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A Second Book Of Operas by Henry Edward Krehbiel

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New York; but the music was a disappointment. Five numbers were
sung by Mme. Tavary and Signor Campanini, and Mr, Damrosch, not
having the orchestral parts, played the accompaniments upon a
pianoforte. As usual, Mr. Gustav Hinrichs was to the fore with a
performance in Philadelphia (on June 8, 1892), the principal
singers being Mme. Koert-Kronold, Clara Poole, M. Guille, and
Signor Del Puente. On January 31, 1893, the Philadelphia singers,
aided by the New York Symphony Society, gave a performance of the
opera, under the auspices of the Young Men's Hebrew Association,
for the benefit of its charities, at the Carnegie Music Hall, New
York. Mr. Walter Damrosch was to have conducted, but was detained
in Washington by the funeral of Mr. Blaine, and Mr. Hinrichs took
his place. Another year elapsed, and then, on January 10, 1894, the
opera reached the Metropolitan Opera House. In spite of the fact
that Madame Calve sang the part of Suzel, only two performances
were given to the work.

The failure of this opera did not dampen the industry of Mascagni
nor the zeal of his enterprising publishers. For his next opera the
composer went again to the French authors, Erckmann-Chatrian, who
had supplied him with the story of "L'Amico Fritz." This time he
chose "Les deux Freres," which they had themselves turned into a
drama with the title of "Rantzau." Mascagni's librettist retained
the title. The opera came out in Florence in 1892. The tremendous
personal popularity of the composer, who was now as much a favorite
in Vienna and Berlin as he was in the town of his birth which had
struck a medal in his honor, or the town of his residence which had
created him an honorary citizen, could not save the work.

Now he turned to the opera which he had laid aside to take up his
"Cavalleria," and in 1895 "Guglielmo Ratcliff," based upon the
gloomy Scotch story told by Heine, was brought forward at La Scala,
in Milan. It was in a sense the child of his penury and suffering,
but he had taken it up inspired by tremendous enthusiasm for the
subject, and inasmuch as most of its music had been written before
success had turned his head, or desire for notoriety had begun to
itch him, there was reason to hope to find in it some of the hot
blood which surges through the score of "Cavalleria." As a matter
of fact, critics who have seen the score or heard the work have
pointed out that portions of "I Rantzau" and "Cavalleria" are as
alike as two peas. It would not be a violent assumption that the
composer in his eagerness to get his score before the Sonzogno jury
had plucked his early work of its best feathers and found it
difficult to restore plumage of equal brilliancy when he attempted
to make restitution. In the same year, 1895, his next opera,
"Silvano," made a fiasco in Milan. A year later there appeared
"Zanetto," which seems like an effort to contract the frame of the
lyric drama still further than is done in "Cavalleria." It is a
bozzetto, a sketch, based on Coppee's duologue "Le Passant," a
scene between a strumpet who is weary of the world and a young
minstrel. Its orchestration is unique--there are but strings and a
harp. It was brought out at Pesaro, where, in 1895, Mascagni had
been appointed director of the Liceo Musicale Rossini.

As director of the music-school in Rossini's native town Mascagni's
days were full of trouble from the outset. He was opposed, said his
friends, in reformatory efforts by some of the professors and
pupils, whose enmity grew so virulent that in 1897 they spread the
story that he had killed himself. He was deposed from his position
by the administration, but reinstated by the Minister of Fine Arts.
The criticism followed him for years that he had neglected his
duties to travel about Europe, giving concerts and conducting his
operas for the greater glory of himself and the profit of his
publisher. At the time of the suicide story it was also said that
he was in financial straits; to which his friends replied that he
received a salary of 60 lire ($12) a day as director, 1000 lire
($200) a month from Sonzogno, and lived in a princely dwelling.

After "Zanetto" came "Iris," to which, as the one opera besides
"Cavalleria rusticana" which has remained in the American
repertory, I shall devote the next chapter in this book. "Iris" was
followed by "Le Maschere," which was brought out on January 17,
1901, simultaneously in six cities--Rome, Milan, Venice, Genoa,
Turin, and Naples. It made an immediate failure in all of these
places except Rome, where it endured but a short time. Mascagni's
next operatic work was a lyric drama, entitled "Vistilia," the
libretto of which, based upon an historical novel by Racco de
Zerbi, was written by Menasci and Targioni-Tozzetti, who
collaborated on the book of "Cavalleria rusticana." The action goes
back to the time of Tiberius and deals with the loves of Vistilia
and Helius. Then came another failure in the shape of "Amica,"
which lived out its life in Monte Carlo, where it was produced in
March, 1905.

In the winter of 1902-1903 Signor Mascagni was in the United States
for the purpose of conducting performances of some of his operas
and giving concerts. The company of singers and instrumentalists
which his American agents had assembled for his purpose was, with a
few exceptions, composed of the usual operatic flotsam and jetsam
which can be picked up at any time in New York. The enterprise
began in failure and ended in scandal. There had been no adequate
preparation for the operas announced, and one of them was not

This was "Ratcliff." "Cavalleria rusticana," "Zanetto," and "Iris"
were poorly performed at the Metropolitan Opera House in October,
and an attempt at Sunday night concerts was made. Signor Mascagni's
countrymen labored hard to create enthusiasm for his cause, but the
general public remained indifferent. Having failed miserably in New
York, Mascagni, heavily burdened with debt, went to Boston. There
he was arrested for breach of contract. He retaliated with a suit
for damages against his American managers. The usual amount of
crimination and recrimination followed, but eventually the
difficulties were compounded and Mascagni went back to his home a
sadly disillusionized man. [Footnote: The story of this visit is
told in greater detail in my "Chapters of Opera," as is also the
story of the rivalry among American managers to be first in the
field with "Cavalleria rusticana."]

"Zanetto" was produced along with "Cavalleria rusticana" at the
Metropolitan Opera House on October 8, 1902, and "Iris" on October
16. Signor Mascagni conducted and the parts were distributed as
follows among the singers of the company: Iris, Marie Farneti;
Osaka, Pietro Schiavazzi; Kyoto, Virgilio Bollati; Il Cieco,
Francesco Navarrini; Una Guecha, Dora de Filippe; Un Mercianola,
Pasquale Blasio; Un Cencianola, Bernardino Landino. The opera was
not heard of again until the season of 1907-1908, when, just before
the end of the administration of Heinrich Conried, it was
incorporated into the repertory of the Metropolitan Opera House
apparently for the purpose of giving Mme. Emma Eames an opportunity
to vie with Miss Geraldine Farrar in Japanese opera.



"Light is the language of the eternal ones--hear it!" proclaims
the librettist of "Iris" in that portion of his book which is
neither said nor sung nor played. And it is the sun that sings with
divers voices after the curtain has risen on a nocturnal scene,
aiid the orchestra has sought to depict the departure of the night,
the break of day, the revivification of the flowers and the
sunrise. As Byron sang of him, so Phoebus Apollo celebrates himself
as "the god of life and poetry and light," but does not stop there.
He is also Infinite Beauty, Cause, Reason, Poetry, and Love. The
music begins with an all but inaudible descending passage in the
basses, answered by sweet concordant harmonies. A calm song tells
of the first streaks of light; woodwind and harp add their voices;
a mellifluous hymn chants the stirring flowers, and leads into a
rhythmically, more incisive, but still sustained, orchestral song,
which bears upon its surface the choral proclamation of the sun: "I
am! I am life! I am Beauty infinite!" The flux and reflux of the
instrumental surge grows in intensity, the music begins to glow
with color and pulsate with eager life, and reaches a mighty
sonority, gorged with the crash of a multitude of tamtams, cymbals,
drums, and bells, at the climacteric reiteration of "Calore! Luce!
Amor!" The piece is thrillingly effective, but as little operatic
as the tintinnabulatory chant of the cherubim in the prologue of
Boito's "Mefistofele."

And now allegory makes room for the drama. To the door of her
cottage, embowered on the banks of a quiet stream, comes Iris. The
peak of Fujiyama glows in the sunlight. Iris is fair and youthful
and innocent. A dream has disturbed her. "Gorgons and Hydras and
Chimaeras dire" had filled her garden and threatened her doll,
which she had put to sleep under a rose-bush. But the sun's rays
burst forth and the monsters flee. She lifts her doll and moves its
arms in mimic salutation to the sun. Osaka, a wealthy rake, and
Kyoto, a pander, play spy on her actions, gloat on her loveliness
and plot to steal her and carry her to the Yoshiwara. To this end
they go to bring on a puppet show, that its diversion may enable
them to steal her away without discovery. Women come down to the
banks of the river and sing pretty metaphors as they wash their
basketloads of muslins. Gradually the music of samisens, gongs, and
drums approaches. Osaka and Kyoto have disguised themselves as
travelling players, gathered together some geishas and musicians,
and now set up a marionette theatre. Iris comforts her blind
father, the only object of her love, besides her doll, and promises
to remain at his side. The puppet play tells the story of a maiden
who suffers abuse from a cruel father, who threatens to sell her to
a merchant. Iris is much affected by the sorrows of the puppet. The
voice of Jor, the son of the sun, is heard--it is Osaka, singing
without. The melody is the melody of Turridu's Siciliano, but the
words are a promise of a blissful, kissful death and thereafter
life everlasting. The puppet dies and with Jor dances off into
Nirvana. Now three geishas, representing Beauty, Death, and the
Vampire, begin a dance. Kyoto distracts the attention of the
spectators while the dancers flaunt their skirts higher and wider
until their folds conceal Iris, and Osaka's hirelings seize her and
bear her off toward the city. Kyoto places a letter and money at
the cottage door for the blind father. Through a pedler and the
woman he learns that his daughter is gone to be an inmate of the
Yoshiwara. He implores the people who had been jeering him to lead
him thither, that he may spit in her face and curse her.

Iris is asleep upon a bed in the "Green House" of the district,
which needs no description. A song, accompanied by the twanging of
a samisen and the clanging of tamtams, is sung by three geishas.
Kyoto brings in Osaka to admire her beauty, and sets a high price
upon tt. Osaka sends for jewels. Iris awakes and speculates in
philosophical vein touching the question of her existence. She
cannot be dead, for death brings knowledge and paradise joy; but
she weeps. Osaka appears. He praises her rapturously--her form, her
hair, her eyes, her mouth, her smile. Iris thinks him veritably
Jor, but he says his name is "Pleasure." The maiden recoils in
terror. A priest had taught her in an allegory that Pleasure and
Death were one! Osaka loads her with jewels, fondles her, draws her
to his breast, kisses her passionately. Iris weeps. She knows
nothing of passion, and longs only for her father, her cottage, and
her garden. Osaka wearies of his guest, but Kyoto plans to play
still further upon his lust. He clothes her in richer robes, but
more transparent, places her upon a balcony, and, withdrawing a
curtain, exhibits her beauty to the multitude in the street. Amazed
cries greet the revelation. Osaka returns and pleads for her love.

"Iris!" It is the cry of the blind man hunting the child whom he
thinks has sold herself into disgraceful slavery. The crowd falls
back before him, while Iris rushes forward to the edge of the
veranda and cries out to him, that he may know her presence. He
gathers a handful of mud from the street and hurls it in the
direction of her voice. "There! In your face! In your forehead! In
your mouth! In your eyes! Fango!" Under the imprecations of her
father the mind of Iris gives way. She rushes along a corridor and
hurls herself out of a window.

The third act is reached, and drama merges again into allegory. In
the wan light of the moon rag-pickers, men and women, are dragging
their hooks through the slimy muck that flows through the open
sewer beneath the fatal window. They sing mockingly to the moon. A
flash of light from Fujiyama awakens a glimmer in the filth. Again.
They rush forward and pull forth the body of Iris and begin to
strip it of its adornments. She moves and they fly in superstitious
fear. She recovers consciousness, and voices from invisible
singers, tell her of the selfish inspirations of Osaka, Kyoto, and
her blind father; Osaka's desire baffled by fate--such is life!
Kyoto's slavery to pleasure and a hangman's reward;--such is life!
The blind man's dependence on his child for creature comforts;--
such is life! Iris bemoans her fate as death comes gently to her.
The sky grows rosy and the light brings momentary life. She
stretches out her arms to the sun and acclaims the growing orb. As
once upon Ida--

Glad earth perceives and from her bosom pours
Unbidden herbs and voluntary flow'rs!

A field of blossoms spreads around her, into which she sinks, while
the sun, again many-voiced and articulate, chants his glory as in
the beginning,

The story is perhaps prettier in the telling than in the
performance. What there is in its symbolism and its poetical
suggestion that is ingratiating is more effective in the fancy than
in the experience. There are fewer clogs, fewer stagnant pools,
fewer eddies which whirl to no purpose. In the modern school, with
its distemper music put on in splotches, there must be more merit
and action. Psychological delineation in music which stimulates
action, or makes one forget the want of outward movement, demands a
different order of genius than that which Signor Mascagni
possesses. Mere talent for artful device will not suffice. There
are many effective bits of expressive writing in the score of
"Iris," but most of them are fugitive and aim at coloring a word, a
phrase, or at best a temporary situation. There is little flow of
natural, fervent melody. What the composer accomplished with tune,
characteristic but fluent, eloquent yet sustained, in "Cavalleria
rusticana," he tries to achieve in "Iris" with violent, disjointed,
shifting of keys and splashes of instrumental color. In this he is
seldom successful, for he is not a master of orchestral writing--
that technical facility which nearly all the young musicians have
in the same degree that all pianists have finger technic. His
orchestral stream is muddy; his effects generally crass and empty
of euphony. He throws the din of outlandish instruments of
percussion, a battery of gongs, big and little, drums, and cymbals
into his score without achieving local color. Once only does he
utilize it so as to catch the ears and stir the fancy of his
listeners--in the beginning of the second act, where there is a
murmur of real Japanese melody. As a rule, however, Signor Mascagni
seems to have been careless in the matter of local color, properly
so, perhaps, for, strictly speaking, local color in the lyric drama
is for comedy with its petty limitations, not for tragedy with its
appeal to large and universal passions. Yet it is in the lighter
scenes, the scenes of comedy, like the marionette show, the scenes
of mild pathos, like the monologues of Iris, and the scenes of mere
accessory decoration, like that of the laundresses, the mousmes in
the first act, with its purling figure borrowed from "Les
Huguenots" and its unnecessarily uncanny col legno effect conveyed
from "L'Africaine" that it is most effective.



This is the book of the generation of "Madama Butterfly": An
adventure in Japan begat Pierre Loti's "Madame Chrysantheme";
"Madame Chrysantheme" begat John Luther Long's "Madame Butterfly,"
a story; "Madame Butterfly," the story, begat "Madame Butterfly," a
play by David Belasco; "Madame Butterfly," the play, begat "Madama
Butterfly," the opera by Giacomo Puccini. The heroine of the roving
French romanticist is therefore seen in her third incarnation in
the heroine of the opera book which L. Illica and G. Giacosa made
for Puccini. But in operatic essence she is still older, for, as
Dr. Korngold, a Viennese critic, pointed out, Selica is her
grandmother and Lakme her cousin.

Even this does not exhaust her family history; there is something
like a bar sinister in her escutcheon. Mr. Belasco's play was not
so much begotten, conceived, or born of admiration for Mr. Long's
book as it was of despair wrought by the failure of another play
written by Mr. Belasco. This play was a farce entitled "Naughty
Anthony," created by Mr. Belasco in a moment of aesthetic
aberration for production at the Herald Square Theatre, in New
York, in the spring of 1900. Mr. Belasco doesn't think so now, but
at the time he had a notion that the public would find something
humorous and attractive in the spectacle of a popular actress's leg
swathed in several layers of stocking. So he made a show of Blanche
Bates. The public refused to be amused at the farcical study in
comparative anatomy, and when Mr. Belasco's friends began to fault
him for having pandered to a low taste, and he felt the smart of
failure in addition, he grew heartily ashamed of himself. His
affairs, moreover, began to take on a desperate aspect; the season
threatened to be a ruinous failure, and he had no play ready to
substitute for "Naughty Anthony." Some time before a friend had
sent him Mr. Long's book, but he had carelessly tossed it aside. In
his straits it came under his eyes again, and this time he saw a
play in it--a play and a promise of financial salvation. It was
late at night when he read the story, but he had come to a resolve
by morning and in his mind's eye had already seen his actors in
Japanese dress. The drama lay in the book snugly enough; it was
only necessary to dig it out and materialize it to the vision. That
occupation is one in which Mr. Belasco is at home. The dialogue
went to his actors a few pages at a time, and the pictures rose
rapidly in his mind. Something different from a stockinged leg now!

Glimpses of Nippon--its mountains, waters, bridges, flowers,
gardens, geishas; as a foil to their grace and color the prosaic
figures of a naval officer and an American Consul. All things
tinged with the bright light of day, the glories of sunset or the
super-glories of sunrise. We must saturate the fancy of the
audience with the atmosphere of Japan, mused Mr. Belasco.
Therefore, Japanese scenes, my painter! Electrician, your plot
shall be worked out as carefully as the dialogue and action of the
play's people. "First drop discovered; house-lights down; white
foots with blue full work change of color at back of drop; white
lens on top of mountain; open light with white, straw, amber, and
red on lower part of drop; when full on lower footlights to blue,"
and so on. Mr. Belasco's emotions, we know, find eloquent
expression in stage lights. But the ear must be carried off to the
land of enchantment as well as the eye. "Come, William Furst,
recall your experiences on the Western coast. For my first curtain
I want a quaint, soft Japanese melody, pp--you know how!"

And so "Madame Butterfly," the play, was made. In two weeks all was
ready, and a day after the first performance at the Herald Square
Theatre, on March 5, 1900, the city began to hum with eager comment
on the dramatic intensity of the scene of a Japanese woman's vigil,
of the enthralling eloquence of a motionless, voiceless figure,
looking steadily through a hole torn through a paper partition,
with a sleeping child and a nodding maid at her feet, while a mimic
night wore on, the lanterns on the floor flickered out one by one
and the soft violins crooned a melody to the arpeggios of a harp.

The season at the Herald Square Theatre was saved. Some time later,
when Mr. Belasco accompanied Mr. Charles Frohman to London to put
on "Zaza" at the Garrick Theatre, he took "Madame Butterfly" with
him and staged it at the Duke of York's Theatre, hard by. On the
first night of "Madame Butterfly" Mr. Frohman was at the latter
playhouse, Mr. Belasco at the former. The fall of the curtain on
the little Japanese play was followed by a scene of enthusiasm
which endured so long that Mr. Frohman had time to summon his
colleague to take a curtain call. At a stroke the pathetic play had
made its fortune in London, and, as it turned out, paved the way
for a new and larger triumph for Mr. Long's story. The musical
critics of the London newspapers came to the house and saw operatic
possibilities in the drama. So did Mr. Francis Nielson, at the time
Covent Garden's stage manager, who sent word of the discovery to
Signor Puccini. The composer came from Milan, and realized on the
spot that the successor of "Tosca" had been found. Signori Illica
and Giacosa, librettists in ordinary to Ricordi & Co., took the
work of making the opera book in hand. Signor Illica's fancy had
roamed in the Land of Flowers before; he had written the libretto
for Mascagni's "Iris." The ephemeral life of Cho-Cho-San was over
in a few months, but by that time "Madama Butterfly," glorified by
music, had lifted her wings for a new flight in Milan.

It is an old story that many operas which are recognized as
masterpieces later, fail to find appreciation or approval when they
are first produced. "Madama Butterfly" made a fiasco when brought
forward at La Scala on February 17, 1904.

[Footnote: At this premiere Campanini was the conductor and the
cast was as follows: Butterfly, Storchio; Suzuki, Giaconia;
Pinkerton, Zenatello; Sharpless, De Luca; Goro, Pini-Corsi; Bonzo,
Venturini; Yakuside, Wulmann. At the first performance in London,
on July 10, 1905, at Covent Garden, the cast was: Butterfly,
Destinn; Suzuki, Lejeune; Pinkerton, Caruso; Sharpless, Scotti;
Goro, Dufriche; Bonzo, Cotreuil; Yakuside, Rossi. Conductor,
Campanini. After the revision it was produced at Brescia on May 28,
1904, with Zenatello, of the original cast, Krusceniski as
Butterfly, and Bellati as Sharpless. The first American
performances were in the English version, made by Mrs. B. H. Elkin,
by the Savage Opera Company, which came to the Garden Theatre, New
York, after a trial season in Washington, on November 12, 1906. It
had a run of nearly three months before it reached the Metropolitan
Opera House, on February 11, 1907. Mr. Walter Rothwell conducted
the English performance, in which there were several changes of
casts, the original Butterfly being Elza Szamozy (a Hungarian
singer); Suzuki, Harriet Behne; Pinkerton, Joseph F. Sheehan, and
Sharpless, Winifred Goff. Arturo Vigna conducted the first Italian
performance at the Metropolitan, with Geraldine Farrar as
Butterfly, Louise Homer as Suzuki, Caruso as Pinkerton, Scotti as
Sharpless, and Albert Reiss as Goro.]

So complete was the fiasco that in his anxiety to withdraw the work
Signer Puccini is said to have offered to reimburse the management
of the theatre for the expenditures entailed by the production.
Failures of this kind are frequently inexplicable, but it is
possible that the unconventional character of the story and the
insensibility of the Italians to national musical color other than
their own, had a great deal to do with it in this case. Whatever
the cause, the popular attitude toward the opera was displayed in
the manner peculiar to Italy, the discontented majority whistling,
shrilling on house keys, grunting, roaring, bellowing, and laughing
in the good old-fashioned manner which might be set down as
possessed of some virtuous merit if reserved for obviously stupid

"The Pall Mall Gazette" reported that at the time the composer told
a friend that on this fateful first night he was shut up in a small
room behind the scenes, where he could hear nothing of what was
going on on the stage or in the audience-room. On a similar
occasion, nearly a century before, when "The Barber of Seville"
scored an equally monumental failure, Rossini, in the conductor's
chair, faced the mob, shrugged his shoulders, and clapped his hands
to show his contempt for his judges, then went home and composedly
to bed. Puccini, though he could not see the discomfiture of his
opera, was not permitted to remain in ignorance of it. His son and
his friends brought him the news. His collaborator, Giacosa, rushed
into the room with dishevelled hair and staring eyes, crying: "I
have suffered the passion of death!" while Signorina Storchio burst
into such a flood of tears and sobs that it was feared she would be
ill. Puccini was cut to the heart, but he did not lose faith in the
work. He had composed it in love and knew its potentialities, His
faith found justification when he produced it in Brescia three
months later and saw it start out at once on a triumphal tour of
the European theatres. His work of revision was not a large or
comprehensive one. He divided the second act into two acts, made
some condensations to relieve the long strain, wrote a few measures
of introduction for the final scene, but refused otherwise to
change the music. His fine sense of the dramatic had told him
correctly when he planned the work that there ought not to be a
physical interruption of the pathetic vigil out of which Blanche
Bates in New York and Evelyn Millard in London had made so powerful
a scene, but he yielded to the compulsion of practical
considerations, trying to save respect for his better judgment by
refusing to call the final scene an act, though he permitted the
fall of the curtain; but nothing can make good the loss entailed by
the interruption. The mood of the play is admirably preserved in
the music of the intermezzo, but the mood of the listeners is
hopelessly dissipated with the fall of the curtain. When the scene
of the vigil is again disclosed, the charm and the pathos have
vanished, never to return. It is true that a rigid application of
the law of unities would seem to forbid that a vigil of an entire
night from eve till morning be compressed into a few minutes; but
poetic license also has rights, and they could have been pleaded
with convincing eloquence by music, with its marvellous capacity
for publishing the conflicting emotions of the waiting wife.

His ship having been ordered to the Asiatic station, Benjamin
Franklin Pinkerton, Lieutenant in the United States Navy, follows a
custom (not at all unusual among naval officers, if Pierre Loti is
to be believed) and for the summer sojourn in Japan leases a
Japanese wife. (The word "wife" is a euphemism for housekeeper,
companion, play-fellow, mistress, what not.) This is done in a
manner involving little ceremony, as is known to travellers and
others familiar with the social customs of Nippon, through a
nakodo, a marriage broker or matrimonial agent. M. Loti called his
man Kangourou; Mr. Long gave his the name of Goro. That, however,
and the character of the simple proceeding before a registrar is
immaterial. M. Loti, who assures us that his book is merely some
pages from a veritable diary, entertains us with some details
preliminary to his launch into a singular kind of domestic
existence, which are interesting as bearing on the morals of the
opera and as indicative of the fact that he is a closer observer of
Oriental life than his American confrere. He lets us see how
merchantable "wives" are chosen, permits M. Kangourou to exhibit
his wares and expatiate on their merits. There is the daughter of a
wealthy China merchant, a young woman of great accomplishments who
can write "commercially" and has won a prize in a poetic contest
with a sonnet. She is, consequently, very dear--100 yen, say $100--
but that is of no consequence; what matters is that she has a
disfiguring scar on her cheek. She will not do. Then there is Mlle.
Jasmin, a pretty girl of fifteen years, who can be had for $18 or
$20 a month (contract cancellable at the end of any month for non-
payment), a few dresses of fashionable cut and a pleasant house to
live in. Mlle. Jasmin comes to be inspected with one old lady, two
old ladies, three old ladies (mamma and aunts), and a dozen friends
and neighbors, big and little. Loti's moral stomach revolts at the
thought of buying for his uses a child who looks like a doll, and
is shocked at the public parade which has been made of her as a
commodity. He has not yet been initiated into some of the
extraordinary customs of Japan, nor yet into some of the
distinctions attendant upon those customs. He learns of one of the
latter when he suggests to the broker that he might marry a
charming geisha who had taken his fancy at a tea house. The manner
in which the suggestion was received convinced him that he might as
well have purposed to marry the devil himself as a professional
dancer and singer. Among the train of Mlle. Jasmin's friends is one
less young than Mlle. Jasmin, say about eighteen, and already more
of a woman; and when Loti says, "Why not her?" M. Kangourou trots
her out for inspection and, discreetly sending Loti away, concludes
the arrangement between night-fall and 10 o'clock, when he comes
with the announcement: "All is arranged, sir; her parents will give
her up for $20 a month--the same price as Mlle. Jasmin."

So Mlle. Chrysantheme became the wife of Pierre Loti during his
stay at Nagasaki, and then dutifully went home to her mother
without breaking her heart at all. But she was not a geisha, only a
mousme--"one of the prettiest words in the Nipponese language,"
comments M. Loti, "it seems almost as if there must be a little
moue in the very sound, as if a pretty, taking little pout, such as
they put on, and also a little pert physiognomy, were described by

Lieutenant Pinkerton, equally ignorant with Lieutenant Loti but
uninstructed evidently, marries a geisha whose father had made the
happy dispatch at the request of the Son of Heaven after making a
blunder in his military command. She is Cio-Cio-San, also Madama
Butterfly, and she comes to her wedding with a bevy of geishas or
mousmes (I do not know which) and a retinue of relations. All enjoy
the hospitality of the American officer while picking him to
pieces, but turn from their kinswoman when they learn from an
uncle, who is a Buddhist priest and comes late to the wedding like
the wicked fairy in the stories, that she has attended the Mission
school and changed her religion. Wherefore the bonze curses her:
"Hou, hou! Cio-Cio-San, hou, hou!"

Sharpless, United States Consul at Nagasaki, had not approved of
Pinkerton's adventure, fearing that it might bring unhappiness to
the little woman; but Pinkerton had laughed at his scruples and
emptied his glass to the marriage with an American wife which he
hoped to make some day. Neither Loti nor Long troubles us with the
details of so prosaic a thing as the marriage ceremony; but Puccini
and his librettists make much of it, for it provides the only
opportunity for a chorus and the musician had found delightfully
mellifluous Japanese gongs to add a pretty touch of local color to
the music. Cio-Cio-San has been "outcasted" and Pinkerton comforts
her and they make love in the starlight (after Butterfly has
changed her habiliments) like any pair of lovers in Italy. "Dolce
notte! Quante stelle! Vieni, vieni!" for quantity.

This is the first act of the opera, and it is all expository to
Belasco's "Tragedy of Japan," which plays in one act, with the
pathetic vigil separating the two days which form its period of
action. When that, like the second act of the opera, opens,
Pinkerton has been gone from Nagasaki and his "wife" three years,
and a baby boy of whom he has never heard, but who has his eyes and
hair has come to bear Butterfly company in the little house on the
hill. The money left by the male butterfly when he flitted is all
but exhausted. Madama Butterfly appears to be lamentably ignorant
of the customs of her country, for she believes herself to be a
wife in the American sense and is fearfully wroth with Suzuki, her
maid, when she hints that she never knew a foreign husband to come
back to a Japanese wife. But Pinkerton when he sailed away had said
that he would be back "when the robins nest again," and that
suffices Cio-Cio-San. But when Sharpless comes with a letter to
break the news that his friend is coming back with an American
wife, he loses courage to perform his mission at the contemplation
of the little woman's faith in the truant. Does he know when the
robins nest in America? In Japan they had nested three times since
Pinkerton went away. The consul quails at that and damns his friend
as a scoundrel. Now Goro, who knows Butterfly's pecuniary plight,
brings Yamadori to her. Yamadori is a wealthy Japanese citizen of
New York in the book and play and a prince in the opera, but in all
he is smitten with Butterfly's beauty and wants to add her name to
the list of wives he has conveniently married and as conveniently
divorced on his visits to his native land. Butterfly insists that
she is an American and cannot be divorced Japanese fashion, and is
amazed when Sharpless hints that Pinkerton might have forgotten her
and she would better accept Yamadori's hand.

First she orders him out of the house, but, repenting her of her
rudeness, brings in the child to show him something that no one is
likely to forget. She asks the consul to write to his friend and
tell him that he has a son, so fine a son, indeed, that she
indulges in a day dream of the Mikado stopping at the head of his
troops to admire him and make him a prince of the realm. Sharpless
goes away with his mission unfulfilled and Suzuki comes in dragging
Goro with her, for that he had been spreading scandalous tales
about the treatment which children born like this child receive in
America. Butterfly is tempted to kill the wretch, but at the last
is content to spurn him with her foot.

At this moment a cannon shot is heard. A man-of-war is entering the
harbor. Quick, the glasses! "Steady my hand, Suzuki, that I may
read the name." It is the Abraham Lincoln, Pinkerton's ship! Now
the cherry tree must give up its every blossom, every bush or vine
its violets and jessamines to garnish the room for his welcome! The
garden is stripped bare, vases are filled, the floor is strewn with
petals. Perfumes exhale from the voices of the women and the song
of the orchestra. Here local color loses its right; the music is
all Occidental. Butterfly is dressed again in her wedding gown of
white and her pale cheeks are touched up with carmine. The paper
partitions are drawn against the night. Butterfly punctures the
shoji with three holes--one high up for herself to look through,
standing; one lower for the maid to look through, sitting; one near
the floor for the baby. And so Butterfly stands in an all-night
vigil. The lanterns flicker and go out. Maid and babe sink down in
sleep. The gray dawn creeps over the waters of the harbor. Human
voices, transformed into instruments, hum a barcarolle. (We heard
it when Sharpless tried to read the letter.) A Japanese tune rises
like a sailors' chanty from the band. Mariners chant their "Yo ho!"
Day is come. Suzuki awakes and begs her mistress to seek rest.
Butterfly puts the baby to bed, singing a lullaby. Sharpless and
Pinkerton come and learn of the vigil from Suzuki, who sees the
form of a lady in the garden and hears that it is the American wife
of Pinkerton. Pinkerton pours out his remorse melodiously. He will
be haunted forever by the picture of his once happy home and Cio-
Cio-San's reproachful eyes. He leaves money for Butterfly in the
consul's hands and runs away like a coward. Kate, the American
wife, and Suzuki meet in the garden. The maid is asked to tell her
mistress the meaning of the visit, but before she can do so
Butterfly sees them. Her questions bring out half the truth; her
intuition tells her the rest. Kate (an awful blot she is on the
dramatic picture) begs forgiveness and asks for the baby boy that
her husband may rear him. Butterfly says he shall have him in half
an hour if he will come to fetch him. She goes to the shrine of
Buddha and takes from it a veil and a dagger, reading the words
engraved on its blade: "To die with honor when one can no longer
live with honor." It is the weapon which the Mikado had sent to her
father. She points the weapon at her throat, but at the moment
Suzuki pushes the baby into the room. Butterfly addresses it
passionately; then, telling it to play, seats it upon a stool, puts
an American flag into its hands, a bandage around its eyes. Again
she takes dagger and veil and goes behind a screen. The dagger is
heard to fall. Butterfly totters out from behind the screen with a
veil wound round her neck. She staggers to the child and falls,
dying, at its feet. Pinkerton rushes in with a cry of horror and
falls on his knees, while Sharpless gently takes up the child.

I have no desire to comment disparagingly upon the denouement of
the book of Mr. Long or the play of Mr. Belasco which Puccini and
his librettists followed; but in view of the origin of the play a
bit of comparative criticism seems to be imperative. Loti's "Madame
Chrysantheme" was turned into an opera by Andre Messager. What the
opera was like I do not know. It came, it went, and left no sign;
yet it would seem to be easy to guess at the reason for its quick
evanishment. If it followed the French story, as no doubt it did,
it was too faithful to the actualities of Japanese life to awaken a
throb of emotion in the Occidental heart. Without such a throb a
drama is naught--a sounding brass and tinkling cymbal. The charm of
Loti's book lies in its marvellously beautiful portrayal of a
country, a people, and a characteristic incident in the social life
of that people. Its interest as a story, outside of the charm of
its telling, is like that excited by inspection of an exotic curio.
In his dedication of the book the author begged Mme. la Duchesse de
Richelieu not to look for any meaning in it, but to receive it in
the same spirit in which she would receive "some quaint bit of
pottery, some grotesque carved ivory idol, or some preposterous
trifle brought back from the fatherland of all preposterousness."
It is a record of a bit of the wandering life of a poet who makes
himself a part of every scene into which fortune throws him. He has
spent a summer with a Japanese mousme, whom he had married Japanese
fashion, and when he has divorced her, also in Japanese fashion,
with regard for all the conventions, and sailed away from her
forever, he is more troubled by thoughts of possible contamination
to his own nature than because of any consequences to the woman.
Before the final farewell he had felt a touch of pity for the "poor
little gypsy," but when he mounted the stairs to her room for the
last time he heard her singing, and mingled with her voice was a
strange metallic sound, dzinn, dzinn! as of coins ringing on the
floor. Is she amusing herself with quoits, or the jeu du crapaud,
or pitch and toss? He creeps in, and there, dressed for the
departure to her mother's, sitting on the floor is Chrysantheme;
and spread out around her all the fine silver dollars he had given
her according to agreement the night before. "With the competent
dexterity of an old money changer she fingers them, turns them
over, throws them on the floor, and armed with a little mallet ad
hoc, rings them vigorously against her ear, singing the while I
know not what little pensive, birdlike song, which I dare say she
improvises as she goes along. Well, after all, it is even more
completely Japanese than I could possibly have imagined it--this
last scene of my married life! I feel inclined to laugh." And he
commends the little gypsy's worldly wisdom, offers to make good any
counterfeit piece which she may find, and refuses to permit her to
see him go aboard of his ship. She does, nevertheless, along with
the Japanese wives of four of his fellow officers, who peep at
their flitting husbands through the curtains of their sampans. But
when he is far out on the great Yellow Sea he throws the faded
lotus flowers which she had given him through the porthole of his
cabin, making his best excuses for "giving to them, natives of
Japan, a grave so solemn and so vast"; and he utters a prayer: "O
Ama-Terace-Omi-Kami, wash me clean from this little marriage of
mine in the waters of the river of Kamo!"

The story has no soul, and to give his story, which borrowed its
motive from Loti's, a soul, Mr. Long had to do violence to the
verities of Japanese life. Yet might not even a geisha feel a
genuine passion?

The use of folk-tunes in opera is older than "Madama Butterfly,"
but Puccini's score stands alone in the extent of the use and the
consistency with which Japanese melody has been made the foundation
of the music. When Signor Illica, one of the librettists, followed
Sar Peladan and d'Annunzio into Nippon seeking flowers for "Iris,"
he took Mascagni with him--metaphorically, of course. But Mascagni
was a timid gleaner. Puccini plucked with a bolder hand, as indeed
he might, for he is an incomparably greater adept in the art of
making musical nosegays. In fact, I know of only one score that is
comparable with that of "Madama Butterfly" in respect of its use of
national musical color, and that is "Boris Godounoff." Moussorgsky,
however, had more, richer, and a greater variety of material to
work with than Puccini. Japanese music is arid and angular, and yet
so great is Puccini's skill in combining creative imagination and
reflection that he knew how to make it blossom like a rose. Pity
that he could not wholly overcome its rhythmical monotony. Japanese
melody runs almost uninterruptedly through his instrumental score,
giving way at intervals to the Italian style of lyricism when the
characters and passions become universal rather than local types.
Structurally, his score rests on the Wagnerian method, in that the
vocal part floats on an uninterrupted instrumental current. In the
orchestral part the tunes which he borrowed from the popular music
of Japan are continuously recurrent, and fragments of them are used
as the connecting links of the whole fabric. He uses also a few
typical themes (Leitmotive) of his own invention, and to them it
might be possible, by ingenious study of their relation to text and
situation, to attach significances in the manner of the Wagnerian
handbooks; but I do not think that such processes occupied the
composer's mind to any considerable extent, and the themes are not
appreciably characteristic. His most persistent use of a connecting
link, arbitrarily chosen, is found in the case of the first motive
of the theme, which he treats fugally in the introduction, and
which appears thereafter to the end of the chapter (a, in the list
of themes printed herewith). What might be called personal themes
are the opening notes of "The Star-Spangled Banner" for Pinkerton
and the melody (d) which comes in with Yamadori, in which the
Japanese tune used by Sir Arthur Sullivan in "The Mikado" is
echoed. The former fares badly throughout the score (for which no
blame need attach to Signor Puccini), but the latter is used with
capital effect, though not always in connection with the character.

If Signor Puccini had needed the suggestion that Japanese music was
necessary for a Japanese play (which of course he did not), he
might have received it when he saw Mr. Belasco's play in London.
For the incidental music in that play Mr. William Furst provided
Japanese tunes, or tunes made over the very convenient Japanese
last. Through Mr. Belasco's courtesy I am able to present here a
relic of this original "Butterfly" music. The first melody (a) was
the theme of the curtain-music; (b) that accompanying Cho-Cho-San,
when discovered at the beginning spraying flowers, presenting an
offering at the shrine and burning incense in the house at the foot
of Higashi hill; (c) the Yamadori music; (d) the music accompanying
the first production of the sword; (e) the music of the vigil.
There were also two Occidental pieces--the melody of a little song
which Pinkerton had taught Cho-Cho-San, "I Call Her the Belle of
Japan," and "Rock-a-bye, Baby."

[figure: a musical score excerpt]

[figure: a musical score excerpt]

Themes from Puccini's "Butterfly" music By permission of Ricordi &

[figure: a musical score excerpt]

Meiodies from Mr. Furst's "Butterfly" music By permission of Mr.
David Belasco



In the beginning there was "Guntram," of which we in America heard
only fragmentary echoes in our concert-rooms. Then came
"Feuersnot," which reached us in the same way, but between which
and the subject which is to occupy me in this chapter there is a
kinship through a single instrumental number, the meaning of which
no commentator has dared more than hint at. It is the music which
accompanies the episode, politely termed a "love scene," which
occurs at the climax of the earlier opera, but is supposed to take
place before the opening of the curtain in the later. Perhaps I
shall recur to them again--if I have the courage.

These were the operas of Richard Strauss which no manager deemed it
necessary or advisable to produce in New York. Now came "Salome."
Popular neurasthenia was growing. Oscar Wilde thought France might
accept a glorification of necrophilism and wrote his delectable
book in French. France would have none of it, but when it was done
into German, and Richard Strauss accentuated its sexual perversity
by his hysterical music, lo! Berlin accepted it with avidity. The
theatres of the Prussian capital were keeping pace with the
pathological spirit of the day, and were far ahead of those of
Paris, where, it had long been the habit to think, moral obliquity
made its residence. If Berlin, then why not New York? So thought
Mr. Conned, saturated with German theatricalism, and seeing no
likely difference in the appeal of a "Parsifal" which he had
successfully produced, and a "Salome," he prepared to put the works
of Wagner and Strauss on the same footing at the Metropolitan Opera
House. An influence which has not yet been clearly defined, but
which did not spring from the director of the opera nor the
gentlemen who were his financial backers, silenced the maunderings
of the lust-crazed Herod and paralyzed the contortions of the
lascivious dancer to whom he was willing to give one-half his
kingdom. [Footnote: For the story of "Salome" in New York, see my
"Chapters of Opera" (Henry Holt & Co., New York), p. 343 et seq.]

Now Mr. Hammerstein came to continue the artistic education which
the owners of the Metropolitan Opera House had so strangely and
unaccountably checked. Salome lived out her mad life in a short
time, dying, not by the command of Herod, but crushed under the
shield of popular opinion. The operation, though effective, was not
as swift as it might have been had operatic conditions been
different than they are in New York, and before it was accomplished
a newer phase of Strauss's pathological art had offered itself as a
nervous, excitation. It was "Elektra," and under the guise of an
ancient religious ideal, awful but pathetic, the people were asked
to find artistic delight in the contemplation of a woman's maniacal
thirst for a mother's blood. It is not necessary to recall the
history of the opera at the Manhattan Opera House to show that the
artistic sanity of New York was proof against the new poison.

Hugo von Hoffmannsthal had aided Strauss in this brew and
collaborated with him in the next, which, it was hoped, probably
because of the difference in its concoction and ingredients, would
make his rein even more taut than it had ever been on theatrical
managers and their public. From the Greek classics he turned to the
comedy of the Beaumarchais period. Putting their heads together,
the two wrote "Der Rosenkavalier." It was perhaps shrewd on their
part that they avoided all allusion to the opera buffa of the
period and called their work a "comedy for music." It enabled them,
in the presence of the ignorant, to assume a virtue which they did
not possess; but it is questionable if that circumstance will help
them any. It is only the curious critic nowadays who takes the
trouble to look at the definition, or epithet, on a title page. It
is the work which puts the hallmark on itself; not the whim of the
composer. It would have been wise, very wise indeed, had
Hoffmannsthal avoided everything which might call up a comparison
between himself and Beaumarchais. It was simply fatal to Strauss
that he tried to avoid all comparison between his treatment of an
eighteenth century comedy and Mozart's. One of his devices was to
make use of the system of musical symbols which are irrevocably
associated with Wagner's method of composition. Mozart knew nothing
of this system, but he had a better one in his Beaumarchaisian
comedy, which "Der Rosenkavalier" recalls; it was that of thematic
expression for each new turn in the dramatic situation--a system
which is carried out so brilliantly in "Le Nozze di Figaro" that
there is nothing, even in "Die Meistersinger," which can hold a
candle to it. Another was to build up the vocal part of his comedy
on orchestral waltzes. Evidently it was his notion that at the time
of Maria Theresa (in whose early reign the opera is supposed to
take place) the Viennese world was given over to the dance. It was
so given over a generation later, so completely, indeed, that at
the meetings in the ridotto, for which Mozart, Haydn, Gyrowetz,
Beethoven, and others wrote music, retiring rooms had to be
provided for ladies who were as unprepared for possible accidents
as was one of those described by Pepys as figuring in a court ball
in his time; but to put scarcely anything but waltz tunes under the
dialogue of "Der Rosenkavalier" is an anachronism which is just as
disturbing to the judicious as the fact that Herr Strauss, though
he starts his half-dozen or more of waltzes most insinuatingly,
never lets them run the natural course which Lanner and the
Viennese Strauss, who suggested their tunes, would have made them
do. Always, the path which sets out so prettily becomes a byway
beset with dissonant thorns and thistles and clogged with rocks.

All of this is by way of saying that "Der Rosenkavalier" reached
New York on December 9, 1913, after having endured two years or so
in Europe, under the management of Mr. Gatti-Casazza, and was
treated with the distinction which Mr. Conried gave "Parsifal" and
had planned for "Salome." It was set apart for a performance
outside the subscription, special prices were demanded, and the
novelty dressed as sumptuously and prepared with as lavish an
expenditure of money and care as if it were a work of the very
highest importance. Is it that? The question is not answered by the
fact that its music was composed by Richard Strauss, even though
one be willing to admit that Strauss is the greatest living master
of technique in musical composition, the one concerning whose
doings the greatest curiosity is felt and certainly the one whose
doings are the best advertised. "Der Rosenkavalier," in spite of
all these things, must stand on its merits--as a comedy with music.
The author of its book has invited a comparison which has already
been suggested by making it a comedy of intrigue merely and placing
its time of action in Vienna and the middle of the eighteenth
century. He has gone further; he has invoked the spirit of
Beaumarchais to animate his people and his incidents. The one thing
which he could not do, or did not do, was to supply the satirical
scourge which justified the Figaro comedies of his great French
prototype and which, while it made their acceptance tardy, because
of royal and courtly opposition, made their popular triumph the
more emphatic. "Le Nozze di Figaro" gave us more than one figure
and more than one scene in the representation, and "Le Nozze di
Figaro" is to those who understand its text one of the most
questionable operas on the current list. But there is a moral
purpose underlying the comedy which to some extent justifies its
frank salaciousness. It is to prevent the Count from exercising an
ancient seigniorial right over the heroine which he had voluntarily
resigned, that all the characters in the play unite in the intrigue
which makes up the comedy. Moreover, there are glimpses over and
over again of honest and virtuous love between the characters and
beautiful expressions of it in the music which makes the play
delightful, despite its salaciousness. Even Cherubino who seems to
have come to life again in Octavian, is a lovable youth if for no
othe reason than that he represents youth in its amorousness toward
all womankind, with thought of special mischief toward none.

"Der Rosenkavalier" is a comedy of lubricity merely, with what
little satirical scourge it has applied only to an old roue who is
no more deserving of it than most of the other people in the play.
So much of its story as will bear telling can be told very briefly.
It begins, assuming its instrumental introduction (played with the
scene discreetly hidden) to be a part of it, with a young nobleman
locked in the embraces of the middle-aged wife of a field marshal,
who is conveniently absent on a hunting expedition. The music is of
a passionate order, and the composer, seeking a little the odor of
virtue, but with an oracular wink in his eye, says in a descriptive
note that it is to be played in the spirit of parody
(parodistisch). Unfortunately the audience cannot see the printed
direction, and there is no parody in music except extravagance and
ineptitude in the utterance of simple things (like the faulty notes
of the horns in Mozart's joke on the village musicians, the cadenza
for violin solo in the same musical joke, or the twangling of
Beckmesser's lute); so the introduction is an honest musical
description of things which the composer is not willing to confess,
and least of all the stage manager, for when the curtain opens
there is not presented even the picture called for by the German
libretto. Nevertheless, morn is dawning, birds are twittering, and
the young lover, kneeling before his mistress on a divan, is
bemoaning the fact that day is come and that he cannot publish his
happiness to the world. The tete-a-tete is interrupted by a rude
boor of a nobleman, who come to consult his cousin (the princess)
about a messenger to send with the conventional offering of a
silver rose to the daughter of a vulgar plebeian just elevated to
the nobility because of his wealth. The conversation between the
two touches on little more than old amours, and after the lady has
held her levee designed to introduce a variety of comedy effects in
music as well as action, the princess recommends her lover for the
office of rosebearer. Meanwhile the lover has donned the garments
of a waiting maid and been overwhelmed with the wicked attentions
of the roue, Lerchenau. When the lovers are again alone there is a
confession of renunciation on the part of the princess, based on
the philosophical reflection that, after all, her Octavian being so
young would bring about the inevitable parting sooner or later.

In the second act what the princess in her prescient abnegation had
foreseen takes place. Her lover carries the rose to the young woman
whom the roue had picked out for his bride and promptly falls in
love with her. She with equal promptness, following the example of
Wagner's heroines, bowls herself at his head. The noble vulgarian
complicates matters by insisting that he receive a dowry instead of
paying one. The young hot-blood adds to the difficulties by pinking
him in the arm with his sword, but restores order at the last by
sending him a letter of assignation in his first act guise of a
maid servant of the princess.

This assignation is the background of the third act, which is farce
of the wildest and most vulgar order. Much of it is too silly for
description. Always, however, there is allusion to the purpose of
the meeting on the part of Lerchenau, whose plans are spoiled by
apparitions in all parts of the room, the entrance of the police,
his presumptive bride and her father, a woman who claims him as her
husband, four children who raise bedlam (and memories of the
contentious Jews in "Salome"); by shouting "Papa! papa!" until his
mind is in a whirl and he rushes out in despair. The princess
leaves the new-found lovers alone.

They hymn their happiness in Mozartian strains (the melody copied
from the second part of the music with which Papageno sets the
blackamoors to dancing in "Die Zauberflote"), the orchestra talks
of the matronly renunciation of the princess, enthusiastic
Straussians of a musical parallel with the quintet from Wagner's
"Meistersinger," and the opera comes to an end after three and one-
half hours of more or less unintelligible dialogue poised on waltz

I have said unintelligible dialogue. For this unintelligibility
there are two reasons-the chief one musical, the other literary.
Though Strauss treats his voices with more consideration in "Der
Rosenkavalier" than in his tragedies, he still so overburdens them
that the words are distinguishable only at intervals. Only too
frequently he crushes them with orchestral voices, which in
themselves are not overwhelming--the voices of his horns, for
instance, for which he shows a particular partiality. His style of
declamation is melodic, though it is only at the end of the opera
that he rises to real vocal melody; but it seems to be put over an
orchestral part, and not the orchestral part put under it. There is
no moment in which he can say, as Wagner truthfully and admiringly
said of the wonderful orchestral music of the third act of "Tristan
und Isolde," that all this swelling instrumental song existed only
for the sake of what the dying Tristan was saying upon his couch.
All of Strauss's waltzes seem to exist for their own sake, which
makes the disappointment greater that they are not carried through
in the spirit in which they are begun; that is, the spirit of the
naive Viennese dance tune.

A second reason for the too frequent unintelligibility of the text
is its archaic character. Its idioms are eighteenth century as well
as Viennese, and its persistent use of the third person even among
individuals of quality, though it gives a tang to the libretto when
read in the study, is not welcome when heard with difficulty.
Besides this, there is use of dialect--vulgar when assumed by
Octavian, mixed when called for by such characters as Valzacchi and
his partner in scandal mongery, Annina. To be compelled to forego a
knowledge of half of what such a master of diction as Mr. Reiss was
saying was a new sensation to his admirers who understand German.
Yet the fault was as little his as it was Mr. Goritz's that so much
of what he said went for nothing; it was all his misfortune,
including the fact that much of the music is not adapted to his

The music offers a pleasanter topic than the action and dialogue.
It is a relief to those listeners who go to the opera oppressed
with memories of "Salome" and "Elektra." It is not only that their
ears are not so often assaulted by rude sounds, they are frequently
moved by phrases of great and genuine beauty. Unfortunately the
Straussian system of composition demands that beauty be looked for
in fragments. Continuity of melodic flow is impossible to Strauss--
a confession of his inability either to continue Wagner's method,
to improve on it, or invent anything new in its place. The best
that has been done in the Wagnerian line belongs to Humperdinck.

[Footnote: "Der Rosenkavalier" had its first American production at
the Metropolitan Opera House, New York, on December 9, 1913, the
cast being as follows:--

Feldmarschallin Furstin Werdenberg............ Frieda Hempel
Baron Ochs auf Lerchenau...................... Otto Goritz
Octavian, genannt Quinquin.................... Margarete Ober
Herr von Faninal.............................. Hermann Weil
Sophie, seine Tochter......................... Anna Case
Jungfer Marianne Leitmetzerin................. Rita Fornia
Valzacchi, ein Intrigant...................... Albert Reiss
Annina, seine Begleiterin..................... Marie Mattfeld
Ein Polizeikommissar.......................... Carl Schlegel
Haushofmeister der Feldmarschalh'n............ Pietro Audisio
Haushofmeister bei Faninal.................... Lambert Murphy
Ein Notar..................................... Basil Ruysdael
Ein Wirt...................................... Julius Bayer
Ein Sanger.................................... Carl Jorn
Drei adelige Waisen........................... Louise Cox
Rosina Van Dyck
Sophie Braslau
Eine Modistin................................. Jeanne Maubourg
Ein Lakai..................................... Ludwig Burgstaller
Ein kleiner Neger............................. Ruth Weinstein

Conductor--Alfred Hertz]



Once upon a time a witch cast a spell upon a king's daughter and
held her in servitude as a gooseherd. A prince found her in the
forest and loved her. She loved him in return, and would gladly
have gone away from her sordid surroundings with him, though she
had spurned the crown which he had offered her in exchange for her
wreath of flowers; but when she escaped from her jailer she found
that she could not break the charm which held her imprisoned in the
forest. Then the prince left the crown lying at her feet and
continued his wanderings. Scarcely had he gone when there came to
the hut of the witch a broommaker and a woodchopper, guided by a
wandering minstrel. They were ambassadors from the city of
Hellabrunn, which had been so long without a king that its boorish
burghers themselves felt the need of a ruler in spite of their
boorishness. To the wise woman the ambassadors put the questions:
Who shall be this ruler and by what sign shall they recognize him?
The witch tells them that their sovereign shall be the first person
who enters their gates after the bells have rung the noon hour on
the morrow, which is the day of the Hella festival. Then the
minstrel catches sight of the lovely goose-girl, and through the
prophetic gift possessed by poets he recognizes in her a rightly
born princess for his people. By the power of his art he is enabled
to put aside the threatening spells of the witch and compel the hag
to deliver the maiden into his care. He persuades her to break the
enchantment which had held her bound hitherto and defy the wicked

Meanwhile, however, grievous misfortunes have befallen the prince,
her lover. He has gone to Hellabrunn, and desiring to learn to
serve in order that he might better know how to rule, he had taken
service as a swineherd. The daughter of the innkeeper becomes
enamoured of the shapely body of the prince, whose proud spirit she
cannot understand, and who has repulsed her advances. His thoughts
go back to the goosegirl whose wreath, with its fresh fragrance,
reminds him of his duty. He attempts to teach the burghers their
own worth, but the wench whose love he had repulsed accuses him of
theffy and he is about to be led off to prison when the bells peal
forth the festal hour.

Joyfully the watchmen throw open the strong town gates and the
multitude and gathered councillors fall back to receive their king.
But through the doors enters the gooseherd, proudly wearing her
crown and followed by her flock and the minstrel The lovers fall
into each other's arms, but only the poet and a little child
recognize them as of royal blood. The boorish citizens, who had
fancied that their king would appear in regal splendor, drive the
youth and maiden out with contumely, burn the witch and cripple the
minstrel by breaking one of his legs on the wheel. Seeking his
home, the prince and his love lose their way in the forest during a
snowstorm and die of a poisoned loaf made by the witch, for which
the prince had bartered his broken crown, under the same tree which
had sheltered them on their first meeting; but the children of
Hellabrunn, who had come out in search of them, guided by a bird,
find their bodies buried under the snow and give them royal acclaim
and burial. And the prescient minstrel hymns their virtues.

This is the story of Engelbert Humperdinck's opera "Konigskinder,"
which had its first performance on any stage at the Metropolitan
Opera House, New York, on December 28,1910, with the following

Der Konigssohn......................Herman Jadlowker
Die Gansemagd.......................Geraldine Farrar
Der Spielmann........................... Otto Goritz
Die Hexe................................Louise Homer
Der Holzhacker.......................... Adamo Didur
Der Besenbinder........................ Albert Reiss
Zwei Kinder..............Edna Walter and Lotte Engel
Der Ratsalteste....................... Marcel Reiner
Der Wirt..........................Antonio Pini-Corsi
Die Wirtstochter................... Florence Wickham
Der Schneider.......................... Julius Bayer
Die Stallmagd.........................Marie Mattfeld
Zwei Torwachter..... Ernst Maran and William Hinshaw

Conductor: Alfred Hertz

To some in the audience the drama was new only in the new operatic
dress with which Humperdinck had clothed it largely at the instance
of the Metropolitan management. It had been known as a spoken play
for twelve years and three of its musical numbers--the overture and
two pieces of between-acts music--had been in local concert-lists
for the same length of time. The play had been presented with
incidental music for many of the scenes as well as the overture and
entr'actes in 1898 in an extremely interesting production at the
Irving Place Theatre, then under the direction of Heinrich Conried,
in which Agnes Sorma and Rudolf Christians had carried the
principal parts. It came back four years later in an English
version at the Herald Square Theatre, but neither in the German nor
the English performance was it vouchsafed us to realize what had
been the purpose of the author of the play and the composer of the

The author, who calls herself Ernst Rosmer, is a woman, daughter of
Heinrich Forges, for many years a factotum at the Bayreuth
festivals. It was her father's devotion to Wagner which gave her
the name of Elsa. She married a lawyer and litterateur in Munich
named Bernstein, and has written a number of plays besides
"Konigskinder," which she published in 1895, and afterward asked
Herr Humperdinck (not yet a royal Prussian professor, but a simple
musician, who had made essays in criticisms and tried to make a
composer out of Siegfried Wagner) to provide with incidental music.
Mr. Humperdinck took his task seriously. The play, with some
incidental music, was two years old before Mr. Humperdinck had his
overture ready. He had tried a new experiment, which proved a
failure. The second and third acts had their preludes, and the
songs of the minstrel had their melodies and accompaniments, and
all the principal scenes had been provided with illustrative music
in the Wagnerian manner, with this difference, that the dialogue
had been "pointed," as a church musician would say--that is, the
rhythm was indicated with exactness, and even the variations of
pitch, though it was understood that the purpose was not to achieve
song, but an intensified utterance, halfway between speech and
song. This was melodrama, as Herr Humperdinck conceived it and as
it had no doubt existed for ages--ever since the primitive Greek
drama, in fact. It is easy to understand how Herr Humperdinck came
to believe in the possibility of an art-form which, though
accepted, for temporary effect, by Beethoven and Cherubini, and
used for ballads with greater or less success by Schumann, had been
harshly rejected by his great model and master, Wagner. Humperdinck
lives in Germany, where in nearly every theatre there is more or
less of an amalgamation of the spoken drama and the opera--where
choristers play small parts and actors, though not professional
singers, sing when not too much is required of them. And yet Herr
Humperdinck found out that he had asked too much of his actors with
his "pointed" and at times intoned declamation, and "Konigskinder"
did not have to come to America to learn that the compromise was a
failure. No doubt Herr Humperdinck thought of turning so beautiful
a play into an opera then, but it seems to have required the
stimulus which finally came from New York to persuade him to carry
out the operatic idea, which is more than suggested in the score as
it lies before me in its original shape, into a thorough lyric
drama. The set pieces which had lived in the interim in the
concert-room were transferred into the opera-score with trifling
alterations and condensations and so were the set songs. As for the
rest it needed only that note-heads be supplied to some of the
portions of the dialogue which Humperdinck had designed for melodic
declamation to have those portions ready for the opera. Here an

[figure: a musical score excerpt]

A German opera can generally stand severer criticism than one in
another language, because there is a more strict application of
principles in Germany when it comes to writing a lyric drama than
in any other country. So in the present instance there is no need
to conceal the fact that there are outbreaks of eroticism and
offences against the German language which are none the less
flagrant and censurable because they are, to some extent, concealed
under the thin veneer of the allegory and symbolism which every
reader must have recognized as running through the play. This is,
in a manner, Wagnerian, as so much of the music is Wagnerian--
especially that of the second act, which because it calls up scenes
from the "Meistersinger" must also necessarily call up music from
the same comedy. But there is little cause here for quarrel with
Professor Humperdinck. He has applied the poetical principle of
Wagner to the fairy tale which is so closely related to the myth,
and he has with equal consistency applied Wagner's constructive
methods musically and dramatically. It is to his great honor that,
of all of Wagner's successors, he has been the only one to do so

The story of "Konigskinder," though it belongs to the class of
fairy tales of which "Hansel und Gretel" is so striking and
beautiful an example, is not to be found as the author presents it
in the literature of German Marchen. Mme. Bernstein has drawn its
elements from many sources and blended them with the utmost
freedom. To avoid a misunderstanding Germans will insist that the
title be used without the article, for "Die Konigskinder" or "Zwei
Konigskinder" both suggest the simple German form of the old tale
of Hero and Leander, with which story, of course, it has nothing
whatever to do. But if literary criticism forbids association
between Humperdinck's two operas, musical criticism compels it.
Many of the characters in the operas are close relations,
dramatically as well as musically--the royal children themselves,
the witches, of course, and the broom-makers. The rest of the
characters have been taken from Wagner's "Meistersinger" picture
book; the citizens of Hellabrunn are Nuremberg's burghers, the
city's' councillors, the old master singers. The musical idiom is
Humperdinck's, though its method of employment is Wagner's. But
here lies its charm: Though the composer hews to a theoretical
line, he does it freely, naturally, easily, and always with the
principle of musical beauty as well as that of dramatic
truthfulness and propriety in view. His people's voices float on a
symphonic stream, but the voices of the instruments, while they
sing on in endless melody, use the idiom which nature gave them.
There is admirable characterization in the orchestral music, but it
is music for all that; it never descends to mere noise, designed to
keep up an irritation of the nerves.



From whatever point of view it may be considered Mossourgsky's
opera "Boris Godounoff" is an extraordinary work. It was brought to
the notice of the people of the United States by a first
performance at the Metropolitan Opera House, in New York, on March
19, 1913, but intelligence concerning its character had come to
observers of musical doings abroad by reports touching performances
in Paris and London. It is possible, even likely, that at all the
performances of the work outside of Russia those who listened to it
with the least amount of intellectual sophistication derived the
greatest pleasure from it, though to them its artistic deficiencies
must also have been most obvious. Against these deficiencies,
however, it presented itself, first of all, as a historical play
shot through and through with a large theme, which, since it
belongs to tragedy, is universal and unhampered by time or place or
people. To them it had something of the sweep, dignity, and
solemnity and also something of the dramatic incongruity and lack
of cohesion of a Shakespearian drama as contradistinguished from
the coherence of purpose and manner of a modern drama.

To them also it had much strangeness of style, a style which was
not easily reconciled to anything with which the modern stage had
made them familiar. They saw and heard the chorus enter into the
action, not for the purpose of spectacular pageantry, nor as
hymners of the achievements of the principal actors in the story,
but as participants. They heard unwonted accents from these actors
and saw them behave in conduct which from moment to moment appeared
strangely contradictory. There were mutterings of popular
discontent, which, under threats, gave way to jubilant acclamation
in the first great scenes in the beginning of the opera. There were
alternate mockeries and adulations in the next scene in which the
people figured; and running through other scenes from invisible
singers came ecclesiastical chants, against which were projected,
not operatic song in the old conception, but long passages of
heightened speech, half declamatory, half musical. A multitude
cringed before upraised knouts and fell on its knees before the
approach of a man whose agents swung the knotted cords; anon they
acclaimed the man who sought to usurp a throne and overwhelmed with
ridicule a village imbecile, who was yet supposed because of his
mental weakness to be possessed of miraculous prescience, and
therefore to have a prevision of what was to follow the usurpation.
They saw the incidents of the drama moving past their eyes within a
framework of barbaric splendor typical of a wonderful political
past, an amazing political present, and possibly prophetic of a
still more amazing political future.

These happily ingenuous spectators saw an historical personage
racked by conscience, nerve-torn by spectres, obsessed by
superstitions, strong in position achieved, yet pathetically sweet
and moving in his exhibition of paternal love, and going to
destruction through remorse for crime committed. They were troubled
by no curious questionings as to the accuracy of the historical
representation. The Boris Godounoff before them was a remorse-
stricken regicide, whose good works, if he did any, had to be
summed up for their imagination in the fact that he loved his son.
In all this, and also in some of its music, the new opera was of
the opera operatic. But to the unhappily disingenuous (or perhaps
it would be better to say, to the instructed) there was much more
in the new opera; and it was this more which so often gave judgment
pause, even while it stimulated interest and irritated curiosity.
It was a pity that a recent extraordinary outburst of enthusiasm
about a composer and an opera should have had the effect of
distorting their vision and disturbing their judgment.

There was a reason to be suspicious touching this enthusiasm,
because of its origin. It came from France and not from the home
land of the author of the play or the composer of the music.
Moreover, it was largely based upon an element which has as little
genuineness in France as a basis of judgment (and which must
therefore be set down largely as an affectation) as in America.
Loud hallelujahs have been raised in praise of Moussorgsky because,
discarding conventional law, he vitalized the music of the lyric
poem and also the dramatic line, by making it the emotional
flowering of the spoken word. When it became necessary for the
precious inner brotherhood of Frenchmen who hold burning incense
sticks under each others' noses to acclaim "Pelleas et Melisande"
as a new and beautiful thing in dramatic music, it was announced
that Moussorgsky was like Debussy in that he had demonstrated in
his songs and his operas that vocal melody should and could be
written in accordance with the rhythm and accents of the words. We
had supposed that we had learned that lesson not only from Gluck
and Wagner, but from every true musical dramatist that ever lived!
And when the Frenchmen (and their feeble echoers in England and
America) began to cry out that the world make obeisance to
Moussorgsky on that score, there was no wonder that those whose
eagerness to enjoy led them to absorb too much information should
ask how this marvellous psychical assonance between word and tone
was to be conveyed to their unfortunate sense and feeling after the
original Russian word had been transmogrified into French or
English. In New York the opera, which we know to be saturated in
some respects with Muscovitism, or Slavicism, and which we have
every reason to believe is also so saturated in its musico-verbal
essence, was sung in Italian. With the change some of the character
that ought to make it dear to the Russian heart must have
evaporated. It is even likely that vigorous English would have been
a better vehicle than the "soft, bastard Latin" for the forceful
utterances of the operatic people.

It is a pity that a suspicion of disingenuousness and affectation
should force itself upon one's thoughts in connection with the
French enthusiasm over Moussorgsky; but it cannot be avoided. So
far as Moussorgsky reflects anything in his art, it is realism or
naturalism, and the latter element is not dominant in French music
now, and is not likely to be so long as the present tendency toward
sublimated subjectivism prevails. Debussy acclaimed Moussorgsky
enthusiastically a dozen years ago, but for all that Moussorgsky
and Debussy are antipodes in art--they represent extremes.

It is much more likely that outside of its purely literary aspect
(a large aspect in every respect in. France) the Moussorgsky cult
of the last few years was a mere outgrowth of the political
affiliation between France and Russia; as such it may be looked
upon in the same light as the sudden appreciation of Berlioz which
was a product of the Chauvinism which followed the Franco-Prussian
War. It is easy even for young people of the day in which I write
to remember when a Wagner opera at the Academie Nationale raised a
riot, and when the dances at the Moulin Rouge and such places could
not begin until the band had played the Russian national hymn.

Were it not for considerations of this sort it would be surprising
to contemplate the fact that Moussorgsky has been more written and
talked about in France than he was in his native Russia, and that
even his friend Rimsky-Korsakoff, to whose revision of the score
"Boris Godounoff" owes its continued existence, has been subjected
to much rude criticism because of his work, though we can only
think of it as taken up in a spirit of affection and admiration. He
and the Russians, with scarcely an exception, say that his labors
were in the line of purification and rectification; but the modern
extremists will have it that by remedying its crudities of
harmonization and instrumentation he weakened it--that what he
thought its artistic blemishes were its virtues. Of that we are in
no position to speak, nor ought any one be rash enough to make the
proclamation until the original score is published, and then only a
Russian or a musician familiar with the Russian tongue and its
genius. The production of the opera outside of Russia and in a
foreign language ought to furnish an occasion to demand a stay of
the artistic cant which is all too common just now in every

We are told that "Boris Godounoff" is the first real Russian opera
that America has ever heard. In a sense that may be true. The
present generation has heard little operatic music by Russian
composers. Rubinstein's "Nero" was not Russian music in any
respect. "Pique Dame," by Tschaikowsky, also performed at the
Metropolitan Opera House, had little in it that could be recognized
as characteristically Russian. "Eugene Onegin" we know only from
concert performances, and its Muscovitism was a negligible
quantity. The excerpts from other Russian operas have been few and
they demonstrated nothing, though in an intermezzo from
Tschaikowsky's "Mazeppa," descriptive of the battle of Poltava,
which has been heard here, we met with the strong choral tune which
gives great animation to the most stirring scene in "Boris"--the
acclamation of the Czar by the populace in the first act. Of this
something more presently. There were American representations,
however, of a Russian opera which in its day was more popular than
"Boris" has ever been; but that was so long ago that all memories
of it have died, and even the records are difficult to reach. Some
fifty years ago a Russian company came to these shores and
performed Verstoffsky's "Askold's Tomb," an opera which was
republished as late as 1897 and which within the first twenty-five
years of its existence had 400 performances in Moscow and 200 in
St. Petersburg. Some venturesome critics have hailed Verstoffsky as
even more distinctively a predecessor of Moussorgsky than Glinka;
but the clamor of those who are preaching loudly that art must not
exist for art's sake, and that the ugly is justified by the beauty
of ugliness, has silenced the voices of these critical historians.

This may thus far have seemed a long and discursive disquisition on
the significance of the new opera; but the questions to which the
production of "Boris Godounoff" give rise are many and grave,
especially in the present state of our operatic activities. They
have a strong bearing on the problem of nationalism in opera, of
which those in charge of our operatic affairs appear to take a
careless view. Aside from all aesthetic questions, "Boris
Godounoff" bears heavily on that problem. It is a work crude and
fragmentary in structure, but it is tremendously puissant in its
preachment of nationalism; and it is strong there not so much
because of its story and the splendid barbarism of its external
integument as because of its nationalism, which is proclaimed in
the use of Russian folk-song. All previous experiments in this line
become insignificant in comparison with it, and it is questionable
if any other body of folk-song offers such an opportunity to the
operatic composer as does the Russian. The hero of the opera is in
dramatic stature (or at least in emotional content) a Macbeth or a
Richard III; his utterances are frequently poignant and heart
searching in the extreme; his dramatic portrayal by M. Chaliapine
in Europe and Mr. Didur in America is so gripping as to call up
memories of some of the great English tragedians of the past. But
we cannot speak of the psychology of the musical setting of his
words because we have been warned that it roots deeply in the
accents and inflections of a language with which we are unfamiliar
and which was not used in the performance. But the music of the
choral masses, the songs sung in the intimacy of the Czar Boris's
household, the chants of the monks, needed not to be strange to any
student of folk-song, nor could their puissance be lost upon the
musically unlettered. In the old Kolyada Song "Slava" [Footnote:
Lovers of chamber music know this melody from its use in the
allegretto in Beethoven's E minor Quartet dedicated to Count
Rasoumowski, where it appears thus:--] with which Boris is greeted
by the populace, as well as in the wild shoutings of the Polish
vagrom men and women in the scene before the last, it is impossible
not to hear an out-pouring of that spirit of which Tolstoi wrote:
"In it is yearning without end, without hope; also power
invincible, the fateful stamp of destiny, iron preordination, one
of the fundamental principles of our nationality with which it is
possible to explain much that in Russian life seems

No other people have such a treasure of folk-song to draw on as
that thus characterized, and it is not likely that any other people
will develop a national school of opera on the lines which lie open
to the Russian composer, and which the Russian composer has been
encouraged to exploit by his government for the last twenty years
or more.

It is possible that some critics, actuated by political rather than
artistic considerations, will find reasons

[figure: a musical score excerpt]

for the present condition of Moussorgsky's score in the attitude of
the Russian government. It is said that court intrigues had much to
do with the many changes which the score had to undergo before it
became entirely acceptable to the powers that be in the Czar's
empire. Possibly. But every change which has come under the notice
of this reviewer has been to its betterment and made for its
practical presentation. It is said that the popular scenes were
curtailed because they represented the voice of the democracy. But
there is still so much choral work in the opera that the judgment
of the operatic audiences of to-day is likely to pronounce against
it measurably on that account. For, splendid as the choral element
in the work is, a chorus is not looked upon with admiration as a
dramatic element by the ordinary opera lover. There was a lack of
the feminine element in the opera, and to remedy this Moussorgsky
had to introduce the Polish bride of the False Dmitri and give the
pair a love scene, and incidentally a polonaise; but the love scene
is uninteresting until its concluding measures, and these are too
Meyerbeerian to call for comment beyond the fact that Meyerbeer,
the much contemned, would have done better. As for the polonaise,
Tschaikowsky has written a more brilliant one for his "Eugene

The various scores of the opera which have been printed show that
Moussorgsky, with all his genius, was at sea even when it came to
applying the principles of the Young Russian School, of which he is
set down as a strong prop, to dramatic composition. With all his
additions, emendations, and rearrangements, his opera still falls
much short of being a dramatic unit. It is a more loosely connected
series of scenes, from the drama of Boris Godounoff and the false
Dmitri, than Boito's "Mefistofele" is of Goethe's "Faust." Had he
had his own way the opera would have ended with the scene in which
Dmitri proceeds to Moscow amid the huzzas of a horde of Polish
vagabonds, and we should have had neither a Boris nor a Dmitri
opera, despite the splendid opportunities offered by both
characters. It was made a Boris opera by bringing it to an end with
the death of Boris and leaving everything except the scenes in
which the Czar declines the imperial crown, then accepts it, and
finally dies of a tortured conscience, to serve simply as
intermezzi, in which for the moment the tide of tragedy is turned
aside. This and the glimpse into the paternal heart of the Czar is
the only and beautiful purpose of the domestic scene, in which the
lighter and more cheerful element of Russian folk-song is

At the first American performance of "Boris Godounoff" the cast was
as follows:--

Boris.....................................Adamo Didur
Theodore....................................Anna Case
Xenia..................................Lenora Sparkes
The Nurse...............................Maria Duchene
Marina...................................Louise Homer
Schouisky.................................Angelo Bada
Tchelkaloff......................Vincenzo Reschiglian
Pimenn...................................Leon Rothier
Dmitri......................Paul Althouse (his debut)
Varlaam....................... ....Andrea de Segurola
Missail............................... Pietro Audisio
The Innkeeper........................ Jeanne Maubourg
The Simpleton............................Albert Reiss
A Police Officer.........................Giulio Rossi
A Court Officer..................... Leopoldo Mariani
Lovitzky...............................V. Reschiglian
Tcerniakowsky, Two Jesuits............ Louis Kreidler

Conductor: Arturo Toscanini



The opera-goers of New York enjoyed a novel experience when
Giordano's "Madame Sans-Gene" had its first performance on any
stage in their presence at the Metropolitan Opera House on January
25, 1915. It was the first time that a royal and imperial personage
who may be said to live freshly and vividly in the minds of the
people of this generation as well as in their imaginations appeared
before them to sing his thoughts and feelings in operatic fashion.
At first blush it seemed as if a singing Bonaparte was better
calculated to stir their risibilities than their interest or
sympathies; and this may, indeed, have been the case; but at any
rate they had an opportunity to make the acquaintance of Napoleon
before he rose to imperial estate. But, in all seriousness, it is
easier to imagine the figure which William II of Germany would cut
on the operatic stage than the "grand, gloomy, and peculiar"
Corsican. The royal people with whom the operatic public is
familiar as a rule are sufficiently surrounded by the mists of
antiquity and obscurity that the contemplation of them arouse
little thought of the incongruity which their appearance as
operatic heroes ought to create. Henry the Fowler in "Lohengrin,"
Mark in "Tristan und Isolde," the unnumbered Pharaoh in "Aida,"
Herod in "Salome" and "Herodiade," and the few other kings, if
there are any more with whom the present generation of opera-goers
have a personal acquaintance, so to speak, are more or less merely
poetical creations whom we seldom if ever think of in connection
with veritable history. Even Boris Godounoff is to us more a
picture out of a book, like the Macbeth whom he so strongly
resembles from a theatrical point of view, than the monarch who had
a large part in the making of the Russian people. The Roman
censorship prevented us long ago from making the acquaintance of
the Gustavus of Sweden whom Ankerstrom stabbed to death at a masked
ball, by transmogrifying him into the absurdly impossible figure of
a Governor of Boston; and the Claudius of Ambroise Thomas's opera
is as much a ghost as Hamlet's father, while Debussy's blind King
is as much an abstraction as is Melisande herself.

Operatic dukes we know in plenty, though most of them have come out
of the pages of romance and are more or less acceptable according
to the vocal ability of their representatives. When Caruso sings
"La donna e mobile" we care little for the profligacy of Verdi's
Duke of Mantua and do not inquire whether or not such an individual
ever lived. Moussorgsky's Czar Boris ought to interest us more,
however. The great bell-tower in the Kremlin which he built, and
the great bell--a shattered monument of one of his futile
ambitions--have been seen by thousands of travellers who never took
the trouble to learn that the tyrant who had the bell cast laid a
serfdom upon the Russian people which endured down to our day.
Boris, by the way, picturesque and dramatic figure that he is as
presented to us in history, never got upon the operatic stage until
Moussorgsky took him in hand. Two hundred years ago a great German
musician, Mattheson, as much scholar as composer if not more, set
him to music, but the opera was never performed. Peter the Great,
who came a century after Boris, lived a life more calculated to
invite the attention of opera writers, but even he escaped the
clutches of dramatic composers except Lortzing, who took advantage
of the romantic episode of Peter's service as ship carpenter in
Holland to make him the hero of one of the most sparkling of German
comic operas. Lortzing had a successor in the Irishman T. S. Cooke,
but his opera found its way into the limbo of forgotten things more
than a generation ago, while Lortzing's still lives on the stage of
Germany. Peter deserved to be celebrated in music, for it was in
his reign that polyphonic music, albeit of the Italian order, was
introduced into the Russian church and modern instrumental music
effected an entrance into his empire. But I doubt if Peter was
sincerely musical; in his youth he heard only music of the rudest
kind. He was partial to the bagpipes and, like Nero, played upon
that instrument.

To come back to Bonaparte and music. "Madame Sans-Gene" is an
operatic version of the drama which Sardou developed out of a
little one-act play dealing with a partly fictitious, partly
historical story in which Napoleon, his marshal Lefebvre, and a
laundress were the principal figures. Whether or not the great
Corsican could be justified as a character in a lyric drama was a
mooted question when Giordano conceived the idea of making an opera
out of the play. It is said that Verdi remarked something to the
effect that the question depended upon what he would be called upon
to sing, and how he would be expected to sing it. The problem was
really not a very large or difficult one, for all great people are
turned into marionettes when transformed into operatic heroes.

In the palmy days of bel canto no one would have raised the
question at all, for then the greatest characters in history moved
about the stage in stately robes and sang conventional arias in the
conventional manner. The change from old-fashioned opera to
regenerated lyric drama might have simplified the problem for
Giordano, even if his librettist had not already done so by
reducing Napoleon to his lowest terms from a dramatic as well as
historical point of view. The heroes of eighteenth-century opera
were generally feeble-minded lovers and nothing more; Giordano's
Napoleon is only a jealous husband who helps out in the denouement
of a play which is concerned chiefly with other people.

In turning Sardou's dramatic personages into operatic puppets a
great deal of bloodletting was necessary and a great deal of the
characteristic charm of the comedy was lost, especially in the
cases of Madame Sans-Gene herself and Napoleon's sister; but enough
was left to make a practicable opera. There were the pictures of
all the plebeians who became great folk later concerned in the
historical incidents which lifted them up. There were also the
contrasted pictures which resulted from the great transformation,
and it was also the ingratiating incident of the devotion of
Lefebvre to the stout-hearted, honest little woman of the people
who had to try to be a duchess. All this was fair operatic
material, though music has a strange capacity for refining stage
characters as well as for making them colorless. Giordano could not
do himself justice as a composer without refining the expression of
Caterina Huebscher, and so his Duchess of Dantzic talks a musical
language at least which Sardou's washerwoman could not talk and
remain within the dramatic verities. Therefore we have "Madame
Sans-Gene" with a difference, but not one that gave any more
offence than operatic treatment of other fine plays have accustomed
us to.

To dispose of the artistic merits of the opera as briefly as
possible, it may be said that in more ways than one Giordano has in
this work harked back to "Andrea Chenier," the first of his operas
which had a hearing in America. The parallel extends to some of the
political elements of the book as well as its musical investiture
with its echoes of the popular airs of the period of the French
Revolution. The style of writing is also there, though applied,
possibly, with more mature and refined skill. I cannot say with as
much ingenuousness and freshness of invention, however. Its spirit
in the first act, and largely in the second, is that of the opera
bouffe, but there are many pages of "Madame Sans-Gene" which I
would gladly exchange for any one of the melodies of Lecocq, let us
say in "La Fille de Mme. Angot." Like all good French music which
uses and imitates them, it is full of crisp rhythms largely
developed from the old dances which, originally innocent, were
degraded to base uses by the sans-culottes; and so there is an
abundance of life and energy in the score though little of the
distinction, elegance, and grace that have always been
characteristic of French music, whether high-born or low. The best
melody in the modern Italian vein flows in the second act when the
genuine affection and fidelity of Caterina find expression and
where a light touch is combined with considerable warmth of feeling
and a delightful daintiness of orchestral color. Much of this is
out of harmony with the fundamental character of Sardou's woman,
but music cannot deny its nature. Only a Moussorgsky could make a
drunken monk talk truthfully in music.

If Giordano's opera failed to make a profound impression on the New
York public, it was not because that public had not had opportunity
to learn the quality of his music. His "Andrea Chenier" had been
produced at the Academy of Music as long before as November 13,
1896. With it the redoubtable Colonel Mapleson went down to his
destruction in America. It was one of the many strange incidents in
the career of Mr. Oscar Hammerstein as I have related them in my
book entitled "Chapters of Opera" [Footnote: New York, Henry Holt &
Co.] that it should have been brought back by him twelve years
later for a single performance at the Manhattan Opera House. In the
season of 1916-1917 it was incorporated in the repertory of the
Boston-National Opera Company and carried to the principal cities
of the country. On December 16, 1906, Mr. Heinrich Conried thought
that the peculiar charms of Madame Cavalieri, combined with the
popularity of Signor Caruso, might give habitation to Giordano's
setting of an opera book made out of Sardou's "Fedora"; but it
endured for only four performances in the season of 1906-1907 and
three in the next, in which Conried's career came to an end. In
reviving "Andrea Chenier" Mr. Hammerstein may have had visions of
future triumphs for its composer, for a few weeks before (on
February 5, 1908) he had brought forward the same composer's
"Siberia," which gave some promise of life, though it died with the
season that saw its birth.

The critical mind seems disposed to look with kindness upon new
works in proportion as they fall back in the corridors of memory;
and so I am inclined to think that of the four operas by Giordano
which I have heard "Andrea Chenier" gives greatest promise of a
long life. The attempt to put music to "Fedora" seemed to me
utterly futile. Only those moments were musical in the accepted
sense of the word when the action of the drama ceased, as in the
case of the intermezzo, or when the old principles of operatic
construction waked into life again as in the confession of the
hero-lover. Here, moreover, there comes into the score an element
of novelty, for the confession is extorted from Lorris while a
virtuoso is entertaining a drawing-roomful of people with a set
pianoforte solo. As for the rest of the opera, it seems sadly
deficient in melody beautiful either in itself or as an expression
of passion. "Andrea Chenier" has more to commend it. To start with,
there is a good play back of it, though the verities of history
were not permitted to hamper the imagination of Signor Illica, the
author of the book. The hero of the opera is the patriotic poet who
fell under the guillotine in 1794 at the age of thirty-two. The
place which Saint-Beuve gave him in French letters is that of the
greatest writer of classic verse after Racine and Boileau. The
operatic story is all fiction, more so, indeed, than that of
"Madame Sans-Gene." As a matter of fact, the veritable Chenier was
thrown into prison on the accusation of having sheltered a
political criminal, and was beheaded together with twenty-three
others on a charge of having engaged in a conspiracy while in
prison. In the opera he does not die for political reasons, though
they are alleged as a pretext, but because he has crossed the love-
path of a leader of the revolution.

When Giordano composed "Siberia," he followed the example of
Mascagni and Puccini (if he did not set the example for them) by
seeking local color and melodic material in the folk-songs of the
country in which his scene was laid. Puccini went to Japan for
musical ideas and devices to trick out his "Madama Butterfly" as
Mascagni had done in "Iris." Giordano, illustrating a story of
political oppression in "Siberia," called in the aid of Russian
melodies. His exiles sing the heavy-hearted measures of the
bargemen of the Volga, "Ay ouchnem," the forceful charm of which
few Russian composers have been able to resist. He introduced also
strains of Easter music from the Greek church, the popular song
known among the Germans as "Schone Minka" and the "Glory" song
(Slava) which Moussorgsky had forged into a choral thunderbolt in
his "Boris Godounoff." It is a stranger coincidence that the
"Slava" melody should have cropped up in the operas of Giordano and
Moussorgsky than that the same revolutionary airs should pepper the
pages of "Madame Sans-Gene" and "Andrea Chenier." These operas are
allied in subject and period and the same style of composition is
followed in both.

Chenier goes to his death in the opera to the tune of the
"Marseillaise" and the men march past the windows of Caterina
Huebscher's laundry singing the refrain of Roget de Lisle's hymn.
But Giordano does not make extensive use of the tune in "Madame
Sans-Gene." It appears literally at the place mentioned and surges
up with fine effect in a speech in which the Duchess of Dantzic
overwhelms the proud sisters of Napoleon; but that is practically
all. The case is different with two other revolutionary airs. The
first crash of the orchestra launches us into "La Carmagnole,"
whose melody provides the thematic orchestral substratum for nearly
the entire first scene. It is an innocent enough tune, differing
little from hundreds of French vaudeville melodies of its period,
but Giordano injects vitriol into its veins by his harmonies and
orchestration. With all its innocence this was the tune which came
from the raucous throats of politically crazed men and women while
noble heads tumbled into the bloody sawdust, while the spoils of
the churches were carried into the National Convention in 1793, and
to which "several members, quitting their curule chairs, took the
hands of girls flaunting in priests' vestures" and danced a wild
rout, as did other mad wretches when a dancer was worshipped as the
Goddess of Reason in the Cathedral of Notre Dame.

Caterina's account of the rude familiarity with which she is
treated by the soldiery (I must assume a knowledge of Sardou's play
which the opera follows) is set to a melody of a Russian folk-song
cast in the treatment of which Russian influences may also be felt;
but with the first shouts of the mob attacking the Tuileries in the
distance the characteristic rhythmical motif of the "Ca ira" is
heard muttering in the basses. Again a harmless tune which in its
time was perverted to a horrible use; a lively little contradance
which graced many a cotillion in its early days, but which was
roared and howled by the mob as it carried the beauteous head of
the Lamballe through the streets of Paris on a pike and thrust it
almost into the face of Marie Antoinette.

Of such material and a pretty little dance ("La Fricassee") is the
music of the first act, punctuated by cannon shots, made. It is all
rhythmically stirring, it flows spiritedly, energetically along
with the current of the play, never retarding it for a moment, but,
unhappily, never sweetening it with a grain of pretty sentiment or
adorning it with a really graceful contour. There is some
graciousness in the court scene, some archness and humor in the
scene in which the Duchess of Dantzic submits to the adornment of
her person, some dramatically strong declamation in the speeches of
Napoleon, some simulation of passion in the love passages of
Lefebvre and of Neipperg; but as a rule the melodic flood never
reaches high tide.



When the operas of Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari came to America (his
beautiful setting of the "Vita Nuova" was already quite widely
known at the time), it was thought singular and somewhat
significant that though the operas had all been composed to Italian
texts they should have their first Italian performances in this
country. This was the case with "Le Donne Curiose," heard at the
Metropolitan Opera House, New York, on January 3, 1912; of "Il
Segreto di Susanna," which the Chicago-Philadelphia Opera Company
brought to New York after giving it a hearing in its home cities,
in February, 1912; of "I Giojelli della Madonna" first produced in
Berlin in December, 1911, and in Chicago a few weeks later. A
fourth opera, "L'Amore Medico," had its first representation at the
Metropolitan Opera House, New York, on March 25, 1914.

The circumstance to which I have alluded as worthy of comment was
due, I fancy, more to the business methods of modern publishers
than to a want of appreciation of the operas in Italy, though

[figure: a musical score excerpt]

A page of the Score of the German "Donne Curiose" Signor Wolf-
Ferrari sought to meet the taste of his countrymen (assuming that
the son of a German father and a Venetian mother is to be set down
as an Italian) when he betrayed the true bent of his genius and
sought to join the ranks of the Italian veritists in his "Giojelli
della Madonna." However, that is not the question I am desirous to
discuss just now when the first impressions of "Le Donne Curiose"
come flocking back to my memory. The book is a paraphrase of
Goldoni's comedy of the same name, made (and very deftly made) for
the composer by Count Luigi Sugana. It turns on the curiosity of a
group of women concerning the doings of their husbands and
sweethearts at a club from which they are excluded. The action is
merely a series of incidents in which the women (the wives by
rifling the pockets of their husbands, the maidens by wheedling,
cajoling, and playing upon the feelings of their sweethearts)
obtain the keys of the club-room, and effect an entrance only to
find that instead of gambling, harboring mistresses, seeking the
philosopher's stone, or digging for treasure, as is variously
suspected, the men are enjoying an innocent supper. In their
eagerness to see all that is going on, the women betray their
presence. Then there follow scoldings, contrition, forgiveness, a
graceful minuet, and the merriment runs out in a wild furlana.

Book and score of the opera hark back a century or more in their
methods of expression. The incidents of the old comedy are as
loosely strung together as those of "Le Nozze di Figaro," and the
parallel is carried further by the similarity between the
instrumental apparatus of Mozart and Wolf-Ferrari and the
dependence of both on melody, rather than orchestral or harmonic
device, as the life-blood of the music upon which the comedy
floats. It is Mozart's orchestra that the modern composer uses
("the only proper orchestra for comedy," as Berlioz said),
eschewing even those "epical instruments," the trombones. It would
not do to push the parallel too far, though a keen listener might
feel tempted also to see a point of semblance in the Teutonism
which tinctures the Italian music of both men; a Teutonism which
adds an ingredient more to the taste of other peoples than that of
the people whose language is employed. But while the Italianism of
Mozart was wholly the product of the art-spirit of his time, the
Teutonism of Wolf-Ferrari is a heritage from his German father and
its Italianism partakes somewhat of the nature of a reversion to
old ideals from which even his mother's countrymen have departed.
There is an almost amusing illustration of this in the paraphrase
of Goldoni's comedy which the composer took as a libretto. The
Leporello of Da Ponte and Mozart has his prototype in the
Arlecchino of the classic Italian comedy, but he has had to submit
to so great a metamorphosis as to make him scarcely recognizable.
But in the modern "Donne Curiose" we have not only the old figure
down to his conventional dress and antics, but also his companions
Pantaloon and Columbine. All this, however, may be better enjoyed
by those who observe them in the representation than those who will
only read about them, no matter how deftly the analysis may be

It is Mozart's media and Mozart's style which Wolf-Ferrari adopts,
but there are traces also of the idioms of others who have been
universal musicians rather than specifically Italian. Like
Nicolai's "O susse Anna!" (Shakespeare's "Oh, Sweet Anne Page"),
Wolf-Ferrari's Florindo breathes out his languishing "Ah, Rosaura!"
And in the lively chatter of the women there is frequently more
than a suggestion of the lively gossip of Verdi's merry wives in
his incomparable "Falstaff." Wolf-Ferrari is neither a Mozart nor a
Verdi, not even a Nicolai, as a melodist, but he is worthy of being
bracketed with them, because as frankly as they he has spoken the
musical language which to him seemed a proper investiture of his
comedy, and like them has made that language characteristic of the
comedy's personages and illustrative of its incidents. He has been
brave enough not to fear being called a reactionary, knowing that
there is always progress in the successful pursuit of beauty.

The advocates of opera sung in the language native to the hearers
may find an eloquent argument in "Le Donne Curiose," much of whose
humor lies in the text and is lost to those who cannot understand
it despite the obviousness of its farcical action. On the other
hand, a feeling of gratitude must have been felt by many others
that they were not compelled to hear the awkward commonplaces of
the English translation of the libretto. The German version, in
which the opera had its first hearing in Munich six years before,
is in a vastly different case--neither uncouth nor halting, even
though it lacks the characteristic fluency essential to Italian
opera buffa; yet no more than did the speech of most of the singers
at the Metropolitan performance. The ripple and rattle of the
Italian parlando seem to be possible only to Italian tongues.

The Mozartian type of music is illustrated not only in the
character of many of its melodies, but also in the use of motivi in
what may be called the dramatic portions--the fleet flood upon
which the dialogue dances with a light buoyancy that is
delightfully refreshing. These motivi are not used in the Wagnerian
manner, but as every change of situation or emotion is
characterized in Mozart's marvellous ensembles by the introduction
of a new musical idea, so they are in his modern disciple's. All of
them are finely characteristic, none more so than the comical
cackle so often heard from the oboe in the scenes wherein the women
gossip about the imaginary doings of the men--an intentional echo,
it would almost seem, of the theme out of which Rameau made his
dainty harpsichord piece known as "La Poule." The motto of the

"Bandie xe le done," is frequently proclaimed with more or less
pomposity; Florindo's "Ah, Rosaura," with its dramatic descent,
lends sentimental feeling to the love music, and the sprightly
rhythm which accompanies the pranks of Colombina keeps much of the
music bubbling with merriment. In the beginning of the third act,
not only the instrumental introduction, but much of the delightful
music which follows, is permeated with atmosphere and local color
derived from a familiar Venetian barcarolle ("La biondina in
gondoleta"), but the musical loveliness reaches its climax in the
sentimental scenes--a quartet, a solo by Rosaura, and a duet, in
which there breathes the sympathetic spirit of Smetana as well as

[Footnote: The cast at the first performance at the Metropolitan
Opera House was as follows:--

Ottavio.................................Adamo Dfdur
Beatrice........................... Jeanne Maubourg
Rosaura............................Geraldine Farrar
Florindo......................... Hermann Jadlowker
Pantalone....................... Antonio Pini-Corso
Lelio............................... Antonio Scotti
Leandro................................ Angelo Bada
Colombina...............................Bella Alten
Eleonora................................Rita Fornia
Arlechino....................... Andrea de Segurola
Asdrubale........................... Pietro Audisio
Almoro.............................. Lambert Murphy
Alviso.......................... Charles Hargreaves
Lunardo....................... Vincenzo Reschiglian
Momolo............................... Paolo Ananian
Menego................................ Giulio Rossi
Un Servitore....................... Stefen Buckreus
Conductor--Arturo Toscanini.]

In "Le Donne Curiose," the gondoliers sing their barcarolle and
compel even the cynic of the drama to break out into an
enthusiastic exclamation: "Oh, beautiful Venice!" The world has
heard more of the natural beauties of Naples than of the artificial
ones of Venice, but when Naples is made the scene of a drama of any
kind it seems that its attractions for librettist and composer lie
in the vulgarity and vice, libertinism and lust, the wickedness and
wantonness, of a portion of its people rather than in the
loveliness of character which such a place might or ought to

Perhaps it was not altogether surprising that when Wolf-Ferrari
turned from Venice and "Le Donne Curiose" to "I Giojelli della
Madonna" with Naples as a theatre for his drama he should not only
change the style of his music, but also revert to the kind of tale
which his predecessors in the field seem to have thought
appropriate to the place which we have been told all of us should
see once and die out of sheer ecstasy over its beauty. But why are
only the slums of Naples deemed appropriate for dramatic treatment?

How many stories of Neapolitan life have been told in operas since
Auber wrote his "La Muette di Portici" I do not know; doubtless

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