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The Master, Jules Massenet
THE AUTHORIZED TRANSLATION' DONE AT THE
MASTER'S EXPRESS DESIRE
BY HIS FRIEND
H. VILLIERS BARNETI
Authorized Translator of
H. S. H. the Prince of Monaco's Autobiography:
La Carriere fun Navigateur
SMALL, MAYNARD & COMPANY
BY SMALL, MA YNARD & COMPANY
CONSUMMATE DRAMATIC ARTIST
GREATEST CONTRALTO SINGER
OF OUR TIME
IN AFFECTIONATE ADMIRATION
THIS ENGLISH VERSION
BELOVED MASTER'S BOOK
"Chere amie, gardez aussi sa religion, ft qu'elle vous conduise,
ferme et courageuse, an milieu des cahots de la vie, jusquau paradis
I Have been often asked whether I put together
the recollections of my life from notes jotted
down from day to day. To tell the truth I did,
and this is how I began the habit of doing so reg-
My mother a model wife and mother, who
taught me the difference between right and wrong
said to me on my tenth birthday:
"Here is a diary." (It was one of those long-
shaped diaries which one found in those days at
the little Bon Marche, not the immense enterprise
we know now.) "And," she added, "every
night before you go to bed, you must write down
on the pages of this memento what you have seen,
said, or done during the day. If you have said
or done anything which you realize is wrong, you
must confess it in writing in these pages. Per-
haps it will make you hesitate to do wrong dur-
ing the day."
How characteristic of an unusual woman, a
woman of upright mind and honest heart this
idea was! By placing the matter of conscience
among the first of her son's duties, she made Con-
science the very basis of her methods of teaching.
Once when I was alone, in search of some dis-
traction I amused myself by foraging in the cup-
boards where I found some squares of chocolate.
I broke off a square and munched it. I have said
somewhere that I am greedy. I don't deny it.
Here's another proof.
When evening came and I had to write the ac-
count of my day, I admit that I hesitated a mo-
ment about mentioning that delicious square of
chocolate. But my conscience put to the test in
this way conquered, and I bravely recorded my
dereliction in the diary.
The thought that my mother would read about
my misdeed made me rather shamefaced. She
came in at that very moment and saw my con-
fusion; but directly she knew the cause she
clasped me in her arms and said:
"You have acted like an honest man and I for-
give you. All the same that is no reason why
you should ever again eat chocolate on the sly!"
Later on, when I munched other and better
chocolate, I always obtained permission.
Thus it came about that from day to day I have
always made notes of my recollections be they
good or bad, gay or sad, happy or not, and kept
them so that I might have them constantly in
I MY ADMISSION TO THE CONSERVATOIRE . . 1
II YOUTHFUL YEARS 11
III THE GRAND PRDC DE ROME 20
IV THE VILLA MEDICI 29
V THE VILLA MEDICI (CONTINUED) ... 37
VI THE VILLA MEDICI (CONTINUED) ... 43
VII MY RETURN TO PARIS 53
VIII MY DEBUT AT THE THEATER 63
IX THE DAYS AFTER THE WAR 74
X JOY AND SORROW 82
XI MY DEBUT AT THE OPERA 93
XII THE THEATERS IN ITALY 103
XIII THE CONSERVATOIRE AND THE INSTITUTE . 114
XIV A FIRST PERFORMANCE AT BRUSSELS . . . 123
XV THE ABBE PREVOST AT THE OPERA-COMIQUE 136
XVI FIVE COLLABORATORS 148
XVII A JOURNEY TO GERMANY 161
XVIII A STAR 173
XIX A NEW LIFE .... 186
XX MILAN LONDON BAYREUTH .... 199
XXI A VISIT TO VERDI FAREWELL TO AM-
BROISE THOMAS 208
XXII WORK! ALWAYS WORK! 217
XXIII IN THE MIDST OF THE MIDDLE AGES . . 231
XXIV FROM Cherubin TO Therese 242
XXV SPEAKING OF 1793 254
XXVI FROM Ariane TO Don Quichotte .... 267
XXVII A SOIREE .......... 278
XXVIII DEAR EMOTIONS 288
XXIX THOUGHTS AFTER DEATH . . 302
The Master, Jules Massenet . . . Frontispiece
Massenet at Egreville ...... 44
One of the last portraits of Massenet . . .68
Mme. Pauline Viardot ...... 84
Titta Ruffo, Caruso and Chaliapine . . . .110
The Forum from the First Act of Roma (See page SOO) 154
Posthumia (Roma) (Seepage 297) . . . .170
Lucy Arbell 212
Persephone in Ariane ...... 244
Queen Amahelly (Bacchus) ..... 268
Dulcinee (Dora Quichotte) 282
Facsimile of Massenet's Reply to an Invitation to
Visit America 296
MY ADMISSION TO THE CONSERVATOIRE
Were I to live a thousand years which is
hardly likely I should never forget that fateful
day, February 24, 1848, when I was just six
years old. Not so much because it coincided
with the fall of the Monarchy of July, as that it
marked the first steps of my musical career a
career which, even yet, I am not sure was my real
destiny, so great is my love for the exact sciences !
At that time I lived with my parents in the
Rue de Beaune in an apartment overlooking the
great gardens. The day promised to be fine, but
it was very cold.
We were at luncheon when the waitress rushed
into the room like a maniac. "Aux armes, citoy-
ens!" she yelled, throwing rather than placing
the plates on the table.
I was too young to understand what was going
on in the streets. All I can remember is that
riots broke out and that the Revolution smashed
the throne of the most debonair of kings. The
feelings which stirred my father were entirely dif-
ferent from those which disturbed my mother's
already distracted soul. My father had been an
officer under Napoleon Bonaparte and a friend
of Marshal Soult, Duke of Dalmatia. He was all
for the Emperor, and the atmosphere of battles
suited his temperament. My mother, on the
other hand, had experienced the sorrows of the
first great revolution, which dragged Louis XVI
and Marie Antoinette from their throne, and
thrilled with worship for the Bourbons.
The memory of that exciting meal remained
the more deeply fixed in my mind because on the
morning of that historic day, by the light of tal-
low candles (wax candles were only for the rich)
my mother for the first time placed my fingers
on the piano.
In order best to introduce me to the knowledge
of this instrument, my mother she was my
music teacher stretched along the keyboard a
strip of paper upon which she wrote the notes
corresponding to each of the black and white
keys, with their position on the five lines. It was
most ingenious; no mistake was possible.
My progress on the piano was so pronounced
that three years later, in October, 1851, my pa-
rents thought I ought to apply at the Conserva-
toire for the entrance examination to the piano
One morning that month we went to the Rue
de Faubourg-Poissonniere. The Conservatoire
National de Musique was there then, and it re-
mained there until it was moved to the Rue de
Madrid. The large room we entered like all
the rest in the place at that time had walls
painted a bluish gray, spotted with black. A
few old benches were the only furniture in this
M. Ferriere, a harsh, severe looking man he
was one of the upper employees came out to
call the candidates by flinging their names into
the crowd of relatives and friends that accom-
panied them. It was like summoning the con-
demned to execution. Then he gave each can-
didate the number of his turn before the jury
which had already assembled in the rooms where
the sessions were held.
This room was intended for examinations and
was a sort of small theater with a row of boxes and
a circular gallery in the Consulate style. I con-
fess that I have never entered that room without
feeling emotion. I have always fancied that I
saw, seated opposite in a first-tier box, as in a
black hole, Bonaparte, the First Consul, and Jos-
ephine, the sweet companion of his early years.
He with his forceful, handsome face ; she with her
kind and gentle glances, for both used to come to
such occasions. By her visits to this sanctuary
dedicated to Art and by bringing him, so preoccu-
pied with many cares, good and noble Josephine
seemed to wish to soften his thoughts and to
make them less stern by contact with the youth
who some day perforce would not escape the hor-
rors of war.
From the time of Sarette, the first director, un-
til recently, all the examinations for classes in the
institution, both tragedy and comedy, were held
in this same small hall, but it should not be con-
fused with the hall so well known as the Salle de
la Societe des Concerts du Conservatoire.
The organ class was also held there several
times a week for at the back, hidden behind a
large curtain, was a great organ with two key-
boards. Beside that old, worn, squeaky instru-
ment was the fateful door through which the pu-
pils came on to the platform that formed the
small stage. Again, this same small hall, for
many a year, was the judgment seat for the award
of prizes for musical composition known as the
Prix de Rome.
But to return to the morning of October 9,
1851. When all the youngsters had been in-
formed of the order in which we must take our
examinations, we went into an adjoining room
which led into the hall through the "fateful"
door, and which was only a sort of dusty, disor-
The jury whose verdict we had to face was
composed of Halevy, Carafa, Ambroise Thomas,
several professors of the school, and the director,
who was also the president of the Conservatoire,
Monsieur Auber. We rarely said just Auber
when we spoke of this French master, the most
eminent and prolific of all who made the opera
and opera-comique of that time famous.
At this time Monsieur Auber was sixty-five.
He was universally respected and everyone at the
Conservatoire adored him. I shall always re-
member his pleasing, unusually bright black
eyes, which remained the same until his death in
May, 1871 ! We were then in open insurrec-
tion, almost in the last throes of the Commune
. . . and Monsieur Auber, still faithful to his
beloved boulevard near the Passage de 1'Opera
his favorite walk met a friend also in despair
over the terrible days we were passing through,
and said to him, in an accent of utter weariness,
"Ah! I have lived too long!" Then he
added, with a slight smile, "One should never
In 1851 the date when I became acquainted
with Monsieur Auber he had already lived a
long time in his old mansion in the Rue St.
George, where I remember having been received
soon after seven in the morning, the master's
work was finished by that time, the hour at which
he gave himself to the calls he welcomed so sim-
Then he went to the Conservatoire in a tilbury
which he ordinarily drove himself. At sight
of him one was instantly reminded of the opera
La Muette de Portici, which had exceptional
good luck, and which was the most lasting success
before Robert le Diable made its appearance at
the Opera. To speak of La Muette de Portici is
to be vividly reminded of the magical effect which
the duet in the second act, Amour sacre de la
patrie, produced on the patriots in the audience
when it was produced at the Theatre de la Mon-
naie at Brussels. In very truth it gave the signal
for the revolution which broke out in Belgium in
1830 and which brought about the independence
of our neighbors on the north. The whole audi-
ence was wild with excitement, and sang the
heroic strain with the artists, repeating it again
and again without stopping. What master can
boast of a success like that in his own career?
When my name was called, all of a tremble, I
made my appearance on the stage. I was only
nine years old and I had to play the finale of Bee-
thoven's Sonata, Opus 29. What ambition !
They stopped me in the usual way after I had
played two or three pages. I was utterly embar-
rassed as I heard Monsieur Auber's voice calling
me before the jury. To get down from the stage,
I had to descend two or three steps. I paid no
attention to them and would have gone head first
if Monsieur Auber had not kindly called out,
"Take care, my little man." Then he immedi-
ately asked me where I had studied so well.
After replying with some pride that my mother
had been my only teacher, I went out, absolutely
bewildered, almost at a run, but entirely happy.
He had spoken to me !
Next morning my mother received the official
notice. I was a pupil at the Conservatoire.
At this time there were two teachers of the
piano at the great school Mamontel and Laur-
ent. There were no preparatory classes. I was
assigned to Laurent's class, and I remained there
two years while I continued my classical studies
at college. At the same time I took sol-fa lessons
from M. Savard who was excellent.
Professor Laurent had been Premier Prix de
piano under Louis XVIII. Then he was a cav-
alry officer, but left the army to become a profes-
sor in the Royal Conservatoire of Music. He
was goodness itself, realizing the ideal of that
quality in the fullest sense of the word. He
placed entire confidence in me.
M. Savard was an extraordinarily erudite man.
He was the father of one of my pupils, a Grand
Prix de Rome, now the director of the Conserva-
toire at Lyons. (What a number of my old pu-
pils are or have been directors of conservatoires ! )
His heart was as large as his learning was exten-
sive. It is pleasant to recall that when I wanted
to work at counterpoint, before I entered the class
in fugue and composition Ambroise Thomas
was the professor M. Savard was quite willing
to give me lessons. I went to his house to take
them, and every evening I went down from Mont-
martre where I lived to Number 13, Rue de la
Vielle-Estrpade, behind the Pantheon.
What wonderful lessons I had from that sim-
ple, learned man! How courageous I was as I
walked the long way I had to go to his house from
which I returned each evening about ten o'clock
full of the wise and learned advice he had given
As I said, I made the trip on foot. I did not
even ride on the top of an omnibus in order to set
aside sou by sou the price I would have to pay for
my lessons. I had to follow this system; the
shade of Descartes would have congratulated me.
But note the delicacy of that charitable-
hearted man. When the day came for him to
take what I owed him, M. Savard told me that he
had some work for me the transcription for a
full orchestra of the military band accompani-
ment U Adolphe Adam's mass, and he added
that the work would net me three hundred
francs ! ! . . .
His purpose was obvious, but I did not see it.
It was not till long afterwards that I understood
that M. Savard had thought of this way of not ask-
ing me for money by making me think that the
three hundred francs represented the fee for his
lessons; that, to use a fashionable phrase, they
After all the years which have gone since he
was no more, my heart still says to that master,
to that charming, admirable soul, "Thank you!"
When I took my seat on the benches of the
Conservatoire, I was rather delicate and not very
tall. This was the excuse for the drawing which
the celebrated caricaturist Cham made of me.
He was a great friend of the family and often
came to spend the evening with my parents.
They had many talks which the brilliant crafts-
man enlivened with his sprightly and witty en-
thusiasms, seated around the family table lighted
by the dim light of an oil lamp. (Kerosene was
scarcely known and electricity had not come into
use for lighting.)
We used to drink a sweet syrup on such occa-
sions, for this was before a cup of tea was the
I was often asked to play, so that Cham had
every opportunity to draw my profile. He rep-
resented me as seated on five or six folios of music
with my hands in the air, scarcely reaching the
keyboard. This was obviously an exaggeration,
but there was enough truth in it to show that it
was founded on fact.
I often went with Cham to see a lovely and lov-
able friend of his in the Rue Tarranne. Natu-
rally I was asked to "play the piano." I remem-
ber that on one evening when I was asked to play
I had just received third place in a prize competi-
tion both on the piano and in solfeggio, and to
prove it I had two heavy bronze medals inscribed
"Conservatoire imperial de musique et de decla-
mation." It is true that they listened to me no
better on this account, but I was affected by the
Some years later, in the natural course of
events, I learned that Cham had secretly married
the beautiful lady of the Rue Tarranne. As he
was somewhat embarrassed by the marriage, he
did not send announcement cards to his friends,
much to their surprise. When they asked him
about it, he replied, wittily,
"Of course I sent announcements. . . . They
In spite of my mother's extreme watchfulness,
I escaped from home one evening. I knew that
they were giving Berlioz's UEnfance du Christ
at the Opera-Comique and that the great com-
poser was to conduct. I could not pay my way
in, but I had an irresistible desire to hear the
work, especially as it was a creation of Berlioz's,
who aroused the enthusiasm of all our young peo-
ple. So I asked my companions who sang in
the children's chorus to take me in and let me
hide among them. I must confess that I secretly
wanted to get behind the scenes of a theater.
As might be imagined, my escapade rather
upset my mother. She waited up for me until
after midnight . . . she thought I was lost in
this vast Paris.
Needless to say that, when I came in abashed
and shamefaced, I was well scolded. I bore up
under two storms of tears if it is true that a
woman's wrath, like the rain in the forests, falls
twice; still, a mother's heart cannot bear anger
forever and I went to bed made easy on that
scare. Nevertheless I could not sleep. I re-
called all the beauties of the work I had just
heard and before my mind's eye I saw again the
tall and impressive figure of Berlioz as he directed
the superb performance in masterly style.
My life ran on happily and industriously, but
this did not last. The doctors ordered my
father to leave Paris, as the climate did not agree
with him, and to take treatment at Aix-les-Bains
in Savoy. My mother and father followed this
advice and went to Chambery taking me with
them. My artistic career was interrupted, but
there was nothing else for me to do.
I stayed at Chambery for two long years ; still
the life there was not monotonous. I passed the
time in classical studies, alternating with diligent
work on scales and arpeggios, sixths and thirds,
as if I were going to be a fiery pianist. I wore
my hair ridiculously long, as was the style with
every virtuoso, and this touch of resemblance
harmonized with my dreams. It seemed to me
that wild locks of hair were the complement of
Between times I took long rambles through the
delightful country of Savoy which was still ruled
by the King of Piemont; sometimes I went to the
Dent de Nicolet, sometimes as far as Les Charm-
ettes, that picturesque dwelling made famous by
Jean Jacques Rousseau's stay there.
During my enforced rustication I found, by
sheer accident, some of Schumann's works which
were then little known in France and still less in
Piemont. I shall always remember that every*
where I went I did my share by playing a few
pieces on the piano. I sometimes played that
exquisite thing entitled Au Soir and that brought
me one day this singular invitation, "Come and
amuse us with your Schumann with its detestable
false notes." It is unnecessary to repeat my
childish outburst at these words. What would
the good old people of Savoy say if they could
hear the music of to-day?
But the months went on, and on, and on . . <
until one morning, before the first signs of day-
break had come over the mountains, I escaped
from the paternal homestead and started for
Paris without a sou or even a change of clothes.
For Paris, the city with every artistic attraction,
where I should see again my dear Conservatoire,
my masters, and the "behind the scenes," for the
memory of them was still with me.
I knew that in Paris I should find my good
older sister, who, in spite of her modest means,
welcomed me as though I were her own child
and offered me board and lodging; a very simple
lodging and a very frugal table, but made so
delightful by the magic of greatest kindliness
that I felt exactly as though I were in my own
Imperceptibly my mother forgave me for run-
ning away to Paris.
What a good devoted creature my sister was!
Alas ! she died January 13, 1905, just as she was
glorying in attending the five hundredth perform-
ance of Manon, which took place the very evening
of her death. Nothing can express the sorrow I
In the space of two years I had made up for
the time I had lost in Savoy and I had won a
prize. I was awarded a first prize on the piano,
as well as one in counterpoint and fugue, on July
I had to compete with ten of my fellow stu-
dents and by chance my name was number eleven
in the order. All the contestants were shut up
in the foyer of the concert hall of the Conserva-
toire to wait until their names were called.
For a moment Number Eleven found himself
alone in the foyer. While waiting for my turn,
I studied respectfully the portrait of Habeneck,
the founder and the first conductor of the orches-
tra of the Societe des Concerts. A red handker-
chief actually blossomed in his left buttonhole.
If he had become an officer of the Legion of
Honor and had several orders to accompany that,
he certainly would have worn, not a rosette, but
Then I was called.
The test piece was the concerto in F minor by
Ferdinand Hiller. At the time it was pretended
that his music was so like that of Niels Gade that
they would think it was Mendelssohn's.
My good master M. Laurent stayed close to
the piano. When I had finished concerto and
sight reading he threw his arms about me with-
out thought of the public which filled the hall and
I felt my face grow moist from his dear tears.
Even at that age, I was apprehensive about suc-
cess, and during my whole life I have always fled
from public rehearsals and first nights, thinking
it better to learn the worst ... as late as pos-
I raced all the way home, running like a gamin,
but I found no one there, for my sister had gone
to the prize contest. However I did not stay
long, for I finally decided to go back to the Con-
servatoire. I was so excited that I ran all the
way. At the corner of the Rue Sainte-Cecile I
met my boon companion Alphonse Duvernoy,
whose after career as a teacher and composer was
most successful, and I fell into his arms. He
told me what I might have known already, that
Monsieur Auber had announced the decision for
the jury, "Monsieur Massenet is awarded the first
prize on the piano."
One of the jury was Henri Ravina, a master
who was one of the dearest friends I ever had,
and my thoughts go out to him in affectionate
I scarcely touched the ground in getting from
the Rue Bergere to the Rue de Bourgogne where
my excellent master M. Laurent lived. I found
my old professor at lunch with several generals
who had been his comrades in the army.
He had hardly caught sight of me when he
held out two volumes to me: the orchestral
score of Le Nozze di Figaro, dramma giocoso
in quarti atti. Messo in musica dal Signor W .
The binding bore the arms of Louis XVIII and
the following superscription in gold letters:
Menus plaisirs du Roi. ficole royale de mu-
sique et de declamation. Concours de 1822.
Premier prix de piano decerne a M. Laurent.
My honored master had written on the first
"Thirty-seven years ago I won, as you have
done, my child, the prize for the piano. I do
not think that there is any more pleasing gift I
could give you than this with my sincerest friend-
ship. Go on as you have begun and you will be
a great artist.
"This is the opinion of the jury which to-day
awarded you this fine reward.
"Your old friend and professor,
It was indeed a fine thing for an honored pro-
fessor to speak like this to a youth who had
hardly begun his career.
THE GRAND PRIX DE ROME
So I had won the first prize on the piano. I
was doubtless as fortunate as I was proud, but
it was out of the question for me to live on the
memory of this distinction. The necessities of
life were pressing, inexorable, and they de-
manded something more real and above all more
practicable. I really could not go on accepting
my dear sister's hospitality without contributing
my personal expenses. So to ease the situation
I gave lessons in solfeggio and on the piano in a
poor little school in the neighborhood. The re-
turns were small, but the labor was great. Thus
I drew out a precarious and often difficult exist-
ence. I was offered the post of pianist in one of
the large cafes in Belleville; it was the first cafe
to provide music, a scheme invented to hold the
customers, if not to distract them. The place
paid me thirty francs a month !
Quantum mutatus. . . . Like the poet I may
say, "What changes since that time?" To-day
even the young pupils have only to enter a com-
THE GRAND PRIX DE ROME
petition to get their pictures in the papers and at
the very outset of their careers they are anointed
great men. All this is accompanied by Baccha-
nalian lines and they are fortunate if in their ex-
alted triumph they do not add the word "colos-
sal." That is glory; deification in all its mod-
esty. In 1859 we were not glorified in any such
But Providence some called it Destiny
watched over me.
A friend, who to my great joy is still living,
got me better lessons. He was not like so many
friends I met later, who are ever in need of one's
assistance ; those who slink away when you want
to be comforted in poverty; the friends who are
always pretending that they defended you last
night against malevolent attacks in order to show
you their fine opinions, but at the same time tor-
turing you by repeating the wounding words di-
rected at you. I must add, however, that I have
had truly genuine friendships, as I have found in
my hours of weariness and discouragement.
The Theatre-Lyrique was then on the Boule-
vard du Temple and it gave me a place in its or-
chestra as kettle-drummer. Then, good Father
Strauss, the orchestra leader at the Opera balls,
let me play the bass drum, the kettle-drums, the
tam-tam, and all the rest of the resonant instru-
ments. It was dreadfully tiring to sit up every
Saturday from midnight until six in the morning,
but all told I managed to make eighty francs a
month. I felt as rich as a banker and as happy
as a cobbler.
The Theatre-Lyrique was founded by the elder
Alexander Dumas as the Theatre-Historique, and
was established by Adolphe Adam.
I was living at the time at No. 5, Rue de Men-
ilmontant, in a huge building, almost a city in
itself. My neighbors on the floor, separated
only by a narrow partition, were the clowns
both men and women of the Cirque Napoleon
which was near our house.
From my attic window I was able to enjoy
for nothing of course whiffs from the orchestra
which escaped from the popular concerts that
Pasdeloup conducted in the circus every Sunday.
This happened whenever the audience packed in
the overheated hall shouted loudly for air and
they opened the casement windows on the third
floor to satisfy them.
From my perch that is the only thing to call
it I applauded with feverish joy the overture of
THE GRAND PRIX DE ROME
Tannhauser, the Symphonie Fantastique, in
short the music of my gods : Wagner and Berlioz.
Every evening at six o'clock the theater be-
gan very early I went by the way of the Rue des
Fosses-du-Temple, near my house, to the stage
door of the Theatre-Lyrique. In those days the
left side of the Boulevard du Temple was one
unbroken line of theaters. Consequently I went
along the back of the Funambules, the Petit-La-
zari, the Delassements-Comiques, the Cirque Im-
perial and the Gaite. Those who did not know
that corner of Paris in 1859 can have no idea
The Rue des Fosses-du-Temple, on which all
the stage doors opened, was a sort of wonderland
where all the supers, male and female, from all
the theaters waited in great crowds on the dimly
lighted pavements. The atmosphere was full of
vermin and microbes. Even in our Theatre-
Lyrique the musicians' dressing room was only
an old stable in which the horses used in his-
torical plays were kept.
Still, my delight was too great for words and I
felt that I was to be envied as I sat in the fine or-
chestra which Deloffre conducted. Ah! those
rehearsals of Faust! My happiness could not
be expressed when, from my own little corner, I
could leisurely devour with my eyes our great
Gounod who managed our work from the stage.
Many times later on when we came out, side
by side, from the sessions of the Institute
Gounod lived in the Place Malesherbes we
talked over the time when Faust now past its
thousandth performance was such a subject for
discussion and criticism in the press, while the
dear public which is rarely deceived ap-
Vox Populi, vox Dei!
I also remember that while I was in the orches-
tra I assisted at the performances of Reyer's La
Statue, a superb score and a tremendous success.
I can still see Reyer in the wings during the
performances eluding the firemen and smoking
interminable cigars. It was a habit he could not
give up. One day I heard him tell about being
in Abbe Liszt's room in Rome. The walls were
covered with religious pictures Christ, the Vir-
gin, and the Saints and he blew out a cloud of
smoke which filled the room. In reply to his
witty excuses about incommoding the "august
persons," he drew the following reply from the
THE GRAND PRIX DE ROME
great abbe. "No," said Liszt, "it is always in-
For six months, under the same conditions of
work, I substituted for one of my fellows in the
orchestra at the Theatre-Italien.
As I had heard the admirable Mme. Miolan-
Carvalho in Faust excellent singing I now
heard the tragediennes like Penco and Frezzolini
and such men as Mario, Graziani, Delle Sedie,
and the buffo Zucchini.
The last is no longer alive and our great Lu-
cien Fugere of the Opera-Comique of to-day re-
minds me of him almost exactly. There is the
same powerful voice and the same perfect artistic
But the time for the competition of the Insti-
tute approached. During our residence en loge
at the Institute we had to pay for our meals for
twenty-five days and also the rent of a piano. I
got out of that difficulty as best I could; at any
rate I forestalled it. All the same the money I
i.ad been able to put aside was insufficient and
acting on the advice of a friend (giving and act-
ing on advice are two entirely different things)
I went to a pawnshop and pawned my watch . . .
a gold one. It had adorned my fob since the
morning of my first communion. Alas ! it must
have been light weight, for they offered me only
. . . sixteen francs ! ! ! This odd sum, how-
ever, enabled me to pay for my meals.
But the charge for the piano was so exorbi-
tant twenty francs! that I couldn't afford it.
I did without it much more easily, for I have
never needed its help in composing.
I would have hardly imagined that my neigh-
bors would have bothered me so by their pound-
ing on their pianos and by their singing at the
top of their lungs. It was impossible to divert
my thoughts or to escape their noise, as I had
no piano, and, in addition, the corridors of our
garrets were unusually reverberant.
On my way to the Saturday sittings of the
Academic des Beaux- Arts I often cast a sad glance
at the grated window of my cell; it can be seen
from the Cour Mazarine to the right in a recess.
Yes, my glance is sad, for I left behind those old
bars the dearest and most affecting recollections
of my youth, and because they cause me to reflect
on the unhappy times in my long life.
In the trial competition in 1863 I was exam-
ined first and I kept the same place in the choral
THE GRAND PRIX DE ROME
work. The first test was in the large hall of the
cole des Beaux- Arts which is entered from the
The final decision was made the next day in
the hall used for the regular sittings of the Acad-
emic des Beaux-Arts.
My interpreters were Mme. Van den Heuvel-
Duprez, Roger and Bonnehee, all three from the
Opera. With such artists I had to triumph.
And that is what happened !
I went in first there were six competitors
and as at that time one could not listen to the
work of the other candidates I went wander-
ing haphazard down to the Rue Mazarine . . .
on the Pont des Arts . . . and, finally, in the
square court of the Louvre where I sat down on
one of the iron seats.
I heard five o'clock strike. I was very anx-
ious. "All must be over by now," I said to my-
self. I had guessed right, for suddenly I saw
under the arch three people chatting together
and recognized Berlioz, Ambroise Thomas and
Flight was impossible. They were in front
of me almost as if they barred my escape.
Ambroise Thomas, my beloved master, came
towards me and said, "Embrace Berlioz, you owe
him a great deal for your prize."
"The prize" I cried, bewildered, my face shin-
ing with joy. "I have the prize!!!" I was
deeply moved and I embraced Berlioz, then my
master, and finally Monsieur Auber.
Monsieur Auber comforted me. Did I need
comforting? Then he said to Berlioz pointing
"He'll go far, the young rascal, when he's had
THE VILLA MEDICI
The winners of the Grand Prix de Rome for
1863 in painting, sculpture, architecture, and
engraving, were Layraud and Monchablon, Bour-
geois, Brune and Chaplain. Custom decreed
it still does that we should all go to the Villa
Medici together and should visit Italy. What a
changed and ideal life mine now was ! The Min-
ister of Finance sent me six hundred francs and
a passport in the name of Napoleon III, signed
by Drouyns de Luys, Minister of Foreign Affairs.
I then met my new companions and we went
to pay the formal calls on the members of the
Institute before our departure for the Academic
de France at Rome.
On the day after Christmas, in three open car-
riages, we started to pay our official calls which
took us into every quarter of Paris where our
The three carriages, crowded with young men,
real rapins, I had almost said gamins, mad with
success and intoxicated by thoughts of the future,
made a veritable scandal in the streets.
Nearly all the gentlemen of the Institute sent
out word that they were not at home to avoid
making a speech. M. Hirtoff, the famous archi-
tect, who lived in the Rue Lamartine, put on less
airs and shouted out to his servant from his bed-
room, "Tell them I'm not in."
I recall that of old the professors accompanied
their pupils as far as the starting place of the
diligences in the Rue Notre-Dame-des-Victoires.
One day as the heavy diligence with the students
packed on the rear the cheapest places which
exposed them to all the dust of the road was
about to start on the long journey from Paris to
Rome, M. Couder, Louis Philippe's favorite
painter, was heard to say impressively to his spe-
cial pupil, "Above all don't forget my style."
This was a delightfully nai've remark, but it was
touching nevertheless. He was the painter of
whom the king said, after he had given him an
order for the museum at Versailles, "M. Couder
pleases me. His drawing is correct; his coloring
satisfies, and he is not dear."
Oh, the good, simple times, when words meant
what they seemed to and admiration was just
THE VILLA MEDICI
without that deifying bombast that is so readily
heaped on one to-day!
I broke the custom and went on alone after
making arrangements to meet my comrades on
the road to Genoa where I would overtake them
driving an enormous coach drawn by five horses.
My plans were first to stop at Nice, where my
father was buried, and then to go to embrace my
mother who was living at Bordighera. She had
a modest villa in a pleasant location in a forest
of palms overlooking the sea. I spent New
Year's with my mother, the anniversary of my
father's death, hours filled to overflowing with
tenderness. All too soon I had to leave her, for
my joyous comrades awaited me in their carriage
on the road of the Italian La Corniche. My tears
turned to laughter. Such is youth !
Our first stop was at Loano about eight o'clock
in the evening.
I have confessed that I was almost gay and
this is true. Nevertheless I was a prey to in-
definite thoughts; I felt myself almost a man,
henceforth to be alone in life. I pondered over
such thoughts, too reasonable perhaps for my
years, while Italy's blossoming mimosas, lemon
trees and myrtles threw around me their sweet
disturbing odors. What a pleasant contrast it
was for me who until then had only known the
sour smell of the faubourgs of Paris, the trampled
grass of their fortifications, and the perfume I
mean perfume of my beloved wings of the
We spent two days in Genoa visiting the
Campo-Santo, the city's cemetery, so rich in the
finest marble monuments, reputed to be the most
beautiful in Italy. After that who can deny that
self-esteem survives after death?
Next I found myself one morning on the Place
du Dome at Milan walking with my companion
Chaplain, the famous engraver of medallions,
and later my confrere at the Institute. We
shared our enthusiasms before the marvellous
cathedral of white marble dedicated to the Vir-
gin by that terrible partisan leader Jean Galeas
Visconti as a repentance for his life. "In that
epoch of faith the world covered itself with white
robes," thus spake Bossuet whose weighty elo-
quence comes back to me.
We were completely carried away by Leonardo
da Vinci's "Last Supper." We found it in a
large hall which the Austrian soldiers had used as
a stable and they had cut a door Horrors!
THE VILLA MEDICI
Abomination of abominations! in the central
panel of the picture.
The masterpiece is gradually fading away.
In time it will have entirely disappeared, but it
is not like "La Giaconda" easier to carry away
than the wall thirty feet high on which it is
We went through Verona and made the obliga-
tory pilgrimage to the tomh of Juliet, the be-
loved of Romeo. That excursion satisfies the
inmost feelings of every young man in love with
Love. Then Vienza, Padua, where, while I was
looking at Giotto's paintings on the story of
Christ, I had an intuition that Mary Magdalene
would occupy my life some day, and then Venice !
Venice ! One might have told me that I still
lived although I would not have believed it, so
unreal were the hours I passed in that matchless
city. As we had no Baedeker his guide was
too costly for us it was only through a sort of
divination that we discovered all the wonders of
Venice without directions.
My companions admired a painting by Palma
Vecchio in a church whose name they did not
know. How was I to find it among the ninety
churches in Venice? I got into my gondola
alone and said to my "barcaiollo" that I was go-
ing to Saint Zacharie ; but I did not find the pic-
ture, a Santa Barbara, so I had him take me to
another saint. A new deception ! As this kept
repeating and threatened never to end, my gon-
dolier laughingly showed me another church
All Saints and said to me, mockingly, "Go in
there; you'll surely find yours."
I pass over Pisa and Florence which I shall de-
scribe in detail later.
When we came near the Papal territory, we
decided to add a picturesque touch to our journey
and instead of entering Rome in the conventional
way by Ponte-Moll, the ancient witness of the de-
feat of Maxentius and the glorification of Chris-
tianity, we took a steamer from Leghorn to Civ-
itta Vecchia. It was the first sea voyage that I
went through . . . almost decently, thanks to
some oranges which I kept in my mouth all the
At last we reached Rome by the railroad from
Civitta Vecchia to the Eternal City. It was the
pensionnaires' dinner hour and they were non-
plussed at seeing us, for we had deprived them
of a holiday in going to meet our coach on the
Flammian Way. Our welcome was spontane-
THE VILLA MEDICI
ous. A special dinner was hastily got together
and this started the jokes practised on newcom-
ers, who were called "Les Affreux Nouveaux"
As a musician I was instructed to go bell in
hand to call dinner through the numerous walks
of the Villa Medici, now plunged in darkness.
As I did not know the way, I fell into a fountain.
Naturally the bell stopped ringing and the board-
ers, who were listening to the sound and re-
joicing in the fun, burst into hearty laughter at
the sudden cessation of the noise. They under-
stood what had happened and came to fish me
I had paid my first debt, the debt of entrance
to the Villa Medici. Night was to bring other
The dining room of the pensionnaires, which
I found so pleasant the next day, was trans-
formed into a den of bandits. The servants,
who ordinarily wore the green livery of the Em-
peror, were dressed as monks with short blunder-
busses across their shoulders and with pistols in
their belts. Their false noses were modeled by
a sculptor and were painted red. The pine table
was stained with wine and covered with dirt.
Our seniors wore proud and haughty looks,
but this did not prevent them, at a given signal,
from telling us that while the food was simple,
all lived in the most fraternal harmony. Sud-
denly, after a discussion of art which was carried
on facetiously, there was a hub-bub and amid
frightful shouts all the plates and bottles went
flying through the air.
At a signal from one of the supposed monks
there was instant silence and we heard the voice
of the oldest pensionnaire, Henner, saying
gravely, "Here all is harmony."
It was well that we knew we were the butts for
jokes. I was a little embarrassed. I did not
dare to move, and I sat with my head down,
staring at the table, where I read the name of
Herold, the author of the Pre aux Clercs, cut with
a knife when he was a pensionnaire at this same
THE VILLA MEDICI
As I had foreseen and gathered from the mean-
ing looks which the pensionnaires exchanged,
another joke, the masterpiece of the hazing, was
arranged for us. We had hardly left the table
when the pensionnaires wrapped themselves in
the huge capes that were fashionable in Rome
at the time and obliged us, before we went to
rest in the rooms assigned to us, to take a con-
stitutional (Was it really necessary?) to the
Forum, the ancient Forum which all our mem-
ories of school recalled to us.
We knew nothing of Rome by night, or by
day for that matter, but we walked on surrounded
by our new school fellows who acted as guides.
It was a January night and very dark, and favor-
able for the schemes of our cicerones. When
we got near the Capitol, we could scarcely dis-
tinguish the outlines of the temples in the hol-
lows of the famous Campo Vaccino. Their re-
productions in the Louvre are still one of the
masterpieces of Claude Lorrain.
In those days, under the rule of His Holiness
Pope Pius IX, no official excavations had been
begun even in the Forum. The famous place
was only a heap of stones and shafts of columns
buried in the weeds on which herds of goats
browsed. These pretty creatures were watched
over by goatherds in large hats and wrapped in
great black cloaks with green linings, the or-
dinary costume of the peasant of the Roman cam-
pagna. They were armed with long pikes to
drive off the wild cattle which splashed about in
the Ostian marshes.
Our companions made us cross the ruins of
the basilica of Constantine. We could just
make out the immense coffered vaults. Our ad-
miration changed to fright when we found our-
selves a moment later in a place entirely sur-
rounded by walls of indescribably colossal pro-
portions. In the middle of this place was a
large cross on a pedestal formed by steps a sort
of Calvary. When I reached this point, I could
no longer see my companions and on turning
back I found that I was alone in the middle of
the gigantic amphitheater of the Colosseum in a
silence which seemed frightful to me.
I tried to find a way which would lead me back
THE VILLA MEDICI
to the streets where some late but complacent
passerby might direct me to the Villa Medici.
But my search was in vain. I was so exasper-
ated by my fruitless attempts that I fell on one of
the steps of the cross overcome by weariness.
I cried like a child. It was quite excusable, for
I was worn out with exhaustion.
Finally, daylight appeared. Its rays showed
me that I had gone round and round like a squir-
rel in a cage and had come across nothing save
the stairways to the upper tiers. When one
thinks of the eighty tiers which in the time of
Imperial Rome held a hundred thousand spec-
tators, this round of mine could easily have been
endless for me. But the sunrise was my salva-
tion. After a few steps I was happy to see that,
like Little Tom Thumb lost in the woods, I was
following the path which would take me on the
I reached the Villa Medici at last and took pos-
session of the room which had been reserved for
me. The window looked out on the Avenue du
Pincio; my horizon was the whole of Rome and
ended in the outlines of the dome of St. Peter's
at the Vatican. The Director, M. Schnetz, a
member of the Institute, took me to my room.
He was tall and he had willingly wrapped him-
self in a capacious dressing gown and had put
on a Greek cap bedizened, like the gown, with
magnificent gold tassels. M. Schnetz was the
last of that generation of great painters which
had a special reverence for the country about
Rome. His studies and pictures were con-
ceived in the midst of the Sabine brigands. His
strong, determined appearance made his hosts in
his adventurous wanderings respect and fear him.
He was a perfect father to all the children of
the Academic de France at Rome.
The bell for luncheon sounded. This time it
was the real cook who rang it and not I who had
been so kindly given the duty the evening before.
The dining room had taken on its comfortable
every-day appearance. Our companions were
positively affectionate. The servants were no
longer the pseudo monks we had seen at the first
meal. I learned that I had not been the only
one to be hoaxed.
The Carnival festivities at Rome were just end-
ing with their wild bacchanalian revelries.
While they were not so famous as those of Venice,
they had, nevertheless, just as much dash and
life. Their setting was altogether different
THE VILLA MEDICI
more majestic if not more appropriate. We all
participated in a large car built by our architects
and decorated by our sculptors. We spent the
day in throwing confetti and flowers at all the
lovely Roman girls, who replied with bewitching
smiles from their palace balconies on the Corso.
Surely when Michelet wrote his brilliant and
poetic study La Femme, the sequel to his
U Amour, he must have had in his mind's eye, as
we saw them in life, these types of rare, sparkling
and fascinating beauty.
What changes have taken place in Rome since
such careless freedom and gaiety were the usual
thing! The superb Italian regiments march on
this same Corso to-day, and the rows of shops for
the most part belong to German shopkeepers.
Progress! How many are thy blows!
One day the Director told us that Hippolyte
Flandrin, the famous leader of the religious
movement in Nineteenth Century Art, had
reached Rome the night before and wanted to
meet the students.
I little thought that forty-six years later I
should recall this visit in the speech I would de-
liver as president of the Institute and the Acad-
emic des Beaux Arts.
In this speech I said:
"On the Pincio, opposite the Academic de
France, is a small bubbling fountain shaped like
an ancient vase, which, beneath a bower of green
oaks, stands out against the horizon with its fine
lines. There, when after thirty-two years he
returned to Rome a great artist, Hippolyte Flan-
drin, before he entered the temple, dipped his
fingers as in a holy font and crossed himself."
The sorrow stricken arts to which he had con-
tributed so much went into mourning at almost
the very moment we were getting ready to go to
thank him officially for his consideration of us.
He lived in the Piazza della Spagna, near the
Villa Medici where he wanted to be. In the
church of Santa Luigi della Francese we laid on
his coffin wreaths of laurel from the garden of
the Villa, which, as a student, he had loved so
well. He was a comrade at the Villa of his be-
loved musician Ambroise Thomas, whom he saw
for the last time at the height of his glory. . . .
Some days later Falguiere, Chaplain and I
started for Naples, by carriage as far as Pales-
trina, on foot to Terracina, at the southern end
of the Pontian marshes, then again by carriage to
Naples! . . .
THE VILLA MEDICI
What never to be forgotten times they were
for youthful artists, when we shared our enthu-
siasms for all we saw in these pleasantly pictur-
esque villages a picturesqueness which has cer-
tainly gone by now.
Our lodgings were in the most primitive inns.
I remember that one night I was greatly disturbed
by the feeling that my neighbor in the garret had
set the miserable hovel on fire. Falguiere had
the same idea too. It was only imagination.
It was the bright starlight shining through the
As we passed through the woods of Subiacco,
a shepherd's zampogna (a sort of rustic bagpipe)
sounded a burst of melody which I presently
noted down on a bit of paper loaned me by a
Benedictine monk in a neighboring monastery.
These measures became the first notes of Marie-
Magdeleine, the sacred drama which I was al-
ready planning for my first venture.
I still have the sketch Chaplain made of me
at the moment.
As was the custom in the olden times of the
pensionnaires of the Villa Medici, we lodged in
Naples at the Casa Combi, an old house over-
looking the Quay Santa Lucia. The fifth floor
was reserved for us. It was an old ruin with a
pink rough-cast front and windows framed in
mouldings shaped in small figures and cleverly
painted, like those one sees all over Italy as soon
as one crosses the Var.
A vast room held our three beds. As for the
dressing room and the rest, they were on the bal-
cony, where, according to the local custom, we
hung our clothes to dry.
In order to travel as comfortably as possible,
we had rigged ourselves out at Rome with three
suits of white flannel with blue stripes.
Risum teneatis, as that delightful poet Horace
would have said. First, listen to this.
From the moment of our arrival at the station
in Naples we were watched with surprising per-
severance by the gendarmes. In addition, the
passersby observed us with the utmost astonish-
ment. We were intensely curious and won-
dered what the reason was for all this. We did
Massenet at Egreville
THE VILLA MEDICI
not have long to wait. Our landlady, Marietta,
told us that the Neapolitan convicts wore almost
exactly the same costume. The laughter which
greeted this revelation led us to complete the re-
semblance. So we went to the Cafe Royal in
the Piazza S. Ferdinando, the three of us drag-
ging our right legs as if they were fastened to a
ball and chain as the convicts were.
We almost lived in the galleries of the Bor-
bonico Museum during our first days in Naples.
The most wonderful of the discoveries in the
ruins of Herculanum, Pompeii, and their neigh-
bor Stabies had been placed there. We were as-
tonished at it all, enraptured, charmed by end-
less and ever new discoveries.
In passing I must recall our dutiful ascent of
Vesuvius, whose plume of smoke we could see
in the distance. We came back carrying our
burned shoes in our hands and with our feet
wrapped in flannel which we had bought at Torre
We took our meals at Naples on the seashore
on the Quay Santa Lucia, almost opposite our
house. For twelve grani, about eight sous, we
had an exquisite soup of shellfish, fish fried in
an oil which had been used for that purpose for
two or three years at least, and a glass of Capri
Then, there were walks to Castellamare at the
end of the Gulf of Naples, where we enjoyed a
wonderful view; and to Sorrento so rich in orange
trees that the arms of the city are interwoven in
the form of a crown of orange leaves. At Sor-
rento we saw where Tasso was born the famous
Italian poet, the immortal author of "Jerusalem
A simple terra cotta bust decorates the front
of this half ruined house! Thence to Amalfi,
once almost the rival of Venice in the size of its
If Napoleon got the itch through handling the
gun sponge of a dirty artilleryman, we owe it to
the truth to state that the morning after we
passed the night in the place all three of us were
covered with lice. We had to have our heads
shaved, which added to our resemblance to con-
We were somewhat consoled for this adven-
ture by sailing to Capri. We left Amalfi at four
o'clock in the morning, but We did not reach
Capri until ten at night. The island is delight-
ful and the views bewitching. The top of Mount
THE VILLA MEDICI
Solaro is 1800 feet above the sea and about nine
and a half miles around. The view is one of the
most beautiful and extensive in all Italy.
We were overtaken by a frightful storm on
our way to Capri. The boat was loaded with a
large quantity of oranges and the wild waves
swept over everything to the great despair of
the sailors who outshouted each other in calling
on St. Joseph, the patron saint of Naples.
There is a pretty legend that St. Joseph,
grieved by the departure of Jesus and the Virgin
Mary for Heaven, ordered his Son to come back
to him. Jesus obeyed and came back with all
the saints in Paradise. The Virgin came back,
too, to the conjugal roof escorted by eleven thou-
sand virgins. When the Lord saw Paradise de-
populated in this way and not wanting to put
St. Joseph iii the wrong, he declared that the lat-
ter was the stronger and so Heaven was repopu-
lated by his permission. The veneration of the
Neapolitans for St. Joseph is surprising, as the
following detail illustrates.
In the Eighteenth Century the streets of
Naples were hardly safe, and it was dangerous to
pass through them at night. The king had lan-
terns placed at the worst corners to light the
passersby, but the birbanti broke them as they
found they interfered with their nocturnal deeds.
Whereupon some one was struck with the idea of
placing an image of St. Joseph beside each lan-
tern, and thereafter they were respected to the
great joy of the people.
To be in and live in Capri is the most ideal ex-
istence that one can dream of. I brought back
from there page after page of the works which I
intended to write later.
Autumn saw us back in Rome.
At that time I wrote my beloved master Am-
broise Thomas as follows :
"Last Sunday Bourgault got up an entertain-
ment to which he invited twenty Transteverins
and Transteverines plus six musicians, also
from the Transtervere. All in costume!
"The weather was fine and the scene was sim-
ply wonderful when we were in the 'Bosco,' my
sacred grove. The setting sun lighted up the
old walls of ancient Rome. The entertainment
ended in Falguiere's studio, lighted a giorno,
our doing. There the dance became so capti-
vating and intoxicating that we finished vis-a-vis
to the Transteverines in the final salturrele.
They all smoked, ate, and drank the women es-
pecially liked our punch."
THE VILLA MEDICI
One of the greatest and most thrilling periods
of my life was now at hand. It was Christmas
Eve. We arranged an outing so that we might
follow the midnight masses in the churches.
The night ceremonies at Sainte Marie Majeure
and at Saint Jean de Latran impressed me most.
Shepherds with their flocks, cows, goats, sheep
and pigs were in the public square, as if to re-
ceive the benediction of the Savior, recalling in
this way His birth in a manger. The touching
simplicity of these beliefs really affected me and
I entered Sainte Marie Majeure accompanied by
a lovely goat which I embraced and which did
not want to leave me. This in no way aston-
ished any of the crowd of men and women packed
in that church, kneeling on those beautiful Mo-
saic pavements, between a double row of columns
relics taken from the ancient temples.
The next day a day to be marked with a
cross on the staircase with its three hundred
steps which leads to the church of Ara Coeli, I
passed two women, obviously fashionable for-
eigners. I was especially charmed by the ap-
pearance of the younger. Several days later I
was at Liszt's who was preparing for his ordina-
tion, and I recognized among the famous mas-
ter's visitors the two women whom I had seen at
I learned almost at once that the younger had
come to Rome with her family on a sightseeing
trip and that she had been recommended to Liszt
so that he might select for her a musician capable
of directing her studies. She did not want to
interrupt them while she was away from Paris.
Liszt at once proposed me. I was a pensionnaire
at the Academic de France and was supposed to
work there, so that I did not want to devote my
time to lessons. The young girl's charm, how-
ever, overcame my reluctance.
You may have already guessed that this beau-
tiful girl was the one who was to become my wife
two years later, the ever-attentive, often-worried
companion of my life, the witness of my weak-
nesses as well as of my bursts of energy, of my
sorrows and my joys. With her I have gone
up the steps of life, already long, but not so
steep as those which led to Ara Coeli, that altar
of the skies which recalls to Rome the pure and
cloudless celestial abodes, which have led me
along a way sometimes difficult and where the
THE VILLA MEDICI
roses have been gathered in the midst of thorns.
But is not life always so?
In the following spring came the pension-
naires' annual entertainment, which took place as
was customary at Castel Fusano on the Roman
Campagna, a couple of miles from Ostia in a
magnificent pine forest divided by an avenue of
beautiful evergreen oaks. I brought away with
me such an agreeable remembrance of the day
that I advised my fiancee and her family to make
the acquaintance of this incomparable spot.
In that splendid avenue paved with old marble
slabs I recalled Gaston Boissier's story, in his
"Promenades Archelogiques," of Nisus and
Euraylus, those unfortunate young men who were
sent to their downfall by Volscens, as he came
from Laurentium, to bring part of his troops to
The thought that in December my two years'
stay would be up and that I would have to leave
the Villa Medici and return to France made me
extremely sad. I wanted to see Venice again.
I stayed there two months and during the time
I jotted down the rough sketch of my first Suite
I noted the strange and beautiful notes of the
Austrian trumpets which sounded every evening
as they closed the gates for the night. And I
used them twenty-five years later in the fourth
act of Le Cid.
My comrades bade me good-by on December
seventeenth, not only at the last sad dinner at
our large table, but also at the station in the
evening. I had given over the day to packing,
gazing meditatively the while at the bed in which
I should never sleep again.
All the souvenirs of my two years in Rome
palms from Palm Sunday, a drum from the
Transtevere, my mandolin, a wooden Virgin, a
few sprays and branches from the Villa's garden,
all my souvenirs of a past which would be with
me always, went into my trunk with my clothes.
The French Embassy paid the carriage.
I was unwilling to leave my window until the
setting sun had disappeared behind St. Peter's.
It seemed as if Rome in its turn took refuge in
shadow a shadow which bade me farewell.
MY RETURN TO PARIS
My comrades went with me to the station "del
Termini," hard by the Diocletian ruins. They
did not leave until we had embraced warmly and
they stayed until my train disappeared beyond
the horizon. Happy beings! they would sleep
that night at the Academic, while I was alone,
torn by the emotions of leaving, numbed by the
keen, icy December cold, shrouded in memories,
and, unless fatigue aided me, unable to sleep.
Next day I was in Florence.
I wanted to see again this city with the richest
collections of art in Italy. I went to the Pitti
Palace, one of the wonders of Florence. In go-
ing through the galleries it seemed to me as
though I were not alone, but that the living re-
membrance of my comrades was with me, that
I was a witness of their enthusiasms and raptures
before all the masterpieces piled in that splendid
palace. I saw again the Titians, the Tintorets,
the works of Leonardo, the Veronese, the Michel
Angelos, and the Raphaels.
With what delightfully charmed eyes I ad-
mired anew that priceless treasure, Raphael's
masterpiece of painting, the "Madonna della
sedella," then the "Temptation of St. Anthony"
by Salvator Rosa placed in the Hall of Ulysses,
and in the Hall of Flora Canova's "Venus,"
mounted on a revolving base. I studied, too,
the works of Rubens, Rembrandt and Van Dyck.
From the Pitti Palace I went to be astounded
anew by the Strozzi Palace, the most beautiful
type of Florentine palace. Its cornice, attrib-
uted to Simon Pollajo, is the most beautiful
known to modern times. I saw once more the
Buboli gardens, beside the Pitti Palace, designed
by Tribolo and Buontalenti.
I finished the day with a walk in the so-called
Bois de Boulogne de Florence, the Cascine Walk,
at the western gate of Florence, between the right
bank of the Arno and the railroad. It is the
favorite walk of the elegant and fashionable
world of Florence, the city called the Athens of
Italy. I remember that evening had already
fallen and as I was without my watch I had
left it at the hotel I asked a peasant I met on the
road what time it was. The answer I received
was so poetically turned that I can never forget it,
MY RETURN TO PARIS
"Sono le sette, Varia ne treme ancor! . . ."
"It is seven o'clock. The air still trembles
from the sound."
I left Florence to continue my trip by the way
Pisa seemed to me as depopulated as if it had
been swept by the plague. When one considers
that in the Middle Ages it was a rival of Genoa,
Florence, and Venice, one feels puzzled by the
comparative desolation that envelops it. I re-
mained alone for nearly an hour on the Piazza del
Duomo, looking with curiosity on the master-
pieces which raise their artistic beauty there, the
Cathedral or Le Dome de Pisa, the Campanile,
better known as the Leaning Tower, and last, the
Between the Dome and the Baptistiere
stretches the Campo Santo, the famous cemetery.
The earth for this cemetery was brought from
It seemed to me that the Leaning Tower was
only waiting until I had passed, unlike the Cam-
panile of Venice, in order to bring down deadly
destruction on me. On the contrary, it appears
that the tower, which aided Galileo in making his
famous experiments on gravitation, was never
more secure. This is proved by the fact that
the seven great bells which sound in full swing
several times a day have never affected the
strength of this curious structure.
Here I come to the most interesting part of my
journey after I left Pisa, huddled under the top
of the diligence, which followed the shores of the
Mediterranean, by Spezzia as far as Genoa.
What an unreal journey that one of mine was
along the ancient Roman Way on the top of the
rocks which overlook the sea! I journeyed as
though I were in the car of a capricious balloon.
All the way the road skirted the sea, some-
times cutting through forests of olives, and again
rising over the tops of the hills where one over-
looked a wide horizon.
It was picturesque everywhere; there was al-
ways a variety of astonishing views along this
way. Traveling as I did by the light of a mag-
nificent moon, it was most ideally beautiful in its
originality with its villages in which one saw at
times a lighted window in the distance and this
sea into which one could see to fathomless depths.
During this journey it seemed to me that I had
never accumulated so many ideas and projects,
obsessed as I was by the thought that in a few
MY RETURN TO PARIS
hours I would be back in Paris and that my life
was about to commence.
I traveled from Genoa to Paris by rail.
When one is young, one sleeps so well! I woke
up shivering. It was freezing. The piercing
cold of the night had covered the car windows
with frosty ornaments.
We went by Montereau, and Paris was almost
in sight! I could not imagine then that some
years later I should own a summer house in this
country near figreville.
What a contrast between the beautiful sky of
Italy, that eternally beautiful sky, sung by the
poets, which I had just left, and the one I saw
again, so dark, gray, and sullen !
When I had paid for my journey and a few
small expenses, I had left in my pockets the sum
of ... two francs!
How joyful I was, when I reached my sister's
house ! Also, what unforeseen good fortune !
It was raining in torrents and my precious two
francs went to buy that indispensable vade
mecum, an umbrella. I had not needed one dur-
ing my entire stay in Italy. Protected from the
weather I went to the Ministry of Finance where
I knew I should find my allowance for the first
quarter of the new year. At this time the hold-
ers of the Grand Prix enjoyed a pension of three
thousand francs a year. I was still entitled to it
for three years. What good luck!
The good friend, whom I have already men-
tioned, had been forewarned of my return and
had rented a room for me on the fifth floor of
No. 14, Rue Taitbout. From the calm and quiet
beauty of my room at the Academic, I had fallen
into the midst of busy, noisy Paris.
Ambroise Thomas introduced me to wealthy
friends who gave famous musical evening enter-
tainments. I saw there for the first time Leo
Delibes, whose ballet La Source had already won
him a great reputation at the Opera. I saw him
direct a delightful chorus sung by fashionable
ladies and I whispered to myself, "I, too, will
write a chorus. And it will be sung." Indeed
it was, but by four hundred male voices. I had
won the first prize in the Ville de Paris com-
My acquaintance with the poet Armand Sil-
vestre dates from this time. By chance he was
my neighbor on the top of an omnibus, and, one
thing leading to another, we got down the best
MY RETURN TO PARIS
of friends. He saw that I was a good listener,
and he told me some of the most drolly im-
proper stories, in which he excelled. But to my
mind the poet surpassed the story teller and a
month later I had written the Poeme d'Avril, in-
spired by the exquisite verses in his first book.
As I speak of the Poeme d'Avril, I remember
the fine impression it made on Reyer. He urged
me to take it to a publisher. Armed with a too
flattering letter from him I went to Choudens to
whom he recommended me. After four futile
attempts I was finally received by the wealthy
publisher of Faust. But I was not even to show
my little manuscript. I was immediately shown
out. The same sort of reception awaited me at
Flaxland's, the publisher, Place de la Madeleine,
and also at Brandus's, the owner of Meyerbeer's
works. I considered this altogether natural, for
I was absolutely unknown.
As I was going back (not too bitterly disap-
pointed) to my fifth floor on the Rue Taitbout,
with my music in my pocket, I was accosted by a
fair, tall young man, with a kindly, intelligent
face, who said to me: "Yesterday I opened a
music store near here in the Boulevard de la
Madeleine. I know who you are and I am ready
to publish anything you like." It was Georges
Hartmann, my first publisher.
All I had to do was to take my hand from my
pocket and give him the Poeme d'Avril which
had just received such a poor reception else-
It is true that I made nothing out of it, but
how much I would have given had I had it to
have it published. A few months later lovers of
music were singing:
Quon passe en aimant!
Que Vheure est done breve
As yet I had neither honor nor money, but I
certainly had a good deal of encouragement.
Cholera was raging in Paris. I fell ill and
the neighbors were afraid to come and see how
I was. However, Ambroise Thomas learned of
my dangerous illness and my helpless distress
and visited me in my room accompanied by his
doctor, the Emperor's physician. This brave
and fatherly act on the part of my beloved mas-
ter affected me so much that I fainted in bed. I
must add that this illness was only fleeting and
that I finished ten pieces for the piano for which
MY RETURN TO PARIS
Girod, the publisher, paid me two hundred
francs. A louis a page! To that benevolent
publisher I owed the first money I made from
The health of Paris improved.
On the eighth of October I was married in the
little old church in the village of Avon near
My wife's brother and my new cousin, the
eminent violinist Armingaud, the founder of the
famous quartet, were my witnesses. However,
there were others too. A flock of sparrows came
in through a broken window and out-chirped
one another so that we could scarcely hear the
words of the good cure.
His words were a kindly homage to my new
companion and encouragement for my still un-
After the wedding ceremony we walked in the
beautiful forest of Fontainebleau, where I seemed
to hear, in the midst of the magnificence of na-
ture, verdant and purple in the warm rays of the
bright sun, caressed by the songs of the birds, the
words of that great poet Alfred de Musset:
"Aime et tu renaitrais ; fais-toi fleur pour
We left Avon to pass a week at the seashore,
in a charming solitude a deux, often the most en-
viable solitude. While I was there, I corrected
the proofs of the Poeme d'Avril and the ten piano
To correct proofs ! To see my music in print !
Had my career as a composer really begun?
MY DEBUT AT THE THEATER
On my return to Paris I lived with my wife's
family in a lovely apartment whose brightness
was calculated to delight the eye and charm the
thoughts. Ambroise Thomas sent me word that
at his request the directors of the Opera-Comique,
Ritt and de Lewen, wanted to entrust to me a
one-act work. This was La Gran T ante, an
opera-comique by Jules Adenis and Charles
This was bewildering good fortune and I was
almost overcome by it. To-day I regret that at
that time I was unable to put into the work all of
myself that I might have wished. The prelim-
inary rehearsals began the next year. How
proud I was when I received my first notices of
rehearsals and when I sat in the same place on
the famous stage which had known Boi'eldieu,
Herold, M. Auber, Ambroise Thomas, Victor
Masse, Gounod, Meyerbeer! . . .
I was about to learn an author's trials. But I
was so happy in doing so !
A first work is the first cross of honor. A first
I had everything except the cross.
The first cast was: Marie Roze, in all the
splendor of her youthful beauty and talent ; Vic-
tor Capoul, the idol of the public; and Mile.
Girard, the spirited singer and actress, the de-
light of the Opera-Comique.
We were ready to go on the stage when the
cast was upset. Marie Roze was taken away
from me and replaced by a seventeen year old
beginner, Marie Heilbronn, the artist to whom I
was to entrust the creation of Manon seventeen
At the first rehearsal with the orchestra I was
unconscious of what was going on, I was so deeply
absorbed in listening to this and that, in fact to
all the sonorousness of the work, which did not
prevent me, however, telling every one that I
was entirely pleased and satisfied.
I had the courage to attend the first perform-
ance in the wings, which reminded me of Ber-
lioz's UEnjance du Christ which I had attended
MY DEBUT AT THE THEATER
That evening was both exciting and amusing.
I spent the entire afternoon in feverish agita-
I stopped at every poster to look at the fascinat-
ing words so large with promise :
First Performance of La Grand 'Tante
Opera-Comique in One Act
I had to wait to read the authors' names.
That would come only with the announcement
of the second performance.
We served as a curtain raiser for the great suc-
cess of the moment, La Voyage en Chine by La-
biche and Frangois Bazin.
I had been a pupil of the latter for a brief
while at the Conservatoire. His pilgrimages to
the land of the Celestials had not deprived his
teaching of that hard, unamiable form which I
suffered from with him, and I left his class in
harmony a month after I joined it. I went into
the class of Henri Reber of the Institute. He
was a fine, exquisite musician, of the race of
Eighteenth Century masters. All his music
breathed forth pleasant memories.
One fine Friday evening in April, at half-past
seven, the curtain rose at the Opera-Comique.
I was in the wings near my dear frien3 Jules
Adenis. My heart throbbed with anxiety, seized
by that mystery to which for the first time I gave
myself body and soul, as to an unknown God.
To-day that seems a little exaggerated, rather
The piece had just begun, when we heard a
burst of laughter from the audience. "Listen,
mo/I ami, what a splendid start," said Adenis.
"The audience is amused."
The audience was indeed amused, but this is
what happened. The scene opened in Brittany
on a stormy, tempestuous night. Mile. Girard
had faced the audience and sung a prayer, when
Capoul entered, speaking these words from the
"What a country ! What a wilderness ! Not
a soul in sight!" when he saw Mile. Girard's back
and cried :
"At last . . . There's a face!"
He had scarcely uttered this expression when
the roars of laughter we had heard broke loose.
However, the piece went on without further
They encored Mile. Girard's song, Les filles
de la Rochelle.
MY DEBUT AT THE THEATER
They applauded Capoul and gave the young
debutante Heilhronn a great welcome.
The opera ended in sympathetic applause,
whereupon the stage manager came out to an-
nounce the names of the authors. Just then a
cat walked across the stage. This was the cause
of fresh hilarity which was so great that the au-
thors' names went unheard.
It was a day of mishaps. Two accidents on
the same evening gave grounds for fear that the
piece would fail. There was nothing in it, how-
ever, and the press showed itself really indulgent.
It sheathed its claws in velvet in its appreciation.
Theophile Gautier, a great poet and an emi-
nent critic, was kind enough to fling a few of his
sparkling bits at the work, proof of his obvious
La Grand'Tante was played with La Voyage en
Chine, a great financial success, and I lived four-
teen evenings. I was in raptures. I no longer
consider only fourteen performances; they
The orchestral score (it was not engraved)
was lost in the fire at the Opera- Comique in 1887.
It was no great loss to music, but I should be
happy to have the evidence of the first steps in
At this time I was giving lessons in a family
at Versailles, with which I am still in touch.
I was caught in a heavy shower on my way there
one day. That rain was good to me, verifying
the adage, "Every cloud has a silver lining." I
waited patiently in the station for the rain to
stop, when I saw near me Pasdeloup who was
also waiting until the shower was over.
He had never spoken to me. The wait at the
station and the bad weather were an easy and
natural excuse for the conversation we had to-
gether. On his asking me whether in my work
at Rome I had not written something for the or-
chestra, I replied that I had a Suite d'Orchestra
in five parts (the one I had written in Venice in
1865) ; he begged me point blank to send it to
him. I sent it the same week.
I take extreme pleasure in paying homage
to Pasdeloup. He not only aided me gener-
ously on this occasion, but he was also the cre-
ative genius of the first popular concerts which
aided so powerfully in making music understood
outside the theater.
In the Rue des Martyrs one rainy day (Always
One of the last portraits of Massenet
MY DEBUT AT THE THEATER
rain ! Truly Paris is not Italy ! ) I met one of my
confreres, a violoncellist in Pasdeloup's orches-
tra. While we were chatting, he said, "This
morning we read a very remarkable Suite d'Or-
chestra. We wanted to know the author's name,
but it wasn't on the orchestral parts."
I jumped up at once. I was greatly excited.
Was it my work or that of some one else?
"In this Suite," I asked him with a start, "is
there a fugue, a march, and a nocturne?"
"Exactly," he replied.
"Then," I said, "it is mine."
I rushed to the Rue Lafitte and flew up the
stairs like a madman to tell my wife and her
Pasdeloup had given me no warning.
On the program for the next day but one, Sun-
day, I saw my first orchestral suite announced.
How was I to hear what I had written?
I paid for a place in the third balcony and
listened, lost in that dense crowd, as it was every
Sunday, in that gallery where they even had to
stand. Each passage was well received. The
last had just ended when a young fellow near me
hissed twice. Both times, however, the audi-
ence protested and applauded all the more heart-
ily. So the kill-joy did not gain the effect he
I went back home all of a tremble. My fam-
ily had also gone to the Cirque Napoleon and
came to find me at once. If my people were
happy at my success, they were still more
pleased to have heard my work.
One would have thought no more about that
misguided hisser, except that the next day Al-
bert Wolf devoted a long article on the front
page of the Figaro, as unkind as it could be, to
breaking my back. His brilliant, cutting wit
was amusing reading for his public. My friend,
Theodore Dubois, as young as I was in his career,
had the fine courage to reply to Wolf at the risk
of losing his position. He wrote a letter worthy
in every way of his great, noble heart.
Reyer for his part consoled me for the Figaro
article by this curious, piquant bon-mot: "Let
him talk. Wits, like imbeciles, can be mis-
I owe it to the truth to say that Albert Wolf
regretted what he had written without attaching
any importance to it except to please his readers,
and never thinking that at the same time he might
MY DEBUT AT THE THEATER
kill the future of a young musician. Afterwards
he became one of my warmest friends.
Emperor Napoleon III opened three competi-
tions, and I did not wait a single day to enter
I competed for the cantata Promethee, the
opera-comique Le Florentin, and the opera La
Coupe du Roi de Thule.
I got nothing.
Saint-Saens won the prize with his Promethee;
Charles Lenepveu was crowned for his Le Floren-
tin I was third and Diaz got first place with
La Coupe du Roi de Thule. It was given at the
Opera under marvellous conditions of interpre-
Saint-Saens knew that I had competed and
that the award had wavered between me and Diaz
who had won. Shortly after this he met me and
"There are so many good and beautiful things
in your score that I have just written to Weimar
to see if your work can't be performed there."
Only great men act like that!
Events, however, decreed otherwise, and the
thousand pages of orchestration were for thirty
years a well from which I drew many a passage
for my subsequent works.
I was beaten, but not broken.
Ambroise Thomas, the constant, ever kind gen-
ius of my life, introduced me to Michel Carre, one
of the collaborators on Mignon and Hamlet.
The billboards constantly proclaimed his suc-
cesses and he entrusted me with a libretto in three
acts which was splendidly done, entitled Meduse.
I worked on this during the summer and win-
ter of 1869 and during the spring of 1870. On
the twelfth of July of that year the work had been
done for several days, and Michel Carre made an
appointment to meet me at the Opera. He in-
tended to tell the director, Emile Perrin, that he
must put the work on and that it would pay him
to do so.
Emile Perrin was not there.
I left Michel Carre, who embraced me heart-
ily and said, "Au revoir. On the stage of the
I went to Fontainebleau where I was living,
that same evening.
I was going to be happy. . . .
But the future was too lovely !
The next morning the papers announced the
MY DEBUT AT THE THEATER
declaration of war between France and Germany
and I never saw Michel Carre again. He died
some months after this touching meeting which
seemed so decisive to me.
Good-by to my fine plans for Weimar, my
hopes at the Opera, and my own hopes too.
War, with all its alarms and horrors, had come to
drench the soil of France with blood.
I will not take up my recollections again until
after that utterly terrible year. I do not want to
make such cruel hours live again ; I want to spare
my readers their mournful tale.
THE DAYS AFTER THE WAR
The Commune had just gasped its last breath
when we found ourselves again at the family
abode in Fontainebleau.
Paris breathed once more after a long period
of trouble and agony; gradually calm returned.
As if the lesson of that bloody time would never
fade away and as if its memory would be perpet-
ual, bits of burnt paper were brought into our
garden from time to time on the wings of the
wind. I kept one piece. It bore traces of fig-
ures and probably came from the burning of the
Ministry of Finance.
As soon as I saw again my dear little room in
the country, I found courage to work and in the
peace of the great trees which spread over us
with their sweetly peaceful branches I wrote the
I dedicated them to my good friend Paladilhe,
author of Patrie, later my confrere at the Insti-
As I had undergone all kinds of privation for
THE DAYS AFTER THE WAR
so many months, the life I was now living seemed
to me most exquisite; it brought back my good
humor and gave me a calm and serene mind.
On this account I was able to write my second
orchestral suite which was played some years
later at the Chatelet concerts.
But I went back to Paris before long, for I
wanted to see, as soon as possible, the great city
which had been so sorely tried. I had hardly
got back when I met Emile Bergerat, the bright
and delightful poet, who later became Theophile
How dear a name in French letters is that of
Theophile Gautier! What glory he heaped on
them that illustrious Benvenuto of style as they
Bergerat took me with him one day to visit his
My sensations in approaching that great poet
were indescribable! He was no longer in the
dawn of life, but he was still youthful and viva-
cious in thought, and rich in images with which
he adorned his slightest conversation. And his
learning was extremely wide and varied. I
found him sitting in a large armchair with three
cats about him. I have always been fond of
the pretty creatures, so I at once made friends
with them which put me in the good graces of
Bergerat, who has continued to be a charming
friend to me, told him that I was a musician and
that a ballet over his name would open the doors
of the Opera to me. He developed on the spot
two subjects for me: Le Preneur de Rats (The
Rat Catcher) and La Fille du Roi des Aulnes.
The recollection of Schubert frightened me off
the latter, and it was arranged that the Rat
Catcher should be offered to the director of the
Nothing came of it as far as I was concerned.
The name of the great poet was so dazzling that
the poor musician was completely lost in its bril-
liance. It was said, however, that I would not
remain a nonentity, but that I would finally
emerge from obscurity.
Duquesnel, an admirable friend, then the di-
rector of the Odeon, at the instance of Hartmann,
my publisher, sent for me to come to his office
at the theater and asked me to write the stage
music for the old tragedy Les Erinnyes by Le-
conte de Lisle. He read several scenes to me
and I became enthusiastic at once.
THE DAYS AFTER THE WAR
How splendid the rehearsals were! They
were under the direction of the celebrated artist
Brindeau, the stage manager at the Odeon, but
Leconte de Lisle managed them in person.
What an Olympian attitude was that of the fa-
mous translator of Homer, Sophocles, and The-
ocritus, those geniuses of the past whom he al-
most seemed to equal! How admirable the ex-
pression of his face with his double eye-glass
which seemed a part of him and through which
his eyes gleamed with lightning glances !
How could they pretend that he did not like
music when they inflicted so much of it on him,
in that work at any rate? It was ridiculous.
That is the sort of legend with which they over-
whelm so many poets.
Theophile Gautier, who, they said, considered
music the most costly of all noises, knew and
liked other marvellous artists too well to dis-
parage our art. Besides, who can forget his crit-
ical articles on music which his daughter Judith
Gautier, of the Goncourt Academy, has just col-
lected in one volume with pious care, and which
are uncommonly and astonishingly just appreci-
Leconte de Lisle was a fervent admirer of
Wagner and of Alphonse Daudet, of whom I
shall speak later, and had a soul most sensitive to
In spite of the snow I went to the country in
December to shut myself up for a few days with
my wife's good parents and I wrote the music of
Dusquesnel placed forty musicians at my dis-
posal, which, under the circumstances, was a con-
siderable expense and a great favor. Instead of
writing a score for the regular orchestra which
would have produced only a paltry effect I had
the idea of having a quartet of thirty-six stringed
instruments corresponding to a large orchestra.
Then I added three trombones to represent the
three Erinnyes: Tisiphone, Alecto and Megere,
and a pair of kettledrums. So I had my forty.
I again thank that dear director for this un-
usual luxury of instruments. I owed the sym-
pathy of many musicians to it and to him.
As I was already occupied with an opera-com-
ique in three acts which a young collaborator
of Ennery's had obtained for me from the man-
ager of the theater how my memory flies to
Chantepie, vanished from the stage too early
I received a letter from du Locle, then director
THE DAYS AFTER THE WAR
of the Opera-Comique, telling me that this work,
Don Cesar de Bazan, must be ready in Novem-
The cast was : Mile. Priola, Mme. Galli Marie,
already famous as Mignon, later the never to be
forgotten Carmen, and a young beginner with a
well trained voice and charming presence, M.
The work was put on hastily with old scenery,
which so displeased Ennery that he never ap-
peared in the theater again.
Madame Galli took the honors of the evening
with several encores. The Entr'acte Sevillana
was also applauded. The work, however, did
not succeed for it was taken off the bill after the
thirteenth performance. Joncieres, the author
of Dimitri, pled my cause in vain before the So-
ciete des Auteurs, of which Auguste Maquet was
president, arguing that they had no right to
withdraw a work which still averaged so good
receipts. They were kind words lost! Don
Cesar was played no more.
I recall that later on I had to re-write the whole
work at the request of several provincial houses
so that it might be played as they wished. The
manuscript of the score (only the entr'acte was
engraved) was burnea in the fire of May, 1887,
as was my first work.
An invincible secret power directed my life.
I was invited to dine at the house of Mme.
Pauline Viardot, the sublime lyric tragedienne.
In the course of the evening I was asked to play a
I was taken unawares and I began to sing a bit
from my sacred drama Marie Magdeleine.
Although I had no voice, at that age I had a
good deal of go in the manner of singing my
music. Now, I speak it, and in spite of the in-
sufficiency of my vocal powers, my artists get
what I mean.
I was singing, if I may say so, when Mme.
Pauline Viardot leaned over the keyboard and
said with an accent of emotion never to be for-
"What is that?"
"Marie Magdeleine" I told her, "a work of
my youth which I never even hope to put on."
"What? Well, it shall be and I will be your
I at once sang again the scene of Magdalene at
Obien-aime! Sous ta sombre couronne. . . .
THE DAYS AFTER THE WAR
When Hartmann heard of this, he wanted to
play a trick on Pasdeloup, who had heard the
score not long before and who had refused it al-
most brutally, so he created, in collaboration with
Duquesnel at the Odeon, the Concert National.
The leader of the orchestra at this new popular
concert was Edouard Colonne, my old friend at
the Conservatoire, whom I had already chosen to
conduct Les Erinnyes.
Hartmann's publishing house was the ren-
dezvous for all the youngsters, including Cesar
Franck whose lofty works had not yet come into
The small shop at 17 Boulevard de la Made-
leine became the center of the musical movement.
Bizet, Saint-Saens, Lalo, Franck, and Holmes
were a part of the inner circle. Here they
chatted gaily and with every enthusiasm and ar-
dor in their faith in the great art which was to
ennoble their lives.
The first five concerts at the Concert National
were devoted to Cesar Franck and to other com-
posers. The sixth and last was given to the full
performance of Marie Magdeleine.
JOY AND SORROW
The first reading of Marie Magdeleine to the
cast took place at nine o'clock one morning in
the small hall of the Maison Erard, Rue de Mail,
which had been used heretofore for quartet con-
certs. Early as the hour was Mme. Viardot was
even earlier, so eager was she to hear the first
notes of my work. The other interpreters ar-
rived a few moments later.
Edouard Colonne conducted the orchestra re-
Mme. Viardot took a lively interest in the
reading. She followed it like an artist well ac-
quainted with the composition. She was a mar-
vellous singer and lyric tragedienne and more
than an artist ; she was a great musician, a woman
marvellously endowed and altogether unusual.
On the eleventh of April the Odeon received
the public which always attends dress rehearsals
and first nights. The theater opened its doors to
All Paris, always the same hundred persons who
JOY AND SORROW
think it the most desirable privilege in tne world
to be present at a rehearsal or a first night.
The press was represented as usual.
I took refuge with my interpreters in the wings.
They were all there and they were highly ex-
cited. In their emotion it seemed as if they were
to pass a final sentence on me, that they were
about to give a verdict on which my life de-
I can give no account of the impression of the
audience. I had to leave the next day with my
wife for Italy, so I had no immediate news.
The first echo of Marie Magdeleine reached me
at Naples in the form of a touching letter from
the ever kindly Ambroise Thomas.
This is what the master, always so delicately
attentive to everything which marked the steps of
my musical career, wrote:
PARIS, April 12, 1873
As I am obliged to go to my country place to-
day, I shall, perhaps, not have the pleasure of
seeing you before your departure. In the un-
certainty I cannot postpone telling you, my dear
friend, how pleased I was last evening and how
happy I was at your fine success.
It is at once a serious, noble work, full of feel-
ing. It is of OUT times, but you have proved that
one can walk the path of progress and still remain
clear, sober, and restrained.
You have known how to move, because you
have been moved yourself.
I was carried away like everyone else, indeed
more than anyone else.
You have expressed happily the lovely poetry
of that sublime drama.
In a mystical subject where one is tempted to
fall into an abuse of somber tones and severity of
style, you have shown yourself a colorist while
retaining charm and clearness.
Be content ; your work will be heard again and
Au revoir; with all my heart I congratulate
My affectionate congratulations to Madame
I read and re-read this dear letter. I could
not get it out of my thoughts so agreeable and
precious was the comfort it brought me.
I was lost in such delightful revery when, as
we were taking the steamer for Capri, I saw a
breathless hotel servant running towards me with
a package of letters in his hands. They were
from my friends in Paris who were delighted with
Mme. Pauline Viardot
JOY AND SORROW
my success and who were determined to express
their joy to me. A copy of the Journal des De-
bats was enclosed. It came from Ernest Reyer
and contained over his signature an article which
was most eulogistic of my work, one of the most
moving I have ever received.
I had now returned to see this charming and
intoxicating country. I visited Naples and Ca-
pri, then Sorrento, all picturesque places capti-
vatingly beautiful, perfumed with the scent of
orange trees, and all this on the morrow of a
never to be forgotten evening. I lived in the
most unutterable raptures.
A week later we were in Rome.
We had scarcely reached the Hotel de la Min-
erve when there arrived a gracious invitation to
lunch from the director of the Academic de
France, a member of the Institute, the illustrious
painter Ernest Hebert.
Several students were invited to this occasion.
We breathed the warm air of that wholly lovely
day through the open windows of the director's
salon where De Troy's magnificent tapestries rep-
resenting the story of Esther were hung.
After lunch Hebert asked me to let him hear
some of the passages from Marie Magdeleine*
Flattering accounts of it had come to him from
The next day the Villa's students invited me
in their turn. It was with the keenest emotion
that I found myself once more in that dining
room with its arched ceiling, where my portrait
was hung beside those of the other Grand Prixs.
After lunch I saw in a studio opening into the
garden the "Gloria Victis," the splendid master-
piece which was destined to make the name of
I must confess in speaking of Marie Magde-
leine that I had a presentiment that the work
would in the end gain honors on the stage.
However I had to wait twenty years before I had
that pleasant satisfaction. It verified the opin-
ion I had formed of that sacred drama.
M. Saugey, the able director of the Opera at
Nice, was the first to have the audacity to try it
and he could not but congratulate himself. On
my part I tender him my sincere thanks.
Our first Marie Magdeleine on the stage was
Lina Pacary. That born artist, in voice, beauty
and talent was fitted for the creation of this part,
and when the same theater later put on Ariane,
JOY AND SORROW
Lina Pacary was again selected as the interpreter.
Her uninterrupted success made her theatrical
life really admirable.
The year following my dear friend and director
Albert Carre put the work on at the Opera-Com-
ique. It was my good fortune to have as my in-
terpreters Mme. Marguerite Carre, Mme. Ai'no
Ackte, and Salignac.
So I lived again in Rome in the most pleasant
thoughts of Marie Magdeleine. Naturally it was
the topic of conversation on the ideal walks I
took with Hebert in the Roman Campagna.
Hebert was not only a great painter but also a
distinguished poet and musician. In the latter
capacity he played in a quartet which was often
heard at the Academic.
Ingres, also a director of the Academic, played
the violin. Delacroix was asked one day what
he thought of Ingres's violin playing.
"He plays like Raphael," was the amusing an-
swer of this brilliant colorist.
So delightful was our stay in Rome that it was
with regret that we left that city so dear to our
memories and went back to Paris.
I had hardly got back to No. 46 Rue du Gen-
eral Foy where I lived for thirty years than I
became absorbed in a libretto by Jules Adenis
I had hardly written two acts when I began to
worry about it. The piece was extremely inter-
esting, but its historical situations took me along
the road already travelled by Meyerbeer.
Hartmann agreed with me; indeed my pub-
lisher was so outspoken about it that I tore into
bits the two hundred pages which I had sub-
mitted to him.
In deep trouble, hardly knowing where I was
going, I happened to think of calling on Louis
Gallet, my collaborator in Marie Magdeleine. I
came from this interview with him with the plan
of Le Roi de Lahore. From the funeral pyre of
the last Grand Master of the Templars, Jean
Jacques de Molay, whom I had given up, I found
myself in the Paradise of India. It was the
seventh heaven of bliss for me.
Charles Lamoureux, the famous orchestra
leader, had just founded the Concerts de THar-
monie Sacree in the Cirque des Champs filysees,
which to-day has disappeared. (What a wicked
delight they take in turning a superb theater into
JOY AND SORROW
a branch of the Bank or an excellent concert
hall into a grass plot of the Champs filysees!)
As everyone knows Handel's oratorios made
these concerts famous and successful.
One snowy morning in January Hartmann in-
troduced me to Lamoureux who lived in a garden
in the Cite Frochot. I took with me the manu-
script of Eve, a mystical play in three acts.
The hearing took place before lunch. And by
the time we had reached the coffee we were in
complete accord. The work was to go to re-
hearsal with the following famous interpreters:
Mme. Brunet Lafleur and Mm. Lasalle and
Les Concerts de I'Harmonie Sacre had Eve on
the program of the eighteenth of March, 1875,
as had been arranged.
In spite of the superb general rehearsal in the
entirely empty hall that was the reason I was
there, for I had already begun to avoid the excite-
ments of public performances I waited in a
small cafe nearby for the news brought by an old
comrade, Taffanel, then the first flute player at
the Opera and at the Concerts de l'Harmonie Sa-
cree. Ah, my dear Taffanel, my departed
friend, whom I loved so well, how dear to me
were your affection and your talent when you con-
ducted my works at the Opera !
After each part Taffanel ran across the street
and told me the comforting news. After the
third part he was still encouraging, and he told
me hastily that it was all over, that the audience
had gone, and hegged me to come at once and
I believed him, but what a fraud he was ! No
sooner was I in the musicians' foyer than I was
blown like a feather into my confreres arms,
which I grabbed as hard as I could, for I now un-
derstood the trick. But they put me down on
the stage before the audience which was still
there and still applauding and waving their hats
I got up, bounced like a ball, and disappeared
I have drawn this doubtless exaggerated pic-
ture of my success because the moments which
followed were terrible for me and showed in con-
trast the vanity of the things of this world.
A servant had been searching for me all the
evening as she did not know my whereabouts in
JOY AND SORROW
Paris and she found me at last at the door of the
concert hall. With tears in her eyes she bade
me come to my mother who was very ill. My
dear mother was living in the Rue Notre-Dame-
de-Lorette. I had sent her seats for herself and
my sister and I felt sure that both of them had
Leen at the concert.
The servant and I jumped into a cab, and when
I reached the landing, my sister, with out-
stretched arms and sobbing, cried, "Mamma is
dead ... at ten o'clock this evening."
Words cannot express my deep grief at this
announcement of the terrible misfortune which
had come upon me. It darkened my days just at
the time when it seemed as if a kind heaven
wished to drive away the clouds.
In accordance with my mother's last wishes,
she was embalmed the next day. My sister and
I, both prostrated by grief, were there, when we
were surprised by the sudden appearance of Hart-
mann. I dragged him swiftly away from the
painful sight, and he hurried out, but not before
he had said,
"You are down for the cross!"
Poor mother ! how proud she would have been !
March, 21, 1875
If I had not lost your card and, consequently,
your address, for which I searched for a quarter
of an hour in the Testaccio of my papers, I would
have told you yesterday of my keen joy and deep
emotion at hearing your Eve and at its success.
The triumph of one of the Elect should be a festi-
val for the Church. And you are one of the
Elect, my dear friend; Heaven has marked you
with a sign as one of its children; I feel it in
everything which your beautiful work has stirred
in my heart. But prepare for the martyr's role
for the part which must be played by all who
come from on high and offend what comes from
below. Remember that when the Lord said,
"He is one of the Elect," he added, "And I will
show him how greatly he must suffer in my
Wherefore, my dear friend, spread forth your
wings boldly, and trust yourself fearlessly to the
lofty regions where the lead of earth cannot hit
the bird of heaven.
Yours with all my heart,
MY DEBUT AT THE OPERA
Death, which by taking away my mother had
stricken me in my dearest affections, had also
taken her mother from my dear wife. So we
lived the next summer at Fontainebleau in a sor-
rowful house of mourning.
Remembrance of the dear departed still hung
over us, when I learned on the fifth of June of
the death of Bizet. The news came like a thun-
der clap. Bizet had been a sincere and affection-
ate comrade, and I had a respectful admiration
for him although we were about the same age.
His life was very hard. He felt the spirit
within him, and he believed that his future glory
would outlive him. Carmen., famous for forty
years, appeared to those called upon to judge a
work which contained good things, although it
was somewhat incomplete, and also what did
they not say at the time? a dangerous and im-
What a lesson on too hasty judgments! . . .
On returning to Fontainebleau after the
gloomy funeral I tried to take up my life again,
and work on Le Roi de Lahore on which I had
already been busy for several months.
The summer that year was particularly hot and
enervating. I was so depressed that one day
when a tremendous storm broke I felt almost an-
nihilated and let myself fall asleep.
But if my body was lulled to sleep, my mind
remained active ; it seemed never to stop working.
Indeed my ideas seemed to profit from this invol-
untary rest imposed by Nature to put themselves
in order. I heard as in a dream my third act, the
Paradise of India, played on the stage of the
Opera. The intangible performance had, as it
were, filled my mind. The same phenomenon
happened to me on several subsequent occasions.
I never would have dared to hope it. That
day and those which followed I began to write
the rough draft of the instrumental music for
that scene in Paradise.
Between times I continued to give numerous
lessons in Paris, which I found equally oppressive
I had long since formed the habit of getting
MY DEBUT AT THE OPERA
up early. My work absorbed me from four
o'clock in the morning until midday and lessons
took up the six hours of the afternoon. Most
of the evenings were given to my pupils' parents.
We had music at their homes and we were made
much of and entertained. I have been accus-
tomed to working in the morning like this all my
life, and I still continue the practice.
After spending the winter and spring in Paris
we returned to our calm and peaceful family
home in Fontainebleau. At the beginning of
the summer of 1876 I finished the whole of the
orchestral score for Le Roi de Lahore on which I
had now spent several years.
Finishing a work is to bid good-by to the in-
describable pleasure which the labor gives one !
I had on my desk eleven hundred pages of
orchestral score and my arrangement for the
piano, which I had just finished.
What would become of this work was the ques-
tion I asked myself anxiously. Would it ever
be played? As a matter of fact it was written
for a large stage that was the danger, the dark
spot in the future.
During the preceding winter I had become ac-
quainted with that soulful poet Charles Grand-
mougin. The delightful singer of the Prome-
nades and the impassioned bard of the French
Patrie had written a sacred legend in four parts,
La Vierge, which he intended for me.
I have never been able to let my mind He idle,
and I at once started in on Grandmougin's beau-
tiful verses. Why then should bitter discour-
agement arise? I will tell you later. As a mat-
ter of fact I could stand it no longer. I must see
Paris again. It seemed to me that I would come
back relieved of my weak heartedness which I
had undergone without noticing it much.
I went to Paris on the twenty-sixth of July in-
tending to bother Hartmann with my troubles by
confessing them to him.
But I did not find him in. I strolled to the
Conservatoire to pass the time. A competition
on the violin was in progress. When I got there,
they were taking a ten minute rest, and I took
advantage of it to pay my respects to my master
Ambroise Thomas in the large room just off the
As that place, then so delightfully alive, is
to-day a desert which has been abandoned for
other quarters, I will describe what the place was
in which I grew up and lived for so many years.
MY DEBUT AT THE OPERA
The room of which I have spoken was reached
by a great staircase entered through a vestibule of
columns. As one reached the landing he saw
two large pictures done by some painter or other
of the First Empire. The door opposite opened
on a room ornamented by a large mantelpiece and
lighted by a glass ceiling in the style of the an-
The furniture was in the style of Napoleon I.
A door opened into the office of the director
of the Conservatoire, a room large enough to hold
ten or a dozen people seated about the green
cloth table or seated or standing at separate ta-
bles. The decoration of the great hall of the
Conservatoire was in the Pompeiian style in har-
mony with the room I have described.
Ambroise Thomas was leaning on the mantel-
piece. When he saw me, he smiled joyfully,
held out his arms into which I flung myself, and
said with an appearance of resignation, delightful
at the time, "Accept it; it is the first rung."
"What shall I accept?" I asked.
"What, you don't know? They gave you the
fimile Rety, the valued general secretary of
the Conservatoire, took the ribbon from his but-
tonhole and put it in mine, but not without some
difficulty. He had to open it with an ink eraser
which he found on the jury's table near the presi-
That phrase "the first rung," was delightful
and profoundly encouraging.
Now, I had only one urgent errand to see
I must confess to a feeling which enters into
my tastes to such an extent as to be indicative of
my character. I was still so youthful that I felt
uneasy about the ribbon which seemed to blaze
and draw all eyes.
My face was still moist from those lavish em-
braces and I was planning to go home to the coun-
try when I was stopped on the corner of the Rue
de la Paix by M. Halanzier, the director of the
Opera. I was surprised the more, for I believed
that I was only moderately thought of at the
Great House as a result of the refusal of my bal-
let, Le Preneur de Rats.
But M. Halanzier had a frank and open mind.
"What are you doing?" he asked. "I hear
nothing of you."
I may add that he had never spoken to me be-
MY DEBUT AT THE OPERA
"How could I dare to speak of my work to the
director of the Opera?" I replied, thoroughly
"And if I want you to?"
"Well, I have a simple work in five acts, Le Roi
de Lahore, with Louis Gallet."
"Come to my house, 18 Place Vendome, to-
morrow and bring your manuscript."
I rushed to tell Gallet, and then went home to
Fontainebleau, carrying my wife the two bits of
news, one obvious in my buttonhole, and the
other the greatest hope I had ever had.
I was at the Place Vendome the next morning
at nine o'clock. Gallet was there already.
Halanzier lived in a beautiful apartment on the
third floor of the superb mansion which formed
one of the corners of the Place Vendome.
I began the reading at once. Halanzier
stopped me so little that I went right through the
whole of the five acts. My voice was gone . . .
and my hands were useless from fatigue.
As I put my manuscript back into my old
leather portfolio and Gallet and I prepared to go:
"Well ! So you leave me no copy?"
I looked at Gallet in stupefaction.
"Then you intend to perform the work?"
"The future will tell."
I was scarcely reinstalled in our apartment in
the Rue du General Foy on my return to Paris in
October, than the morning's mail brought me the
following bulletin from the Opera:
2 heures Foyer
The parts had been given to Mile. Josephine
de Reszke her two brothers Jean and Edouard
;were to ornament the stage later on Salomon
and Lassalle, the last creating a role for the first
There was no public dress rehearsal. It was
not the custom then as it is nowadays to have a re-
hearsal for the "couturieres," then for the "col-
onelle" and, finally, the "general" rehearsal.
In spite of the obviously sympathetic demon-
strations of the orchestra and all the personnel at
the rehearsal, Halanzier announced that as they
were putting on the first work of a debutant at
the Opera, he wanted to look after everything
himself until after the first performance.
I want to record again my deep gratitude to
that singularly good director who loved youth
and protected it.
MY DEBUT AT THE OPERA
The staging, scenery and costumes were of un-
heard-of splendor; the interpretation of the first
order. . . .
The first performance of Le Roi de Lahore, the
twenty-seventh of April, 1877, was a glorious
event in my life. ^
Apropos of this I recall that on that morning
Gustave Flaubert left his card with the servant,
without even asking for me. On it were these
"This morning I pity you; to-night I shall envy
These lines show so well the admirable under-
standing of the writer of Salammbo and that im-
mortal masterpiece Madame Bovary.
The next morning I received the following
lines from the famous architect and great artist
"I do not know whether it is the hall which
makes good music ; but, sapristi, what I do know
is that I lost none of your work and found it ad-
mirable. That's the truth.
The magnificent Opera had been opened six-
teen months previously, January 5, 1875, and
the critics had considered it their duty to attack
the acoustics of that marvellous house built by
the most exceptionally competent man of modern
times. It is true that the criticism did not last,
for when one speaks of Garnier's magnificent
work it is in words which are eloquent in their
simplicity, "What a fine theater !" The hall ob-
viously has not changed, but the public which
pays to Gamier his just and rightful homage.
THE THEATERS IN ITALY
The performances of Le Roi de Lahore were
running on at the Opera and they were well at-
tended and finely done. At least that is what I
heard for I had already stopped going. Pres-
ently I left Paris where, as I have said, I devoted
myself to giving lessons, and went back to the
country to work on La Vierge.
In the meantime I had learned that the great
Italian publisher Guilio Ricordi had heard Le Roi
de Lahore at the Opera and had come to terms
with Hartmann for its production in Italy. Such
a thing was really unique, for at that time the only
works translated into Italian and given in that
country were those of the great masters. And
they had to wait a long time for their turn, while
it was my good fortune to see Le Roi de Lahore
played on the morrow of its first performance.
The first house in Italy at which this honor fell
to me was the Regio in Turin. What an unex-
pected good fortune it was to see Italy again, to
know their theaters from more than the outside,
and to go into their wings ! I found in all this a
delight which I cannot express and in this state
of rapture I passed the first months of 1878.
Hartmann and I went to Italy on the first of Feb-
With the Scala at Milan, the San Carlo at Na-
ples, the Communal Opera at Boulogne, the old
Apollo at Rome since demolished and replaced
in popular favor by the Costanzi with the Per-
gola at Florence, the Carlo Felice at Genoa, and
the Fenice at Venice, the beautiful Regio Thea-
ter, built opposite the Madame Palace on the
Piazza Castella, is one of the most noted in all
Italy. It rivaled then as it does now the
most famous houses of that classic land of the
arts to which it was always so hospitable and so
The manners at the Regio were entirely differ-
ent from those at Paris and were, as I discovered
later, much like those in Germany. Absolute
deference and punctilious exactness are the rule,
not only among the artistes but also among the
singers of the minor roles. The orchestra obeys
the slightest wish of the director.
The orchestra at the Regio at that time was
THE THEATERS IN ITALY
conducted by the master Pedrotti who was subse-
quently the director of the Rossini Conservatory
at Pesaro. He was known for his gay, viva-
cious melodies and a number of operas, among
them Tutti in maschera. His death was tragic.
I can still hear honest Pedrotti saying repeatedly
"Are you satisfied ? I am so much."
We had a famous tenor of the time, Signer
Fanselli. He had a superb voice, but a manner-
ism of spreading his arms wide open in front of
him with his fingers opened out. In spite of the
fact that an excessive fondness for this method
of giving expression is almost inevitably displeas-
ing, many other artists I have known use it to ex-
press their feelings, at least they think they do,
when, as a matter of fact, they feel absolutely
His open hands had won for this remarkable
tenor the nickname, Cinque e cinque fanno died!
(Five and five make ten ! )
Apropos of this first performance I will men-
tion the baritone Mendioroz and Signorina Me-
cocci who took part in it.
Such goings about became very frequent, for
scarcely had Hartmann and I got back to Paris
than we had to start off again for Rome where //
Re di Lahore had the honor of a first performance
on March 21, 1879.
Here I had still more remarkable artists: the
tenor Barbaccini, the baritone Kashmann, both
singers of great merit; then Signorina Mariani,
an admirable singer and tragedienne, and her
younger sister who was equally charming. M.
Giacovacci, the director at the Apollo, was a
strange old fellow, very amusing and gay, es-
pecially when he recalled the first performance
of The Barber of Seville at the Argentine Theater
in the days of his youth. He drew a most inter-
esting picture of the young Rossini and his vivac-
ity and charm. To have written The Barber of
Seville and William Tell is indeed a most striking
evidence of wit personified and also of a keen
I profited by my stay in Rome to revisit my
dear Villa Medici. It amused me to reappear
there as an author . . . how shall I say it?
Well (and so much the worse) let us say, an en-
thusiastically applauded author.
I stopped at the Hotel de Rome, opposite the
San Carlo, on the Corso.
The morning after the first performance, they
THE THEATERS IN ITALY
brought a note to my rooms I was hardly
awake, for we had come in very late which bore
"The next time you stay at a hotel, let me
know beforehand, for I haven't slept all night
with all their serenading and toasting you!
What a row! But I am pleased for your sake.
"Your old friend,
Du Locle! How could it be he! But there
he was my conductor at the birth of Don Cesar
de Bazan. I hastened to embrace him.
The morning of March 21 brought hours of
magical delight and alluring charm. I count
them as among the best that I remember.
I had obtained an audience with the newly
enthroned Pope Leo XIII. The grand salon
where I was introduced was preceded by a long
antechamber. Those who had been admitted
like myself were kneeling in a row on each side of
the room. The Pope blessed the faithful with
his right hand and spoke a few words to them.
His chamberlain told him who I was and why I
had come to Rome, and the Sovereign Pontiff
added to his benediction words of good wishes
for my art.
Leo XIII combined an unusual dignity with a
simplicity which reminded me forcibly of Pius
After leaving the Vatican I went at eleven
o'clock to the Quirinal Palace. The Marchese
di Villamarina was to present me to Queen
Margherita. We passed through a suite of five
or six rooms and in the one where we waited was
a crape-covered glass case in which were sou-
venirs of Victor Emanuel who had died only re-
cently. There was an upright piano between
the windows. The following detail was almost
theatrical in its impression. I had noticed that
an usher was stationed at the door of each of the
salons through which I had come, and I heard a
distant voice, evidently in the first room, an-
nounce loudly, La Regina, then nearer, La Re-
gina, then nearer still, La Regina, and again and
louder, La Regina, and finally in the next salon,
in ringing tones, La Regina. And the Queen ap-
peared in the salon where we were.
The Marchese di Villamarina presented me,
bowed to the Queen, and went out.
Her Majesty, in a charming voice, asked me
to excuse her for not going to the opera the eve-
ning before to hear // Capolavoro of the French
THE THEATERS IN ITALY
master, and, pointing to the glass case, said,
"We are in mourning." Then she added, "As I
was deprived of the evening, will you not let me
hear some of the motifs of the opera?"
As there was no chair beside the piano, I began
to play standing. Then I saw the Queen looking
about for a chair and I sprang towards one, placed
it in front of the piano and continued playing as
she had asked so adorably.
I was much moved when I left her Majesty and
I was deeply gratified by her gracious reception.
I passed through the numerous salons and found
the Marchese di Villamarina whom I thanked
heartily for his great courtesy.
A quarter of an hour later I was in the Via
delle Carozze, visiting Menotti Garibaldi to whom
I had a letter of introduction from a friend in
That was no ordinary morning. Indeed it
was unusual in view of the personages I had the
honor to see: His Holiness the Pope, her Majesty
the Queen, and the son of Garibaldi.
I was presented during the day to Prince Mas-
simo of the oldest Roman nobility. When I
asked, perhaps indiscreetly but with genuine
curiosity nevertheless, whether he were de-
scended from Emperor Maximus, he replied,
simply and modestly, "I do not know certainly,
but they have been sure of it in my family for
eighteen hundred years."
After the theater that evening (a superb suc-
cess), I went to supper at the house of our am-
bassador, the Duke de Montebello. At the re-
quest of the duchess I began to play the same mo-
tifs I had given in the morning before her Maj-
esty the Queen. The duchess smoked, and I re-
member that I smoked many cigarettes while I
played. That gave me the opportunity, as the
smoke rose to the ceiling, to contemplate the
marvellous paintings of the immortal Carrache,
the creator of the famous Farnese Gallery.
Again, what never to be forgotten hours !
I returned to my hotel about three in the morn-
ing where the serenade with which they enter-
tained me kept my friend du Locle awake.
Spring passed rapidly on account of my memo-
ries of my brilliant winter in Italy. I set to
work at Fontainebleau and finished La Vierge.
Then my dear wife and I set out for Milan and
the Villa d'Este.
That was a year of enthusiasms, of pure, radi-
ant joy, and its hours of unutterable good fortune
THE THEATERS IN ITALY
left a mark on my career, which was never to be
Giulio Ricordi had invited Mme. Massenet and
me, together with our dear daughter, still quite
a child, to spend the month of August at the Villa
d'Este in that marvellously picturesque country
about Lake Como. We found there Mme. Giu-
ditta Ricordi, the wife of our amiable and gra-
cious host, their daughter Ginette, a delightful
playmate for my little girl; and their sons Tito
and Manuel, small boys then but tall gentlemen
since. We also met there a lovely young girl,
a rose that had as yet scarcely blossomed, who
during our stay worked at singing with a re-
nowned Italian professor.
Arrigo Boito, the famous author of Mefistole,
who was also a guest at the Villa d'Este, was as
impressed as I was with the unusual quality of
her voice. That prodigious voice, already so
wonderfully flexible, was that of the future artiste
who was never to be forgotten in her creation of
Lakme by the glorious and regretted Leo Delibes.
I have named Marie Van Zandt.
One evening as I entered the Hotel Bella Ven-
ezia, on the Piazza San Fedele at Milan (where
even to-day I should be glad to alight) Giulio
Ricordi came to see me and introduced me to a
man of great distinction, an inspired poet, who
read me a scenario in four acts on the story of
Herodias, which was tremendously interesting.
That remarkable man of letters was Zanardini, a
descendant of one of the greatest families of Ven-
It is easy to see how suggestive and inspiring
the story of the Tetrach of Galilee, of Salome, of
John, and of Herodias would become under a pen
so rich in colors as that of the man who had
On the fifteenth of August during our stay in
Italy, Le Roi de Lahore was put on at the Vienza
Theater, and on the third of October came the
first performance at the Communal Theater at
Bologna. That was the reason for our prolonged
stay in Italy.
Our return to Fontainebleau followed imme-
diately and I had to take up my normal life again
and my unfinished work.
To my surprise I received a visit from M.
fcnile Rety the day after my return! He came
from Ambroise Thomas to offer me the place of
professor of counterpoint, fugue and composition
at the Conservatoire to replace Frangois Bazin
THE THEATERS IN ITALY
who had died some months before. He advised
me at the same time to become a candidate for
the Academic des Beaux Arts as the election of
a successor to Bazin was at hand.
What a contrast to the months of agreeable
nonsense and applause in Italy! I thought that
I was forgotten in France, whereas the truth was
the direct opposite.
THE CONSERVATOIRE AND THE INSTITUTE
I received the official notice of my nomination
as professor at the Conservatoire and I went to
Paris. I would have hardly imagined that I had
said good-by to my beloved house at Fontaine-
bleau with no hope of seeing it again.
The life which had now begun for me trans-
planted my summers of work in the midst of quiet
and peaceful solitude those summers which I
had passed so happily far from the noise and tu-
mult of the city. If books have their destiny as
the poet says (habent sua fata libelli) , does not
each one of us follow a destiny which is just as
certain and irrevocable? One cannot swim
against the stream. It is easy to swim with it,
especially if it carries one to a longed for shore.
I gave my course at the Conservatoire twice a
week, on Tuesdays and Fridays at half past one.
I confess that I was both proud and happy
to sit in that chair, in the same classroom where
as a child I had received the advice and lessons
of my master. I looked upon my pupils as other
or as new children grandchildren rather who
received the teaching which had come to me and
which seemed to filter through the memories of
the master who had imbued me with it.
The young people with whom I had to do
seemed nearly my own age, and I said to them
by way of encouraging them and urging them on
to work: "You have but one companion the
more, who tries to be as good a pupil as you are
It was touching to see the deferential affection
which they showed me from the first day. I was
completely happy when I surprised them some-
times chatting and telling their impressions of
the work given the day before or to be given to-
morrow. At the beginning of my professorship
that work was Le Roi de Lahore.
Thus I continued for eigtheen years to be both
friend and "patron," as they called me, of a con-
siderable number of young composers.
Since I took such joy in it, I may perhaps recall
the successes they won each year in the contests
in fugue, and how useful this teaching was to me,
for it obliged me to be very clever, face to face
with a task, in finding quickly what should be
done in accordance with the rigorous precepts of
How delighted I was for eighteen years when
nearly annually the Grand Prix de Rome was
awarded to a pupil in my class ! I longed to go
to the Conservatoire and heap the honors on my
I can still see, at evening in his peaceful salon
with the windows overlooking the Conservatoire's
courtyard deserted at that hour the good Ad-
ministrator-General fenile Rety listening to me
as I told him of my happiness in having assisted
in the success of "my children."
A few years ago I received a touching expres-
sion of their feeling toward me.
In the month of December, 1900, I saw come
to my publishers, where they knew they could
find me, Lucien Hillemacher, since dead, alas,
accompanied by a group of old Grand Prix. He
delivered to me on parchment the signatures of
more than five hundred of my old pupils. The
pages were bound into a thin octavo volume,
bound luxuriously in Levant morocco, spangled
with stars. On the fly-leaves in brilliant illumi-
nation, along with my name, were the two dates :
The signatures were preceded by the following
Happy at your nomination as Grand Officer of
the Legion of Honor, your pupils unite in offer-
ing you this evidence of their deep and affection-
The names of the Grand Prix of the Institute
who showed me their gratitude in this way were:
Hillemacher, Henri Rabaud, Max D'Ollone, Al-
fred Bruneau, Gaston Carraud, G. Marty, Andre
Floch, A. Savard, Croce-Spinelli, Lucien Lam-
bert, Ernest Moret, Gustave Charpentier, Rey-
naldo Hahn, Paul Vidal, Florent Schmitt, En-
esco, Bemberg, Laparra, d'Harcourt, Malherbe,
Guy Ropartz, Tiersot, Xavier Leroux, Dallier,
Falkenberg, Ch. Silver, and so many other dear
friends of the class !
Ambroise Thomas saw that I had no thought
of standing for the Institute as he had done me
the honor of advising me and was good enough
to warn me that I still had two days left in which
to send out the letter of candidature for the
Academic des Beaux Arts. He advised me to
make it short, adding that the mention of titles
was necessary only when one was able to ignore
them. This sensible remark rather wounded my
modesty. . . .
Election day was fixed for Saturday, November
30. I knew that there were many candidates
and that first and foremost among them was
Saint-Saens, whose friend and great admirer I
was and always have been.
I yielded to Ambroise Thomas without the
slightest expectation of being elected.
I had spent the day as usual giving lessons in
the various parts of Paris. That morning, how-
ever, I had said to Hartmann, my publisher, that
I should be at the house of a pupil, No. 11, Rue
Blanche, that evening between five and six.
And I said, laughing, that he would know where
to find me to announce the result whatever it was.
Whereupon Hartmann said grandiloquently, "If
you are a member of the Institute this evening, I
will ring twice and you will understand me."
I was about to begin work at the piano, my
mind all on my work, on the Promenades d'un
Solitaire., by Stephen Heller (What a dear mu-
sician, that Alfred de Musset of the piano, as
they called him!) when two sharp rings of the
bell sounded. My heart stopped. My pupil
could not make out what was the matter.
A servant dashed in and said, "There are two
gentlemen who want to embrace your professor."
Everything was explained. I went with those
"Messieurs," even more startled than happy, and
leaving my pupil probably better pleased than I
When I reached home I found that I had been
preceded by my new and famous colleagues.
They had left their congratulations with my con-
cierge signed Meissonier, Lefeul, Ballu, Cabanel.
Meissonier had brought the report of the sitting
signed by him, which showed the two votes, for
I was elected on the second ballot. That was
certainly an autograph the like of which I would
not receive twice in my life !
A fortnight later, according to the custom, I
was introduced in the Salle des Seances of the
Academic des Beaux-Arts by Comte Delaborde,
the permanent secretary.
A new member had to wear a black coat and
a white tie, and going to the reception in dress
clothes at three o'clock in the afternoon, one
would have thought I was on my way to a wed-
I took my place in the chair which I still
occupy. That takes me back more than thirty-
three years !
A few days later I wanted to take advantage of
my privileges by attending the reception of
Renan. The ushers did not know me yet, and I
was the Benjamin of the Academic. They would
not believe me and refused to let me in. One of
my colleagues, and not the least of them, Prince
Napoleon, who was going in at the same time,
told them who I was.
While I was making the usual round of visits
of thanks, I called on Ernest Reyer at his pic-
turesque apartment in the Rue de la Tour d'Au-
vergne. He opened the door himself and was
much surprised to see me for he knew I must
know that he had not been altogether favorable
to me. "I know," I said, "that you did not vote
for me. What touched me was that you did not
vote against me!" This put Reyer in good hu-
mor, for he said, "I am at lunch. Share my
fried eggs with me!" I accepted and we talked
a long time about art and its manifestations.
For over thirty years Ernest Reyer was my
best and firmest friend.
As one might imagine, the Institute did not
sensibly modify my position. Indeed it made it
somewhat more difficult, as I wanted to get on
with the score of Herodiade, and so stopped sev-
eral lessons which were my most certain sources
Three weeks after my election a monster fes-
tival took place at the Hippodrome. More than
twenty thousand people took part. Gounod and
Saint-Saens conducted their own works. I had
the honor of directing the finale of the third act
of Le Roi de Lahore. Everyone remembers the
prodigious effect of that festival which was organ-
ized by Albert Vizentini, one of the best compan-
ions of my childhood.
While I was waiting in the green-room for my
turn to go on, Gounod came in haloed with tri-
umph. I asked him what he thought of the audi-
"I fancied that I saw the Valley of Jehoso-
phat," he said.
An amusing detail was told me afterwards.
There was a considerable crowd outside and
the people kept on trying to get in notwithstand-
ing the loud protests of those already seated.
Gounod shouted so as to be heard distinctly, "I
will begin when everyone has gone out!" This
amazing exclamation worked wonders. The
groups which had blocked the entrance and ap-
proaches to the Hippodrome recoiled. They
vanished as if by magic.
The second of the Concerts Historiques,
founded by Vaucorbeil, the Director of the Na-
tional Academy of Music at the time, took place
at the Opera on May 20, 1880. He gave my sa-
cred legend La Vierge. Mme. Gabrielle Krauss
and Mile. Daram were the principals and splen-
did interpreters they were.
That work is a rather painful memory in my
life. Its reception was cold and only one frag-
ment seemed to satisfy the large audience which
filled the hall. They encored three times the
passage which is now in the repertoire of many
concerts, the prelude to Part IV, Le Dernier Som-
meil de la Vierge.
Some years later the Societe des Concerts du
Conservatoire twice gave the fourth part of La
Vierge in its entirety. Mme. Ai'no Ackte was
really sublime in her interpretation of the role of
the Virgin. This success was completely satis-
fying to me ; I had nearly said, the most precious
A FIRST PERFORMANCE AT BRUSSELS
My trips to Italy, journeys devoted to follow-
ing, if not to the preparation of, the successive
performances of Le Roi de Lahore at Milan, Pia-
cenza, Venice, Pisa and Trieste on the other side
of the Adriatic, did not prevent my working on
the score of Herodiade and it was soon finished.
Perhaps such wanderings are surprising since
they are so little to my taste. Many of my pu-
pils, however, have followed my example in this
regard and the reason is obvious. At the begin-
ning of our careers we have to give hints to the
orchestras, the stage manager, the artists and cos-
turners; the why and wherefore of each scene
must, oftentimes, be explained, and the tempo, as
given by the metronome, is little like the true one.
I have let such things go for a long time for
they take care of themselves. It is true that,
since I have been known for so many years, it
would be difficult to make a choice and decide
where I ought to go. And where should I begin
'twere among my keenest desires personally
to express my gratitude to all the directors and
artists who now know my work. As to the hints
I might have given them, they have gone ahead
and departures from the true rendering have be-
come rare, much more so than in the beginning
when both directors and artists ignored my
wishes and could not foresee them; in short,
when my works were, to them, those of an un-
I must recall, and I do so with sincere emotion,
all I owe in the great provincial houses to those
kind directors, so affectionately devoted to me:
Graviere, Saugey, Villefranck, Rachet, and many
others who can claim my thanks and my most
During the summer of 1879 I lived at the sea-
shore at Pourville near Dieppe. Hartmann, my
publisher, and Paul Milliet, my collaborator,
spent the Sundays with me. When I say with
me, I abuse the words for I kept company but lit-
tle with these excellent friends. I was accus-
tomed to work fifteen or sixteen hours a day,
sleep six hours, and my meals and dressing took
the rest of the time. It is only through such tire-
less labor continued without ceasing for years
A FIRST PERFORMANCE
that works of great power and scope can be pro-
Alexander Dumas, the Younger, whose modest
contemporary I had been at the Institute for a
year, lived in a superb property at Puys near
Dieppe. His being near often furnished me with
delightful pleasures. I was never so happy as
when he came for me at seven o'clock in the eve-
ning to take me to dinner. He brought me back
at nine o'clock so as not to take up my time. He
wanted me to have a friendly rest, and indeed it
was a rest which was both exquisite and alto-
gether delightful. It is easy to imagine what a
treat the vivacious, sparkling, alluring conversa-
tion of the celebrated Academician was to me.
How I envied him then for those artistic joys
which he had tasted and which I was to know
later! He received and kept his interpreters at
his home and made them work on their parts.
At this time Mme. Pasca, the superb comedienne,
was his guest.
The score of Herodiade was finished at the be-
ginning of 1881. Hartmann and Paul Milliet
advised me to inform the directorate of the Opera.
The three years I had given to Herodiade had
been one uninterrupted joy to me. They were
marked by a never to be forgotten and unex-
In spite of the dislike I have always had for
knocking at the doors of a theater, I had, never-
theless, to decide to speak of this work and I went
to the Opera and had an interview with M. Vau-
corbeil, the Director of the National Academy of
Music. Here is the conversation I was honored
"My dear Director, as the Opera has been in
a small way my house with Le Roi de Lahore,
permit me to speak of a new work, Herodiade."
"Who is your librettist?"
"Paul Milliet, a man of considerable talent
whom I like immensely."
"I like him immensely too ; but with him one
needs . . . (thinking of a word) ... a car-
"A carcassier!" I replied in utter astonish-
ment; "a carcassier! What kind of an animal
"A carcassier" added the eminent director,
sententiously, "a carcassier is one who knows
how to fix up in solid fashion the carcass of a
piece, and I may add that you are not enough of
a carcassier in the strictest sense of the word.
A FIRST PERFORMANCE
Bring me another work and the National Theater
of the Opera will be open to you."
I understood. The Opera was closed to me,
and some days after this painful interview I
learned that the scenery of Le Roi de Lahore had
been relegated irrevocably to the storehouse in
the Rue Richer which meant the final abandon-
One day that same summer I was walking on
the Boulevard des Capuchines, not far from the
Rue Daunou; my publisher, George Hartmann,
lived in a ground-floor apartment at the end of
the court at No. 20 of this street. My thoughts
were terribly dark. I went along with careworn
face and fainting heart deploring the deceitful
promises the directors had sprinkled on me like
holy water, when I was suddenly saluted and
stopped by one whom I recognized as M. Cala-
bresi, director of the Theatre Royal de la Monnaie
I stopped nonplussed. Must I put him too in
my collection of wooden-faced directors?
"I know," said M. Calabresi, as he accosted
me, "that you have a great work, Herodiade.
If you will give it to me, I will put it on at once
at the Theatre de la Monnaie."
"But you don't know it," I said.
"I would never dream of asking a hearing of
"Well," I replied at once, "I will inflict it on
"But I am going back to Brussels to-morrow
"This evening, then," I retorted. "I shall
expect you at eight o'clock in Hartmann's shop.
It will be closed by that time ... we shall be
I hurried to Hartmann's, radiant, and told him,
laughing and crying, what had happened to me.
A piano was brought immediately, and Paul
Milliet was hurriedly informed.
Alphonse de Rothschild, my colleague at the
Academic des Beaux Arts, knew that I had to go
to Brussels very often for the rehearsals of
Herodiade. They were about to begin at the
Theatre Royal de la Monnaie, and he wanted me
to avoid delays at the stations so he gave me a
They became so accustomed to seeing me cross
the frontier at Feignies and Quevy that I became
a real friend of the customs' officers, especially of
those on the Belgian side. I remember that to
A FIRST PERFORMANCE
thank them for their kind attentions I sent them
seats for the Theatre de la Monnaie.
A real ceremony took place at the Theatre
Royal in the month of October of this same year
1881. As a matter of fact Herodiade was the
first French work to be created on the superb
stage of the capital of Belgium.
On the appointed day, my two excellent di-
rectors, Stoumon and Calabresi, went with me
as far as the great public foyer. It was a vast
place with gilt paneling and was lighted from the
colonnaded peristyle of the theater on the Place
de la Monnaie. On the other side of the Place
(a relic of old Brussels) was the Mint and, in a
corner, the Stock Exchange. These buildings
have since disappeared and have been replaced
by a magnificent Post Office. The Exchange has
been moved to a magnificent palace a short ways
In the middle of the foyer to which I was taken
was a grand piano about which there were twenty
chairs arranged in a semi-circle. Besides the
directors, there were my publisher and my col-
laborator, as well as the artists we had selected
to create the parts. At the head of these artists
was Martha Duvivier, whose talent, fame, and
beauty fitted her for the role of Salome; Mile.
Blanche Deschamps, later the wife of the famous
orchestra leader Leon Jehin, had the role of
Herodiade; Vernet, Jean; Manoury, Herod; the
elder Gresse, Phanuel. I went to the piano,
turned my back towards the windows, and sang
all the roles including the choruses.
I was young, eager, happy, and, I add to my
shame, very greedy. But if I accuse myself, it
is to excuse myself for leaving the piano so
often to get a bite at a table laden with exquisite
food spread out on a plentiful buffet in the same
foyer. Every time I got up, the artists stopped
me as if to say, "Have pity. . . . Keep on. . . .
Continue. . . . Don't stop again." I ate al-
most all the food which had been prepared for
us all. The artists were so much pleased that
they thought more of embracing me than of eat-
ing. Why should I complain?
I lived at the Hotel de la Poste, Rue Fosse-
aux-Loups, beside the theater. In the same
room, on the ground floor on the corner of the
hotel overlooking the Rue d' Argent, I wrote, the
following autumn, the rough draft of the Sem-
inaire act of Manon. Later on I preferred to live
in the dear kindly Hotel du Grand-Monarque,
A FIRST PERFORMANCE
Rue des Fripiers, and I continued to do so until
This hotel plays a part in my deepest mem-
ories. I lived there often with Reyer, the author J
of Sigurd and of Salammbo, my colleague at
the Academic des Beaux-Arts. There, we both
lost our collaborator and friend Ernest Blau.
He died here, and in spite of the custom that no
funeral black shall be hung in front of a hotel,
Mile. Wanters, the proprietress, insisted that the
obsequies should be public and should not be
concealed from the people who lived there. In
the salon among strangers we said the tender
words of farewell to the collaborator on Sigurd
A grim detail! Our poor friend Blau dined
the evening of his death at the house of Stoumon,
the director. As he was early, he stopped in the
Rue des Sablons to look at some luxurious cof-
fins displayed in an undertaker's shop. As we
had just paid our last farewell and had placed
the mortal remains of Blau in a temporary vault
beside the casket of a young girl, which was cov-
ered with white roses, one of the bearers observed
that if he had been consulted the deceased could
not have chosen a better neighborhood. The
head undertaker reflected: "We have done
things well. M. Blau noticed a fine coffin and we
let him have it cheap."
As we came from that vast cemetery, com-
paratively empty at that time, we were all im-
pressed by the poignant grief of Mme. Jeanne
Raunay, the great artiste. She walked slowly by
the side of the great master Gevaert.
Oh, mournful winter day !
The rehearsals of Herodiade went on at the
Monnaie. They were full of delirious joy and
surprises for me. Its success was considerable.
Here is what I find in the papers of the times.
At last the great night came.
From the night before Sunday the public
formed lines at the entrance to the theater (the
cheaper seats were not sold in advance at that
time). The ticket sellers spent the whole night
in this way, and while some sold their places in
line at a high price on Monday morning, others
held on and sold places in the pit for sixty francs
on the average. A stall cost one hundred and
That evening the auditorium was taken by
Before the curtain rose, the Queen entered
A FIRST PERFORMANCE
her stage box accompanied by two ladies of honor
and Captain Chretien, the King's orderly.
In the neighboring box were their Royal High-
nesses the Count and Countess of Flanders, ac-
companied by the Baron Van den Bossch d'Hylis-
sem and Count Oultremont de Duras, grand mas-
ter of the princely household.
In the Court Boxes were Jules Devaux, chief
of the King's cabinet; Generals Goethals and
Goffinet, aides-de-camp; Baron Lunden, Colonel
Baron Anethan, Major Donny, Captain Wycker-
slooth, the King's orderlies.
In the principal boxes: M. Antonin Proust,
Minister of Fine Arts in France, with Baron
Beyens, Belgian Minister to Paris, the heads of
the cabinet, and Mme. Frere Orban, etc.
In the lower stage box: M. Buls, recently
elected Burgomaster, and the aldermen.
In the stalls and balcony were numerous peo-
ple from Paris: the composers, Reyer, Saint-
Saens, Benjamin Godard, Joncieres, Guiraud,
Serpette, Duvernois, Julien Porchet, Wormser,
Le Borne, Lecocq, etc., etc.
This brilliant emotional audience, said the
chronicles of the time, made the work a de-
Between the second and the third acts Queen
Marie Henriette summoned the composer to her
box and congratulated him warmly, as well as
Reyer whose Statue had just been given at the
The enthusiasm swelled crescendo to the end
of the evening. The last act ended amid cheers.
There were loud calls for the composer and the
curtain was raised several times, but the "author"
did not appear. As the audience was unwilling
to leave the house, the stage manager, Lapissida,
who had staged the work, finally had to announce
that the author had left as soon as the perform-
Two days after the Premiere the composer was
invited to dine at Court and a royal decree ap-
peared in the Moniteur naming him Chevalier de
1'Ordre de Leopold.
The dazzling success of the first performance
was trumpeted through the European press,
which, almost without exception, praised it in
enthusiastic terms. As to the enthusiasm of the
first days it continued persistently through fifty-
five consecutive performances, which, according
to the papers, realized four thousand francs every
evening above the subscriptions.
Herodiade, which made its first appearance on
the stage of the Monnaie December 19, 1881,
under the exceptionally brilliant circumstances
just quoted from the newspapers of Belgium as
A FIRST PERFORMANCE
well as of other countries, reappeared at this
theater, after many revivals, during the first fort-
night of November, 1911 nearly thirty years
later. Herodiade long ago passed its hundredth
performance at Brussels.
And I was already thinking of a new work.
THE ABBE PREVOST AT THE OPERA-COMIQUE
One autumn morning in 1881 I was much dis-
turbed, even anxious. Carvalho, the director of
the Opera-Comique, had entrusted to me the
three acts of Phoebe by Henri Meilhac. I had
read and re-read them, but nothing in them ap-
pealed to me; I clashed with the work which I
had to do; I was nervous and impatient.
With fine bravery I went to see Meilhac. The
happy author of so many delightful works, of
so many successes, was in his library, among his
rare books in marvellous bindings, a fortune
piled up in his rooms on the mezzanine floor in
which he lived at 30 Rue Drouot.
I can still see him writing on a small round
table beside a large table of the purest Louis XIV
style. He had hardly seen me than he smiled
his good smile, as if pleased, in the belief that
I brought news of our Phoebe.
"Is it finished?" he asked.
I retorted illico to this greeting, in a less as-
THE ABBE PREVOST AT THE OPERA
"Yes, it is finished; we will never speak of it
A lion in his cage could not have been more
abashed. My perplexity was extreme; I saw a
void, nothingness, about me, when the title of a
work struck me as a revelation.
"Manon!" I cried, pointing to one of Meil-
"Manon Lescaut, do you mean Manon Les-
"No, Manon, Manon short, Manon, it is
Meilhac had separated from Dudovic Halevy
a little while before and had associated himself
with Philippe Gille, that fine, delightful mind, a
tender-hearted and charming man.
"Come to lunch with me to-morrow at Va-
chette's," said Meilhac, "and I will tell you what
I have done . . ."
It is easy to imagine whether in keeping this
engagement I had more curiosity in my heart or
appetite in my stomach. I went to Vachette's
and there to my inexpressible and delightful sur-
prise I found beneath my napkin the first two
acts of Manon. The other three acts followed
within a few days.
The idea of writing this work had haunted me
for a long time. Now the dream was realized.
Although I was much excited by the rehearsals
of Herodiade and greatly upset by my frequent
trips to Brussels, I was already at work on Manon
in the summer of 1881.
Meilhac went to live that summer in the Pavil-
lion Henri IV at Saint-Germain. I used to sur-
prise him there about five o'clock in the after-
noon, when I knew the day's work would be done.
Then, as we walked, we worked out new arrange-
ments in the words of the opera. Here we de-
cided on the Seminaire act, and, to bring off a
greater contrast at the end of it, I demanded the
act of Transylvania.
How pleased I was in this collaboration, in
that work in which we exchanged ideas with never
a clash, in the mutual desire of reaching perfec-
tion if possible.
Philippe Gille shared in this useful collabora-
tion from time to time, and his presence was dear
What tender, pleasing memories I have of this
time at Saint-Germain, with its magnificent ter-
race, and the luxuriant foliage of its beautiful
THE ABBE PREVOST AT THE OPERA
forest. My work was well along when I had to
return to Brussels at the beginning of the sum-
mer of 1882. During my different sojourns at
Brussels I made a delightful friend in Frederix,
who showed rare mastery of the pen in his
dramatic and lyric criticism in the columns of the
Independance beige. He occupied a prominent
position in journalism in his own country and
was highly appreciated as well by the French
He was a man of great worth, endowed with
a charming character. His expressive, spirituel,
open countenance rather reminded me of the old-
est of the Coquelins. He was among the first
of those dear good friends I have known whose
eyes have closed in the long sleep, alas ! and who
are no more either for me or for those who loved
Our Salome, Martha Duvivier, had continued
to sing the role in Herodiade throughout the new
season, and had installed herself for the summer
in a country house near Brussels. My friend
Frederix carried me off there one day and, as I
had the manuscript of the first acts of Manon
with me, I risked an intimate reading before him
and our beautiful interpreter. The impression
I took away with me was an encouragement to
keep on with the work.
The reason I returned to Belgium at this time
was that I had been invited to go to Holland un-
der conditions which were certainly amusing.
A Dutch gentleman, a great lover of music,
with phlegm more apparent than real, as is often
the case with those Rembrandt's country sends
us, made me the most singular visit, as unex-
pected as it well could be. He had learned that
I was working on the romance of the Abbe Pre-
vost, and he offered to install my penates at the
Hague, in the very room in which the Abbe had
lived. I accepted the offer, and I went and shut
myself up this was during the summer of 1882
in the room which the author of Les Memories
d'un homme de qualite had occupied. His bed,
a great cradle, shaped like a gondola, was still
The days slipped by at the Hague in dream-
ing and strolling over the dunes of Schleveningin
or in the woods around the royal residence.
There I made delightfully exquisite little friends
of the deer who brought me the fresh breath of
their damp muzzles.
THE ABBE PREVOST AT THE OPERA
It was now the spring of 1883 I had re-
turned to Paris and, as the work was finished, an
appointment was made at M. Carvalho's. I
found there our director, Mme. Miolan Car-
valho, Meilhac, and Philippe Gille. Manon was
read from nine in the evening until midnight.
My friends appeared to be delighted.
Mme. Carvalho embraced me joyfully, and
"Would that I were twenty years younger!"
I consoled the great artiste as best I could.
I wanted her name on the score and I dedicated
it to her.
We had to find a heroine and many names were
suggested. The male roles were taken by Tala-
zac, Taskin and Cobalet a superb cast. But
no choice could be made for Manon. Many had
talent, it was true, and even great fame, but I
did not feel that a single artist answered for the
part as I wanted it and could play the perfidious
darling Manon with all the heart I had put into
However, I found a young artist, Mme. Vail-
lant Couturier, who had such attractive vocal
qualities that I trusted her with a copy of sev-
eral passages of the score. I made her work at
them at my publisher's. She was indeed my
They were playing at this time at Les Nou-
veautes one of Charles Lecocq's great successes.
My great friend, Marquis de la Valette, a Parisian
of the Parisians, dragged me there one evening.
Mile. Vaillant later Mme. Couturier the
charming artiste of whom I have spoken, played
the leading part adorably. She interested me
greatly ; to my eyes she greatly resembled a young
flower girl on the Boulevard Capucines. I had
never spoken to this delightful young girl (proh
pudor) but her looks obsessed me and her mem-
ory accompanied me constantly; she was exactly
the Manon I had had in my mind's eye during
I was carried away by the captivating artiste
of Les Nouveautes, and I asked to speak to the
friendly director of the theater, a free and open
man, and an incomparable artist.
"Illustrious master" he began, "what good
wind brings you ? You are at home here, as you
"I came to ask you to let me have Mile. Vail-
lant for a new opera."
"Dear man, what you want is impossible; I
THE ABBE PREVOST AT THE OPERA
need Mile. Vaillant. I can't let you have her."
"Do you mean it?"
"Absolutely, but I think that if you would
write a work for my theater, I would let you have
this artiste. Is it a bargain, bibi?"
Matters stayed there with only vague prom-
ises on both sides.
While this dialogue was going on, I noticed
that the excellent Marquis de La Valette was
much occupied with a pretty gray hat covered
with roses passing back and forth in the foyer.
All at once I saw the pretty hat coming to-
"So a debutant no longer recognizes a debu-
"Heilbronn!" I exclaimed.
Heilbronn recalled the dedication written on
the first work I had done and in which she had
made her first appearance on the stage.
"Do you still sing?"
"No, I am rich, but nevertheless Shall I
tell you? I miss the stage. It haunts me.
Oh, if I could only find a good part!"
"I have one in Manon."
"No, Manon. That is all."
"May I hear the music?"
"When you like."
"Impossible, it is nearly midnight."
"What? I can't wait till morning. I feel
that there is something in it. Go and get the
score. You will find me in my apartment (the
artiste lived in the Champs filysees) with the
piano open and the lights lit."
I did as she said.
I went home and got the score. Half-past
four had struck when I sang the final bars of
During my rendering Heilbronn was moved to
tears. I heard her sigh through her sobs, "It is
my life . . . that is my life."
This time, as ever has been the case, the secpiel
showed that I was right to wait, to take time in
choosing an artist who would have to live my
The day after he heard Manon, Carvalho
signed the contract.
The following year, after more than eighty
consecutive performances, I learned of Marie
Heilbronn's death! . . .
THE ABBE PREVOST AT THE OPERA
I preferred to stop the performances rather
than to see it sung by another. Some time after-
wards the Opera-Comique went up in flames.
Manon was not given again for ten years. Dear
unique Sybil Sanderson took up the work at the
Opera-Comique and she played in the two-hun-
A glory was reserved for me on the five hun-
dredth performance. Manon was sung by
Marguerite Carre. A few months ago this cap-
tivating, exquisite artist was applauded on the
evening of the 740th performance.
In passing I want to pay tribute to the beauti-
ful artistes who have taken the part. I will men-
tion Miles. Mary Garden, Geraldine Farrar, Lina
Cavalieri, Mme. Brejean-Silver, Miles. Courte-
nay, Genevieve Vix, Mmes. Edvina and Nicot-
Vauchelet, and still other dear artistes. They
will pardon me if all their names do not come to
my grateful pen at the moment.
The Italian Theatre (Maurel's Season), as I
have already said, put on Herodiade two weeks
after the first performance of Manon, with the
following admirable artists: Fides Devries,
Jean de Reszke, Victor Maurel, Edouard de
As I write these lines in 1911, Herodiade con-
tinues its career at the Theatre-Lyrique de la
Gaite (under the management of the Isola
brothers) who put on the work in 1903 with the
famous Emma Calve. The day after the first
performance of Herodiade in Paris I received
these lines from our illustrious master, Gounod:
Sunday, February 3, '84.
My dear Friend:
The noise of your success with Herodiade
reaches me; but I lack that of the work itself,
and I shall go to hear it as soon as possible, prob-
ably Saturday. Again new congratulations, and
Good luck to you,
Meanwhile Marie Magdeleine went on its
career in the great festivals abroad. I recall the
following letter which Bizet wrote me some years
before with deep pride.
Our school has not produced anything like it.
You give me the fever, brigand.
You are a proud musician, I'll wager.
My wife has just put Marie Magdeleine under
lock and key !
That detail is eloquent, is it not?
The devil! You've become singularly dis-
THE ABBE PREVOST AT THE OPERA
As to that, believe me that no one is more sin-
cere in his admiration and in his affection than
That is the testimony of my excellent comrade
and affectionate friend, George Bizet a friend
and comrade who would have remained stead-
fast had not blind destiny torn him from us in
the full bloom of his prodigious and marvelous
Still in the dawn of life when he passed from
this world, he could have compassed everything
in the art to which he devoted himself with so
As is my custom, I did not wait for Motions
fate to be decided before I began to plague my
publisher, Hartmann, to wake up and find me a
new subject. I had hardly finished my plaint,
to which he listened in silence with a smile on
his lips, than he went to a desk and took out five
books of manuscript written on the yellow paper
which is well known to copyists. It was Le Cid,
an opera in five acts by Louis Gallet and Edouard
Blatt. As he offered me the manuscript, Hart-
mann made this comment to which I had noth-
ing to reply, "I know you. I had foreseen this
I was bound to be pleased at writing a work
based on the great Corneille's masterpiece, the
libretto due to the fellow workers I had had in
the competition for the Imperial Opera, La Coup
de TOI de Thule, in which, as I have said, I failed
to win the first prize.
I learned the words by heart, as I always did.
I wanted to have it constantly in my thoughts,
without being compelled to keep the text in my
pocket, so as to be able to work at it away from
home, in the streets, in society, at dinner, at the
theater, anywhere that I might find time. I get
away from a task with difficulty, especially when,
as in this case, I am gripped by it.
As I worked I remembered that d'Ennery
sometime before had entrusted to me an impor-
tant libretto and that I had found a very moving
situation in the fifth act. While the words did
not appear sufficiently worth while to lead me to
write the music, I wanted to keep this situation.
I told the famous dramatist and I obtained his
consent to interpolate this scene in the second
act of Le Cid. Thus d'Ennery became a col-
laborator. This scene is where Chimene finds
that Rodriguez is her father's murderer.
Some days later, as I was reading the romance
of Guilhem de Castro, I came across an incident
which became the tableau where the consoling
apparition appears to the Cid as he is in tears
the second tableau in the third act. I was in-
spired to this by the apparition of Jesus to Saint
Julien the Hospitalier.
I continued my work on Le Cid wherever I
happened to be, as the performances of Manon
took me to the provincial theaters where they al-
ternated it with Herodiade both in France and
I wrote the ballet for Le Cid at Marseilles dur-
ing a rather long stay there. I was very com-
fortably established in my room, at the Hotel
Beauveau, with its long latticed windows which
looked out on the old port. The prospect was
actually fairylike. This room was decorated
with remarkable panels and mirrors, and when I
expressed my astonishment at seeing them so
well preserved, the proprietor told me that the
room was an object of special care because Pagan-
ini, Alfred de Musset and George Sand had all
lived there once upon a time. The cult of mem-
ories sometimes reaches the point of fetishism.
It was spring. My room was scented with
bunches of carnations which my friends in Mar-
seilles sent me every day. When I say friends,
the word is too weak; perhaps it is necessary to
go to mathematics to get the word, and even
The friends in Marseilles heaped upon me con-
sideration, attention and endless kindness.
That is the country where they sweeten the cof-
fee by placing it outside on the balcony, for the
sea is made of honey !
Before I left the kind hospitality of this Pho-
cean city, I received the following letter from
the directors of the Opera, Ritt and Gailhard:
"My dear Friend,
"Can you set the day and hour for your read-
ing of Le Cid?
But I had brought from Paris keen anguish
about the distribution of the parts. I wanted the
sublime Mme. Fides Devries to create the part of
Chimene, but they said that since her marriage
she no longer wanted to appear on the stage.
I also depended on my friends Jean and Edouard
de Reszke, who came to Paris especially to talk
about Le Cid. They were aware of my plans for
them. How many times I climbed the stairs of
the Hotel Scribe where they lived!
At last the contracts were signed and finally
the reading took place as the Opera requested.
As I speak of the ballet in Le Cid I remember
I heard the motif, which begins the ballet, in
Spain. I was in the very country of Le Cid at
the time, living in a modest inn. It chanced that
they were celebrating a wedding and they danced
all night in the lower room of the hotel. Several
guitars and two flutes repeated a dance tune
until they wore it out. I noted it down. It be-
came the motif I am writing about, a bit of local
color which I seized. I did not let it get away.
I intended this ballet for Mile. Rosita Mauri who
had already done some wonderful dances at the
Opera. I even owed several interesting rhythms
to the famous dancer.
The land of the Magyars and France have been
joined at all times by bonds of keen, cordial sym-
pathy. It was not a surprise, therefore, when
the Hungarian students invited forty Frenchmen
I was one to go to Hungary for festivities
which they intended to give in our honor.
We started a joyous caravan one beautiful
evening in August for the banks of the Danube,
Frangois Coppee, Leo Delibes, Georges Clairin,
Doctors Pozzi and Albert Rodin, and many other
comrades and charming friends. Then, some
newspaper men went along. Ferdinand de Les-
seps was at our head to preside over us, by right
of name if not by fame. Our illustrious com-
patriot was nearly eighty at the time. He bore
the weight of years so lightly that for a moment
one would have thought he was the youngest in
We started off in uproarious gaiety. The
journey was one uninterrupted flow of jests and
humorous wit, intermingled with farce and end-
The restaurant car was reserved for us. We
did not leave it all night and our sleeping car was
As we went through Munich, the Orient Ex-
press stopped for five minutes to let off two trav-
elers, a man and a woman, who, we did not know
how, had contrived to squeeze into a corner of
the dining car and who had calmly sat through
all our follies. As they left the train, they made
in a foreign accent this rather sharp remark,
"Those distinguished persons seem rather com-
mon." We certainly did not intend to displease
that puritanical pair and we never overstepped
the bounds of joviality and fun.
That fortnight's journey continued full of in-
cidents in which jokes contended with burlesque.
Every evening, after the warmly enthusiastic
receptions of the Hungarian youth, Ferdinand
de Lesseps, our venerated chief, who was called
in all the Hungarian speeches the "Great French-
man," would leave us after fixing the order of
the next day's receptions. As he finished ar-
ranging our program, he would add, "To-mor-
row morning, at four o'clock, in evening dress."
And the "Great Frenchman" would be the first
one up and dressed. When we congratulated
him on his extraordinary youthful energy, he
would apologize as follows: "Youth must wear
During the festivities of every kind which they
got up in our honor, they arranged for a gala
spectacle, a great performance at the Theatre
Royal in Budapest. Delibes and I were both
asked to conduct an act from one of our works.
When I reached the orchestra, amid hurrahs
from the audience, only in Hungary they shout,
"Elyen," I found on the desk the score ... of
the first act of Coppelia, when I had expected to
find before me the third act of Herodiade for me
to conduct. So much the worse! There was
no help for it and I had to beat time from
The plot thickened.
When Delibes, who had received the same
honors that I had, saw the third act of Herodiade
on his desk, with me rejoining my companions
The Forum from the First Act of Roma. See page 300
in the audience, he presented a unique spectacle.
My poor dear great friend mopped his brow,
turned this way and that, drew long breaths,
begged the Hungarian musicians who didn't
understand a word he said to give him the right
score, but all in vain.
He had to conduct from memory. This
seemed to exasperate him, but Delibes, the ador-
able musician, was far above a little difficulty like
After this entertainment we were all present
at an immense banquet where naturally enough
toasts were de rigeur. I offered one to that great
musician, Franz Liszt Hungary was honored in
giving him birth.
When Delibes's turn came, I suggested to him
that I collaborate in his speech as we had done at
the Opera with our scores. I spoke for him; he
spoke for me. The result was a succession of
incoherent phrases which were received by the
frantic applause of our compatriots and by the
enthusiastic "Elyens" of the Hungarians.
I will add that Delibes and I, like all the rest,
were in a state of delightful intoxication, for the
marvellous vineyards of Hungary are verily those
of the Lord himself. Something must be the
matter with one's head, if he does not enjoy the
charm of those wines with their voluptuous,
Four o'clock in the morning! We were, as
ordered, in evening dress (indeed we had not
changed it) and ready to go to lay wreaths on
the tomb of the forty Hungarian martyrs who
had died to free their country.
But through all these mad follies, all these
distractions, and impressive ceremonies, I was
thinking of the rehearsals of Le Cid which were
waiting for my return to Paris. When I got
back, I found another souvenir of Hungary, a
letter from the author of La Messe du Saint Graal,
the precursor of Parsifal:
"Most Honored Confrere:
"The Hungarian Gazette informs me that you
have testified benevolently in my favor at the
French banquet at Budapest. Sincere thanks
and constant cordiality.
26 August, '85. Weimar.
The stage rehearsals of Le Cid at the Opera
were carried on with astonishing sureness and
skill by my dear director, P. Gailhard, a master
of this art who had been besides the most admir-
able of artists on the stage. He did everything
for the good of the work with an affectionate
friendship. It is my pleasant duty to pay him
honor for this.
Later on I found him the same invaluable col-
laborator when Ariane was put on at the Opera.
On the evening of November 20, 1885, the
Opera billed the first performance of Le Cid,
while the Opera-Comique played the same eve-
ning Manon, which had already passed its eight-
In spite of the good news from the general
rehearsal of Le Cid, I spent the evening with the
artists at Manon. Needless to say all the talk in
the wings of the Opera-Comique was of the first
performance of Le Cid which was then in full
Despite my apparent calmness, in my inmost
heart I was extremely anxious, so the curtain had
hardly fallen on the fifth act of Manon than I
went to the Opera instead of going home. An
irresistible power pulled me thither.
As I skirted the outside of the house from
which an elegant and large crowd was pouring,
I overheard a snatch of conversation between a
well known journalist and a reporter who hur-
riedly inquired the results of the evening. "It
is splitting, my dear chap."
I was greatly troubled, as one would be in any
case, and ran to the directors' room for further
news. At the artists' entrance I met Mme.
Krause. She embraced me in raptures and said,
"It's a triumph!"
Need I say that I preferred the opinion of this
admirable artiste. She comforted me com-
I left Paris (what a traveler I was then!) for
Lyons, where they were giving both Herodiade
Three days after my arrival there, as I was
dining at a restaurant with my two great friends
Josephin Soulary, the fine poet of Les Deux
Corteges, and Paul Marieton, the vibrant provin-
cial poet, I was handed the following telegram
from Hartmann :
"Fifth performance of Le Cid postponed a
month. Enormous advance sale returned. Ar-
I was nervous at the time ; I fainted away and
remained unconscious so long that my friends
were greatly alarmed.
At the end of three weeks, however, Le Cid
reappeared on the bills, and I realized once more
that I was surrounded by deep sympathy, as the
following letter shows:
"My dear Confrere:
"I must congratulate you on your success and
I want to applaud you as quickly as possible.
My turn for my box does not come around until
Friday, December llth, and I beg you to arrange
for Le Cid to be given on that day, Friday, De-
How touched and proud I was at this mark
of attention from his Royal Highness the Due
I shall always remember the delightful and
inspiring days passed at the Chateau de Chan-
tilly with my confreres at the Institute Leon Bon-
nat, Benjamin Constant, Edouard Detaille, and
Ger6me. Our reception by our royal host was
charming in its simplicity and his conversation
was that of an eminent man of letters, erudite
but unpretentious. It was captivating and at-
tractive for us when we all gathered in the library
where the prince enthralled us by his perfect
simplicity as he talked to us, pipe in his mouth,
as he had so often done in camp among our sol-
Only the great ones of earth know how to pro-
duce such moments of delightful familiarity.
And Le Cid went on its way both in the prov-
inces and abroad.
In October, 1900, the hundredth perform-
ance was celebrated at the Opera and on Novem-
ber 21, 1911, at the end of twenty-six years, I
read in the papers:
"The performance of Le Cid last night was
one of the finest. A packed house applauded
enthusiastically the beautiful work by M. Mas-
senet and his interpreters: Mile. Breval, Mm.
Franz and Delmas, and the star of the ballet,
I had been particularly happy in the perform-
ances of this work which had preceded this.
After the sublime Fides Devries, Chimene was
sung in Paris by the incomparable Mme. Rose
Caron, the superb Mme. Adiny, the moving Mile.
Merentie, and particularly by Louise Grandjean,
the eminent professor at the Conservatoire.
A JOURNEY TO GERMANY
On Sunday, August first, Hartmann and I
went to hear Parsifal at the Wagner Theater at
Bayreuth. After we had heard this miracle
unique we visited the capital of Upper Franconia.
Some of the monuments there are worth while
seeing. I wanted especially to see the city
church. It is an example of the Gothic archi-
tecture of the middle of the Fifteenth Century
and was dedicated to Mary Magdalene. It is
not hard to imagine what memories drew me to
this remarkable edifice.
After running through various German towns
and visiting different theaters, Hartmann, who
had an idea of his own, took me to Wetzler, where
he had seen Werther. We visited the house
where Goethe had written his immortal romance,
The Sorrows of Young Werther.
I knew Werther's letters and I had a thrilling
recollection of them. I was deeply impressed
by being in the house which Goethe made famous
by having his hero live and love there.
As we were coming out Hartmann said, "I
have something to complete the obviously deep
emotion you have felt."
As he spoke, he drew from his pocket a book
with a binding yellow with age. It was the
French translation of Goethe's romance. "This
translation is perfect," said Hartmann, in spite
of the aphorism Traduttore traditore, that a trans-
lation utterly distorts the author's thought.
I scarcely had the book in my hands than I
was eager to read it, so we went into one of those
immense beer halls which are everywhere in
Germany. We sat down and ordered two enor-
mous bocks like our neighbors had. Among the
various groups were students who were easily
picked out by their scholars' caps and were play-
ing cards or other games, nearly all with porce-
lain pipes in their mouths. On the other hand
there were few women.
It is needless to tell what I endured in that
thick, foul air laden with the bitter odor of beer.
But I could not stop reading those burning letters
full of the most intense passion. Indeed what
could be more suggestive than the following
A JOURNEY TO GERMANY
lines, remembered among so many others, where
keen anguish threw Werther and Charlotte into
each other's arms after the thrilling reading of
Ossian's verses ?
"Why awakest me, breath of the Spring?
Thou caresseth me and sayeth I am laden with
the dew of heaven, but the time cometh when I
must wither, the storm that must beat down my
leaves is at hand. To-morrow the traveler will
come ; his eye will seek me everywhere, and find
me no more. ..."
And Goethe adds:
"Unhappy Werther felt crushed by the force
of these words and threw himself before Char-
lotte in utter despair. It seemed to Charlotte
that a presentiment of the frightful project he
had formed passed through her soul. Her
senses reeled ; she clasped his hands and pressed
them to her bosom; she leaned towards him ten-
derly and their burning cheeks touched."
Such delirious, ecstatic passion brought tears
to my eyes. What a moving scene, what a pas-
sionate picture that ought to make! It was
Werther, my third act.
I was now all life and happiness. I was
wrapped up in work and in an almost feverish
activity. It was a task I wanted to do but into
which I had to put, if possible, the song of those
moving, lively passions.
Circumstances, however, willed that I put this
project aside for the moment. Carvalho pro-
posed Phoebe to me and chance led me to write
Then came Le Cid to fill my life. At last in
the summer of 1885, without waiting for the
result of that opera, Hartmann, Paul Milliet, my
great, splendid collaborator in Herodiade, and I
came to an agreement to take up the task of writ-
In order to incite me to work more ardently
(as if I had need of it) my publisher he had
improvised a scenario engaged for me at the
Reservoirs at Versailles, a vast ground floor apart-
ment on the level of the gardens of our great
The room in which I was installed had a lofty
ceiling with Eighteenth Century paneling and it
was furnished in the same period. The table at
which I wrote was the purest Louis XV. Hart-
mann had chosen everything at the most famous
Hartmann had special aptitude for doing his
A JOURNEY TO GERMANY
share of the work. He spoke German very well;
he understood Goethe; he loved the German
mind; he stuck to it that I should undertake the
So, when one day it was suggested that I write
an opera on Murger's La Vie de Boheme, he took
it on himself to refuse the work without consult-
ing me in any way.
I would have been greatly tempted to do the
thing. I would have been pleased to follow
Henry Murger in his life and work. He was an
artist in his way. Theophile Gautier justly
called him a poet, although he excelled as a
writer of prose. I feel that I could have fol-
lowed him through that peculiar world he cre-
ated and which he has made it possible for us to
cross in a thousand ways in the train of the most
amusing originals we had ever seen. And such
gaiety, such tears, such outbursts of frantic
laughter, and such courageous poverty, as Jules
Janin said, would, I think, have captivated me.
Like Alfred de Musset one of his masters he
had grace and style, ineffable tenderness, glad-
some smiles, the cry of the heart, emotion. He
sang songs dear to the hearts of lovers and they
charm us all. His fiddle was not a Stradivarius,
they said, but he had a soul like Hoffman's and
he knew how to play so as to bring tears.
I knew Murger personally, in fact so well that
I even saw him the night of his death. I was
present at a most affecting interview while I was
there, but even that did not lack a comic note. It
could not have been otherwise with Murger.
I was at his bedside when they brought in M.
Schaune (the Schaunardo of La Vie de Boheme) .
Murger was eating magnificent grapes he had
bought with his last louis and Schaune said
laughing, "How silly of you to drink your wine
As I knew not only Murger but also Schaunard
and Musette, it seemed to me that there was no
one better qualified than I to be the musician of
La Vie de Boheme. But all those heroes were
my friends and I saw them every day, so that I
understood why Hartmann thought the moment
had not come to write that so distinctly Parisian
work, to sing the romance that had been so great
a part of my life.
As I speak of that period which is already in
the distant past, I glory in recalling that I knew
Corot at Ville-d'Avray, as well as our famous
Harpigmes, who despite his ninety-two years is,
as I write, in all the vigor of his immense talent.
Only yesterday he climbed gaily to my floor.
Oh, the dear great friend, the marvellous artist
I have known for fifty years !
When the work was done, I went to M. Car-
valho's on the twenty-fifth of May. I had se-
cured Mme. Rose Caron, then at the Opera, to
aid me in my reading. The admirable artiste
was beside me turning the pages of the manu-
script and showing the deepest emotion at times.
I read the four acts by myself, and when I reached
the climax, I fell exhausted, annihilated.
Then Carvalho came to me without a word,
but he finally said:
"I had hoped you would bring me another
Manon! This dismal subject lacks interest. It
is damned from the start."
As I think this over to-day, I understand his
impression perfectly, especially when I reflect on
the years I had to live before the work came to
Carvalho was kind and offered me some ex-
quisite wine, claret, I believe, like what I had
tasted one joyous evening I read Manon. . . .
My throat was as dry as my speech; I went out
without saying a word.
The next day, horresco referens, yes, the next
day I was again struck down, the Opera-Comique
was no more. It had heen totally destroyed by
fire during the night. I hurried to Carvalho's.
We fell into each other's arms, embraced each
other in tears and wept. My poor director was
ruined. Inexorable fate! The work had to
wait six years in silence and oblivion.
Two years before the Opera at Vienna had put
on Manon; the hundredth performance was
reached and passed in a short time. The Aus-
trian capital had given me a friendly and envi-
able reception; so much so that it suggested to
Van Dyck the idea of asking me for a work.
Now I proposed Wenher. The lack of good
will on the part of the French directors left me
free to dispose of that score.
The Vienna Opera was an imperial theater.
The management asked the Emperor to place an
apartment at my disposal and he graciously of-
fered me one at the famous Hotel Sacher beside
My first call after my arrival was on Jahn, the
director. That kindly, eminent master took me
to the foyer where the rehearsals were to be held.
It was a vast room, lighted by immense windows
A JOURNEY TO GERMANY
and provided with great chairs. A full length
portrait of Emperor Francis Joseph ornamented
one of the panels ; there was a grand piano in the
center of the room.
All the artists for Werther were gathered
around the piano when Jahn and I entered the
foyer. As they saw us they rose in a body and
bowed in salutation.
At this touching manifestation of respectful
sympathy to which our great Van Dyck added
a most affectionate embrace I responded by
bowing in my turn ; and then a little nervous and
trembling all over I sat down at the piano.
The work was absolutely in shape. All the
artists could sing their parts from memory. The
hearty demonstrations they showered on me at
intervals moved me so that I felt tears in my
At the orchestra rehearsal this emotion was
renewed. The execution was perfection ; the or-
chestra, now soft, now loud, followed the shad-
ing of the voice so that I could not shake off the
The general rehearsal took place on February
fifteenth from nine o'clock in the morning until
midday and I saw (an ineffable, sweet surprise)
in the orchestra stalls my dear publisher, Henri
Heugel, Paul Milliet, my precious co-worker, and
intimate friends from Paris. They had come so
far to see me in the Austrian capital amid great
and lively joys, for I had really been received
there in the most exquisite and flattering manner.
The performances that followed confirmed the
impressions of the beautiful first performance of
February 16, 1892. The work was sung by the
celebrated artists Marie Renard and Ernest Van
That same year, 1892, Carvalho again became
the director of the Opera-Comique, then in the
Place du Chatelet. He asked me for Werther,
and in a tone so full of feeling that I did not hesi-
tate to let him have it.
The same week Mme. Massenet and I dined
with M. and Mme. Alphonse Daudet. The other
guests were Edmond de Goncourt and Charpen-
tier, the publisher.
After dinner Daudet told me that he wanted
me to hear a young artiste. "Music herself," he
said. This young girl was Marie Delna! At
the first bars that she sang (the aria from the
great Gounod's La Reine de Saba) I turned to
her and took her hands.
A JOURNEY TO GERMANY
"Be Charlotte, our Charlotte," I said, utterly
The day after the first performance at the
Opera- Comique, in January, 1893, I received
this note from Gounod:
"Our most hearty congratulations on this
double triumph and we regret that the French
were not the first witnesses."
The following touching and picturesque lines
were sent me at the time by the illustrious archi-
tect of the Opera.
Two eyes to see you,
Two ears to hear you,
Two lips to kiss you,
Two arms to enfold you,
Two hands to applaud you.
"Two words to give thee all my compliments
and to tell thee that thy Werther is an excellent
hit do you know? I am proud of you, and for
your part do not blush that a poor architect is en-
tirely satisfied with you.
In 1903, after nine years of ostracism, M.
Albert Carre revived this forgotten work. With
his incomparable talent, his marvellous taste,
and his art, which was that of an exquisite man
of letters, he knew how to present the work to the
public so as to make it a real revelation.
Many famous artistes have sung the role since
that time: Mile. Marie de 1'Isle, who was the
first Charlotte at the revival and who created the
work with her fine, individual talents ; then Miles.
Lamare, Cesbron, Wyns, Raveau, Mmes. de
Nuovina, Vix, Hatto, Brohly, and . . . others
whose names I will give later.
At the revival due to M. Albert Carre, Werther
had the great good fortune to have Leon Beyle
as the protagonist of the part; later Edmond
Clement and Salignac were also superb and thrill-
ing interpreters of the work.
But to go back to the events the day after the
destruction of the Opera-Comique.
The Opera-Comique was moved to the Place
du Chatelet, in the old theater called Des Na-
tions, which later became the Theatre Sarah
Bernhardt. M. Paravey was appointed director.
I had known him when he directed the Grand-
Theatre at Nantes with real talent.
Hartmann offered him two works: Edouard
Lalo's Le Roi d'Ya and my W either on suffer-
I was so discouraged that I preferred to wait
before I let the work see the light.
I have just written about its genesis and des-
One day I received a friendly invitation to dine
with a great American family. After I had de-
clined, as I most often did I hadn't time, in
addition to not liking that sort of distraction
they insisted, however, so graciously that I could
not persist in my refusal. It seemed to me that
perhaps my afflicted heart might meet something
there which would turn aside my discourage-
ments. Does one ever know? . . .
I was placed beside a lady who composed mu-
sic and had great talent. On the other side of
my neighbor was a French diplomat whose ami-
able compliments surpassed, it seemed to me, all
limits. Est modus in rebus, there are limits in
all things, and our diplomat should have been
guided by this ancient saying together with the
counsel of a master, the illustrious Talleyrand,
"Pas de zele, surtout!"
I would not think of telling the exact conversa-
tion which occurred in that charming place any
more than I would think of giving the menu of
what we had to eat. What I do remember is a
salad a disconcerting mixture of American,
English, German, and French.
But my French neighbors occupied my entire
attention, which gave me the chance to remem-
ber this delightful colloquy between the lady
composer and the diplomat.
The Gentleman. "So you are ever the child
of the Muses, a new Orphea?"
The Lady. "Isn't music the consolation of
souls in distress?"
The Gentleman (insinuatingly). "Do you
not find that love is stronger than sounds in ban-
ishing heart pain?"
The Lady. "Yesterday, I was consoled by
writing the music to 'The Broken Vase.' '
The Gentleman (poetically). "A nocturne,
no doubt, o . "
I heard muffled laughter. The conversation
took a new turn.
After dinner we went into the drawing room
for music. I was doing my best to obliterate
myself when two ladies dressed in black, one
young, the other older, came in.
The master of the house hastened to greet
them and I was presented to them almost at
The younger was extraordinarily lovely; the
other was her mother, also beautiful, with that
thoroughly American beauty which the Starry
Republic often sends to us.
"Dear Master," said the younger woman with
a slight accent, "I have been asked to come to
this friendly house this evening to have the honor
of seeing you and to let you hear my voice. I
am the daughter of a supreme court judge in
America and I have lost my father. He left my
mother, my sisters, and me a fortune, but I want
to go on the stage. If they blame me for it, after
I have succeeded I shall reply that success ex-
Without further preamble I granted her desire
and seated myself at the piano.
"You will pardon me," she added, "if I do not
sing your music. That would be too audacious
She had scarcely said this than her voice
sounded magically, dazzlingly, in the aria,
"Queen of the Night," from the Magic Flute.
What a fascinating voice ! It ranged from low
G to the counter G three octaves in full
strength and in pianissimo.
I was astounded, stupefied, subjugated!
When such voices occur, it is fortunate that they
have the theater in which to display themselves ;
the world is their domain. I ought to say that
I had recognized in that future artiste, together
with the rarity of that organ, intelligence, a flame,
a personality which were reflected luminously in
her admirable face. All these qualities are of
first importance on the stage.
The next morning I hurried to my publisher's
to tell him about the enthusiasm I had felt the
I found Hartmann preoccupied. "It con-
cerns an artist, right enough," he said. "I want
to talk about something else and ask you, yes or
no, whether you will write the music for the work
which has just been brought me." And he
added, "It is urgent, for the music is wanted for
the opening of the Universal Exposition which
takes place two years from now, in May, 1889."
I took the manuscript and I had scarcely run
through a scene or two than I cried in an out-
burst of deep conviction, "I have the artiste for
this part. I have the artiste. I heard her yes-
terday! She is Mile. Sibyl Sanderson! She
shall create Esclarmonde, the heroine of the new
opera you offer me."
She was the ideal artiste for the romantic work
in five acts by Alfred Blau and Louis de Gramont.
The new director of the Opera-Comique, who
always showed me deference and perfect kind-
ness, engaged Mile. Sibyl Sanderson and ac-
cepted without discussion the salary we proposed.
He left the ordering of the scenery and the
costumes entirely to my discretion, and made me
the absolute master and director of the 8ecor-
ators and costumers whom I was to guide in en-
tire accordance with my ideas.
If I was agreeably satisfied by this state of
affairs, M. Paravey for his part could not but
congratulate himself on the financial results from
Esclarmonde. It is but just to add that it was
brought out at the necessarily brilliant period of
the Universal Exposition in 1889. The first
performance was on May 14 of that year.
The superb artists who figured on the bill with
Sibyl Sanderson were Mm. Bouvet, Taskin, and
The work had been sung one hundred and one
consecutive times in Paris when I learned that
sometime since the Theatre Royal de la Monnaie
at Brussels had engaged Sibyl Sanderson to cre-
ate Esclarmonde there. That meant her en-
forced disappearance from the stage of the Opera-
Comique, where she had triumphed for several
If Paris, however, must needs endure the si-
lence of the artiste, applauded by so many and
such varied audiences during the Exposition, if
this star who had risen so brilliantly above the ho-
rizon of the artistic heavens departed for a tune to
charm other hearers, the great provincial houses
echoed with the success in Esclarmonde of such
famous artistes as Mme. Brejean-Silver at Bor-
deaux; Mme. de Nuovina at Brussels, and Mme.
Verheyden and Mile. Vuillaume at Lyons.
Notwithstanding all this, Esclarmonde re-
mained the living memory of that rare and beau-
tiful artiste whom I had chosen to create the role
in Paris; it enabled her to make her name for-
Sibyl Sanderson! I cannot remember that
artiste without feeling deep emotion, cut down
as she was in her full beauty, in the glorious
bloom of her talent by pitiless Death. She was
an ideal Manon at the Opera-Comique, and a
never to be forgotten Thai's at the Opera. These
roles identified themselves with her temperament,
the choicest spirit of that nature which was one
of the most magnificently endowed I have ever
An unconquerable vocation had driven her
to the stage, where she became the ardent inter-
preter of several of my works. But for our part
what an inspiring joy it is to write works and
parts for artists who realize our very dreams !
It is in gratitude that in speaking of Esclar-
monde I dedicate these lines to her. The many
people who came to Paris from all parts of the
world in 1889 have also kept their memories of
the artiste who was their joy and who had so de-
A large, silent, meditative crowd gathered at
the passing of the cortege which bore Sibyl San-
derson to her last resting place. A veil of sor-
row seemed to be over them all.
Albert Carre and I followed the coffin. We
were the first behind all that remained of her
beauty, grace, goodness, and talent with all its
appeal. As we noted the universal sorrow, Al-
bert Carre interpreted the feeling of the crowd
towards the beautiful departed, and said in these
words, eloquent in their conciseness and which
will survive, "She was loved!"
What more simple, more touching, and more
just homage could be paid to the memory of her
who was no more?
It is a pleasure to recall in a few rapid strokes
the happy memory of the time I spent in writing
During the summers of 1887 and 1888 I went
to Switzerland and lived in the Grand Hotel at
Vevey. I was curious to see that pretty town at
the foot of Jorat on the shores of Lake Geneva
and which was made famous by its Fete des
Vigerons. I had heard it praised for the many
charming walks in the neighborhood and the
beauty and mildness of the climate. Above all
I remembered that I had read of it in the "Con-
fessions" of Jean Jacques Rousseau, who, at any
rate, had every reason to love it, Mme. de War-
ens was born there. His love for this delightful
little city lasted through all his wanderings.
The hotel was surrounded by a fine park which
afforded the guests the shade of its large trees
and led to a small harbor where they could em-
bark for excursions on the lake.
In August, 1887, 1 wanted to pay a visit to my
master Ambroise Thomas. He had bought a
group of islands in the sea near the North Coast
and I had been there to see him. Doubtless my
visit was pleasant to him, for I received from
him the next summer in Switzerland the follow-
ILLIEC, Monday, August 20, 1888
Thanks for your good letter, my dear friend.
It has been forwarded to me in this barbarous
island where you came last year. You remind
me of that friendly visit of which we often speak,
but we regret that we were only able to keep you
It was too short !
Will you be able to come again, or rather, shall
I see you here again? You say you work with
pleasure and you appear content. ... I con-
gratulate you on it, and I can say without envy
that I wish I were able to say as much for myself.
At your age one is filled with confidence and
zeal ; but at mine ! . . .
I am taking up again, not without some diffi-
culty, a work which has been interrupted for a
long time, and what is better, I find that I am
already rested in my solitude from the excitement
and fatigue of life in Paris.
I send you the affectionate regards of Mme.
Ambroise Thomas, and I say au revoir, dear
friend, with a good grip of the hand.
Yours with all my heart,
Yes, as my master said, I did work with pleas-
Mile. Sibyl Sanderson, her mother and three
sisters were also living at the Grand Hotel at
Vevey and every evening from five o'clock until
seven I made our future Esclarmonde work on
the scene I had written that day.
A STAR '
After Esclarmonde I did not wait for my mind
to grow fallow. My publisher knew my sad feel-
ings about Werther which I persisted in being un-
willing to have given to a theater (no manage-
ment had then made advances to obtain the
work) and he opened negotiations with Jean
Richepin. They decided to offer me a great sub-
ject for the Opera on the story of Zoroaster, en-
titled Le Mage.
In the course of the summer of 1889 I already
had several scenes of the work planned out.
My excellent friend the learned writer on his-
tory, Charles Malherbe, was aware of the few
moments I made no use of, and I found him a
real collaborator in these circumstances. In-
deed, he chose among my scattered papers a se-
ries of manuscripts which he indicated to me
would serve in the different acts of Le Mage.
P. Gailhard, our director at the Opera, was as
ever the most devoted of friends. He put the
work on with unheard of elaborateness. I owed
to him a magnificent cast with Mmes. Fierens and
Lureau Escalais and Mm. Vergnet and Delmas.
The ballet was important and was staged in a
fairylike way and had as its star Rosita Mauri.
Although it was knocked about a good deal by
the press, the work ran for more than forty per-
Some were glad of the chance to seek a quarrel
with our director who had played his last card
and had arrived at the last month of his privilege.
It was useless trouble on their part. Gailhard
was shortly afterwards called upon to resume the
managerial scepter of our great lyric stage. I
found him there associated with E. Bertrand
when Thais, of which I shall speak later, was put
Apropos of this, some verses of the ever witty
Ernest Reyer come to mind. Here they are:
Le Mage est loin, Werther est proche,
Et deja Thais est sous roche;
Admirable fecondite . . .
Moi, voila dix ans que je pioche
Sur Le Capuchin enchante.
You may be astonished at never having seen
this work of Reyer's played. Here is the theme
as he told it, with the most amusing seriousness,
at one of our monthly dinners of the Institute,
at the excellent Champeaux restaurant, Place de
First and Only Act!
The scene represents a public square; on the
left the sign of a famous tavern. Enter from the
right a Capuchin. He stares at the tavern door.
He hesitates ; then, finally, he decides to cross the
threshold and closes the door. Music in the or-
chestra if desired. Suddenly, the Capuchin
comes out again enchanted, assuredly en-
chanted by the cooking!
Thus the title of the work is explained; it has
nothing to do with fairies enchanting a poor
A NEW LIFE
The year 1891 was marked by an event whicK
had a profound effect on my life. In the month
of May of that year the publishing house of Hart-
mann went out of business. }
How did it happen? What brought about
this catastrophe? I asked myself these ques-
tions but could get no answer. It had seemed to
me that all was going as well as could be ex-
pected with my publisher. I was utterly stupe-
fied at hearing that all the works published by the
house of Hartmann were to be put up at auction;
that they would have to face the ordeal of a public
sale. For me this was a most disturbing uncer-
I had a friend who had a vault, and I entrusted
to him the orchestral score and piano score of
Werther and the orchestral score of Amadis.
He put these valueless papers beside his valua-
bles. The scores were in manuscript.
I have already written of the fortunes of
A NEW LIFE
WertJier, and perhaps I shall of Amadis, the text
of which was by our great friend Jules Claretie
of the French Academy.
As may be imagined, my anxiety was very
great. I expected to see my labor of many years
scattered among all the publishers. Where
would Manon go? Where would Herodiade
bring up? Who would get Marie Magdeleine?
Who would have my Suites a" Orchestra? All
this disturbed my muddled brain and made me
Hartmann had always shown me so much
friendliness and sensitiveness in my interests,
and he was, I am sure, as sorrowful as I was
about this painful situation.
Henri Heugel and his nephew Paul-Emile
Chevalier, owners of the great firm Le Menestrel,
were my saviors. They were the pilots who kept
all the works of my past life from shipwreck, pre-
vented their being scattered, and running the
risks of adventure and chance.
They acquired all of Hartmann's assets and
paid a considerable price for them.
In May, 1911, I congratulated them on the
twentieth anniversary of the good and friendly re-
lations which had existed between us and at the
same time I expressed the deep gratitude I cher-
ish towards them.
How many times I had passed by Le Menestrel,
and envied without hostility those masters, those
published, all those favored by that great house !
My entrance to Le Menestrel began a glorious
era for me, and every time I go there I feel the
same deep happiness. All the satisfactions I en-
joy as well as the disappointments I experience
find a faithful echo in the hearts of my publishers.
Some years later Leon Carvalho again became
the manager at the Opera-Comique. M. Para-
vey's privilege had expired.
I recall this card from Carvalho the day after
he left in 1887. He had erased his title of "di-
recteur." It expressed perfectly his sorrowful
"My dear Master,
"I scratch out the title, but I retain the mem-
ory of my great artistic joys where Manon holds a
first place. . . .
"What a fine diamond!
His first thought was to revive Manon which
had disappeared from the bills since the fire of
A NEW LIFE
mournful memory. This revival was in Octo-
Sibyl Sanderson, as I have said, had been en-
gaged for a year at the Theatre de la Monnaie at
Brussels. She played Esclarmonde and Manon.
Carvalho took her from the Monnaie to revive
Manon in Paris. The work has never left the
bills since and, as I write it, has reached its
At the beginning of the same year Werther
was given at Vienna as well as a ballet : Le Caril-
lon. The applauded collaborators were our Des
Grieux and our German Werther: Ernest Van
Dyck and de Roddaz.
It was on my return from another visit to
Vienna that my faithful and precious collaborator
Louis Gallet paid me a visit one day at Le Menes-
trel. My publishers had arranged a superb
study where I could rehearse my artists from
Paris and elsewhere in their parts. Louis Gallet
and Heugel proposed to me a work on Anatole
France's admirable romance Thais.
I was immediately carried away by the idea.
I could see Sanderson in the role of Thais. She
belonged to the Opera-Comique so I would do
the work for that house.
Spring at last permitted me to go to the sea-
shore where I have always liked to live and I left
Paris with my wife and daughter, taking with me
all that I had composed of the work with so much
I took with me a friend who never left me day
or night an enormous gray Angora cat with
long silky hair.
I worked at a large table placed on a veranda
against which the waves of the sea sometimes
broke heavily and scattered their foam. The cat
lay on the table, sleeping almost on my pages
with an unceremoniousness which delighted me.
He could not stand such strange noises and every
time it happened he pushed out his paws and
showed his claws as if to drive the sea away.
I know some one else who loves cats, not more
but as much as I do, the gracious Countess Marie
de Yourkevitch, who won the grand gold medal
for piano playing at the Imperial Conservatoire of
Music at St. Petersburg. She has lived in Paris
for some years in a luxurious apartment where
she is surrounded by dogs and cats, her great
"Who loves animals, loves people," and we
A NEW LIFE
know that the Countess is a true Maecenas to ar-
The exquisite poet Jeanne Dortzal is also a
friend of these felines with the deep-green enig-
matic eyes ; they are the companions of her work-
I finished Thais at the Rue du General Foy, in
my bedroom where nothing broke the silence ex-
cept the crackling of the Yule logs which burned
in the fireplace.
At that time I did not have a mass of letters
which I must answer, as is the case now ; I did not
receive a quantity of books which I must run
over so that I could thank the authors; neither
was I absorbed in incessant rehearsals, in short,
I did not lead the sort of a life I would willingly
qualify as infernal, if it were not my rule not to go
out in the evening.
At six in the morning I received a call from my
masseur. His cares were made necessary by
rheumatism in my right hand, and I had some
trouble with it.
Even at this early morning hour I had been
at work for some time, and this practitioner, Im-
bert, who was in high good standing with his cli-
ents, brought me morning greetings from Alex-
ander Dumas the Younger from whose house he
had just come. As he came, he said, "I left the
master with his candles lighted, his beard
trimmed, and comfortably installed in his white
One morning he brought me these words a
reply to a reproach I had allowed myself to make
"Confess that you thought that I had forgotten
you, man of little faith.
Between whiles, and it was a delightful distrac-
tion, I had written Le Portrait de Manon, a de-
lightful act by Georges Boyer, to whom I already
owed the text of Les Enfants.
Some good friends of mine, Auguste Cain, the
famous sculptor of animals, and his dear wife,
had been generous and useful to me in difficult
circumstances, and I was delighted to applaud
the first dramatic work of their son Henri Cain.
His success with La Vivandiere affirmed his talent
still more. The music of this work in three acts
was the swan song of the genial Benjamin God-
A NEW LIFE
ard. Ah! the dear great musician who was a
real poet from his youth up, in the first bars he
wrote. Who does not remember his masterpiece
As I was strolling one day in the gardens of the
dismal palace of the dukes d'Este at Ferrare, I
picked a branch of oleander which was just in
blossom and sent it to my friend. My gift re-
called the incomparable duet in the first act of
During the summer of 1893 my wife and I
went to Avignon. This city of the popes, the
terre papale, as Rabelais called it, attracted me
almost as much as that other city of the popes,
We lived at the excellent Hotel de 1'Europe,
Place Grillon. Our hosts, M. and Mme. Ville,
were worthy and obliging persons and were full
of attention for us. That was imperative for I
needed quiet to write La Navarraise, the act
which Jules Claretie had entrusted to me and my
new librettist Henri Cain.
Every evening at five o'clock our hosts, who
had forbidden our door all day with jealous care,
served us a delicious lunch. My friends, the
Provengal poets, used to gather around, and
among them was Felix Gras, one of my dearest
One day we decided to pay a visit to Frederic
Mistral, the immortal poet of Provence who
played a large part in the renaissance of the
poetic language of the South.
He received us with Mme. Mistral at his home
which his presence made ideal at Millane.
He showed when he talked that he knew not only
the science of Form hut also that general knowl-
edge which makes great writers and makes a poet
of an artist. As we saw him we recalled that
Belle d'aout, the poetical story full of tears and
terrors, then the great epic of Mirelle, and so
many other famous works besides.
By his walk and vigor one recognized him as
the child of the country, but he was a gentleman
farmer, as the English say; although he is not
any more a peasant on that account, as he wrote
to Lamartine, than Paul-Louis Courier, the bril-
liant and witty pamphleteer, was a cultivator of
We returned to Avignon full of the inexpres-
sible enveloping charm of the hours we had
passed in the house of this great, illustrious poet.
A NEW LIFE
The following winter was entirely devoted to
the rehearsals of Thais at the Opera. I say at
the Opera in spite of the fact that I wrote the
work for the Opera-Comique where Sanderson
was engaged. She triumphed there in Manon
three times a week.
What made me change the theater? Sander-
son was dazzled by the idea of entering the Opera,
and she signed a contract with Gailhard without
even taking the mere trouble of informing Car-
Heugel and I were greatly surprised when Gail-
hard told us that he was going to give Thais at
the Opera with Sibyl Sanderson. "You've got
the artist ; the work will follow her ! " There was
nothing else for me to say. I remember, how-
ever, how bitterly Carvalho reproached me. He
almost accused me of ingratitude, and God knows
that I did not deserve that.
Thais was interpreted by Sibyl Sanderson;
J. F. Delmas, who made the role of Athanael one
of his most important creations; Alvarez, who
consented to play the role of Nicias, and Mme.
Heglon, who also acted in the part which de-
volved upon her.
As I listened to the final rehearsals in the
depths of the empty theater, I lived over again my
ecstatic moments before the remains of Thai's of
Antinoe, beside the anchorite, who had been be-
witched by her grace and charm. We owed this
impressive spectacle which was so well calculated
to impress the imagination to a glass case in the
The evening of the dress rehearsal of Thais I
escaped from Paris and went to Dieppe and Pour-
ville, with the sole purpose of being alone and
free from the excitements of the great city. I
have said already that I always tear myself away
in this fashion from the feverish uncertainties
which hover over every work when it faces the
public for the first time. No one can tell before-
hand the feeling that will move the public,
whether its prejudices or sympathies will draw it
towards a work or turn it against it. I feel weak
before the baffling enigma, and had I a conscience
a thousand times more tranquil, I would not
want to attempt to pierce the mystery!
The day after my return to Paris Bertrand and
Gailhard, the two directors of the Opera, called
on me. They appeared to be down at the mouth.
I could only get sighs from them or a word or
two, which in their laconicism spoke volumes,
A NEW LIFE
"The press ! Immoral subject ! It's done for!"
These words were so many indications of what the
performance must have been.
So I told myself. Nevertheless seventeen
years have gone and the piece is still on the bills,
and has been played in the provinces and abroad,
while at the Opera itself Thais has long since
passed its hundredth performance.
Never have I so regretted letting myself go in
a moment of disappointment. It is true that it
was only a passing one. Could I foresee that I
should see again this same score of Thais, dated
1894, in the salon of Sibyl Sanderson's mother,
on the music rest of the very piano at which that
fine artiste, long since no more, studied?
To accustom the public to the work, the direc-
tors of the Opera associated with it a ballet from
the repertoire. Subsequently Gailhard saw that
the work pleased, and in order to make it the only
performance of the evening he asked me to add
a tableau, the Oasis, and a ballet to the third act.
Mile. Berthet created this new tableau and Zam-
belli incarnated the new ballet.
Later, the title role was sung in Paris by Miles.
Alice Verlet and Mary Garden and Mme. Kous-
nezoff. I owe some superb nights at the Opera
to them. Genevieve Vix and Mastio sang it in
other cities. I wait to speak of Lina Cavalieri
for she was to be the creator of the work at Milan,
October, 1903. This creation was the occasion
for my last journey to Italy up to now.
MILAN LONDON BAYREUTH
I regret all the more that I have given up trav-
eling, for I seem to have become lazy in this re-
gard, since my visits to Milan were always so de-
lightful I was going to say adorable thanks
to the friendly Edouard Sonzogno, who con-
stantly paid me the most delicate and kindly at-
What delightful receptions, and perfectly ar-
ranged and elaborate dinners, we had at the fine
mansion at 11 Via Goito! What bursts of
laughter and gay sallies there were; what truly
enchanted hours I passed there, with my Italian
confreres, invited to the same love-feast as I, at
the house of the most gracious of hosts : Umberto
Giordano, Cilea and many others !
In this great city I had excellent friends and
illustrious ones as well, as Mascagni and Leonca-
vallo, whom I had known before and had had as
friends in Paris. They did not then foresee the
magnificent situation they would create for them-
selves one day at the theater.
In Milan my old friend and publisher Giulio
Ricordi also invited me to his table. I was sin-
cerely moved at finding myself again in the bosom
of the Ricordi family to whom I was attached by
so many charming memories. It is unnecessary
to add that we drank to the health of the illustri-
Among my memories of Milan I have kept the
recollection of being present at Caruso's debut.
The now famous tenor was very modest then;
and when, a year afterwards, I saw him wrapped
in an ample fur-coat, it was obvious that the fig-
ures of his salary must have mounted crescendo.
As I saw him I did not envy him his brilliant for-
tune or his undoubted talent, but I did regret
that winter especially that I could not put his
rich warm coat on my back. ... It snowed, in-
deed, in Milan, in large and seemingly endless
flakes. It was a hard winter. I remember that
once I hadn't enough bread from my breakfast to
satisfy the appetite of some thirty pigeons which,
shivering and trembling with cold, came to my
balcony for shelter. Poor dear little creatures!
I regretted that I could not do more for them.
MILAN LONDON BAYREUTH
And involuntarily I thought of their sisters in the
Piazza Saint Marc, so pretty, so friendly, who at
that instant must be just as cold.
I have to confess to a flagrant but entirely inno-
cent joke that I played at a dinner of Sonzogno's,
the publisher. Everyone knew of the strained
relations between him and Ricordi. I slipped
into the dining room before any of the guests had
gone in and placed under Sonzogno's napkin an
Orsini bomb, which I had bought and which was
really awe inspiring be reassured, it was only
of cardboard and from the confectioner's. Be-
side this inoffensive explosive I placed Ricordi's
card. The joke was a great success. The din-
ers laughed so much that during the whole meal
nothing else was talked about and little attention
was paid to the menu, in spite of the fact that we
knew that it must inevitably be appetizing, like
all those to which we had to do honor in that opu-
I always had the glorious good fortune to have
as my interpreter of Sapho in Italy La Bellincioni,
the Duse of opera. In 1911 she continued her
triumphal career at the Opera in Paris.
I have mentioned that Cavalieri was to create
Thais in Milan. Sonzogno insisted strongly that
I should let her see the part before I left. I
remember the considerable success she had in the
work al teatro lirico of Milan. Her beauty,
her admirable plasticity, the warmth and color of
her voice, her passionate outbursts simply
gripped the public which praised her to the skies.
She invited me to a farewell dinner at the Hotel
de Milan. The table was covered with flowers
and it was laid in a large room adjoining the
bedroom where Verdi had died two years before.
The room was still furnished just as it had been
when the illustrious composer lived there. The
great master's grand piano was still there, and on
the table where he had worked were the inkstand,
the pen and the blotting paper which still bore
the marks of the notes he had traced. The dress
shirt the last one he wore hung on the wall
and one could still see the lines of the body it
had covered. ... A detail which hurt my feel-
ings and which only the greedy curiosity of
strangers can account for, was that bits of the
linen had been boldly cut off and carried away as
Verdi! The name signifies the whole of vic-
torious Italy from Victor Emanuel II down to our
own times. Bellini, on the other hand, is the
MILAN LONDON BAYREUTH
image of unhappy Italy under the yoke of the
A little while after the death of Bellini in 1835
that never to be forgotten author of La Som-
nanbula and La Norma Verdi, the immortal
creator of so many masterpieces, came on the
scene and with rare fertility never ceased to pro-
duce his marvellous works which are in the reper-
toire of all the theaters in the world.
About two weeks before Verdi's death I found
at my hotel the great man's card with his regards
and best wishes.
In a remarkable study of Verdi Camille Bel-
laigue uses the following words about the great
master. They are as just as they are beautiful.
"He died on January 27, 1901, in his eighty-
eighth year. In him music lost some of its
strength, light and joy. Henceforth a great,
necessary voice will be missing from the balance
of the European 'concert.' A splendid bower
has fallen from the chaplet of Latin genius. I
cannot think of Verdi without recalling that fa-
mous phrase of Nietzsche, who had come back
from Wagnerism and had already turned against
the composer: 'Music must be Mediterranean-
ized.' Certainly not all music. But to-day as
the old master has departed, that glorious host of
the Doria palace, from which each winter his
deep gaze soared over the azure of the Ligurian
sea, one may well ask who is to preserve the rights
and influence of the Mediterranean in music?"
To add another of my memories of Thais I re-
call two letters which must have touched me
August 1, 1892
... I brought a little doll Thai's to the Insti-
tute for you, and as I was going to the country
after the session and you were not there, I left it
with Bonvalot and begged him to handle her care-
fully. . . .
I return in a day or so, for on Saturday we
receive Fremiet who wishes me to thank you for
voting for him.
I wanted this colored statuette by my illustri-
ous colleague to place on my table as I wrote
Thais. I have always liked to have before my
eyes an image or a symbol of the work on which
I am engaged.
The second letter I received the day after the
first performance of Thais at the Opera.
MILAN LONDON BAYREUTH
You have lifted my poor Thais to the first rank
of operatic heroines. You are my sweetest
glory. I am delighted. "Assieds-toi pres de
nous," the aria to Love, the final duet, is charm-
I am happy and proud at having furnished you
with the theme on which you have developed the
most inspiring phrases. I grasp your hand with
I had already been to Covent Garden twice.
First, for Le Roi de Lahore, and then for Manon
which was sung by Sanderson and Van Dyck.
I went back again for the rehearsals of La Nav-
arraise. Our principal artists were Emma
Calve, Alvarez and Plancon.
The rehearsals with Emma Calve were a great
honor for me and a great joy as well, which I was
to renew later in the rehearsals for Sapho in
The Prince of Wales, later Edward VII, at-
tended the first performance of La Navarraise.
The recalls of the artists were so numerous and
enthusiastic that finally they called for me. As
I did not appear, for the good reason that I was
not there, and could not be presented to the
Prince of Wales who wanted to congratulate me,
the manager could find only this way to excuse
me both to the prince and to the public. He
came on the stage and said, "M. Massenet is out-
side smoking a cigarette and won't come."
Doubtless this was true, but "the whole truth
should not always be spoken."
I returned on board the boat with my wife,
Heugel, my dear publisher, and Adrien Bern-
heim, the Governmental Commissary General of
the subsidized theaters, who had honored the per-
formance with his presence. Ever since he has
been one of my most charming and dearest
I learned that her Majesty Queen Victoria sum-
moned Emma Calve to Windsor to sing La Nav-
arraise, and I was told that they improvised a
stage setting in the queen's own drawing room,
which was most picturesque but primitive. The
Barricade was represented by a pile of pillows
and down quilts.
Have I said that in the month of May preced-
ing La Navarraise in London (June 20, 1894),
the Opera-Comique gave Le Portrait de Manon,
an exquisite act by Georges Boyer, which was de-
MILAN LONDON BAYREUTH
lightfully interpreted by Fugere, Grivot and Mile.
Many of the phrases of Manon reappeared
in the work. The subject prompted me to this,
for it is concerned with Des Grieux at forty, a
poetical souvenir of Manon long since dead.
Between whiles I again visited Bayreuth. I
went to applaud the Meister singers of Nurem-
Richard Wagner had not been there for many a
long year, but his titanic soul ruled over all the
performances. As I strolled in the gardens
about the theater at Bayreuth, I recalled that I
had known him in 1861. I had lived for ten
days in a small room near him in the Chateau de
Plessis-Trevise, which belonged to the celebrated
tenor Gustave Roger. Roger knew German and
offered to do the French translation of Tann-
hauser. So Richard Wagner came to live with
him properly to set the French words to music.
I still remember his vigorous interpretation
when he played on the piano fragments of that
masterpiece, then so clumsily misunderstood and
now so much admired by the whole world of art
A VISIT TO VERDI
FAREWELL TO AMBROISE THOMAS
Henri Cain had accompanied us to London and
came to see me at the Cavendish Hotel, Jermyn
Street, where I was staying.
We remained in conference for several hours
reviewing different subjects which were suitable
for works to occupy me in the future. Finally
we agreed on the fairy story of Cinderilla: Cen-
I returned to Pont de 1'Arche a new home
for my wife and me to work during the sum-
Our home was most interesting and even had a
historical value. A massive door hung on enor-
mous hinges gave access on the street side to an
old mansion. It was bordered by a terrace which
looked down on the valley of the Seine and the
Andelle. La Belle Normandie indeed offered us
the delightful spectacle of her smiling, magnifi-
cent plains and her rich pastures stretching to
the horizon and beyond.
A VISIT TO VERDI
The Duchess of Longueville, the famous hero-
ine of La Fronde, had lived in this house it was
the place of her loves. The seductive Duchess
with her pleasant address and gestures, together
with the expression of her face and the tone of
her voice, made a marvellous harmony. So much
so that a Jansenist writer of the period said, "She
was the most perfect actress in the world."
This splendid woman here sheltered her charms
and rare beauty. One must believe that they
have not exaggerated about her for Victor Cousin
became her posthumous lover (along with the
Due de Coligny, Marcillac, the Due de la Roche-
foucauld, and the great Turenne; he might have
been in less brilliant company) ; but as we said,
the illustrious eclectic philosopher dedicated to
her a work which was no doubt admirable in
style but which is still considered one of the most
complete examples of modern learning.
She was born a Bourbon Conde, the daughter
of the Prince of Orleans, and the fleurs de lys
which were hers by right were still visible on the
keystones of the window arches of our little cha-
There was a large white salon with delicately
carved woodwork, which was lighted by three win-
dows overlooking the terrace. It was a perfectly
preserved masterpiece of the Seventeenth Cen-
The room where I worked was also lighted by
three windows and here one could admire a man-
tel, a real marvel of art in Louis XIV style. I
found a large table of the same period at Rouen.
I was at ease at it because I could arrange the
leaves of my orchestral score on it.
It was at Pont de 1'Arche that I learned one
morning of Mme. Carvalho's death. This was
bound to plunge the art of singing and the stage
in deep mourning for she had been with her mas-
terly talent the incarnation of both for long years.
Here too I received the visit of my director, Leon
Carvalho, who was terribly stricken by her death.
He was overcome by this irreparable loss.
Carvalho came to ask me to finish the music
of La Vivandiere, a work on which Benjamin God-
ard was working, but which the state of his health
led them to fear he would never finish.
I refused this request curtly. I knew Ben-
jamin Godard and his strong-mindedness as well
as the wealth and liveliness of his inspiration. I
asked Carvalho not to tell of his visit and to let
Benjamin Godard finish his own work.
A VISIT TO VERDI
That day ended with a rather drole incident.
I set out to get a large carriage to take my guests
to the station. At the appointed time an open
landau appeared at my door. It had at least six-
teen springs, was lined with blue satin, and one
got in by a triple step-ladder arrangement which'
folded up when the door was closed. Two thin,
lanky white horses, real Rossinantes, were har-
nessed to it.
My guests at once recognized this historic
looking coach for they had often met its owners
riding in it on the Bois de Boulogne. Public
malice had found these people so ridiculous that
they had given them a nickname which in the
interests of decorum I must refrain from men-
tioning. I will only say that it was borrowed
from the vocabulary of zoology.
Never had the streets of that little town,
usually so calm and peaceful, echoed with such
shouts of laughter. They did not stop till the
station was reached, and I will not swear that
they were not prolonged after that.
Carvalho decided to give La Navarraise at the
Opera-Comique in May, 1895.
I went to Nice to finish Cendrillon at the Hotel
de Suede. We were absolutely spoiled by our
charming hosts M. and Mme. Roubion. When
I was settled at Nice, I got away to Milan for
ten days to give hints to the artists of the admir-
able La Scala Theatre who were rehearsing La
Navarraise. The protagonist was Lison Fran-
din, an artist known and loved by all Italy.
As I knew that Verdi was at Genoa, I took ad-
vantage of passing through that city on the way
to Milan to pay him a visit.
When I arrived at the first floor of the old pal-
ace of the Dorias, where he lived, I was able to
decipher on a card nailed to the door in a dark
passage the name which radiates so many mem-
ories of enthusiasm and glory: Verdi.
He opened the door himself. I stood non-
plussed. His sincerity, graciousness and the no-
bility which his tall stature gave his whole per-
son soon drew us together.
I passed unutterably charming moments in his
presence, as we talked with the most delightful
simplicity in his bedroom and then on the terrace
of his sitting room from which we looked over the
port of Genoa and beyond on the deep sea as far
as the eye could reach. I had the illusion that
A VISIT TO VERDI
he was one of the Dorias proudly showing me his
As I was leaving, I was drawn to remark that
"now I had visited him, I was in Italy."
As I was about to pick up the valise I had left
in a dark corner of the large reception room,
where I had noticed tall gilt chairs which were in
the Italian taste of the Eighteenth Century, I told
him that it contained manuscripts which never
left me on my travels. Verdi seized my luggage,
briskly, and said he did exactly as I did, for he
never wanted to be parted from his work on a
How much I would have preferred to have had
his music in my valise instead of my own ! The
master even accompanied me across the garden
of his lordly dwelling to my carriage.
When I got back to Paris in February, I
learned with the keenest emotion that my master
Ambroise Thomas was dangerously ill.
Although far from well he had dared the cold
to attend a festival at the Opera where they had
played the whole of that terrible, superb prelude
to Frangoise de Rimini.
They encored the prelude and applauded Am-
My master was the more moved by this recep-
tion, as he had not forgotten how cruelly severe
they had shown themselves toward this fine work
at the Opera.
He went from the theater to the apartment he
occupied at the Conservatoire and went to bed.
He never got up again.
The sky was clear and cloudless that day, and
the sun shone with its softest brilliance in my
venerated master's room and caressed the cur-
tains of his bed of pain. The last words he said
were a salutation to gladsome nature which
smiled upon him for the last time. "To die in
weather so beautiful," he said, and that was all.
He laid in state in the columned vestibule of
which I have spoken, at the foot of the great stair-
case leading to the president's loge which he had
honored with his presence for twenty-five years.
The third day after his death, I delivered his
funeral oration in the name of the Societe des
Auteurs et Compositeurs Dramatiques. I began
"It is said that a king of France in the pres-
ence of the body of a powerful seigneur of his
A VISIT TO VERDI
court could not help saying, 'How tall he was!'
So he who rests here before us seemed tall to us,
being of those whose height is only realized after
"To see him pass in life so simple and calm, in
his dream of art, who of us, accustomed to feel
him kindly and forbearing always at our sides,
has seen that he was so tall that we had to raise
our eyes to look him fairly in the face."
Here my eyes filled with tears and my voice
seemed to die away strangled with emotion.
Nevertheless I contained myself, mastered my
grief, and continued my discourse. I knew that
I should have time enough for weeping.
It was very painful to me on that occasion to
see the envious looks of those who already saw in
me my master's successor at the Conservatoire.
And as a matter of fact, this is exactly what hap-
pened, for a little afterwards I was summoned to
the Ministry of Public Instruction. At the time
the Minister was my confrere at the Institute,
Rambaud the eminent historian, and at the head
of the Beaux- Arts as director was Henri Roujon,
since a member of the Academic des Beaux- Arts
and the permanent secretary.
The directorship of the Conservatoire was of-
fered me. I declined the honor as I did not want
to interrupt my life at the theater which took my
In 1905 the directorship was offered me again,
but I refused for the same reason.
Naturally, I tendered my resignation as profes-
sor of composition at the Conservatoire. I had
only accepted and held the situation because it
brought me in touch with my Director whom I
loved so much.
Free at last and loosed from my chains for-
ever, during the first days of summer my wife
and I started for the mountains of Auvergne.
WORK! ALWAYS WORK!
At the beginning of the preceding winter,
Henri Cain proposed to Henri Heugel a text for
an opera based on Alphonse Daudet's famous ro-
mance Sapho. He went to Heugel in order that
I might the more certainly accept it, for he knew
the influence my publisher had with me.
I had gone to the mountains with a light heart.
There was to be no directing the Conservatoire
and no more classes ; I felt twenty years younger.
I wrote Sapho with an enthusiasm I had rarely
felt up to that time.
We lived in a villa, and I felt far removed from
everything, the noise, the tumult, the incessant
movement and feverish activity of the city. We
went for walks and excursions through the beau-
tiful country which has been praised so much for
the variety of its scenery, but which was still too
much unknown. The only accompaniment of
our thoughts was the murmur of the waters which
flowed along the roadside ; their freshness rose up
to us, and often it was from a bubbling spring
which broke the quiet of luxuriant nature.
Eagles, too, came down from their steep rocks,
"Thunder's abode," as Lamartine said, and sur-
prised us by their bold flights as they made the
air echo with their shrill, piercing cries.
Even while I journeyed, my mind was work-
ing and on my return the pages accumulated.
I became enamored with this work and I re-
joiced in advance at letting Alphonse Daudet
hear it, for he was a very dear friend whom I had
known when we were both young.
If I insist somewhat of speaking of that time,
it is because four works above all others in my
long career gave me such joy in the doing that I
freely describe it as exquisite : Marie Magdeleine,
WertheT, Sapho, and Therese.
At the beginning of September of that year an
amusing incident happened. The Emperor of
Russia came to Paris. The entire population
this is no exaggeration was out of doors to see
the procession pass through the avenues and
boulevards. The people drawn by curiosity had
come from everywhere ; the estimate of a million
people does not seem exaggerated.
We did what everyone else did, and our serv-
ants went at the same time; our apartment was
WORK! ALWAYS WORK!
empty. We were at the house of friends at a win-
dow overlooking the Pare Monceau. The pro-
cession had scarcely passed when we were sud-
denly seized with anxiety at the idea that the time
was particularly propitious for burglarizing de-
serted apartments and we rushed home.
When we reached our threshold whispers were
coming from inside, which put us in a lively flut-
ter. We knew our servants were out. It had
happened ! Burglars had broken in !
We were shocked at the idea, but we went
in ... and saw in the salon Emma Calve and
Henri Cain who were waiting for us and talking
together in the meantime. We were struck in a
heap. Tableau ! We all burst out laughing at
this curious adventure. Our servants had come
back before we had, and naturally opened the
door for our friendly callers who had so thor-
oughly frightened us for a moment. Oh power
of imagination, how manifold are thy fantastic
Carvalho had already prepared the model of
the scenery and the costumes for Cendrillon,
when he learned that Emma Calve was in Paris
and put on Sapho. In addition to the admir-
able protagonist of La Navarraise in London and
in Paris, our interpreters were the charming ar-
tiste Mile. Julia Guiraudon (later the wife of my
collaborator Henri Cain) and M. Lepreste who
has since died.
I have spoken of the extreme joy I experienced
in writing Sapho, an opera in five acts. Henri
Cain and dear Arthur Bernede had ably con-
trived the libretto.
Never before had the rehearsals of a work
seemed more enrapturing. The task was both
easy and agreeable with such excellent artists.
While the rehearsals were going on so well, my
wife and I went to dine one evening at Alphonse
Daudet's. He was very fond of us. The first
proofs had been laid on the piano. I can still
see Daudet seated on a cushion and almost brush-
ing the keyboard with his handsome head so de-
lightfully framed in his beautiful thick hair. It
seemed to me that he was deeply moved. The
vagueness of his short sightedness made his eyes
still more admirable. His soul with all its pure,
tender poetry spoke through them.
It would be difficult to experience again such
moments as my wife and I knew then.
As they were about to begin the first rehearsals
WORK! ALWAYS WORK!
of Sapho, Danbe, who had been my friend since
childhood, told the musicians in the orchestra
what an emotional work they were to play.
Finally, the first performance came on Novem-
ber 27, 1897.
The evening must have been very fine, for the
next day the first mail brought me the following
My dear Massenet:
I am happy at your great success. With Mas-
senet and Bizet, non omnis moriar.
I learned that my beloved friend and famous
collaborator had been present at the first per-
formance, at the back of a box, although he had
stopped going out save on rare occasions.
His appearance at the performance touched
me all the more.
One evening I decided to go to the playhouse,
in the wings, and I was shocked at Carvalho's ap-
pearance. He was always so alert and carried
himself so well, but now he was bent and his eyes
were bloodshot behind his blue glasses. Never-
theless his good humor and gentleness toward me
were the same as ever.
His condition could but cause me anxiety.
How true my sad presentiments were !
My poor director was to die on the third day.
Almost at the same time I learned that Daudet,
whose life had been so admirably rounded out,
had heard his last hour strike on the clock of
time. Oh mysterious, implacable Timepiece!
I felt one of its sharpest strokes.
Carvalho's funeral was followed by a consider-
able crowd. His son burst into sobs behind his
funeral car and could scarcely see. Everything
in that sad, impressive procession was painful
Daudet's obsequies were celebrated with great
pomp at Sainte Clotilde. La Solitude from
Sapho (the entr'acte from the fifth act) was
played during the service after the chanting of
the Dies Irae.
I was obliged to make my way almost by main
force through the great crowd to get into the
church. It was like a hungry, eager reflection
of that long line of admirers and friends he had
during his lifetime.
As I sprinkled holy water on the casket, I re-
called my last visit to the Rue de Bellechasse
where Daudet lived. I had gone to give him
WORK! ALWAYS WORK!
news of the theater and carried him sprays of
eucalyptus, one of the trees of the South he
adored. I knew what intense pleasure that
would give him.
Meanwhile Sapho went on its way. I went to
Saint Raphael, the country where Carvalho had
liked to live.
I relied on an apartment which I had engaged
in advance, but the landlord told me that he had
let it to two ladies who seemed very busy. I
started to hunt another lodging when I was called
back. I learned that the two who had taken my
rooms were Emma Calve and one of her friends.
The two ladies doubtless heard my name men-
tioned and changed their itinerary. However,
their presence in that place so far from Paris
showed me that our Sapho had necessarily sus-
pended her run of performances.
What whims will not one pardon in such an
I learned that in two days everything was in
order again at the theater in Paris. Would that
I had been there to embrace our adorable fugi-
Two weeks later I learned from the papers in
Nice that Albert Carre had been made manager of
the Opera-Comique. Until then the house had
been temporarily under the direction of the
Who would have thought that it would have
been our new manager who would revive Sapho
considerably later with that beautiful artiste who
became his wife. But it was she who incarnated
the Sapho of Daudet with an unusually appealing
Salignac, the tenor, had a considerable success
in the role of Jean Gaussin.
At the revival Carre asked me to interweave a
new act, the act of the Letters, and I carried out
the idea with enthusiasm.
Sapho was also sung by that unusual artiste
Mme. Georgette Leblanc, later the wife of that
great man of letters Maeterlinck.
Mme. Brejean-Silver also made this role an
astonishingly lifelike figure.
How many other artists have sung this work!
The first opera put on under the new manage-
ment was Reynaldo Hahn's Ulle de Reve. He
dedicated that exquisite score to me. That mu-
sic is pervading for it was written by a real mas-
WORK! ALWAYS WORK!
ter. What a gift he has of wrapping us in warm
That was not the case with the music of some
of our confreres. Reyer found it unbearable
and made this image-raising remark about it:
"I just met Gretry's statue on the stairs; he
had enough and fled."
That brings to mind another equally witty
sally which du Locle made to Reyer the day after
"Well, my dear fellow, Berlioz has got ahead
Du Locle could permit himself this inoffensive
joke for he was Reyer's oldest friend.
I find this word from the author of Louise
whom I knew as a child in my classes at the Con-
servatoire and who always felt a family affection
Midnight, New Year's Eve.
Faithful remembrance from your affectionate
on the last day which ends with Sapho and the
first hour of the year which will close with Cen-
Cendrillon did not appear until May 24, 1899.
These works presented one after another, at more
than a year's interval however, brought me the
following note from Gounod:
"A thousand congratulations, my dear friend,
on your latest fine success. The devil! Well,
you go at such a pace one can scarcely keep up
As I have said, the score of Cendrillon, written
on a pearl from that casket of jewels "Les Contes
de Perrault," had been finished a long time. It
had yielded its turn to Sapho at the Opera-Com-
ique. Our new director Albert Carre told me
that he intended to give Cendrillon at the first
possible chance, but that was six months away.
I was staying at Aix-les-Bains in remembrance
of my father who had lived there, and I was deep
in work on La Terre Promise. The Bible fur-
nished a text and I got out an oratorio of three
acts. As I said, I was deep in the work when my
wife and I were overcome by the terrible news of
the fire at the Charity Bazaar. My dear daugh-
ter was a salesgirl.
We had to wait until evening before a tele-
gram arrived and ended our intense alarm.
^ curious coincidence which I did not learn
WORK! ALWAYS WORK!
until long afterwards was that the heroine (Lucy
Arbell) of Persephone and Therese, as well as
the beautiful Dulcinee (in Don Quichotte) was
also among the salesgirls. She was only twelve
or thirteen at the time, but in the midst of the
general panic she found an exit behind the Hotel
du Palais and succeeded in saving her mother and
several others. This showed rare decision and
courage for a child.
Since I have spoken of La Terre Promise, I
may add that I had an entirely unexpected "hear-
ing." Eugene d'Harcourt, who was so well
thought of as a musician and a critic, the greatly
applauded composer of Tasse which was put on
at Monte Carlo, proposed to me that he direct a
performance at the church of Sainte Eustache
with an immense orchestra and chorus.
The second part was devoted to the taking of
Jericho. A march seven times interrupted by
the resounding outbursts from seven great trum-
pets ended with the collapse of the walls of that
famous city which the Jews had to take and de-
stroy. The resounding clamor of all the voices
together was joined to the formidable thunder
of the great organ of Saint Eustache.
With my wife I attended the final rehearsal
in a large pulpit to which the venerable cure had
done us the honor of inviting us.
That was the fifteenth of March, 1900.
I return to Cendrillon. Albert Carre put on
this opera with a stage setting which was as novel
as it was marvellous.
Julia Guiraudon was exquisite in the role of
Cendrillon. Mme. Deschamps Jehin was aston-
ishing as a singer and as a comedienne, pretty
Mile. Emelen was our Prince Charming and the
great Fugere showed himself an indescribable ar-
tist in the role of Pandolphe. He sent me the
news of "victory" which I received the next
morning at Enghien-les-Bains, which with my
wife I had chosen as a refuge near Paris from the
dress rehearsal and the first performance.
More than sixty continuous performances, in-
cluding matinees, followed the Premiere. The
Isola brothers, managers of the Gaite, later gave a
large number of performances, and a curious
thing for so Parisian a work was that Italy gave
Cendrillon a fine reception. This lyric work was
given at Rome thirty times a rare number.
The following cablegram came to me from Amer-
WORK! ALWAYS WORK!
Cendrillon hier, success phe.no menal.
The last word was too long and the sending
office had cut it in two.
It was now 1900, the memorable time of the
I had scarcely recovered from the fine emotion
of La Terre Promise at Saint Eustache than I fell
seriously ill. They were then going on with the
rehearsals of Le Cid at the Opera which they in-
tended to revive. The hundredth performance
was reached in October of the same year.
All Paris was en fete. The capital, one of the
most frequented places in the world, became even
more and better than that: it was the world itself,
for all people met there. All nations jostled one
another; all tongues were heard and all costumes
were set off against each other.
Though the Exposition sent its million of joy-
ful notes skyward and could not fail to obtain a
place of honor in history, at nightfall the im-
mense crowd sought rest from the emotions of the
day by swarming to the theaters which were
everywhere open, and it invaded the magnificent
palace which our dear great Charles Gamier had
raised for the manifestations of Lyric Art and the
religion of the Dance.
Gailhard had come to call on me in May when
I was so ill and had made me promise to be pres-
ent in his box at the hundredth performance
which he more than hoped to give and which as a
matter of fact took place in October. That day
I yielded to his invitation.
Mile. Lucienne Breval and Mm. Saleza and
Frederic Delmas were applauded with delirious
enthusiasm on the night of the hundredth per-
formance. At the recall at the end of the third
act, Gailhard, in spite of my resistance, pushed
me to the front of his box. . . .
It is easy to imagine what happened on the
stage, in the Opera's superb orchestra, and in the
audience packed to the roof.
IN THE MIDST OF THE MIDDLE AGES
I became very ill at Paris. I felt that the
path from life to death was so easy, the way
seemed so gentle, so restful, that I was sorry to
find myself back in the harsh, cutting troubles
I had escaped the sharp cold of winter; it was
now spring, and I went to my old home at gre-
ville to find nature, the great consoler, in her soli-
tude and peace.
I brought with me a voluminous correspond-
ence, letters, pamphlets and rolls of manuscript
which I had never opened. I intended doing so
on the way as a distraction from the boredom of
the journey. I had opened several letters and
was about to unroll a manuscript, "Oh, no," I
said, "that's enough." As a matter of fact I
had happened on a work for the stage.
Must the stage follow me everywhere, I
thought. I longed to have nothing more to do
with it. So I put the importunate thing aside.
Yet as I journeyed along, to kill time, as they say,
I took it up again and settled myself to run
through that famous manuscript notwithstanding
whatever desire I may have had to the contrary.
My attention was at first superficial and inat-
tentive, but gradually it became fixed. Insen-
sibly I began to read with interest; so much so
that I ended by feeling real surprise I must con-
fess that it even became stupefaction.
"What," I exclaimed, "a play without a part
for a woman except for the speechless apparition
of the Virgin!"
If I was surprised and stupefied, what would be
the feelings of those who were used to seeing me
put on the stage Manon, Sapho, Thai's and other
lovable ladies. That was true, but in that they
would forget that the most sublime of women,
the Virgin, was bound to sustain me in my work,
even as she showed herself charitable to the re-
I had scarcely run through the first scenes,
when I felt that I was face to face with the work
of a true poet who was familiar with the archaism
of the literature of the Middle Ages. The manu-
script bore no author's name.
I wrote to my concierge to find out the origin
of this mysterious package, and he told me that
IN THE MIDST OF THE MIDDLE AGES
the author had left his name and address with
explicit instructions not to divulge them to me
unless and until I had agreed to write the music
for the work.
The title Le Jongleur de Notre Dame followed
by the sub-title "Miracle in Three Acts" en-
The character of my home, a relic of the same
Middle Ages, the surroundings in which I found
myself at figreville, were exactly suited to give
me the desired atmosphere for my work.
The score was finished and the time came to
communicate with my unknown.
At last I learned his name and address and
wrote to him.
There is no doubt about the joy with which I
did so, for the author was none other than Maur-
ice Lena, the devoted friend I had known at Lyons
where he held the chair of Philosophy.
My dear Lena then came to figreville on
August 14, 1900. We hurried to my place from
the little station. We found in my room spread
out on the large table (I flatter myself it was a
famous table for it had belonged to the illustrious
Diderot) the engraved piano and vocal score for
Le Jongleur de Notre Dame.
Lena was dumfounded at sight of it. He was
choked by the most delightful of emotions.
Both of us had been happy in the work. Now
the unknown faced us. Where and in what thea-
ter were we to be played?
It was a radiant day. Nature with her intox-
icating odors, the fair season of the fields, the
flowers in the meadows, the agreeable union
which had grown up between us in producing the
work, everything in fact spoke of happiness.
Such fleeting happiness, as the poetess Mme.
Daniel Lesaeur has told us, is worth all eternity.
The fields recalled to us that we were on the
eve of the fifteenth of August, the Feast of the
Virgin, whom we had sung in our work.
As I never had a piano at home, especially at
figreville, I was unable to satisfy my dear Lena's
curiosity and let him hear the music of this or
We were strolling together near the hour of
vespers towards the old, venerable church, and
we could hear from a distance the chords of its
little harmonium. A mad idea struck me.
"Hey! What if I should suggest to you," I said
to my friend, "what if I propose to you something
which would be impossible in that sacred place
IN THE MIDST OF THE MIDDLE AGES
in any other way, but certainly very tempting!
Suppose we go into the church as soon as it is
deserted and returned to holy obscurity. What
if I should let you hear fragments of our Le Jon-
gleur de Notre Dame? Wouldn't it be a divine
moment which would leave its impression on us
forever?" And we continued our stroll, the
complacent shade of the great trees protecting
the paths and roads from the sting of a too ardent
On the morrow sad morrow we parted.
The following autumn, the winter, and finally
the spring of the succeeding year passed without
any one coming to me from anywhere with an
offer to produce the work.
When I least thought of it, I had a visit as
unexpected as it was flattering from M. Raoul
I delight in recalling here the great worth of
that close friend, his individuality as a manager,
and his talent as a musician, whose works tri-
umph on the stage.
Raoul Gunsbourg brought me the news that on
his advice H. S. H. the Prince of Monaco had des-
ignated me for a work to be put on the stage of
the theater at Monte Carlo.
Le Jongleur de Notre Dame was ready and I
offered it. It was arranged that his Serene High-
ness should deign to come to Paris and hear the
work in person. That hearing occurred, as a
matter of fact, in the beautiful, artistic home
of my publisher Henri Heugel. The Prince was
entirely satisfied ; he did me the honor to express
several times his sincere pleasure. The work
was put in study and the later rehearsals were in
Paris under Raoul Gunsbourg's direction.
In January, 1902, my wife and I left Paris for
the Palace of Monaco, where his Serene High-
ness had most cordially invited us to be his
guests. What a contrast it was to the life we
had left behind!
One evening we left Paris buried in glacial
cold beneath the snow, and, behold, some hours
later we found ourselves in an entirely different
atmosphere. It was the South, La Belle Prov-
ence, the Azure Coast. It was ideal! For me
it was the East almost at the gates of Paris !
The dream began. It is hardly necessary for
me to tell of all the marvelous days which went
like a dream in that Dantesque Paradise, amid
that splendid scenery, in that luxurious, sumptu-
IN THE MIDST OF THE MIDDLE AGES
ous palace, all balmy with the vegetation of the
The first performance of Le Jongleur de Notre
Dame was given at the Monte Carlo Opera on
Tuesday, February 18, 1902. The superb pro-
tagonists were Mm. Renaud, of the Opera, and
Marechal, of the Opera-Comique.
A detail which shows the favor with which the
work was received is that it was given four times
in succession during the same season.
Two years later my dear director Albert Carre
gave the first performance of Le Jongleur de No-
tre Dame at the Opera-Comique with this ideal
cast: Lucien Fugere, Marechal, the creator of the
part, and Allard.
The work long ago passed its hundredth per-
formance at Paris, and as I write these lines Le
Jongleur de Notre Dame has had a place in the
repertoire of the American houses for several
It is interesting to note that the Juggler wa
created at the Metropolitan Opera House by
Mary Garden, the dazzling artist who is admired
as much in Paris as in the United States.
My feelings are somewhat bewildered, I con-
fess, at seeing the monk discard his frock after
the performance and resume an elegant costume
from the Rue de la Paix. However, in the face
of the artist's triumph I bow and applaud. 1
As I have said, this work had to wait its turn,
and as Carvalho had previously engaged me to
write the music for Griseldis, a work by Eugene
Morand and Armand Silvestre, which was much
applauded at the Theatre-Frangais. I wrote the
score at intervals between my journeys to the
South and to Cap d'Antibes. Ah, that hotel on
the Cap d'Antibes ! That was an unusual stay.
It was an old property built by Villemessant, who
had christened it correctly and happily "Villa
Soliel," and which he planned for journalists
overtaken by poverty and old age.
Imagine, if you can, a large villa with white
1 The transposition of the tenor part to the soprano
register seems an intolerable musical solecism, and a
woman playing a serious and inevitably male character
grotesquely absurd. The terms in which Massenet here
expresses his objections to this indefensible procedure are
gentle and but mildly ironical compared with those he
used to the translator. Massenet was simply furious.
With flaming eyes and how his wonderful eyes could
flame! and voice vehement with indignation and unutter-
able scorn, he said to me, "When I wrote that work I little
thought the monk's habit would ever be disguised in a petti-
>at from the Rue de la Paix."
IN THE MIDST OF THE MIDDLE AGES
walls all purple from the fires of the bright sun
of the South and surrounded by a grove of euca-
lyptus trees, myrtles and laurels. It was reached
by shady paths, suffused with the most fragrant
perfumes, and faced the sea that sea which rolls
its clear waters from the Azure Coast and the
Riviera along the indented shores of Italy as far
as ancient Hellas, as if to carry thither on its
azured waves which bathe Provence the far off
salutation of the Phocean city.
How pleased I was with my sun-flooded room,
where I worked in peace and quiet and in the en-
joyment of perfect health !
As I have spoken of Griseldis., I will add that
as I had two works free, that and Le Jongleur de
Notre Dame., my publisher offered Albert Carre
his choice and he took Griseldis. That is why,
as I have said, Le Jongleur de Notre Dame was
put on at Monte Carlo in 1902.
So Griseldis got the first start and was given at
the Opera-Comique November 20, 1901.
Mile. Lucienne Breval made a superb creation
of it. The baritone, Dufranne, made his first
appearance in the role of the marquis, Griseldis's
husband, and made a brilliant success from the
moment he came on the stage; Fugere was ex-
traordinary in the role of the Devil, and Marechal
was a tender lover in the part of Alain.
I was very fond of this piece. Everything
about it pleased me.
It brought together so many touching senti-
ments: the proud chivalric appearance of the
great, powerful seigneur going on the Crusades,
the fantastic appearance of the Green Devil who
might be said to have come from a window of
a medieval cathedral, the simplicity of young
Alain, and the delightful little figure of the child
of Griseldis! For that part we had a tiny girl
of three who was the very spirit of the theater.
As in the second act the child on Griseldis's knees
should give the illusion of falling asleep, the little
artiste discovered all by herself the proper ges-
ture which would be understood by the distant
audience; she let her arms fall as if overcome
with weariness. Delightful little mummer!
Albert Carre had found an archaic and his-
toric oratory which was artistically perfect, and
when the curtain rose on Griseldis's garden, it
was a delight. What a contrast between the
lilies blooming in the foreground and the dismal
castle on the horizon !
IN THE MIDST OF THE MIDDLE AGES
And the scene of the prologue with its living
background was a fortunate discovery.
What joys I promised myself in being able to
work at the theater with my old friend Armand
Silvestre. A year before he had written me,
"Are you going to let me die without seeing Gris-
eldis at the Opera-Comique?" Alas, that was
the case, and my dear collaborator, Eugene
Morland, helped with his poetical and artistic
As I was working on Griseldis, a scholar who
was entirely wrapped up in the literature of the
Middle Ages and was interested in a subject on
that period, entrusted me with a work which he
had written on that time, a very labored work of
which I was not able to make much use.
I had shown it to Gerome, whose mind was
curious about everything, and as Gerome, the
author and I were together, our great painter
whose remarks were always so apropos, ready
and amusing said to the author who was waiting
for his opinion, "How pleasantly I fell asleep
reading your book yesterday."
And the author bowed entirely satisfied.
FROM CHERUBIN TO THERESE
I happened to see played at the Theatre-Fran-
ais three entirely novel acts which interested me
very much. It was Le Cherubin by Francis de
Croisset. Two days later I was at the author's
house and asked him for the work. His talent,
which was so marked then, has never ceased
highly to confirm itself.
I remember that it was a rainy day, as we were
coming back by the Champs filysees from the
glorious ceremony at the unveiling of the statue
of Alphonse Daudet, that we settled the terms of
Title, subject, action, everything in that de-
lightful Cherubin charmed me. I wrote the mu-
sic at figreville.
His Serene Highness the Prince of Monaco
heard that Le Cherubin was set to music, and he
remembered Le Jongleur de Notre Dame which
he had welcomed so splendidly and which I had
respectfully dedicated to him. He had M. Raoul
FROM CHERUBIN TO THERESE
Gunsbourg propose to me that the first perform-
ance be given at Monte Carlo. It is not difficult
to imagine with what enthusiasm I accepted this
offer. Mme. Massenet and I went again to that
ideal country in that fairy-like palace of which
we have retained such imperishable memories.
Le Cherubin was created by Mary Garden, the
tender Nina by Marguerite Carre, the bewitching
Ensoleillad by Cavalieri, and the part of the
philosopher was filled by Maurice Renaud.
It was a really delightful interpretation. The
evening was much drawn out by the applause and
the constant encores which the audience de-
manded of the artists. It literally held them in
an atmosphere of the wildest enthusiasm.
Our stay at the palace was one continual series
of inexpressible delights which we were to ex-
perience again as the guests of that high-souled
prince of science.
Henri Cain, who had been my collaborator
with Francis de Croisset in Le Cherubin, amused
me between times by making me write the music
for a pretty, picturesque ballet in one act, Cigale.
The Opera-Comique gave it February 4, 1904.
The bewitching, talented Mile. Chasle was our
Cigale, and Messmaecker, of the Opera-Comique,
clowned the role of Mme. Fourmi, Rentiere, in
a mirth provoking manner !
I was by far the most entertained of those
who attended the rehearsals of Cigale. At the
end was a scene which was very touching and
exquisitely poetical, where an angel with a divine
voice appears and sings in the distance. The
angel's voice was Mile. Guiraudon who became
Mme. Henri Cain.
A year later, as I have said, on February 14,
1905, Le Cherubin was sung at Monte Carlo and
on the twenty-third of the following May the
Opera-Comique in Paris closed its season with
the same piece. The only changes at the latter
were that Lucien Fugere took the role of the
philosopher and added a new success to the many
that artist had already achieved and that the role
of Ensoleillad was given to the charming Mile.
You will perhaps observe that I have said noth-
ing about Ariane. The reason for this is that I
never talk about a work until it is finished and
engraved. I have said nothing about Ariane or
about Roma, the first scenes of which I wrote in
Persephone in Ariane
FROM CHERUBIN TO THERESE
1902, enraptured by the sublime tragedy, Rome
Vaincue by Alexandre Parodi. As I write these
words the five acts of Roma are in rehearsal at
Monte Carlo and the Opera, but I have already
said too much.
So I resume the current of my life.
Ariane! Arianel The work which made me
live in such lofty spheres! How could it have
been otherwise with the superb, inspired collabo-
ration of Catulle Mendes, the poet of ethereal
hopes and dreams!
It was a memorable day in my life when my
friend Heugel told me that Catulle Mendes was
ready to read the text of Ariane to me.
For a long time I had wanted to weep the tears
of Ariane. I was thrilled with all the strength
of mind and heart before I even knew the first
word of the first scene.
We engaged to meet for this reading at Catulle
Mendes's house, in the artistic lodging of that
great scholar and his exquisite wife who was also
a most talented and real poet.
I came away actually feverish with excitement.
The libretto was in my pocket, against my heart,
as if to make it feel the throbs, as I got into a
victoria to go home. Rain fell in torrents but
I did not notice it. Surely Ariane's tears per-
meated my whole being with delight.
Dear, good tears, with what gladness you must
have fallen during the rehearsals! I was over-
whelmed with esteem and attention by my dear
director, Gailhard, as well as by my remarkable
In August, 1905, 1 was walking pensively un-
der the pergola of our house at figreville, when
suddenly an automobile horn woke the echoes of
that peaceful country.
Was not Jupiter thundering in the heavens,
Caelo tonantem Jovem, as Horace says in the
Odes. For a moment I could believe that such
was the case, but what was my surprise my very
agreeable surprise when I saw get down from
that thundering sixty miles an hour two travel-
ers, who, if they did not come from heaven,
nevertheless let me hear the accents of Paradise
in their friendly voices.
One was Gailhard, the director of the Opera,
and the other the learned architect of the Gamier
monument. My director had come to ask me
how I was getting on with Ariane and if I were
willing to let the Opera have it.
FROM CHERUBIN TO THERESE
We went up to my large room which with its
yellow hangings of the period might have easily
been taken for that of a general of the First Em-
pire. I at once pointed out a heap of pages on a
large black marble table the whole of the fin-
At lunch, between the sardines of the hors
d'oeuvre and the cheese of the dessert, I de-
claimed several situations in the work. Then
my guests, put in a charming humor, were good
enough to accept my invitation to make a tour of
It was while we paced under the pergola of
which I have spoken, in the delightfully fresh,
thick shade of the vines whose leaves formed a
verdant network that we settled on the cast.
Lucienne Breval was to have the role of Ari-
ane; Louise Grandjean that of the dramatic
Phedre, and by common consent, in view of her
talent for tragedy and her established success at
the Opera, we decided on Lucy Arbell for the role
of the somber, beautiful Queen of Hell.
Muratore and Delmas were plainly indicated
for Thesee and Pirithoiis.
As he was going away, Gailhard, remembering
the simple, confiding formula by which our
fathers made contracts in the good old days,
plucked a branch from a eucalyptus in the gar-
den and said, waving it at me:
"This is the token of the promises we have
exchanged to-day. I carry it with me."
Then my guests got into their auto and dis-
appeared in the whirling dust of the road. Did
they carry away to the great city the near realiza-
tion of my dearest hopes, was what I asked myself
as I climbed to my room. I was tired and worn
out by the emotions of the day and I went to bed.
The sun still shone on the horizon in all the
glory of its fire. It crimsoned my bed with its
dazzling rays. I dreamt as I slept the most beau-
tiful dream that can delude us when a task has
I now record a detail which is of some im-
My little Marie Magdeleine came to figreville
to spend a few days with her grandparents. I
yielded to her curiosity and told her the story of
the piece. I had reached the place where Ariane
is drawn into Hell to find the wandering soul of
her sister Phedre, and as I stopped, my grand-
child exclaimed at once :
FROM CHERUBIN TO THERESE
"And now grandpapa we are going to be in
The silvery wheedling voice of the dear child,
her sudden, natural question produced a strange,
almost magical, effect on me. I had had the in-
tention of asking them to suppress that act, but
now I suddenly decided to keep it, and I answered
the child's fair question, "Yes, we are going into
Hell." And I added, "We shall see there the
affecting figure of Persephone finding again with
delight the roses, the divine roses which remind
her of the beloved earth where she lived of old,
ere she became the Queen of that terrible place
with a black lily in her hand for a scepter."
That visit to Avernus necessitates a stage set-
ting and an interpretation which I will deliber-
ately designate as intensive. I had to go to
Turin (my last journey to that beautiful country)
in pretty cold weather, December 14, 1907, ac-
companied by my dear Henri Heugel to be pres-
ent at the last rehearsals at the Regio, the royal
theater, where they were putting on Ariane for
the first time in Italy. The work had a luxuri-
ous stage setting and remarkable interpreters.
The great artiste Maria Farneti had the role of
Ariane. I noticed particularly the special care
with which Serafin, the eminent conductor who
was acting as stage manager, staged the act in
Hell. Our Persephone was as tragic as one pos-
sibly could be; the aria of the Roses, however,
seemed to me to be lacking in emotion. I re-
member that I told her at the rehearsal, throwing
an armful of roses into her wide open arms, to
press them to her heart ardently, as she would
do, I added, with a husband or a beloved sweet-
heart whom she had not seen for twenty years!
"From the roses which disappeared so long ago
to the dear adored one who is at last found again
is not so far ! Think of that, Signorina, and the
effect will be sure!" The charming artiste
smiled, but had she understood?
So Ariane was finished. My illustrious
friend, Jules Claretie, learned of this and recalled
to me the promise I had made him of writing
Therese, a lyric drama in three acts. He added:
"The work will be short, for the emotion it lets
loose cannot be prolonged."
I went to work on it, but I will deal with that
I have alluded to the pleasure I felt at every
rehearsal at the constant happy discoveries in
scenery or in feeling. Ah, with what constantly
FROM CHERUBIN TO THERESE
alert and devoted intelligence our artists followed
the precious advice of Gailhard !
The month of June was, however, marked by
dark days. One of our artistes fell seriously ill
and they fought with death for thirty-six hours in
order to save her. The work was all ready for
the stage and as that artiste was necessarily miss-
ing for several weeks, they suspended the re-
hearsals during the summer. They were re-
sumed at the end of September when our artists
were all well and together again. These re-
hearsals were in a general way to go on during
the month of October and we were to appear at
the end of the month.
What was said was done; rare promptness for
the stage. The first performance was on Oc-
tober 31, 1906.
Catulle Mendes, who had often been severe on
me in his criticisms in the press, had become my
ardent collaborator, and, something worth not-
ing, he appreciated joyfully the reverence I had
brought to the delivery of his verses.
In our common toil, as well as in our studies
with the artists at the playhouse, I delighted in
his outbursts of devotion and affection and in the
esteem in which he held me.
The performances followed each other ten
times a month, a unique fact in the annals of the
theater for a new work, and this went on up to
the sixtieth performance.
Apropos of this, they asked Lucy Arbell, our
Persephone, how many times she had sung the
work, feeling sure that her answer would be
"Why," she exclaimed, "sixty times!"
"No," replied her questioner, "you have sung
it one hundred and twenty times, for you are al-
ways encored in the aria of the Roses."
I owed that sixtieth performance to the new
directors, Mm. Messager and Broussan, and that
seems to be the last of a work which started off so
What a difference, I say again, between the
manner in which my works have been mounted
for some years and the way they were put on
when I was beginning !
My first works were put on in the provinces
with old scenery, and I was compelled to hear the
stage manager say things like this :
"For the first act we have found an old back-
ground from La Favorita; for the second two sets
from Rigoletto," etc., etc.
FROM CHERUBIN TO THERESE
I recall an obliging director who on the eve
of a first performance, knowing that I lacked a
tenor, offered me one, but warning me, "This
artist knows the part, but I ought to tell you that
he is always flat in the third act."
Which reminds me that in the same house I
knew a basso who had a strange pretension, still
more strangely expressed, "My voice," said our
basso, "goes down so far that they can't find the
note on the piano."
Oh, well, they were all valiant and honest
artists. They did me service and had their years
But I see that I am loitering on the way in
telling of these old times. I have to tell of the
new work which was in rehearsal in Monte Carlo
I mean Therese.
SPEAKING OF 1793
One summer morning in 1905 my great frienid,
Georges Cain, the eminent and eloquent historian
of Old Paris, got together the beautiful, charm-
ing Mme. Georges Cain, Mile. Lucy Arbell, of the
Opera, and a few others to visit what had once
been the convent of the Carmelites in the Rue de
We had gone through the cells of the ancient
cloister, seen the wells into which the blood
stained horde of Septembrists had thrown the
bodies of the slaughtered priests, and we had
come to the gardens which remain so mournfully
famous for those frightful butcheries. Georges
Cain stopped in the middle of his recital of these
dismal events, and pointed out to us a white figure
wandering alone in the distance.
"It is the ghost of Lucile Desmoulins," he
said. Poor Lucile Desmoulins so strong and
courageous beside her husband on his way to the
scaffold where she was so soon to follow him!
SPEAKING OF 1793
It was neither shade nor phantom. The
white figure was very much alive ! It was Lucy
Arbell who had heen overcome by deep emotion
and who had turned away to hide the tears.
Therese was already revealed. . . .
A few days afterwards I was lunching at the
Italian Embassy. At dessert the kindly Com-
tessa Tornielli told us, with that charming grace
and delightful eloquence which were so charac-
teristic of her, the story of the ambassorial pal-
ace, Rue de Crenelle.
In 1793 the palace belonged to the Gallifet
family. Some of the members of that illustrious
house were guillotined, while others went abroad.
It was determined to sell the building as the
property of the people, but this was opposed by
a servant of firm and decided character. "I am
the people," he said, "and you shall not take
from the people what belongs to it. I am in my
own place here!"
When one of the surviving Gallifet emigres
returned to Paris in 1798, his first thought was
to go and see the family home. He was greatly
surprised when the faithful servant whose vigor-
ous speech had prevented its destruction received
him and said, falling at his master's feet, "Mon-
seigneur, I have taken care of your property.
I give it back to you."
The text of Therese was foretold. That reve-
lation was its presentiment.
I had the first vision of the music of the work
at Brussels in the Bois de la Cambre in Novem-
ber of that year.
It was a beautiful afternoon under a dim au-
tumnal sun. One knew that the beneficent sap
was slowly running down in the beautiful trees.
The gay green foliage which had crowned their
tops had disappeared. One by one at the caprice
of the wind the leaves fell, dried up, reddened
and yellowed by the cold, taking in the gold,
irony of Nature ! its very brilliance, and shadings
and most varied tints.
Nothing resembled less the poor sorry trees of
our Bois de Boulogne. In the mighty spread of
their branches those magnificent trees remind
one of those which are so much admired in the
parks at Windsor and Richmond. I walked on
the dead leaves, scuffling them with my feet.
Their rustling pleased me and were a delightful
accompaniment to my thoughts.
I was closer to the heart of my work, "in the
bowels of the subject," for among the four or
SPEAKING OF 1793
five people with me was the future heroine of
I searched everywhere, greedily, for all that
had to do with the horrible period of the Terror,
in all the engravings which would give me the
sinister dark story of that epoch, in order to make
the scenes in the second act as true as possible,
and I confess that I like it.
I returned to Paris to my room Rue de Vau-
girard, and wrote the music of Therese during
the winter and spring (I finished it in the sum-
mer at the seashore) .
I remember that one morning the work on one
situation demanded the immediate assistance of
my collaborator, Jules Claretie, and that it un-
nerved me a good deal. I decided forthwith to
write to the Minister of Posts, Telegraphs and
Telephones and ask him to grant me an almost
impossible thing: to place a telephone in my
room before four o'clock.
Naturally the tone of my letter reflected that
of a deferential petition.
How could I have hoped for it? When I re-
turned from my affairs, I found on my mantel a
pretty telephone apparatus which was quite new.
The Minister, M. Berard, one of our most dis-
tinguished men of letters, had felt bound to in-
terest himself in my capricious wish on the spot.
He had sent a crew of twenty men with every-
thing required for a rapid installation.
Dear, charming minister! I love him the
more for his kindly word one day. "I was
happy," he said, "to give you such pleasure, to
you who have given me so much pleasure at the
theater with your works."
Pan pari refertur, yes, it was returning like
for like, but done with a grace and kindness
which I appreciated highly.
Hello! . . . Hello! At the first attempt I
was very clumsy of course. All the same I man-
aged to hold a conversation.
I also learned, another useful kindness, that
my number would not appear in the Annuaire.
Consequently nobody could call me up. I was
the only one who could use the marvellous in-
I did not wait long to call up Claretie and he
was much surprised by the call from the Rue
Vaugirard. I told him my ideas about the diffi-
cult scene which had brought about the installa-
tion of the telephone.
The difficulty was in the final scene.
SPEAKING OF 1793
I telephoned to him,
"Cut Therese's throat and it will be all right."
I heard an unknown voice crying excitedly
(our wire was crossed) :
"Oh, if I only knew who you were, you scoun-
drel, I would denounce you to the police. A
crime like that! Who is to be the victim?"
Suddenly Claretie's voice:
"Once her throat is cut she will be put in the
cart with her husband. I prefer that to poison."
The other man's voice:
"Oh, that's too much ! Now the rascals want
to poison her. I'll call the superintendent. I
want an inquiry!"
A terrible buzzing ensued; then a blissful
It was time; with a subscriber roused to such
a pitch, Claretie and I ran the chance of a bad
quarter of an hour! I still tremble at the
thought of it.
After that I often worked with Claretie over
the wire. The Ariane thread also took my voice
to Persephone, I should say . . . Therese,
whom I let hear in this way this or that vocal
ending, so as to have her opinion before I wrote
down the notes.
One beautiful spring day I went to revisit the
Garden at Bagatelle and its pretty pavilion, then
still abandoned, which the Comte d'Artois had
built under Louis XVI. I fixed thoroughly in
my memory that delightful little chateau which
the triumphant Revolution allowed to be ex-
ploited for picnic parties after despoiling its old-
time owner of it. When he got it back under the
Restoration, the Comte d'Artois called it Babiole,
Bagatelle or Babiole it's all the same; and this
same pavilion was occupied almost to our own
time by Sir Richard Wallace, the famous million-
aire, philanthropist and collector.
Later on I wanted the scenery of the first act
of Therese to reproduce it exactly. Our artiste
(Lucy Arbell) was especially impressed with the
idea. It is well known that her ancestry makes
her one of the descendants of the Marquis of
When the score was finished and we knew the
intentions of Raoul Gunsbourg, who wanted the
work for the Monte Carlo Opera, Mme. Massenet
and I were informed that H. S. H. the Prince of
Monaco would honor our modest home with his
presence, and with the chief of his household,
the Comte de Lamotte d'Allogny, would lunch
SPEAKING OF 1793
with us. We immediately invited my collabo-
rator and Mme. Claretie and my excellent pub-
lisher and Mme. Heugel.
The Prince of Monaco with his deep simplicity
was good enough to sit near a piano I had got in
for the occasion and listen to passages from
Therese. He learned the following detail from
us. During the first reading Lucy Arbell, a true
artist, stopped me as I was singing the last scene,
where Therese gasps with horror as she sees the
awful cart bringing her husband, Andre Thorel,
to the scaffold and cries with all her might,
"Vive le Roi!" so as to ensure that she shall be
reunited with her husband in death. Just then,
our interpreter, who was deeply affected, stopped
me and said in a burst of rapture, "I can never
sing that scene through, for when I recognize my
husband who has given me his name and saved
Armand de Clerval, I ought to lose my voice.
So I ask you to declaim all of the ending of the
Only great artists have such inborn gifts of
instinctive emotion. Witness Mme. Fides De-
vries who asked me to rewrite the aria of Chi-
mene, "Pleurez mes yeux" She found that
while she was singing it she thought only of her
dead father and almost forgot her friend, Rodri-
A sincere touch was suggested by the tenor,
Talazac, the creator of Des Grieux. He wanted
to add toi before vous which he uttered on finding
Manon in the seminaire of Saint Sulpice. Does
not that toi indicate the first cry of the old lover
on seeing his mistress again?
The preliminary rehearsals of Therese took
place in the fine apartment, richly decorated with
old pictures and work of art, which Raoul Guns-
bourg had in the Rue de Rivoli.
It was New Year's and we celebrated by work-
ing in the salon from eight o'clock in the evening
Outside it was cold, but a good fire made us
forget that, as we drank in that fine exquisite at-
mosphere champagne to the speedy realization
of our common hopes.
How exciting and impressive those rehearsals
were as they brought together such fine artists as
Lucy Arbell, Edmond Clement and Dufranne !
The first performance of Therese came the
next month, February 7, 1907, at the Monte
That year my dear wife and I were again the
SPEAKING OF 1793
guests of the Prince in that magnificent palace
my admiration for which I have already told.
His Highness invited us to his box the one
where I had heen called at the end of the premiere
of Le Jongleur de Notre Dame and where the
Prince of Monaco himself had publicly invested
me with the Grand Cordon of the Order of St.
It is a fine thing to go to the theater, but it is
an entirely different thing to be present at a per-
formance and listen to it. So the evening of
Therese I again took my accustomed place in the
Prince's salon. Tapestries and doors separated
it from the box. I was alone there in silence,
at least I might expect to be.
Silence ? The roar of applause which greeted
our artists was so great that neither doors nor
hangings could muffle it.
At the official dinner given at the palace the
next day our applauded creators were invited and
feted. My celebrated confrere Louis Diemer,
the marvellous virtuoso, who had consented to
play the harpsichord in the first act of Therese,
Mme. Louise Diemer, Mme. Massent and I were
there. To reach the banquet hall my wife and
I had to go up the Stairs of Honor. It was near
our apartment that ideally beautiful apart-
ment, truly a place of dreams.
For two consecutive years Therese was played
at Monte Carlo and with Lucy Arbell, the cre-
ator, we had the brilliant tenor, Rousseliere and
the master professor, Bouvet.
In March, 1910, fetes of unusual and unheard
of splendor were given at Monaco at the opening
of the colossal palace of the Oceanographic Mu-
Therese was given at the gala performance be-
fore an audience which included members of the
Institute, confreres of his Serene Highness, a
member of the Academic des Sciences. Many
illustrious persons, savants from the whole world,
representatives of the Diplomatic Corps, as well
as M. Loubet, ex-president of the Republic, were
The morning of the formal inauguration the
Prince delivered an admirable address, to which
the presidents of the foreign academies replied.
I was already much indisposed and I could
not take my place at the banquet at the palace,
after which the guests attended the gala perform-
ance of which I have spoken.
Henry Roujon, my confrere at the Institute,
SPEAKING OF 1793
was good enough at the banquet the following
day, to read the speech I would have delivered
myself had I not been obliged to stay in bed.
To be read by Henri Roujon is both honor and
Saint-Saens was also invited to the fetes and
he too stayed in the palace. He lavished the
most affectionate care on me constantly. The
Prince himself deigned to visit me in my sick
room and both told me of the success of the per-
formance and of our Therese, Lucy Arbell.
The doctor had left me quieter in the evening
and he too opened my door about midnight. He
doubtless did so to see how I was, but he also told
me of the fine performance. He knew it would
be balm of certain efficacy for me.
Here is a detail which gave me great satisfac-
They had given Le Vieil Aigle by Raoul Guns-
bourg in which Mme. Marguerite Carre, the wife
of the manager of the Opera-Comique, was highly
applauded. Albert Carre had been present at
the performance and he met one of his friends
from Paris and told him that he was going to put
on Therese at the Opera-Comique with its dra-
As a matter of fact four years after the premi-
ere at Monte Carlo and after many other houses
had performed the work, the first performance
of Therese was given at the Opera-Comique on
May 28, 1911. L'Echo de Paris was so kind as
to publish for the occasion a wonderfully got up
As I write these lines, I read that the second
act of Therese is a part of that rare program of
the fete offered to me at the Opera on Sunday,
December 10, 1911, by the organizers of the
pious French popular charity, "Trente Ans de
Theatre," the useful creation of my friend,
Adrian Bernheim, whose mind is as generous as
his soul is great and good.
A dear friend said to me recently, "If you
wrote Le Jongleur de Notre Dame with faith, you
wrote Therese with all your heart."
Nothing could be said more simply, and noth-
ing could touch me more.
FROM ARIANE TO DON QUICHOTTE
I never deliver a work until I have kept it by
me for months, even for years.
I had finished Therese long before it was
produced when my friend Heugel told me that
he had already made arrangements with Catulle
Mendes to write a sequel to Ariane.
Although to our way of thinking Bacchus was
a distinct work, it should form a whole with
The text for it was written in a few months
and I took great interest in it.
And yet and this is entire accord with my
character hesitation and doubt often bothered
Of all the fabulous stories of the gods and
demigods of antiquity those which relate to the
Hindu heroes are perhaps the least known.
The study of the fables of mythology, which
has had until recently only the interest of curi-
osity in even the most classical learning, has,
thanks to the work of modem scholars, acquired
a higher import as they have discovered its role
in the history of religion.
To allow the inspiration of his poetic muse,
which was always so ardent and finely colored,
wander at will in such a region was bound to de-
light the well informed mind of Catulle Mendes.
Palmiki's Sanscrit poem, the Ramayana, is at
once religious and epic. For those who have
read that sublime poem it is more curious and
greater than even the Nibelungen, Germany's epic
of the Middle Ages, which traces the struggle be-
tween the family of the Nibelungen with Etzel or
Attila and their consequent destruction. There
is nothing exaggerated in calling the Ramayana
the Iliad or Odyssey of India. It is as divinely
beautiful as the immortal work of old Homer
which has come down through the centuries.
I knew the legend through reading and re-
reading it, but what I had to do in my work was
to add to my thought what the words, the verses,
and the situations even could not explain clearly
enough to the often inattentive public.
My work this time was intense, obstinate, im-
placable. I literally fought; I cut out, and I
replaced. At last I finished Bacchus after de-
voting many days and months to it.
Queen Amahelly (Bacchus)
FROM ARIANE TO DON QUICHOTTE
The cast selected by the new management at
the Opera, Mm. Messager and Broussan, was as
follows: Lucienne Breval reappeared as Ari-
ane; Lucy Arbell, in memory of her success as
Persephone was Queen Amahelly in love with
Bacchus; Muratore, our Thesus, doubled in the
part of Bacchus, and Gresse accepted the role of
the fanatical priest.
The new management was not yet firmly in the
saddle and wanted to give our work a magnificent
Even as they had been previously cruel to
Le Mage and to our excellent director, Gailhard
(which did not prevent his going back there soon
afterwards, better liked than ever) now they were
hard on Bacchus.
When Bacchus went on both the press and the
public were undecided about the real worth of the
Giving a work under such conditions was run-
ning a danger a second time. I saw it, but too
late; for the work, in spite of its faults, did not
seem to warrant such an amount of abuse.
The public, however, which lets itself go in
the sincerity of its feelings, showed a very com-
forting enthusiasm in certain parts of the work.
It received the first scene of the third act, espe-
cially, with applause and numerous recalls.
The ballet in the forests of India was highly ap-
preciated. The entrance of Bacchus in his car
(admirably staged) was a great success.
With a little patience the good public would
have triumphed over the ill will of which I had
One day in February, 1909, 1 had finished an
act of Don Quichotte (I will speak of that later
on) it was four o'clock in the afternoon and
I rushed to my publishers to keep an appoint-
ment with Catulle Mendes. I thought I was
late, and as I went in I expressed my regret at
keeping my collaborator waiting. An employee
answered me in these words:
"He will not come. He is dead."
My brain reeled at the terrible news. I would
not have been more knocked out if some one had
hit me over the head with a club. In an instant
I learned the details of the appalling catastrophe.
When I came to myself I could only say, "We
are lost as far as Bacchus is concerned at the
Opera. Our most precious support is gone."
The anger his keen, fine criticism aroused
FROM ARIANE TO DON QUICHOTTE
against Catulle Mendes was a pretext for revenge
on the part of the slaughtered.
These fears were only too well justified by the
doubts of which I have spoken and if, in the se-
quel, Catulle Mendes had been present at our
rehearsals he would have been of great assistance.
My gratitude to those great artists Breval,
Arbell, Muratore, Gresse is very great. They
fought brilliantly and their talents inspired faith
in a fine work. It was often planned to try to
counteract the ill feeling. I thank Mm. Messa-
ger and Broussan for the thought although it
came to nothing.
I wrote an important bit of orchestration (with
the curtain down) to accompany the victorious
fight of the apes in the Indian forests with the
heroic army of Bacchus. I managed to make
real at least I think I did in the midst of the
symphonic developments the cries of the terrible
chimpanzees armed with stones which they
hurled from the tops of the rocks.
Mountain passes certainly don't bring good
luck. Thermopylae and Ronceval as Roland
and Leonidas learned to their cost. All their
yalor was in vain.
While I was writing this music I went many
times to the Jardin des Plantes to study the habits
of these mammals. I loved these friends of
which Schopenhauer spoke so evilly when he
said that if Asia has her monkeys Europe has her
French. The German Schopenhauer was not
very friendly to us.
Long before they decided, after many discus-
sions, to start rehearsing Bacchus (it did not ap-
pear until the end of the season of 1909) it was
my good fortune to begin work on the music in
three acts for Don Quichotte. Raoul Guns-
bourg was exceedingly anxious to have both the
subject and the cast at the Monte Carlo Opera.
I was in very bad humor when I thought of the
tribulations Bacchus had brought on me without
there being anything with which I could reproach
myself either as a man or as a musician.
So Don Quichotte came into my life as a sooth-
ing balm. I had great need of it. Since the
preceding September I had suffered acute rheu-
matic pains and I had passed much more of my
existence in bed than out of it. I had found a
device which enabled me to write in bed.
I put Bacchus and its uncertain future out of
FROM ARIANE TO DON QUICHOTTE
my thoughts, and day by day I advanced the com-
position of Don Quichotte.
Henri Cain, as is his way, built up very clev-
erly a scenario out of the heroic play by Le Lor-
aine, the poet whose fine future was killed by the
poverty which preceded his death. I salute that
hero to art whose physiognomy resembled so
much that of our "Knight of the Doleful Counte-
What charmed me and decided me to write this
work was Le Loraine's stroke of genius in substi-
tuting for the coarse wench at the inn, Cervantes's
Dulcinee, the original and picturesque La Belle
Dulcinee. The most renowned French authors
had not had that idea.
It brought to our piece an element of deep
beauty in the woman's role and a potent poetical
touch to our Don Quixote dying of love real
love this time for a Belle Dulcinee who justified
So it was with infinite delight that I waited for
the day of the performance which came in Feb-
ruary, 1910. Oh beautiful, magnificent pre-
They welcomed our marvellous artists with
great enthusiasm. Lucy Arbell was dazzling
and extraordinary as La Belle Dulcinee and
Greese was an extremely comical Sancho.
In thinking over this work which they gave five
times in the same season at Monte Carlo a
unique record in the annals of that house I feel
my whole being thrill with happiness at the
thought of seeing again that dreamland, the Pal-
ace of Monaco, and his Serene Highness on the
approaching occasion of Roma.
New joys were realized at the rehearsals of
Don Quichotte at the Theatre Lyrique de la Gaite,
where I knew I should receive the frankest, most
open and affectionate welcome from the directors,
the Isola brothers.
The cast we had at Monte Carlo was changed
and at Paris we had for Don Quixote that superb
artist Vanni Narcoux and for Sancho that mas-
terly comedian Lucien Fugere. Lucy Arbell
owed to her triumph at Monte Carlo her engage-
ment as La Belle Dulcinee at the Theatre Lyrique
de la Gaite.
But was there ever unalloyed bliss?
I certainly do not make that bitter reflection
in regard to the brilliant success of our artists or
about the staging of the Isola brothers which was
FROM ARIANE TO DON QUICHOTTE
so well seconded by the stage manager Labis.
But judge for yourselves. The rehearsals had
to be postponed for three weeks on account of the
severe and successive illnesses of our three artists.
A curious thing, however, and worthy of remark
was that our three interpreters all got well at
almost the same time, and left their rooms on the
very morning of the general rehearsal.
The frantic applause of the audience must
have been a sweet and altogether exquisite rec-
ompense for them when it broke out at the dress
rehearsal, December 28, 1910, which lasted from
one till five in the afternoon.
My New Year's Day was very festive. I was
ill and was on my bed of pain when they brought
me the visiting cards of my faithful pupils, happy
at my success, beautiful flowers for my wife, and
a delightful bronze statuette, a gift from Raoul
Gunsbourg, which recalled to me all that I owed
him for Don Quichotte at Monte Carlo, for the
first performances and the revivals of the same
The first year of Don Quichotte at the Theatre
Lyrique de la Gaite there were eighty consecutive
performances of the work.
It is a pleasure to recall certain picturesque
details which interested me intensely during the
First of all, the curious audacity of Lucy Ar-
bell, our La Belle Dulcinee, in wanting to accom-
pany herself on the guitar in the song in the
fourth act. In a remarkably short time, she
made herself a virtuoso on the instrument with
which they accompany popular songs in Spain,
Italy, and even in Russia. It was a charming
innovation. She relieved us of that banality of
the artist pretending to play a guitar, while a real
instrumentalist plays in the wings, thus making
a discord between the gestures of the singer and
the music. None of the other Dulcinees have
been able to achieve this tour de force of the crea-
trix. I recall, too, that knowing her vocal abili-
ties I brightened the role with daring vocaliza-
tions which afterwards surprised more than one
interpreter; and yet a contralto ought to know
how to vocalize as well as a soprano. Le Pro-
phete and The Barber of Seville prove this.
The staging of the windmill scene, so ingen-
iously invented by Raoul Gunsbourg, was more
complicated at the Gaite, although they kept the
effect produced at Monte Carlo.
FROM ARIANE TO DON QUICHOTTE
A change of horses, cleverly hidden from the
audience, made them think that Don Quixote and
the dummy were one and the same man !
Gunsbourg's inspiration in staging the fifth,
act was also a happy chance. Any artist, even
though he is the first in the world, in a scene of
agony wants to die lying on the ground. With
a flash of genius Gunsbourg cried, "A knight
should die standing!" And our Don Quixote
(then Chaliapine) leaned against a great tree in
the forest and so gave up his proud and love lorn
In the spring of 1910 my health was some-
what uncertain. Roma had been engraved long
before and was available material; Panurge was
finished and I felt a rare thing for me the im-
perative need of resting for some months.
But it was impossible for me to do absolutely
nothing, to give myself up completely to dolce
farniente, delightful as that might be. I looked
around and found an occupation which would
weary neither my mind nor heart.
I have told you that in May, 1891, when the
house of Hartmann went under, I entrusted to a
friend the scores of Werther and Amadis. I am
speaking now only of Amadis. I went to my
friend who opened his strong box and brought
out, not banknotes, but seven hundred pages (the
rough draft of the orchestration) which formed
the score of Amadis and which had been com-
posed at the end of 1889 and during 1890. The
work had waited there in silence for twenty-one
Amadis! What a pretty libretto I had in
Amadis! What a really novel viewpoint ! The
Knight of the Lily is poetically and emotionally
attractive and still remains the type of the con-
stant, respectful lover. The situations are en-
chanting. In short what resurrection could be
more pleasing than that of the noble heroes of the
Middle Ages those doughty, valiant, coura-
I took this score from the safe and left in its
place a work for a quartet and two choruses for
male voices. Amadis was to be my work for that
summer. I began to copy it cheerfully at Paris
and went to greville to continue on it.
In spite of the fact that this work was easy and
seemed to me such a soothing and perfect seda-
tive for the discomfort I felt, I found that I was
really very ill. I said to myself that I had done
well in giving up composing in my precarious
state of health.
I went to Paris to consult my physician. He
listened to my heart, and then, without hiding
from me what his diagnosis had revealed, said,
"You are very sick."
"What," I exclaimed, "it is impossible. I
was still copying when you came."
"You are seriously ill," he insisted.
The next morning the doctors and surgeons
made me leave my dear quiet home and my be-
A motor ambulance took me to the hospital in
the Rue de la Chaise. It was some consolation
not to leave my quarter! I was entered on the
hospital records under an assumed name for the
physicians feared interviews, however friendly,
which would have been demanded and which I
was absolutely forbidden to grant.
My bed, through a most gracious care, was in
the best room in the place and I was much moved
by this attention.
Surgeon Professor Pierre Duval and Drs. Rich-
ardiere and Laffitte gave me the most admirable
and devoted care. And there I was in a quiet
which wrapped me in a tranquillity the value of
which I appreciated.
My dearest friends came to see me whenever
they were allowed. My wife was much upset
and had hurried from figreville bringing me her
I was better in a few days, but the compulsory
rest imposed on my body did not prevent my
I did not wait for my condition to improve be-
fore I busied myself with the speeches I would
have to deliver as president of the Institute and
of the Academic des Beaux- Arts (the double pres-
idency fell to me that year) and though I was in
bed packed in ice, I sent directions for the scenery
of Don Quichotte.
Finally I got back home.
What a joy it was to see my home again, my
furniture, to find the books whose pages I loved
to turn, all the objects that delighted my eyes and
to which I was accustomed, to see again those
who were dear to me, and the servants overflow-
ing with attentions. My joy was so intense that
I burst into tears.
How happy I was to take up again my walks,
although I was still uncertain from weakness and
had to lean on the arm of my kind brother and on
that of a dear lady! How happy I was during
my convalescence to walk through the shady
paths of the Luxembourg amid the joyous laugh-
ter of children gamboling there in all their youth-
fulness, the bright singing of the birds hopping
from branch to branch, content to live in that
beautiful garden, their delightful kingdom. . . .
greville, which I had deserted when I so little
dreamed of what was to happen to me, resumed
its ordinary life as soon as my beloved wife, now
tranquil about my fate, was able to return.
The summer which had been so sad came to
an end and autumn came with its two public ses-
sions of the Institute and the Academic des
Beaux- Arts, as well as the rehearsals of Don Qai-
An idea of real interest was submitted to me
between times by the artiste to whom the mission
of making it triumph was to fall later. I turned
the idea to account and wrote a set of composi-
tions with the title proposed by the interpretess,
Les Expressions Lyriques. This combination of
two forces of expression, singing and speaking,
interested me greatly ; especially in making them
vibrate in one and the same voice.
Moreover, the Greeks did the same thing in
the interpretation of their hymns, alternating the
chant with declamation.
And as there is nothing new under the sun,
what we deemed a modern invention was merely
a revival from the Greeks. Nevertheless we hon-
ored ourselves in doing so.
Since then and ever since I have seen audi-
ences greatly captivated by these compositions
Dulcinee (Don Quichotte)
and deeply affected by the admirable personal
expression of the interpretess.
As I was correcting the last proofs of Panurge
one morning, I received a kindly visit from 0.
de Lagoanere, the general manager of the Thea-
tre Lyrique de la Gaite. The libretto of Panurge
had been entrusted to me by my friend Heugel
and its authors were Maurice Boukay, the pseu-
donym of Couyba, later Minister of Commerce,
and Georges Spitzmuller. De Lagoanere came
in behalf of the Isola brothers to ask me to let
them have Panurge.
I answered to this proceeding, which was as
spontaneous as it was flattering, that the gentle-
men's interest in me was very kind but that they
did not know the work.
"That is true," the amiable M. Lagoanere an-
swered at once, "but it is a work of yours."
We fixed on a date and before we separated the
agreement was signed, including the names of the
artists proposed by the directors.
Some weeks ago my good friend Adrien Bern-
heim came to see me and between two sugar
plums (he is as much of a gourmand as I am)
proposed that I should take part in a great per-
formance he was organizing in my honor to cele-
brate the tenth anniversary of that French popu-
lar charity "Trente Ans de Theatre." "In my
honor!" I cried in the greatest confusion.
No artist, even the greatest, could help being
delighted at lending his presence at such an eve-
After that, day by day, and always at my house,
in the sitting room in the Rue de Vaugirard, I saw
gathered together, animated by an equal devotion
of making a success, the general secretaries of the
Opera and the Opera-Comique, Mm. Stuart and
Carbonne, and the manager of the Theatre Ly-
rique de la Gaite, M. 0. de Lagoanere. My dear
Paul Vidal, leader of the orchestra at the Opera
and professor of composition at the Conserva-
toire, was also there.
The program was settled out of hand. The
private rehearsals began at once. Nevertheless
the fear that I felt and that I have always had
when I make a promise, that I may be ill when the
moment for fulfilment comes, caused me more
than one sleepless night.
"All's well that ends well," says the wisdom of
the nations. I was wrong, as you will see, to tor-
ture myself through so many nights.
As I have said, no artist would have felt happy,
if he had not shared in that evening by giving his
generous assistance. Our valiant president,
Adrien Bernheim, by a few words of patriotism
induced all the professors of the Opera orchestra
to come and rehearse the various acts inter-
spersed through the program at six twenty-five in
the evening. Nobody dined; everyone kept the
To you all, my friends and confreres, my sin-
I cannot properly appraise this celebration in
which I played so personal a part. . . .
There is no circumstance in life, however beau-
tiful or serious, without some incident to mar it
or to provide a contrast.
All my friends wanted to give evidence of their
enthusiasm by being present at the soiree at the
Opera. Among them was a faithful frequenter
of the theaters who made a point of coming to
express his regret at not being able to be present
at this celebration. He had recently lost his un-
cle, who was a millionaire and whose heir he
I offered my condolences and he went.
What is funnier is that I was obliged to hear
fortuitously the strange conversation about his
uncle's funeral he had with the head undertaker.
"If," said the latter, "Monsieur wants a first
class funeral, he will have the entire church hung
in black and with the arms of the deceased, the
Opera orchestra, the leading singers, the most
imposing catafalque, according to the price."
The heir hesitated.
"Then, sir, it will be second class; the orches-
tra from the Opera-Comique, second rate singers
according to the amount."
Whereupon the undertaker added in a sad
"Then it will be third class; but I warn you,
Monsieur, it will not be gay!" (sic).
As I am on this topic I will add that I have re-
ceived a letter of congratulations from Italy which
concludes with the usual salutations, but this
time conceived as follows :
"Believe, dear sir, in my most sincere obse-
quies." (Free translation of ossequiosita.)
Sometimes death has as amusing sides as life
has sad ones.
Which brings to mind the fidelity with which
the Lionnet brothers attended burials.
Was it sympathy for the departed or ambition
to see their names among those distinguished per-
sons mentioned as having been present? We
shall never know.
One day in a funeral procession Victorien Sar-
dou heard one of the Lionnets say to one of his
neighbors, with a broken-hearted air, while giv-
ing the sad news about a friend's health, "Well,
it will be his turn soon."
These words aroused Sardou's attention, and
he exclaimed, pointing to the brothers,
"They not only go to all the burials ; the*; an-
During the summer of 1902 I left Paris and
went to my home in figreville. Among the
books and pamphlets I took with me was Rome
Vaincue by Alexandre Parodi. That magnifi-
cent tragedy had had a never to be forgotten suc-
cess when it was played on the stage of the Com-
edie-Frangaise in 1876.
Sarah Bernhardt and Mounet-Sully, then in
their youth, were the protagonists in the two most
impressive acts of the work; Sarah Bernhardt in-
carnated the blind grandmother, Posthumia, and
Mounet-Sully interpreted the Gallic slave Vesta-
Sarah in all the flower of her radiant beauty
had demanded the role of the old woman, so true
is it that the real artiste does not think of herself,
but knows when it is necessary to abstract from
self, to sacrifice her charms, her grace and the
light of her allurements to the higher exigencies
The same remark could be applied at the
Opera thirty years later.
I remember those tall bay windows through
which the sunshine came into my great room at
After dinner I read the engaging brochure,
Rome Vaincue, until the last beams of daylight.
I could not get away from it I became so enthusi-
astic. My reading was stopped only by
, . . . 1'obscure clarte qui tombe des etoiles
Bientot avec la nuit . . .
as our great Corneille said.
Need I add that I was unable to resist the de-
sire to go to work immediately and that during the
following days I wrote the whole scene for Post-
humia in the fourth act? One might say that in
this way I worked by chance, as I had not yet dis-
tributed the scenes in accord with the necessities
of an opera. All the same I had already de-
cided on a title: Roma.
The complete concentration with which I
threw myself into this work did not prevent my
realizing that in default of Alexandre Parodi who
died in 1901, I needed the authority of the
heirs. I wrote, but my letter brought no re-
I owed this contretemps to a wrong address.
Indeed the widow of the illustrious poet of trag-
edy told me afterwards that my request never
reached its destination.
Parodi! Truly he was the vir probus dicendi
peritus of the ancients. What memories I have
of our strolls along the Boulevard des Batig-
nolles ! How eloquently he narrated the life of
the Vestals which he had read in Ovid, their great
I listened eagerly to his colorful talk, so en-
thusiastic about things of the past. Ah, his out-
hursts against all that was not elevated in
thought, his noble pride in his intentions, digni-
fied and simple in form how superb, I say, these
outbursts were, and how one felt that his soul
thrilled in the Beyond! . It was as if a flame
burned in him searing on his cheeks the signs
of his inward tortures.
I admired him and loved him deeply. It
seems to me that our work together is not fin-
ished, but that some day we shall be able to take
it up again in that mysterious realm whither we
go but from which none ever returns.
I was entirely led astray by the silence which
followed the sending of my letter and I was going
to abandon the project of writing Roma, when a
master poet came into my life. He offered me
five acts Ariane for the Opera, as I have said
Five years later, in 1907, my friend Henri
Cain asked me if I intended to resume my faithful
collaboration with him.
As he chatted with me, he remarked that my
thoughts were elsewhere and that I was preoccu-
pied with another idea. That was it exactly. I
was drawn to confess my adventure with Roma.
My desire to find in that work the text of my
dreams was immediately shared by Henri Cain;
forty-eight hours afterwards he brought me the
authorization of the heirs. They had signed an
agreement which gave me five years in which to
write and put on the work.
It is an agreeable thing to thank again Mme.
Parodi, a woman of unusual and real distinc-
tion, and her sons, one of whom holds a high
place in the Department of Public Instruction.
As I have already said, I found myself in Feb-
ruary, 1910, at Monte Carlo for the rehearsals
and first performance of Don Quichotte. I again
lived as before in that apartment in the Hotel du
Prince de Galles which has always pleased me so
much. I always returned to it with joy. How
could it be otherwise?
The room in which I worked looked out on the
level of the boulevards of the city and I had an
incomparable view from my windows.
In the foreground were orange, lemon, and
olive trees; on the horizon the great rock rising
out of the azure waves, and on the rock the old
palace modernized by the Prince of Monaco.
In this quiet peaceful home an exceptional
thing for a hotel in spite of the foreign families
installed there, I was stirred to work. During
my hours of freedom from rehearsals I busied my-
self in writing an overture for Roma. I had
brought with me the eight hundred pages of or-
chestration in finished manuscript.
The second month of my stay at Monte Carlo
I spent at the Palace of Monaco. I finished the
composition there amidst enchantment, in its
deeply poetic splendor.
When I was present at the rehearsals of Roma
two years later and first heard the work played at
sight by the artists of the Opera conducted with
an extraordinary art by that master Leon Jehin,
I thought of the coincidence that these pages had
been written on the spot so near where they were
to be played.
When I returned to Paris in April, after the
sumptuous fetes with which the Oceanographic
Museum was opened, I received a call from Raoul
Gunsbourg. He came in the name of his Serene
Highness to learn whether I had a work I could
let him have for 1912. Roma had been finished
for some time ; the material for it was all ready,
and in consequence I could promise it to him and
wait two years more. I offered it to him.
My custom, as I have said, is never to speak
of a work until it is entirely finished, and the ma-
terials which are always important are engraved
and corrected. It is a considerable task, for
which I want to thank my dear publishers, Henri
Heugel and Paul-mile Chevalier, as well as my
rigid correctors at the head of whom I love to
place Ed. Laurens, a master musician. If I in-
sist on this, it is because up to now, nothing has
been able to prevent the persistence of this form-
ula, "M. Massenet is hurrying to finish his score
in order to be ready for the first performance."
Let us record it and get on !
It was not until December, 1911, that the re-
hearsals of the artists in Roma began at Raoul
Gunsbourg's, Rue de Rivoli.
It was fine to see our great artists enamored
of the teachings of Gunsbourg who lived the
roles and put his life into it in putting them on
Alas for me ! An accident put me in bed at
the beginning of those impassioned studies.
However, every evening from five to seven I fol-
lowed from my bed, thanks to the telephone, the
progress of the rehearsals of Roma.
The idea of not being able, perhaps, to go to
Monte Carlo bothered me, but finally my excel-
lent friend, the eminent Dr. Richardiere, author-
ized my departure. On January 29 my wife and
I started for that country of dreams.
At the station in Lyons, an excellent dinner!
A good sign. Things look well.
The night, always fatiguing in a train, was en-
dured by means of the joy of the future rehears-
als. Things looked better !
The arrival in my beloved room at the Prince
de Galles. An intoxication. Things look bet-
What an incomparable health bulletin, is it
Finally, the reading of Roma, in Italian with
the orchestra, artists and chorus. There were
so many fine, kindly manifestations, that I paid
for my warm emotions by catching cold.
What a contrast; what irony! However why
be surprised? Are not all contrasts of that
Happily my cold did not last long. Two days
later I was up again, better than ever. I profited
by this by going with my wife, always curious and
eager to see picturesque places, to wander in an
abandoned park. We were there in the solitude
of that rich, luxuriant nature, in the olive groves,
which let us see through their grayish green
leaves, so tender and sweet, the sea in its change-
less blue, when I discovered . . . a cat !
Yes, a cat, a real cat, and a very friendly one !
Knowing without a doubt that I had always been
friendly with his kind, he honored me with his
society and his insistent and affectionate mewings
never left me. I poured out my anxious heart to
this companion. Indeed, it was during my hours
of isolation that the dress rehearsal of Roma was
at its height. Yes, I said to myself, just now
Lentulus has arrived. Now Junia. Behold
Fausta in the arms of Fabius. At this very mo-
Feb. 29, 1912.
Dear great friend,
You do me the honor to ask me for these lines
for reproduction in America.
In America ! . . *
It will be my glory to send thither my thought,
full of admiration for that great country, for its
choice public, for its theaters in which my works
have been given. You honor my artists and my-
self so much by speaking of Roma, and I am the
prouder of your words because they will present
that tragic opera with your talent's high au-
DjfWi, hltuMt bMn
* < tvfyv tw iU
\ j ^ v
t lit Vffa
Facsimile of Massenet's Reply to an Invitation to Visit
ment Posthumia drags herself to the feet of the
cruel senators. For we, we others, have, and it
is a strange fact, an intuition of the exact moment
when this or that scene is played, a sort of divina-
tion of the mathematical division of time applied
to the action of the theater. It was the four-
teenth of February. The sun of that splendid
day could not but brighten the joy of all my fine
I cannot speak of the superb first performance
of Roma without a certain natural embarrass-
ment. I leave that task to others, but I permit
myself to reproduce what anyone could read in
the next day's papers.
The interpretation one of the most beautiful
that it has been our lot to applaud was in every
way worthy of this new masterpiece of Mas-
A remarkable thing which must be noted in
the first place is that all the parts are what are
termed in theatrical parlance "good roles."
Every one of them gives its interpreter chances
for effects in singing and acting which are cal-
culated to win the admiration and applause of the
Having said this much in praise of the work,
let us congratulate the marvellous interpreters in
their order on the program.
Mile. Kousnezoff with her youth, fresh beauty
and superb dramatic soprano voice was a feast to
the eyes and the ears and she will continue to
be for a long time the prettiest and most seduc-
tive Fausta that one might wish for.
The particularly dramatic part of the blind
Posthumia was the occasion of a creation which
will rank among the most extraordinary in the
brilliant career of that great operatic tragedienne
Lucy Arbell. Costumed with perfect esthetic
appreciation in a beautiful dark robe of iron gray
silk, with her face artificially aged but beautiful
along classic lines, Lucy Arbell moved and stirred
the audience profoundly, as much by her impres-
sive acting as by the deep velvety notes of her con-
Mme. Guiraudon in her scene in the second act
achieved a great personal success, and never so
much as yesterday did the Paris critic regret that
this young, exquisite artist had abandoned pre-
maturely her career as an artist and consents to
appear hereafter but rarely and ... at Monte
Mme. Eliane Peltier (the High Priestess) and
Mile. Doussot (Galla) completed excellently a
female cast of the first order.
Furthermore the male parts were no less re-
markable or less applauded.
M. Muratore, a grand opera tenor of superb
appearance and generous voice, invested the role
of Lentulus with a vigor and manly beauty which
won all hearts, and which, in Paris as at Monte
Carlo, will ensure him a brilliant and memorable
M. J. F. Delmas with his clear diction and lyr-
ical declamation, which is so properly theatrical,
was an incomparable Fabius and was no less
applauded than his comrades from the Opera,
Muratore and Note. The latter in fact was mar-
vellous in the part of the slave Vestapor whose
wild imprecations resounded to the utmost in his
great sonorous baritone.
Finally, M. Clauzure, whose Roman mask was
perfect, achieved a creation the first in his ca-
reer which places this young Premier Prix of
the Conservatoire on an equal footing with the fa-
mous veterans of the Paris Opera beside whom
last night he fought the good fight of art.
The chorus, both men and women, patiently
trained by their devoted master M. Louis Vialet,
and the artists of the Opera, who anew affirmed
their mastery and homogeneity, were irreproach-
able under the supreme direction of the master
Leon Jehin. All the composers whose works he
conducts justly load him down with thanks and
felicitations, and his talent and indefatigable
power are acclaimed constantly by all the dilet-
tanti of Monte Carlo.
M. Visconti, who in his way is one of the indis-
pensable artistic mainsprings of the Theatre de
Monte Carlo, painted five scenes of Roma, better
five masterly paintings, which were greatly ad-
mired and which won great admiration and pro-
longed applause. His "Forum" and "Sacred
Grove" are among the most beautiful theatrical
paintings ever seen here.
As for M. Raoul Gunsbourg, the stage mana-
ger in whose praise it is henceforth superfluous
to speak, it is sufficient to say that Roma is one of
the scores he has put on with the most pleasure
and the most sincere veneration. That is to say
that he brought to bear on it all his care, and all
his dictatorial and artistic mind.
With such a combination of the elements of
success put into Roma, victory was certain. Last
night's triumph was one of the most complete
that we have had to chronicle here for fifteen
years. And it is with joy that we affirm this to
the glory of the Master, Massenet, and of the
Monte Carlo Opera.
That year the days passed at the Palace were
all the sweeter to my heart as the Prince showed
me an even more touching affection, if that were
I was honored by the duty of attending in the
salon adjoining the Prince's box (everyone knows
that I do not attend first performances) and I
recall that his Serene Highness at the end of the
first act, in front of the attentive assemblage, said
to me, "I have given you all I could; I have not
yet embraced you." And as he said this his
Highness embraced me with keen emotion.
Here I am in Paris, on the eve of the rehearsals
and first performance of Roma at the Opera. I
have hope ... I have such admirable artists.
They have already won the first battle for me.
Will they not be able to triumph in the second?
THOUGHTS AFTER DEATH
I have departed from this planet and I have
left behind my poor earthly ones with their occu-
pations which are as many as they are useless ; at
last I am living in the scintillating splendor of
the stars, each of which used to seem to me as
large as millions of suns. Of old I was never
able to get such lighting for my scenery on the
great stage at the Opera where the backdrops
were too often in darkness. Henceforth there
will be no letters to answer ; I have bade farewell
to first performances and the literary and other
discussions which come from them.
Here there are no newspapers, no dinners, no
sleepless nights. Ah ! if I could but counsel my
friends to join me here, I would not hesitate to
call them to me. But would they come?
Before I came to this distant place where I
now sojourn, I wrote out my last wishes (an un-
happy husband would have taken advantage of
the occasion to write with joy, "my first wishes").
THOUGHTS AFTER DEATH
I had indicated that above all I wanted to be
buried at greville, near the family abode in
which I had lived so long. Oh, the good ceme-
tery in the open fields, silent as befits those who
live there !
I asked that they should refrain from hanging
black draperies on my door, ornaments worn
threadbare by use. I expressed the wish that a
suitable carriage should take me from Paris, the
journey, with my consent, to begin at eight in the
An evening paper (perhaps two) felt it to be
its duty to inform its readers of my decease. A
few friends I still had some the day before
came and asked my concierge if the news were
true, and he replied, "Alas, Monsieur went with-
out leaving his address." And his reply was
true for he did not know where that obliging car-
riage was taking me.
At lunch acquaintances honored me among
themselves with their condolences, and during
the day here and there in the theaters they spoke
of the adventure,
"Now that he is dead, they'll play him less,
"Do you know he left still another work?"
"Ah, believe me, I loved him well! I have
always had such great success in his works."
A woman's lovely voice said that.
They wept at my publishers, for there they
loved me dearly.
At home, Rue de Vaugirard, my wife, daugh-
ter, grandchildren and great-grandchildren gath-
ered and almost found consolation in their sobs.
The family was to reach figreville the same
evening, the night before my burial.
And my soul (the soul survives the body) lis-
tened to all these sounds from the city left behind.
As the carriage took me farther and farther away,
the talking and the noises grew fainter and
fainter, and I knew, for I had my vault built long
ago, that the heavy stone once sealed would be a
few hours later the portal of oblivion.
from which it was borrowed.
A 000 774 347 9