Kuno Francke.

The German classics : masterpieces of German literature translated into English (Volume 20) online

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At least two hundred, may be as many as three hun-
dred charmingly attractive young girls of your age
saw me on the stage yesterday in the part of Tann-
hauser. Suppose now every one of these young girls
expected as much of me as you do. What in the world
would become of my singing ? What would become of
my voice? Just how could I keep up my profession?


(She sinks into a chair, covers her face and weeps; he
sits down on the armrest beside her, bends over her,
sympathetically.) It's really sinful of you, my child,
to shed tears over being so young. Your whole life
is still before you. Be patient. The thought of your
youth should make you happy. How glad the rest of
us would be — even if one lives the life of an artist like
myself — to start over again from the very beginning.
Please be not ungrateful for hearing me yesterday.
Spare me this disconcerting sequel. Am I to blame
for your falling in love with me? You are only one
of many. My manager insists on my assuming this
august manner on the stage. You see there's more
to it than mere singing. I simply have to play the
part of Tannhiiuser that way. Now be good, my child.
I have only a few moments left. Let me use them in
preparing for tomorrow.

Miss Coeurne {rises, dries her tears), I cannot imagine
another girl acting like me.

Geeardo {manoeuvering her to the door). Quite right, my
child . . .

Miss Coeurne {gently resisting him, sobbing). At least
not — if . . .

Geeardo. If my valet were not guarding the door down-

Miss Coeurne {as above). — if —

Gerardo. If she is as pretty and charmingly young as you.

Miss Coeurne {as above). — if —

Gerardo. If she has heard me just once as Tannhauser.

Miss Coeurne {sobbing again violently). If she is as
respectable as I!

Gerardo {pointing to the grand piano). Now, before you
leave, take a look at those flowers. Let it be a warn-
ing to you, if you should ever feel tempted again to
fall in love with a singer. Do you see, how fresh they
are, all of them! I just let them fade and go to waste
or give them to the porter. Then look at these letters.


(Takes a handful from the tray.) I know none of the
ladies who have written them; don't you worry. I
leave them to their fate. "What else can I do? But,
you may believe me, every one of your charming young
friends is among them.

Miss Coeukne [pleadingly) . Well, I won't hide myself a
second time. — I won't do it again ...

GrERARDo. Really, my child, I haven't any more time. It's
too bad, but I am about to leave town. I told you, did
I not, that I am sorry for you? I really am, but my
train is scheduled to leave in twenty-five minutes. So
what more do you want?

Miss CoEURNE. A kiss.

Gerardo {standing up stiff and straight). From me?

Miss Coeurne. Yes.

Gerardo {putting his arm around her, dignified, hut sympa-
thetic). You are desecrating art, my child. Do you
really think it's for this that they are willing to pay
my weight in gold? Get older first and learn to re-
spect more highly the chaste goddess to whom I de-
vote my life and labor. — You don't know whom I

Miss Coeurne. No.

Gerardo. That's what I thought. Now, in order not to
be inhuman, I will present you with my picture. Will
you give me your word that after that you will leave

Miss Coeurne. Yes.

Gerardo. Very well, then. {Walks hack of the table to
sign one of his photographs.) Why don't you try to
interest yourself in the operas themselves rather than
in the men on the stage? You may find it to be a
higher enjoyment, after all.

Miss Coeurne {in an undertone). I am too young.

Gerardo. Sacrifice yourself to music! {Comes forivard
and hands her the photograph.) You are too young,
but — may be you'll succeed in spite of that. Do not
Vol. XX— 24


see in me the famous singer, but the unworthy tool in
the hands of a master. Look around among the mar-
ried women you know ; all of them Wagnerians !
Study his librettos, learn to feel each leitmotiv. That
will keep you from committing indiscretions.

Miss CoEURKE. I thank you.

Geraedo {escorts her out into the hall, rings for the valet
in passing through the door. Returns and picks up
again the piano arrangement of " Tristan and Isolde;"
walks to the right). Come in!

Scene V
Geraedo. Valet.
Valet {panting and breathless). Yes, Sir? Your orders'?
Gerardo. Are you standing at the door downstairs?
Valet. Not at present. Sir.
Gerardo. I can see as much — simpleton! But you won't

let anybody come up here, will you?
Valet. There were three ladies inquiring about you.
Gerardo. Don't you dare admit anybody, whatever they

tell you.
Valet. Then there's another batch of letters.
Gerardo. Yes, never mind. {Valet puts letter on tray.)

Don't you dare admit anybody!
Valet {at the door). Very well. Sir.
Gerardo. Not even, if they should offer you an annuity

for life.
Valet. Very well, Sir. [^Exit.']

Scene VI

Gerardo {alone, tries to sing). ''Isolde! Beloved! Art
thou ..." I should think these women might get
tired of me some time ! But, then, the world holds so
many of them ! And I am only one. Well, everybody
bears his yoke and has to bear it ! {Walks to the piano
and strikes two thirds.)

Permission Albert Langen, Munich

-■'— C'-fl/jL-^^ - ^*^



Scene VII
Gerardo. Professor Duhring. Later a piano teacher.
Professor Duhring, seventy years old, dressed in black, long, white beard,
his aquiline nose tinged with red, suggesting fondness for wine, gold
ringed spectacles, frock coat and silk hat, carries the score of an opera
under his arm, enters without knocking.

Geraedo {turning around). What do you want?

DiJHEiNG. Mr. Gerardo, I — I have . . .

Geeardo. How did you get in here?

Duhring. I've been watching my chance for two hours
down on the sidewalk, Mr. Gerardo.

Gerardo {recollecting). Let me see, you are . . .

Duhring. For fully two hours I've been standing down
on the sidewalk. AVhat else was I to do?

Gerardo. But, my dear sir, I haven't the time.

DiJHRiNG. I don't mean to play the whole opera to you

Glrardo. I haven't the time left . . .

DiJHRiNG. You haven't the time left! How about me!
You are thirty. You have attained success in your art.
You can continue following your bent through the
whole long life that still is before you. I will ask you
to listen only to your own part in my opera. You
promised to do so when you came to town.

Gerardo. It's to no purpose, Sir. I am not my own
master ...

Duhring. Please, Mr. Gerardo ! Please, please ! Look at
me, here's an old man lying before you on his knees
who has known only one thing in life : his art. I know
what you would reply to me, you, a young man who
has been carried aloft on the wings of angels, one
might sav. *' If vou would have the goddess of For-
tune find you, don 't hunt for her. ' ' Do you imagine,
when one has cherished but a single hope for fifty
years, one could possibly have overlooked any means
whatsoever mthin human reach, to attain that hope?
First one turns cynical and then serious again. One


tries to get there by scheming, one is once more 8,
light hearted child, and again an earnest seeker after
one 's artistic ideals — not for ambition 's sake, not for
conviction's sake, but simply because one cannot help
it, because it's a curse which has been laid on one by
a cruel omnipotence to which the life-long agony of its
creature is a pleasing offering! A pleasing offering,
I say, for we whom art enthralls rebel against our lot
as little as does the slave of a woman against his
seductress, as little as does the dog against his master
who whips him.

Geraedo {in despair). I am powerless . . .

DiJHRiNG. Let me tell you, my dear Sir, the tyrants of
antiquity who, as you know, would have their slaves
tortured to death just for a pleasant pastime, they
were mere children, they were harmless innocent little
angels as compared with that divine providence which
thought it was creating those tyrants in its own image.

Geraedo. While I quite comprehend you . . .

DtJHEiNG {while Geeaedo vainly tries several times to in-
terrupt him; he follows Geeaedo through the room
and repeatedly blocks his attempt to reach the door).
You do not comprehend me. You cannot comprehend
me. How could you have had the time to comprehend
me! Fifty years of fruitless labor, Sir, that is more
than you can comprehend, if one has been a favorite
child of fortune like you. But I'll try to make you
realize it approximately, at least. You see, I am too
old to take my own life. The proper time to do that
is at twenty-five, and I have missed my opportunity.
I must live out my life now, my hand has grown too
unsteady. But would you know what an old man like
me will do ! You ask me how I got in here. You have
put your valet on guard at the hotel entrance. I did
not try to slip by him, I've known for fifty years what
he will tell me : the gentleman is not in. But with my
score here I stood at the corner of the building for two


hours in the rain until he went up for a moment. Then
I followed him, and while you were speaking to him in
here, I concealed myself on the staircase — I need not
tell you where. And then, when he had gone down
again, I entered here. That's what a man of my years
will do to reach one who might be his grandson.
Please, Sir, please, let not this moment be without
result for me even though it cost you a day, even though
it cost you a whole week. It will be to your advantage
as well as mine. A week ago, when you came to town
on your starring tour, you promised me to let me
play my opera to you ; and since that time I 've called
every day. You either were rehearsing or had lady
visitors. And now you are about to depart, which
would mean that an old man like me in vain spent a
whole week standing around in the street! And all it
would cost you is a single word : ' ^ I will sing your
Hermann. ' ' Then my opera will be performed. Then
you will thank God for my intrusiveness, for — you
sing '' Siegfried," you sing " Florestan " — but you
haven't in your repertory a more grateful part, one
more adapted to a singer of your resources than that
of " Hermann." Then with loud acclaim they will
draw me out of my obscurity, and perhaps I'll have
the opportunity of giving to the world at least a part
of what I might have given, if it had not cast me out
like a leper. But the great material gain resulting
from my long struggle will not be mine, you alone
will . . .
Gerardo {having given up the attempt to stop his visitor,
leans on the mantle piece of the fireplace. While
drumming on the marble slab ivith his right hand,
something behind the screen seems to excite his curi-
osity. He investigates, then suddenly reaches out and
draws a piano teacher forward, dressed in gray.
Holding her by the collar, with outstretched arm, he
thus leads her forward in front of the piano and out


through the centre door. Having locked the door, to
Duheing). Please, don't let this interrupt you!

DtJHEiNG. You see, there are performed ten new operas
every year which become impossible after the second
night, and every ten years a good one which lives. Now
this opera of mine is a good one, it is well adapted for
the stage, it is sure to be a financial success. If you
let me, I '11 show you letters from Liszt, from Wagner,
from Rubinstein, in which these men look up to me as
to a superior being. And why has it remained unper-
formed to the present day? Because I don't stand in
the public market-place. I tell you, it's like what will
happen to a young girl who for three years has been
the reigning beauty at all dancing parties, but has
forgotten to become engaged. One has to give way to
another generation. Besides you know our court
theatres. They are fortresses, I can assure you, com-
pared with which the armor-plate of Metz and Rastadt
is the merest tin. They would rather dig out ten
corpses than admit a single living composer. And it's
in getting over these ramparts that I ask you to lend
me a hand. You are inside at thirty, I am outside at
seventy. It would cost you just a word to let me in,
while I am vainly battering my head against stone
and steel. That's why I have come to you {very pas-
sionately) and if you are not absolutely inlmman, if
your success has not killed off in you the very last trace
of sympathy with striving fellow-artists, you cannot
refuse my request.

Gerardo. I will let you know a week from now. I will
play your opera through. Let me take it along.

DtJHRiNG. I am too old for that, Mr. Gerardo. Long be-
fore a week, as measured by your chronology, has
elapsed, I shall lie beneath the sod. I've been put off
that way too often. {Bringing down his fist on the
piano.) Hie Rhodus! Hie salta! It's five years ago
now that I called on the manager of the Royal Theatre,


Count Zedlitz : '' What have you got for me, my dear-
est professor? " "An opera, your Excellency." " In-
deed, you have written a new opera? Splendid!"
" Your Excellency, I have not written a new opera.
It's an old opera. I wrote it thirteen years ago." —
It wasn't this one here, it was my Maria de Medicis. —
" But why don't you let us have it then? Why, we are
just hunting for new works. We simply cannot shuffle
through any longer, turning the old ones over and
over. My secretary is traveling from one theatre to
another, without finding anything, and you, who live
right here, withhold your production from us in proud
disdain of the comm.on crowd ! " " Your Excellency, ' '
I replied, " I am not withholding anything from any-
body. Heaven is my witness. I submitted this opera
to your predecessor, Count Tornow, thirteen years
ago and had to go to his office myself three years later
to get it back. Nobody had as much as looked at it. ' '
" Now just leave it here, my dear professor. A week
from now at the latest you '11 have our answer. ' ' And
in saying this he pulls the score from under my arm
and claps it into the lowest drawer and that's where
it is lying today! That's where it is lying today, Sir!
But what would I do, child that I am in spite of my
white hair, but go home and tell my Gretchen: they
need a new opera here at our theatre. Mine is prac-
tically accepted now! A year later death took her
away from me, — and she was the one friend left who
had been with me when I began to work on it. {Sobs
and dries his tears.)

Gerardo. Sir, I cannot but feel the deepest sympathy for
you . . .

DuHRiNG. That's where it is lying today.

Gerardo. May be you actually are a child in spite of your
white hair. I must confess I doubt if I can help you.

DuHRiNG {in violent rage). So you can endure the sight
of an old man dragging himself along beside you on


the same path on which your victorious flight carries
you to the sun! Who knows but tomorrow you will
lie on your knees before me and boast of knowing me,
and today you see in the agonized groan of a creative
artist nothing but a sad mistake and you cannot wring
from your greed of gold the half hour it would take to
rid me of the chains that are crushing me.

Geraedo. Sit down and play, sir! Come!

DiJHEiNG {sits down at the piano, opens his score, and
strikes two chords). No, that's not the way it reads.
I have to get back into it first. (Strikes three chords,
then turns several leaves.) That is the overture; I
won't detain you with it. — Now here comes the first
scene . . . [Strikes two chords.) Here you stand
at the deathbed of your father. Just a moment until
I get my bearings . . .

Gerardo. Perhaps all you say is quite true. But at any
rate you misjudge my position.

DiJHRiNG (plays a confused orchestration and sings in a
deep grating voice).

Alas, now death has come to the castle

As it is raging in our huts.

It mow^eth down both great and small . . .

(Interrupting himself.) No, that's the chorus. I had
thought of playing it to you because it's very good.
Now comes your turn. (Resumes the accompaniment
and sings hoarsely:)

My life unto this fateful hour

Was dim and gray like the breaking morn.

Tortured by demons, I roamed about.

My eye is tearless !

Oh let me kiss once more thy hoary hair !

(Interrupting himself.) Well? (Since Geraedo does not
answer, with violent irritation.) These anaemic,
threadbare, plodding, would-be geniuses who are puff-
ing themselves up today ! Whose technique is so sub-


lime, it makes them sterile, impotent at twenty!
Meistersingers, philistines, that's what they are,
whether they are starving or basking in the public
favor. Fellows that go to the cookbook rather than
to nature to satisfy their hunger. They think, indeed,
they've learned her secret — naivete! Ha — ha! —
Tastes like plated brass! — They make art their start-
ing-point rather than life ! Write music for musicians
rather than for yearning mankind! Blind, benighted
ephemerons ! Senile youths whom the sun of Wagner
has dried and shriveled up! {Seizing Geraedo's arm
violently.) To judge a man's creative genius, do you
know" where I take hold of him first?

Gerardo {stepping hack). Well?

DuHRiNG {putting his right hand around his oivn left wrist
and feeling his pulse). This is where I take hold of
him first of all. Do you see, right here! And if he
hasn't anything here — please, let me go on playing.
{Turning more leaves.) I won't go through the whole
monologue. We shouldn't have the time anyway.
Now here, scene three, end of the first act. That's
where the farm laborer's child, who had grown up
with you in the castle, suddenly enters. Now listen —
after you have taken leave of your highly revered
mother. {Rapidly reading the text:) Demon, who
art thou? May one enter? {To Gerardo.) Those
words are hers, you understand. {Continues reading.)
Barbette! Yes, it is I. Is your father dead? There
he lies! {Plays and sings in the highest falsetto.)

Full often did he stroke my curls.
Wherever he met me he w^as kind to me.
Alas, this is death.
His eyes are closed . . .

{Interrupting himself, looking at Gerardo with self-assur-
ance.) Now isn't that music?
Gerardo. Possibly.


DiJHRiNG {striking tivo chords). Isn't that something
more than the Trumpeter of Sakhingenf

Geeardo, Your confidence compels me to be candid. I
cannot imagine how I could use my influence with any
benefit to you.

DiJHRiNG. In other words you mean to tell me that it is
antiquated music.

Geraedo. I would much rather call it modern music.

DtJHRiNG. Or modern music. Pardon my slip of the
tongue, Mr. Gerardo. It's what will happen when one
gets old. You see, one manager will write me: We
cannot use your opera, it is antiquated music — and
another writes : We cannot use it because it is modern
music. In plain language both mean the same: We
don't want any opera of yours, because as a composer
you don't count.

Geeardo. I am a AVagner singer, Sir, I am no critic. If
you want to see your opera performed, you had better
apply to those who are paid for knowing what is good
and what is bad. My judgment in such matters, don't
doubt that for a moment, Sir, counts the less, the
more I am recognized and esteemed as a singer.

DtJHRiNG. My dear Mr. Gerardo, you may rest assured,
I don't believe in your judgment either. What do I
care for your judgment! I think I know what to ex-
pect of a tenor. I am playing this opera to you to
make you say: I'll sing your Hermann! I'll sing
your Hermann!

Geraedo. It won't avail you anything. I must do what I
am asked to do ; I am bound by my contracts. You can
afford to stand down in the street for a week. A day
more or less makes no difference to you. But if I do
not leave here by the next train, my prospects in this
world are ruined. May be, in another world they will
engage singers who break their contracts ! My chains
are drawn more tightly than the harness of a carriage
horse. If anybody, even an absolute stranger, asks


me for material assistance lie will find I have an open
hand, although the sacrifice of happiness my calling
exacts of me is not paid for with five hundred thou-
sand francs a year. But if you ask of me the slightest
assertion of personal liberty, you are expecting too
much of a slave such as I am. I can not sing your
Hermann as long as you don't count as a composer.

DuHEiNG. Please, Sir, let me continue. It will give you
a desire for the part.

Geraedo. If you but knew, Sir, how often I have a desire
for things w^hich I must deny myself and how often
I must assume burdens for which I have not the least
desire! I have absolutely no choice in the matter.
You have been a free man all your life. How can you
complain of not being in the market? Why don't you
go and put yourself in the market?

DiJHEiNG. Oh, the haggling — the shouting — the mean-
ness you meet with ! I have tried it a hundred times.

Geeaedo. One must do what one is capable of doing and
not what one is incapable of doing.

DiJHEiNG. Everything has to be learned first.

Geeaedo. One must learn that which one is capable of
learning. How am I to know if the case is not very
much the same with your work as a composer.

DtJHEiNG. I am a composer, Mr. Gerardo.

Geeaedo. You mean by that, you have devoted your whole
strength to the writing of operas.

DtJHEiNG. Quite so.

Geeaedo. And you hadn't any left to bring about a

DuHEiNG. Quite so.

Geeaedo. The composers whom I know go about it just
the other way. They slap their operas on paper the
best way they know and keep their strength for bring-
ing about a performance.

DuHEiNG. They are a type of composer I don't em^.


Gerakdo. They would reciprocate that feeling, Sir. These
people do count. One must be something. Name me
a single famous man who did not count! If one is not
a composer, one is something else, that's all, and
there's no need of being unhappy about it, either. I
was something else myself before I became a Wagner
singer — something, my efficiency at which nobody
could doubt, and with which I was entirely satisfied.
It is not for us to say what we are intended for in this
world. If it were, any Tom, Dick, or Harry might
come along! Do you know what I was before they
discovered me? I was a paperhanger 's apprentice.
Do you know what that is like! {Indicating hy ges-
ture.) I put paper on walls — with paste. I don't
conceal my humble origin from anybody. Now just
imagine, that as a paperhanger I should have taken it
into my head to become a Wagner singer! Do you
know what they would have done to me?

DtJHRiNG. They would have sent you to the madhouse.

Geeaedo. Exactly, and rightly so. Whoever is dissatis-
fied with what he is will not get anywhere as long as
he lives. A healthy man does that at which he is
successful ; if he fails, he chooses another calling. You
spoke of the judgment of your friends. It does not
take much to obtain expressions of approbation and
admiration w^hich do not cost those anything who
utter them. Since my fifteenth year I have been paid
for every labor I've performed and should have con-
sidered it a disgrace to be compelled to do something
for nothing. Fifty years of fruitless struggling!
Can anybody be so stubborn as not to have that con-
vince him of the impossibility of his dreams! What
did you get out of your life? You have sinfully
wasted it! I have never striven for anything out of
the ordinary ; but, Sir, I can assure you of one thing :
that since my earliest childhood days I have never
had enough time left to stand out in the street for a

Permission Albert Langen, Munich



whole week. And if I were to think that in my old
days I might be compelled to do that very thing —
Sir, I am speaking only for myself now — but I can-
not imagine how I could still muster the courage to
look people in the face.

DiJHRiNG. What? With such an opera in your hands!
Remember, I am not doing it for my own sake; I am
doing it for art's sake.

Geraedo. You overestimate art. Let me tell you that art
is something quite different from what people make
themselves believe about it.

DtJHRiNG. I know nothing higher on earth!

Gerardo. That's a view shared only by people like your-
self to whose interest it is to make this view prevail

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