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of operas originally written to an English text by composers of whatever nationality. Bearing in mind the undoubted influence of a language on the conception and expression of a composer's thought, the consideration of English opera opens an entirely new range of artistic suggestion. However opinions may vary as to the desirability or suitability of opera in English, there can be at the present time only one opinion as to the positive necessity of English opera as the readiest means to our hand not only to stimulate and develop American musical art and the American composer, but also to encourage and increase that much needed national confidence in native musical possibilities which begets a national art and the love and respect of a nation for it.
I believe confidently that, were opera to be generally sung in English, the appreciation for this form of art and of music in general by the public at large would be notably increased. Such increased appreciation, I further believe, in its turn and by degrees would foster and develop that national interest in and feeling for music as an art which we still lack, and which we instantly need in order that this art with us may assume in the minds of the people the position and national significance which it enjoys abroad, and to which it owes its influence and importance.
My friend the late Mr. MacDowell was always very impatient at being put forward as an American composer, and was wont to declare with some heat that he would rather not be heard at all than to be known simply as a composer whose works were exploited for purely national reasons. While one may understand his reluctance to be judged as a composer seeking for international reputation by merely local standards and because of local indulgence, I think that his attitude in this matter was wrongly taken. The greatest music known to the world to-day is so strongly marked and influenced by distinctively national characteristics and feeling that it may almost be set down as axiomatic that music, to be great, must in a sense be national; for the history of music shows that the best music, that music which has shown the greatest permanence, has been written by the composers of those countries where the greatest amount of national feeling prevails.
Paris is now the great art-producing center that it is because the French in all matters pertaining to art are intensely national. To a Frenchman, French art is better and more perfect than any other art, and it cannot be doubted that this national confidence in a national ability has everything to do with the productive vitality which is characteristic of French art in all its branches to-day. It is also beyond question that the lack of this confidence is the principal cause why we in America are to a great extent a nation of adapters and imitators rather than originators and creators, artistically speaking; why, from a dramatic point of view, our theatrical managers reproduce rather than produce; why at any of our principal opera-houses an unknown German, Frenchman, or Italian has a better chance of having an unknown and untried work produced than an American; why, strictly speaking, we have had hitherto no national drama, no national music, and far too little national pride or interest in national endeavor in any branch of art.
It is perhaps not surprising that our musical productiveness has not been on a par with, or attained equal eminence or distinction with, our achievements in other branches of art and literature.
The American composer, largely owing to the difficulty of obtaining anything like an adequate and comprehensive musical training in this country, has been by education, association, environment, sympathy, and acquired tradition in thought and feeling, in method and practice, essentially foreign rather than distinctively American.
We do not possess in this country the folk-music which makes the music of countries like Spain and Italy, Russia and Sweden, Germany and the Czech countries, so individual and so characteristic, wherewith a composer may begin to build up a national school of music; for it is idle to allege, despite the efforts of Dr. Dvořák and others, that the folk-music- Indian, negro, and Creole-which undoubtedly exists in this country is really valuable as a basic foundation for a school of music that could be considered in any sense national.
If folk-music be an inevitable necessity for the foundation of a national school of music, we are only now beginning to be that nation which could find a vent for its
emotions or feelings in such a form. I am not one of those who decry or cavil at the enormous and heterogeneous crop of so-called popular music, be it rag-time or what you will, which is characteristic of music in America to-day. In bringing music as a fact and a pleasurable feature of daily life to people who had previously never considered or known it at all, this music has achieved a definite result and worked an enduring benefit. Because of it, and for the first time in our musical history, musical culture has been begun, as it should begin, from the bottom up; for publishers of popular music are responsible for the statement that the popular song has vastly improved in character and artistic quality in the last decade, and that a song of merit sufficient to obtain a vogue and wide-spread popularity five years ago is now no longer good enough to secure general popular sympathy and recognition. So it is possible that this popular music of the day, ephemeral though it is, may contain the germ of the folk-song, that unconscious soul utterance of the people which some day will make American music as distinctively national as that of other nations.
What the American composer now most needs, in order to secure that national confidence and pride in his abilities which will in time render a distinctively national school of music a possibility, is to be heard. Opera in any one of its numerous forms or varieties, grand, lyric, light, or comic, would seem to afford him the needed opportunity; and if he writes opera at all, he must write English opera. Hence the vast importance of English opera and opera in English.
But any argument in support of English opera and opera in English would be only half stated, any discussion on the bearing of opera in the vernacular on music in America and the American composer would be incomplete and half-hearted, without reference to the importance of the influence of such opera upon the American operatic singer. If a country of the size of Italy can support, as it does to-day, more than sixty theaters and opera-houses where original opera is produced, think of the possibilities of operatic production in a
country of the size and wealth of America, when opera, through being sung in the vernacular, shall attain that measure of popular interest and appreciation which will render it an essential part of the intellectual and artistic life and enjoyment of the people here, as it is in Italy to-day. Were such a condition of opera-giving ever to obtain in this country, as is by no means unlikely, we should have permanent opera companies not only in our three principal cities, but in a score, a consequent increased demand for English operas by native composers, and an added incentive for our composers to work in a field whose present harvest is principally glory; while the thousands of young American singers now barn-storming in opera in foreign countries, singing minor rôles at starvation salaries, would have the needed and much to be desired opportunity of being heard and appreciated in the country where they belong, and from which this present lack of opportunity has to a great extent exiled them. There are today hundreds of thousands of young men and women studying singing in this country, waiting, hoping, and too often in vain, for the hardly won chance to show their talents to the public, and thus justify the labor, time, and money spent in cultivating them. Now that it is possible as never before to obtain in this country a competent and thorough vocal training, there is all the more need for those who elect to gain an education here to be heard here without being first compelled to go abroad to obtain the reputation which now seems necessary to secure them even a hearing at home. The fact that the diction of many of our native-born singers is faulty and imperfect in English has been due largely to the necessity of singing almost exclusively in foreign languages consequent upon their having been trained abroad.
It is certain, and I cannot make the contention too emphatic, that with proper study any intelligent person can sing the English language intelligibly. The fact has been proved over and over again, and should therefore no longer be cited as a principal and prohibitive objection to the English language as a language of opera and song.
THE GOLDEN TEMPLE OF
BY E. F. BENSON
Author of "The Relentless City," "Account Rendered," etc.
ROM the day when King Solomon
laid the foundation-stone of the temple of the Lord of Hosts at Jerusalem until its crowning domes and pinnacles were all complete, the building rose silently, without noise of hammer or chisel. Stone after stone, already graven and prepared, was laid in its appointed place, and all about, while the visible signs and abidingplace of the Lord's glory became daily more manifest, there reigned the stillness of sanctuary and consecration. No carver's tool was heard to fashion the knops and open flowers of cedar, or chisel to engrave the feathers of the wings of the cherubim, or mallet to hammer into place the lintel and door-posts of olive-wood, and the rows of hewed stones grew into their lines as silently as the row of cedar beams that enroofed them.
It must have been in some such awed silence as this that the temple at Amritsar grew upon the waters. Like a golden lotus flower it floats there on the graygreen surface of the windless and foursquare lake; it is impossible even to believe that it rests on subaqueous foundations: a gale would set it swaying and shifting in the stem of its marble causeway. One day there must have sprouted from the terrace that encompasses the sacred lake a golden bud, and the white stem of it, its marble causeway, grew slowly and wondrously till the day when it stretched to midway across the holy and healing waters. Then some morning when the sun burned in the zenith above it, petal by marvelous petal the bud unfolded, and the temple, as we see it now, shone out upon the deep noon.
But not alone, and not even chiefly, from soil and water was fed that mystical growth, for even as the pale palaces of Venice rose from its enchanted lagoons, and as the columns of Athene Parthenos were fed with the mother milk of the heroic soil, so it was from the sun and the blaze of unclouded Indian days that the
bud that flowered into the golden temple. drew its sustenance, the most gorgeous of all the tropical and Orient blossoms of gold and precious stones and marble, the most marvelous and most inexplicable.
We feel that it must have grown as silently as the temple of Solomon, burgeoning with dews and sunshine; and even as its growth was silent, mystical, and hidden, uncharted by measurement or drawn design, so must have been the conception of it. No brain reduced to line and scale so magical a dream; no skill of architect or stone-cutter decreed its myriad-petaled loveliness; and at the most the holy saints and hermits who sat by the lake saw it only dimly as in a sacred vision of the night, and maybe they spoke of it to one another, like sibyls, while they still slept. From the mutter of their smiling lips the architects and craftsmen learned what vision blazed before their lidded eyes, and worked in an inspiration that was not their own, but, conveyed to them through the speech of those sleeping saints, came authentically out of that eternal vault of sun-stricken sky where all day long the kites are wheeling and chiding in companies. Like dew and sunlight the temple descended from heaven; like the smoking. incense and the sound of prayers it rose, as pearly as dawn and as holy as Aphrodite, from the waters.
Hallowed from everlasting and instinct. with healing were the waters of the spring that gushed out in the midst of the wilderness around Amritsar, and when in the fifteenth century the Sikhs, revolting from the arid formalism of the Brahmans in a crusade of a more virile faith, and discarding all notion of caste as being an unspiritual and material dogma, settled here and built the town of Amritsar, they found this spring already enshrined with tales of healing and attested miracles. To them their military chieftain was also priest; priest and king was he, like Mel
chizedek, and when wounded in battle he would be borne back to this spring, and while he himself said the office of healing, was bathed in the waters and made whole. There was no wealth of marble and gems bedecking it then, and no palaces of Sikh chiefs surrounding it; for they lived hard and desperately until by force of arms they had won control of all the Panjab.
About a hundred years ago their various tribes were confederated, and it was then, under the infamous and magnificent Ranjit Singh, that the temple blossomed. First round the spring, foursquare, and measuring two hundred paces each way, they built a broad terrace of white marble, so that the spring became a lake, and thousands could bathe in it. They planted the terrace with trees and yellow laburnums, and round it rose the palaces of the chieftains, their chapels and their divans; and these walls and the trees, as they grew, gave shade to the saints and sages who meditated there and looked on the healing waters. There came, too, those who were sick of all manner of diseases. The lame and the blind came there, and the lepers with their snows. And the lame walked, and the blind looked wonderfully on the waters that had given back to them their sight, and to the lepers was their flesh restored, with melting of their unclean snows, and became as the flesh of young children, and their sinews as of the young men who go out to battle. And if those who had lost hand or foot but bathed in the holy lake, the lost member stood forth again on the stump, and they praised God. In the shade sit the crippled and the palsied, and among them, like a gardenbed of young tulips, sits an assembly of school-children, with yellow turbans and chubby faces and multicolored waistcoats, learning their letters. Their master is a grave, black-bearded Sikh who from time to time gives his class a remission for ten minutes to chat together like daws in rainbow feathers, and he strips himself to the loin-cloth and bathes in the windless waters. Then with dripping beard and runneling hair he calls back his class.
Just where the stem with the golden bud sprouted from the encompassing terrace they built a solemn, square gate-house, and covered the doors of it outside with plates of silver-of pure silver chased and beaten into columns and paneling; and all
the back of the door that faces the marble causeway they inlaid with ivory and sandalwood. Outside and within they spread stucco of marble dust over the walls, and on bronze plates covered with gold they wrote the names of saints and sages, and of warriors who had fallen in their wars; and for the rest they painted on it gardens upon gardens of flowers, lily and rose and fritillary. The roof of the gateway they wrought into cells and fretwork of gilded bronze, and inlaid into it a thousand mirrors, so that it shines and twinkles like a company of fireflies.
A doorkeeper stands there who, as you enter, gives you marigold flowers and yellow trumpets of fragrant jasmine: perhaps he has a garland of threaded blossoms which he places round your neck, or else just an unminted handful of this aromatic gold. These you must cast upon the waters of the sacred lake, on the surface of which hundreds are floating, thrown there with prayers by suppliants and pious worshipers.
You will have left your unhallowed shoes behind you before you enter the sanctuary, and have put on the leather slippers of the faithful. On each side, leaning against the low balustrade of fretted marble, lie the sick and the cripples, and on each side are stately, gilded lanterns with tall, marble standards. In front blossoms the golden temple, flower-like, built of white marble, and all its upper story and its domes and its turrets are of bronze thickly covered with gold; and on domes and cornices and column-heads there cluster and hover, like bees, innumerable pigeons with breasts of pearl and broken iris. From within come strange chantings and the beating of a drum, and for the moment, as you step inside out of the blaze of the day, the darkness is impenetrable.
Soon it clears, and you see the lines of priests and squatting worshipers, and, presiding over them, the chief priest, in front of whom lies the holy book of the Sikhs. In the manner of psalmody, he chants one verse, and priests and worshipers, strident with zeal, answer him with the next, beating out the marvelous rhythm of the text with drum-taps and blaring bugles. Under the middle of the dome, with lines of the worshipers at the sides, is spread an embroidered silk sheet, upon which they cast their marigold flowers and their jas
mine; and when the time of roses comes, the sheet will be covered with their pale petals. Round this central inclosure runs a corridor of white marble, with square embrasures opening upon the holy lake, and over all the walls are inlaid, in jasper and agate and carnelian, flowers and birds and beasts. A staircase at each corner leads to an upper story, where in an alcove sits a holy man meditating over the book of scriptures, and in another chamber sits a very young priest, grave and onyx-eyed, who looks long at you, and bows his head in remote salutation as you pass on. Then ascending once more, you mount the dome-crowned turrets at the corners, and look out over the sacred lake and the marble terrace.
Already the sun declines to its setting, and the shadows of dome and minaret creep silently across the lake. The splendor fades from the gold as the shade of the surrounding palaces falls over it, and
it glows with a white lambency. ten enchanted minutes out of the paleness there dawns a red flush of sundown, then out of the shadows there steals like a ghost a film of pearly iridescent mist that mounts and fades to ash-color. The young priest rises in moonlike calm from his meditation, and walks slim and grave down the marble causeway; the chief priest shuts the sacred book, and the chanting ceases; the aged holy man, leaning on the shoulder of his disciple, shuffles bent and tottering between the lines of the infirm. These draw their tattered clothing round them, for the air has grown chilly; the school breaks up and disperses like spilled quicksilver. But the sick and the cripples linger and look back before they go. And it would not seem strange if One came walking on the waters, and there were gathered round Him, as once before when the sun was set, the sick and the lame and the blind, and He healed them.
BRILLIANT RUSSIAN COLORIST
BY ADA RAINEY
HE art of Léon Bakst is one of the stirring forces of the day. He is the magician of color, and is doing daring things. In color he is doing what Rimsky-Korsakof and Andreef have done in Russian music and literature. He has widened the field of our sensations, for he has gone beyond the usual and ordinary, and has plunged into a new realm.
He began life humbly, having been. born of poor Jewish parents in St. Petersburg in 1868. He studied in the fine arts school of his native city, but worked fifteen years with dogged perseverance before recognition came. By turns he painted strictly conventional and the most daringly original paintings. But one day a grand duchess saw his painting of Salome, recognized that it contained something remarkable, and provided the necessary means for him to go to Paris, where he studied and worked for some years.
Finally came the turning-point in his
From being almost a proscribed person in Russia, Bakst became, after his first success, a fêted man in Paris, and was acclaimed the founder of a new school in decoration. In London, too, through the success of the Russian ballet, he became the latest word; for this fortunate artist maintains a studio in London and another in Paris.
Until within the last fifteen years no serious attempt had been made to have scenic decoration in the theater truly artistic.
The new movement in the theater, as represented in the Künstler-Theater in Munich, the Théâtre d'Art in Moscow, the art of Mariano Fortuny in Berlin, and of Gordon Craig in England, is significant. The results have been successful and far-reaching in their import. In