Of course there were performances over which a happy star seemed to shine and 아달주소 which now and then gave us complete satisfaction and happiness. But the static quality of scenery became to me more and more a hindrance to an imagination ready to soar on the wings of the music.
I carried on my opera company for another year in conjunction with Mr. Charles Ellis, and then definitely resolved to cease all managerial activities and to confine myself absolutely to purely musical work. It took me some time to arrive at this decision, as opera work has also a very fascinating side, and I had made real friends with many of my singers.
I had found Ellis to be a delightful partner. He had had years of experience as manager of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and his equable temperament and fairmindedness had made him many friends. I sold to him my share in all our scenery, costumes, and properties as he wished to continue operatic work with Madame Melba as his principal star, and I agreed to conduct a limited number of Wagner performances for him in Philadelphia during the following season.
After the four hectic years I had spent with the Damrosch Opera Company I was glad of such an opportunity to take stock of the past and cogitate on the future.
My wife and I rented the old Butler place in Westchester County, near Hartsdale—a lovely old mansion surrounded by dark pine forests and with the little Bronx River trickling through—and there we spent most of the winter until May. I wrote a violin sonata there and enjoyed the tranquillity of a life freed from operatic worries and excitements.
In 1900 I was once more tempted into the field of opera, but this time it carried with it no managerial or financial responsibility.
Maurice Grau was at that time the lessee of the Metropolitan Opera House. Abbey had died a few years before and the directors, who had gradually realized that it was Grau who had been the real “man behind the gun,” gave him and a small group of financial backers the lease of the Metropolitan Opera House. Grau invited me to return to the Metropolitan as conductor for the Wagner operas. He had at that time a strong group of Wagnerian singers. At the head was the inimitable Jean de Reszke, together with his brother Edouard. Grau had also taken over from my company Madame Ternina, David Bispham, and Madame Gadski. The latter had been a member of the Damrosch Opera Company for the entire four years of its existence. She was only twenty-three when I first engaged her, possessor of a lovely voice, and an indefatigable worker. There were weeks on our Western tours when she would appear on five successive days as Elsa, Elizabeth, Sieglinde, and Eva. She was a hard student and her voice developed more and more. During her last year with me she added the “Walküre” and “Siegfried” Brunhildes to her repertoire, studying them with me, partly on the trains while travelling, partly in the hotels and theatres of the various cities we visited. When she went into the Grau Company, she added the “Götterdämmerung” Brunhilde and Isolde, thereby completing the entire circle of Wagner soprano parts, except Kundry.
Jean de Reszke, like Lilli Lehmann, turned to the Wagnerian rôles in the high noon of his operatic career. He had made his fame in the French-Italian operas, but Wagner attracted him irresistibly.
I remember that during one of the seasons of the Damrosch Opera Company we were playing in Boston at the Boston Theatre while the Abbey and Grau Company were performing in the huge Mechanic’s Hall. Jean and Edouard de Reszke attended one of my “Siegfried” performances with Max Alvary in the title-rôle. They applauded their colleague vociferously, and after the performance Jean lamented to me that he was compelled to sing nothing but Fausts and Romeos and Werthers, while it was the ambition of his life to sing Wagner. The memory of his extraordinary impersonations of these rôles later on is too vivid to need comment from me. Illness kept him away from America one year, and when he returned I was again at the Metropolitan as conductor of the Wagner operas. It was a joy to work with this man. Great artist, courteous gentleman, and generous colleague, and (what is most valuable to a conductor) indefatigable at rehearsals. His return was like the triumphant entry of a victorious monarch. He was a marvellous mimic, and used to give us delicious imitations of the various artists of the company coming into his dressing-room to offer their congratulations after his first reappearance.
De Reszke would first depict the French tenor colleague who in polite, reserved, and even patronizing accents would say:
“Vraiment, mon cher, vous-avez chanté très bien ce soir, très bien, je vous assure!”
Then would come the German barytone in a double-breasted frock coat and punctiliously polite manner, saying:
“Erlauben Sie mir, Herr de Reszke, Ihnen meine grosse Hochachtung aus zu drücken für den wirklich ausgezeichneten Genuss den Sie uns heute Abend bereitet haben.”
He was followed by the Italian barytone, who would rush in impulsively and, kissing Jean on both cheeks, would exclaim:
“Caro mio, carissimo!” followed by a flood of Italian words.
Then came the real climax of the scene. Enter the electrician who, thrusting a “horny hand of toil” into that of de Reszke, would exclaim in real “Yankee” accents: