Went to another lecture on ‘joint stock companies’ – amazing!
9 p.m. In hopes of seeing Verdi’s Aida, I eventually got in at the back of the pit (parterre), from which coign of disadvantage heard and partially viewed what was left of Aida: and it was remarkably fine. The scenery was of the most gorgeous Egyptian sumptuousness (or sumptuous Egyptian gorgeousness), and the music of more grandeur than any Verdi I had previously heard. The two primae donnae (if that’s the proper plural) had voices of amazing range, one of them being the rather hard-faced lady with the voice reminiscent of Calve. The mighty bass who took Mephistopheles in Faust also performed.
A handful more quadrupeds have left us – they included “Chum” in the draft, but she couldn’t bear parting with me, and turned up again with all her colossal charms.
The Opera tonight was a comic one called “The Hermit’s Bell” (Das Glockchen des Eremiten) by one Von Maillart, amusing enough as elucidated by the English sketch, and containing a few good things. It was followed by a remarkably good ballet – Sommernachtspuk – in which, after a graceful dance by powered and crinolined ladies and appropriate “gents”, and the romantic elopement of a fayre damsel (taking at least 10 minutes) some wonderfully posed statuary comes to life and dances a variety of themes on the lawn deserted by humans. An old boozed butler wakes up during their prank, and they rush back to their pedestals, but haven’t time to resume their proper poses, whereat he fears that he has “got em”. The accompanying music was very attractive and dainty.
My supper – a roasted rissole, hunks of “tinned duff”, and an “anzac wafter” – necessitates my remaining out of bed awhile to scrawl these lonesome lucubrations.
Spanish influenza is showing in Cologne, but I smoke too much to catch anything. It (smoking) deadens the intellect, but massacres microbes.
Went out exercising two old crocks which have been doing nothing for weeks. Long rest and the keen air roused in them youthful memories. The chap I rode wanted to bolt: whilst stupid old Chum, led by a chain, floundered into idiotic romps.
Birds are chirping in the leafless trees. Birds are impartial, and chirp as cheerfully in Hunland as anywhere else.
To the Opernhaus sans pass or ticket. The piece was a comic opera, Vogelhandler (The Bird Seller) by one Carl Zeller, the music being light and tuney.
Procured, for a small sum, a plate of very curious light refreshment; to wit – a pyramid of pink vegetable putrescence (probably sauerkraut), about an ounce of pommes de terre, and ethereally thin slice of war bread, two diaphanous slices of pickled gherkin, and a lace-like ringlet of raw onion: this being “hurled headlong to bottomless perdition” by a cup of cafe noir, I completed my journey, and my repast (by the addition of some “Anzac Wafers” and gritty rice).
Snow covered the ground, a couple of inches deep. Snowballing has revived, not even officers being exempt. Among others I attended my first lecture on “Civics” today. Nostalgia gnaws ceaselessly at my vitals! Oh, this senseless jingling of bits and stirrup irons.
[Image: Shows unidentified New Zealand soldiers seated at desks. They are looking at a financial balance written on a blackboard that an instructor is highlighting with a wooden pointer. To the side, another blackboard has the headings Purchase Sales Day Book and Credit Sales Day Book with entries under each. Photograph taken at Mulheim March 1919 by Henry Armytage Sanders. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington. Ref. 1/1-002124-G]
What have I got out of the war? Well, it is something to have been through part of that bellowing hell of “Passchendaele”; to have taken part in one of the terrific actions that resulted in barring the Hun’s onrush in the spring, and to have gone through the roaring autumn of 1918, witnessing his ultimate disintegration and downfall.
9 p.m. This evening, having no ticket, I hung about the portals until my good fairy in the form of a Tommy with two tickets to spare arrived. Harlekin (Arlecchino), and Turandot, both by Ferruccio Busoni – the former in the nature of a farce, light and broadly humorous, the latter almost pantomime, a mixture of the bizarre and the superb, with all sorts of attendant nonsense, in scenes of “more than oriental splendour”.
During the performance I made friends with a lonely French Soldat who was in Cologne for the day. We promenaded during the interval, and the Huns stared, and he ogled the mademoiselles.
This morning the battery was photographed, after much gesticulation, by a couple of bewhiskered artists.
Jull, who leaves for England tomorrow, joined me, and we walked to the Opernhaus where they were repeating Cavaleria Rusticana and Bajazzo. We resorted to the now familiar expedient of gilding the janitor’s palm. After farewells, I returned to the old prison-house to warming up the curry and rise I did not eat for tea.
Day futilely expended jiggering at a couple of clean brass buckles, when they might take us out for a smart march and keep us fit. The paper is full of revolutions and strikes all over the world – heaven knows what might not happen before one feels the welcome sway of a deck.
Mignon was very pretty and entertaining – Pauline sang very cleverly, and Lotharic was one of the star performers.
Carmen began at 4.30, and lasted till 8 p.m.
Sitting in the Opera House waiting for Tiefland to commence, and have obtained a booklet of the plot, written in English, with curious misspellings.
9.30 p.m. Having eaten (cold) “the unconsumed portion of the day’s rations” and washed one pair of socks and two handkerchiefs, I beg leave to continue my narrative. Tiefland heard a second time, with the benefit of my little book, and advantage of some acquaintance with the music, proved to be a treat. I forget the guesswork I made of the plot at the first hearing. The scene is laid in Spain in the Pyrenees – the hero a rough mountaineer, quite a boor, but boylike and charming. The heroine had a touch of Calve about her, and well suited the part.