A Singing Crime: en Français avec des cheveux gris

I hesitate to revive this harsh review from the depths of 1903 where I think it ought to remain. I do hope it had a second more purposeful life as fish wrap for some vendor the day after circulation. But I just can’t seem to set aside the tidy set of paragraphs that blows darts in the direction of Madame Marius and then bombs her in the conclusion with ageism. With all the “big- find” materials I have culled out of libraries, books and boxes this is a reminder that sometimes it is the small details of a person’s day that can brings things to life. That Edith attended this small French concert on something of a blind date arranged by her voice teacher is an interesting nugget.

"The New York Sun", January 13, 1903

“The New York Sun”, January 13, 1903

But the review. While the headline seems to wave a positive flag, the body of the review refuses to give the singer much credit. The anonymous reviewer first contends that the concertgoers “left confused on the purpose of the recital.” This is absolutely stretching it as the concert purpose was to be “Amused” just like it was advertised under “Amusement” in the the newspaper the day before. As were all of the other advertised concert performances listed under “Amusements” and thus the purpose is to be amused. The reviewer then goes on to say the program selection was only of unfamiliar French songs and (gasp!) the singer knows the composers and therefore it is a clue that something is suspect on the singer. The reviewer than closes with an easy jab to the singer’s hair color peeking some gray and in a final slam announces that her voice should grant the audience a “gift of silence”. Marius greatest performing crimes seems to be (1) that she knows the composers of the songs she sings, (2) that she is French and (3) has gray hair. image

The review is at odds with Edith’s assessment of a lovely performance by Marius at Mendelssohn Hall in a letter home to her Grandmother Beals. Edith relates that the concert was wonderfully sung and she was accompanied by another of Mr. Desci’s voice students, a Mr. Carter originally from Boston. Since Mme Marius often performed in Boston, Edith’s acquaintance knew her and introduces the two after the performance.

Mendelssohn Hall is described well here http://www.nycago.org/Organs/NYC/html/MendelssohnHall.html and evidently the entire building was torn down in 1912.

Mendelssohn Hall, from the New York City Chapter of the American Guild Organists

Mendelssohn Hall, from the New York City Chapter of the American Guild Organists

And for the record Mme Marius did not heed the reviewer’s advice but continued performing as reviews can be commonly found a least until 1908. The reviewer should have remembered that if you don’t want to hear French songs, don’t go to a French concert! But really if you would like to hear some examples of songs from that evening click here or both sung by Jessye Norman.

About Guenevere Crum

Guenevere Crum is an artist and a great granddaughter of Edith and Paul Eisler. She has been actively sleuthing her Eisler - Vail Ross heritage since 1999.
This entry was posted in New York City and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to A Singing Crime: en Français avec des cheveux gris

  1. Grace Alfiero says:

    We all need more “amusement” in our modern days!

    My Best, Grace-Anne Alfiero, MFA President & CEO Arts In Action Consulting Firm http://www.artsinactionllc.com http://www.gracealfiero.com Follow me on twitter @ gracealfiero

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s