October 31, 2007

Many Happy Returns of the Day

MASSENET'S 'GHOST'
SEEN AT REHEARSALS

—————
Singers and Stage Hands of the
Paris Gaiete-Lyrique Swear
They Behold an Apparition.
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ACTS AS IF LEADING OPERA
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Outsiders Unable to See Anything
on Stage Where Composer's Last
Work Is Being Made Ready.
—————
Special Cable to The New York Times.

PARIS, April 20.—What is regarded by the Paris artistic world as the chief musical event of the season, the premiere of "Panurge," the last work of Massenet, scheduled to be given Tuesday at the municipal Opera House, the Gaieté-Lyrique, has taken on additional interest because of the assertions of singers and stage hands that the stage is haunted at every rehearsal by the ghost of the composer.

The extraordinary affair has been kept secret for a fortnight, but just leaked out, with the result that the Gaieté has been beseiged by musicians, opera lovers, and friends of Massenet, eager for details of his alleged appearance.

"I first noticed the apparition at the second rehearsal," said the baritone, M. Marcoux, to The New York Times correspondent. "It appeared at the end of the second act at the right-hand corner of the stage. At first I thought it was a hallucination on my part, but, try as I might, I could not keep my eyes from the figure, which I could see distinctly, clad in the familiar gray frock coat, beat time with its hands and shake its head in approval or disapproval. I said nothing, for fear of being ridiculed, and as the ghost, or whatever it might be, did not appear again that day, I took a dose of bromide to steady my nerves.

"Next day Mlle. Lucy Arbell, who has the principal rôle, clutched my arm suddenly during the duet in the second act and whispered, in a terrified voice, 'Look! Look!' There, in the same place, stood the strange figure, going through the motions of conducting an orchestra. I must confess our voices sounded shaky as we continued singing."
...
Marcel Simond, General Secretary of the theatre, was another witness of the strange manifestations. He said that at first the women members of the company were tremendously impressed and hysterical and the tenors and basses were nervous as schoolgirls, while the stage hands refused to go near the haunted corner, but in the course of a few days they appeared to accustom themselves to the strange apparition and the work is now going on as usual.
...
The correspondent of the New York Times spent this afternoon on the stage of the theatre, but, although M. Marcoux and others pointed to an alleged spectre, the correspondent was unable to see the slightest trace of it.

New York Times, April 20, 1913

3 comments:

Marc said...

This is great. Did Bernard Holland write it?

Mark said...

They just don't market opera the way they used to. And where CAN I get a dose of bromide these days?

robertbonotto said...

This actually sounds like Massenet's sense of humor. According to the compulsively readable "Massenet" by James Harding: he used to come into the offices of the Paris Opera, see all the young composers waiting to see ... well, anyone, and loudly commiserate with their sufferings ... all the while pocketing the week's takings.