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Nebraska State Journal


October 21, 1894
page 13

UTTERLY IRRELEVANT.

Lincoln has been doing pretty well in the line of laudable enterprises lately, and one of the most praiseworthy is the charity concert to be given at the Lansing nextmonth. The concert will be given as a benefit for the city poor and all the musicians will donate their services. Among the performers will be Mr. Seiveking , Mr. Hagenow , Mr. Gray , Mrs. Gray , Miss Gaylord , Mr. Seamark and Miss Hoffmann . The whole performance will be conducted in true concert fashion; only one number will be allowed each performer and in no case will encores be responded to.

          

This winter will be more of a concert season than we have ever known here before. The university conservatory of music will give a series of recitals and Mr. Zehrung has promised some great concerts. Lincoln has gradually worked up a great deal of musical enthusiasm, which is certainly genuine, even if it is not all of the very highest order. A great many people are willing to pay $2.50 to hear two hours of good music. And now it is about time that the matter of evening dress should be agitated. It is one of the few good features of the western theatre-going public that it insists upon its right of going to the theatre in negligee costume. Nobody cares to wear out very many pairs of elbow kids in applauding Corse Payton or "The Hustler." But a concert is a different matter. Good music is just a little above anything else that ever honors any stage, and everyone owes it a certain respect. The traditions of concert dress are rigid. It is always and invariably bad form to go to a concert in ordinary street costume. It is no more trouble to put on a dress suit than anything else and in a civilized community every man ought to possess a dress suit. Omaha, after insisting upon it for years, has at last made evening dress the rule, but a Lincoln concert audience is clad in everything from a shooting suit to white duck trousers. "Store" clothes are well enough in their place, but in a concert hall they are decidedly bizarre. It is worth while to dress for a concert on the same principle that it is worth while to dress for one's wedding. Music calls for the best of everything. It is a fact that people seem to be more receptive to higher influences when they are carefully dressed than when they are slouchy. Street dress at a concert is so wofully provincial; it always savors of Council Bluffs or St. Joe.

It is probable, though, that we will go on as we always have done; that the youths will go to concerts in striped shirts and scarlet neckties and the papas in dressing gowns and skull caps and the ladies muffled to their ears.

          

There is another thing that increased musical interest ought to bring about, and that is harmony among the local musicians. If there is to be any real musical advancement the musicians must be at the bottom of it. If any musician wants to succeed he must work up the local interest in music and not spend his time reviling every other man in town who can play the piano. It's a bad personal advertisement. All mediocre musicians are born jealous; the great ones have no need to be. It is a bad state of affairs when one workman will not acknowledge the skill of another of his craft. The surest proof that a man is little is that he is unwilling to admit that anyone else is tall.

          

The London Times says that Queen Victoria has been giving a party. Now that is surely a very unwise and frivolous thing for the queen to do. Victoria isn't in the habit of giving things. Of course she has to give a wedding breakfast now and then, and when any one of her immediate family dies she generally gives him a funeral. Then occasionally she has to give a silver spoon to some new grandson or donate some motherly advice to the erring Wales, but that is about the limit of her generosity. Tennyson has drivelled his meaningless prettiness over the queen and has gone into such rhapsodies of meter because she reared a large family economically that we all look at her through rose glasses. The real history of Victoria has yet to be written, and when it is it will be a revelation to many people, and especially to her own subjects. It is an indisputable fact that in her youth she was handsome, much the best-looking of any of the Hanover women. But after her first bloom wore off she grew stout and coarse, as Queen Caroline and Queen Charlotte did before her. The Hanover monarchs always married plain women, and their mistresses were always several shades uglier than their wives. The Dutchmen had no taste in women. As to the queen's public life, she has managed to to do nothing indifferently well. By cutting off festivities and reducing the court to a state of funereal melancholy and economy she has amassed a fortune and succceeded in being the most niggardly monarch of a niggardly line. She has also done well by her numerous offspring. She has profitably disposed of her plain daughters and profligate sons in most of the wealthy courts of Europe. No one ever heard of one of her children marrying into a poor kingdom. She has been as cold to her daughters-in-law as she was to her own children and her own husband. She has married off all the nobility of England as she pleased, willing or unwilling. She engaged poor May of Teck , who is a good creature if she does write very bad poetry, to Duke Clarence , and when the duke died because he had too much of his papa's princely blood in his veins to live long she turned May over to George in less than a year. She has written the dullest and most insipid of diaries and had the bad taste to publish it. She has painted some pictures which certainly did not adorn the English art department in Chicago last year. At present she is a very hot-tempered, disagreeable old woman, who swears loudly in German at the slightest provocation, drinks a great deal more beer than is good for her and throws the empty bottles at her servants heads for amusement. It is not probable that she has ever wandered about London incognito in search of adventure and flirtation, as Victor Hugo accuses Elizabeth and Anne of doing, but it is possible that she has visited all the 10-cent stores and pawnshops in London buying up plated silverware and paste diamonds to bestow upon the earls' children when she stands godmother for them.

          

The queen's sordidness, if not her niggardliness, has descended unto her hopeful son the prince. He is a bon vivant in a grovelling manner, like his ancestors, not in the dashing way of the Stuarts. His sports are as cruel and brutal as his tastes are low. No Sturt was ever cruel; only weak and fatally fond of pleasure. The prince is thoroughly bourgeoise, a Dutch tradesman in spite of his titles. The first time Yevette Guihert, the naughty French dancer, met him at a little supper after the performance, she cried: "A king! Bah! In Paris the street sweeps are more kingly." As Yevette probably knows his royal highness better than any other one person, she is good authority.

          

It would be pleasant to meet a singer once who acknowledged that she read her notices. Actresses make no denial of it at all, but a singer generally informs you that she knows just how well she can sing and doesn't bother with newspapers. I have met a good many singers who assured me that they never read their notices, and the next morning when walking down the street with them I have frequently been obliged to take them by the arm and lead them, lest, while they were so deeply buried in the announcement column of the morning paper, they would stumble and break their precious necks.

          

A good many actors are breaking away from old ties and leaving their old managers this season and the said managers are loudly wailing of their ingratitude. The fact is the actors are not much to blame. It is so seldom that an actor gets an understanding manager, and most actors are too much managed. Over-management has broken down many a good actor. Every actor has some instinct of what he is fitted for. He gets a manager, a man without an artistic temperament, without ideas of art, who decides that he is fitted for something entirely different, and who in all kindness sets about melting the actor down and casting him over. The only thing left for the actor is to politely but firmly refuse to be melted. Take the case of Bernhardt alone. One manager declared she must be a singer, which would have been bad. Another insisted that she must be a comedienne, which would certainly have been worse. When she was fifteen her parents and uncles and aunts decided that she must go into a convent and be a nun, which, heaven knows, would have been worst of all.

          

It is laughable, this passion the canaille have for running a genius. Almost every butcher and baker and candlestick-maker has discovered some little genius and is endeavoring to develop him. Of course, as a rule, his genius is not a genius at all, and his swan is only a goose with its feathers rumpled. But if he happens to be something of a genius the case is even more absurd. Here is a man essentially commonplace, who has the common needs and the common desires and lives the common life, attempting to manage and control a man who is not of the common, whose every strength lies in the fact that his needs, desires and life are different from those of every other man on earth. He decides to generously find time to manage this genius. This artist shall paint the pictures he would paint if he could, write the books, act the plays that he would act. This artist is a Bohemian and wears a blouse. He will put clean linen on him and make him a gentleman. He desires him to be popular—that is his idea of greatness—to have nothing ill said about one. Now the artist, poor fellow, has but one care, one purpose, one hope—his work. That is all God gave him; in place of love, of happiness, of popularity, only that. He is not made to live like other men; his soul is strung differently. He must wander in the streets because the need of his work is with him; he must shun the parlors of his friends and seek strange companions, because the command of his work is upon him. Conventions which are necessary to other men suffocate him and bring upon him the deathly sickness which warns him. He needs ceaseless variety and change, a thousand complex inexplicable things, whereas his manager needs only beefsteak. If he has the courage he throws off the yoke of management. if not the strength to work leaves him, and he drifts on,

"Doing the work of all his several friends And serving every purpose except his own."

The fewer friends he has the better; every friend means one more manager. Friends demand weekly dividends on the interest they invest in one. When a man has nothing on earth but a purpose people might hold their tongues and leave him alone with it. Leave him to fail alone with it if God shall put upon him the chagrin of failure, to succeed alone with it if God has reserved for him that fulness of joy. He cares only for that purpose. They might leave him that.

          

If people are going to be foolish enough to be married they might as well do it with a glare of torches and a blaze of trumpets, and have a church wedding and give the community the benefit of it. Then they can have Wagner's wedding march on the organ, and it's worth getting married to have that. It's a leading question, anyway, whether it's the march or the minister that really marries people.

          

There are some stage questions which have never been solved yet. Among them are why the maids always wear red dresses and always dust the same piece of furniture through the whole play; why the villains always wear silk hats and smoke cigarettes; why the leading lady always wears black in the fourth act and faints in the fifth.

          

There was a time when Miss Rice was known as the sister of Mrs. Raymond , but she certainly needs no name but her own now, not even Mrs. Raymond's. Miss Rice's work at the Cochrane-Wood's wedding was a surprise to her best friends and warmest admirers. Besides the two wedding marches, which are always beautiful, she played five numbers while the crowd was gathering. A triumphal march by Archer , Mendelssohn's "Spring Song," a march by Smith , communion in G by Batiste and the "Hymn of the Nun" by Nely . Very much of the beautiful effect of that very effective wedding was due to Miss Rice. Her rendering of the "Spring Song" and Batiste's communion in G was full of delicacy and meaning, and those two selections alone were enough to make this weary world look a littleless tired for days to come.

          

The question that is now agitating the critics of the two continents and the little island that feels larger that both those continents is shall a first night criticism be done on the night of the performance or at the end of the week. The arguments in favor of the latter method are that the critic has time to carefully reconsider his views, correct his judgment and polish his metaphors. If the people want a critic to determine the destiny of a play or to write literature the weekly method is much the best. But it is very doubtful if the people want that. They want to see something that will speak their own sentiments for them or that will contradict their opinions and give them the satisfaction of defending their position against that blockhead of a critic. Of course a critic cannot always or even often speak the voice of the multitude. He is only one weak and erring man, who sees more poor plays than are good for him, and is likely to be a little embittered. Neither can he be perfectly fair; he can only be honest. His judgment is faulty, like every other man's; it is influenced more or less by what he had for supper. But the question is, is it not likely to be weakened more by six suppers than by one? Of course a week's consideration must improve the intellectual and critical element of his notice, but ten to one it weakens the emotional element, and that after all is the most precious and volatile element, the one that goes to the hearts of the people. A critic's first instincts are the best because they are the truest. He cannot listen to argument on a point, he must not reason with himself; he must take his impression as he gets it and rush it upon paper. He must take it before it becomes an opinion or freezes into a deduction; while it is an emotion, a feeling, imperfect and half formed perhaps, but living. That is the great object; to have a notice alive, to have the glare of the footlights and the echo of the orchestra in it. The highest art in a next morning's notice is to reproduce to some extent the atmosphere of the play, to laugh if it was funny, to weep a little if it was sad, to say plainly and frankly if it was bad. Some individual notice of the actor is necessary, but even there the object is to reproduce in writing as far as possible the faults or merits which make up his artistic personality. The man who, after last year's season of grand opera in Chicago, said that Nordica was Rhine wine, Eames ice water, Melba champagne, but Calve was a whole drunk, was as great a critic as Mr. Barron himself. This ability to reflect the feeling, the pitch, the morale of a play has been the secret of the success of all great critics. It is not a matter of judgment, but of sympathy. A morning notice should be an echo of the play, an accompaniment played in the same time and key. Mr. Winter's forte was in his ability to reproduce the feeling and the atmosphere of Shakespearean drama. He cannot handle comedy or emotional drama; his limit is Shakespeare , because his tastes and sympathies are Shakespearean. Even his favorite artists, Mary Anderson and Ada Rehan , have been women of the classic Shakespearean type. For the artists of the warmer school he has no real admiration. Mr. Sarcey , the great French critic, so perfectly reproduces the meaning and manner of a play that Brender Matthews says: "To read him makes me homesick for Paris, and I put away the paper and go to bed and dream of the towers of Notre Dame and the lights of the Seine, and all night long I hear the great rumble of applause that shakes the pillars of the Theatre Francaise three thousand miles across the sea."



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