Duss At Madison Square Garden, 1903

the old madison square garden from madison square park june 1903
The photo above is of Madison Square Garden, June 1903, taken from Madison Square Park. Before Madison Square Garden and Penn Station were all jammed together, the Garden had the castle-like appearance you see above.

In August 1903 Edith Vail Ross headed to Madison Square Garden to hear John Duss’ Orchestra play his show “Venice in New York”.

Advertisement for "Duss" in the New York Times, July, 1903 from http://temposenzatempo.blogspot.com/2011/09/kun-arpad-violin-prodigy.html

Advertisement for “Duss” in the New York Times, July, 1903 from http://temposenzatempo.blogspot.com/2011/09/kun-arpad-violin-prodigy.html

I have never heard a thing about Anyone named Duss and I had a devil of a time trying to figure out the name from Edith’s scrawling handwriting, but eventually some pieces fell into place. I found this no-so-flattering explanation online [the rest of this post is from the site listed below the text]:

“In his autobiography Duss wrote that the management of the Madison Square Garden, so impressed with his performance in 1902, invited him to perform a summer concert series in 1903. He wrote: “The offer was so flattering that I could not turn it down. However one stipulation was that I conduct the Metropolitan Opera House Orchestra and that is what came to pass.” Duss did not mention that he already controlled the orchestra.

John Duss conducted the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra is an elaborate spectacle during the summer of 1903. Spending $100,000 Duss built a pasteboard replica of Venice inside Madison Square Garden. A water filled canal with gondolas surrounded an island. Boatman manned the gondolas taking concert goers around the island, A copy of the Rialto bridge took patrons to the island. The orchestra played in front of a large curtain painted with an image of St Mark’s Square. In the promotions for the summer concert series Duss compared himself to John Philip Sousa. Opera singer Madame Nordica and Edouard de Reske performed with the orchestra conducted by Duss.

The New York Times wrote the following description of the event: “Conductor Duss continues swinging his wand in Madison Square Garden, and the Metropolitan Opera-House Orchestra, headed by Nahan Franko, accompanies him valiantly. Large crowds meanwhile assemble in the pasteboard Venice and look at the pretty sight—a veritable toy land—and venturesome visitors glide along the toy canal in toy gondolas. Over on the so called island, a wooden platform encircled by the canal, Wuerzburger beer flows freely for the less imaginative, and there is a buzz of many voices, the gliding about of many fleet-footed waiters and on warm nights a whirring of many electric fans. But Duss’s wand still waves on magnificently.”

After the first show the New York World reviewer wrote: “Ego was the chief characteristic of the Duss concert.” Duss was known for turning his back to the orchestra to conduct facing the audience. The critics thought he was an egotistical buffoon. After the conclusion of the Madison Square Garden summer season Duss took the Metropolitan Orchestra on a North American tour performing in Indianapolis, Chicago, Denver, Omaha, Salt Lake City, Seattle, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Toronto, Montreal, and many other cities. Duss paid all of the expenses from Harmonist society funds. Despite the many negative reviews on his Venice concert series Duss performed another summer season with the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra in New York in 1904.” From
https://sites.google.com/site/pittsburghmusichistory/pittsburgh-music-story/classic/john-duss

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.
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