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Music: De Reszke

3 minute read

De Reszké

Where the Riviera rises over the blue Mediterranean, Death stole into one of the white villas which shine on the shore of the bay at Nice. He laid his cold hand upon the heart of an old man, wearied by 75 years of life; and, faint from the assaults of influenza, the heart ceased beating.

When the 19th Century had run but half its course, Jan Meczislaw, son of a Polish aristocrat, was born in Warsaw. A few years later, a boy soprano sang in the Cathedral choir. A few years more, and a baritone made his debut in opera. He had considerable success but his teacher, Sbriglia, kept insisting that his voice was properly tenor. De Reszké− it was he−left the stage, cultivated his upper register for a year, returned as a tenor. He became the idol of Paris. Massenet wrote Le Cid especially for him.

On Dec. 14, 1891, hundreds of shiny broughams drove up to the doors of the Metropolitan Opera House; hundreds of standees waited in line on Broadway through the afternoon and into the bleak, bitter evening. On that night, he made his Manhattan debut, singing Romeo to the Juliet of tender Emma Eames. That winter, and for every winter thereafter until 1899, Jean de Reszké and his brother, Édouard, sang at the Metropolitan. Lillian Nordica sang then, Nellie Melba, Lilli Lehmann, Jean Lassalle, Pol Plangon. De Reszké did not wait to see a rival; at the height of his success, with voice unimpaired, he retired from the stage. In 1905, he started a singing school, made the name of teacher almost as famous as that of singer.

Last week, conductors, opera-directors, vied with one another to find the definitive epitaph.

Said Director Giulio Gatti-Casazza: “A supreme artist with a true personality.”

Said Tenor John McCormack: “Lohengrin has mounted his swan-drawn chariot. . . . Romeo lies dead. Tristan’s loving heart is stilled. Siegfried lies upon the bier.”


In Manhattan, 856 manly U. S. voices roared a buccaneer lay* a hunting song,†a hymn in medieval Latin**; and sundry other ditties. Those who sang, members of the Associated Glee

Clubs of America, had come together in the Metropolitan Opera House, to give a concert that should be the transcendent epitome of all the meek, orderly pipings of glee-clubs here and there. Reinald Werrenrath, famed concert-baritone, sang a solo. Conductor Walter Damrosch delivered a graciously paternal address. Half the U. S. listened on the radio.

*Captain Stratton’s Fancy, by Deems Tayler.

†From DeKoven’s Robin Hood. **Adeste Fideles.

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