When we arrived in New York we found my father anxiously pacing the wharf MLB중계
where he had been waiting, since early morning, for eight hours, to take us in a carriage from Hoboken to a house in East 35th Street which he had rented and furnished completely from top to bottom as a surprise for my mother. The hot and cold water on every floor, the gas and the carpets were a revelation to us, as these modern conveniences were hardly known in Breslau at that time. My youngest sister, Elizabeth (now Mrs. Harry T. Seymour), was born in this house.
My brother and I were immediately put into the primary department of Public School No. 40 in East 23d Street, and as we did not know a word of English we were entered in the lowest class, although I had already been in the Sexta of the Gymnasium (High School) and my brother in the Quarta, and I had studied Latin and he both Latin and Greek. But we dutifully spelled out CAT, DOG, etc., until after a few weeks of this we were promoted, and so these promotions went on with lightning rapidity until we had acquired English and could enter a class more appropriate to our years, nine and twelve respectively.
I continued my studies of piano under an old teacher, Jean Vogt by name, and after his return to Germany I studied with Pruckner, von Inten, Max Pinner, and Boeckelman. The last, feeling that I could not raise my fingers high enough from the knuckles, gave me a machine of steel springs which, through rings attached to the fingers, were to lift them higher than nature would permit. Unfortunately this contrivance brought about a weakness in the third finger of my right hand from which I have never quite recovered and which unfortunately, or fortunately, has prevented me from becoming a professional piano virtuoso. But I had acquired a good technic and a singing quality of tone which served me well years after when I began to give recitals at the piano on the Wagnerian music-dramas, at which I played the orchestral part on the piano while I recited the text and explained the various musical motifs and their relation to the text.
My first appearance in an orchestra was, I am sorry to say, a rank failure. I was only a boy of fourteen years and my father had prepared a charming operetta of Schubert’s, “Der Häusliche Krieg,” for a “Summer Night’s Festival” of the Arion Society. In this occurs a delightful March of the Crusaders with one loud clash of the cymbals at the climax. It did not seem worth while to engage a musician at “full union rates” for this clash and I was, therefore, intrusted with it. At rehearsals I counted my bars rest and watched for my cue with such perfection that the cymbals resounded with great success at the proper time and in the proper manner, but at the performance, alas, a great nervousness fell upon me and as the march proceeded and came nearer and nearer the crucial moment, my hand seemed paralyzed, and when my father’s flashing eye indicated to me that the moment had come, I simply could not seem to lift the cymbals which suddenly weighed like a hundred tons. The march went on but I felt that the entire evening had been ruined by me and that every one in the audience must know that I had “funked it.” As soon as I could I slipped out of the orchestra pit underneath the stage and into the dark night, feeling that life had no joy left for me. I could not bear to hear the rest of the opera or to meet my father’s reproachful eye.In the summer of 1876 Wagner inaugurated the Bayreuth Theatre with the first production of his great “Nibelungen Trilogy.” All the old friends and the musicians who had been in the forefront of the fight in the early days when Wagner’s genius was not generally recognized, gathered there from far and near in order to be present at what was destined to be a magnificent demonstration of the final triumph of the cause.
My father, naturally, was keen to be there and to rejoice with his old colleagues. He had not returned to Germany since he had left it in 1871 to found a home for his family in the New World. He had never regretted this step, but many bonds of sentiment and many old friends drew him to Europe. Alas, he had no money for such a trip and there seemed no way of obtaining it. There was a lottery formed by a few Wagner enthusiasts the proceeds of which should go to the Bayreuth Fund. The winner of the lucky number was to receive a ticket for the first performance, and my father bought a number, but of course he did not win, and there was the price of the steamship passage to pay and the expenses of maintenance in Europe besides. In his despair he told his old friend Schirmer, the New York music publisher, of his distress and Schirmer immediately said:
“Doctor, you simply must go, and here is a loan of five hundred dollars, which you can repay me whenever you can afford it.”
This was so friendly and generous an act that it gives me pleasure to record it here, especially as his two sons, Rudolph and Gustav, also continued on terms of friendliest intimacy with me from boyhood to their all-too-premature deaths. Another friend of my father, Charles A. Dana, the great editor of the New York Sun asked him to write some articles on his Bayreuth experiences for The Sun and paid him another five hundred dollars, so that my father was liberally supplied with funds for his trip to Europe.
This visit, the reunion with Wagner, Liszt, Raff, Lassen, Porges, and hosts of other old friends, together with all the marvels of the first production of the “Nibelungen Trilogy,” refreshed my father immensely in body and spirit, and when he returned home and recounted to us all the glories of the trip, I fairly ached with the joy of it and immediately proceeded to spend all my pocket money in the making of a very remarkable doll’s theatre about three feet wide and equally high in order to produce Wagner myself. I painted all the scenery and the actor dolls for it, and had the most brilliant lighting effects and a curtain that went up and down with a perfection not always witnessed even on the real stage.
As I had some talent for painting and had attended the drawing classes at Cooper Union, I knew something of colors and perspective and delighted especially in designing interiors of palaces with dozens of pillars which, beginning in large size at the proscenium, would dwindle down to the smallest pillarets, gradually lost in the dim distances, so that my palaces always looked as if they were miles long.
My fellow director was my boy friend, Gustav Schirmer, son of the publisher, and our first production was, of course, a Wagner music drama. Gustav’s mother was an enthusiastic Wagnerite who eventually spent much of her life in Bayreuth and Weimar. “Rhinegold” seemed to me especially fitted for our theatre as it offered almost boundless scenic opportunities. The effect of water in the first scene which is supposed to depict the depths of the Rhine, I achieved very successfully by several alternate curtains of blue and green gauze, and behind the rocky reef in the centre of this scene a gas-burner was very cleverly hidden, the light of which, as it gradually increased in strength, brilliantly simulated the awakening of the “Rhinegold.”