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Music: Lakme in Washington

2 minute read

At 8:15 one night last week 1,500 Washingtonians settled themselves in Constitution Hall to hear a performance of Lakmé by the National Opera Association. When nothing seemed to happen after half an hour, the audience began to clap, stomp, demand explanations. Another fruitless hour passed. Then a plump little woman with disheveled white hair appeared before the curtain, waved a piece of paper, cried: “This is the most terrible thing that has ever happened in the history of music. I have a check to pay the musicians but they refuse to take it. Won’t some one please endorse it?”

The cry for help came from Mrs. Edouard Albion, wife of a baritone who periodically feels impelled to produce opera in Washington, had his last disastrous experience in 1930 when he ended a two-week festival owing stagehands and orchestramen some $7,000. The amount he had to meet last week was only $1,500. By union regulations musicians are entitled to be paid in cash before they go into the pit. Last week’s performance seemed doomed when no one would vouch for the $1,500 check even though Mrs. Albion insisted “this is one of the loveliest performances ever given and we want you to see it.” Some one suddenly remembered that there was a folding portable organ hidden away in a storeroom. Up onto the stage in answer to a call for volunteers marched Mme Marie Zalipsky.

Though the wheezy little instrument was often inaudible, Mme Zalipsky pumped & played vigorously for nearly three hours, pausing only to adjust her glasses or steady her hat. Stagehands had left with the musicians so members of the cast were obliged to manipulate the curtains. Electricians went also, so there was no attempt at lighting. But hit-or-miss the performance, with Edouard Albion as Nilakantha. the fanatic Brahman priest, went on to the end which came at 1130 a. m.

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