It seemed impossible, but it was true, for the statement came from people whose word was not to be doubted.

And I gathered some further information. On the ground I found part of a German musical magazine, and in it a letter written by Uhlic thirty-three years ago, in which he defends the scorned and abused Wagner against people like me, who found fault with the comprehensive absence of what our kind regards as singing. Uhlic says Wagner despised "JENE PLAPPERUDE MUSIC," and therefore "runs, trills, and SCHNORKEL are discarded by him." I don't know what a SCHNORKEL is, but now that I know it has been left out of these operas I never have missed so much in my life. And Uhlic further says that Wagner's song is true: that it is "simply emphasized intoned speech." That certainly describes it --in "Parsifal" and some of the operas; and if I understand Uhlic's elaborate German he apologizes for the beautiful airs in "Tannh:auser." Very well; now that Wagner and I understand each other, perhaps we shall get along better, and I shall stop calling Waggner, on the American plan, and thereafter call him Waggner as per German custom, for I feel entirely friendly now. The minute we get reconciled to a person, how willing we are to throw aside little needless puctilios and pronounce his name right!

Of course I came home wondering why people should come from all corners of America to hear these operas, when we have lately had a season or two of them in New York with these same singers in the several parts, and possibly this same orchestra. I resolved to think that out at all hazards.

TUESDAY.--Yesterday they played the only operatic favorite I have ever had--an opera which has always driven me mad with ignorant delight whenever I have heard it--"Tannh:auser." I heard it first when I was a youth; I heard it last in the last German season in New York. I was busy yesterday and I did not intend to go, knowing I should have another "Tannh:auser" opportunity in a few days; but after five o'clock I found myself free and walked out to the opera-house and arrived about the beginning of the second act. My opera ticket admitted me to the grounds in front, past the policeman and the chain, and I thought I would take a rest on a bench for an hour and two and wait for the third act.

In a moment or so the first bugles blew, and the multitude began to crumble apart and melt into the theater. I will explain that this bugle-call is one of the pretty features here. You see, the theater is empty, and hundreds of the audience are a good way off in the feeding-house; the first bugle-call is blown about a quarter of an hour before time for the curtain to rise. This company of buglers, in uniform, march out with military step and send out over the landscape a few bars of the theme of the approaching act, piercing the distances with the gracious notes; then they march to the other entrance and repeat. Presently they do this over again. Yesterday only about two hundred people were still left in front of the house when the second call was blown; in another half-minute they would have been in the house, but then a thing happened which delayed them--the only solitary thing in this world which could be relied on with certainty to accomplish it, I suppose--an imperial princess appeared in the balcony above them. They stopped dead in their tracks and began to gaze in a stupor of gratitude and satisfaction. The lady presently saw that she must disappear or the doors would be closed upon these worshipers, so she returned to her box. This daughter-in-law of an emperor was pretty; she had a kind face; she was without airs; she is known to be full of common human sympathies. There are many kinds of princesses, but this kind is the most harmful of all, for wherever they go they reconcile people to monarchy and set back the clock of progress. The valuable princes, the desirable princes, are the czars and their sort. By their mere dumb presence in the world they cover with derision every argument that can be invented in favor of royalty by the most ingenious casuist.

Mark Twain
Classic Literature Library

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