Lullabies for All Ages: Mary Garden's Musical Legacy from Bedouins by James Huneker Chapters 1 to 3 read by Jason

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"Bedouins" is a collection of essays by James Huneker, a music critic and writer who lived from 1857 to 1921. The book covers a wide range of topics related to art, music, literature, and culture. Some of the subjects discussed include the famous opera singer Mary Garden, the composers Debussy and Chopin, the painter Botticelli, the writer Poe, and the authors Anatole France and Mirbeau.

Huneker also explores other subjects such as the artistic temperament, idols and ambergris, grindstones, and a masque of music.

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That little girl down Boston way, who had mastered William James and Boris Sidis before she was in her teens, behaved badly one afternoon. Possibly it was the sultry weather, or growing pains--in the psychic sphere, of course--or, perhaps, it may have been due to the reflexes from prolonged attention to the Freudian psycho-analysis and the significance of Twilight Sleep; but whatever the cause, that precocious child flew off her serene handle and literally “sassed” the entire household. The tantrum over--she afterward described it as a uric-acid storm--and order reigning once more in Bach Bay, she was severely interrogated by her male parent as to the whys and wherefores of her singular deviation from accustomed glacial intellectual objectivity. Her answer was in the proper key: “My multiple personalities failed to co-ordinate. Hence the distressing lack of centripetal functioning.” She was immediately forgiven. Multiple personalities are to blame for much in this vale of tears; that is, if you are unlucky or lucky enough to be possessed of the seven devils of psychology.
Mary Garden was, no doubt, a naughty little girl in her time. That she climbed trees, fought boys twice her size, stuck out her tongue at pious folk, scandalized her parents, and tore from the heads of nice girls handfuls of hair, I am sure. Hedda Gabler thus treated gentle Thea Elvstad in the play. But was this demon Mary aware of her multiple personalities? Of her complexes? Her art fusion is such perfect synthesis. Subconscious is nowadays an excuse for the Original Sin with which we are saddled by theologians.
Well, one bad turn deserves another, and we may easily picture the wild Scottish thistle defiantly shrugging shoulders at law and order. She did not analyze her Will-to-Raise-Merry-Hell. No genius of her order ever does. There had been signs and omens. Her mother before her birth had dreamed wonderful dreams; dreamed and prayed that she might become a singer. But even maternal intuition could not have foreseen such a swan triumphantly swimming through the troubled waters of life. A swan, did I say? A condor, an eagle, a peacock, a nightingale, a panther, a society dame, a gallery of moving-pictures, a siren, an indomitable fighter, a human woman with a heart as big as a house, a lover of sport, an electric personality, and a canny Scotch lassie who can force from an operatic manager wails of anguish because of her close bargaining over a contract; in a word, a Superwoman.

My dear friend and master, the late Remy de Gourmont, wrote that man differs from his fellow animals--he didn’t say “lower”-because of the diversity of his aptitudes. Man is not the only organism that shows multiple personalities; even in plant life pigmentation and the power of developing new species prove that our vaunted superiorities are only relative. I may refer you to the experiments of Hugo de Vriès at the Botanical Gardens, Amsterdam, where the grand old Dutch scientist presented me with sixteen-leaf clover naturally developed, and grown between sunset and dawn; also an evening primrose--Æonthera Lamarckiana--which shoots into new flowers. Multiple personalities again. In the case of Mary Garden we call her artistic aptitudes “the gift of versatility.” All distinguished actresses have this serpent-like facility of shedding their skin and taking on a fresh one at will. She is Cleopatra--with “serpent and scarab for sign”-or Mélisande, Phryne, or Monna Vanna; as Thaïs she is both saint and courtesan, her Salome breeds horror; and in the simplicities of Jean the Juggler of Notre Dame a Mary Garden, hitherto submerged, appears: tender, boyish, sweet, fantastic; a ray of moonshine has entered his head and made of him an irresponsible yet irresistibly charming youth.
Not without warrant is Karma believed in by people whose imagination cannot be penned behind the bars of Now. Before to-day was yesterday, and to traverse that Eternal Corridor of Time has been the fate of mankind. The Eternal Return--rather say, the Eternal Recommencement--mad as it seems, is not to be made mock of. It is always the same pair of eyes that peer through windows opening on infinity. What the Karmas of Mary Garden? In spirit-land what avatars! Is she the reincarnation of that Phryne of the “splendid scarlet sins,” or the Faustine who crowded into a moment the madness of joy and crime; or the recrudescence of a Sapho who turned her back on the Leucadian promontory, turned from the too masculine Phaon and sought her Anactoria, sought and wooed her with lyric sighs; has she recaptured, this extraordinary Mary of Aberdeen, the soul of Aspasia, who beguiled Pericles and artistic Athens with the sinuous irony of the serpent; and Gismonda, Louise, and Violetta, all those subtle sonorous sinners--was she in her anterior existence any or all of them? Did she know the glory that was Greece, the grandeur that was Rome? Henry James has warned us not to ask of an author why he selects a particular subject for treatment. It is a dangerous question to put; the answer might prove disconcerting. And with Miss Garden the same argument holds. Her preference for certain characters is probably dictated by reasons obscure even to herself. With her the play-instinct is imperious; it dominates her daylight hours, it overflows into her dream-life. Again the sounding motive of multiple personalities, Karma, subconsciousness, the profound core of human nature. And on the palette of her art there is the entire gamut of tones, from passionate purple to the iridescent delicacies of iris-grey.
That Mary Garden interprets a number of widely differentiated characters is a critical platitude. Chapter and verse might be given for her excellences as well as her defects. Nor does she depend upon any technical formula or formulas. Versatility is her brevet of distinction. An astounding versatility. Now, the ways and means of the acting-singer are different from actors in the theatre. Dramatic values are altered. The optique of the opera shifts the stock attitudes, gestures, poses, and movements into another and more magnified dimension. Victor Maurel, master of all singing-actors, employed a sliding scale of values in his delineation of De Nevers, Don Giovanni, Iago, and Falstaff. His power of characterization enabled him to portray a Valentine true to type, nevertheless individual; and if there is a more banal figure on the operatic boards than Valentine, we do not know his name (perhaps Faust...!). But every year the space that separates the lyric from the dramatic stage is shrinking. Richard Wagner was not the first composer to stress action; he is the latest, however, whose influence has been tremendously far-reaching. He insisted that the action should suit the singing word. To-day acting and singing are inextricably blended, and I can conceive of nothing more old-fashioned and outmoded than the Wagnerian music-drama as interpreted in the dramatic terms of the old Wagnerian singers. They walked, rather waddled, through the mystic mazes of the score, shouted or screamed the music, and generally were prodigious bores--except when Lilli Lehmann sang. After all, Wagner must be sung. When Jean de Reszke pictured a Tristan--a trifle of the carpet-knight--he both sang and acted. It was the beginning of the New Wagner, a totally changed Wagner, else his music-drama will remain in dusty pigeonholes. Debussy has sounded the modern key.

There is born, or reborn--nothing is new since the early Florentines--a New Opera, and in its train new methods of interpretation. Merely to sing well is as futile as attempting to act though voiceless. The modern trend is away from melodrama, whether Italian, French, or German; away from its antique, creaking machinery. Debussy patterned after Wagner for a time and then blazed new paths. As Serge Prokofieff so acutely observed to me: “In Pelléas and Mélisande Debussy rewrote Tristan and Isolde.” The emotional scale is transposed to fewer dynamic values and rhythms made more subtle; the action is shown as in a dream. The play’s the thing, and reality is muffled. Elsewhere we have studied the Mélisande of Mary Garden. Like her Monna Vanna, it reveals the virtues and shortcomings of the New Opera. Too static for popular taste, it is nevertheless an escape from the tyranny of operatic convention. Like the rich we shall always have “grand opera” with us. It is the pabulum of the unmusical, the unthinking, the tasteless. Its theatricalisms are more depressing than Sardou’s. The quintessence of art, or the arts, which the modern Frenchmen, above all, the new Russian composers (from the mighty Slavic races may come the artistic, perhaps the religious salvation of the world--for I am a believer in Dostoievsky’s, not Tolstoy’s, Christianity), are distilling into their work is for more auditors than the “ten superior persons scattered throughout the universe” of whom Huysmans wrote. There is a growing public that craves, demands, something different from the huge paraphernalia of crudely colored music, scenery, costume, lath and plaster, and vociferous singing. Oh, the dulness, the staleness, the brutal obviousness of it all! Every cadence with its semaphoric signalling, every phrase and its accompanying gesture. Poetry is slain at a stroke, the ear promise-crammed, but imagination goes hungry. The New Art--an art of precious essences, an evocation, an enchantment of the senses, a sixth sense--is our planetary ideal.
And in the New Opera Mary Garden is the supreme exemplar. She sounds the complex modern note. She does not represent, she evokes. She sings and she acts, and the densely woven web is impossible to disentangle. Her Gaelic temperament is of an intensity; she is white-hot, a human dynamo with sudden little retorsions that betray a tender, sensitive soul, through the brilliant, hard shell of an emerald personality; she is also the opal, with it chameleonic hues. Her rhythms are individual. Her artistic evolution may be traced. She stems from the Gallic theatre. She has studied Sarah Bernhardt and Yvette Guilbert--the perfect flowering of the “diseuse”-but she pins her faith to the effortless art of Eleonora Duse. The old contention that stirred Coquelin and Henry Irving does not interest her so much as does Duse. We have discussed the Coquelin-Irving crux: should an actor leave nothing to chance or should he improvise on the spur of high emotions?-that is what the question comes to. Miss Garden denied her adherence either to Coquelin or Irving. I asked her to give us a peep into her artistic cuisine while she prepared her sauces. Notwithstanding her refusal to let us participate in the brewing of her magic broth, I still believe that she sided with Coquelin. She is eminently cerebral. And yet her chief appeal is to the imagination. Not a stroke of her camel’s-hair brush, not the boldest massing of colors, are left to chance. She knows the flaming way she came, she knows the misty return. Not a tone of her naturally rich, dark voice but takes on the tinting of the situation. This doesn’t forbid a certain latitude for temperamental variations, which are plentiful at each of her performances. She knows tempo rubato and its value in moods. She has mastered, too, the difficult quality described by William Gillette as the First-time Illusion in Acting. Various are the Mary Gardens in her map of art.

And she is ours. Despite her Scottish birth she has remained invincibly Yankee. Despite long residence in her beloved Paris, enough American has rubbed off on her, and the resilient, dynamic, overflowing, and proud spirit that informs her art and character are American or nothing. Race counts. Can any good come out of our Nazareth of art? The answer is inevitable: Yes, Mary Garden. She is Our Mary. Lyrically, dramatically ours, yet an orchid. Dear old Flaubert forcibly objected to Sarah Bernhardt being called “a social expression.” But she was, and this despite her Dutch ancestry and the exotic strain in her blood. Miss Garden may not emphasize her American side, but it is the very skeleton of her artistic organism. Would that an Aubrey Beardsley lived to note in evanescent traceries her potent personality, a rare something that arouses the “emotion of recognition,” but which we cannot define. “Come,” said Berlioz to Legouvé in the early years of the third decade of the last century. “I am going to let you see something which you have never seen, and some one whom you shall never forget.” Berlioz meant the playing and personality of Frédéric Chopin. Garden is leagues asunder from Chopin--who was the rarest apparition of his age; but as an interpretative artist she is rare enough for sympathetic writers to embalm in the amber of their pagan prose; definitely to pin to their pages this gorgeous dragon-fly.
Another bribe to her audience is the beauty of Mary Garden. But I do not wish here to dwell upon its value in her unforgettable portrayals of the dear dead grand ladies, the stately courtesans of the dim past. Stéphane Mallarmé wrote a poem, though not in verse, depicting a crowd assembled in the canvas house of the Interpreter of Past Things.
George Moore thus Englished “The Future Phenomenon.” A showman tells the despairing, ugly men and women of his wonderful prize. “No sign regales you of the spectacle within, for there is not now a painter capable of presenting any sad shadow of it. I bring alive (and preserved through the years by sovereign science) a woman of old time. Some folly, original and simple, in ecstasy of gold, I know not what she names it, her hair falls with the grace of rich stuffs about her face and contrasts with the blood-like nudity of her lips. In place of her vain gown she has a body; and her eyes, though like rare stones, are not worth the look that leaps from the happy flesh; the breasts, raised as if filled with an eternal milk, are pointed to the sky, and the smooth limbs still keep the salt of the primal sea....” You think of fair-haired Mélisande as she exquisitely murmurs her pathetic “Je ne suis pas heureuse ici.”
Some years ago in Paris I saw and heard the Garden Traviata. The singing was superlative; she then boasted a coloratura style that would surprise those who now only know her vocalization. It was, however, the conception and acting that intrigued me. Originality stamped both. The death scene was of unusual poignancy; evidently the young American had been spying upon Bernhardt and Duse. This episode adumbrated the marvellous death of Mélisande, the most touching that I can recall in either the lyric or dramatic theatre. It is a pity that she cannot find sterner stuff than Massenet, Leroux, Fevrier, and the rest of that puff-paste decorative school. There are composers, too, of more vital calibre than Camille Erlanger. Debussy is a master; but there must be newer men who could view Mary Garden as the ideal exponent of their music. Meanwhile, she has discovered a rôle in which she would pique the curiosity of the most uncritical mossbacks. She has added Isolde to her long list. Mary Garden and Isolde! Incredible! Nevertheless, an interesting experiment this if she could be persuaded to voice the sorrows of the Irish Princess. It would be no longer Wagner. It would suffer a rich sea-change. Wagner muted, perhaps Wagner undone; certainly unsung if we remember glorious Olive Fremstad. But a magical Isolde, with more than a hint of the perversely exotic we feel in Aubrey Beardsley’s drawings of Isolde and Tristan. The modern note again. Beardsley paraphrasing Botticelli; Watteau plucking at the robe of Rubens; Debussy smiting the chords of Wagner. Such an Isolde would be too bewildering to be true.


The penalty of publicity is one which singers seldom evade. Little need to give the reason, nevertheless, for sensitive souls it is a trial to see one’s personality put in the wash, squeezed, and hung up to dry with other linen in the pitiless laundry of the press. Some singers are born advertisers, some achieve advertising, but few have advertising thrust upon them. That sort usually fade into shadow-land rather than face the fierce white light which beats about the operatic throne. Really, it must be disconcerting for a woman singer to hear herself discussed as if she were a race-horse. Every point in her make-up is put on a platter ready to serve hot in the newspapers. You fancy yourself overhearing the conversation of jockeys and trainers. “Oi sye, Bill, that there filly is goin’ queer. Jest look at her fetlocks, and her crupper is gettin’ too heavy. Take her out for an hour’s spin on the downs. Breathe her a bit and then give her a hard sweatin’ run and a rub down. No water, Bill, mind ye, or I’ll knock yer block off.”
The private life of a prima donna is not unlike that of a racing mare’s. Flesh reduction, with all the succulent food--and champagne--are banished; indulgence spells decadence, and decadence is eagerly noted by the psychic detectives known as music-critics. We are not in the game to find fault as simple souls imagine, but to register values, vocal and personal. It’s a pity, but this is a condition and not a theory. We have heard of a Mary Garden cult. Now, as has been said by Dr. Wicksteed, a cult is always annoying to those who do not join in it, and generally hurtful to those who do. But is there such a Garden cult? We doubt it. She has a certain elect following, and for those admirers she can do no wrong. She has aroused the critical antagonism of some who, rightly enough, point out her obvious limitations. To these the gruff reply of Brahms is appropriate. A presuming youth called his attention to a theme in a work of his which was evidently borrowed from Mendelssohn. “That any fool can see,” said the crusty Johannes. The voice of Miss Garden is sometimes a voice in the wilderness: sandy, harsh, yet expressive. The same may be said of Geraldine Farrar, who every year is gravitating toward the zone, not of silence, but of the singing-actress. A Gallic, not an Italian zone. Voice does not play the major rôle; acting, that is, dramatic characterization, does. Not to recognize in Miss Garden the quintessence of this art--not altogether a new one, and its most perfect flowering is the art of Yvette Guilbert--is to miss the real Mary Garden. Voilà tout! We saw a like misunderstanding of Eleonora Duse. Immediately she was compared, and unfavorably, with Sarah Bernhardt, when she was achieving something vastly different, and, I think, vastly finer. Sarah was more brilliant, Duse more human; the one an orchestra, the other an exquisitely balanced string quartet. Mary Garden is the nearest approach to Duse on the lyric stage.
Mary Garden, too, is “different,” in the sense Stendhal meant that banal word. Her cadenced speech is not singing in the Italian manner. To begin with, her tonal texture is not luscious. But there are compensations. Every phrase is charged with significance. She paints with her voice, and if her palette is composed of the cooler tones, if the silver-greys and sombre greens of a Velasquez predominate, it is because she needs just such a gamut with which to load her brush. She is a consummate manipulator of values. To be sure, we do not expect the torrential outbursts of Margaret Matzenauer. Why confuse two antithetical propositions? I don’t look at one of the Paul Cézannes in the rare collection of Miss Lillie Bliss expecting the gorgeous hues of a Monticelli. Cézanne is a master of values. And if these similes seem far-fetched--which they are not; music and color are twins in the Seven Arts--then let us pitch upon a more homely illustration: Mary Garden is an opal, Margaret Matzenauer a full-blown rose. Voltaire said that the first man who compared a woman to a rose was a poet; the second, an ass. I hope Mme. Matzenauer will accept the simile in the poetic sense.
Nuance, which alone makes art or life endurable, becomes an evocation with Miss Garden. I lament that she is not in a more intimate setting, as the misted fire and rhythmic modulations of her opaline art and personality are lost in such a huge auditorium as the Lexington Theatre. I saw her, a slip of a girl, at Paris, early in this century, and framed by the Opéra Comique, of whose traditions she is now the most distinguished exponent. She was then something precious: a line of Pater’s prose, the glance of one of Da Vinci’s strange ladies; a chord by Debussy; honey, tiger’s blood, and absinthe; or like the enigmatic pallor we see in Renaissance portraits; cruel, voluptuous, and suggesting the ennui of Watteau’s L’Indifférent.
She is all things to all critics.

There are those who see in her the fascinating woman. And they are justified in their belief. There are those who discover in her something disquieting, ambiguous; one of Baudelaire’s “femmes damnées” from whom he fashioned his Beethovenian harmonies, fulgurating, profound: “Descendez le chemin de l’enfer éternel! ... flagellés par un vent qui ne vient pas du ciel.” ... And there is still another group to which I adhere, one that envisages Mary in the more lucid light of an admirable artist, who has fashioned of her body and soul a rare instrument, giving forth the lovely music of attitude, gesture, pose, and rhythm. There are moments when she evokes the image of the shadow of a humming-bird on a star; and often she sounds the shuddering semitones of sex, as in Thaïs. The Mélisande moods are hers, the dim, remote poesy of antique sonorous tapestries; and the “modern” note of Louise, grazing the vulgar, though purified by passion. But the dissenters no doubt believe in the Cambodian proverb when estimating the singing of both Geraldine Farrar and Mary Garden. It runs thus: When in Hades it is bad form to speak of the heat.
Do you remember the night when Mary Garden came from the refectory of the monastery in Le Jongleur, and--oh, the winsome little devil!-paused on the stairway to remark to her audience: “La cuisine est très bonne”?
The accent was indescribable. At Paris they admired her individual French streaked with exotic intonations. That night it revealed the universal accent of a half-starved lad who had just filled his tummy; a real “tuck-out.” The joy of life! How human she was! It is the sartorial technique of Miss Garden that is supreme. Her taste in costumes is impeccable. In the eternal game of making masculine eyes misbehave, she is quite irresistible. But this orchidaceous Circe, this uncommon or garden variety, does not with her fatal philtres transform men into the unmentionable animal; rather does she cause them to scurry after their vocabulary and lift up their voices in rhetorical praise. And that is something to have accomplished. Did you ever read Casuals of the Sea, by William McFee, a fiction I had the honor to introduce to the American reading public? On page 443 there occurs at the chapter end the following dialogue: “Mother!” “Yes, Minnie.” “Mother, I was just thinking what fools men are! What utter fools! But oh, mother, dear mother, what fools we are, not to find it out--sooner!” Minnie had seen a bit of life on the Continent; she was then snug in the land-locked harbor of stagnant matrimonial waters. But she understood men. Miss Garden is a profounder philosopher than Minnie Briscoe. She knew her public “sooner,” and the result is--Mary Garden. Qui a bu, boira!
I have been asked whether Miss Garden believes that she is the wonderful artiste I believe her to be. I really don’t know. But I feel assured that if she discovers she does not measure up to all the qualities ascribed to her she will promptly develop them; such is the plastic, involutionary force of this extraordinary woman.


George Saintsbury, that blunt literary critic who always called a cat a cat, wrote a study of Charles Baudelaire in an English magazine at least forty years ago. It practically introduced the poet to English readers, although Swinburne had imported no little of the “poisonous honey from France” in Laus Veneris. Prof. Saintsbury told of a friend to whom he had shown the etching of François Flameng after Herrera’s The Baby and the Guitar. “So,” said the friend, “you like this picture. I always thought you hated babies!” The remark is a classic example of that sin against the holy ghost of criticism, the confusion of two widely varying intellectual substances; a mixing up of the babies with a vengeance. The anecdote may serve to point a moral if not to adorn my sermon.

The operatic undertow of the past season cast up strange flotsam and jetsam and derelicts, usually in the shape of letters. Letters signed and unsigned. Two I select as illustrating the Baby and the Guitar crux. I stand for the Baby and two celebrated singing girls represent the Guitar. Both letters are unsigned, both reveal a woman’s handwriting, though different women. The first roundly accuses the dignified author of being madly in love with Mary Garden; the second wonders why I worship Margaret Matzenauer. Now, the venerable age of the present alleged and versatile “great lover”-Leo Ditrichstein should look to his laurels!-might serve as an implicit denial of these charges, were it not the fact that there are hoary-headed sinners abroad seeking whom they may devour. If I were a young chap I should pay no attention, but being as old as I am I proudly confess my crimes, merely pausing to ask, who isn’t in love with Mary Garden and Margaret Matzenauer? Their audiences, to an unprejudiced eye, seem to be very much so, men, women, and children alike. Why not that worm-of-all-work, the music-critic? We, too, have feelings like any other humans. But worse follows. A sympathetic singer sent me a telegram which read thus: “Why doesn’t your wife put you behind bars?” to which I promptly replied, Celtic fashion, by asking another question: “Which one?” meaning, of course, which bar. Here is a concrete case of the Baby and the Guitar muddle. One can’t praise the art of Mary Garden without loving the woman! One can’t admire the opulent voice of Margaret Matzenauer without being dragged a hopeless slave at her triumphant chariot wheels; a critic butchered to make a prima donna’s holiday! Absurd!
And there are others. What of radiant Geraldine with the starry eyes? What of Frieda Hempel, exquisite Violetta, delicious Countess in the Rose-Cavalier? And what of Olive Fremstad, always beautiful, an Isolde whose tenderness is without peer, a Sieglinde who plucks at your heartstrings because of her pity-breeding loveliness, or as that dazzling witch, Kundry; and to whose beauty the years have lent a tragic, expressive mask? There were queens, too, before Agamemnon’s. Lilli Lehmann, Emma Eames, Lillian Nordica, Emma Calvé--did we not burn incense under the nostrils of those beautiful women and great artists? Go to! Nor was our praise accorded only to the girls of yesteryear. The De Reszkes, Victor Maurel, Max Alvary--as perfect a type of the matinée idol as Harry Montague or Charles Coghlan--the stately, if slightly frigid, Pol Plançon--upon them we showered our warmest enthusiasms. And Ignace Jan Paderewski, once Premier Opus I of Poland--was he neglected? The piano god par excellence. No, such generalizations are unfair. The average music-critic or dramatic critic is nothing if not versatile in his tastes. Remember that either one has opportunities to see and hear the most comely faces and sweetest voices. Nevertheless I know of none who ever lost his head. We play no favorites. I also admit that this apologetic tone is the kind of excuse that is accusatory. But-!
But there is another name which slipped the memory of my faultfinders. What of Rosina Galli, whose pedal technique is as perfect as the vocal technique of Miss Hempel; whose mimique is as wonderful in its way as are the hieratic attitudes and patibulary gestures of Mary, the celebrated serpent of Old Nile? Don’t we, to a man, adore Rosina? Thunderous affirmations assail the welkin! And then there is the “poet’s secret,” as Bernard Shaw, the “Uncle Gurnemanz” of British politics, has it. The secret in question is as simple as Polchinelle’s. Do you realize that to a writer interested in his art such women as Mary Garden or Margaret Matzenauer serve as a peg for his polyphonic prose or as models upon which to drape his cloth-of-silver when writing of Geraldine Farrar? A susceptible critic may perforce sigh like a symphonic furnace, but apart from such fatuities he can’t keep up the excitement without a lot of emotional stoking. And coal is so costly this year. That alone negates the assertion of undue sentimentality. Pooh! I shouldn’t give a hang for a critic so cold that he couldn’t write overheated prose, Byzantine prose, purple-patched and swaggeringly rhythmed, when facing these golden girls. “Passionate press agents,” indeed, but in the strict sense intended when Philip Hale struck off that memorial phrase. There is Pitts Sanborn with his “lithe moon-blonde wonderful Mary,” which I envy him; after my spilth of adjectives he limns in five words the garden-goddess, Themes, those singers, for gorgeous vocables; nothing more. Footlight-prose quickly forgotten if you take from the shelf in your library the beloved essays of Cardinal Newman and swim in the cool currents of his silvery style. A panacea for the strained, morbid, fantastic atmosphere of grand opera.
[Illustration: From a photograph by De Strelecki

A character in one of Goethe’s novels--Wilhelm Meister?-exclaims: “Five minutes more of this and I confess everything!” Another such season of overwrought reportage and my bag of highly colored phrases, all my trick adjectives, would be exhausted, else gone stale, and the same gang of girls ever expecting new and more miraculous homage in four languages with a brass band around the corner. Oh! la! la!
There was one critic that did fall in love with an actress. His name is Hector Berlioz, and he celebrated the charms of Henrietta Smithson, English born, a “guest” at a Parisian theatre, by passionately pounding the kettle-drums in the orchestra. His amatory tattoo, coupled with his flaming locks, finally attracted the lady’s attention, and after she broke her leg and was forced to abandon the stage she had her revenge--she married the kettle-drum critic and composer, and lived unhappily ever afterward. Yet the feeling against critics persists, probably prompted by envy. In a Dublin theatre gallery a fight broke out, and one chap was getting the worst of it. His more powerful adversary was pushing him over the rail into the orchestra, when a wag called out: “Don’t waste him. Kill a fiddler with him!” Nowadays he would say, “Kill a critic.” But sufferance is the badge of our tribe. There are times when I long for the unaffected charm of Heller rather than Chopin; when I prefer to gaze at Wagner’s Grane rather than hear Brunhilde sing.
Mary Garden makes herself beautiful, if only by thinking “beautiful.” “Whatever happens, I must be an emerald,” said Antoninus of the emerald’s morality. Havelock Ellis asserts, “the exquisite things of life are to-day as rare and as precious as ever they were.” She is rare and precious in Mélisande, Monna Vanna, Jean, and other rôles. And what imaginative intensity is hers! But I don’t care a fig for the depraved creatures of the Lower Empire she so marvellously portrays. It is Mary with the strain of mysticism, the woodland fay she shows us, its nascent soul modulating into the supreme suffering and sorrow of motherhood. Her bed of death in Mélisande is one of the high consolations in the memory of a critic whose existence has been spent in the quagmire of mediocrity. In the kingdom of the mystics there are many mansions, and Garden lives in one--at times.
But the détraqué lemans she pictures are often repugnant. The decadent art of Byzance. The Infernal Feminine. A vase exquisitely carved containing corruption. Sculptured slime. You close your eyes--but open your fingers; the temptation to peep is irresistible.
In his illuminative studies of Fremstad, Farrar, Garden, Mazarin, Interpreters and Interpretations, Carl Van Vechten says that to Miss Garden a wig is the all-important thing. “Once I have donned the wig of a character, I am that character. It would be difficult for me to go on the stage in my own hair.” However, she did so in Louise, adds the critic. Felix Orman reports that when he asked her if she would be content to give up singing and become a dramatic artist, she replied: “No. I need the music. I depend on it. Music is my medium of expression.” An art amphibian, hybrid, hers. The flying fish. The bird that swims. The dubious trail of the epicene is not a modern note. Rome and Alexandria knew it. It is vile, soulless, yet fascinating. Miss Garden incarnates it as no other modern since the divine Sarah. She is “cérébrale,” and a cerebral is defined by Arthur Symons as one who feels with the head and thinks with the heart. Richard Strauss is a prime exemplar. The image suggests both apoplexy and angina pectoris, yet it serves. She is as hard as steel in Louise or Cléopâtre, yet how melting as Monna and Mélisande. She may be heartless for all I know, and that is in her favor, artistically considered, for Steeplejack hath enjoined: A cool head and a wicked heart will conquer the world; also, what shall it profit a woman if she saves her soul but loseth love? Cynical Steeplejack? Yet, a half-truth--though not the upper half of that shy goddess, Truth.
As for Margaret Matzenauer, her art and personality transport the imagination to more exotic climes. That sombre and magnificent woman, who seems to have stepped from a fresco of Hans Makart, himself a follower of Paolo Veronese, is a singing Caterina Cornaro. She brought back an element of lyric grandeur to our pale operatic life; a Judith, a Deborah, Boadicea, Belkis, Clytemnestra, Dalila, Amneris, or Aholibah, all those splendid tragic shapes of the antique world, she evokes, and in her singing there is a largeness of dramatic utterance that proclaims her of the line royal: Lehmann, Brandt, Ternina, Fremstad, Schumann-Heink. Is it at all remarkable that I admire Matzenauer?

And now that we have cleared away some cobwebs of misapprehension with the aid of the Baby and the Guitar, let me relate a story of Châteaubriand, that Eternal Philanderer, as I once named him, who met at Rome gay Hortense Allart, afterward Madame Meritens. The supreme master of French prose regretfully exclaimed to her: “Ah, if I had back my fifty years.” Thereupon the sprightly lady replied: “Why not wish for twenty-five?” “No,” moodily returned the Ambassador, “fifty will do.” Which recalls the witty design of Forain, representing a very old man apostrophizing the shadow of his past: “Oh, if I only had again my sixty-five years!” I should be glad to have my threescore and ten if only to tell those great ladies of opera how much I admire them. “Barkis is willin’.”
Another picture and I shall have done. Listen. I, many years ago, visited the Fondation Ste. Perine at Auteuil, an institution endowed by the Empress Eugénie, one in which the benevolence is so cloaked as not to hurt the sensibilities of the resident superannuated ladies and gentlemen. The company boasted noble origins. Among the ladies I met was a Polish-born Marquise, with brilliant eyes and wonderful white hair, her own. She had studied with Chopin. She said he was fickle and that George Sand was often jealous of his pupils. For me she sang in a sweet, true, but quavering voice Chopin’s Maiden’s Wish, and compelled tears. The Marquise then tinkled with a still small tone a Nocturne by Field upon a pianoforte whose ivory keys looked as if they exhaled pearly sighs. She gently coquetted with a touch of exquisite Sarmatian evasiveness. For me she was adorable, although if she had laughed her face would have cracked its artistic plastering. What a new Diana of Poitiers! What wit, fire, malice, were in the glance of her soft, faded blue eyes! What a magically youthful heart! She must have been more than fourscore.
But yet a woman.

Lullabies for All Ages: Mary Garden's Musical Legacy from Bedouins by James Huneker Chapters 1 to 3 read by Jason
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