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tation. Take any one of our performances of Italian opera in recent years and consider for a moment the absurdities of the audience heaped upon the absurdities of the stage. We have each act interrupted by applause half a dozen times, and for the most frivolous reasons. When the chief singers of the evening come upon the stage for the first time the house breaks out into applause, no matter what is going on at the time; when the soprano shrieks out her highest note and the ushers trot down the aisle burdened with floral harps, ships, anchors, and other devices of the kind known in newspaper vernacular as trophies, the Juliet, Lucia, or Amina of the evening forgets her despair long enough to receive the flowers with an expression of counterfeit amazement and many smiles of gratitude. The same performance is gone through by the tenor, and perhaps by the baritone. Viewed seriously, it is a farce, for which nothing can be said. Thanks to Wagner's protests, many attempts have been made to remedy these absurdities; but, outside of the notable performances at Baireuth and some other German towns, little has been effected. In New York, until recently, we have had to suffer under the worst of such abuses. Under Mr. Mapleson's régime we had the flowers, the applause right in the middle of an act, the ten or twelve recalls after the perform
This winter, in the course of the French plays at Palmer's Theater, the same thing was observed. Possibly in the case of a theatrical performance there is less to be said in excuse than where an opera is concerned, for music implies something peculiarly artificial. Think of the absurdity of it all. Take, for instance, Dumas's "Camille." Here we have a dramatist striving to create an illusion. We have a young woman who dies of grief and consumption after a stormy career. The play traces her life through some of its most stirring and pathetic passages. Every act closes with a dramatic incident. Notwithstanding that the whole work of the dramatist and the actors is intended to produce in the audience an illusion, the curtain is raised after every act, and Camille appears bowing and smiling, evidently in the best of spirits and full of good-will towards every one. In other words, what has just been built up with so much care and hard work is knocked down again. If we take the case of opera, the same criticism holds good. The singers work hard to fill us with sympathy for some unfortunate person who goes mad and dies, as does Lucia, or who stabs himself, as does Edgardo. But after harrowing up the feelings of the audience, these people come forward and virtually say that it is all a joke, and that Lucia is going forth to refresh herself with beer.
Against such absurdity Wagner inveighed. He tried to the best of his ability to make his art a serious one. That he succeeded no better is no proof of the fallacy of his position, but rather of the persistent wrong
headedness of the Philistines. I take it that any one who goes to the Metropolitan Opera House and hears such noble masterpieces as "Tristan," "Die Walküre," or "Die Götterdammerung goes away profoundly impressed with the dramatic story. There, at least, no singer is allowed to notice the audience while the act is going on, and not one of the noted German artists whom we have had among us of late years — Frau Lehmann, Herr Niemann, Herr Fischer, and others — pays the slightest attention to the indiscreet applause which greets their entrance upon the stage for the first time during the evening. Nevertheless the practice of allowing the singers to come forward at the end of an act in order to bow their thanks to the audience still obtains. It seems to me that this also should be done away with. If we object to the audience breaking in upon the music and drowning it out with their applause, it is because such vicious practices destroy the illusion which the poet and the composer are striving to produce. Does not the appearance of the singer between the acts destroy this illusion? Take any one of Wagner's dramas. We have persons supposed to be in love with each other, or in deadly enmity, coming forward hand in hand between the acts; and in the case of many of the master's works we have, at the end of the opera, a lot of dead persons waking up in order to bow their thanks again and again.
In order to maintain the poetic illusion, there ought to be no appearance of the singers or actors of the evening except during the acts and in their characters. Neither between the acts nor after the final fall of the curtain ought the singers to be seen; they ought never to remind us that we have not been listening to Wotan, to Siegfried, and to Brunnhilda. We ought not to be compelled to take into consideration Herr Fischer, Herr Niemann, or Frau Lehmann. I admit that many persons will cry out that this is unfair to the public and to the artists. How are these admirers of Wagner's operas and of the work done by these great singers to testify their admiration? This is very true; and yet the public ought to be trained to rest satisfied with applause at the end of an act or at the end of a performance. In the case of an opera the conductor may be considered as the representative of the performers, and Herr Seidl may bow his thanks. In the case of a symphony concert the members of the orchestra do not rise to answer the applause. If any one can make out a valid defense for such sins against art as the appearance of the dead Siegfried and Brunnhilda bowing and smiling at the end of "Die Götterdammerung," I should like to hear it.
Philip G. Hubert, Jr.
YORK CATHEDRAL.--On page 731 of the March CENTURY a distant view of Durham Cathedral was accidentally inserted as a view of York Minster.—EDITOR.
(ON SEEING THE WORD IN A BOOK OF CRITICISMS.)
RCADY! the word has made
The rain, the mist, the rabble fade,
And in a corner of a copse,
'T was in a book of empty phrase
Where truth was hunted through a maze
See how the green slopes to a vale;
The grass grows up to the shepherd's knees,
God wot! And yet that word to me
Harrison S. Morris.
At the Sign of the Blind Cupid.
WHEN blushing cheeks and downcast eyes Set all the heart aflame,
When love within a dimple lies
And constancy's a name,
Since every lass is passing fair,
Cupid must fly and see;
And, lightly flitting here and there,
When creeping years steal on apace
When time with wrinkles marks the face
And strews the hair with snow,
Ah, then no wingéd boy is he;
But strong-limbed and complete, With blinded eyes that need not see, Since memory guides his feet.
Paragraphs from the German of Friedrich Netzsche. To owe gratitude oppresses a coarse nature; to receive it, oppresses a fine one.
SOCIALISM is the fantastical younger brother of a nearly spent despotism whose inheritance he claims. To correct one's style means to correct one's thought - nothing else.
COWARDICE is the greatest giver of alms.
TRUTH has never yet proved fatal to any one; there are too many antidotes.
PREJUDICE is a more dangerous enemy to Truth than Falsehood.
THERE is not enough religion in the world to admit of the annihilation of religions.
NOT when it is dangerous to tell the truth will she lack a prophet, but only when it is tiresome.
THE gardens of modern poetry too often betray a nearness to the drains of the cities.
MOST writers think badly, for they give us not only their thoughts, but the labor of their thoughts.
FOR many natures it is as much a duty of cleanliness to change opinions as to change clothes.
To treat everybody with equal benevolence may be an evidence of deep scorn as well as of deep love. Helen Watterson.
BLOSSOM, little stars, and fill
Every thirsty blade holds up
Blossom, blossom soon, and bring
Frank Dempster Sherman.
THE DE VINNE PRESS, NEW YORK.
THE CENTURY MAGAZINE.
THE CONVICT MINES OF KARA.
N the vast sub-arctic wilderness of the TransBaikal (By-kal'), nearly 5000 miles by road from St. Petersburg and more than 1000 miles from the coast of the Pacific, in a dreary, lonely valley between two lateral spurs of the Yablonoi (Yah'blonoy) Mountains, there is a little chain of log prisons, gold placers, and convict settlements, known to the Russian public as the mines of Kara (Kah-rah'). When, in your morning papers, you read a dispatch from St. Petersburg saying that such and such "Nihilists" have been tried, found guilty, and condemned to death, but that the Tsar has been pleased to commute their sentence to penal servitude in the mines, it is to the mines of Kara that reference is made. I purpose to describe, in the form of a simple personal narrative, a visit that we made to these mines in the late fall and early winter of 1885, and to set forth, as fully as space will permit, the results of our attempt to investigate the condition of the Kara prisons and to obtain trustworthy information concerning the life of the political prisoners. The subject is one of more than ordinary magnitude, and I shall be prevented by space limitations from dealing with it upon a scale commensurate with its importance; but I can draw, perhaps, a rough outline sketch of an East Siberian convict establishment, and give the reader an idea of what is meant in Russia by "Katorga" (Kat'or-gah), or penal servitude.1
The mines of Kara are distant from Chita (Che'tah), the capital of the Trans-Baikal, about 300 miles; but for more than 200 miles the traveler in approaching them follows a fairly good post road, which runs at first through the valley of the Ingoda (In-go-dah') and then along the northern or left bank of the Shilka (Shilka) River, one of the principal tributaries of the Amur (Am-moor'). At a small town called Stretinsk (Stray'tinsk), where the Shilka first becomes navigable, this post road abruptly ends, and beyond that point communication with the Kara penal settlements is maintained by boats in summer and by sledges drawn over the ice in winter. For two or three weeks in autumn, while the ice is forming, and for a somewhat shorter period in the spring, after the river breaks up, the Kara mines are virtually isolated from all the rest of the world, and can be reached only by a difficult and dangerous bridle path, which runs for a distance of seventy or eighty miles, parallel with the river, across a series of steep and generally forestclad mountain ridges. We hoped to reach Stretinsk in time to descend the Shilka to the Kara River in a boat; and when we left Chita, on Saturday, October 24, there seemed to be every probability that we should succeed in so doing. The weather, however, turned suddenly colder; snow fell to a depth of an inch and a half or two inches; and Wednesday morning, when we alighted from our telega (te-lay'ga) on the northern bank of the Shilka opposite Stretinsk, winter had set in with great severity. The mercury in our thermometer indicated zero (Fahr.); our fur coats and the bodies of our horses were white with frost;
1 "Katorga" is a corrupted form of the Greek word galleys were once manned by hard-labor convicts. KάTEрyov, "a galley," and it points to the fact that The word is now used to designate penal servitude in in Russia, as in many other European countries, the the Siberian factories or mines. Copyright, 1889, by THE CENTURY Co. All rights reserved.