to bed late, for I worked six and seven hours
a day."

Madame Sembrich is one of the most thorough, all-round musicians on the
lyric stage to-day, for she is not only a singer, but has played
successfully in public on piano and violin. Her rare gift of voice was
not discovered until she was seventeen. Then her great knowledge of
music enabled her quickly to develop the voice, and it was not long
before she appeared in opera and made her first great success in London.
When asked if she was ever nervous, the answer came promptly:

"Oh, yes, very nervous! _Now_ I am always nervous. But in the early days
it was not so bad. When you are young and have a beautiful voice, you
think it is all that is necessary, and are not nervous, because you do
not realize the depth and extent of art. But as you grow older you
appreciate the possibilities of art--you know what it implies, and how
perfect you wish to make it; and then you are nervous. It is more
nervous work, too, for such artists as Madame Patti, Madame Melba, or
myself, who travel about and sing first in one place and then in
another, because each time we have to win our audience and make a new
conquest. In Europe, at the great opera-houses such as are in Vienna or
Berlin, it is different, for there the singers are engaged permanently.
The public knows how well they can do, and if sometimes they are not at
their best, they know the public will excuse them. I find I am more
nervous, too, as my reputation increases, for more is expected of me."

Referring again to her studies, Madame Sembrich counted over
thirty-seven full operas that she has learned. It is well to consider
for a moment what this implies. Aside from the native gifts of voice,
musical talent, and dramatic temperament, there must be years of
practise in singing and acting; then the words of each opera must be
memorized, sometimes in three languages. After studying, originating,
and mastering the action, the music must be learned, and every word
wedded to a certain tone, and every tone to a certain beat of time.
Herein the actress has but a slight task compared to the opera singer,
for in the drama it matters not if a word comes a moment sooner or
later; but in grand opera a second's deviation might cause a discord.

[Illustration: Copyright by Aimé Dupont, N. Y.

Sembrich as Rosina in "The Barber of Seville."]

Madame Sembrich delights in the opera "Traviata" because of its intense
action.

"But I like, too, the lighter operas. The merriment of 'Rosina' amuses
me as I act it."

One more question was asked as her visitor arose to go.

"Is it true, Madame Sembrich, that you walk two hours every day?"

"Yes," she answered good-humoredly. "I had just returned to-day when you
came. I started at eleven and got home at one."

Regular and rigorous in her daily life even yet! Upon meeting Madame
Sembrich, one receives an impression of graciousness and greatness not
to be forgotten.



"Semiramide"



"SEMIRAMIDE"


All great prima donnas have in their repertoire the majority of famous
operas, but through fitness of physique or temperament or quality of
voice they become associated with certain rôles more than others.
Sometimes it is merely a caprice of the public that holds them to a
particular line of operas. At present Madame Sembrich is regarded as the
great exponent of the old Italian school. Among her thirty-seven operas
"Semiramide" is one in which New Yorkers have not yet heard her; but it
is in some respects the most typical of its kind.

"Semiramide" belongs to the old style of Italian operas. It is light in
substance, but glistening with scales and cadenzas that are scattered
over it like spangles upon tulle. Rossini's music is always beautiful
but conveys little meaning, and it impresses the modern musical taste
like a meal of bonbons. Although Semiramis lived hundreds of years
before the Christian era, we listen in vain for any ancient atmosphere
to the composition or for the "_melodrame tragico_," as designated by
the libretto. This music would be as suitable to the "Barber of Seville"
as to the "Queen of Babylon." In other words, the old operas were a
series of separate songs adapted to a connected story, whereas we now
expect the score so thoroughly to embody the text that the two are
inseparable.

"Semiramide," however, bears several claims to distinction that prevent
the possibility of extinction. It is the opera _par excellence_ of
duets. They are the delightful, old-fashioned kind, wherein the two
voices are side by side, only separated by a perfect third; and when the
conductor has whipped up a good tempo away they go like a span of
horses, over hills and valleys of scales and arpeggios, bridged-over
intervals, and clumps of trills. Differing from all other operas, this
one gives as much prominence to the contralto as to the soprano. They
must have equal facility of execution; and, indeed, none of the rôles
are exempt from this demand. Tenor, contralto, baritone, and bass vie
with each other in performing dangerous feats of vocal agility. There
are passages where they all, one after another, run up a scale and land
on a certain note, like athletes jumping from a spring-board. We smile
at such display, and are inclined to regard the opera as one big
solfeggio; but let it not be forgotten that this is the old Italian
style, and interesting from this point of view.

Another claim to lasting fame is its overture--one of the prettiest,
happiest, showiest orchestral compositions extant. It is a stock program
piece, being simple enough for any orchestra to perform and yet rousing
enough always to elicit applause.

The opening scene represents a temple wherein Oroe, the chief of the
Magi, is discovered kneeling before an altar. He has received a
celestial revelation of some dark crime that is awaiting vengeance, and
his first short recitative refers to this secret. Arising from his
knees, Oroe orders the gates of the temple to be opened. The Assyrian
multitude enter bearing offerings and garlands, while they sing a light
melody that would do for a modern topical song. Idrenus, an Indian
prince, also comes in with his attendants, bearing incense and
offerings. He is the tenor, but unimportant, because this opera has no
love-scene, and consequently little use for a tenor. Assur, an Assyrian
potentate, is another devout supplicant at the altar of Belus. We soon
learn the occasion of these earnest efforts to propitiate the gods:
Semiramis, the queen, will to-day select a successor to the late King
Ninus.

A very good example of what we consider the incongruities of the old
school is found in these first two arias of Idrenus and Assur. The tenor
comes in alone and delivers a flourishing solo, ornate as his costume.
Then Assur, the basso, makes his entrance and sings in a lower key the
same remarkable pyrotechnics. This antagonizes the fundamental rule of
modern opera, which requires each character to maintain a musical
individuality. There is some further conversation in the form of a
terzetto between Idrenus, Assur, and Oroe, and the fact is disclosed
that Assur expects the queen's choice to fall on him.

Another light and bright chorus announces the entrance of Semiramis. She
is represented as young and beautiful, altho she is a widow and the
mother of a son who mysteriously disappeared years before the story
opens. But radiant as is her appearance, Semiramis opens the ceremonies
with uneasiness, for she has determined to make Arsaces the future king.
He is a young army officer, and there is no just reason why he should be
favored; but the queen has become enamored of him. Arsaces, however, is
unconscious of her infatuation. She has summoned him to this ceremony;
but he has not yet arrived, and for this reason she hesitates. In a
quartet that is worked up like a rondo upon a very pleasing theme, the
others urge her to begin. She reluctantly steps forward, but at her
first mention of the dead king there is a flash of lightning and the
sacred fires are extinguished. The people regard this as a dire omen.
Oroe glances knowingly at both Semiramis and Assur as he again refers to
a crime that has aroused the wrath of the gods. He orders the ceremonies
to be postponed pending the arrival of a sacred oracle from Memphis. The
queen and her attendants withdraw, and the temple is vacated.

The orchestra plays through several pages of sixty-fourth and
thirty-second notes, after which the interesting and important Arsaces
enters with two slaves who bring a casket. Arsaces is always a very
youthful and impossible-looking general, in spite of his glittering
cuirass, for be it known this is the contralto rôle, and, musically
speaking, a very great one.

We learn from his first recitative that this casket contains precious
documents and relics of the late king which have been guarded and
concealed by Phradates, the supposed father of Arsaces. Phradates has
recently died, and in compliance with his request Arsaces brings these
treasures to the high priest. We also learn that the young general is
puzzled over the queen's summons; and last, but not least, we learn that
he is in love with the beautiful Princess Azema. The mere mention of her
name starts him to singing a rapturous song, bubbling over with
brilliant roulades. After presenting his casket to the high priest,
Arsaces encounters Assur, who soon makes it known that he also loves the
fair Azema. This so maddens Arsaces that he resolves at once to ask
Semiramis for the hand of the princess. These rivals cordially hate each
other, but Rossini inspires them to sing the same melodies, and their
voices mingle in beautiful harmony of tone and rhythm.

The second rising of the curtain reveals Semiramis reclining under a
bower in her palace garden. She is surrounded by maidens and slaves who
sing languid, luxuriant melodies for her diversion. Rossini's style is
well suited to this scene. As the arias are presented one by one, it is
like unfolding the contents of an Assyrian treasure-chest full of
shimmering silks and glittering jewels. Among this collection there is
one gem called the "Bel Raggio," a name as famous in its way as the
Koh-i-noor. This musical brilliant belongs to Queen Semiramis, who
displays its scintillating beauty with evident pride. The "Bel Raggio"
is one of the four great corner-stones of the bravura singer's
repertoire, of which the remaining three are: "Una voce poco fa," also
by Rossini; the Dinorah "Shadow Song," and Eckert's "Echo Song." When
listening to "Bel Raggio" one should never try to follow the words or
even wonder what she is saying. Just listen to the music. Those radiant,
ravishing, intoxicating warbles and runs tell one plainly enough that
she is happy, and this is sufficient.

Semiramis is awaiting Arsaces and the oracle from Memphis. The latter is
received first, and bears the cheering words, "Thy peace shall be
restored with the return of Arsaces." True to the nature of oracles,
this one has a double meaning, and Semiramis construes it in the wrong
way. When Arsaces enters there follows a bevy of famous duets. But the
conversation is quite at cross purposes. Arsaces tells of a
long-cherished love, which Semiramis thinks is for herself. She promises
that all his hopes shall be realized, whereupon the two wander off side
by side through a forest of cadences, roulades, and scales. They
sometimes become separated, when the soprano pauses to run up the
scale-ladder and pluck a brilliant high note, or the contralto lingers
to pick up tones that are rich and full as fallen fruit; but they
finally emerge together, trilling high and low like birds from a
thicket.

The third scene represents a magnificent hall in the palace. There are,
of course, a throne and other "properties," but most conspicuous is the
tomb or mausoleum of Ninus. For a second time the Assyrian noblemen and
people gather to hear the appointment of a new king. As they sing a
sweeping march, Semiramis enters more gorgeously arrayed than ever. She
takes her place at the throne, and with an imperious gesture commands
allegiance to the king of her choice. These regal phrases contain such a
prodigality of dazzling colorature that we are reminded of the far-famed
hanging gardens devised by this same extravagant queen. In the matter of
lavish display the music of "Semiramide" is strikingly appropriate.
Assur, Arsaces, Idrenus, and Oroe vow obedience, and their hymn-like
ensemble is one of the grandest themes Rossini ever composed. Like the
prayer from Weber's "Freischütz," this quintet has long held a place in
church choir-books, and a more religious and inspiring melody could
hardly be imagined. The soprano scatters delicious appoggiaturas and
cadenzas above the steady and noble ensemble like flowers upon an altar.
The "Semiramide Quintet" is another one of its claims to lasting fame.

In a lighter vein is the queen's next proclamation, to the effect that
the future king shall also be her husband. This arouses general
surprise. But when she finally designates Arsaces, the amazement on all
sides is loud. Assur demands justice from the queen, insinuating some
secret compact that she dare not disregard. He is haughtily silenced by
Semiramis, who at the same time bestows upon him the hand of fair Azema.

Poor Arsaces is beside himself. He tries to explain, but the queen will
listen to no remonstrances. An altar is brought forward, and the priests
are about to pronounce the marriage bans when a hollow, subterranean
sound and distant thunder cause consternation. The people are horrified
to behold the tomb of Ninus slowly open and its occupant step forth.
Turning to Arsaces, the ghost bids him avenge a terrible crime: "With
courage into my tomb descend; there to my ashes a victim thou shalt
offer. But first obey the counsel of the priest." The ghost disappears,
and the act closes with a strong chorus of dismay. Semiramis leads the
singing, and for once her music has only prim quarter-notes and
half-notes: her colorature is all frightened away.

The next act contains an interview between Assur and Semiramis, wherein
we learn about the crime so often referred to. The late King Ninus was
poisoned by Assur, who had been promised the throne. But the guilty
queen has since preferred Arsaces, and this explains Assur's great
anger. He threatens to kill the young favorite; but Semiramis has
resumed her ostentatious manner and music, and will not heed his words.

There follows a scene in the queen's apartment. She is still striving to
win Arsaces, but her overtures repel him more than ever. He has just
returned from an interview with the priest. The contents of the casket
have been revealed to him, and he shows Semiramis a paper proving the
startling fact that Arsaces himself is her long-lost son. He has also
learned that Ninus, his father, was murdered. Remorse promptly overtakes
the queen. She weeps and wails in chromatics and scales that quite touch
Arsaces. They sing a glorious duet that is like a benediction, so noble
and pure are its harmonies. It is called "Giorno d'orrore" (day of
horror). Arsaces bids his mother adieu. He is going to the tomb to
avenge his father's death, tho he knows not how nor whom he shall
strike. It rests with the gods to guide him; he only obeys the command.
There follows another smoothly flowing duet resembling all the others in
its simple structure, unmistakable rhythm, and prominent melody.

The finale of "Semiramide" has little to commend it, being absurd in
action and presenting only one pleasing or noticeable theme. This is a
dainty, quaint violin passage that delighted us in the overture, but
which we never thought of connecting with a tragic climax. How different
is this tomb music from that of Gounod's "Romeo and Juliet!" There the
marvelous harmonies are like sweet dreams accompanying the sleep of
death, but here we are only conscious of the "deep, damp vault, the
darkness and the worm."

The chief absurdity of this scene lies in the fact that it should be too
dark for the characters to see each other and yet it must be light
enough for the audience to see everything. Another incongruity is the
assembling of all the principals and a good-sized chorus in this tomb
where we expected Arsaces alone. But it is explained that Assur heard of
the hero's coming and planned to follow with the intention of killing
him; Oroe heard of Assur's plan and brings an armed guard to protect
Arsaces; and, finally, Semiramis follows because she is anxious about
everybody and everything.

They enter at different times; grope around among tombs, and pretend not
to see each other. Arsaces finally hears and recognizes the voice of
Assur. He has no doubt that the gods have sent Assur to be the victim.
The hero promptly stabs in the direction of the voice, but because it is
so very dark he happens to kill Semiramis instead of Assur. But this
mistake does not much affect either the music or the action. The final
chorus of the opera is as light and bright as the first.



A Call on Emma Eames

[Illustration: Copyright by Falk, N. Y.

EMMA EAMES.]



A CALL ON EMMA EAMES


A call at the Hotel Marie Antoinette is a veritable eighteenth-century
dream. A powdered footman in satin knee-breeches and the full court
costume of that period flings open the great glass doors as you enter,
and another one escorts you around some columns, and through some
curtains, and down some steps to the main reception-room, where you wait
while your name is announced.

The Hotel Marie Antoinette is very exclusive, so you happen to be alone
in this great apartment, with its stained-glass dome and carved-oak
walls; alone, excepting for the pretty soft-voiced maid who is arrayed
as were the ladies-in-waiting of the Trianon. She assists you in
removing your wraps, and at the same time talks enthusiastically about
the great personage you have come to see.

"We all here just love her, she is so gracious and appreciative of
everything we do, and so kind to us. She gives us tickets to the opera,
and she isn't at all proud or haughty. She often comes in here of an
afternoon to have tea. There is her corner where she always sits"--and
the maid points quite reverentially to a dainty recess curtained with
tapestries and dreamily illumined by a huge pendant red globe. As your
glance roams on, you find many objects that hold your attention. There
are historic cabinets of rare value and workmanship, little tea-tables
beside the various couches, bearing trays of antique china and tiny
spoons of old silver, all sought and selected from the castles and
treasure-rooms of Europe. There is one dainty solid gold clock that
belonged to Marie Antoinette and was used in her boudoir. Another one
which she also owned is jeweled with turquoise and garnets. Many
valuable miniatures of the unfortunate queen and her family are on the
desks and writing-tables. In one enticing alcove are two rows of
sumptuous volumes bound in red and gold whose mere titles set one to
dreaming of court intrigues and palace revels. "The Secret Memoirs of
the Court" comprise one set of ten books; ten more are devoted to
Napoleon, and "The Life and Times of Louis XV." also occupies much
shelf-room; while on the center-table is a collection of engravings
portraying the life of Marie Antoinette.

You quite feel yourself a court lady by this time; and when the powdered
dignitary again appears and calls out your name in stately tones, you
follow him with a sense of importance quite pleasant and unusual. You
are led past more columns and through more curtains, until finally he
leaves you in a moderate-sized ante-room. Here you wait for some
moments, expectantly watching the doorway by which you entered, when
suddenly, on the opposite side of the room, some folding-doors which you
had not noticed are flung wide open by unseen hands, and behold the
queen--of grand opera, Madame Emma Eames!

It was indeed a right royal vision I beheld: a beautiful woman, in every
sense of the term, clad in a fawn-colored gown of rich design, and
bejeweled with chains of pearls and a brooch of diamonds. She was seated
on a pale satin divan, but came forward to greet her visitor, and shook
hands cordially. Madame Eames is more than beautiful, for together with
regular features and soft curves she has a strong face and a pose of the
head that is all determination and force. She is tall and full-figured,
her hair is dark, and her eyes are very blue.

She displayed a charming smile as she motioned her visitor to a seat
near by, and then followed a rapid sequence of questions and answers.
Madame Eames showed a kindly response to her visitor's spirit of
earnestness, and tried to tell as much as possible in every reply she
made.

First in order of interest is the fact that she was born, August 13,
1867, in Shanghai, China. There's a beginning for you!--enough to crush
an ordinary mortal. But Emma Eames took it otherwise; and all who know
of her now must admit that to be born under the star of the East on the
thirteenth day of the month is after all not bad. As soon as she was old
enough to walk she left the land of her birth and came with her mother
and father (who was a lawyer of the international courts) to their
native home, the city of Bath, in Maine.

Here she studied music with her mother, going later on to Boston and
finally to Paris, where she worked with indomitable will studying
operas, dramatic action, voice culture, and especially French. This last
is very important for those aiming to sing publicly in Paris, for the
people there will not tolerate any weakness of pronunciation.

When asked if she ever had time for any social pleasures, Madame Eames
answered very earnestly: "I have never done anything in my life but
work. I cared for other pleasures just as any girl does, but have
always foregone them."

As a result of this ceaseless work she was fitted for the operatic stage
in two years' time.

"It was Gounod himself who selected me to sing in his opera 'Romeo and
Juliet.' He taught me that music, and also 'Faust.' He was a most
lovable old man, so modest, and above all sincere and truth-loving in
his music. He often said to me, 'Never degrade music, the one divine
language on earth, to express a lie.' When teaching a phrase, instead of
dictating, as you would expect so great a man to do, he always asked,
'How do you _feel_ when you hear that? Sing it as _you feel it_, not
what I feel or tell you.' And he could sing so exquisitely! Yes, old as
he was, and he had just the smallest possible voice, yet it was
delightful to hear."

Madame Eames's tones were tender and thoughtful as she recalled these
reminiscences of her beloved master.

The number thirteen looms up again in Madame Eames's history as the date
of her great début. It was the evening of March 13, 1889, in the world's
most beautiful opera-house, that the swaying pendants of its great
chandelier vibrated to the sound of a new voice and the marble walls of
its ornate halls reverberated to the sound of a new name--"Emma Eames,
la jeune Américaine."

No wonder she made a sensation; she is the ideal Juliet, youthful,
beautiful, and with a voice of golden timbre.

A more lovely scene and more tender tragedy has never been depicted in
music than is the last act of this opera. The beholder sees in the
somber setting of an iron-barred tomb the white-clad form of Juliet
lying upon a bier that is raised like an altar above several steps.
There are loose flowers still unwithered scattered near the silent
sleeper, and one pale torch burns restlessly in a brazier at her head.
No other movement; no change on the stage for many minutes.

But the listeners, in this pause, are brought heart to heart with the
gentle composer, who sleeps himself now in the Pantheon of Paris. Gounod
has enwrapped this scene in ethereal harmonies that make one think of
Death not as the King of Terrors, but as the Queen of Repose. The
principal melody is a lulling, loving strain that floats and fades away
like a final "hush" to rest.

The classic purity of Madame Eames's beauty impresses itself in these
moments perhaps more than any other, and the nobility of her voice
reveals itself, in the succeeding dramatic climax of the opera, to the
fullest.

In speaking now of her début, the singer says that she was very nervous,
"for, before the public has approved, you don't feel sure that you know
anything. After this, there is some foundation for your nerves to rest
on, altho you realize how much there is still to learn. But I am always
nervous even yet, never knowing what trick my nerves may play on me. No,
my memory gives me no anxiety, for I fortunately have a very reliable
one. If by any chance I forget a word on the stage, I know my health is
run down, and I then at once take a rest for several days."

But Emma Eames does not take many such rests. Young as she is, she has
already sung in twenty-one different operas with unvarying success, in
England, France, and Italy as well as her own country. When studying a
new rôle she makes every effort to be accurate in all details.

"I always give great thought to my costumes, but when once I have
studied thoroughly into the period represented and feel convinced that
my designs are correct, I never change them. When one set is shabby I
merely have it duplicated."

Little wonder a prima donna has no time for social gayety when you
consider all the accessories to her art. Aside from the study and actual
performing, she must take proper exercise for her health, must attend
rehearsals, give time to the costumer--and, also, to the many
interviewers. Madame Eames smiled at this suggestion, and said:

"I don't mind any of these, but I do dread having my photograph taken.
We have to put on the entire costumes of different operas: wigs,
stockings, gloves, slippers--everything as tho ready to go on with our
lines, and all just to stand around in a studio and pose. It is
terrible; it takes a whole day sometimes."

A question about her method of study brought forth the fact that at one
time she was quite misdirected in the use of her voice.

"I was turned entirely in the wrong direction, and it is no exaggeration
to say that I have fought the battle out step by step and note by note
all alone--or, rather, in the very presence of the public. When I first
appeared my voice-control was uncertain; I did not dare take any
liberties with my tones. I was in constant anxiety, and miserable
because I had not the power of voice-emission that I wanted. I assure
you in those days I was sometimes so discouraged that I thought
seriously of giving up my profession."

An astounding assertion this will seem to the thousands of listeners
enthralled by her voice to-day. But Madame Eames was very serious, and
she added philosophically: "After all, I don't think one can attain
anything worth having unless one has suffered deeply."

Every summer Madame Eames takes a six-weeks' vacation in her Italian
castle near Florence. I was shown a description of this edifice, which
reads like a page of old history. The sullen gray stone walls are six
feet thick, and the heavy doors with their great iron hinges are all
carved by hand, as indeed is all the workmanship on the place. The main
hall of the castle is sixty feet long and twenty-five feet wide. There
are four massive fireplaces in this one apartment, and a wooden balcony
reached by a broad stairway runs all around the second story of the
hall. The ceiling is of carved oak, and a reproduction of a famous one
in Florence. Everything is in accord with the traditions of the Middle
Ages. Madame Eames takes great delight in this castle, and she has with
her numerous photographs of it.

There will probably be many guests in those halls; but even if the
gifted owner lived there alone it would always seem peopled by a large
assemblage, for Madame Eames studies much during these vacations, and
the mystic characters of her repertoire may be said to hover ever near.
The castle is to be furnished with rich hangings and historic trophies;
but most priceless of all should be counted the music furnished by her
own rare voice. This will soar out and reecho at all hours; sometimes a
memory of Elsa, and again a thought of Sieglinde.

It were indeed a pity to fling the stray tones of a great voice upon
crude walls and cramped quarters; let them rather resound and
reverberate, and perchance be preserved, by the listening atoms of
carved wood and chiseled stone.

If the earth is God's garden and we are the plants that grow, then
Madame Eames must be likened to a rare orchid, radiant in the sunshine
of great success, and showered with all possible blessings.



"Faust"



"FAUST"


Faust is the opera in which Madame Eames has appeared most often in this
country. No less than sixteen composers have used Goethe's poem as a
libretto. Many of these works are excellent, and frequently we hear
excerpts from them in our concerts. But Gounod has clad the words in
musical raiment of such surpassing loveliness that he has almost robbed
Goethe of his masterpiece. At this day, on hearing the name Faust we
think of the opera simultaneously with, if not before, the poem. He has
made of it a "grand opera" in every sense; and yet so abounding in
melody that even an untrained ear is captured.

There is no overture. It is a fact without a cause that some operas have
overtures and some have not. "Faust" opens with a short orchestral
prelude that is somber and subdued--quite suggestive of the doubt and
darkness that characterize the scene upon which the curtain rises.

Faust, the philosopher, the student, is seated in his cell, surrounded
by books, parchments, chemicals, skulls, and hour-glasses. He has grown
old in his delving after the mysteries, and even now he has devoted the
whole night to study. The lamp burns low, and all about him is dark and
gloomy. He closes his book sadly, and exclaims in tones that seem
spontaneous, but are, nevertheless, in accurate rhythm with the
orchestra, "In vain!" He does not find the knowledge he seeks; his
investigations are without avail. It seems strange to hear these laments
sounded by a tenor voice; but this trifling incongruity of high tones
and old age does not last long. The character Faust is one of the
greatest tenor rôles.

His soliloquy is presently broken in upon by a chorus behind the scenes.
It is the song of reapers going to their daily work. The morning light
streams in at the window which Faust throws open as he listens. But
sunshine itself is not brighter than that song. It is so joyous and
light-hearted that the listener fairly inhales the dew-laden air of the
fields. This first melody in the opera is as perfect a morceau for its
size as was ever written. The solitaire in his cell is also affected by
the radiant song, and he envies the reapers for their contentment and
for their youth. Yes, _youth_ is what he longs for.

Altho Faust has declared his study to be "in vain," he has,
nevertheless, acquired the accomplishment of being able to call up
Mephistopheles (this is the operatic name for the great demon), and in
his present despair he resorts to this power. Mephisto appears without
delay. Flaming colors and a bass voice are the essential attributes of
this great character. It seems rather hard on our artists who sing to
low G that a bass voice is so often chosen to represent iniquity; but
such happens to be the case. Mephisto is invariably clad in red from
head to toe; exaggerated eyebrows and a fantastic cap with unobtrusive
horns complete his diabolical appearance.

In a continuous flow of harmony, Faust informs his visitor of his wants,
and Mephisto promptly states his conditions: for the price of his soul
after death the philosopher shall now be granted his youth. Faust
hesitates at this, whereupon the wily demon causes him to behold a
vision. A bright light at the back of the stage suddenly reveals the
lovely Marguerite at her spinning-wheel. While the picture lasts there
is heard in the orchestra a suggestion of one of the themes that come
afterward in the love-scene of the opera; this is accompanied by a soft
tremolo on the violins. Forest scenes, moonlight, and dreams are very
often represented in music by a violin tremolo. When the vision passes
away, Faust is decided, and he drinks the potion Mephistopheles
prescribes. Presto! The gray hair and beard disappear; the long robe
falls off, and Faust is a young man--tall and handsome, as a tenor
should be. He comes forward with an elastic step and sings of youth and
its joys, which now are his. The music has undergone a metamorphosis
like the singer. It throbs with a life and vigor which were lacking
before; and this final song of the first act is one of the best tenor
solos in the opera.

The second act is chiefly remarkable for its choruses. It is called the
Kyrmess, and represents a street thronged with villagers in festive
array and mood. They dance and sing in honor of their soldiers, who
start this day to war. The opening chorus is divided among the students,
girls, soldiers, and citizens, the latter being represented by old men,
who come forward and sing their delightful refrain in thin, piping
voices. Every phrase of this first chorus is a surprise, and each one
seems more fascinating than the preceding. It is all in a rapid,
tripping tempo, and fairly bubbles over with good humor.

In this act we are introduced to all the principal characters. Siebel,
the village youth who loves Marguerite, is already on the scene, and
very soon her soldier-brother, Valentine, appears. This is the baritone
rôle, and, while not a long one, is still important, and requires a
great artist, for he has a splendid death-scene in the fourth act. His
first solo begins with the words "O santa medaglia!" ("O blessed
medallion!"). He sings to the token which his sister has just given him
at parting. He is depressed at the thought of leaving Marguerite alone,
for she is an orphan; but Siebel consoles him with promises to protect
and watch over her.

Mephisto is the next one to come upon the scene, and, in spite of his
satanic make-up, the villagers do not recognize his "name and station."
He joins in their merry-making, and soon astounds them with his wizard
tricks and actions. He sings a song about "Gold--the lord of the earth."
It is one of the three important solos of this rôle, and is a most
characteristic piece. One has not the least doubt that he learned it at
home! Such eccentric, sardonic intervals and rhythm at once suggest an
unholy origin.

[Illustration: Copyright by Aimé Dupont, N. Y.

Melba as Marguerite in "Faust."]

The peasants soon become so convinced of this stranger's evil power that
they unanimously hold up the hilts of their swords, which are formed
like a cross, and before this emblem Mephisto trembles. A very strong
and inspiring chorus accompanies this move on the part of the peasants.

Faust, the handsome cavalier, now comes forward. After a short dialog
between this master and servant--who we know are under compact to change
places in the hereafter--the chorus again take possession of the stage.
They sing first a charming waltz song, which of itself seems to start
them all to dancing. And then comes the celebrated "Faust Waltz," during
which the listener should pay most attention to the orchestra. There is
some singing and much dancing on the stage, but the instruments have the
most important part. Of this well-known composition it is unnecessary
to say more than that it is a splendid waltz.

Its brilliant rhythm is temporarily diverted by the entrance of
Marguerite, who is on her way home from church. She carries a
prayer-book in her hand, and is dressed in white, which betokens
innocence. This costume of the heroine has been considered as imperative
as the make-up of Mephisto; but Madame Eames carefully studied old
Nuremburg pictures and resurrected the correct style of that period,
which somewhat departs from operatic tradition.

On seeing Marguerite, Faust addresses her as "My charming lady," and
begs permission to walk home with her. To which Marguerite very properly
replies that she is neither "charming" nor a "lady," and can go home
"alone." The question and response last only a moment, but the two
themes are most exquisitely adapted to the words, and should be noted,
as they recur later on in the opera. Especially lovely are these first
notes of the soprano; and after so much chorus and bass and orchestra,
they soar out like strokes from a silver bell.

Marguerite goes on her homeward way, and leaves Faust more in love than
before. Mephisto rejoices, and the waltz is resumed. Thus ends Act II.

And now for the Garden Scene--a veritable bouquet of melodies, flowers
that never fade! The first aria is, indeed, called the "Flower Song,"
but only because Siebel sings to the flowers he has brought for
Marguerite. Siebel is the contralto rôle, and therefore always taken by
a woman. It is a very short part, but as two of the sweetest songs in
the opera belong to Siebel, great artists are glad to take the
character. The short prelude by the orchestra before the "Flower Song"
is as artistic as any other part. It seems to smooth the brow and quiet
the mind, and coax the hearer into just the right mood "to be lulled by
sounds of sweetest melody." Siebel's song is indeed "sweetest
melody"--so much so that a poor singer can hardly spoil it. That gentle
and caressing theme captures the heart every time.

After Siebel has gone, there enter Faust and Mephistopheles (who gains
admission everywhere). The latter is in high spirits, and Faust is in
love. They look upon the garden with different emotions. Faust
rhapsodizes and is lost in romance; but Mephisto's more practical vision
perceives the flowers which Siebel has left at Marguerite's door. He
goes off at once to procure a present that shall outshine these. During
his absence Faust sings the "Salve Dimore." These are the first words of
the song, which mean "Hail! dwelling pure and simple;" but this
composition is always given its Italian name. It is interesting to note
the names by which celebrated arias are known. Some are designated by
the subject, as the "Jewel Song," "Flower Song." Then, again, some are
known by the rhythm, as the "Waltz Song" from "Romeo and Juliet," or the
"Polacca from 'Mignon.'" Then, there are others whose names only
indicate the number of voices, as the "Sextet from 'Lucia,'" the
"Quartet from 'Rigoletto';" while many are spoken of by their Italian
names. The "Salve Dimore" belongs to this class, and, like the "Jewel
Song," is so celebrated that many people who have not heard the music
are still familiar with the name. The tenor who does not receive
abundant applause after this aria may feel that he has lost his best
chance in the opera.

After the solo Mephisto reenters with a jewel-casket under his arm. He
places this where Marguerite will surely find it, and then the two
retire. Now is an expectant moment, for the soprano holds the stage
alone for some time, and has in this scene her finest solos. She comes
in through the garden gate and walks very slowly, for she is thinking
about the handsome stranger who spoke to her in the street. She tries,
however, to forget the occurrence, and resolutely sits down to her
spinning. As she spins she sings a ballad called "The King of Thule."
It is a sad little song, with strange minor intervals that make one feel
"teary 'round the heart." Marguerite interrupts her ballad to
soliloquize again, in pretty recitative tones, about that "fine
stranger," but she soon recalls herself and resumes the song. At last
she gives up trying to spin, and starts for the house; whereupon she
sees Siebel's flowers, which are admired, but dropped in amazement when
her eyes rest upon the jewel-box. After some misgivings she opens it and
discovers jewels so beautiful that from sheer joy and delight she starts
to trilling like a bird. This trill is the opening of the great aria,
which seems to thus poise for a moment and then fly away in the
ascending scale which commences the brilliant theme. The "Jewel Song" is
as difficult as it is beautiful, and the artist who renders it well
deserves unstinted praise.

Before the song is ended, Martha, the matron in whose care Marguerite
has been entrusted, comes into the garden, and soon is followed by
Faust and Mephistopheles. Hers is a necessary but unimportant character,
as she has no solo and is merely a foil for Mephistopheles. She is
represented as a very susceptible widow, and he takes upon himself the
uninviting task of making love to her in order that Faust and Marguerite
may have a chance. The two couples walk back and forth in the garden,
which is supposed to extend beyond the limits of the stage. The courting
as done by Mephistopheles is highly absurd, and is, in fact, the only
touch of humor in the opera.

But very different are the scenes between Faust and Marguerite. Every
phrase is full of charming sincerity. But it is after the quartet, after
the second exit and reappearance, that we hear their great love duet.
The evening shadows have lengthened, and "Tardi si fa" ("It groweth
late") are the first words of this superb composition, which is indeed
like pure gold. It stands alone in musical literature as the ideal love
music. The only work that is ever compared to it is Wagner's duet in
the "Walküre." Some writer has ventured the statement that in this
"Faust" duo Gounod has "actually discovered the intervals of the scale
which express the love passion." The idea is not a wild one nor a new
one, for it is known that the Greeks held a similar belief, and even
prohibited certain harmonies and intervals as being too sensuous. Be
that as it may, there is a subtle charm about Gounod's music that eludes
description. When we hear that final ecstatic leap from C sharp to high
A, a mystic hush and spell steals over us.

There is little more after the duo. Marguerite rushes into the house,
and Faust is aroused by the unwelcome voice of Mephistopheles. The
latter's jesting tone is most irritating to the lover. But this dialog
is soon interrupted by one of the loveliest scenes in the opera.
Marguerite throws open the blinds of her window and looks into the
garden, which she believes is now vacant. The moonlight falls upon her,
and she suddenly begins singing. It is a burst of melody as spontaneous
and free as the song of a nightingale. The song is not long, and soon
the curtain descends; but the picture leaves a lasting impression.

Act IV. comprises three scenes. The first one is short, and depicts
Marguerite's grief and remorse. Faust has forsaken her, and the faithful
Siebel tries to comfort and console. This second solo of Siebel's is a
melody of noble simplicity. The beautiful cadence given to the
twice-repeated name, "Marguerita," reveals a heart full of unselfish
love.

The next scene represents a street in front of Marguerite's house. There
is general excitement and anticipation among the villagers, for to-day
the soldiers return from war. They presently enter, amid much rejoicing,
and sing their great chorus, called the "Faust March." This march is so
popular and well known that people who believe they have never heard a
note of the opera will be surprised to find that they recognize this
march. It is played by every military band in the country. After the
chorus the soldiers disperse to their homes and friends. Valentine is
greeted by Siebel, but the brother inquires about his sister, and
hastens into the house.

The stage now is darkened, for the hour is late. Presently Faust and
Mephisto appear. The latter has brought his guitar, and he assumes the
privilege of singing a serenade to Marguerite, while Faust stands to one
side in melancholy meditation. Mephisto's song is more insulting than
complimentary. As a musical expression of irony, sarcasm, and insolence,
this composition is certainly a success. The last three notes of the
first phrase are a veritable leer. This is the second important bass
solo, and, when well given, is highly effective, as it admits of great
variety of expression. But instead of bringing forth the object of the
serenade, Marguerite's brother appears at the door, and with drawn
sword. He seeks out Faust and challenges him to a duel. The challenge
is accepted, and they are soon fighting; but the result is inevitable,
for Mephisto uses his demoniac power to protect Faust, and so Valentine
is wounded. The noise of the scuffle has aroused the villagers, who
hurry in with lanterns and find Valentine dying. Marguerite rushes
forward and falls on her knees beside him, but Valentine motions her
away. He rises up in his death agony and curses her in tones that are
like balls of fire. The villagers look on with awe, while poor
Marguerite is stunned by these terrible words from her dying brother. It
is the most tragic moment of the opera. When Valentine expires, every
one kneels as they sing a solemn prayer, and the curtain falls.

We have next the Church Scene, whose sublime music displays Gounod's
special forte. He is perhaps greater as a composer of ecclesiastical
music than anything else. His genius finds most congenial soil in
religious themes, and therefore is this church scene with its mighty
choruses and organ interludes truly grand. We hear the organ tones even
before the curtain rises, and when it does Marguerite is discovered
kneeling on a prayer-chair, apart from the other worshipers. She tries
to pray and find comfort in her despair, but an awful voice mocks her
endeavors, and that voice is Mephistopheles, who comes to her now in his
true character. He is near her, but she can not see him, while he
terrifies and tortures her with fearful prophecies. Vainly and
desperately she strives to follow the familiar service, but she can hear
only the demon's voice. It draws ever nearer, and its words increase her
terror. At last with a cry of anguish Marguerite falls down unconscious.
Mephistopheles stands over her, and his face beams with satanic glee.

True to Goethe's story, Marguerite becomes insane from grief and kills
her child. The last act finds her in prison. Once again she is clad in
white. Her hair hangs loose upon her shoulders, and chains bind her
wrists. She is sleeping on a straw pallet as the curtain rises, and
Faust enters with his companion. They have come to release the prisoner.
But when she is aroused and urged to flee she pays little heed to their
request, for she does not recognize them. But the sound of Faust's voice
recalls to her that first meeting so long ago, when he said, "My fair
lady, may I walk with you?" She sings again the charming phrase as we
heard it in the second act; but it is now rendered with a certain pathos
and simplicity that bring tears to our eyes.

She presently perceives Mephistopheles, and the sight fills her with
terror. She falls on her knees and invokes the angels of heaven to
pardon and receive her soul. The fervor of this prayer knows no bounds.
A veritable religious ecstasy throbs through the music. The theme is
broad and free, and seems to burst asunder every bond. It suggests a
glory and splendor that are celestial. Ever higher and grander it grows.
Marguerite is now standing with upraised arms; and altho Faust and
Mephisto join in the singing, our attention is entirely riveted by that
white-robed supplicant. The peerless theme is repeated three times, and
always higher than before. Those soprano tones finally reach an
atmosphere so clear and rare that they seem to carry the soul of
Marguerite with them. The last high B soars up to heaven like a
disembodied spirit.

It matters not what occurs after this. We have a dim consciousness of
Marguerite falling down, of some words of lament from Faust; but for us
the opera was ended with that last supernal note.



"Werther"



"WERTHER"


Madame Eames is the only prima donna whom America has heard in
"Werther"--a work which in Paris ranks as Massenet's best. But she does
not sing it often, because, as she says, "It all lies in such a low key;
and to sing always in one place is hard on the voice." Then she adds,
"But the love-music of Werther is beautiful."

Goethe's love-stories find favor with French composers. Massenet has
accomplished with "Werther" what his predecessors have done with
"Mignon" and "Faust." His work is very recent and altogether unique. The
story is not dramatic, and there are no regulation operatic
characters,--no gods, no kings, no peasants, gypsies, fairies, demons,
villains, slaves, soldiers, and not even a chorus. The scenery is also
unconventional; not a palace, nor a mountain, nor a dungeon in the whole
play.

The _dramatis personæ_ of "Werther" are taken from "ye lower middle
classes," and they are graced with such names as Schmidt, Johann,
Sophia, and Katie. We find it agreeable and gratifying to see our own
common selves and everyday emotions elevated to the regions of classic
music.

It is easy to understand why Massenet was attracted by the story, in
spite of its dramatic weakness and lack of stage effects. It offers
unbounded opportunities for love-music. Most opera composers must
content themselves with one rousing duet and perhaps a solo or two; but
in this story the hero sings of love from first to last.

The prelude to this homely opera is like the blessing before a meal. It
is peaceful and soothing, and might be called a pastorale.

As the curtain rises we are greeted with the chatter and laughter of
childish voices: two innovations at one stroke, for real children and
real laughter have never before held a place in grand opera. This first
scene of "Werther" forms a pleasing summer picture. We see the garden
and terrace of a simple country house, whose owner, the town bailiff, is
seated upon the veranda surrounded by his six children, to whom he is
teaching a Christmas carol. He seems to be teaching them, but in point
of fact he is teaching the audience this charming melody, which must be
kept in mind, for it recurs at various intervals during the opera. So
the children sing at first very loud and badly. The good-natured bailiff
shakes his head and stops his ears. After a second attempt the song goes
smoothly, and during this performance Schmidt and Johann enter the
garden. These are some tavern friends of the bailiff, who lend variety
to the music by giving occasion for the inevitable drinking-song. They
compliment the children and inquire after Charlotte. "She is dressing
for a ball," answers Sophia, the bailiff's second daughter.

We might tire of this plain conversation and the buffoon manners of
Schmidt and Johann, but the accompanying music is of absorbing
interest. Massenet makes much use of counterpoint, which has been
broadly defined as the art of combining melodies. A crude but familiar
example is that wonder-inspiring piano performance of "Yankee Doodle" in
one hand with "Fisher's Hornpipe" in the other. It is interesting to
follow the various themes in Massenet's orchestra. Sometimes a bit of
the Christmas carol combines with the gruff, reeling song of Bacchus,
which, in turn, is blended with a broad and noble theme that always
appears in connection with the name of Charlotte. Another theme, that
might be characterized as severely intellectual, asserts itself whenever
the conversation turns upon Albert, her absent fiancé.

Schmidt and Johann go off arm in arm, lustily singing, "Vivat Bacchus."

Sophia enters the house, while the bailiff retires with the children to
an alcove on the veranda, where we see him patiently rehearsing that
Christmas carol, word for word.

The music now undergoes a transition, like a dreamer turning in his
sleep. There are harp-chords, arpeggios, and trills written soft and
"dim."

A richly clad traveler enters the garden, looking about him with evident
emotion. It is Werther, returned after years of absence to his native
village.

"I know not if I dream or wake," are his first words, while the
instruments recall that pastoral motif of the prelude. Birds and trees
and the limpid brook are all apostrophized in word and tone, until, with
a sunburst of rising chords, there is introduced a new and radiant
theme, eulogizing--

"All nature, full of grace,
 Queen over time and space;"

while under the spell of his emotions--for Werther is a poet and a
dreamer--there comes to him, like the song of angels, that blessed
Christmas carol which the children are singing softly and with perfect
rhythm.

The already familiar Charlotte-theme announces the heroine's entrance.
The girlish costumes of this bourgeoise character are unusually
becoming to Madame Eames; they present her in quite a new light, and her
first entrance gives a pleasing surprise to the audience.

She is embraced by the children, who love Charlotte dearly, for she is
to them both a sister and a mother. Regardless of her best gown, she now
goes to a buffet on the veranda and distributes slices of bread and
butter. This scene has prompted the epithet, "bread-and-butter opera."

In the mean time Werther is welcomed by the bailiff and introduced to
Charlotte. Sounds of gay music accompany the arrival of guests who will
take Charlotte to the ball. This festive music is unique. The bass
presents a defiant repetition of one chord that is stubbornly out of
harmony with the bright melody above, like old age shaking his head at
youthful gaiety.

It is decided that Werther shall go along to the ball. The dance-theme
is resumed, and the merry party go out. Sophia takes the children into
the house, and the bailiff goes off to the tavern, humming on the way
that comical drinking-song.

The stage grows darker, the music softer, and we hear a fragment of the
Albert-theme. It is like seeing the shadow before the person, for Albert
soon enters. He has returned unexpectedly. Sophia rushes out to greet
him, and she regrets that Charlotte is absent.

Before going into the house Albert sings to the night winds of his love,
and hopes that Charlotte on entering the garden will discover the
thoughts that he leaves.

The orchestra toys with this melody for a time, but then is diverted by
memories of the ball music. Snatches of the bewitching strain flit by in
different keys, like belated guests in vari-colored dominoes. They are
faint as phantoms--a gentle swaying of the violins, a touch of the harp,
and then they vanish. There is a pause. The moon has appeared, and the
humble garden seems transformed into a fairy bower.

Like the spirit of a dream is the melody now arising. Ethereal in its
beauty but supreme in power, it rules over the entire opera. This is the
love-theme. We are not surprised to see Werther and Charlotte enter arm
in arm. It is a familiar situation: he is "seeing her home" from the
ball. And arrived at their destination, they linger at the gate as
couples have done before and since.

Charlotte is of a serious nature, and their talk is never light. She
tells of her mother and the terrible experience of losing one so dear.
"I believe that she watches over me and knows when I do her bidding."
Charlotte's tones are full of pathos, and she becomes abstracted in her
memories, while Werther, enraptured by her goodness and beauty, gives
utterance to the feelings that enthrall him. The music grows stronger
and higher, until it breaks forth in a resounding reality of the
love-theme. Over an accompaniment of throbbing chords this superb melody
sweeps by like a meteor passing the earth; and during this luminous
transition we hear the voice of Werther, "Charlotte, I love thee!" There
follows a hush, and then a chilling, awful discord. Some one is calling
from the house, "Albert has come home!" Charlotte staggers at this news.
She explains that Albert is her betrothed--it was her mother's wish.
"May she forgive me, that for one moment at your side I forgot my vow."
Charlotte goes up the steps; she turns once, but then hastens inside.
Werther buries his face in anguish at the thought of her wedding
another.

Several months have elapsed since the events of the first act. The
elm-tree foliage is denser and the situations of the drama have changed,
but love and music remain the same.

Schmidt and Johann are discovered sitting before the tavern "of a Sunday
afternoon." Their good-natured song of Bacchus greets us like an old
friend. The church and parsonage are in plain view, and a solemn choral
from within alternates with the drinking-song without. The village is
to-day _en fête_ in honor of the pastor's golden wedding.

The serious and thoughtful Albert-theme marks the entrance of Charlotte
and Albert, who are married. They loiter on their way to church and sit
down on a bench under the trees. Very calm and tender is the music of
this little scene between husband and wife. The organ resounds the
chords of a beautiful hymn, at which summons Charlotte and Albert join
the other worshipers.

Werther has been observing the pair from a distance. When they are gone
he comes forward, exclaiming with grief and bitterness, "Wedded to
another!" The tempestuous chords of the orchestra clash into the holy
harmonies of the organ. Jagged fragments of Werther's first song of
admiration depict his shattered joy. As one holds together the pieces of
a broken vase, sadly recalling its lost loveliness, so does the
orchestra again build up that old theme in all its beauty while Werther
sings of what might have been. Rebellious at fate, he cries out: "It is
I--I alone whom she could have loved!" The succeeding aria is reckless
as a steed galloping to his death. It plunges from high tones to a sob,
and the singer, flinging himself upon a bench, buries his face in his
arms.

Albert discovers Werther thus despondent, and, suspecting the cause, he
questions him; but Werther desperately disclaims his love for Charlotte.
This interview is musically serious and sad. But suddenly the orchestra
gives us a new key, a new melody, a sprinkling of lithesome staccatos
falling like a shower of apple-blossoms. With a smile on her lips and
flowers in her hands, Sophia enters, unconscious of the surrounding
turbulent emotions. She gaily announces that they intend to dance, and
that Werther must join her in the minuet. Observing his somber
expression, she bids him cheer up, for to-day--

    "All the world is gay!
     Joy is in the air!"

This song is the most popular one of the opera. It is bright and light,
and full of fluttering phrases--a veritable song of spring.

When Albert and Sophia are gone, Werther cries out with explosive
candor, "I told a falsehood!" He is wretched beyond compare. He can not
cease loving, and he dare not cease lying.

Charlotte comes from the church, and, greeting him kindly, asks if he,
too, is going to the parsonage. They speak lightly but feel deeply, as
is evidenced by the music. That wondrous love-theme softly surrounds
them like the magic fire of the Walküre. The harmonies mount up from the
instruments like flames from living embers. A spell is upon them.
Charlotte stands mute, while Werther sings of that evening when he
touched her hand and looked into her eyes for the first time. Softly and
slowly the beautiful melody disappears, giving place to a different
chord and motif: "Albert loves me--and I am his wife!" Charlotte has
recovered herself. She entreats Werther to turn his heart elsewhere:
"Why do you love me?" This hero seems to understand himself, for he
answers: "Ask a madman why he has lost his reason!" Then Charlotte urges
him to go away for a time, say until Christmas. "Yes, until
Christmas--good-by, my friend!" She leaves before he has time to refuse.

Now follows a musical adaptation of Goethe's very poetical and ingenious
plea for suicide.

     "Do we offend Heaven in ceasing to suffer? When a son returns from
     his journey before the expected time, far from feeling resentment,
     the father hastens to greet him; and can it be that our heavenly
     Father is less clement?"

During this soliloquy we encounter strange chords in the orchestra.
Strains of a gay minuet play upon these tragic tones like rainbow colors
on the angles of a glacier.

The dance has begun, and Sophia, appearing at the parsonage door, tells
Werther that she is waiting. He walks away.

"You are leaving! But you will come back?" cries the disappointed
Sophia.

"No--never! Good-by!" and Werther turns down the road out of sight.
Either for the lost dance or the lost partner, Sophia bursts into tears.
Albert and Charlotte find her thus, and between sobs she tells them how
Monsieur Werther has gone away forever. Charlotte stands rigid, while
Albert exclaims to himself: "He loves my wife!" The gay assemblage
within the parsonage has no knowledge of this brewing tragedy, so the
minuet continues till the curtain descends.

The prelude to Act III. is somber and depressing. It clings to the
harmonies of that last scene between Charlotte and Werther--the exile
motif.

The curtain's rising reveals Charlotte sitting at her work-table, lost
in thought while her needle plies.

The soft light of the lamp illumines a _petit salon_; the hour hand of
the clock points to the figure five, and the libretto tells us it is
the 24th of December. The subject of her thoughts is Werther--always
Werther! Why can she not banish him from her mind as she did from her
presence? The question is not hard to answer, for we learn that he has
been writing to her. As tho drawn by a magnet, Charlotte goes to the
desk and reads again the letters she fain would forget. Moaning minors
like a winter wind accompany the perusal of these sad and poetic
epistles. Werther writes: "If I never return, blame me not, but weep
instead, for I shall be dead."

Terrifying tremolos accompany the tragic theme that is now let loose in
the orchestra like a strange, wild animal in the arena. It preys upon
the emotions, gnawing at the heart of every listener. Massenet delights
in startling contrasts.

While Charlotte is grieving over these missives, a happy voice greets
her, "Good day, sweet sister!" It is Sophia, come with an armful of toys
and a heart full of melody. She is accompanied by the gay staccatos of
her "Spring Song." Charlotte hastily conceals the letters; but tears are
not so easily disposed of. Perceiving the reddened eyes, Sophia tries to
cheer her sister by singing of "Laughter, the light of the heart." The
gaiety of this music, with its sparkling scales and tripping tempo, is
infectious. But tears again gather in Charlotte's eyes when Sophia
mentions the name of Werther. The little sister is very sorry; but
Charlotte says never mind, weeping does one good. "The tears we do _not_
shed fall back upon the heart, which, altho it is big, is very frail and
can break with the weight of a tear."

The music to this sentiment is a tone-poem well worthy of the text. It
is written in a low key. Joy mounts upward on the scale, but grief
weighs down.

Sophia goes out, and all the bright music with her. Falling upon her
knees, Charlotte prays for strength. This supplication is truly grand,
with superb crescendos and plaintive diminuendos.

The music now swells out with sudden impetus and the parlor door is
brusquely opened. Charlotte turns around and exclaims--with startled
tones, "Werther!"

He is leaning against the door as tho wearied in mind and body. "I tried
not to come--_mais me voici_!"

With forced calm Charlotte bids him welcome. He looks with fond memory
upon the old piano and familiar books. They talk of casual things, and
incidentally Charlotte calls his attention to the poems he was
translating when he left.

The music of this scene has been unnaturally tranquil; the gentle
Charlotte-theme and another phrase, graceful and simple as a nursery
rhyme, are used with touching effect. But with the mention of these
poems sudden emotion breaks through the constraint. Werther turns to the
unfinished verse and reads aloud.

The ensuing scene is dramatically not a new one. In "Francesca da
Rimini" the heroine is wooed and won by the reading of a poem; but added
to the charm of verse we here have the enthralling power of music. In
both instances the reading ends with--a kiss.

The succeeding aria is a song of soaring ecstasy about "_ce premier
baiser_." Werther proclaims that "only love is real!" But Charlotte
suddenly recoils at her weakness, and rushing to a side door, exclaims:
"We must never meet again! Good-by--for the last time!" and disappears.

The music has assumed a dolorous strain that vividly portrays the pathos
of her last words. Werther calls for her to come back. He knocks at the
door, but is only answered by the tragic chords of the orchestra. They
are furious and fearful, but, strange to say, they adequately express an
awful silence. "So be it!" at last exclaims the sorrowful Werther.
Crashing chords whirl riot in the orchestra as the hero hastens away.

The stage is vacated, but the music tells us whom next to expect. The
Albert-theme, easily recognizable tho a trifle harsher than before,
comes forward to preside over the finale of this act.

Albert steps into the room, surprised and preoccupied. He has met the
distracted Werther at the front door, and here finds Charlotte locked in
her room. In answer to his authoritative call she comes forward looking
pale and frightened. He questions her, but she answers evasively. At
this moment a message is handed to Albert by a servant. It is from
Werther: "I go on a long journey. Kindly lend me your pistols.
Farewell." Charlotte knows the import of these words, but dare not
speak. Perhaps Albert also knows. He coldly bids her hand the weapons to
the servant. Mutely and slowly she goes to the case and delivers the
contents as she was bid. That theme in the orchestra continues quietly
to move back and forth like a person keeping the death-watch. When the
servant has gone, Albert strides angrily out of the room. Charlotte
stands for a moment immobile. The music also seems to stand still; then
a sudden impetuous outburst of the instruments coincides with her
decision. From highest B to lowest F octaves and chords are hurled
together, as Charlotte, seizing a mantle, rushes to the door. "Pray
Heaven I may not be too late!"

We follow Charlotte in her flight. The scene changes to a view of the
village. It is Christmas eve, nearing midnight. The snow is falling in
wild gusts, but through a rift in the clouds the moon looks down upon
the peaceful town. Roofs and trees are covered with snow, while from
some of the windows household lights are gleaming. The church, too, is
lighted, but the moonlight and the snow are most prominent. Even these
however are not so important as the music. More chilling than hail or
snow are those sudden blasts of chords and octaves falling one on top of
the other, down, down until they join and melt into the steady tremolo
of the bass. Finally, like Death seated on a tombstone, the terrifying
tragic theme again looms up.

During this introduction the winter scene on the stage remains the same.
The snow continues to fall, and we hear it in the orchestra--a steady
movement of double thirds over which play varying melodies like
Christmas lights. The musicians turn their leaves once, twice, three
times, but still that slowly palpitating accompaniment goes on. There is
something appalling in this persistency. What was at first delightful
becomes oppressive, for we are somehow reminded that falling snow can
bury the living and hide the dead.

A distant bell sounds the hour of twelve. Fierce winds arise, and we see
the muffled figure of a woman struggling her way against the gale. The
tempest is again heard in the orchestra. Breathlessly we watch the
heroine's slow progress, and wonder if she will be too late.

The scene changes to a little room strewn with books and papers. A lamp
on the wooden table casts sickly rays upon the surroundings, but we can
plainly see a figure reclining on a chair near the open window. It is
Werther, pale and unconscious. Charlotte rushes in, and at sight of the
dying man is beside herself with grief. She calls him by name, and the
sound of her voice revives him. He asks her faintly to stay near him, to
pardon him and love him. While he speaks there arises from the
orchestra, like the dim visions of a dying man, that first love-theme so
full of summer gladness. Charlotte sings to him the words he has longed
to hear. This last love-song ends in a whisper. The instruments, too,
seem hushed with that mysterious silence of Christmas night. We can see
through the window the bright moonlight, for the storm has abated.

Suddenly the dying man looks up as sweet music greets his ear--

    "Noël! Noël! Noël!
     Proclaim the wondrous birth!
     Christ the Lord has come to earth!"

It is the happy children's voices singing their Christmas song in the
church. A merry carillon of the instruments accompanies the familiar
tones of Sophia's high, bright voice in the distance--

    "All the world is gay!
     Joy is in the air!"

This startling contrast of life and death has never been more
beautifully portrayed.

Werther sadly smiles, murmuring that it is his song of deliverance. He
dies in Charlotte's arms. She cries out, despairing, inconsolable, "It
is finished!" Death is in the orchestra, in the darkness, in the ensuing
silence. But suddenly, like "the morning in the bright light," those
far-away voices again sing--

    "Noël! Noël! Noël!"



Calvé and "Carmen"

[Illustration: EMMA CALVÉ.]



CALVÉ AND "CARMEN"


"Hear Calvé in 'Carmen'--and die," is the motto which heralded this
singer's first visit to America. Our curiosity was greatly aroused, for
we thought we knew all about "Carmen." We clung to the traditions of our
own Minnie Hauk who had created the rôle, and could imagine nothing
better than a trim, dainty Carmen with high-heeled slippers, short
skirts, and a Spanish mantilla.

Great was our amazement on that memorable night in 1894 when we beheld
for the first time a real cigarette girl of modern Spain. Here was a
daring innovation that at once aroused attention and new interest in the
opera. This Carmen wore high-heeled slippers, 'tis true, but somewhat
worn down and scuffed, as they must be if she was in the habit of
running over the cobblestones of Seville as she ran to the footlights
on her first entrance. And her skirts, far from being well-setting and
so short as to reveal shapely ankles and a suspicion of lace petticoats,
were of that sloppy, half-short length, which even the street girls of
London wear to-day. But most astounding of all departures was the
absence of any sign of a mantilla! How could one be Spanish without a
mantilla--any more than one could be Russian without fur! But this
Carmen had an eye to color--she could hardly otherwise be a
coquette--and in her hair at the nape of her neck was deftly tucked a
large crimson flower. Her hair, however, was carelessly pinned, and even
tumbled quite down later on--a stroke of realism which was added to by
the way she coiled it up and jabbed it into place again. A strange
performance to behold in a grand opera setting; and we might have
resented such defiance of the code had we not been forced to admit that
it was all absolutely correct, and this Carmen was more truly Spanish
than any impersonation we had seen. Even her voice seemed tropical;
such richness of tone, warmth, and color had never before been combined
in the singing of Bizet's opera. Had Bizet only lived to this day he
might have died happily, for Carmen, the child of his brain, found no
favor with the public when first introduced.

After the surprise of Madame Calvé's costume and then of her voice, New
Yorkers awoke to the fact that Carmen had never before been acted. This
performance was a revelation, a character study of a creature who
recklessly holds that it is _right_ to get all the pleasure you can, and
_wrong_ not to have what you want.

It was the evening after one of these great Carmen performances when a
knock at the prima-donna's door elicited the Parisian response--"Entrez."
Mme. Calvé's salon was brilliantly lighted and richly furnished, but it
seemed only a sombre setting to the singer's radiant self. Not that she
was gaudily gowned; on the contrary, her dress was simple, but her
personality, her smile, her animation, are a constant delight and
surprise.

Mme. Calvé is thoroughly French, and thoroughly handsome, and appears
even younger off the stage than on. She is tall and of splendid figure;
her complexion is fresh and clear, with an interesting tinge of olive,
and her eyes are black as her hair, which was arranged very pompadour.

Mme. Calvé seated herself with a half-serious, half-amused expression,
as tho to recite a lesson, and announced that she was ready and willing
to answer "toutes les questions que vous voulez." This seemed a golden
opportunity to learn all there is to know about singing. It stands to
reason that the most direct and easy method of acquiring this art is
simply to ask one of the greatest singers of the day how she does it.
Some one found out how to play the piano by asking Rubinstein, who
said--"All you have to do is to select the right keys and strike them at
the right time."

So, with this idea in view, Mme. Calvé was asked first what she thinks
of when she steps before the public--her voice, her acting, or the
music?

"I think of Carmen," she answered, "if that is the opera. I try to _be
Carmen_--that is all."

When asked if she practices her voice much during the day, Mme. Calvé
shook her head.

"No--not now. You see, I must have mercy on my poor voice and save it
for the evenings when I sing. Formerly, of course, I practiced every
day, but never more than an hour with full voice. Yes, an hour at one
time, once a day, that is all. But I studied much besides. At first I
wanted to be an actress, and for this purpose gave much time to dramatic
art. My mother was a fine musician; she is the one who urged me to
sing."

"What did you practice when you first began with the voice?--single
tones?"

Mme. Calvé looked thoughtful--she could hardly recall, until a friend
who was present suggested--"it was rather intervals and arpeggios, n'est
ce pas?" then the great Carmen quickly nodded.

"Yes--you are right; intervals at first, and not until later on,
sustained tones. I do not consider single sustained tones good for the
beginner."

In reply to a question about breathing, she answered:

"Oh, yes; all singers must practice special exercises for the breath.
What else did I do? Well, I hardly remember. I never had any trouble
with my throat or my tongue,--no, I never thought much of these."

She was then asked, by way of suggestion:

"Did you ever _hum_ in your practice?"

Now her face lighted up.

"Yes," she replied, all animation, "and, do you know, that is splendid!
I do it a great deal even yet, especially for the high tones like
this"----, and there and then, without moving a muscle, like a conjurer
materializing a flock of birds, she showered upon us a bevy of
humming-tones. They were soft, of course, but clear and perfect as tho
made with full voice, and you wanted to wrap each one in cotton and take
it home. But--they were gone!--and the singer went on speaking.

"With Mme. Marchese I used to hum a great deal. Yes, it is an excellent
practice, for it brings the tone forward right here," and she touched
the bridge of her nose.

Mme. Calvé is so genial and vivacious in conversation that you are led
to forget her position and wonderful attainments. But now and then it
flashes over you that this is the woman whose manifold art has
astonished two continents; a singer who makes any rôle she undertakes so
distinctly her own that other singers hardly dispute her right to
monopolize it. Not only is her "Carmen" a creation; Ophelia, too, she
has imbued with new interest, introducing many startling voice and
breath effects. Throughout all the mad scene she calls into use an
"eerie-tone" that is fearful in its pathos and terror.

"I love that rôle!" she exclaimed, as the subject came up. "The mad
scene! Ah, it is superb."

Even in Faust, the very Ancient of Days among operas, Mme. Calvé has
surprised us with original touches, altho it is a work that every
musician of any description has performed in some way or other. The
pianist flourishes with the waltz, or a general fantasia of the opera on
every and all occasions. The organist delights in the church-scene
music, while the violinist rhapsodizes with the love duo or a potpourri
of all the arias. Concert sopranos never cease to exploit the
Jewel-song, while the contralto's audience never tires of the famous
Flower-song. "O Sancta Medaglia" is dear to the heart of the barytone,
and the tenor has a choice of beautiful solos from the first act to the
last. Bass singers can find nothing better as a medium for gaining
public favor than Mephisto's song to the "God of Gold." Even flutist and
clarinetist resort to "Faust," the Imperishable, when they want
something sure to please. And last, but not least, the cornet:--ask any
soloist on this instrument what piece he has played most often, and, I
warrant you, he will answer, "My Faust fantaisie!" The opera singer who
does not have in her scrap-book some account of her performance as
Marguerite can hardly count herself a prima-donna. No other opera is so
essentially a piece of common property as is this Gounod's "Faust."

So much the more is Mme. Calvé's achievement to be wondered at. A very
stroke of genius is the dropping of Marguerite's prayer-book in the
excitement of her first meeting with Faust, so symbolical is it of his
effect on her life. This is more than realism--it is poetry. Again, in
the spinning-song, she creates an exquisite effect by disentangling a
knot in the thread on her wheel and at the same time slowing up with her
song and diminishing it until the wheel turns again and she resumes the
tempo.

When asked how she ever thinks of these innovations, especially the one
of inserting ecstatic little laughs in the Jewel-song, she smiled
prettily and shrugged her shoulders.

"It just comes to me in the acting--I don't know how. But I never change
the music."

She wished it impressed that, whatever her innovations, she maintains a
reverence for all of the composer's work.

There is something about Mme. Calvé that makes you feel in her presence
the subtle influence of a large heart and a grand soul. In her own land
she is famed not only for her singing, but also for her great
generosity.



"Carmen"



"CARMEN"


Every one likes "Carmen." Its popularity has been ascribed to the fact
that "the action explains itself to the eye." One might also add that
the music explains itself to the ear, for the themes are all unfurled
and displayed like so many banners. In choosing Mérimée's novel for a
libretto, Bizet recognized the growing demand for dramatic plots with
rapid action--a demand which has since evolved such one-hour tragedies
as "Cavalleria Rusticana" and "I Pagliacci." Aside from the stirring
romance and fascinating music, "Carmen" also presents very delightful
stage-pictures. The suburbs of Seville form an interesting setting, and
the characters all require brilliant costumes. A bull-fighter, two
smugglers, three gypsies, cigarette girls, and soldiers--not a plain
individual among them!

Before meeting these unusual personages we are presented with a letter
of introduction from Bizet, which, because it is written in musical
notation, the orchestra kindly interprets to us. We herein learn that
these people take their pleasures, loves, and hates at a breakneck pace.
There is a feverish excitement about the whole prelude; but at the end
we hear a tragic minor motif of passion and pain that sends a chill to
the heart. It is the Carmen-theme--Carmen herself.

A gay plaza in Seville is the first scene of action. At one side is the
guard-house, near which are a number of soldiers who mingle and converse
with the other strollers and promenaders. A gossiping, good-natured
chorus about the square and the people is the opening number. This
pleasing melody, in spite of its simplicity, has strange intervals and a
restless tempo that are thoroughly Spanish. A young peasant girl soon
enters, rather timidly. It is Michaela, the high soprano rôle, which
because of its two fine arias is often taken by a great artist, altho
the part is a subordinate one. It has frequently been sung by Madame
Eames. Michaela inquires for a brigadier called Don José. An officer
politely informs her that Don José belongs to the next guard, which will
soon arrive. With a musical phrase of dainty and condescending gallantry
he invites her to tarry with them. Michaela declines the invitation, and
uses the same musical setting for her own words. With the announcement
that she will return after a while she escapes from their entreaties.
The chorus is resumed, and the walking and talking go on as before. Soon
the fifes and drums of the relief guard are heard in the distance. The
soldiers in front shoulder arms and stand in file as the approaching
company appears, followed by a lot of street gamins who keep step and
sing to the music. This is so lively and inspiriting that we would march
and sing too if we dared. There is a satisfying quantity of this
"ta-ta-ta-ra" music. After marching to the foreground the new guards
change place with the old, who are then led away with the same
contingent of music and street boys. The soldiers and people at last
disperse, leaving Don José and a superior officer, Zuniga, conversing
together. The latter points to a large building, which he says is the
cigarette factory, where are employed many pretty girls. Don José
professes to care little for these, and we soon learn that he loves
Michaela.

The factory bell now rings, and a crowd of young men and boys at once
fill the square in eager anticipation of seeing the cigar girls. José
sits down near the guard-house and busies himself with a little chain he
is mending. The tenors sing a short pianissimo chorus about these
dark-eyed girls, whom they always court and follow. It closes with a
drooping, yearning ritardando that quite prepares us for the next
languishing measures. The factory girls enter, with cigarettes in their
mouths and a nonchalant manner that is delightful. Between puffs of
smoke they sing a slumbrous refrain that suggests the effect of
nicotine. The lingering legato melody seems to rise softly and rest in
the air until it passes away in tones so faint that Bizet has marked
them four times pianissimo.

The young men now accost the girls, and soon inquire for Carmen. "Where
is Carmen?" That tragic cry which ended the prelude is heard again in
the orchestra, but so disguised by rapid tempo as to be scarcely
recognizable, and with this theme Carmen rushes upon the scene.

Black-eyed, pearly-teethed Carmen, with cheeks like the red acacia
flowers at her throat, and her whole appearance like a splash of
sunshine!

The youths clamor about her and inquire collectively when she will love
them. Carmen bestows regardlessly some of her dangerous laughing
glances, and then sings her great song, the "Habenera," so called
because of its rhythm, which is like a Spanish dance. But no mazy,
undulating dance could be so fascinating as this song about "Love, the
child of Bohemia." The compass of its ravishing melody is within a
single octave. The notes cling lovingly together, for the intervals are
mostly half-tones; and, indeed, as Carmen sings them each one seems like
a kiss or a caress. The theme is first given in the minor, and then
softly taken up by the chorus in the major--an effect as surprising and
delightful as a sudden breeze on a sultry night. The accompaniment is
like the soft picking of mandolins, and all things combine to represent
the warm luxuriance of Spain.

During the song Carmen has perceived Don José, who continues his work
and gives her no attention whatever, which is a new experience for this
spoiled and petted cigarette girl. She purposely becomes more personal
in her song, and ends with the audacious words, "if you love me not and
I love you--beware!" With a sudden dash of impertinent coquetry she
flings a flower at Don José, and then rushes off the stage amid peals
of laughter from the others, who follow. The young soldier, thus left
alone, finds himself troubled with mingled feelings of resentment at the
girl's impudence and admiration for her beauty. He puts the flower in
his coat, but at once forgets the whole incident as he sees Michaela,
whom he joyously welcomes.

She has come to town for a day, and she brings a letter from his mother,
also some money, and still something else, which she hesitates over, but
finally delivers as it was given her--a kiss from his mother. There is
nothing of the coquette about Michaela, and her songs are all
straightforward, simple airs that win by their very artlessness. Her
message is sung with harp accompaniment, and the harmonies are pure and
clear. Then follows a duet about the mother and home in the village, and
the tenderness of this music reveals that Don José is a loving and
devoted son. When the duet is ended Michaela leaves José to read his
letter. Music as peaceful as village church bells comes from the
orchestra while the young soldier reads. He touches the letter to his
lips and is prepared to obey his mother, especially in the matter of
wedding the pretty Michaela.

His thoughts are interrupted by a wild scream from the factory and
sounds of disputing voices. A number of girls rush from the building,
all talking at once, and they fairly besiege Zuniga with explanations of
what has happened. There was a quarrel and Carmen struck another
girl--some say she did, and some say she didn't. Don José, in the mean
time, has gone into the factory and brings out the struggling Carmen. He
tells his superior officer about the affair, which ended in one girl's
being wounded by "this one." Carmen tosses her head, and when the
officer asks what she has to say in defense she looks into his face and
sings "la-la-la-la!" Her impertinence would be almost repellent were it
not that her voice is "like the wooing wind," and even her "la-la-la" is
bewitching. Further questioning only elicits the same response, and the
officer angrily declares she may finish her song in prison. He orders
Don José to fetter her hands and keep watch while he goes to make out
the order of imprisonment. While all are gone a most interesting scene
occurs between the prisoner and her keeper. The latter ties her hands,
and says he must take her soon to prison, as his superior has ordered.
Carmen, in her present attitude of charming helplessness, announces with
sweetest tones that Don José will help her, in spite of the orders,
because "I know you love me!" This is too much. When José recovers from
his astonishment at her audacity he commands her to sit still and not
speak to him--"not another word." Carmen nods her head in saucy
obedience, and talks no more; she only sings! Sings of "an inn near the
ramparts of Sevilla" where she will go to dance the Seguidilla. The song
is in the rhythm of that dance, and its sinuous melody is handled by
Carmen like a toy. She composes words to suit the occasion: "My heart
is free and willing to love whoever loves me."

Don José, who has been trying to ignore her, but without success, tells
her again to stop. She looks up with a grieved expression and her
prettiest smile, and says she is not talking, only singing to herself
and thinking; he surely cannot forbid her thinking! So she goes on
thinking aloud about a "certain officer, who is not captain, nor even
lieutenant--he is only a brigadier; but still he is great enough to win
the heart of Carmen." Such words, music, glances, and smiles are more
than Don José can resist, and it is not long before he succumbs to her
witchery. He unties her hands and asks desperately, "Carmen, Carmen, do
you mean it?" And for answer she softly sings to him that rapturous song
of the Seguidilla.

[Illustration: Copyright by Aimé Dupont, N. Y.

Calvé as Carmen.]

The orchestra now starts up a lively repetition of the last chattering
chorus, and with it the superior officer, Zuniga, reenters. He hands
José the order and bids him lead the prisoner to her destination.
Carmen holds her hands back, as tho still fettered, and she tells José
in an undertone to let her push him as they march off, and during the
commotion thus aroused she will escape. Then she turns to Zuniga, and
with the greatest effrontery favors him with a fragment of the
"Habenera" song, to which refrain she marches away with apparent
docility. The whole group of cigarette girls and young men follow after.
Just as they are turning to the bridge, Carmen escapes as she has
planned. She throws back the rope from her hands and runs off laughing.
It is fun for all but Don José, who for this neglect of duty is himself
escorted to prison.

Bizet has preceded every act with an orchestral introduction called the
_entr'acte_, which presents some important theme or portrays the
character of the scene. Thus before the curtain rises on the second act
we become familiar with a new and happy melody, which we later on
recognize and welcome. After the _entr'acte_ the stringed instruments,
with a touch of the triangle and tambourine, hold the supremacy as they
breathe forth faint, weird harmonies that flit about like moving
shadows. The scene presents an interior view of the inn "near the
ramparts of Sevilla."

It is evening, and amid the glow of soft lights Carmen and her gypsy
friends are entertaining some officers with their dancing. She further
enlivens the scene by singing a Bohemian song, whose liquid phrases fall
upon the air like the soft splashing of a fountain.

After the song and dance it is time for the inn to close, but at this
moment shouts and hurrahs are heard from without. It is a torchlight
procession in honor of Escamillo, the bull-fighter, who presently enters
amid general acclamations. He wears a gorgeous costume, and sings a
rousing song about the exciting life of a toreador. This baritone aria
is the most famous of the many popular numbers which comprise this
opera. Its strongly accented rhythm and pulsating theme immediately
suggest the blaze of lights and blare of trumpets which belong to the
arena.

Escamillo soon perceives Carmen, and as quickly falls in love. She
dismisses him with a coquettish remark that might mean much or little,
and then all depart excepting Carmen and her two gypsy friends,
Frasquita and Mercedes. These are soon joined by their comrades, the two
smugglers, who softly tell of a new enterprise which will require the
"ladies' assistance." Frasquita and Mercedes consent to leave at once.
Then follows an exquisite quintet, sung with tempo prestissimo and tones
pianissimo. Carmen suddenly astounds them with the assertion that she
can not go, and gives as her reason that she is awaiting Don José, who
to-day is released after two months' imprisonment, and further adds that
she loves him. They take this at first as a joke; but finding her
determined, they suggest that she induce José to join them. She says
she will try, and the rest hurry out as they hear the young soldier
approaching.

He is singing a gay barrack song, and thus comes to Carmen with his
heart in his voice and soul in his eyes. She welcomes him impulsively,
and ere long she sings and dances for his amusement. Her song is but an
accompaniment to the dance--a low, crooning melody without words which
resembles the contented purring of a magnificent feline as she glides
and sways with a splendid grace around the infatuated José. A bugle-call
is heard in the distance, a summons the soldier must obey, and he stops
Carmen in the midst of her dance. She thinks he is joking and commences
again; but when she actually realizes that he is going to leave her,
that he finds it _possible_ to leave, a perfect whirlwind succeeds the
sirocco. She throws him his cap and sword, and bids him go forever if
such is his love. Poor Don José remonstrates, but she will not listen
until at last he forces her to hear how real and true is his love for
her. He draws from his coat the little flower she threw at him two
months ago, and he tells how, during all his days in prison, it was his
dearest treasure. This music is more like the song of a pilgrim at a
sacred shrine than a song of love, it is so simple and sincere. Its
tenderness seems to reach even the heart of Carmen, for she now turns
and with entreating looks and wooing tones she coaxes him to go with her
and lead the free life of a bandit.

The accompaniment is like the distant prancing of wild horses and the
melody like the forest wind, low as a whisper, but sweeping before it
all the fluttering doubts of a weak conscience. It is desertion,
disgrace, dishonor, that Carmen asks of him, and José recoils. He is
just on the point of refusing when a knock at the door is heard and
Zuniga enters. He is himself in love with Carmen, and has presumed thus
to return after the others have gone, in hopes of finding her alone. On
discovering the presence of Don José he is angry and orders him away;
but José's jealousy is also aroused and he firmly refuses to obey. A
duel would ensue did not Carmen quickly call her friends. They seize
Zuniga, and to avoid being denounced must keep him prisoner until they
have made sure their escape. Carmen turns to José and asks once more if
he will be one of them. As there is now no alternative, he consents,
whereupon Carmen with light steps and light heart rushes to his arms
like a sunbeam, dispelling for the moment all clouds of memory and
doubt. The free, fearless measures of her mountain song are heard again
as all sing about the gypsies' life of liberty. They all go off as the
curtain falls.

The next _entr'acte_ is sometimes called the intermezzo, for it divides
the opera--the comedy from the tragedy--and it contains the first
premonition of sorrow. As the curtain rises we hear a stealthy,
shivering theme that well characterizes the scene before us--a wild,
picturesque ravine, which is the smugglers' retreat. Some gypsies are
reclining on the rocks; others soon enter, and sing a quite enticing
chorus about the dangers and pleasures of their profession. Two leaders
of the band then go off to reconnoiter, while the others rest. Don José
is seen standing on one of the rocks, and when Carmen rather moodily
inquires his thoughts he tells her of his mother in the village, who
still believes him to be an honest man. Carmen coldly advises him to go
back to her. Quick as thought-suggestion the orchestra recalls the
tragic motif which we had almost forgotten. It causes us to feel with
José the sting of Carmen's words.

Our attention is now directed to Frasquita and Mercedes, who are seated
on a bale of goods and trying their fortunes. A light staccato
accompaniment sustains their still lighter song. The dainty measures are
flung up like bubbles, reflecting the gay colors of the cards, which
chance to be all diamonds and hearts. Carmen also tries her luck, but
only the dark cards fall to her--death, always death; and to the
superstitious gyspy this is like a knell. Again that tragic, mournful
theme, like the extended hand of fate, feels its way slowly but surely
through the orchestra, and then Carmen sings a meditative, melancholy
refrain about the cards whose "decrees are never false." The music is in
a low key, as tho kept under and depressed by her despair, and it
touches our sympathy to see the sunny, frivolous Carmen for once
thoughtful.

The two smugglers presently return and report that three coast-guards
intercept the way. The girls promise to entertain and divert these while
the men make off with the booty. To the strains of a rollicking chorus
they all go out, after stationing Don José as watch on one of the
highest rocks. At this moment Michaela, with a guide, comes timidly
forward. She has dared to follow the smugglers to this retreat for the
purpose of seeing José and begging him to return. She has tried to be
brave, but her heart now trembles, and this fact she confesses in her
beautiful and best aria, "Je dis que rien" ("I say that nothing shall
terrify me"). As she begs Heaven to strengthen her courage, the soft
arpeggios of the instruments seem to rise like incense and carry her
sweet prayer with them. She presently perceives José in the distance and
tries to attract his attention, but he is watching another intruder--on
whom he now fires. Michaela hides herself in terror as Escamillo enters
and philosophically studies the newly made bullet-hole in his cap. Don
José also comes down to interrogate this visitor. The toreador
good-naturedly informs him that he has fallen in love with a gypsy girl,
Carmen, and comes to find her. He also adds, "It is known that a young
soldier recently deserted his post for her, but she no longer loves
him." Jealousy seems but a feeble word to describe the feelings of Don
José on hearing this. He quickly reveals his identity and challenges the
toreador. After a short duet, which contains chromatic crescendos of
blind fury for the tenor and insolent intervals for the baritone, they
fight. Carmen, for the second time, averts a duel by her timely
entrance. She calls for help, and the whole troupe of gypsies rush in.
They separate the rivals and order them to suspend their quarrel, as all
is now arranged for the journey. Before bidding farewell Escamillo
invites all to his next bull-fight in Seville. "Whoever loves me will
come,"--this with a tender look to Carmen that maddens José.

Escamillo goes off and the others also start, but they suddenly discover
Michaela in her hiding-place and bring her forward. She is frightened
and rushes to José for protection, begging him to go home with her.
Carmen cruelly seconds this entreaty, and then José turns upon her:
"Take care, Carmen!" The words are menacing, but not so the music. José
suffers more than he hates, and, instead of the rising tones of anger,
the harmonies which struggle upward are continually repulsed as they
reach the top, like a wild bird that beats its wings against prison
bars. When Michaela finally tells him that his mother is dying, Don José
consents to go. He calls out to Carmen, "We shall meet again!" She pays
little heed to his words, but a glad smile lights her features as she
hears in the distance the song of the toreador. And with this melody the
act ends.

The final scene represents the gates of the arena where occurs the great
bull-fight, and the preceding _entr'acte_ is like the flaming
advertisement of a circus, exciting and enthusing from first to last.
The opening chorus is sung by venders who throng the square and cry
their wares. After this the arena music announces the entrance of the
performers. They come in on horseback, and amid enthusiastic greetings
from the crowd ride into the arena. Escamillo, the hero of the hour,
enters with Carmen at his ride. The public cry, "Vive, Escamilla!" and
burst into a vociferous singing of the "Toreador Song." Carmen is
radiant as the dawn, and the bull-fighter wears colors and spangles
that quite eclipse any soldier's uniform. Before he enters the ring they
sing a love-duet that displays more depth of feeling than we should
expect from a Zingara.

When the toreador has gone and the arena gates are closed, Mercedes and
Frasquita anxiously inform Carmen that Don José has been seen in the
crowd, and they urge her to leave; but she declares she is not afraid of
José or any one. They leave her alone, and presently the rejected lover
appears before her. But not in anger or to avenge does Don José present
himself. He is too utterly dejected and broken-hearted for that. He
comes only to entreat and plead for her love. Before he speaks we are
warned by the ever-terrible death-theme, which has hung over the whole
opera like a suspended sword, that the end is near. But Don José does
not know this. Neither does Carmen, else perhaps she would not so
ruthlessly spurn him when he begs her to go with him and begin a new
life. When he piteously asks if she no longer loves him, her answer is a
decisive "Non; je ne t'aime plus." But words have lost their sting for
poor José. In a minor melody, that seems to cry out for pity, he says he
loves her still. He offers to remain a bandit--anything, all things! And
then the pathetic minor melody breaks into the major as he desperately
adds: "Only, Carmen, do not leave me!" At this moment a fanfare and
applause are heard in the arena, which cause Carmen's face to glow with
pleasure as she thinks of Escamillo. She tries to rush past Don José
into the amphitheater, but he intercepts her and forces her to confess
that she loves this man whom they applaud. Once again the gay fanfare is
heard, and Carmen tries to pass.

It is now that the tragic motif takes possession of the orchestra and
dominates all else. Fearful and appalling sound those five notes which
form the theme as they are repeated in various keys. In a frenzy of
anguish Don José asks Carmen for the last time to go with him. She
refuses, and then, as the toreador's song of triumph announces his
success, José stabs the beautiful gypsy, who falls at his feet like a
crushed butterfly. The gates of the arena are thrown open and its
glittering pageant comes forth, while José, with insane grief, calls
out, "I have killed her--Carmen--whom I adored!"

There is no climax more thrilling on the lyric stage than this death of
Carmen.



"Hamlet"



"HAMLET"


Of all Shakespeare's plays, Hamlet is the most difficult to surround
with music and adapt for the lyric stage. It is more scholastic than
dramatic, and for this reason composers have passed it by with the
single exception of Ambroise Thomas. His accomplishment certainly
deserves more commendation than was bestowed by an irate critic who
said: "There are four weary, dreary acts before you come to the music."
This assertion is correct in one way, for the opera is indeed
long--quite too long; but there is, nevertheless, much that is beautiful
in those four acts preceding the mad scene. But even were this not the
case, that last scene is so exquisite that it would atone for any amount
of previous ennui.

Thomas has given his principal rôle to the baritone, which seems an
innovation. Whenever a lower voice has been honored with the leading
rôle in a grand opera the reason is found in the character, as the
jovial Barber of Seville, the deformed Rigoletto, the accursed Flying
Dutchman; but the tenor has always held undisputed possession of the
lover's part. It takes us some little time to become reconciled to this
baritone-voiced young prince. But we finally realize that he is less a
lover than a philosopher, which probably explains why Thomas turned from
the tenor.

The opera opens with a short and somber prelude that closely resembles
the later introduction to the ghost-scene. It is therefore more
descriptive of the melancholy Dane than of the first act, which is
brilliant throughout. The curtain rises upon a state hall in the palace,
where have been celebrated the wedding and coronation of Claudius and
Gertrude, brother and widow of the late king. A sturdy march that is
quite Danish in character accompanies the grand entrance of the king and
queen. That music can express a nationality is clearly evinced by this
march, which possesses a rugged, North-sea atmosphere that differs from
all others. The first aria is given by the king, who eulogizes his
new-made wife, "our sometime sister, now our queen." After this bass
solo with its pleasing rhythm and satisfying cadences the queen inquires
for her son Hamlet, who is not among the revelers. But her anxieties are
drowned by the festive music that recommences and continues until the
entire court have made their exit.

The music now changes to a meditative, minor mood, which announces the
entrance of Hamlet. He shares no joy on this occasion of his mother's
wedding, and his first words are a short recitative about "frailty, thy
name is woman."

His soliloquy is followed by a phrase in the orchestra--a timid,
questioning sort of introduction which before the opera is over we learn
to associate with the gentle Ophelia. She enters and addresses Hamlet,
her betrothed, with an anxious inquiry about his intended departure from
Denmark. On learning from his own lips that the report is true, she asks
why he leaves, and begins to doubt his love. There is a daintiness and a
delicacy to all of Ophelia's music; and in this short melody, so
admirably blended with the accompaniment, there is a wooing charm that
diverts even Hamlet from his grief. He clasps her hands, and with
thrilling fervor bids her--

    "Doubt that the stars are fire.
       Doubt that the sun doth move,
     Doubt Truth to be a liar,
       But never doubt I love."

This is the great theme of the opera, the center-stone of the musical
crown that the French composer has given to Shakespeare's Hamlet. Its
love-laden melody would carry conviction to a less trusting heart than
Ophelia's. She receives it like truth from heaven. Its memory lingers
ever, and even in her after madness, when the words have no meaning, we
hear them again "like sweet bells jangled out of tune." There follows a
duet based upon Hamlet's vow. The soprano voice occasionally runs up in
some happy little roulades which seem like the outburst of joy which can
not confine itself to the prescribed theme. However long the whole
opera, we certainly could not spare a note from the love-duet; it ends
only too soon.

Ophelia's brother, Laertes, comes in. He is a soldier, and has just
received a commission which requires his speedy departure; so he sings a
farewell to his sister and bids Hamlet be as a brother to her in case he
never returns. This first and only cavatina of Laertes is well worth a
good artist. It is melodious and pleasing, even when compared to the
previous duet. As he finishes, gay music is heard from the inner hall.
Ophelia asks Hamlet to join the festivities, but he declines and retires
sorrowfully as some pages and young officers enter. They sing a unique
and merry chorus without accompaniment, which is interrupted by the
entrance of Horatio and Marcellus, who inquire for Hamlet. They declare
they have seen the ghost of the late king, and seek to apprise Hamlet of
the fact. The merry-makers laugh and call it a delusion; but the two
friends continue their search for the young prince. The dance music is
resumed, and so fascinating and emphatic is its rhythm that our pulses
throb in tempo long after the curtain descends.

The second act represents the esplanade outside of the castle. It is a
chilly moonlight night--a sharp contrast to the beam of lights from
within and the blare of dance music which ever and anon reaches our
ears. But the prelude which opens the act is thoroughly descriptive of
the scene before us. It has deep, rumbling tremolos and chilling
chromatic crescendos, with here and there a moaning, wo-weighted theme
that is piteous to hear. There is much singing without orchestra and
much orchestra without singing in this scene of the esplanade, which
accounts for the charge against it of being "rather thin ghost music."
Horatio and Marcellus are the first to enter. They are soon joined by
Hamlet, to whom they recount the strange visitation of the previous
night. As they wait and watch for the specter to reappear, a gay fanfare
from the palace jars upon the stillness. Strains of the wedding-march
are heard, and there seems abundant reason for the dead king to rise
from his grave! Hamlet utters expletives over the mockery of such gaiety
within, while "here is the shadow of mourning." His words are
accompanied by an oft-repeated minor phrase of four notes which is
stealthy and fearful. This ghost-theme alternates with a single
monotonous tone that represents the twelve strokes of a clock. Hamlet
hushes his singing; there is a soft, eerie tremolo of the violins; the
pale moonlight falls upon the castle's turreted towers. Marcellus and
Horatio speak in whispers, when suddenly the orchestra gives a great
crash of brass and cymbals that makes your blood freeze. The phantom
has appeared. Now follows the incantation, so called because Hamlet
conjures the spirit to speak to him. This music is based entirely upon
the four-note ghost theme, which is elaborated and carried by the
orchestra through many forms. At last the specter speaks, and in a deep
monotone informs Hamlet how he was murdered by the present King. His own
brother stole his life, his wife, and his throne. He bids Hamlet avenge
this terrible crime, and then disappears. Hamlet cries out in a theme
large and grand, "Farewell to fame, love, and happiness!" Revenge shall
hereafter be the aim of his life.

The peaceful love-music greets our ears as we look upon the next scene,
which reveals the gardens of the palace. The superb theme of Hamlet's
vow rings out in clear, untroubled octaves as the fair Ophelia comes
forward with a book in her hand. She is trying to read, but thoughts of
Hamlet constantly intrude themselves. "He has not touched my hand for
quite two days, and seems to avoid my presence." She again turns to her
book and reads aloud. Ophelia reads very beautifully. Thomas has with
music conveyed the impression of enunciating words from a book. We would
know she was reading even if the book were not visible nor the words
audible, and yet it is not by means of a monotone that this idea is
conveyed. It is a simple song melody, and the effect is probably due to
the rhythm rather than the intervals. After reading one stanza, Hamlet's
vow--that theme so deep and true--is again heard, and the hero himself
comes thoughtfully upon the scene. He is in the background, but Ophelia
has seen him, and she quickly makes a pretense of reading. She listens
for every step as he draws nearer, and believes he will speak. He sees
her and at first comes forward, but then remembers that he has foresworn
love; and thinking she has not seen him, he quietly retires. Poor
Ophelia throws down her book in wildest grief, and a song of despair
springs from her heart. "Vows have wings and they fly with the dawn;
the day which gives them birth also sees them die." Every note is like a
tear, and the harmonies are plaintive and pitiful.

The queen presently enters and is grieved to find Ophelia weeping. The
latter explains that Hamlet no longer loves her, and she begs permission
to leave the court; but the queen puts other ideas in her head. She says
that Hamlet has also acted strangely toward her, and she believes his
mind is affected. For this reason she asks Ophelia to remain, and hopes
her presence may restore him. This first song of the queen, who must
have a mezzo-soprano voice of dramatic quality, combines dignity and
pathos. Its mood does not contrast, but harmonizes with the previous
aria. Ophelia accepts the queen's advice, and then goes off as the king
enters. He confers with his wife about Hamlet's alarming behavior, but
their conversation is interrupted by the prince himself, who greets them
moodily and assumes more vagaries than he feels. He is constantly
seeking to entrap the king into some sign or remark which will verify
the ghost's charge of murder. He has therefore planned to have a play
enacted which shall depict the king's crime. His invitation to this
theatrical entertainment is welcomed by the unsuspecting king and queen,
who are delighted that he thus seeks diversion. As they go off, Hamlet
exclaims tragically, "Patience, my father, patience!" and the orchestra
reveals to us thoughts of revenge, for we hear again that ponderous and
melancholy theme which ended the ghost scene.

Hamlet is now joined by the actors whom he has engaged for the play.
They sing a characteristic chorus about their several talents, and then
Hamlet explains to them the plot they are to enact--how a king whom he
calls Gonzago shall be poisoned by his brother, who afterward places the
crown on his own head and marries the widow. After this preliminary,
Hamlet calls for wine and bids the players make merry. He sings to them
a drinking-song of dazzling exuberance.

It is strange how universally successful operatic composers are in the
matter of drinking-songs. You can name off-hand more popular _chansons
Bacchic_ than any other one style of aria. There are various well-known
serenades and prayers and spinning-songs, but of drinking-songs there
are any number. "Lucrezia Borgia," "Rigoletto," "Traviata," "Huguenots,"
"Cavalleria Rusticana,"--their drinking-songs are heard every day on the
hand-organs in the street. And so in "Hamlet" its drinking-song is one
of the most celebrated numbers of the opera. Its bubbling rhythm and
hilarious melody are continued even after the song is ended and the
curtain descends. It lingers like the effect of wine.

Act III. is the play scene. There is a small stage erected at one side
of the spacious palace hall, and opposite this is a throne for the king
and queen. The orchestra carries everything before it with the rousing
Danish march which accompanies the ceremonious entrance of the entire
court. This composition ranks with the drinking-song in popularity. When
all are assembled, Hamlet places himself in a position to watch the
king, and as the mimic play proceeds he explains the action, which is
all in pantomime. The orchestral descriptive music of this play within a
play is beautiful and interesting. As in Ophelia's reading, the simple
melody and hesitating rhythm again convey the impression of something
inserted, something apart from the real action of the play. Hamlet
becomes more and more excited as the play goes on, for he sees
unmistakable signs of uneasiness in the king's expression; and when at
last the mimic murderer pours poison into the ear of his sleeping
victim, the king rises in anger and orders the players away. Hamlet in a
delirium of vengeful joy cries out the king's guilt. He pushes his way
through the surrounding courtiers, and with unbridled fury accuses the
murderer. He is sustained by a perfect tidal wave of chords from the
orchestra, which dash and beat and break, but only harm the good ship
they bear instead of the rock they attack. The people regard Hamlet's
charge as an outburst of madness, and he presently lends credence to
this belief by singing with wild hilarity the drinking-song of the
previous act. The following strong and seething chorus of dismay is
again interrupted at the very end by Hamlet's mad song--

    "Life is short and death is near;
     We'll sing and drink while yet we may."

With a wild mocking laugh he falls into Horatio's arms as the king and
court withdraw.

The great feature of the fourth act is the scene between Hamlet and his
mother, but there is much besides. The scene represents the queen's
apartment in the palace, and the first number is Hamlet's soliloquy. He
blames himself and deems it cowardice that he did not strike the king
dead when he had the opportunity. Then follows the musical arrangement
of "To be or not to be," a speech so unsuited to music that Thomas has
cut it down to a few lines. Hamlet presently sees the king approaching,
and he conceals himself behind a curtain with the intention of attacking
him. But the king thinks himself alone, and in agony of mind he kneels
on the prie-dieu and prays. It is an impressive composition, this prayer
with its cathedral harmonies and blending accompaniment. Hamlet glides
softly toward the door, for he can not kill even his father's murderer
at prayer. The king, who has heard the footsteps, cries out in terror,
for he fancies it was the ghost of his brother. Polonius, the father of
Ophelia, quickly enters and reassures the king. They walk out arm in
arm, and from their few words it is gleaned that Polonius was an
accomplice to the crime. Hamlet hears them, and is horrified to learn
this fact about Ophelia's father. At this moment the queen and Ophelia
enter, and the former announces to Hamlet that it is her wish as well
as the king's that his marriage shall take place at once. The prince
blankly refuses to obey in spite of the queen's urging; but his heart
endures a struggle when the poor Ophelia sings of her grief and returns
to him his ring. The sweet minor strain in her song implies a sad
resignation that is more touching than intense lamentation. She goes out
weeping. The queen then turns to Hamlet and upbraids him for his
faithlessness. She presently recurs to the terrible scene at the play,
and utters the famous words, "Thou hast thy father much offended."

The scene which follows demands great dramatic ability of the queen, as
well as vocal strength. After a sharp and active recitative dialog, in
which Hamlet announces himself as her judge and no longer her son, she
sings a fine entreaty that the tenderness of the son may mitigate the
severity of the judge. It is a strong and powerful theme, but Hamlet is
obdurate. He contrasts the late king with the present one in words and
tones that make his mother cower. She again pleads for mercy and
forgiveness, and finally falls in a swoon as the stage is darkened and
the ghost appears. Hamlet trembles before this admonisher. The music of
the incantation is again heard, and the phantom bids Hamlet spare his
mother, but "fail not to avenge." As the ghost disappears the
instruments are weighted with that great and gloomy theme of revenge
which seems to descend and enwrap the whole scene like a dark, heavy
mist. The queen awakens; but there is little more seen or heard before
the curtain falls.

Act V. is known as the Mad Scene, one of the most beautiful, most ideal,
and most difficult creations ever put upon the lyric stage. It is seldom
performed, merely because there are few artists who can adequately
render its astonishing music. There are other mad scenes in existence.
The one from "Lucia di Lammermoor" is very celebrated, but its music no
more expresses the vagaries of madness than does any other florid aria.
Of course, lavish colorature seems appropriate and is considered
imperative; but Donizetti's florid fancies are mere plumes and flounces
draped upon a melody, whereas with Thomas these form the texture of the
theme. The French composer well knows the worth of his mad music, and he
has taken pains to present it most advantageously. You are not ushered
at once from the grim and gruesome harmonies of the last act to this
wealth of inspiration, but are first entertained by a ballet of
shepherds and shepherdesses. During this dance we become accustomed to
the beautiful rural landscape, the gentle stream at the back and the
drooping willows. We are also brought under the spell of a different
kind of music; these pastoral ballet motifs are very charming. They are
light and fantastic, but at the same time suggest a midsummer peace and
tranquillity.

At last the dainty dance is ended, and then the rustic group perceive a
strange figure approaching--a beautiful maid, with her flowing hair
adorned with bits of straw and wild flowers. Her white dress is torn,
and her bare arms carry a straggling bunch of flowers which she plays
with and caresses. That exquisite inquiring little introduction which we
heard in the first act again announces the entrance of Ophelia. She
glances a moment at the pretty peasants, and then, with intuitive
politeness, asks permission to join in their sport. There is a subtle
pathos about this first little phrase, which is sung without
accompaniment, and is simple as a child's question. She goes on to tell
them how she left the palace at dawn and no one has followed. "The tears
of night were still on the ground and the lark poured forth its morning
song." A perfect bird-throat warble of trills and fluttering staccatos
follows this memory of the lark. But her thoughts are varied, and she
suddenly turns and asks: "Why do you whisper to each other? Don't you
know me? Hamlet is my betrothed, and I--I am Ophelia." Then she tells
them, in tones that rest upon the accompaniment like lilies on a lake,
how Hamlet vowed always to love her and that she has given him her heart
in exchange. "If any one should tell you that he will leave and forget
me, do not believe it. Believe nothing they tell you, for Hamlet is my
betrothed, and I--I am Ophelia." But in spite of this assertion of
Hamlet's faith, there is throughout all the music a ring of perpetual
pain. She clasps her hand to her head with terror, and exclaims: "If he
were false I think I should lose my reason!"

[Illustration: Copyright by Aimé Dupont, N. Y.

Calvé as Ophelia in "Hamlet."]

The flowers again hold her attention, and she plays with them as the
orchestra commences a ravishing waltz theme. She at first pays little
heed to the music, but its gay melody at last drifts to her soul and
finds immediate expression. The difficult phrases fall from her lips
like petals from a flower. Gleeful chromatics and happy trills are also
thrown in, and we would soon forget it was the sad Ophelia did she not
suddenly tire of this extravagant virtuosity. She turns to the
shepherds and bids them harken to the song she will sing. Then follows a
ballad whose moaning, minor harmonies sound like a sighing breeze. It is
about the sirens beneath the water who lure men to its glassy depths.
The wearied, worried mind of the mad girl now revels in a wild, merry
laugh, which is as quickly followed by passionate sobs; but she finally
remembers to finish her song about the siren. This strange, sad melody
possesses a weird charm that is irresistible. Again she breaks into
hilarious laughter and uncontrolled weeping. Grief without hope and joy
without memory alternate in rapid succession. The music of this portion
defies description. It is a perfect conflagration of impossible
staccatos and scales. With one last sweeping chromatic run, that rushes
like the whistling wind from low D to high E, Ophelia kneels down with
her flowers and thinks only of them. The peasants retire from the scene,
and the orchestra take up fragments of the waltz.

They play for some moments, while Ophelia contentedly rearranges her
bouquet. But presently a wonderful change comes over the music. We hear
only the string instruments and flute, and soon these, too, are hushed,
while out of the air a magical song arises. It is the siren's ballad,
faint as a vision but with full harmonies. Thomas has produced this
effect of dream-music by having the chorus sing behind the scenes with
closed mouth. This soft humming of a hidden chorus well resembles the
buried voices of water-nymphs. Ophelia at once recognizes the song, and
she is drawn by the music toward the stream, where she hopes to see the
sirens. All unconscious, she pushes her way through the rushes and reeds
on the bank. The chorus has ceased, and only the tender, liquid tones of
the harp now fill the air. Ophelia steps too far and soon falls into the
"weeping brook." Her dress bears her up for a time, and we hear her
sweetly singing as she floats down the stream. It is no longer the
ballad or the gay waltz, but quite another theme to which her memory now
clings. It is Hamlet's glorious vow--

    "Doubt that the sun doth move.
       Doubt truth to be a liar,
     But never doubt I love."

Ophelia ends her song with a lingering high note of such silvery beauty
that it seems like a far-away star in the dark night of death.



A Talk with Lillian Nordica

[Illustration: Copyright by Aimé Dupont, N. Y.

LILLIAN NORDICA.]



A TALK WITH LILLIAN NORDICA


It was during one of Patti's farewell seasons at the old Academy of
Music that a young American girl, by the name of Lillian Norton, first
appeared as a prima donna. She made a success, but not a sensation, for
she had not then the halo of a European glory, and people were in those
days too intent on the passing star to note any rising one.

But later on, when she Italianized her name, they applauded the same
voice more loudly, tho their attention was still more directed to the
foreign artists who appeared every year.

The American girl all this time never relaxed her determination, but
kept on working with a will, learning rôles there was no prospect of
using, and studying all things in her line. At last she was engaged by
the Metropolitan Opera Company; but her name was not printed at the top
of the list, and she was not held out as the magnet to fill the house on
the opening night. In the end, tho, she sang oftener than any of the
other sopranos, for when they were indisposed she it was that always
came forward. _There was never a rôle she could not sing, and never a
time she was not ready._

The dormant appreciation of her countrymen became at last thoroughly
aroused. Since then her success has swept onward with unabating force.
The following season in New York the enthusiasm she inspired was so
great that one large club of opera-goers presented her with a diamond
tiara, and the people that year had to stand in line when buying seats
to hear Madame Lillian Nordica.

The Waldorf-Astoria, where she lives when in New York, is quite a
contrast to the humble New England home in Farmington, Me., where she
was born. This hotel is a city in itself, and the visitor who inquires
for some distinguished resident is conducted personally along the marble
avenues and carpeted byways and through the beautiful "palm-garden." The
door of Madame Nordica's apartment was opened by a white-capped maid,
who seated the caller and then left the room. It was the day of a
blizzard, and from this sixth-floor elevation the snow-storm without was
of superb fury. It battered against the window as tho maddened by the
sight within of the prima donna's cosy parlor, of the shaded electric
lights, the wide-open grand piano, and the numerous long-stemmed roses,
in various tall jars, fragrant and peaceful as a summer's day. Through
the silken draperies of a doorway could be heard the sound of voices, of
occasional laughter, and then--a scale, a trill, and a soft high note.
It was an exquisite grand-opera effect with the whistling storm by way
of orchestral accompaniment.

Soon the curtains were parted and Madame Nordica entered--a woman of
regal height and figure, but with manners thoroughly American and
democratic.

"Do you mean to say you came through all this storm to see me! You are
certainly very brave." These were her first words; then she drew up a
comfortable chair, and added: "Well, it's just the sort of day to talk
and take things easy."

Madame Nordica's tones convey even more than her words, for her voice is
noticeably beautiful in conversation. It is fascinating in its variety,
its softness, and its purity. Her face is also very expressive, as well
as beautiful, with a complexion remarkably fine, teeth of absolute
perfection, and thoughtful blue eyes set well apart.

She wore a house-gown of pale, clinging blue silk, and, with the
exception of her wedding ring, had on no jewelry.

She told first of her birthplace and home.

"I was the sixth girl, and I think my parents were rather tired out by
the time I came. I wasn't even baptized!" Then she talked of her work.

"I studied first in Boston, and sang there in church; but I made my
concert début here in New York with Gilmore at the old Madison Square
Garden. He took me with him afterward to Europe. When I returned to
America I sang in all the Italian operas, especially Verdi's."

Madame Nordica still holds to-day a supreme place as a singer of the
Italian school, altho her greatest fame has been won in the Wagner
rôles.

When asked if she had ever met Verdi, the singer replied in the
affirmative.

"I met him in Italy, but only once. I was much better acquainted with
Gounod, and also the modern composers, Leoncavallo, Mascagni, etc., but
now I devote my chief time to Wagner."

This led to inquiries about Madame Cosima Wagner.

"Ah, I lived right with her for three months, and it was a great
privilege for me. Her husband's music is to her like her very eyes. She
taught me the German and helped me in every way. 'Lohengrin' had never
been sung in Baireuth, and I was to create there the rôle of Elsa."

A remarkable honor this was, indeed: to be the first Elsa in Wagner's
own temple, under the guidance of his own wife, with the grave of the
great composer fairly in sight, and memories of the "Mad King" on all
sides--the king whose ears were deaf to the functions of state, but open
to the art of heaven.

"It was a great opportunity for me, but I sometimes thought I would have
to give it up. Oh! I have been so discouraged! I have wept _barrels of
tears_!"

This is a kind message for the great singer to send to the many
struggling aspirants who may to-day be working under discouragement.

Madame Nordica insists that "work is everything. The voice is but the
material; it is the stone from which the cathedral is built."

After her great success in Baireuth, the American prima donna sang Elsa
in New York.

"But I had to sing again in Italian, for the rest of the company had not
learned the German. It was through my efforts that they have since
studied these rôles in the original, and we now sing all the Wagner
operas in German."

It was a great musical event when Jean de Reszke and Madame Nordica
appeared as Tristan and Isolde. This love-tragedy done in music is
perhaps the most profound of all operas. It is somber with sorrow
throughout; even the great love-duet in the second act is too intense
and grand in its motifs ever to be called happy. It is not the joyous
emotion of youth, but the fervor of maturity, where life itself is
staked for a mighty love. This second act is a wondrous musical scene.
It is in the moonlit gardens of the Cornish castle where Tristan and
Isolde meet clandestinely, while Bragaende, the faithful attendant,
keeps watch in the tower above. She is not seen, but the calm sustained
tones of her watch-tower song soar out in contrast to the intense
love-music like a beacon-light on a turbulent sea.

Another very popular rôle of Madame Nordica's, tho altogether different
in style, is Valentine in "The Huguenots." Her sustained and crescendoed
high C in the third act of this opera is worth a long journey to hear.
Madame Fursch-Madi in years agone used to sing this rôle very grandly,
but she was plain of feature; whereas with Madame Nordica her Valentine
is so beautiful to behold that the audience is aroused to greatest
sympathy with the hero's struggle between love and duty.

"Our art is so very legitimate," Madame Nordica thoughtfully remarked.
"The painter or the writer can take advice, can be assisted, and has
time to consider his work; but we must face the music alone, at the
point of the bayonet as it were, for every tone must come at the right
moment and on the right pitch. The actress has neither of these
requirements to meet. It is very trying, also, to sing one night in
German and the next time in some other language. Indeed, every
performance is a creation. No wonder we are so insistent on the
applause. A painter or writer can say to himself, if his work is not at
first well received, 'Just wait till I am dead!' But our fate and fame
are decided on the spot."

Madame Nordica grew enthusiastic as she talked, and her face was all
animation.

"It is easy to criticize us, but hard for an outsider to appreciate the
difficulties of our art. No one is in a place he does not deserve--at
least not for any length of time. And I believe, too, that no one lacks
for opportunity. When people say, So-and-so has a beautiful voice, and
ought to be on the Metropolitan stage, just inquire what that person can
do. Very likely she only knows one language, and probably can not sing a
single act of one opera straight through. Why should she be on the
Metropolitan stage? A girl came to me not long ago who had been singing
with some English opera company. She had a beautiful voice and said she
could sing everything, which I found to be true. I asked why she did not
go to Mr. Grau, and she replied, quite disheartened, that he would do
nothing for her. Then I asked, 'Are you ready for _anything_? I feel
quite sure he could use you now as the page in "Romeo and Juliet."' 'Oh,
I wouldn't sing a secondary rôle!' she quickly exclaimed. Now that girl
makes a great mistake. To sing well one beautiful aria on the same stage
with such artists as the two De Reszkes and Madame Melba would do her
more good than to sing the first rôles in a poor company."

Madame Nordica spoke very earnestly as she related this story of a lost
opportunity, which so plainly points its own moral. Another incident she
told gives the reverse side of the same idea:

"I remember one day some singers were discussing another member of their
company, and claiming that he did not deserve his high position; but I
protested, and said: 'Just consider what that man can do. He knows
every language, has a fine stage presence, a good voice, and can sing
every rôle in the repertoire. Now where will you get another to fill his
place?'

"Our art to-day is very different from what it used to be. People wonder
who will replace Patti or some other retiring singer; but if one should
appear who adequately filled the vacant place, we would at once hear
people saying, 'She only sings coloratura rôles and nothing but
Italian!' No, the great artist to-day is the one who has mastered all,
who does the work of three in former years, and not one who shines forth
temporarily in a few special rôles."

Madame Nordica can certainly speak with authority on this point, for she
is one whom we may truly say has "mastered all." Her repertoire is
astonishing in its scope and variety; and when we consider that out of
eighty-seven million people, which is our present population, including
the colonies, she is the only one to-day who sings the three
"Brünhildes" of Wagner and also his "Isolde," we can then better
appreciate Madame Nordica's achievement. It needs a very great mind to
grasp and portray these Wagnerian creations. Brünhilde, the war goddess,
must be both tender and heroic--as it were, divinely human. No composer
but Wagner could have imparted these qualities; but he was himself a
sort of musical Jove, who wielded the scale like a thunderbolt. If any
one doubt this, let him hear and behold the wonderful "Ride of the
Walküre," those five war maidens, daughters of Wotan, who chase through
the clouds on their armored steeds, and call one another in tones
unearthly, to an accompaniment of whizzing strings, and clanging brass,
and a torrent of intricate chords. The music depicts the fierce clash of
the elements, the war gods in battle, the clamor of shields, and the
furious dash of wild horses. Above it all there rings out on the air the
weird, far-reaching cry of Brünhilde, the leader of the Walküre
maidens, and her call is repeated from the East, from the West, from the
uttermost mountain-peaks, by her sister spirits, who are sometimes
hidden and sometimes revealed by the fast-rushing clouds, through which
their steeds gallop and plunge.

[Illustration: Copyright by Aimé Dupont, N. Y.

Nordica as Brünhilde in "Siegfried."]

Whoever can hear this wonder-work and not bow to Wagner's greatness is
surely a musical degenerate.

"My progress has not been by leaps and bounds," Madame Nordica presently
announced; "it has been more tortoise-like; and I have sometimes seen
others sweep past me with apparently little effort. But in the end
justice comes around to all. What is it Mrs. Carter says in 'Zaza' about
success? 'It comes from much misery.' Yes, there is very much of that.
'And much work,'--ah, a _great deal_ of that. 'And a little luck,'--yes,
a _very_ little of that; it is not good to have much luck."

As I arose to go, Madame Nordica added with a smile: "You see I could
talk on this subject all day. The sum of it is, success comes from
steady daily work. You must work well in the morning, and then work some
more in the afternoon--and it is well to practise between times too!"



"Lohengrin"



"LOHENGRIN"


There seems a very magic about the name of Lohengrin--a mythical
strength and beauty that at once characterize the whole opera. The fault
is occasionally found that Wagner's operas are long and at times
tedious; but this term is never applied to "Lohengrin." One is disarmed
of this suspicion in the very first prelude. Ah, what a prelude is that!
It is like the gradual drawing together from empty space all the music
of the spheres. The two first measures are so pianissimo that we
scarcely hear them, but the vague and far-away voices come slowly
nearer. They mingle with each other and weave in and out, until there is
a crescendo mighty and overpowering. We are now prepared for the
legendary character of the opera; such music could not represent things
earthly.

The curtain rises upon a scene of medieval coloring. It is a woodland
upon the banks of the Scheldt in the province of Brabant. A throne is
erected on one side, and here the king of Germany is holding court. He
is visiting this province of his realm to solicit aid in a coming war.
After this fact is announced by the herald, the king arises and in
stately phrases greets the people and explains more fully the object of
his visit. He closes with the observation that it grieves him to find
this province in a state of discord, and he requests Frederick of
Telramund, an esteemed nobleman of Brabant, to recount the situation.

Frederick, which is the baritone rôle, tells a strange and interesting
story. The province is at present without any ducal ruler, owing to the
recent mysterious disappearance of the young heir. He was last seen in
company with his sister Elsa. The two were walking in the forest, but
she returned alone and declared she had lost her brother. Frederick now
charges Elsa with murder, and furthermore lays claim to the ducal
throne in the name of himself and also his wife Ortrud, who bears some
kinship to the late duke.

On hearing this charge the king summons Elsa, who presently comes
forward with bowed head and sorrowful mien. This must have been a
thrilling moment at that first performance in Baireuth when Lillian
Nordica stepped before the audience. It was not only Elsa challenging
her accusers, but an American girl challenging German critics under the
dome of their most hallowed shrine, with their own music and in their
own language. But whatever a singer's emotions may be, she must give no
evidence of them. It is wonderful how smoothly these great performances
always run. Come what may, the play goes on.

Elsa can say no more in her behalf than has already been given; but when
urged by the king to speak freely all that is on her heart, she tells of
a wonderful vision which came in her hour of distress. An armored
knight, more grand than any she had seen, appeared to her and promised
to be her deliverer and champion. This dream-song of Elsa's is like a
musical apparition, so ethereal and spirituelle; but one must not seek
for these wonderful beauties in the voice-part alone. With Wagner the
orchestra is never a mere accompaniment, but more often the principal
part. A theme is sometimes begun in the orchestra and finished by the
voice, or it may be altogether with the instruments. Wagner handles the
voice like a noble metal which can be fashioned into useful vessels to
carry and convey the emotions, in contrast to the Italian composers, who
look upon the voice as a jewel to be displayed and admired for its own
sake.

To return to Elsa's song. It should be understood from the first that
each theme in the opera expresses some emotion or idea which is
consistently adhered to throughout. For instance, when Elsa describes
the knight in her dream, there is heard in the orchestra a few bars of
the Lohengrin--or swan-song, a theme which is constantly revealing
itself in this great kaleidoscope of sound whenever the hero appears or
is mentioned. Again, when she speaks of his glittering armor, the
splendid warlike motif which asserts itself is the same one that is
worked up in the crescendo preceding Lohengrin's arrival.

After this strange recital of Elsa's, Frederick still maintains his
charge against her, and states as her motive for the crime that she
hoped to gain the throne. The king decides to settle the question by
single combat. Frederick must defend himself against whomever may come
forward as Elsa's champion. This custom is according to the ancient
belief that "might is right," and that Heaven itself is the awarder of
victory and defeat. The herald of the king announces, with a
trumpet-call, the impending combat, and bids "him who will fight for
Elsa of Brabant to come forth at once." The call dies away, but no one
presents himself as her defender, and it appears as tho Heaven already
indicates which side is right. Elsa piteously begs them to call again.
Her wish is granted, and once more the cry rings forth. She falls on her
knees, and in tones that vibrate with intense despair prays Heaven to
send her the hero of her dream. "Elsa's prayer" and "Elsa's dream" are
two of the most beautiful soprano solos in the opera. The prayer is
short, but it accomplishes a thrilling crescendo. The final climax is
such a passionate outcry that we are not surprised to see an immediate
answer granted.

Wagner is a master of crescendos, and he now commences one for the
chorus which is truly wonderful in effect. Instead of starting all the
voices pianissimo, or even part of the chorus, he starts with a single
voice. One man has perceived a knight floating down the river in a boat
drawn by a swan. He whispers it to his neighbor, who in turn says,
"Look!" and then another and another in quick succession join in
exclamations, until all are singing of the strange sight. They rush to
the bank, and still the wonder grows. The knight of the swan draws
nearer, the orchestra crashes out its stupendous theme, the sopranos
ring out above everything, and the whole chorus seems to have doubled
its capacity. It is a greeting worthy of the subject, who is Lohengrin
himself.

No wonder the people subside and look at him with awe as he steps upon
the bank. He is clad in shining silver, with a helmet, shield, and
sword. His face is fair and his hair is blonde. Before noticing the
people, he turns to the swan and sings it a farewell. This song is only
two lines long, and for the most part without accompaniment. It is
apparently simple, and differs little from the form of a recitative, and
yet so rare and strange is this melody that it portrays the legendary
character of the opera more than any other phrase. It seems as tho
Lohengrin is still singing in the mystical language and music of that
other world from which he has come. Every one knows this song by its
German name, "Mein lieber Schwan," and it is so much admired and so
famous that it is actually paraphrased. A man must be great indeed to be
caricatured; how much more is this true of classical music!

Lohengrin soon comes forward and bows before the king, after which he
announces that he has been sent as champion "for a noble maid who is
falsely accused." But before entering the combat he speaks to Elsa, who
has previously offered to bestow her hand and heart upon whomever would
fight for her. She now reiterates this vow most gladly, and also makes
another promise which the strange knight requests--she must never ask
from whence he came, nor what his name. Lest there be any
misunderstanding, he repeats the impressive phrase in a higher key, and
Elsa again promises. This short theme is most important. It might be
described as the dark motif. It is the one most often heard when Ortrud
and Frederick do their evil plotting, for it is by means of this
interdiction of Lohengrin's that they eventually succeed in
accomplishing Elsa's unhappiness.

When the two combatants face each other and all is ready, the herald
again comes forward and solemnly proclaims the rules governing such
contests. They are interesting to note: "No one shall interfere with the
fight under penalty of losing his head or his hand;" and furthermore, no
sorcery or witchcraft shall be exerted, for Heaven alone must decide who
is right. After this preliminary the king arises and prays for the just
judgment of Heaven to show clearly which side is true and which is
false. Wagner always favored the bass voice when possible, and so he has
given to the king this splendid and impressive composition, with its
rich, full chords and stirring rhythm. The chorus takes up the prayer
and finishes it with inspiring breadth and grandeur. The king strikes
upon his shield three times and the battle begins. It does not last
long, for Frederick is soon disarmed and thrown down by Lohengrin, who,
however, spares his life.

The victory has proven Elsa's innocence and Frederick's falsehood. The
latter is disgraced utterly, while Lohengrin is regarded as Heaven's
favorite. Elsa sings forth her joy and gratitude in melodic phrases
which would need no words. The music of Elsa and Lohengrin is like the
music of day--it is so clear, so lucid and full of melody in contrast to
the rugged, weird, and gloomy themes of Ortrud and Frederick.

The great chorus of victory is the last number of this act. It brings in
with Wagner's inimitable modulations the martial theme of the previous
chorus and also Elsa's song of praise. All excepting Ortrud and
Frederick look happy and join in the singing right heartily as the
curtain descends.

The second act comprises Ortrud's great scene. This rôle may be sung by
a contralto, but is better adapted to a mezzo-soprano. Ortrud is often
called the operatic Lady Macbeth. She is not only as wicked and
ambitious as Shakespeare's heroine, but is also a sorceress of no mean
ability, for it is she who made away with Elsa's brother; but this fact
is not revealed until the last act. She also exerted her power upon
Frederick with such effect that he believed her to be a prophetess. He
was sincere in his accusation against Elsa, for Ortrud told him she had
witnessed the crime herself. But he is now awakened to her wickedness,
and the scene opens with his maledictions against her and his abject
wretchedness over his own disgrace. The two are seated upon the church
steps facing the palace, where jubilant preparations are going on for
the wedding of Elsa and Lohengrin, which will take place at dawn. It is
yet night, and the music is deep and ominous. The dark motif and a new
one which seems to represent Ortrud are the musical heart and soul of
this scene. They stalk about the orchestra like restless phantoms, and
are heard in all sorts of keys and instruments. After Frederick's great
harangue against his wife and fate and everything, she calmly inquires
the cause of his anger. She declares that she never deceived him, and
that the recent combat was unfairly influenced by Lohengrin's sorcery.
Such is her power over Frederick that he again believes and listens to
her plans. She explains how Lohengrin may yet be robbed of his power and
Frederick's honor vindicated. Elsa must be induced to ask the hero his
name, or he must be wounded, be it ever so slightly. Either of these
methods will annihilate his power. This remarkable scene closes with a
duet about revenge, which the two voices sing in unison--a point
indicative of their renewed unity of purpose.

The music now changes to harmonies that charm and soothe, and Elsa
appears upon the balcony of her palace. The moonlight falls upon her as
she clasps her hands in rapture and sings to the gentle zephyrs of her
love. It is a song as peaceful as the night; and in contrast to the
recent somber and spectral themes, it beams forth like a diamond against
black velvet. This solo of Elsa's is one of the most difficult to sing
because of its many sustained pianissimo tones. After the last sweet
note has died away like a sigh, Ortrud, who is still seated on the steps
beneath, calls to Elsa in a pleading voice. She appeals to the latter's
sympathy by announcing herself as "that most unhappy woman, Ortrud,"
wife to the disgraced Frederick. "We are cursed by God and man, and
welcomed nowhere." Thus speaks the sorceress; and Elsa, in the goodness
of her heart, takes pity and impulsively offers to receive the outcast.
She retires from the balcony and presently opens the door below to
welcome Ortrud, who in this short interim has sung some splendid phrases
of gloating animosity. But she kneels like a humble slave before the
unsuspecting Elsa, who invites her to the wedding and also promises to
induce Lohengrin to pardon Frederick.

As an expression of gratitude, Ortrud now offers to exert the power of
prophecy for Elsa's benefit. Prophecy and sorcery are regarded in
different lights: the latter is wicked and implies collusion with the
evil one, while the "prophetic eye" is a gift to be coveted. Ortrud
pretends to possess this power. She forewarns Elsa against too great
confidence in her hero, and mysteriously hints that he may leave as
suddenly as he came. These words are accompanied by the threatening dark
motif, which hovers ever near like a lowering cloud. Elsa recoils at the
thought--this first seed of suspicion,--but she soon smiles assuredly
and sings to Ortrud a lovely song about "the faith and trust that knows
no doubt." Wagner's words are as beautiful as his music, and in this
composition they seem to mount upward on the "wings of song" like the
spontaneous utterance of a pure heart. Elsa puts her arms gently about
Ortrud and leads her into the palace. Frederick, who has kept in the
background, watches them disappear, and the scene closes with his final
descant on revenge.

After his exit the orchestra has a solo, so to speak, while the stage is
occupied in representing the dawn of day. Villagers stroll in one by
one, garlands are hung in honor of the wedding, and the scene becomes
constantly brighter and more active. The herald appears above the gates
of the palace and makes three announcements in the name of the king:
First, that Frederick of Telramund is banned and shall be befriended by
no one; second, that the Heaven-favored stranger shall hereafter be
called the guardian of Brabant; and, third, that this hero shall lead
them soon to "victorious war." Then follows a chorus about the
Heaven-sent guardian of Brabant, after which there is a momentary
commotion caused by Frederick, who, in spite of the ban against him,
comes forward and asserts that he will defy their much-lauded hero and
will open their eyes to his duplicity.

But this incident is forgotten in the gorgeous scene which now
commences. The wedding-guests come slowly from the palace, and wend
their way in stately procession toward the church. Their course is
accompanied by a march of pontifical solemnity, which attains its
grandest beauty when Elsa comes down the great stairway clad in robes of
regal splendor. All voices join in praise for "Elsa of Brabant."

[Illustration: Copyright by Aimé Dupont, N. Y.

Eames as Elsa in "Lohengrin."]

The procession proceeds to the church; the music increases in strength,
when suddenly there is a discord. Elsa is confronted at the church
entrance by Ortrud, who fiercely declares she will no longer follow like
an attendant; that she is the one to whom people should bow instead of
Elsa, whose future lord comes of a land and family which he dare not
tell! Elsa is dumbfounded by this sudden onslaught from the woman she
has befriended. But Ortrud maintains her position, and actually defies
Elsa to ask the hero his name. This attack is diverted by the
ceremonious entrance of the king and Lohengrin, to whom Elsa hastens
with her grievance. Ortrud is promptly ordered aside, and the
procession resumes its march. But again the solemn cathedral music
crashes into a discord. Frederick, the despised one, dares to rush
before the king and bar the way as he begs them to harken to his words.
There is great indignation over the interruption, but Frederick so
intensely cries for justice that at last even the king listens as he
charges Lohengrin with sorcery. He sustains the charge by demanding
Lohengrin to tell his name, if he be an honest man; if he can not do
this there must be some dark secret to hide. All turn to the hero
expectantly, but he only defends himself by saying that he has proven
his worth in mortal combat, according to ancient usage, and that he will
not answer Frederick nor even the king--only Elsa shall be answered this
question. He turns to her and finds her trembling with agitation. The
orchestra tells us her thoughts, for we hear the Ortrud-theme and dark
motif writhing in and out like venomous serpents. A murmuring sort of
chorus about the strange secret which the hero so zealously guards is
gradually resolved into a song of allegiance and belief. The king
declares Frederick unworthy of consideration. But during the jubilant
chorus which follows, that Miserable steals up to Elsa and casts his
final poison-shaft. He tells her that if Lohengrin were once wounded,
"merely pricked in the finger," he would then bestow upon her full
confidence and never leave. Frederick further says he will "linger near
the coming night," and when she calls will enter and commit the deed
without harm to Lohengrin. Elsa spurns the tempter away, and Lohengrin,
who perceives him at her side, bids him forever begone. But finding Elsa
even more agitated than before, he asks in the presence of all if she
wishes to be told his name. She remembers her vow, and in tones of
exultation declares that love is greater than doubt. The magnificent
march music is again resumed, and they enter the minster without further
incident, excepting the defiant gaze of Ortrud as Elsa passes; and
while the curtain descends we hear again, half hidden in the orchestra,
the terrible dark motif.

There is a brilliant orchestral introduction to the third act, which
represents the marriage fête. Its tempo and rhythm are positively gay,
tho this is an adjective seldom appropriate to Wagner. But the hilarity
has subsided by the time the curtain rises: the trumpets and cymbals are
hushed, and the gentlest of music greets our ears as we look upon the
bridal chamber. The voices are at first distant, but gradually approach,
and the effect of their song steals over us like a potent charm. It is
the wedding-march--the "Lohengrin Wedding-March"! We all know the power
of that music. There are some compositions which become absorbed, as it
were, by the world like important inventions or discoveries. People
require certain musical forms of expression as they do artificial light,
and we pity those who did without this "Wedding-March," or Chopin's
"Funeral March," or the Schubert "Serenade," as we pity our ancestors
who made shift with tallow candles instead of incandescent lamps. The
charm of the "Wedding-March" is not diminished because we know it so
well. With Wagner as with Beethoven, every hearing reveals new beauties.
When the chorus at last leaves Elsa and Lohengrin alone, we echo his
first words: "The sweet song now is ended."

But our regrets are quickly appeased by the delicious love-duet which
follows. It is a scene of rapt delight--of happiness too great to last.
Not in vain did we have the dark motif jangled in our ears when the
curtain last descended; it meant trouble in the coming act, as we soon
perceive. Elsa wishes she knew his name--just to speak it lovingly as he
does hers. Then Lohengrin points to the open window through which the
moonlight streams upon them, and he sings of the perfumed air which they
enjoy without questioning its cause or source; thus, he says, should
they love. The exquisite melody of this song seems to exhale from his
heart like fragrance from a flower. It is redolent of tenderest love.

The nobility and beauty of Lohengrin's character so impress themselves,
that Elsa feels oppressed with her own unworthiness. She wishes she
might do something heroic to prove her love. For instance, if he would
confide to her his secret, she would guard it so faithfully that death
itself could not wrest it from her! Very sweetly and beautifully does
she coax for this token of trust on his part. Lohengrin replies most
gently that he has trusted her already by believing that she would keep
her vow. Then he says she little knows how much she is to him; that no
earthly honor--not the king's kingdom--could replace what he has left.
Only Elsa, his bride, can recompense the sacrifice; for not from night
and grief does he come, but from a home of joy and pride.

Like a flash does this remind Elsa of Ortrud's prophecy that he may
leave her. The Ortrud-theme swoops down upon the orchestra and settles
there like an ill-omened bird. The director's baton may send it away for
a moment, but down it comes again, and the dark motif with it. Poor Elsa
becomes almost frenzied. She believes Lohengrin will long for his
beautiful home, which even now he can not forget. She sees in her mind's
eye the swan-boat approaching to take him away. Lohengrin speaks
reassuringly; but the spell is upon her, and nothing--nothing can give
her peace but to know the truth. With mounting tones, the last one of
which is like an outcry, she asks the fatal question. Lohengrin gives an
exclamation of grief.

At this moment the door is burst open by Frederick, who with drawn sword
has come to wound the hero, or, more probably, to kill him. Elsa at once
recognizes his intention, and frantically bids Lohengrin defend himself.
With a single thrust he kills his would-be assassin.

This intense and tragic climax is followed by a lull. Elsa has fallen
half-swooning on the couch, and Lohengrin stands sorrowfully to one
side. He at last exclaims slowly and sadly: "Now is our sweet joy fled;"
and then we hear in the orchestra, faint and beautiful as a memory, that
first love-duet. It is only a fragment, a fleeting thought, but so
touching and pathetic that we could weep with Lohengrin for the harmony
that is gone.

The last act is short and almost entirely taken up by Lohengrin's story
and farewell. The scenery is the same as in the first act, and the
entire chorus of noblemen and soldiers again assemble before the king.
They have not yet heard of the tragic event which ended the last act,
and are therefore surprised when a bier is carried in and placed
solemnly before them. It bears the body of Frederick. They are still
more surprised when Elsa enters, pale and dejected, and then their hero,
who appears equally sad. But surprise reaches its climax when they hear
him announce that he can not be their leader.

Lohengrin wastes no words. After the first assertion he informs them of
Frederick's death; whereupon all voices declare his fate to be most
just, and the body is removed. Lohengrin then announces that Elsa, his
wife, has broken the vow which they all heard her make, and he has come
before them to answer her question and dispel the mad suspicion which a
wily tempter implanted in her heart. They shall all learn his name and
heritage, and may then judge whether he was worthy of their trust. The
people wonder with awe-hushed voices what revelation is in store, and
then there floats in the orchestra the soft tremolo of the swan-music,
as Lohengrin tells them of a distant land called Montsalvat, where is a
radiant temple. And in this temple is guarded a sacred vessel which
possesses wonder-powers. A dove descends from heaven once every year to
renew its marvelous strength. This treasure-blessing is called the
"Grail," and to its chosen votaries a matchless power is given. These
knights of the Grail are sent abroad as champions of innocence and
truth, and they may tarry so long as their name is unknown. But the
Grail's blessing is too pure and holy to be regarded by common eyes, and
if disclosed its champion must leave at once. Lohengrin adds that this
penalty now falls on him, for he is a knight of the Grail: his father,
great Parsifal, wears its crown, and "I am Lohengrin."

As in the first prelude and swan-song, the harmonies of this last great
recital seem not of earth but from another sphere; they linger and abide
with us like a beautiful blessing. This silver-clad knight of the Grail
has been singing of a hallowed mystery whose purity and spirituality are
revealed more in the music than by the words. After bidding farewell to
the hapless Elsa, from whom he must part in spite of her piteous
appeals, there comes gliding upon the river the swan-boat. He sings a
sad welcome to the swan, and then announces to Elsa that could he have
remained one year, through the mercy of the Grail her brother would have
returned. He hands her his sword and horn and ring to give this brother
if ever he comes back. The sword and horn will impart strength and
victory, and the ring shall remind him of "Lohengrin who loved Elsa and
was her champion."

A jarring interruption is now created by Ortrud, who cries out with
reckless triumph that the swan who serves Lohengrin is the bewitched
brother, and that Elsa has herself to thank for causing the hero's
departure, which forever prevents the young Duke's return. On hearing
this mocking invection from the sorceress, Lohengrin clasps his hands in
a fervent prayer, which is at once answered. A dove descends from heaven
and touches the swan, which is immediately changed into the young heir.
He rushes forward to embrace his sister, while Lohengrin steps into the
boat, which is drawn away by the dove. It floats silently down the
beautiful river, and the hero stands sorrowfully leaning upon his silver
shield. This is our last glimpse of Lohengrin, the Knight of the
Grail.



"Aida"



"AIDA"


Madame Nordica's "Aida" is an unsurpassed performance and always draws
crowded houses, for the strange pathos of the music displays her
wonderful voice to its fullest beauty.

As in "Carmen" every measure scintillates with the sunshine of Spain, so
in "Aida" every phrase seems shadowed by the mysteries of Egypt. A
comparative study of these two operas will forcibly impress one with the
power of music to express nationality. "Aida" carries one to a distant
land and centuries back; but this power of breathing the musical life of
ancient Egypt into the still form of a libretto is the culmination of
modern art. Giuseppe Verdi, the greatest modern Italian composer, had
written twenty-six operas before he wrote "Aida."

A tender, wistful strain high up in the violins forms the opening of the
prelude. With this first faint phrase the composer seems to awaken from
her long sleep the muse of Egyptian music. Like the hero of fairy lore,
Verdi, the prince of melody, has penetrated a realm of slumbering
harmonies. They are at first subdued, dazed, and bewildered with themes
mingled and woven together like exquisite cobwebs. The conductor's wand
gently disperses these clinging meshes of sound, the curtain is lifted,
and we are ushered into the musical life of an ancient civilization.

We see a hall in the palace at Memphis, and Ramphis, the high priest,
converses with Rhadames, a distinguished soldier. They talk of the
impending war against Ethiopia, and it is intimated that Rhadames may be
chosen to lead the Egyptians. But the words and song are of little
interest compared to the orchestral accompaniment. This is somber and
subdued; the notes are of equal length, and the intervals seem of
geometric exactitude like the diagram of an astrologer.

Ramphis goes out leaving Rhadames joyous over the prospect of becoming a
general. He thinks of his beloved Aida, to whom he will return laden
with laurels. "Celeste Aida!" is the title of this great romanza. Like
all love-songs it is legato, andante, and pianissimo, but at the same
time noticeably original and characteristic. The harmonies are
constructed with rigid grandeur, but softened and beautified by a tender
melody that rests upon them like moonlight on the pyramids. While he is
lost in thoughts of Aida, the Princess Amneris enters. She inquires the
cause of his radiant expression, and insinuatingly wonders if it is some
dream of love. Rhadames only replies that he has hopes of martial
honors, and is therefore happy. The Princess secretly loves Rhadames,
and her questions are based on jealousy, which is revealed in the
nervous, agitated theme that accompanies this duet. Her suspicions are
further aroused by the entrance of Aida. As the heroine approaches we
hear again the pensive theme that opened the prelude. It takes on a new
and greater meaning, for Aida is a captive slave, an exile, and the
music reminds us of some great longing that vainly strives to express
itself. This effect is due to the fact that the musical cadence is left
unresolved.

Aida must have the dark complexion of the Ethiopian, and very few prima
donnas look well under coffee-colored cosmetic; but Madame Nordica's
appearance does not suffer from the application. This Aida is beautiful,
and Rhadames can scarce conceal the joy of her presence. The captive
also looks down to hide her emotion. But Amneris has detected every
glance, and again that jealous theme sweeps like a flame over the
orchestra.

[Illustration: Copyright by Aimé Dupont, N. Y.

Nordica as Aida.]

The princess addresses her slave by sisterly names, and asks the cause
of her downcast looks. Aida says she grieves because of the war against
her native land. There follows a trio wherein Amneris fosters her
jealousy, while Aida and Rhadames tremble lest their secret be
discovered.

Sounds of martial music prelude the entrance of the king and his suite.
When they are assembled a messenger comes forward to announce that the
Ethiopians are marching toward Egypt's capital under the leadership of
their king, Amonasro. Upon hearing this name Aida exclaims to herself,
"My father!" and we thereby learn that she is a princess, but has
concealed the fact from her captors. The Egyptians impulsively shout "To
war!" and Rhadames is proclaimed their leader. They sing a war-hymn
which is so inspiring that even Aida joins in this prayer for victory to
Rhadames. After a grand climax all go out excepting the heroine.

"Return victorious!" She repeats this last sweeping phrase, and shudders
at the words, for success to Rhadames implies defeat to her father. This
distressing thought agitates the music like the passing of a great ship
over tranquil waters. The ensuing melody rises and falls like waves in
the wake of a vessel. Aida realizes that she can not pray for either
lover or father. "Was there ever a heart so oppressed!" Her song is like
a wail, and the accompaniment introduces a pagan use of the monotone
that gives startling effects. "Pieta, pieta!" are the final words of
Aida's great solo.

She goes off, and the scene changes to an interior view of the temple of
Vulcan. It is a brilliant setting, with solid columns and golden
statues, mysterious colored lights and fuming incense, priests and
priestesses in glittering costumes; but the music of this
consecration-scene reveals more barbaric splendor than the surroundings.
The first sounds are the full, pulsating chords of a harp, and from an
inner sanctum the grand priestess sings with rich soprano tones a weird
refrain that is weighted with mystery. The priests in front answer in
subdued, awe-hushed voices. Three times the wondrous song and answer
are repeated, after which the priestesses perform a sacred dance around
the altar. The music of this dreamy dance has the most astonishing
progressions, but at the same time maintains an imposing solemnity.
During the dance Rhadames is led to the altar, where a silver veil is
placed over his head. Ramphis, the high priest, charges him with the
welfare of the Egyptian army; and then follows a splendid prayer that
Ramphis starts like a sacred fire. It reaches Rhadames, who sings in a
higher key, and then it spreads and fills the great temple; bassos,
tenors, soloists, and chorus take it up in turn and form one mighty
rondo. Like a response from heaven comes the chant of the grand
priestess from within. Her inspired refrain with its harp accompaniment
alternates with the exalted prayer in front. This consecration-scene has
little to do with the plot of the story, but it contains some of Verdi's
finest music.

Several months are supposed to elapse before the second act, which
opens with a scene in the apartment of Amneris. Maids are robing the
princess for a festive occasion, and we learn by their chorus that
Rhadames will to-day return from victorious war. This scene is
monopolized by the stringed instruments and female voices. A tropical
indolence characterizes the choruses, with their abundant harp
accompaniment. Amneris ever and anon breaks forth with an expansive
theme expressing her unconquered love for Rhadames. To divert their
mistress a group of Moorish slaves perform a lively, grotesque dance,
for which Verdi has written music of intoxicating witchery. It is crisp
as the snapping of fingers and uncivilized as the beating of bamboo
reeds--a veritable savage revel that is nevertheless graceful and
delicate. The chorus resume their dreamy praise of the hero, and Amneris
continues her moody thoughts of love.

Like an electric flash from a sultry sky does the entrance of Aida
affect the musical atmosphere. At sight of the beautiful captive,
Amneris again rages with jealousy, as is plainly indicated by the
conflicting themes in the orchestra. With subtle devices the princess
seeks to entrap her rival. She pretends a deep sympathy for Aida's grief
over the vanquished Ethiopians, and adds that "Egypt also has cause to
mourn, for our brave leader Rhadames is among the slain." This
treacherous falsehood is foisted so suddenly that Aida loses caution and
reveals her emotion. Amneris cries out in fury: "Tremble, slave! thy
secret is discovered!" She informs Aida that Rhadames lives, and that
she, Pharaoh's daughter, loves the hero and "will not brook the rivalry
of a slave!" Amneris threatens death as the punishment for such
audacious love. The proud captive stands for a moment in defiance; but
realizing the futility of such action, she humbly pleads for pardon. In
this song the composer admirably simulates a savage dearth of compass
and harmony--an effect of crude simplicity that is charming and
touching. The scene is interrupted by a song of victory from the
streets, a signal for the festivities to begin. After commanding the
Ethiopian to follow as a menial in the celebration, Amneris goes out.
Aida closes the scene with the same prayer to Heaven "Pieta!" that ended
the first act.

A noisy march introduces the next scene, which represents a grand avenue
in Egypt's capital. At the back of the stage is a triumphal arch and at
one side a throne. The greater part of this act is spectacular, and
after an opening chorus the orchestra has for some time entire charge of
the music. The March from "Aida" is almost as popular as the Faust
March. Its harmonies never swerve from the Egyptian type, being always
stately and substantial as their architecture.

While the brass instruments are playing with full force, we witness the
ceremonial entrance of the court, with innumerable priests and soldiers,
trumpeters, fan-bearers, standard-bearers, train-bearers, white slaves,
black slaves, flower girls, and dancing girls. There follows an
elaborate ballet divertissement, clothed in music of gay pattern and
gaudy design, but light in substance. Five lines of continuous
staccatos, like so many strings of beads, form the opening of this dance
music. The salient points that impart an unmistakable Egyptian
atmosphere to this composition are as follows: A savage repetition of
every musical phrase, a wild predilection for the monotone, a limited
variety of keys, and a preponderant accenting of the rhythm.

After the dance more soldiers enter, some more slaves, more banners,
chariots, and sacred images. A chorus of welcome to the conquering hero
is struck up, and it increases in strength and grandeur with the
pageantry on the stage. It is not merely the crescendo, but the glorious
swing and rhythm of the melody that so inspires enthusiasm. When at last
Rhadames is borne in on a golden palanquin, the climax is stupendous.
With a final "Gloria!" shouted by every voice the hero comes forward to
be embraced by the king. A group of Ethiopian prisoners are led forward,
and Aida with a cry of joy recognizes her father. He has disguised
himself as a common soldier, and does not wish it known that he is the
defeated king Amonasro. Every one is interested in this reunion of Aida
with her father, and the princess secretly rejoices to have them both in
her power. Amonasro makes a noble plea for mercy, and his words are set
to music that "droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven." It is like a
tone-translation of Shakespeare's ode to the quality of mercy. Aida and
the other captives lend their voices to the entreaty. Rhadames, who has
been observing Aida but dare not address her, is moved by his love to
ask for the prisoner's release. The king feels bound to grant the hero's
request, but finally decides to retain Aida and her father as hostages
of peace. As a final honor the king presents his daughter to Rhadames,
and adds that by her side he shall some day reign over Egypt. The act
closes with another grand ensemble. Amneris gloats over her rival's
subjection, Rhadames longs for Aida but dare not oppose the king, and
the heroine bemoans her fate. The priests, people, soldiers, and
prisoners praise the king, the trumpets blare forth the Aida March, and
the curtain descends.

Act III. is the most beautiful both scenically and dramatically. It
pictures the banks of the Nile at night. An illuminated temple is at one
side, and we see the silvery river winding its way amid palms and rushes
far into the distance. Not only is the landscape bathed in "softened
light," but also the music imparts an unmistakable effect of moonlight.
A faint violin pizzicato that vibrates but never changes position is
maintained throughout the introduction, while the other instruments call
up weird sounds of the night--the palm-trees rustling together and the
plaintive cry of some river-bird--then all is still: only that
fluttering moonbeam holds the senses.

The silence is broken by a solemn chant from within the temple, and one
soprano voice soars out alone in an incantation, mysterious and imposing
as an oracle. A royal barge glides to the river's bank, and Amneris with
her maids and the high priest Ramphis betake themselves to the temple,
where the princess offers prayers for her coming marriage. The
sphinx-like song of the grand priestess is again heard, and then every
sound is hushed excepting the dreamy pizzicato movement in the violins
that so resembles the flitting of moonbeams.

Ere long the solitary tones of the Aida-theme arise from the stillness
like a spirit of night. Never before have we realized the full beauty of
this melody, for amid the blare and brightness of other harmonies it has
been obscured like a sensitive flower. But here in the solitude and
darkness it unfolds itself like some glorious night bloom. With cautious
steps the heroine enters. Rhadames has told her to meet him, and Aida
wonders what greeting he will have for her. If it is but to say
farewell, then "Nilus, the mighty river, shall quiet forever the exile's
grief." For the present she plunges into a flood of memory about her
native land, a stream of words that gently flows through a forest of
beautiful harmonies. It is a song of homesickness that soothes tho it
saddens.

While still under the spell of this music Aida is startled by the
entrance of her father. He also sings of their distant home, but with an
underlying purpose. He says they may yet return; that it is in her power
to save Ethiopia, to regain her throne, her love, and to vanquish her
rival Amneris. The father has been quick to detect the love between Aida
and Rhadames. Amonasro announces that his people are prepared to renew
their attack and that success is assured if they can learn by what path
the Egyptians will march. He wishes his daughter to win, by fair means
or false, this secret from Rhadames. Aida at first refuses to act this
part of treachery, whereupon Amonasro chills her with his curse. He says
she is no longer his daughter, "No longer princess of Ethiopia, but a
slave of the Pharaohs!" The proud blood of the captive is aroused by
this epithet. She entreats her father to recall his words, for "'Patria
mia' ('my country') is more to me than my love. I will obey." The
accompaniment presents an unvaried monotone in the treble, while beneath
it there is a pathetic melody half hidden by the upper octaves like
romance suppressed by duty. Amonasro conceals himself behind palm-trees
as Rhadames approaches.

Never has the joy of meeting been more admirably expressed in music than
in Rhadames's greeting of Aida. It is a flight of song as spontaneous
and free as the flight of a released bird. He tells her that he will not
marry the princess, but must start at once on a second war; and if this
time victorious he will tell the king of his love and will claim Aida
as the reward of his valor. It is a brave plan, but she quickly
discovers the weak point. The nervous, inflammatory theme of jealousy
that accompanied Amneris in the first act again arises like a hot breath
from the orchestra. Aida well knows that the princess would wreak
vengeance "like the lightning of heaven." There is only one course that
will unite the lovers, and this is to fly--"Fugire!"--to fair Ethiopia,
Aida's native land. She coaxes and entreats in phrases of delirious,
dream-like beauty descriptive of that wondrous land--"There where the
virgin forests rise 'mid fragrance softly stealing." A halcyon peace
pervades the music, and its harmonies are strange and rare like the
perfume of some exotic flower. Rhadames demurs, but the power of her
song is irresistible, and he soon consents to leave Egypt for her sake.
There is nothing half way about his decision when once made. The
orchestra music rises in emphatic, resolute crescendos that are
gloriously inspiring, and the singer's voice is carried forward like a
rider on his steed. The music recurs to the first impulsive theme of
greeting. It is given in full chords, and the soprano joins with the
tenor. Every note is accented and the crescendos are augmented. Both
voices and orchestra mount upward and soar away on one final, sustained
note.

As the lovers start to go, Aida asks, "By what route do the Egyptians
march? We must avoid them in our flight." Rhadames names the path,
whereupon Amonasro steps forward announcing that "the king of Ethiopia"
has overheard this important secret. He promises royal honors to
Rhadames; but the hero is overwhelmed with the realization that he has
betrayed his country. Vengeance falls upon him at once, for Amneris and
the high priest have also overheard. They come from the temple and
denounce Rhadames as a traitor. He is seized, but Amonasro and Aida
escape.

The first scene of the fourth act reveals a hall in the palace. At the
back is a large portal leading to the subterranean court of justice.
Amneris holds the stage alone during the greater part of this scene. The
orchestra preludes it with the familiar theme of jealousy that indicates
the ensuing action as clearly as the title to a chapter. Rhadames is
to-day awaiting judgment, and the princess, as a last resort, offers to
secure his pardon if he will promise to forget Aida. The hero firmly
refuses the proffered love of Amneris. He believes Aida is dead and
prefers to die also. Very grandly does the music depict Amneris's
outraged feelings. She flings a fusilade of wrathful tones, every one
bearing the sting of sharp accent. But when he is gone her pride and
jealousy wilt under the warmth of genuine love. She sees him led to his
doom in the underground courts and hears the priests and judges chanting
his name as traitor. This scene resembles the "Miserere" in "Il
Trovatore." Three times the unseen chorus is followed by the soprano in
front, who sings an anguished phrase that starts with a high note and
ends with a palpitating, gasping decrescendo that is almost identical
with the music of Leonore. The priests condemn Rhadames to be buried
alive. As they again pass through the hall, Amneris pleads and implores
for mercy, but it is now too late. No power can save the hero.

The last scene of the opera is very short, but it is the most important.
It represents two floors, the upper one being a splendid and brilliant
temple interior, while beneath it is the crypt--gloomy and terrible.
This is the tomb of Rhadames, who has just been immured. The priests
above are placing the final stone as the curtain rises and the hero is
seen below reclining on the steps. He is thinking of Aida while
resignedly awaiting his slow and awful death. Suddenly a voice calls
him, and Aida herself appears to his wondering gaze. She had heard of
his fate, and to prove her love has secretly returned and hidden in this
tomb to die with him. The following song of the lovers has been
humorously referred to as the "starvation duet." The fact of this
appellation only reveals how celebrated is the composition. It is more
generally known as "the duet from 'Aida.'" There are other duets in the
opera, but when another is meant it is designated; this is the _great_
one. Its pathetic harmonies are mingled with the solemn chant of the
grand priestess in the temple above and the music of a sacred dance.
Aida becomes delirious, and sees in her dreams the gates of heaven
opening. Indeed, the music is exquisite enough to make any one dream of
heaven. When Madame Nordica sings it, the whole scene seems real and so
sadly beautiful that your own heart too almost stops its beating. With
soft, sweet tones and bated breath Aida sings till she dies.

Instead of closing with a crescendo, as do most operas, the final of
"Aida" becomes ever softer and fainter, like a departing spirit. The
brass and wood instruments have long since retired, only the violins and
harp keep up a gentle vibrating accompaniment like the flutter of
cherubs' wings. The curtain descends very slowly, and the last notes of
the violin are written doubly pianissimo. The muse of Egyptian music
glides away as silently as she came.



"The Huguenots"



"THE HUGUENOTS"


It is not surprising that the massacre of St. Bartholomew should have
attracted such a composer as Giacomo Meyerbeer. The terrible scene
immediately suggests a blaze of orchestral chords, seething strings, and
shrieking brass, a style in which Meyerbeer delighted. He secured the
collaboration of the celebrated French dramatist Eugene Scribe, who
apparently went to work at this libretto by writing the fourth act first
and then forcing the preceding situations to fit together as best they
would. The result is not wholly satisfactory; but where the plot is
vague the music is clear and strong enough to carry our emotions over
chasms of inconsistencies.

The great theme of the opera is the Huguenot hymn, a thrilling song of
faith, with firm, bold harmonies that express unswerving belief. This
hymn is used in the overture with grand effect. It is sustained and
upheld clear and strong amid the murmurings and attacks of surrounding
variations until it finally bursts forth in untrammeled splendor like
the supremacy of religious faith.

The curtain rises upon a banquet-hall in the mansion of Count de Nevers,
who is a gay young nobleman of Touraine, the province of France in which
the first two acts occur. Nevers is giving a supper to his comrades, and
the first chorus is the celebrated drinking-song, a refrain so abounding
in good cheer that it predisposes one in favor of the whole opera. The
revelers are all Romanists, with the exception of Raoul de Nangis, a
young Huguenot, who because of recent promotion in the army has been
included among the guests. Nevers proposes a toast to "our sweethearts,"
and gaily adds that he must soon forego such frivolities as he is to be
married. Some one suggests that they all recount their love affairs,
and Raoul is requested to begin. He relates an adventure wherein he
rescued a beautiful lady from the rude insults of some boisterous
students. He has not seen her since and knows not her name, but she
dwells--in his heart. His glowing description of the heroine is a verbal
portrait framed in music of golden beauty. It is the best tenor solo of
the opera.

After this love-story some surprise is caused by the entrance of Marcel,
a Huguenot soldier, who is Raoul's faithful attendant and has followed
his young master to this banquet merely to be near and watch over him.
Marcel much disapproves of this "feasting in the camp of the
Philistines," as he terms it, and by way of atonement he renders in a
loud voice that fervid hymn which the Huguenots always sing when in
danger. Raoul begs his friends to excuse the rough soldier, and they
promptly attest their good will by inviting Marcel to drink. He declines
the wine, but consents to sing for them. His song has a wild refrain
like the firing of musketry, "Piff-paff-piff," and it is a celebrated
bass aria.

When this whizzing composition is ended a servant informs the host that
a strange visitor would like to speak with him privately. Nevers at
first refuses to see any one; but on learning that it is a veiled lady
he changes his mind and goes out, after laughingly announcing that he is
thus constantly sought by handsome women. During his absence the others
joke about the incognita and handle her reputation lightly. They look
through a window and see her conversing with Nevers in his private
apartment. At sight of her face Raoul recoils, for this clandestine
visitor is none other than the heroine of his romance--the beauty to
whom he had lost his heart. His ideal is shattered by the discovery.
When Nevers returns the audience learns from an aside remark that the
lady was his prospective bride, Valentine de St. Bris, and that she came
to beg release from her promise. He has reluctantly complied, but does
not inform his guests of the matter. At this moment a richly attired
young page presents himself. It is Urban, the contralto rôle, who after
bowing gracefully on all sides sings a charming and celebrated aria,
"Nobil donna,"--"a noble lady sends by me a missive to one of these
gentlemen." Such is the substance of this exquisite song with its
chivalrous melody, surrounded by rococo embellishments that seem as
appropriate to the pretty page as are his Louis Quinze slippers and
point-lace ruffs. The note is addressed to Raoul, a fact that occasions
some surprise. The young Huguenot reads aloud what sounds like a
practical joke, for the paper tells that a court carriage is in waiting
to convey him blindfolded to an unnamed destination. His companions urge
him to go, for they have recognized the seal as belonging to Queen
Margaret of Touraine; but Raoul does not know this. He, however, accepts
their advice, and allows himself to be blindfolded in spite of protests
from Marcel. They sing a bewitching ensemble that is finally resolved
into the familiar drinking-song. With these rollicking measures Raoul is
led away by the page and the curtain descends.

The opening of the second act is like a musical mirage--tone-phantasies
suspended in the air. We see before us the luxuriant palace gardens
where Margaret, queen of Touraine, is surrounded by her maids of honor.
Terraces and fountains, jeweled hands and feathered fans, vibrant harps
and caroling flute combine to form an effect of elegant repose. Margaret
is the rôle for colorature soprano, in contradistinction to the heroine,
Valentine, which is for dramatic soprano. The music of the queen is very
beautiful and so difficult that it requires a great artist, altho there
is but the one important scene. It is considered by some to be Madame
Melba's best rôle.

Her first aria is about "this fair land," and we incidentally learn that
she deplores the existing dissension between Catholics and Huguenots,
the one blot upon the perfect peace of Touraine. Her court ladies
presently sing an idyllic refrain, and Margaret joins in their song; but
while the others abide by the simple melody she decks it out with
colorature spangles quite befitting a queen. After another florid solo
the favorite maid of honor, Valentine de St. Bris, enters. She wears a
riding costume and has just returned from her venturesome interview with
De Nevers, who, as she joyfully announces, has released all claim to her
hand. We soon learn that Valentine loves Raoul and has confided in the
queen, who is planning the marriage of these two, which she much desires
because it will unite the leading families of Catholics and Huguenots.
The queen rather delights in playing the good fairy, and for this reason
has summoned Raoul in the mysterious fashion witnessed in the first act.
Before he arrives there is another chorus, called the "song of the
bathers." A harp accompaniment like rustling leaves plays around the
melody, which is of eolian sweetness, until suddenly, like a fitful
breeze, there comes an elfish measure all in the treble. After a brief
disporting of this air-sprite we hear again the soft eolian harmonies,
which rise and fall until lulled into silence. The page Urban announces
that a stranger is approaching, and the maids of honor gather around as
he tells of this young cavalier who comes with blindfolded eyes and
knows not his destination. Urban's song is brimming over with
mischievous coquetry. Its opening words are simply, "No, no, no, no, no,
no, you never heard so strange a tale." The court ladies are all in a
flutter of curiosity when Raoul is led in, and they would like to see
the outcome of this adventure; but the queen orders them away.

Now follows a scene that is full of quaint themes and ingenious duets, a
musical branch with many blossoms. Raoul is permitted to remove the
bandage from his eyes. He looks with wonder upon the beautiful scene,
and then addresses elegant phrases of adoration to the fair lady before
him. She is not devoid of coquetry--this queen of Touraine--and for some
moments there is a graceful game between the two in which the
shuttlecock of love is tossed upon the battledores of music. But it is
only a game, and the toy is presently dropped. Urban enters to announce
that some noblemen of Touraine have come to attend the queen. Raoul is
amazed to learn the lady's identity, and Margaret hastens to inform him
that in order to unite the Huguenots and Catholics of her province she
has arranged a marriage between him and the daughter of St. Bris. Raoul
bows obedience to her wish.

The Catholics and Protestants enter in stately procession and group
themselves on either side of the stage, Raoul and Marcel heading the
Huguenots, while St. Bris and Nevers represent the opposite side.
Margaret welcomes them in musical phrases that are right royal. She
informs St. Bris and Nevers that the king of France requests their
immediate presence in Paris, and she then makes her own request, which
is that Huguenots and Catholics shall lay aside all enmity and sanction
the marriage that she has arranged. They sing a splendid refrain calling
upon heaven to witness their vow of future fellowship. This scene
contains some fine climaxes, and several brilliant cadenzas for the
queen. Margaret sends for Valentine, and expects Raoul to be thrilled
with delight when he recognizes the heroine of his romance. But as
Valentine comes forward, Raoul gives an exclamation of indignant
surprise, for he thinks some great insult is implied in asking him to
marry this woman who secretly visits De Nevers and who has been the
subject of jests. Without explanation he firmly refuses to accept her
for his bride. The consternation hereby aroused is admirably expressed
in the music. The first measures are hushed, as tho the chorus were
dumbfounded; but they soon gain their voices and denounce Raoul in
ringing tones. Valentine exclaims, "What have I done to earn such
disgrace?" and the theme is taken up in grand form by the others. Every
now and then we catch the firm tones of Marcel who amid all this
dissension is singing his Huguenot hymn. St. Bris draws his sword, but
the queen forbids a duel in her presence, and reminds him that he must
go at once to Paris. Raoul declares he will follow and is ready to fight
St. Bris at any time. The action and music increase in strength until
the curtain falls.

Act III. pictures an open square in Paris, the Pré-aux-Clercs, which
extends back to the river. There are two taverns and a church in the
foreground, and the stage is filled with a mingled crowd. After an
opening chorus of promenaders some Huguenot soldiers come forward and
sing a march that is equally stirring and much resembles our own "Rally
'round the flag." It is, however, more elaborate, and has a surprising
effect in which the upper voices sing a steady accompaniment of
"derum-de-dum-dum," while words and melody are in the bass. There
follows a sharp contrast in the song of some Catholic maidens on their
way to church. Purity and simplicity are expressed by the slender
accompaniment of flute and clarionet. The people kneel as they hear this
"Ave Maria," but Marcel, who has just entered, refuses to do so. The
Catholics are angered, while the Huguenots side with Marcel. There is a
vigorous ensemble in which the "Ave Maria" and soldiers' chorus are
admirably combined, and through it all are heard the disputing cries of
the two factions. A general scuffle would ensue were it not for a sudden
diversion in the form of some brightly clad gypsies who enter and
solicit trade in fortune-telling. Their song is as gay as their costume,
and they wind up with a fantastic dance. The orchestra music is here
more deserving of attention than the stage picture. The principal melody
has the quaint conceit of reiterating one note through five beats, and
then with a quick turn reeling on to the next, like a dancer poising on
one foot until forced to whirl upon the other.

After this divertissement, St. Bris, his friend Maurevert, and de Nevers
come out of the church where they have left Valentine, who, we now
learn, is after all to marry Nevers and this is their wedding-day. The
bridegroom goes to bring his retinue to escort the bride home, and St.
Bris felicitates himself for bringing about this union which wipes out
the disgrace of Raoul's refusal. His remarks are interrupted by Marcel,
who delivers a letter from his master which designates the
Pré-aux-Clercs as meeting-place and an "hour after sundown" the time for
their deferred duel. Maurevert suggests to St. Bris that the Huguenot
deserves more punishment than can be meted out in honorable combat, and
the two friends retire in consultation.

The stage is darkened and we hear the curfew bell, while a watchman goes
through the street chanting a drowsy refrain that tells all good people
to close their doors and retire. Maurevert and St. Bris again cross the
stage, and we glean from their few words that a plot is brewing for
Raoul's destruction. But Valentine has been standing at the church door
and overheard their talk. She is much alarmed, and wishes to warn Raoul,
but knows of no way until suddenly she hears and recognizes the voice of
Marcel. She calls to him, and he asks: "Who calls in the night? Explain
at once or I will fire!" Valentine quickly thinks to speak the potent
name "Raoul." Meyerbeer has very aptly used for this call the interval
of the perfect fifth, which is known as the cry of nature, because it is
the most natural interval to fall upon when calling in the open air. The
milkmaid calling her cows or the huckster vending his wares will most
often be found singing the perfect fifth.

On hearing the name of his master Marcel is satisfied and comes forward
to investigate, but Valentine's face is concealed by her bridal veil.
She tells him that his master should be well armed and have strong
friends near in the coming duel, else he will fall the victim of a plot.
Valentine starts to go, but Marcel detains her with the question, "Who
art thou?" She hesitates and then answers, "A woman who loves Raoul." In
a highly dramatic aria whose phrases are like storm-tossed billows on a
restless deep-sea accompaniment she confesses that in saving the one she
loves she has "betrayed her own father." The two voices finally work
together as is the fashion of duets, and end up with a flourishing
climax. At this point occurs the famous high C which Madame Nordica so
brilliantly sustains and crescendos throughout four measures. It is a
_tour de force_ which always brings down the house. Valentine now
reenters the church as the principals and seconds of the duel approach.
Marcel tries to warn his master, but Raoul will not listen to
suspicions, for he believes his opponent to be honorable. There follows
a splendid septet, in which Raoul sings the leading refrain buoyant with
youthful courage. The ensemble is occasionally interspersed with the
religious tones of Marcel, who prays Heaven to interfere. A grand,
swinging theme in which all the voices move together like a great
pendulum is the final of this septet.

The duel begins, but Marcel, who is on the alert, hears approaching
footsteps and draws his sword. Maurevert enters and cries out as
prearranged: "A duel with unfair numbers! More Huguenots than Catholics!
Help!" whereupon his followers rush in and surround Raoul. But at this
moment the Huguenot soldiers who are merry-making in the tavern commence
singing their jolly "derum-de-dum-dum," whereupon Marcel rushes to the
door and sings in thundering tones the Protestant hymn, which the
soldiers within at once recognize as a signal of danger. They hurry out,
and then follows a lively commotion on all sides. But there are more
words than blows, and the excitement is presently quelled by the
ceremonious entrance of Queen Margaret who has just arrived in Paris.
She is much displeased to come upon party dissension. St. Bris blames
Raoul, while the Huguenot charges St. Bris with treachery. At this
moment Valentine comes from the church, and Marcel relates how she
warned him of a plot. There is general amazement on hearing this. Raoul
now thinks to make some inquiries about this lady he had so
unhesitatingly condemned, and learns how terrible was his mistake. St.
Bris enjoys telling him that she is the bride of De Nevers, and we hear
the approaching music of the nuptial barge. An illuminated flotilla
appears at the back of the stage, and Nevers steps upon the bank. He
addresses to Valentine some gallant phrases of welcome, and escorts her
to the boat as his splendid retinue sing a joyous wedding-march. The
curtain falls upon a whirl of gay music.

Scribe is on terra firma in the fourth act, which is really the nucleus
of the plot, and is perhaps the most dramatic love-scene of any grand
opera. The curtain rises upon an apartment in the house of Nevers, and
Valentine is alone. The opening orchestral measures seem oppressed with
a tuneful despair that is soon explained by her song, wherein she
bewails this forced marriage, for her heart still cherishes Raoul. The
hero suddenly appears at her door, and Valentine thinks she is dreaming
until Raoul announces that he has come "like a criminal in the night,
risking all" for the sake of seeing her and craving forgiveness. They
hear approaching footsteps, and Valentine prevails upon him to enter a
side room just as her father and husband come in at the main door with a
company of Catholic noblemen. They are too interested in themselves to
note Valentine's agitation, and she, being a Catholic, is allowed to
remain while her father unfolds the awful plan sanctioned by Catherine
de Medicis to "wipe the Huguenots from the face of the earth." The great
theme of this conjuration-scene, "blessed is revenge, obey the good
cause," is softly sung by St. Bris and then taken up by the others in
broad harmonies that swell out and sweep forward like a mighty torrent.
When the tone-waves are again tranquil St. Bris bids his friends swear
allegiance to the royal decree, and all comply with the exception of De
Nevers, who declares he can not join in such murder. There is graceful
nobility in his music and fervor in his words.

The details of the plot are sung by St. Bris in hushed, hurried tones:
how "to-night when strikes the bell of St. Germaine" the Catholics shall
rush upon the unsuspecting Huguenots. He then admits into the room a
group of monks, who tie white scarfs upon the conspirators and bless
their uplifted swords. The music of this scene is grandly sustained by
the orchestra, but the ensemble is difficult and requires much
rehearsing, for it abounds in surprising fortes and pianissimos.

When the conspirators are gone, Raoul starts from his hiding-place
toward the door, but Valentine intercepts the way. He wishes to fight
for his friends or die with them, but she begs him to stay. There
follows a thrilling duet in which the voices pursue each other with
growing intensity. The tempo is rapid, and the phrases short and
breathless. The first minor melody is soft, but throbbing with
suppressed emotion like the strange light and peculiar hush preceding a
tempest. Then the music rushes into the major, where it reels and sways
like an anchored ship that must soon break its moorings. The soprano
voice rises upon G, A, B flat, B natural, and finally C, where all bonds
seem loosed and the music rebounds in a rapid descending chromatic run.
Then comes a furious passage in which the orchestra conductor uses his
baton like a Roman charioteer lashing his steeds. Valentine places
herself before the door, and in a desperate moment she declares, "Thou
must not go, for, Raoul--I love thee!" This confession is followed by a
transporting duet that brings oblivion to other memories. Its
mellifluous melody is written pianissimo, dolce, legato, amoroso, and
the orchestra carries it one measure behind the voice, thus keeping the
theme constantly in the air like a sweet incense.

A bell in the distance suddenly scatters all lingering harmonies. It is
the bell of St. Germaine, and Raoul is aroused to reality. He sings a
dramatic refrain about duty and honor, but Valentine still entreats him
to stay. Her song is simple as a lullaby but powerful in effect, and he
is distracted between her pleadings and the cries from the street.
Flinging open the window, he shows her the terrible scene of massacre. A
lurid light falls upon them, and there is murder in the orchestral
music. Valentine swoons. Raoul looks with anguish upon her prostrate
form and we hear the struggle he endures. The melody of Valentine's last
sweet song predominates for a moment in the orchestra, but then the
noise of the massacre is resumed. Raoul hesitates no longer. One
farewell glance, and he rushes with drawn sword through the open window
to the street.

Unlike many operas in which the fourth act is the greatest, the finale
of "The Huguenots" is of sustained intensity and not an anti-climax.
This fifth act is often omitted, however, as it makes the opera very
long. The scene represents a street at night--men, women, and children
cross the stage and take refuge in a church. Raoul and Marcel chance to
meet, and they are soon surprised by the entrance of Valentine, who has
recklessly followed the hero. She wears the white scarf which betokens
Catholicism and has brought one for Raoul, but he refuses this mode of
escape. Valentine then flings her own emblem away and declares she will
join his faith. The music of this entire act is most thrilling. We hear
the women in the church singing as a last prayer that grand Huguenot
hymn and in the distance a chorus of murderers as they make their awful
progress through the streets. This massacre music is blood-curdling; its
steady, muffled tread sounds like marching over a paving of dead
bodies. The waiting figures in the foreground again hold our attention.
Marcel relates how he witnessed the death of De Nevers, and on learning
that Valentine is free these lovers kneel before the Huguenot soldier,
who blesses their union. The choral in the church is again heard, and
those outside join in its splendid harmonies. Valentine sings with the
fervor of her new-found faith, "Hosanna, from on high the clarion
sounds!" This last trio resembles the finale of "Faust" in that the
theme rises higher and higher, like a flaming fire, to be quenched at
last by Death. The murder-chorus is heard approaching, and soon a group
of massacrers enter. "Who is there?" they ask.

"Huguenot!" replies the hero, and in ringing tones a woman's voice cries
out, "Huguenot!" "Fire!" orders St. Bris, who thereby kills his own
daughter.



An Hour
with
Lilli Lehmann

[Illustration: LILLI LEHMANN.]



AN HOUR WITH LILLI LEHMANN


In Berlin, fourteen years ago, the foreigner was at once impressed with
two faces, new to him, but conspicuous in every show-window. One picture
represented an imposing, middle-aged man, which you were told was "unser
Kronprinz," and the other, a handsome, fine-figured woman, was "unsere
Lilli Lehmann." And you were looked at in surprise for not knowing "our
Lilli Lehmann."

The Berliners have always spoken in a possessive sense of this
lady--their star of the opera--especially in that year when she broke
her contract with the Kaiser to accept an engagement in America. It made
a great talk there at the time, but the Berliners thought none the less
of her, and the morning after her début in New York the first words that
greeted you in the Vaterland were:

"Have you heard the news? The Lilli Lehmann has had a great success in
America."

Fourteen years later this same Lilli Lehmann is still having "a great
success in America." Her art is enduring as it is great. She is equally
successful in colorature and dramatic rôles; but her physique and voice
are particularly fitted to the mythical Wagnerian characters. Lilli
Lehmann imparts to these legends of the Norseland all the attributes our
fancy calls for. Her Scandinavian goddess is a creature of mighty
emotions, heroic build, and a voice at times like the fierce north wind.
Her cry of the Walküre is a revelation in the art of tone-production.

I was to call upon Madame Lehmann at 9:30 A.M., and this after a great
and long performance the evening before. I had visions of the prima
donna still in bed, receiving her caller quite in negligee, and sipping
her coffee, served by a French maid, while a parrot and pet dog and
flowers and the morning mail and newspapers combined to form an effect
of artistic confusion.

This makes a pleasing picture, but it is not Lilli Lehmann. There is no
sense of "artistic confusion" about her from her gray-tinged hair to her
grand, true voice.

In answer to the visitor's knock at her room in the Hotel Netherlands,
she opened the door herself, and shook hands with true German
cordiality.

The bed in the adjoining room was already made, and there was no sign of
a late breakfast; all this at an hour when it is safe to say half her
hearers of the evening before were not yet up.

And Lilli Lehmann, who in the eyes of the public is majestically arrayed
in flowing robes and breastplates and silver shields, wore on this
occasion, over her plain serge dress, the typical little fancy apron--so
dear to the German _Hausfrau_.

The Berliners may well call her "Our Lilli Lehmann," for she is as
unassuming to this day as the least of them.

But altho she impresses you as unpretentious, you also feel at once her
great force and energy. It shows in her every word and movement, and
also in her business-like method of being interviewed.

"Yes, I am quite tired," was her first remark as she seated herself at a
little writing-desk and her visitor near by. "The opera lasted so late;
I did not get to bed until two o'clock. But I was waiting for you this
morning, and had just prepared to write down some items you might wish
to know."

Then she took a pencil and paper,--and what do you suppose she wrote
first? These are the exact words, and she read them aloud as she wrote:

"Born--Würzburg, November 24, 1848."

I could not conceal some surprise, and was obliged to explain: "The
American ladies so seldom give their age that your frankness is a
revelation."

"The Lilli Lehmann" smiled and said: "Why not? One is thereby no
younger."

[Illustration: Copyright by Aimé Dupont, N. Y.

Lehmann as Isolde in "Tristan and Isolde."]

She turned again to the desk, and went on with the "interview," using
her pencil with great firmness and rapidity as she wrote in German, and
with all possible abbreviations:

"I was brought up in Prague, where I made my début when eighteen years
of age. My mother was my first teacher and constant companion. She was
herself a dramatic soprano, well known as Maria Löw, and my father, too,
was a singer."

"In what opera did you first appear?"

"It was the 'Magic Flute,' and I appeared in one of the lighter rôles;
but two weeks later, during the performance, the dramatic soprano was
taken ill, and I then and there went on with her rôle, trusting to my
memory after hearing it so often. My mother, who was in the audience and
knew I had never studied the part, nearly fainted when she saw me come
on the stage as Pamina."

Madame Lehmann's feats of memory have more than once created a
sensation. We remember the astonishment aroused in New York music
circles five years ago when she mastered the Italian text of "Lucrezia
Borgia" in three days.

Recurring to her life in Prague, Madame Lehmann further said:

"I appeared not only in many operas, but also as an actress in many
plays. In those days opera singers were expected to be as proficient in
the dramatic side of their art as the musical, and we were called upon
to perform in all the great tragedies. But nowadays this would be
impossible, since the operatic repertoire has become so tremendous."

People seldom consider how much larger is the present list of famous
operas than formerly. All the Wagnerian works, many of Verdi's, and most
of the French have taken their places in comparatively recent years, and
yet there is still a demand for all the old operas too. The singer who
attains Wagner must at the same time keep up her Mozart, Beethoven,
Glück, Rossini, Meyerbeer, and Bellini.

As the visitor mentioned Bellini, Madame Lehmann assented. "Yes, we are
to give 'Norma' here next month." "Norma," abounding in melody and
florid fancies, is as different from Wagner as a cloudless sky from a
thunder-storm.

The divine art, like nature, has its various moods, and Wagner and
Bellini represent two extremes.

Among Wagner's works, "Isolde" is one character to which Madame
Lehmann's temperament and physique are strikingly fitted. Throughout the
long first act, wherein she is almost constantly singing, she imparts a
glorious impression of one who _thinks in music_. The fearless,
impassioned Isolde thinks bitter, rancorous thoughts of Tristan, whom
she abhors, until with fierce resolve she hands him the fatal drink
which, unknown to herself, is a love-potion. The previous dearth of
action has created a ready mood for us to thrill and respond at the
love-frenzy, the delirium which now animates the scene as these
unwitting lovers suddenly find all hatred and other memories gone from
their hearts.

It may be mentioned here that Wagner firmly believed in the power of
contrast, and he purposely preceded his greatest climaxes by what many
would deem an unwonted length of inaction.

In 1870 Lilli Lehmann was engaged for the Berlin Opera-House.

Americans can hardly appreciate the significance of this fact; but it
means much. The opera in Berlin is supported by the government and
directly under the supervision of the emperor. The singers are not
engaged for a season, but for life, being entitled to an annuity after
they retire from the stage. Lilli Lehmann's contract was signed by the
kaiser during the Franco-Prussian war.

When asked if the old Emperor Wilhelm was musical, Madame Lehmann
smiled, and there was a gleam of humor in her eyes:

"No, I can not truthfully say that he was at all musical, tho he was
wonderfully kind and good to all artists."

For fifteen years Lilli Lehmann sang in Berlin with an occasional flight
to Baireuth under the kaiser's permission, where she sang for Wagner
himself.

"I was one of the Rhine daughters, and also the first Forest Bird in
'Siegfried.'"

Wagner's own Forest Bird! It is a thrilling and poetic statement that
would be hard to equal. Of all this great master's characters, including
gods and demi-gods, knights and shepherds, dwarfs and giants, his most
original, and perhaps for this reason his best-loved children of the
brain, were, we believe, his Rhine daughters and his Forest Bird. The
former sing under the water laughing strains of mystical import and
unearthly sweetness, while the Forest Bird sings in the air--always
unseen, but more impressive than the greatest presence.

This bird-music is not very long, but it is of unsurpassed beauty, and
the most memorable theme in the opera. The scene too is exceptional and
powerful in its simplicity--only one person on the stage. Siegfried, the
inspired youth, who knows the speech of bird and beast, is alone in the
forest when he hears a bird sing. He pauses to listen, as you in the
audience do too, for the song is not a meaningless mocking-bird array of
trills and cadences, but a tender strain that bespeaks the bird as a
prophet. Siegfried tries to catch the message, tries to see the bird,
and tries, too, to imitate its tones. He cuts him a reed from the
water-banks, and shapes it and tests it until he can play upon it the
music he hears. Ah, we should like to have been in that audience at
Baireuth when this Forest Bird took its first flight into the world!

It is a great thing to create a rôle, to set the standard by which all
later performances shall be modeled. If the new opera proves to be a
great and lasting work, the singers who created the important rôles are
always credited therewith and mentioned. They usually have been selected
by the composer, and their performance is the result of his best
instruction as well as their own inspiration. Madame Lehmann has
"created" many rôles, but the most poetic, we deem, is the Forest Bird.

[Illustration: Copyright by Aimé Dupont, N. Y.

Lehmann as Venus in "Tannhäuser."]

After writing with characteristic abbreviation the foregoing
fact--"'75-'76, Baireuth, Rhine daughter, I Forest Bird"--Madame Lehmann
handed over the paper and asked "Is there anything more I can tell you?"

Her bright eyes, clear complexion, and magnificent figure prompted a
personal question:

"How do you keep your splendid health, and the strength to work so
much?"

For this she had a ready answer:

"I have been a vegetarian for the past five years."

In reply to one more parting question, Lilli Lehmann spoke words of
wisdom that are worthy of reflection:

"Yes, I still practise and study more than ever. At the end one is just
beginning."



"The Flying Dutchman"



"THE FLYING DUTCHMAN"


"The Flying Dutchman" is one of the most melodious of Wagner's operas,
and also one of the most popular in Germany. Its soprano rôle is well
beloved by all Wagnerian singers, but for some reason the work is seldom
given in this country. Americans have never had an opportunity to hear
Madame Lehmann in this opera, but it is one in which she is well known
abroad.

"Der Fliegende Holländer" is an early offspring of Wagner's genius, and
was composed at a time when Fate frowned upon him, and poverty and
despair were his close companions. After six weeks of feverish labor,
alone in hostile Paris, Wagner presented his beloved score to the
orchestra of the "Conservatoire." They promptly condemned it, which
affords a notable example of the change in musical taste. Portions of
the "Flying Dutchman" now hold a permanent place on French programs.

The plot, as well as the music, is as usual Wagner's own. "A daring
captain, after frequent vain attempts to double the Cape of Storms,
swears a mighty oath to persevere throughout eternity. The devil takes
him at his word, and the hapless mariner is doomed to roam the seas
forever." Such is the legend of the Flying Dutchman, to which Wagner has
added one redeeming clause: once in seven years the wanderer may land in
search of a faithful wife. If she be true unto death the curse shall be
lifted.

Wagner's music is so powerful and absolutely appropriate that it seems
to suggest the text, instead of conforming to it. No ordinary tunes or
conventional harmonies could adequately depict the roaming, restless,
Satan-chased sailor. The overture opens with the curse-theme, which
seems like the phantom ship itself as we follow its course throughout
the introduction. It rides over and under and around hurricanes of
chromatics and tremolos. Chords sweep like a deluge over the luckless
theme. But as neither rocks nor tempest can annihilate the accursed
vessel, so this theme mounts ever uppermost. On and on, "_Ohne Rast,
ohne Ruh_," must sail the Flying Dutchman. But the wanderer in his dark
existence finds hope in the salvation-theme, a peaceful, religious
phrase that is poised like a single star amid the tumultuous elements.
Like all of Wagner's overtures, this one has become a favorite program
piece.

With the ascending curtain there arises from the orchestra a storm of
restless tremolos and shrieking scales. The wind and waves thus rendered
in the music are also depicted on the stage. An expanse of ocean
occupies most of the scene, only in front the turbulent waves beat
against a bleak Norwegian coast. Driven thither by the elements, a ship
casts anchor at the shore. Daland, the captain, steps on land, while his
crew noisily pull up sails and cast out cables. As they work they shout
in unison a rude refrain that lends rhythm to their movements,
"Ho-lo-jo! Ho-he!" This is accompanied by surging waves of sound from
the orchestra. Owing to the sudden storm, this ship has been carried
seven miles away from the home port, to which it was returning after a
long voyage. There is nothing to do but wait for a south wind to carry
them back. Daland goes on board again and orders the sailors to rest. He
also retires, after entrusting the watch to his boatswain.

Altho this boatswain has no name, he is no insignificant character, for
to him falls one of the loveliest songs of the opera. He has a tenor
voice, and is in love with a "blue-eyed mädel." He makes a tour of the
deck, and then seats himself by the rudder. The storm has abated, but we
occasionally hear a gust of chromatics and a splash of chords. To ward
off sleep, the boatswain sings of his sweetheart, and calls upon the
south wind to blow their good ship home. This music is delightful and
refreshing as a salt sea breeze. The sailor does not trouble himself
with any fixed standard of tempo. He sings like the fitful wind, one
moment "accelerando," and the next "una poco moderato." He sustains the
climaxes and indulges in sentimental "rubatos," all of which is a touch
of naturalness skilfully introduced by the composer. The boatswain makes
another tour of the deck and then renews his song; but there is this
time more languor in his tones. The phrases are separated by frequent
"rests," the "moderatos" have developed into "largos;" the "rubatos" are
exaggerated, and finally this sweet-voiced boatswain falls asleep.

Soon the clouds become black and lowering, the waves are white and
towering, and the orchestra is like a seething cauldron of sound. The
conductor stirs it up more and more, until he brings to the top that
awful curse-theme of the Flying Dutchman. We lift our eyes to the stage,
and lo! over the dark waters comes another ship, strange and uncanny in
appearance, for its sails are blood-red and they hang upon masts that
are black as night. With a mighty crash this wanderer of the seas sinks
anchor alongside the Norwegian vessel. The dreaming boatswain is aroused
for a moment. He hums a snatch of his love-song, and then once again
nods his head in slumber. A terrifying silence falls upon the music as
we watch the ghostly crew of the phantom vessel noiselessly furl those
crimson sails.

There is a pause, and then, soft but impressive, that remarkable
curse-motif announces the approach of the Holländer himself. He steps
upon shore after another seven years of wandering. His stalwart figure
is draped in a black mantle, he wears a full beard, and has a baritone
voice.

The first solo of the Holländer is most interesting; but those who
expect a pleasing tune with a one-two-three accompaniment will be
disappointed. One is apt to think that music must be always beautiful
to be admired, but Wagner has taught that this idea is erroneous. Music
should represent what the maker feels, just as painting does what he
sees; and in proportion to the correctness of his representation is the
work to be admired. As a prominent example of this fact in painting,
mention may be made of Munkacsy's picture of Judas, which all admire but
none call beautiful. And so this solo of the accursed mariner is not
beautiful, as that term goes. How could it be? The weary, dreary,
condemned Dutchman communing with himself does not think of graceful
melodies that delight the senses. His phrases, instead, are all angular,
bitter, heavy, and despairing. He tells of his longing for rest, and he
mocks at the hope of finding true love. Too often has he been deceived:
"I wait and watch for the Judgment Day. Then only shall I rest!"

The Holländer leans mournfully against a rock, and the music subsides,
until a light-hearted melody directs our attention to the Norwegian
ship. Daland has come upon deck, and is surprised to find another ship
alongside. He calls the boatswain, who, half awake, commences to hum his
love-song; but another call from the captain brings him to his feet.
They hasten to signal the strange ship, but receive no answer; whereupon
Daland, seeing the Holländer, steps upon shore to accost him.

Politely but unconcernedly the hero makes answer to all questions, and
learns, in turn, that Daland's home is but seven miles' sail from here.
The Holländer asks for a night's lodging, and offers to pay liberally.
He brings forth a casket of jewels, which he declares is but a sample of
the cargo he carries. With bitter tones he adds: "What joy are such
riches to me? I have no home, no wife, no child; all my wealth should be
yours if you could give me these." He astonishes Daland with the sudden
question, "Have you a daughter?" and on being answered in the
affirmative the Holländer proposes to wed her. Very nobly does this
strange suitor plead his cause, his longing for love and rest. The music
is here truly beautiful, for the hero is striving to win and please.

Captured by the prospect of wealth and also by the strange fascination
of the Holländer, Daland consents to the proposition. Once again the sad
seaman is tempted to hope. The music has become decisive and, because of
rapid tempo, sounds quite joyous. On top of this pleasing climax there
comes a happy cry from the Norwegian ship: "A south wind! south wind!"
The sailors sing their "Ho-lo-jo" chorus as they let down sails and pull
up anchor. Daland goes on board, and the Holländer promises to follow.
With a breezy accompaniment of wind instruments the two ships sail away
and the curtain descends.

The prelude to the second act carries us from the storm-beaten coast of
Norway to the domestic peace of Daland's home. The composition is like a
brisk sail over smooth harmonies. It opens with the boatswain's song of
the south wind, and after a succession of undulating passages finally
lands upon the celebrated spinning-chorus.

A capacious room in the captain's home is filled with a merry company of
maidens, who, with their spinning-wheels, are working together under the
watchful eyes of Frau Mary. The wheels whir and whiz, like a drone of
bees, the orchestra keeps up a continuous revolving accompaniment, and
even the melody, with its ingenious rhythm, simulates a whirling wheel.
The picture is as pleasing as the music; both are unique and delightful.
The girls spin industriously where the song goes fast, but unconsciously
hold up with the ritardandos, and Frau Mary has frequent occasion to
remonstrate.

Only Senta, the captain's daughter, does not join in the song. She is
sitting in a big arm-chair and dreamily regards a large picture that is
hanging over the hearth. It is an ideal portrait of the Flying
Dutchman, such as many seafaring folk possess. Senta is an imaginative
girl, and has always been fascinated by the "pale man" on the wall and
his story. She begs Frau Mary to sing the ballad of the Flying Dutchman.
This request being refused, Senta sings it herself. Truly wonderful is
this ballad, with its blustering accompaniment and shivering climaxes.
The final verse relates how every seven years the weary seaman lands in
search of a faithful wife, but never yet has he found one. "False love!
false faith! Forever and ever must he ride the seas!"

Senta has become so wrought up by the song that she now sinks back in
her chair from exhaustion, while the other girls sing with bated breath
that beautiful melody of the salvation-theme. "And will he never find
her?" they ask with childlike credulity. Senta suddenly springs from her
chair and sings out with exultant tones: "I am the one who could save
him! I would be true till death! May heaven's angels send him to me!"
This music is of boundless intensity; the strongly accented
accompaniment sweeps forward and recedes like angry breakers, while the
voice part soars above like a fearless sea-bird. "Senta! Senta! Heaven
help us, she has lost her reason!" exclaim the astonished maidens, and
Frau Mary utters maledictions upon that "miserable picture," threatening
to throw it out of the house.

At this moment Erik, the young hunter who loves Senta, hastily enters,
announcing that her father's ship is landing. The dreamy heroine
promptly revives at this news, and becomes as elated and excited as any
of the girls. They all want to rush out and see the ship, but Frau Mary
orders them back, directing them, instead, to the kitchen, where there
is work to be done on account of this sudden home-coming. With much
chattering and commotion the girls and Frau Mary go out, leaving Senta
and Erik alone.

He detains her to listen to his vows and fears. Very tender and earnest
is this song of love and doubt. Wagner knew well how to use the simple
melody, which he considered essential to some emotions but out of place
with others. Like the artist's fine brush, it will not do for painting
storm-clouds, but in scenes of delicate delineation it is used with good
effect. Erik is troubled about a dream he had the night before. To the
usual accompaniment of violin tremolos, he relates how he saw Senta's
father bring with him a stranger who looked like that picture on the
wall. Already we hear far away beneath the tremolos, soft but distinct,
the curse-theme of the Flying Dutchman. As the dream-song goes on this
ominous phrase comes nearer, step by step, always in a higher key,
always louder and more impressive. It represents, in fact, the actual
approach of the Holländer. Senta listens as though entranced, while Erik
tells how he saw her come forward and kneel at the stranger's feet. But
the "pale man" lifted her in his arms and carried her away over the sea.
To Erik's horror, Senta turns toward the picture and cries out: "He is
seeking me! I would save him!" The young hunter sadly goes away,
believing that she is out of her mind.

Senta continues gazing at the picture. The music has become soft and
slow, and the curse-theme pervades the air like a ghostly presence. But
the heroine sings to herself that beautiful salvation-motif. The phrase
is finished with a startled shriek, for the door has opened, and there
before the astonished girl stands her hero--"der Fliegende Holländer!"
Daland, her father, is also there, but Senta has neither sight nor
thought of him. She stands immobile and amazed, her eyes never turning
from the Holländer. When Daland comes nearer, she grasps his hand,
whispering, "Who is that stranger?"

The father has carefully prepared his answer, and it is the finest bass
solo of the opera. After telling Senta that the stranger has come to be
her bridegroom, he turns to the Holländer, asking, "Did I exaggerate
her loveliness? Is she not an ornament to her sex?" In this phrase the
listener is surprised with a genuine _ad libitum_ colorature passage, a
style of musical decoration in which Wagner seldom indulges. But in the
original text this bit of fioritura falls upon the word _zieret_
("ornament"), and thus is a striking example of Wagner's theory that
music must fit the words. Daland sings on for some time, until he
notices that neither Senta nor the Holländer accord him any attention.
They are still gazing at each other, and the father very wisely goes
out.

The leading theme of his aria slowly departs from the orchestra, and
then, softly and hesitatingly, the curse-theme and salvation-motif enter
side by side. They move around a little, as tho to make themselves at
home, and then begins the great duet between soprano and baritone.

The Holländer recognizes in Senta the angel of his dreams, and she finds
his voice greeting her like familiar music. A beautiful melody is borne
upon the orchestra like a boat on the breast of a stream. As the
graceful structure floats past, the soprano and then the baritone enter
upon it. They glide on together, over smooth places, upon tremulous
undercurrents, but finally touch upon the salvation-theme, which,
throughout the opera, is typical of the seaman's haven. It often arises
above stormy passages like a mirage of the longed-for harbor.

After this vocal excursion the Holländer asks Senta if she is willing to
abide by her father's choice and to vow eternal faith. Her consent is
glad and free. There is another ensemble introducing a new and stirring
joy-theme. The highest note always occurs upon the word faith, thus
fulfilling the substance of the text, which is, "Faith above all!"

Daland reenters and is delighted to find such unity of voice and
purpose. He wishes the engagement announced at the evening fête which
his sailors will have to celebrate their home-coming. Senta repeats her
vow to be faithful unto death, and the act closes with an exhilarating
trio.

Wagner makes his orchestral preludes conform to a distinct purpose--that
of connecting the acts. So with the next introduction we hear the joyous
theme of the recent duet gradually modulated into a whispering memory of
the boatswain's song. This, in turn, develops into a new and noisy
nautical refrain, that is continued till the curtain rises, and then is
sung by the Norwegian sailors who are on the deck of their ship. They
are merry-making. The ship is illuminated with gay lanterns, as are also
the tavern and houses in the foreground. But not so the stranger's
vessel that lies alongside at the back of the stage. It is engulfed in
gloom and silence like the grave. The gay Norwegian chorus has a
peculiar rhythm that suggests the flapping of sail-cloth in a brisk
wind; it has sharp, rugged accents and a spirited tempo. The song is
ended with a regular hornpipe dance on deck. This bewitching
dance-melody seems thrown in to show what Wagner could do in that line
if he wanted to.

Some maidens come from the tavern with a basketful of provisions. While
the sailors continue dancing to the gay orchestral accompaniment, the
girls sing among themselves in quite another strain. As their
conversation should be most prominent, the dance-melody is promptly
changed from major to minor, which always gives a subduing and receding
effect like "scumbling over" in painting.

The girls go toward the Holländer's ship, intending their provisions for
the strangers, who seem to be sleeping profoundly. The girls call to
them, but only a ghostly silence rewards their efforts. They sing a
winning waltz phrase inviting the strangers to join their fête; they
offer every inducement to arouse the silent crew, and finally resort to
a great outcry: "Seamen! Seamen! wake up!" But again only prolonged
stillness is the answer.

The well-meaning maidens are thoroughly frightened, and they hasten
away after handing their basket to the Norwegian sailors. These proceed
to enjoy the contents. They fill their wine-glasses and repeat the merry
opening chorus.

In the mean time the sea surrounding the Holländer's ship becomes
suddenly turbulent, a weird blue light illumines the vessel, and its
crew, which were before invisible, are seen to move about.

The Norwegians cease singing, while their ghostly neighbors begin to
chant in hollow tones that terrible curse-theme. Tremolos and chromatics
descend upon the orchestra like a storm of hail and rain that almost
drown the singers' voices. To a demoniacal refrain full of startling
crescendos and pauses they sing of their gloomy captain

    "Who has gone upon land to win a maiden's hand."

Then they laugh an unearthly "Ha! ha!"

The Norwegian sailors have listened at first with wonder and then with
horror. Like children afraid in the dark, they decide to sing as loud
as they can. So their gay sailors' chorus rings out above the steady
curse-theme of the Holländer's crew. The Norwegians urge each other to
sing louder. Three times they start their song in a higher key, but that
fearful refrain from the phantom ship overcomes every other sound. The
Norwegians are too terrified to continue. They cross themselves and
hurry below deck. The sign of the cross arouses another mocking laugh
from the crew of the _Flying Dutchman_. Then sudden silence falls upon
them. The blue flame disappears and darkness hangs over all, while in
the orchestra there is a long-sustained note, and then one soft minor
chord like the shutting of a door upon the recent musical scene.

The succeeding harmonies are of another character, as distinct as a new
stage-setting. A phrase that well simulates hurried footsteps
accompanies the hasty entrance of Senta and Erik, who is much agitated.
He has just heard of her engagement to the stranger, and can scarce
believe it. He upbraids and pleads in one breath, while Senta begs him
to desist. But the despairing Erik kneels before her and sings with
grief-stricken tones of their past love. Like all of Erik's music, this
cavatine is simple and sincere, as one would expect from a peasant lad.

While he is kneeling before her the Holländer comes upon the scene
unobserved. With tones as furious as the orchestra accompaniment he
cries out: "Lost! My happiness is lost! Senta, farewell!" He summons his
crew to haul up anchor and let down sails. "False love! false faith! I
must wander the seas forever!"

A tempestuous trio follows the Holländer's outcry. Senta reiterates her
vow, and with intense fervor declares he must not leave her. Maidens and
sailors rush to the scene, but all stand back in amazement as they hear
the stranger announce: "You know me not, else had you ne'er received me.
My ship is the terror of all good people. I am called Der Fliegende
Holländer!" With this word he springs upon board; the crimson sails
expand upon the black masts, and the ship leaves shore; while the
ghostly crew chant their blood-curdling "Jo-ho-ho!"

But this is our last hearing of the curse-theme. Senta has rushed upon a
high rock projecting into the sea. With full voice and soaring tones she
calls to the receding ship: "My vow was true! I am faithful unto
death!"--whereupon she throws herself into the waves.

No sooner has she done so than the phantom vessel sinks from sight. The
music also tumbles down a tremendous chromatic; then it mounts again,
changing from minor to major, which gives an effect of sudden peace. The
Holländer has found true love. He rescues Senta, and we see him clasping
her in his arms, while the chords of the salvation-theme rise above the
other harmonies like the spires of a beautiful city. The haven has been
reached at last.



Melba
the Australian
Nightingale

[Illustration: NELLIE MELBA.]



MELBA, THE AUSTRALIAN NIGHTINGALE


A memorable performance of "Aida" was given in London, at Covent Garden,
a number of years ago. The Ethiopian slave-girl, dark-tinted and slight
of figure, attracted no particular attention with her first unimportant
recitative notes. The audience was diverted by the fine tenor singing,
the excellent contralto, and the well-drilled work of the chorus. There
followed more of this ensemble, more good orchestral playing, and then
an effect of melody, or rhythm, or something--that gradually caused
every pulse to quicken, and stirred every soul in a strange,
unaccountable way, until suddenly we realized that it was not the
rhythm, or the harmony, or the tenor, or the orchestra, but _one soprano
voice_, whose tones seemed to penetrate all space and soar to all
heights and thrill all hearts in a manner that was overpowering!

The slave-girl was singing! A new star from the Southern Hemisphere was
just beginning to appear in the North! A "_new name_" had been added,
and was soon to be heard by "all who had an ear to hear"--Melba, the
Australian Nightingale.

All critics agree that the quality of her voice has never, in the annals
of music, been surpassed.

In furnishing Melba her name, which is a diminutive of Melbourne, the
far continent has sprung into a musical prominence it never before
attained. From a land at the outer edge of the world, a sovereign of
song has arisen.

It would, of course, be artistic and effective to picture Melba's early
life as one of struggle and privation. But, search as one will, not a
crust or a tatter turns up in her history! She never shivered on a
doorstep, or sang for pennies in the street! Let the dismal truth be
told,--her father was wealthy, and his gifted daughter never lacked for
anything.

Nellie Mitchell, as she was known in those days, was gifted not only
with a voice, but with a splendid determination to work. She practiced
diligently all the time in the line of her ambition, and learned to play
admirably on the piano, violin, and pipe-organ. All this in spite of
the diversions and enticements of young companions and monied pastimes.
Wealth, as well as poverty, may serve to hinder progress, and it is much
to Melba's credit that she had the perseverance to work unceasingly.

Even at school, during recess hours, she was always humming and
trilling. This latter trick was a source of puzzling delight to her
comrades, who never tired of hearing "that funny noise she made in her
throat." The marvelous Melba trill, you see, was a gift of the gracious
fates at her birth--just back of the silver spoon in her mouth was
tucked a golden trill.

The story of her childhood is best told in her own words:

"My mother was an accomplished amateur musician, and it was her playing
that first gave me an idea of the charms of music. I was forever humming
everything I heard, and she was always telling me to stop, for my noise
was unceasing! My favorite song was 'Coming Thro' the Rye.' I also liked
'Nellie Ely,' because my own name was Nellie!"

Incidentally, it was learned that dolls were tabooed by this
prima-donna in pinafores.

"I hated dolls. My favorite toys were horses--wooden horses. One given
to me by my father's secretary was almost an idol to me for years."

Recurring to the subject of music, Mme. Melba continued:

"I didn't _sing_ much when a child; I only _hummed_. And by the way, a
child's voice should be carefully guarded. I consider the ensemble
singing in schools as ruinous to good voices. Each one tries to outdo
the other, and the tender vocal cords are strained and tired. I,
personally, did not seriously study singing until after my marriage at
seventeen years of age."

The preparation required for Mme. Melba's career was neither very long
nor arduous. She studied nine months with Marchese, then was ready to
make her début in Brussels as a star.

All things came easy to her, because her voice never had to be
"_placed_"; her tones were jewels already set.

"The first opera I ever heard was Rigoletto.' That was in Paris, when I
was studying. What did I think of it? Well, I dare say my inexperience
made me very bumptious, but I remember thinking I could do it better
myself! In Australia I had no chance to hear operas. 'Lucia' I have
never yet heard, tho that is perhaps the rôle most associated with my
name."

"Lucia" has, indeed, become a Melba possession. The mad-scene alone, on
a program with her name, would invariably crowd the house. It is a
veritable frolic to hear her in this aria. She is pace-maker, as it
were, to the flute, which repeats every phrase that she sings. It is the
prettiest race ever run, and when at the finish the time-keeper brings
down his baton, the audience cheers itself hoarse for the winner.

When asked her opinion of the new gramaphones and the wonderful records
of her voice, Madame Melba spoke with enthusiasm.

"They are, indeed, a remarkable achievement. I am looking, however, for
still greater improvements, and am keenly interested in every new
development."

A matter of "keen interest" it must, indeed, be to every prima-donna of
to-day--this amazing, magic trumpet that can record the subtle
individual quality of a singer's voice, and give it gloriously forth
again when desired. By means of this weird invention, the present
vintage of fine voices can be bottled up like rare wine, and poured out
in future years. More wonderful still: like the "widow's cruse," this
trumpet never grows empty; from its uptilted mouth the flow of song will
stream on continuously, if so desired and directed. It is enough to make
poor Jenny Lind and other long-silent singers turn restlessly in their
graves: they died too soon to profit by the powers of this recording
trumpet,--which surely has no rival save the one that Gabriel blows.

Some further random questions about the experiences of a prima-donna
elicited the following item. Mme. Melba smiled as she told it:

"Yes, I have some queer things said to me. Just recently a young girl of
eighteen, who wished me to hear her sing, assured me that there were
only two fine voices in the world to-day--hers and mine!

"But I must tell you," she added brightly, "the most graceful
compliment ever paid me. It was by an Irish woman, who, in commenting on
the lack of song in the native birds of Australia, pointed out that they
had treasured up all their melody through the ages and then had given it
to me."

Some one has said, "The ease of Melba's singing is positively
audacious!" She certainly makes light of the most time-honored
difficulties. She will start a high note without any preparation, with
apparently no breath and no change of the lips. Faint at first as the
"fabric of a dream," it is followed by the gradual grandeur of a
glorious tone, straight and true as a beam of light, until finally it
attains the full zenith of a crescendo.

In a bewildering variety of ways writers have attempted to describe the
wonder of her voice.

"It seems to develop in the listener a new sense; he feels that each
tone _always has been_ and _always will be_. She literally lays them out
on the air."

"Her _tone-production_ is as much a gift as the voice itself."

After all, "she is Melba, the incomparable, whose beauty of voice is
only equaled by the perfection of her art."

"In future years the present time will be referred to, musically, as 'in
the days of Melba.'"

Like all great prima-donnas, Madame Melba has a beautiful home of her
own, and a country place to which she hies in the summer. Her town house
is near Hyde Park, London.

We imagine these song-birds during the hot months resting luxuriantly in
their various retreats--Melba in her river residence, Calvé in her
French chateau, Jean de Reszke on his Polish estate, Eames in her
Italian castle, and Patti at "Craig y Nos." But it is hardly an accurate
picture, for _rest_ to the artist still means _work_. They study all
summer, every one of them, and entertain other artists, who work with
them, or, at any rate, contribute to the perpetual whirl of music in
which they live.

A very good idea of the home life of these song-queens was given to me
by a young lady who visited one of them for several months.

"Do you know," she said, "it was positively depressing to be near so
much talent and genius.

[Illustration: Photograph by Davis & Sanford.

Mme. Melba as Elizabeth in "Tannhäuser."]

"Why, in the drawing-room they would be talking seven or eight
languages; and some one would improvise at the piano, while another
would take a violin and join in with the most wonderful cadenzas, and
then, perhaps, the piano-player would step aside and some one else would
slide into his place and continue the improvisation the first one had
begun; and so on all the time, until really I began to feel just about
as small and worthless as a little pinch of dust."



"Lakme"



"LAKME"


Lakme was one of Patti's most successful rôles, and very few other
singers have ventured to attempt it. But Madame Melba includes it in her
repertoire, and a great treat is in store for New Yorkers when the
managerial difficulties in the way of its production are sufficiently
overcome for her to present it.

"Lakme" is composed by Delibes. This name at once recalls that exquisite
"pizzicato" from the ballet "Sylvia," a musical fragment that has
floated around the world and stuck to the programs of every land. The
same delicate fancy and witchery that characterize the ballet are also
prominent in the opera. His style is perhaps the furthest removed from
Wagner of any modern composer. "Lakme" has no crescendo worth
mentioning, and the themes are, for the most part, left to take care of
themselves; but every phrase is fascinating, and there is never a
tedious passage.

The prelude opens in the minor key with a group of octaves erect and
solemn as pine trees. The next phrase starts up like a blue flame
darting from obscurity--a fantastic measure with wild harmonies that
plainly suggest India as Lakme's home. A pathetic wail from the flute
offsets this elfish interlude; the gloom of the minor still hangs over
all, and the persistent tremolo of the violins becomes oppressive as the
perfume of magnolias. It is like a forest at midnight. Suddenly the
gloom and stillness are dispersed by the love-theme of the opera, which
is in the major key, and consequently has a purifying effect. Major and
minor are the oxygen and nitrogen of the musical atmosphere.

A peculiar, rhythmical beating of the triangle accompanies the rising of
the curtain, which reveals a luxuriant garden enclosed by a bamboo
fence. At the back is a little river, and a modest dwelling stands on
the bank; but a pretentious idol at one side characterizes the place as
a sanctuary. Day is breaking, and as the light increases those soft,
metallic tones of the triangle penetrate the air like sunbeams.
Nilikanthe, a Brahmin priest and owner of the dwelling, comes forward
with two slaves, who open the bamboo gates, admitting a group of Hindu
devotees, who prostrate themselves before the idol. Beneath the radiance
of those unceasing triangle tones arises a languid prayer, soft as the
gray morning mist, after which Nilikanthe addresses the worshipers. He
refers to their recent English conquerors, who have "displaced our gods
and devastated our temples." His tones mount higher and ring out with
religious ecstasy until he causes a sudden hush. The music of invisible
harps fills the air, and as the Hindus again kneel a woman's voice, like
a clarion call, renders an incantation that is rare and wondrous. It
sounds like the song of an angel, but it is only Lakme, the Brahmin's
daughter. She comes forward and mingles her prayer with those of the
people. Weird and strange, like the tones of a wild bird, her voice
soars above the chorus, filling the air with reckless trills and soft
staccatos. The worshipers arise and go out, leaving Lakme and her father
alone. She is a "child of the gods," and her life is dedicated to
Brahma. Nilikanthe declares it is her pure influence that protects their
sacred abode from the enemy. He leaves her for a time in charge of
Mallika, a trusty slave.

When he is gone the music assumes a lighter mood, while mistress and
maid look about for diversion. After removing her jewels and placing
them upon a stone table, Lakme proposes a row on the river. The music of
this scene is fraught with a tropical heat and midday languor--dreamy,
drowsy violin tremolos that suggest the drone of bees. The two maidens
render a duet whose words--

    "Ah, we'll glide,
     With the tide--"

are set to music that seems to sing itself. It is a fountain of melody
with flowing rhythm and rippling runs, staccatos like drops of water,
and trills that are light as bubbles. The singers step into the boat,
and we hear their song far down the stream, soft as a shadow and lovely
as a dream.

After a moment's silence a new element comes forward--a party of English
sight-seers. Their appearance in grand opera seems to us as much an
invasion as their presence in India does to the Hindu. After the costume
of Lakme, which is all spangles and bangles and gauze and fringe, we are
astonished to see the modern English waistcoats, fashionable bonnets,
and long-trained skirts. But it is all compatible with facts and
history. Gerald is an officer in the army; Ellen, his fiancée, is a
daughter of the governor; the other couple are their friends, and Mrs.
Benson is the chaperone.

To enter this enclosure, the party have had to force an opening in the
bamboo. It is evident trespassing, but they are too unconcerned to
care. Their first rollicking ensemble is an interesting evidence of the
composer's ability to change from the Hindu to the English type. Instead
of weird, uncivilized cadenzas, these are plain, Christianlike
harmonies, such as we have been brought up to and can anticipate.
Indeed, this song recalls Arthur Sullivan in his best mood.

After inspecting the idol and various points of interest, the party
discover Lakme's jewels. Ellen admires their workmanship, and Gerald
proposes to sketch them; but Mrs. Benson urges the party away. They all
go excepting Gerald, who insists on copying the jewels. He prepares his
sketching materials and is apparently in haste; but true to the precepts
of grand opera, he first sings to us a long and beautiful aria about
"taking the design of a jewel."

By the time he has sustained the last high tone through five measures,
Lakme and Mallika have finished their row upon the river. Gerald
conceals himself behind a shrub as they enter. The undulating melody of
their boat-song is rendered by the orchestra, first softly, then with
increasing strength, until it ends with a sforzando chord as the boat
touches shore.

Lakme brings forward an armful of flowers as an offering to the idol,
and she sings a tender little song whose pathetic melody belies the
text, which constantly asserts, "I am happy." The accompaniment is a
simple violin arpeggio, swaying back and forth upon the melody like a
butterfly on a flower. Between the verses it flutters up in a fanciful
cadenza, but soon returns, and, alighting on the melody, it continues to
sway as before.

Great is Lakme's indignation on perceiving Gerald, the intruder. As she
goes toward him, her every step is emphasized by a resolute chord in the
orchestra.

"Leave at once!" she commands. "This ground is sacred, and I am a child
of the gods!"

But Gerald has fallen hopelessly in love with the pretty priestess, and
he loses no time in telling her. No one has ever dared thus to address
Lakme, and she is incensed at his boldness. She warns him that death
will be the penalty of his rash trespassing unless he goes at once. But
Gerald only repeats his sweeping song of infatuation.

At last, moved to admiration by his courage, Lakme ventures to ask by
what god is he inspired. Like ripples of sunlight are the next measures,
wherein he tells her that the God of Love makes him fearless.

Interested in this new deity, the Hindu maiden repeats after him the
sparkling words and music. She sings timidly and a tone too low, but
Gerald leads his ready pupil into the right key, and they sing together
with full voice this most fascinating melody. The final rapturous tone
has scarcely subsided when Lakme hears her father approach.

Complying with her entreaties, Gerald departs just in time for
Nilikanthe to perceive the broken fence. He vows vengeance upon the
profane foe who has dared to enter here. His followers second the cry,
while Lakme stands aside in fear and trembling.

Tambourines and fifes predominate in the next orchestral prelude. It is
a miniature _marche militaire_, and unmistakably English. The second act
discloses a public square filled with Indian shops and bazars. It is the
occasion of a great festival at the pagoda. Merchants and promenaders
occupy the stage, and their opening chorus is all bickering and
bargaining. The music is very ingenious. A free use of harmonic
discords, dazzling scales that seem to clash with their bass, and
chromatics that run into each other gives an effect of Oriental
extravagance--gay colors upon crumbling walls, jewels over rags.

The chorus continues until a bell announces the beginning of the
festival and time for the venders to disperse. They slowly depart and
give place to the ballet, without which Delibes would hardly be
himself.

It is interesting to note the specialties that different composers
unconsciously assume. Liszt seemed to revel in rhapsodies; while the
alliteration, "Schubert's Songs," comes uppermost in spite of our
knowledge that he wrote some eleven hundred other compositions. Bach
invented more fugues than any one else; while Handel made his most
lasting impression with oratorios. Symphonies and sonatas were the
life-work of Beethoven; while Chopin had a particular fancy for
nocturnes. And Mendelssohn! With all deference to his greater works, it
must be conceded that "Songs Without Words" are inseparably linked with
his name. Verdi with his tremendous range of operas has had little time
for anything else. The list could be extended to almost any length; but
we will only add that Czerny is known for his scale exercises and Kullak
for his octaves; while Weber, in the language of a recent critic, "is
famous because he invited all the world to waltz!"

But to return to Delibes and his ballets. The present one is divided
into several movements--the first being slow but of throbbing rhythm,
while in the second one the melody whirls and spins around like a top.
It is constantly whipped up by the conductor's baton, and the dizzy pace
continues until this merry melody bumps against a substantial chord.

After the ballet Lakme and her father come forward. They are disguised
as pilgrim mendicants, the better to enable Nilikanthe to seek out his
foe. It must be understood that this Hindu thirst for vengeance is a
matter of religious belief, and the music plainly impresses this fact. A
weird theme that was prominent in the overture recurs as Nilikanthe
explains that the wrath of heaven must be appeased with the blood of a
victim. He has cleverly surmised that Lakme was the attraction inducing
the stranger to trespass on sacred ground. Confident that every one will
attend this great festival, the Brahmin has brought his daughter as a
decoy. She plays the rôle of a street ballad-singer, and is at the
merciless command of her father. He bids her look gay and sing with full
voice so as to attract a crowd. The orchestra gives her the keynote, and
then, like a necromancer performing wonders with a coin, she executes a
cadenza that bewilders and dazzles the senses. Her tones soar away like
carrier-birds, and they bring the people from far and near to hear the
wondrous singing. When a crowd has collected, Nilikanthe announces that
she will sing to them the "Legend of the Pariah's Daughter." Lakme sings
as easily as she talks. The first phrase is a simple little narrative
about a maiden wandering at eve in the forest, fearless of beast and
sprite, for she carries in her hand a little bell that wards off evil
with its merry tinkling. Then follows one of the most difficult staccato
fantasias in existence, for the voice imitates the tinkle of that silver
bell. The tones fall fast as rain-drops in a shower, round as beads and
clear as crystal. The composer shows no respect or reverence for high
notes. Upper B is given a "shake" and any amount of staccato raps, while
even high E, that slumbering "spirit of the summit," is also aroused to
action. In fact, this aria is one of the few that can not be poorly
rendered. To do it at all argues doing it well. Its difficulties protect
it like a barricade from the attack of mediocre singers. The second
verse relates how the maiden meets a stranger, who is saved from the
surrounding wolves by the tinkle of her magic bell. This stranger was
"great Vishnu, Brahma's son;" and since then--

    "In that dark wood
       The traveler hears
     Where Vishnu stood
       The sound of a little bell ringing."

Soft and clear as a wood-nymph laughing those marvelous staccatos again
peal forth.

During his daughter's performance Nilikanthe has been scanning the faces
around him, but none reveals any emotion other than the pleasure of
listening. Furious that his plan has not succeeded, he bids Lakme to
sing it again--"Louder!" But she has suddenly perceived Gerald
approaching; and, knowing that if he recognizes her he will betray
himself, she does not wish to sing. She pleads and entreats, but her
father is obdurate. So she begins with pouting lips and trembling voice.
"Sing out!" admonishes Nilikanthe. As Gerald draws nearer, Lakme becomes
more and more disturbed. The pretty staccatos are all out of place, like
blossoms falling to pieces. They are flat where they should be sharp,
and minor instead of major; but her tones, like perfect petals, are none
the less lovely because detached. Once, twice, three times she
recommences, always in a higher key. Suddenly she utters a musical
scream as Gerald comes up to her, and Nilikanthe exclaims: "'Tis he!"

In the mean time, Gerald hears the fifes and tambourines of his regiment
and goes to answer the roll-call.

Nilikanthe summons his Hindu followers and informs them that he has
discovered the foe. This solo with chorus of the conspirators is minor,
_mysterioso_, and _agitato_; it is the most interesting bass solo of the
opera. The conspirators go off, leaving Lakme alarmed and disconsolate.
Like a faithful hound, Hadji, the slave, draws near to her and whispers
that he has seen her tears and heard her sighs: "If you have a friend to
save, confide in me." His words are _parlando_, but the orchestra
illumines them with music clear as a calcium light. Lakme grasps his
hand in gratitude, but motions him aside as she perceives Gerald
thoughtfully returning.

The hero has left his comrades at the first opportunity and retraced his
steps to the place he left Lakme. His joy on finding her is portrayed in
a musical greeting of such unbounded rapture that one key will hardly
hold it. The ensuing love-duet deserves to rank with the best. But Lakme
is more sad than glad, for she knows of impending danger. She urges him
to flee, and tells him of "a little cabin hidden in the forest, quite
near by," where he can hide secure from his enemies. This Cabin Song is
an idyllic refrain, with gentle harmonies that picture more than the
words. She urges him to follow her; but, in spite of his infatuation,
Gerald realizes his duty as a soldier. He dare not go.

Like dust before a tempest is the succeeding instrumental passage
announcing the approach of the great procession. The notes, like atoms,
are carried forward faster and higher, until they come so thick that you
can not distinguish them. This cloud of music melts away before the
mighty chant of the Brahmins as they march to the pagoda. Their weird
incantation fills the air like a trumpet-blast. The greater part of this
processional music greets our ears familiarly, because it was given in
the overture. Upon this somber background of Hindu harmonies the
composer delights in casting gleams of Sullivanesque music in the form
of passing remarks from the English onlookers. The contrast is startling
as magic-lantern pictures thrown upon the pyramids.

As the procession marches on, we see Nilikanthe point out Gerald to the
other conspirators. They cautiously surround him, and at the bidden
moment he is stabbed by Nilikanthe, who then disappears in the crowd. On
hearing the victim's cry, Lakme rushes forward. The stage is darkened,
for it is evening, and the lights of the procession are gone. The Hindu
maiden finds Gerald but slightly wounded. She calls Hadji, the slave,
and then, without further explanation on her part, the instruments
whisper to us her intention. We hear the soothing harmonies of that
lovely song about "a little cabin hidden in the forest quite near by."

The second _entr'acte_ is performed after the rising of the curtain. We
see an Indian forest, dense of foliage and brilliant with flowers. At
one side is a hut, half concealed by the shrubbery, and near it are
Lakme and Gerald, the latter reclining upon a bank, while she watches
over him as he slumbers. No sound or movement mars the effect of a
perfect picture, and beneath it all, like gold letters spelling out the
subject, come the tones of that sweet melody of the Cabin Song. The
conductor at his desk reminds us of an artist at his easel who, with a
magic brush, traces in tone-colors this beautiful inscription.

After the _entr'acte_ Lakme softly sings a slumber-song, simple as a
child's prayer and as beautiful. There are only two phrases in it, but
they come and go like wandering thoughts. When Gerald awakes he recalls
how he was brought here, while Lakme relates how with wild herbs and the
juice of flowers he has been restored. Their rapturous conversation is
interrupted by a chorus from without, the voices of young men and
maidens on their way to a fountain in the forest from whence, it is
said, if two lovers drink they will always be united. Lakme solemnly
explains this beautiful belief and at once proposes to bring a cup of
the water. "Wait for me," she admonishes as she runs out, and we hear
her voice mingle with the far-away chorus of the other lovers.

During her absence a comrade of Gerald's discovers his retreat. The
newcomer announces that their regiment has orders to move on, and that
if Gerald does not join them he will be dishonored. This visit passes
over like a modern railroad through an Arcadian temple. Poor Lakme soon
discovers the devastation. With charming faith she extends her cup of
water to Gerald, but at this moment he hears the fifes and drums of his
regiment. Lakme still offers the cup. "Drink and vow to be mine!" But
Gerald does not heed her words, for he is distracted with thoughts of
duty and honor. She also hears this English music.

"His love is faltering!" she piteously cries; and then with a decision
as impulsive as her nature she plucks a flower of the deadly Datura and
eats it without being observed by Gerald.

She turns to him tenderly and sings of their love,--a melody so gentle
and pathetic that he can no longer resist. He picks up the fallen
goblet, and touching it to his lips vows to love forever. They sing
together a song of exaltation.

Suddenly Nilikanthe breaks in upon them. He brings his followers and
would kill Gerald at once, did not Lakme rush between them: "If a victim
to the gods must be offered, let them claim one in me!" In tones of
ecstasy she repeats the final phrase of her love-song; but her voice
soon fails, and with a sudden gasp she falls at the Brahmin's
feet--dead.

Like hot flames reaching up at him from the orchestra come the tones of
his terrible vow-theme. The victim has been offered, but instead of
glory, only ashes fall upon him.



"I Pagliacci"



"I PAGLIACCI"


Pagliacci is the Italian word for clowns, a decidedly unique subject for
grand opera. Novelty is one of the characteristics of this work. It has
already achieved fame, altho but a child in age and size, being only a
few years old and two acts long. Leoncavallo, the composer and
librettist, has since written another opera, "I Medici," which has found
favor in Europe, but is still unheard in America.

Pagliacci is startling and intense from the entrance of the Prologue to
the clown's last word, "_finita_." The music abounds in surprises, and
altho Leoncavallo has been charged with some plagiarism, his work but
reflects the influence of such recent composers as Wagner and Mascagni.

The opening orchestral measures are of peculiar rhythm, and suggest the
spasmodic movement of puppets on a string; but this implies no lack of
dignity to the composition. There are passages that recall the "Flying
Dutchman," and Leoncavallo adopts the Wagnerian method of handling his
themes; in other words, each one has a meaning that is adhered to
throughout the opera. In this introduction we hear the warm and sunny
love-music, followed by the somber theme of revenge like a shadow after
light. Then the puppet-music is hastily resumed, to remind us that a
clown must laugh and dance, however bitter his feelings.

During the overture a painted and grotesque personage steps before the
curtain and announces himself as the Prologue. This innovation has
prompted some wag to remark that "the opera commences before it begins!"
Mascagni, in his "Cavalleria Rusticana," was the first to present an
unconventional opening, by having a serenade behind the curtain, but
Leoncavallo has outdone his rival by having a prologue in front of the
curtain. He tells us that the play is taken from life, and that in spite
of their motley and tinsel the actors have human hearts. This satisfying
song, with its appealing melody and large, resounding accompaniment, has
never yet failed to arouse an encore. With a final signal for the play
to begin, the Prologue skips out as the curtain goes up.

The scene represents an Italian village gaily decorated for the "Feast
of the Assumption," an annual fête that lasts a week. We see at one side
a rough mimic theater, with stage and curtain, a temporary structure
erected for a troupe of players who are just entering the town. There
are shouting and laughter behind the scenes, sounds of a discordant
trumpet and a terrible drum, and soon the villagers enter, vociferously
greeting and surrounding a donkey-cart in which are the players. It is a
meager troupe, consisting of Canio, the master, Nedda, his wife, Beppo,
the harlequin, and Tonio, the fool. They wear fantastic costumes. Canio
beats his big drum, while Nedda scatters play-bills, and the villagers
think the troupe quite wonderful. They are welcomed with an impulsive
sweeping chorus that seems to disregard all precedent in the matter of
keys. These peasants apparently sing in an ungoverned, unrestrained way
of their own; but as an Italian's tattered costume is always
picturesque, so is this artless music most graceful and charming. Canio
bows grotesquely on all sides, and again thumps his drum to make the
people listen as he tells them that at seven o'clock the play will
begin:

         "You all are invited,
          And will be delighted
    As you witness the woes of poor Punchinello,
    Who revenges himself on a rascally fellow."

Canio's professional music, such as the foregoing speech, is made
admirably artificial, thin and cheap as tissue paper, with uncertain
accompaniment and flimsy melodies.

When the excitement has subsided, Tonio, the fool, offers to lift Nedda
from the cart, but Canio boxes his ears and helps his own wife down.
The people laugh at Tonio's discomfort, and he goes off grumbling. This
pantomime action and the succeeding bit of dialog are accompanied by a
rollicking, hurdy-gurdy sort of motif in the orchestra. A villager
invites the players to a drink in the tavern. Canio and Beppo accept,
and they call Tonio to come along, but he replies from behind the mimic
theater, "I am cleaning the donkey, and can't come." The villager
laughingly suggests that Tonio is only waiting for a chance to court
Nedda. Canio takes this joke rather seriously, and sings an earnest
cantabile to the effect that such a game would be dangerous: "On the
stage, when I find her with a lover I make a funny speech and every one
applauds; but in life--believe me, it would end differently." This last
phrase is adapted to the dismal, menacing theme of revenge that was
started like a germ in the overture. It is still deeply buried among the
instruments, but its growth is steady from the beginning of the opera
to the end. Canio closes his song by assuring all that there is no
ground for suspicion. He embraces Nedda, and declares that he loves and
respects her. The hurdy-gurdy music is resumed, and distant bagpipes are
heard,--noises peculiar to a village fête. The chorus sing with much
good humor, and are accompanied by a charming violin obligato. Then
comes the Bell Chorus, so named because the church bell calls them to
vespers. "Prayers first, and then the play!" exclaim the young people as
they go out. The delightful turns and curves of this bell-song are
continued until quite in the distance.

Nedda is left alone, and the orchestra, like a merciless conscience,
repeats to her Canio's threatening theme. She has a secret that causes
her to tremble as she recalls her husband's dark looks and words; but
her fears are momentary, for the day is bright and so is her heart. She
sings to the sunshine and the birds in the sky. A gay tremolo of the
stringed instruments seems to fill the air with feathered songsters,
and they remind Nedda of a little ballad her mother used to croon. This
popular ballatella is generally referred to as the Bird Song. There is a
busy, buzzing string accompaniment, and the melody is a gentle, legato
waltz movement. The last notes are descriptive of a bird's flight "away,
away!" so high that the tone seems to soar out of sound as a bird out of
sight.

Nedda turns around, and is surprised to find Tonio listening with rapt
adoration. He is only a jester, and quite ridiculous to look upon; but
he nevertheless loves Nedda, and tells her so. In this aria, Tonio
reveals a depth of feeling that is in touching contrast to his painted
face and comical clothes. Nedda laughs uproariously at his confession,
and with heartless sarcasm she quotes the scherzando music of the
prospective play-scene, and says he must save his fine love-making for
the stage. In vain Tonio pleads and falls on his knees. She threatens to
call her husband, and finally snatching up a whip, gives Tonio a smart
blow on the face. His love is turned to hatred, and he vows vengeance
for this insult. He is very much in earnest, and indeed the composer has
given him quite a fine vengeance-theme, all his own. It is heard
groveling and growling among the bass instruments, like some disturbed
animal. Tonio goes off with frowns and threats, but Nedda forgets these
in the joy of seeing Silvio. As he cautiously enters, the orchestra
announces in the plainest musical phrases that this newcomer is the
lover. That theme amoroso is unmistakable even had we not been
introduced to it in the prologue. Throughout this love-scene it is the
leading spirit, sporting around from treble to bass, now in the
orchestra, then in the voice; sometimes veiled in a minor key or
suppressed by top-heavy chords; again, it will start to materialize but
at once disappear, or when most unexpected will push itself forward with
impish delight.

The witchery of this music undermines fear and caution. The lovers do
not notice Tonio's leering face as he overhears their vows and then goes
off to bring Canio; nor do they hear the stealthy approach of Tonio's
revenge in the orchestra. Nedda agrees to elope with Silvio, "to forget
the past and love forever!" He has climbed the wall and sings these
farewell words with Nedda, just in time for Canio to hear them. The
husband rushes forward with a cry of rage, but he fails to recognize the
lover. Nedda has warned Silvio to flee, and Canio scales the wall in
pursuit. She is left for a moment with Tonio, who gloats over his
revenge. With bitter irony Nedda cries "Bravo!" to his success. She
calls him a coward and other terrible names, but the despised jester
only shrugs his shoulders.

When Canio returns from his futile chase, he grasps Nedda, tortures her
and threatens her, but she will not tell her lover's name. He declares
she shall die, and with these words that bitter revenge-theme for the
first time blossoms out in the voice part. It is sung and shouted by
the maddened Canio, while the director's baton swings over the orchestra
like a reaper's sickle, gathering in this full-grown theme. Canio draws
his dagger, but is forcibly restrained by Beppo, who tries to reason
with his master. "It is time for the play to begin. The people pay their
money and must be entertained." Nedda is told to go and dress for her
part, while Canio is advised to restrain his anger until after the play.
He allows himself to be persuaded. The others go off to make ready, and
he too must soon don the paint and powder. He looks sadly at the little
theater, and sings a magnificent aria that attains the uttermost heights
of pathos. He must amuse the people while his heart is breaking. He dare
not weep as other men, for "I am only a clown." Canio goes off sobbing
as the curtain descends.

An intermezzo of much beauty and deep feeling is performed by the
orchestra between the acts. Its opening measures recall the funeral
march of the "Götterdämmerung"--dolorous, heart-weary passages that
presently break away with a nervous energy into the cantabile theme of
the prologue. This intermezzo is not long, and we are again enlivened by
the scene on the stage.

It is evening, "at seven o'clock," and the mimic theater is illuminated
by gay lanterns. The people are flocking to the performance, and they
drag forward benches and chairs to sit upon. Tonio stands at one side of
the little stage beating a drum, while Beppo blows the trumpet which is
still out of tune, and therefore the opening bars of this act are
exactly like the first. These good people make a great rush and fuss in
getting their seats, and they sing a simple, hearty refrain about the
great event of seeing a play. The original and refreshing chorus that
delighted us in the first act is repeated, and we become as excited and
eager as the villagers to witness the performance about to take place on
that little wooden stage with its cheap red curtain. Silvio is among
the crowd, and he finds a chance to speak with Nedda as she passes the
money-box. He arranges to meet her after the play, and she admonishes
him to be careful. After she has collected the money the players go back
of the scenes. A little bell is rung, and the wonderful red curtain goes
up.

The comedy is called "Columbine and Punchinello," and Nedda, who plays
the part of Columbine, is discovered sitting by a table. The room is
roughly painted and Nedda wears some cheap finery, but the people
applaud and think it beautiful. The play-music is all angular and
grotesque, glaring effects thrown on in splashes like an impressionist
painting. It is admirably appropriate, and perhaps the most unique
stroke in the opera.

To return to the action of the mimic play. Columbine soliloquizes for a
moment about her husband Punchinello, whom she does not expect home
until morning. She looks toward the window and evidently expects some
one else. The pizzicato tuning of a violin is heard through the window.
The player gets his instrument to the right pitch and then sings a
serenade to the "fair Columbine." She would fain receive her adorer, but
at this moment the servant (Tonio) enters. He looks at Columbine, and
with exaggerated music and ridiculous sighs informs the hearers that he
loves her, and now that the husband is away he finds courage to get
abruptly on his knees. Columbine pays no attention to his love-making,
but she accepts the property chicken that he takes from his basket. The
village spectators laugh and applaud. The scene on the mimic stage is
next enlivened by the lover (Beppo), who climbs in through the window,
and on seeing the servant promptly takes hold of his ear and shows him
out of the room. The spectators, of course, laugh at this and think the
whole play very funny. Columbine entertains her lover by giving him a
good supper. Their harmonious conversation includes a charming and
graceful gavotte melody that is decidedly the gem of this play-music.
Its dainty elegance and classic simplicity are worthy of Bach himself.

The servant rushes in upon the supper-scene, and with mock agitation
announces that Punchinello is coming. The lover hurries out of the
window as the husband enters. It is Canio, the real husband, who acts
this part, and as he sees Nedda at the window he is struck with the
similarity of the play to the reality. For a moment the play-music is
dropped and we hear the serious love-theme of the opera closely pursued
by that bitter wail of revenge that clings and creeps around it like a
poison-vine. Canio chokes down his grief and bravely tries to go through
his burlesque part. A new, jerky little melody accompanies the remarks
of Punchinello, and it would be very gay were it not written in the
minor, which gives it a touching effect of faint-heartedness.
Punchinello asks Columbine who has been with her, and she replies, "Only
the servant." But Punchinello again asks who was the man--"tell me his
name." The last words are real, and Canio no longer acts a part. Nedda
tries to keep up the farce, and the serious themes and play-music
alternate as the scene goes on. With curses, threats, and entreaties
Canio tries to learn the name of Nedda's lover, and Silvio in the
audience becomes uneasy; but the other villagers only think it is fine
acting. When Canio at last buries his face in sobs as he recalls how
much he loved his wife, the people shout "Bravo!"

Nedda again tries to resume the play. She forces herself to smile and
sing the gay gavotte; but this only maddens Canio the more. With tones
of fury he declares that she shall either die or tell her lover's name.
Nedda defies him, and her words are sustained by a distorted arrangement
of the love-theme, which effect is like seeking concealment behind a
skeleton. The music has become as breathless as the situation. Nedda
tries to escape toward the spectators, but Canio holds her, and there
follows a piercing shriek. Nedda has been stabbed. She falls, and with
her dying breath calls "Silvio!" Canio turns upon her lover and
completes vengeance with a single stroke. The orchestra now trumpets
forth, like the expounding of a moral, that poignant theme whose growth
and supremacy we have watched. The village spectators are still puzzled,
and can hardly believe that the tragedy is real. Tonio comes forward and
announces in parlando voice that "the comedy is finished!"

       *       *       *       *       *

"Pagliacci" only occupies half an evening, and even with the "Australian
Nightingale" and a great tenor in the cast the public still expect "some
more." New Yorkers have become spoiled by the great performances lately
given at the opera-house. We take it as a matter of course that "Don
Giovanni" should be given with Lehmann, Sembrich, Nordica, Edouard de
Reszke and Maurel, and quite expect "The Huguenots" to have in its cast
two great sopranos and the two de Reszkes. We have an idea that a large
city like New York should expect nothing less, and are not sure but the
European capitals do better. In point of fact, however, when Madame
Sembrich sings in Berlin the royal opera-house is crowded by the
attraction of her name alone; and the same may be said of Madame Melba
in Paris, or Calvé, or any of them. There are never more than six or
seven great prima donnas in the world at one time, and when one of these
sings in Europe the rest of the company is often mediocre. But not so in
New York. After "Pagliacci" with Melba, "Cavalleria" with Calvé is the
usual program--a rather unfortunate combination of operas, for they are
both so feverishly intense. After the "beautiful horror" of
"Pagliacci's" finale, a contrast might be welcome. Glück's "Orpheus and
Eurydice" is a short opera that alongside of Leoncavallo's work would
delight the musical epicure. Such an opportunity to study the new and
the old would surely be beneficial.



"Orpheus and Eurydice"



"ORPHEUS AND EURYDICE"


Classic myth and classic music are in this opera happily united. The
beautiful legend belongs to the past, but Glück the composer, like
Orpheus the musician, has brought the departed to life. With gentle
harmonies he pacified those surrounding Furies, the critics, and his
creation has attained a lasting place in the musical world. Simplicity
and sincerity stamp the entire composition. The musical thoughts are put
down in the plainest, straightest way, in strong contrast to the old
Italian style, whose profuse embellishments remind one of ornate
penmanship. Glück lived more than a century ago, but his ideas
anticipated many of our modern formulas. He succeeded in imparting a
musical individuality to all his characters.

To properly enjoy Glück's masterpiece the listener should present
himself with a spirit as gentle as the composer. The opera is more
idyllic than overpowering. Enjoy it as you would a perfect day in some
peaceful valley.

The overture to "Orpheus and Eurydice" is not remarkable. It bears no
theme-feature in common with the opera, and its kinship is only
discernible in name and nature, both opera and overture being devoid of
ostentation.

The curtain rises upon a Grecian landscape that is beautiful but sad,
for amid drooping willows and solemn pines stands the tomb of Eurydice.
Orpheus, the disconsolate husband, is leaning upon the shrine. Not even
his lute can solace him in this hour of grief. A dirge of unrivaled
beauty arises from the orchestra like a flower from the earth. It is
taken up by the chorus and given as an offering to the departed. There
is something mythical about the music as well as the scene. All nature
seems to join in this lament over Eurydice. Ever and anon Orpheus
proclaims her name in tones so pitiful that--

    "The rocks and rills and surrounding hills
     Feel pity, and are touched."

He asks the chorus to scatter flowers upon her grave and then leave him
alone, for their song but adds to his grief. Accompanied by an
orchestral ritornelle of Arcadian simplicity, they strew their garlands
and then retire.

The wood-wind and viol follow Orpheus in his solitary plaint that again
reminds us of the voice of nature. It is a feminine voice, too, a fact
worth mentioning, for Orpheus is now considered the contralto _rôle de
résistance_. After vainly beseeching high heaven and all the gods to
restore his lost Eurydice, Orpheus decides to brave the realms of Pluto.
He will himself wrest her from death's power. The gods help those that
help themselves, and now Amor, the god of love, comes to his assistance.
Amor says he shall descend in safety to the lower world, and will find
his Eurydice among the peaceful shades. He must take his lute, and
perchance by the power of music he can induce Pluto to release her. Was
there ever a more charming story for an opera! Amor further dictates
that while leading Eurydice to the upper world he must not look upon
her, else all endeavor will have been in vain, and death will at once
claim his own. After promising to obey, Orpheus sings a song full of
gratitude, with here and there a gleam of gladness like flecks of
sunlight after rain. His final aria is the very noontide of joy,
dignified always but none the less radiant. Glück here finds use for
colorature--plain, classical scales and broken thirds without any
appoggiaturas or even staccatos; but his even-tempoed sixteenth notes
seem as gay as Rossini's breathless sixty-fourths.

The second act is the most interesting. It pictures the nether world of
Hades. There are vistas of receding caverns full of smoke and flames.
Furies and Demons occupy the stage. According to Glück, the brass
instruments furnish the music of Hades, in opposition to the harps,
which belong to heaven. The first tones are hurled up by the trumpets
like a blast of molten rocks. Then like a balm to all the senses, nectar
after poison, incense after sulfur, day after night, come the next
celestial harmonies. It is Orpheus with his lute, whose harp-tones reach
us from afar, as this musician of the gods plays his way through the
gates of Hades. For a moment the Furies cease their revel, as they
wonder what mortal dares to enter here. When they resume their dance the
orchestra renders a reeling, demoniacal medley of scales and staccatos.
Again the Furies stop as they see Orpheus approaching, and they sing a
malediction upon this mortal so audacious. They try to frighten him with
howls from the watch-dog Cerberus, an effect admirably represented by
the instruments. The music is all fearful and threatening, with creeping
chromatics shrouded in a minor key.

Orpheus is undaunted; and with enduring faith in the power of his music
he takes up his harp and sings to them of his love for Eurydice.
Entreating their pity, he begs them to let him pass; but Cerberus still
howls and the Furies shout "No!" They threaten him with eternal torture,
but the inspired youth sings on. No punishment they can devise could
exceed the grief he already suffers--such is the burden of his song.
Even the Demons and Furies can not long resist such tender strains. With
bated breath they wonder what strange feeling steals o'er them, for pity
is a new sensation: "The cheeks of the Furies were wet with tears; all
Hades held its breath." Three times the wondrous song and accompaniment
still the shrieks of Pluto's realm. Orpheus is finally allowed to pass.
The Furies and Demons hasten to drown their recent emotion in a mad
revel that surpasses the first one. This demon-dance is admirably
characterized by the music. It has a rapid tempo and a perpetual motion
that suggest dancing on hot iron. Tremolos rise and fall like puffs of
smoke, while scales like coiling snakes and staccatos like skipping imps
add to the effect of pandemonium.

Act III. pictures the Elysian fields, the abode of the blest where "calm
and eternal rest" pervade even the music. The orchestral introduction is
saintly, with its religious harmonies and classic purity. It is simple,
but yet so interesting that we can imagine the immortal spirits hearing
forever and never weary, for classical music is always new and always
beautiful. The flute and stringed instruments perform the great part of
this Elysian music. White-robed spirits glide about, and one soprano
voice starts up a happy, flowing melody that inspires a chorus of
others. It is Eurydice who leads this singing of the blest.

There is dancing as well as singing, and during this divertisement the
instruments weave out a new musical fabric. The steady accompaniment and
firm legato theme are the woof and warp through which, around which,
and over which a little five-note appoggiatura sports like a weaver's
shuttle. It appears four times in every measure, but never twice in the
same place.

With wonder and admiration comes Orpheus upon the scene. The orchestra
continues its blithe harmonies while Orpheus sings of the beauteous
sight. But not even such surroundings can quell his longing for
Eurydice. Unlike the Furies, who only granted his prayer because
compelled by his wondrous music, the spirits of the blest can not see
any one suffer. With one voice and immediately they tell him to take
Eurydice. To the strains of softest music Orpheus approaches the various
spirits. He harkens to their heart-beats, and finally recognizes his
loved one without seeing her.

The scene changes to another part of the nether world, a forest through
which Orpheus is leading Eurydice back to earth. A nervous, anxious
instrumental passage precedes the opening recitative dialogue. Eurydice
at first rejoices over her new-found life, but then forgets all else in
surprise and grief because Orpheus will not look at her. She questions
him, entreats him, fears she is no longer beautiful, or that his heart
has changed. Orpheus explains that he dare not look at her, but Eurydice
is not satisfied. She refuses to go farther, for if he can not look at
her she does not wish to live. The ensuing duet is intense and full of
climacteric effects. The voices chase each other like clouds before a
storm, low down and hovering near that sea of sound, the orchestra, over
which the conductor rules with his wand like Neptune with his trident.

Orpheus firmly resists the pleadings of Eurydice until she declares that
his coldness will break her heart,--she will die of grief if he does not
look at her. Little wonder that he flings prudence to the winds and
impulsively turns to embrace her.

But no sooner has he looked upon Eurydice than she droops and sinks from
his arms like a blighted flower. Death has again come between them.
Orpheus cries aloud his grief, and there springs from his heart a song
of lamentation surpassing any other as a geyser does a fountain. "Ach,
ich habe sie verloren!" is the German and "Che in faro" the Italian name
of this great song that is the standard classical contralto program
piece. It is full of sobbing cadenzas and sighing intervals that express
more than words or deeds.

Grief at last gives place to desperation: He is on the point of killing
himself when Amor reappears. The gods are again moved to pity by his
enduring love, and Amor with a touch of her wand revives Eurydice.

The opera closes with a trio between Amor and the reunited pair, an ode
to the power of love. It is a sort of musical apotheosis. The orchestral
accompaniment has a steady, revolving movement that might suggest the
wheel of time tuned and turned in harmony with the voice of love.



The Genius
of
Geraldine Farrar

[Illustration: Copyright by Aimé Dupont.

Geraldine Farrar.]



THE GENIUS OF GERALDINE FARRAR


Some half-dozen years ago rumors, vague as perfume from an unfolding
flower, began to reach America about a new prima-donna; a Boston girl,
very young and very beautiful; singing at the Berlin Royal Opera-house.
No American before had ever held such a position--life-member of the
opera company which Kaiser Wilhelm supervises, and the Great Frederick
founded.

Years went by and still the name of Geraldine Farrar was wafted across
the waters--and still she was spoken of as "very young."

American critics grew somewhat incredulous; Germany, of course, is
musical and deep-rooted in the science of the art, but New York holds a
record of her own in matters operatic, and is not disposed to accept
unchallenged a verdict from the land of beer and thorough-bass.

At last the hour came when Geraldine Farrar appeared as a star in her
native land. It was a momentous occasion--the opening of the season; a
brilliant audience, diamond-glinting and decollete; an audience familiar
with the value of Tiffany tiaras, but inclined to be dubious about
Berlin laurels.

The curtain arose upon the first act of Romeo and Juliet; a blaze of
color and a whirl of gay music. Soon the dancers dispersed, and a
slender figure in saphire satin sauntered down the Capulet stairs, came
forward with quiet confidence, and commenced the famous Waltz
Song--slowly--dreamily.

With these very first notes Geraldine Farrar revealed originality; she
sang them as tho thinking aloud; the words fell from her lips like a
tender caress--

    "I would linger in this dream that enthralls me."

She closed the aria with brilliant tones, a high note--and a smile.
Geraldine Farrar's smile is something to drive a poet to sonnets--and a
prince to sighs!

One paper the next morning declared: "From that moment she could have
wrapped the whole audience around her little finger."

There followed a "Farrar furor," tho cautious critics were careful to
point out that her performance as yet evinced nothing more than "a
lovely voice, a peculiarly gifted dramatic temperament, youth, beauty,
and considerable experience!" That's all!

"She is not yet a finished artist," these critics say, but at
four-and-twenty what would you? Her voice is "golden," and no one denies
that her histrionic gifts are phenomenal.

It is strange--this quality of native _greatness_. In the case of these
famous singers, one almost feels that the _greatness_ makes the voice.
The _mind_ is what counts, after all. Geraldine Farrar impresses one
forcibly with this fact. Her mind is alert, keen, observant, thoughtful,
quick at reaching conclusions, widely interested, eager to learn, but at
the same time self-contained and firmly poised.

When talking about music her face lights up. She has much to say; she
has thought and studied deeply; she is intense, enthusiastic, full of
her subject, aglow with earnestness and vitality.

From early childhood she was always singing, always acting, and always
_intending to be a prima-donna_.

"I began voice-study when I was twelve, but before that had sung all of
Faust in Italian, and acted it according to my own imagination."

When asked if she had not run some risk of harming the vocal cords by
beginning so young, she explained that her voice at this age was
remarkably mature and full. She was possessed, besides, with an
irresistible desire to sing, so it seemed both prudent and wise to
commence serious study thus early.

"A born singer is _instinctive_, and selects, almost instinctively, her
individual means of expression, avoiding, in the main, what is
distinctly harmful. But practice and study are continuously and always
necessary. I work faithfully every day with scales and trills and
intervals. Before a performance I go over my part, mentally, from
beginning to end."

In reply to a question about her ambition, she answered promptly and
impressively:

"Yes, I have one very decided ambition: I wish to develop my powers to
the fullest extent and most complete beauty, and then--I wish to have
the _courage_, when physical strength no longer responds to the creative
demands, to _abdicate in favor of Youth_! Youth must be recognized,
enjoyed, encouraged! We should have more of this God-given fragrance in
our mimic world, and less of hard-earned, middle-aged experience."

Miss Farrar's favorite recreation is "_sleep_--and much of it!"

As for books, she likes "everything."

"I read a great deal," she commented. "When I was studying 'Madame
Butterfly,' I read everything I could find about the Japanese. I tried
to imbue myself with their spirit. I bought up old prints, and pictures,
and costumes; I learned how they eat, and sleep, and walk, and talk, and
think, and feel. I read books on the subject in French and German, as
well as in English."

Incidentally it came out that she memorized this most difficult of
operas in fifteen days.

"No, I am never afraid of forgetting my lines." Then, tapping her
forehead lightly, she added: "When a thing is once learned, it seems to
stick in a certain corner of your brain and stay there."

There was youth and girlishness in her off-hand manner of making this
remark. In fact, the artist and girl are constantly alternating in the
play of her features, and it is fascinating to watch this hide-and-seek
of youth and maturity.

The girl-spirit was uppermost now, as she sank back comfortably in her
big arm-chair, drew her Frenchy peignoire more snugly about her, and
related some of the droll _contretemps_ that occur on the opera-house
stage.

"The audience never seems to see them, but the most ridiculous things
happen, and then it is terrible when you want to laugh, but dare not."

A mention of Lilli Lehmann suddenly sobered the conversation. Lilli
Lehmann is Geraldine Farrar's teacher--"and a very severe one"--her
pupil asserts.

"But she--and all Germans--appreciate _personality_. That is why I have
been allowed to develop my own ideas--to be individual. That is, to me,
the most interesting part of the art. I am keenly interested in
observing life--the expression of people's faces, their way of saying
and doing things. Wherever I am, whatever I see, I am always finding
something to use in my art.

"I once saw a death--it sounds unfeeling to say it, but I now use the
very expression I saw then in the finale of 'Boheme.'"

Geraldine Farrar's realism is a well-known phase of her art. A striking
instance is her performance in the last act of Romeo and Juliet: she
sings almost the entire scene _lying down_! An amazing innovation.

"Perhaps it is unusual," she commented, "but the simple repose seems to
me more fully to accentuate the sublime and lyric climax of the
tragedy."

This is a little rift into the prima-donna's viewpoint. She believes
that "vocal intensity and dramatic value should so merge one into the
other that they produce equalized sincerity of expression and constant
changing of color, movement, and sentiment."

"Give your best always; take _Sincerity_ for your guide, and _Work_,
never-ending, for your master."

This is Geraldine Farrar's creed.



"Madame Butterfly"



MADAME BUTTERFLY


Beauty of plot and great music are to an opera what fair features and a
noble soul are to woman. "Madame Butterfly" possesses these attributes,
and has consequently won that instant success which only true beauty, in
either art or nature, calls forth.

Very seldom is the story of an opera so intensely thrilling that the
original author is borne in mind; but it may be stated as a fact that no
one applauds Giacomo Puccini's splendid music without also thinking "All
Hail!" to John Luther Long, who wrote this strangely tender tragedy.

Distinctly unique as a grand opera setting is the Land of
Cherry-blossoms. Never before have the higher harmonies been blended in
with embroidered kimonas and chrysanthemum screens. The innovation is
delightful, however; refreshing, uplifting, enlarging. By means of great
music we are enabled to understand great emotion in the Little Land.

In this opera the hero is the villain, if one may so express it. He is
also an American; a lieutenant in the U. S. Navy, and from first to last
he seems blandly unconscious of his villainy. This is distressing
morally, but musically one could wish it no different. As the
rainbow-mist rises out of the whirlpool, so the beautiful in art is most
often evolved from a maelstrom of sin and tragedy.

A flowered veranda to a tiny house, a lilac-garden that overlooks a far,
fair view of Nagasaki, the bright blue bay and azure sky--this is the
opening scene of Puccini's opera.

The brief orchestral prelude is a pretty piece of fugue work,
four-voiced and accurately constructed. A fugue is unusual in grand
opera, but Puccini has a purpose in everything, and his music is
essentially descriptive. The opening conversation in this opera concerns
the construction of the tiny villa, and as a fugue is the one music-form
suggestive of rules and measurements--a secure foundation and precise
superstructure--it is clear that this bit of musical masonry, with its
themes overlapping but carefully joined, is intended to represent the
house.

On the stage the dainty dwelling is glowingly described by Goro, a
Japanese marriage-broker; very obsequious in manners, but characterized
in the orchestra by a most energetic, business-like theme that follows
him around like a shadow.

A wedding of his arranging is soon to take place, and this house has
been rented for the honeymoon. The bridegroom, Lieutenant Pinkerton, of
the U. S. Navy, is viewing the abode for the first time. He wears a
handsome uniform, and serves the opera as tenor, hero, lover,
villain--all in one.

Goro makes him acquainted also with the house-servant, Susuki, a
solemn-faced, saffron-colored maiden, whose name means
"Gentle-breeze-of-the-morning." Pinkerton prefers to call her
"Scare-crow."

The first invited guest to arrive is the U. S. Consul. A sympathetic and
genuinely tender theme announces this character's approach. Always
listen to the orchestra if you would know the real nature of these
people of the play. In grand opera, as in real life, _words_ very often
conceal thought; but by the power of music the listener is endowed with
a temporary sense of omniscience; he can read the hearts and motives of
the creatures he observes.

It being still early, Pinkerton and the Consul seat themselves while the
hero explains this marriage he is entering upon. But first he orders a
"whisky and soda."

There is apparently no translation for this barroom barbarism, so the
English words are used, and their effect is noticeably jarring. No
critic has failed to remark this surprising debut of fire-water on the
lyric stage! There is charm and poetry in the Italian wine-glass, and we
have grown accustomed to see that mingled with melody--but the American
whisky-bottle stands remote from music as a pig from Paradise. Puccini
seems to realize this, for he accompanies the obnoxious word with a
discord!

There is nothing discordant, however, in Pinkerton's description of his
bride--the lovely lady Butterfly--"dainty in stature--quaint little
figure--seems to have stepped down, straight from a screen."

The music here is delicate and frail, like an exquisite tracery of gold
lacquer.

[Illustration: Copyright by Aimé Dupont.

Miss Farrar as "Madame Butterfly"]

He intends to marry this Japanese bride in Japanese fashion, thereby
making the tie unbinding in America--a slip-knot adjustment that she,
poor thing, is unaware of.

The Consul remonstrates with Pinkerton over his "easy-going gospel" of
free love, but this light-hearted villain will not listen. He holds up
his glass instead, and to a buried accompaniment of the "Star-spangled
Banner," he proposes a toast to America--and also to the day on which he
shall wed in _real_ marriage a _real_ wife of his own nationality.

With this atrocious toast scarcely uttered, poor little trusting
Butterfly is heard in the distance with her bridesmaids, singing as they
approach. A delirium of joy breathes through this song, which is a weird
succession of Oriental intervals, strange as an opium dream. As the
harmonies grow firmer, Butterfly's voice rings out above the others,
while in the orchestra the conductor with his baton slowly unearths,
like a buried diamond, the great love-theme of the opera. It beams forth
in sultry splendor, a cluster of chords with imprisoned tones that flash
forth unlooked-for harmonies.

At last she enters--this Japanese heroine, her brilliant draperies as
bright as her name. Her maidens all carry huge paper parasols and
fluttering fans--a merry group of girls, filled with varied emotions of
timidity, envy, curiosity, and fun. They courtesy, and smile, and sing,
and sigh, and lower their eyes with knowing charm.

Throughout this scene it is interesting to note the different themes and
their consistent use. A phrase of the opening fugue invariably appears
whenever the _house_ is mentioned; still another architectural motif
protrudes into prominence every time the town Nagasaki is referred to.
Susuki has a theme of her own; so has the Consul. When the relations of
the bride troop in, we recognize the fact that they, too, have a theme;
we learned it when Goro, some time back, was enumerating the expected
guests.

This theme now asserts itself in the orchestra as the grotesque company
assembles. There is nothing great about this melody: it is a mincing,
thin-bodied affair, but disports itself with much confidence during its
little hour of importance; it shoves out every other theme from the
orchestra and demands undivided attention. But at last the director's
stick chases it out of the enclosure.

The guests in the meantime have been gossiping among themselves,
disparaging the bride, criticizing the groom--and partaking of his
refreshments.

All flats and sharps and accidentals are suddenly dropt from the score
when the official registrar reads in monotone voice, and plain C major,
the simple marriage form.

The ceremony is soon over, but the guests linger on. Pinkerton plies
them with wine, but makes little headway in hurrying the festivities to
an end. He has grown heartily tired of these new relations, and longs to
see them go, but, instead of any one leaving, another one suddenly
arrives, an absent uncle, who plunges amongst them in a frenzy of wrath
and excitement. He has learned at the American Mission that Butterfly,
without telling her family, has changed her religion and cast off the
faith of her fathers.

Cries of horror, moans, and execrations follow this announcement.
Butterfly is denounced by her family--abjured and disowned. She cowers
before them, distressed, but not utterly crushed, for love remains to
console her.

The tragic theme of the opera; a gruesome sequence of minor thirds,
takes this opportunity to stalk into the orchestra and reconnoiter, like
an undertaker looking over the premises before he is really needed. This
theme has active work to do later on, but as yet does not seem very
terrifying.

When the relations and guests are gone, Butterfly is soon persuaded to
forget the "stupid tribe."

Evening has come; there is a twilight tinge to the music; it is
"_dolce_," "_expressione_," and "_rallentando_."

Puccini is a master of modulations. He employs large, full harmonies,
soul-asserting, all-engulfing chords, that feel their way from one key
to another, and burst forth in new glory with every transition. This
persistent progress through varying keys has an effect of leading the
listener through different rooms in some palatial edifice. In the hands
of a great composer, each key of the scale unlocks a new vista in the
enchanted palace of music.

Behind a screen on the veranda, Butterfly changes her chromatic kimona
to one of white silk. She emerges with garments all soft and fluttering,
like the trembling white wings of a night-moth.

Pinkerton leads her into the garden, and there, under the spell of the
silent stars, they sing of love and of the glorious mystic night, with
its gentle breeze that passes like a benediction over the bending
lilacs. Fire-flies (cleverly imitated) hover in the air and flicker
faintly, like candles in a distant chancel. The conductor waving his
wand, like a priest the swinging censor, evokes a wreathing mist of
music that enwraps the lovers in a drapery of dreams.

Melodies and harmonies rise into being and pass away like phantoms
floating by, until at last the great love-theme of the opera once again
is flashed upon us. The _diamond_, scarce revealed before, is now in its
proper setting. It is displayed in solemn glory by the dignitary at the
desk, who, with upraised, swaying hands, holds aloft this precious
theme, as a priest does the sacred emblem.

Act II. pictures the interior of Butterfly's house.

There is desolation in the home; the orchestra tells us this, for the
tragic theme possesses the instruments, creeping around among them,
serpent-like, and enfolding them in its coils.

The rising curtain reveals Susuki kneeling before a shrine; she is
praying that Pinkerton may return.

Three times have the dragon-kites swelled in the breeze and the peach
trees flushed into bloom since the day he sailed away.

Her prayer abounds in strange and uncouth harmonies that wail themselves
into silence. When the incantation is finished, an orchestral phrase of
keen despair and tortured hope accompanies Butterfly as she asks: "How
soon shall we be starving?"

Susuki counts over the few remaining yen, and expresses doubt about
Pinkerton's return. Again that same theme of anguish pierces the air
like a knife as Butterfly shrieks out: "Silence!" She will not listen to
doubt. She insists that he will return, and she fondly adds, "he will
call me again his tiny child-wife, his little Butterfly!"

With this memory there is a momentary return of the great Love-theme in
the orchestra; tender and fleeting, like a smile on the face of the
dying.

Butterfly sings of the radiant hour, some day, when they shall see "in
the distance a little thread of smoke," and then "a trim, white vessel,"
flying the American flag!

The music of this aria has a confident ring and a forward swing, like a
great ship nearing shore. Large and splendid is the final climax:

"He will return--I know!"

A familiar theme in the orchestra heralds the approach of the U. S.
Consul. He brings a letter from Pinkerton which he wishes Butterfly to
hear, but Japanese politeness interferes for some time. He must first
accept tea and wine, a pipe to smoke, and a cushion to sit on. He is
questioned about his health and the health of his honorable ancestors.
His own "Augustness" is profusely welcomed.

Scarcely have these formalities been accomplished when another visitor
arrives--a pompous personage, accompanied by servants who bring presents
and flowers. He comes to persuade Madame Butterfly that her husband's
absence amounts to a divorce, and that he, Prince Yamadori, should be
accepted as Pinkerton's successor.

This energetic wooer, lemon-faced and almond-eyed, imparts to the music
a spicy flavor, grotesque and Japanese. His brief, breezy phrases have a
turn and tang that belongs entirely to the Land of Nippon; staccato
suggestions of chop-sticks and Oolong.

The hostess politely declines to listen to her elaborate suitor.

She busies herself pouring tea, while in the orchestra a delightfully
tender, untroubled waltz-theme reflects her tranquil spirit, which is
like some quiet mountain pool in the path of a coming avalanche.

Impending disaster is near. Pinkerton's letter contains news that will
bring devastation to the little Japanese home. He is coming back--but
not to see Butterfly; a new wife comes with him.

The Consul waits until Yamadori has gone, then bravely tries to read the
letter, but his eager listener is too excited to hear to the end.

"He is coming!" That is enough! Her joy is unbounded. She speeds from
the room and in a moment returns with a sunny-haired child on her
shoulders--her "baby-boy!"--her "noble little American!"--to whom she
tells the glad news that his father soon will return.

The distressed Consul has not the heart to enlighten her further. He
leaves rather abruptly.

A moment later a signal gun is heard in the distance.

Susuki plunges in, breathless;--"The harbor cannon!" Both women rush to
the window. They can see the ship! A man-of-war! The Stars and Stripes!

Oh, the pain of this joy! The audience, knowing all, is torn and racked
with emotion as the orchestra reiterates Butterfly's recent song of
confidence about "his sure return."

Now is her "hour of triumph!" She proclaims it to high heaven--to
Susuki--and to all "the eight hundred thousand gods and goddesses of
Japan."

All the world had told her he would forget and never return--but she
knew!--she knew! Now, at last, her faith triumphs--he is here!

Superb is the crescendo now sweeping upward on the crest of America's
martial theme. The Star-Spangled Banner is bugled by the instruments,
while Butterfly's voice, in high and jubilant accord, sings again the
glad words: "He is here!--he loves me!"

In the orchestra the love-theme--the great theme--arises slowly and
passes by like a spirit of the past, a soul long dead, a memory faded.

Now follows a poetic scene unsurpassed for picturesque charm and grace.

In accordance with Japanese custom, the two women sprinkle the room with
flowers, in honor of his home-coming.

Great baskets full of blossoms are brought in by Susuki, while
Butterfly, always singing, showers the room with petals. She sways with
the rhythm of joy and music, flinging the flowers in reckless profusion,
her voice seeming to follow their flight--up in the air--and down
again.

Susuki, too, scatters rainbow-clouds of jasmine, peach-blooms, and
violets; her contralto voice at the same time giving depth of color to
the music. In the orchestra dainty, fluttering phrases are lightly
tossed about, as tho shaken from the instruments by a passing breeze.

Full of strange involutions and harmonies, the music of this
"flower-duet" possesses the essential quality of all that is lasting and
classic--hidden beauty beneath the obvious. With the choicest "mixing"
of harmony, orchestra and voice, Puccini has brewed a "blend" most rare,
and sugared it with melody.

When the baskets are emptied and the last flower fallen, a few final
notes of the refrain still left in the orchestra are hurriedly brushed
out by the conductor's baton.

On the stage, as the daylight melts into dusk, Butterfly, all in a
flurry, is decking herself in her wedding gown, while the orchestra
calls up memories of the lilac-garden and the fire-flies.

When all is ready, Butterfly, Susuki, and the little one take positions
at the window.

Long and patiently they watch and wait.

The orchestra plays a soft, unchanging staccato accompaniment. The
moonlight finds its way into the room.

At last the maid and the child fall asleep. Not so with Butterfly; rigid
and still she stands at the window, her eyes on the distant
harbor-lights.

A sound of far-away voices softly humming a sad, weird refrain, fills
the scene with mystery, suggesting the moan of guardian spirits. All
this while the gentle staccato harmonies in the orchestra continue to
flit back and forth, like the changing lights of swinging lanterns.

Butterfly does not move. The curtain slowly descends.

The prelude to the last act opens with a theme that crashes and tears
its way into prominence: a pitiless, gruesome group of notes, that
sounds vaguely familiar, tho it has never been emphasized like the
tragic-theme and others gone before. In the first act this dire phrase
was heard for a moment, buried softly among the harmonies that
accompanied Butterfly's first entrance song. She was happy then, but,
nevertheless, this germ of agony was lurking near, as tho to suggest
that we, each one, carry within our own temperament the weakness or
fault that will eventually lead us to grief.

The orchestra is kept very active during this prelude or intermission.
The past is presented in flashes of old themes, and the coming day is
presaged by new phrases of potent meaning. Sounds of the harbor life
beginning to stir, distant voices of sailors chanting, are heard even
before the curtain rises. When this is lifted, behold poor Butterfly
still at her post! All night she has watched and waited, never moving,
never doubting.

Now the dawn, cruel, cold-eyed and leering, begins to peer through the
window. The pale, frail figure in her wedding gown still does not move;
she still hopes on, counting the stars as they disappear; measuring each
moment by her heart's wild beating.

The dawn grows rosy, the music in the orchestra tells of the world's
awakening. The sun's glad welcome is proclaimed in a resounding pean of
harmonies, pierced with sharp, bright strokes from the triangle.

But all this brilliant daybreak music fails to modify the tragedy of the
dawn.

Susuki awakens to despair, but poor little Butterfly still asserts,
"He'll come! he'll come!"

When urged by the maid to rest, she takes the little one up in her arms,
soothing him gently with a quiet song as she mounts the stairs to her
sleeping-room.

Scarcely has she gone, when Susuki is startled by a knock at the door.
Pinkerton has come--and the Consul with him, but they tell the maid not
to summon her mistress--not yet.

The music of the flower-duet fills the air like a faint perfume as
Pinkerton observes the withered blossoms, and Susuki explains the
decorations and tells of Butterfly's weary vigil. A moment later she
sees through the window a lady waiting in the garden.

It is Pinkerton's wife.

"Hallowed souls of our fathers! The world is plunged in gloom!"

Susuki falls prostrate on her knees.

The ensuing trio is a magnificent musical unfoldment of sympathy from
the Consul, remorse from Pinkerton, and consternation from Susuki. It is
a splendid mingling of emotion and melody.

The two men are left alone as the maid goes out to speak with the new
wife. Pinkerton acts properly distressed over the situation, and his
friend, being only human, cannot refrain from saying, "I told you so,"
whereupon the music of his warning remonstrance in the first act is
plainly marked in the orchestra, like an underscoring to written words.

Pinkerton sighs over the room and its associations, sheds a few tears,
and then decides the strain is too great for him. As he leaves the
house, his wife and Susuki walk into view at the window.

At this moment Butterfly comes rushing down the stairs; she has heard
voices--"he is here!"

Susuki tries to ward off the evil moment, but the _hour has struck_. The
tragic theme rises up supreme--revealing itself in unclothed
hideousness: all the other themes have fallen away; they were as mere
empty masks over the face of truth--behind life is always death--back of
the smile is a skeleton.

Through the open window Butterfly sees the "other woman."

"Who are you?" Mechanically her lips frame the words, as she stands
there, paralyzed--stunned. But the question was perfunctory; the
explanations that follow only confirm what she knew at first sight.

Very gently the American wife proposes to Butterfly to adopt her child
and bring him up as her own.

The Japanese mother listens dumbly--then slowly realizes that unless she
consents to this plan her boy will have no name.

Butterfly says very little--but she accedes. She asks, however, that Mr.
Pinkerton himself shall come for the child. "Come in half an hour--in
half an hour."

Agreed to this, the Consul and the American lady go away.

Susuki is now quietly ordered to leave the room. She protests, but her
mistress is firm; she wishes to be alone.

When the weeping maid has gone, Butterfly lights a lamp at the little
shrine and bows before it. Then she takes from the wall a dagger, but
drops this as the baby suddenly enters, shoved in by Susuki--faithful
slave! who, forbidden to enter herself, thus blindly tries to frustrate
Butterfly's ominous wish to be alone.

The child rushes to its mother's arms, and Butterfly clasps it wildly,
calling it all the extravagant love-names Japanese fancy can devise.

"'Tis for you, my love, that I am dying!"

She holds him at arm's-length and bids him look long and well upon her
face. The baby tosses his head and laughs; he little recks what she is
saying:

"_Take one last look on your mother's face, that the memory may
linger._"

The tragic theme attains a grandeur now that makes it seem the
apotheosis of human heartache. Through the alembic of the composer's art
this gruesome theme emerges ablaze with a terrible glory. It sweeps
apast like a fiery chariot, bearing poor little Butterfly's soul to
heaven.

There is little more to record; the moment of death seems already gone
through in bidding the child good-bye. What follows is done very
quietly; every movement is lifeless and spiritless. She ties a bandage
about the little one's eyes, and she puts in his hand an American flag;
the Japanese mother's token of surrender.

Then Butterfly picks up the dagger. The deed is soon done; she totters
to the floor, and with her last breath tries to reach for her baby's
hand.

       *       *       *       *       *

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