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.
Spent the forenoon completing those wan diagrams of beds, an indelible image of which, crudely coloured in crayons, is now imprinted upon my pericranium. Made myself scarce (sans pass) and hovered about the door of the Concert Hall, being informed on all sides that it was quite impossible to obtain admission. I was not ass enough to give up, but sufficiently mulish to wait the commencement of the performance before mounting the breach, i.e. the gallery; where I was promptly handed a ticket in exchange for 3 M: so heard entire concert anew.
Of the Beethoven “Pastoral” I feel that it has an effect similar to the greatest passages of Wordsworth’s poetry.
The Brahms (as a neighbouring fraulein, who informed me that she “spoke too, the English, but not many”, remarked) was more “difficult to comprehend”, but a banquet of sound nevertheless. There is a subtlety about even the simplest themes employed by the great composers. One was repeated in a hundred hues in the “Pastoral”, yet on leaving it had eluded me – how different from a music-hall tune, which usually defies all attempts to be rid of it! I am uncritical – I become intoxicated with music – I am the “audience par excellence”. (I no sooner talk of intoxicants than I am forcibly reminded that today was pay-day by the uproarious entry of a bevy of boozed and boisterous Bohemians).
Have discovered all about the “Konzert Gesellschaft” of Coln. It is a Society with a municipal subsidy. They give 12 performances during the winter, some purely instrumental, some choral. Every performer has to pass an examination before he is allowed to give his services free, and benefit as a teacher by an advertisement.
Glorious bath and swim, also change of clothes. J. has obtained tickets for the rehearsal of the symphonies. I have to spend the afternoon doing 9 copies of a drawing of a soldier’s bed and kit for the billets – horrible job, and the sort of thing I can’t draw a bit, but no one else would try it.
9 p.m. The drawings were a blessing in disguise for I found that I had been released from picquet to do them. I have experienced the greatest musical treat of my life. The Concert Hall was a large and ornate place, quite near the Cathedral, with seating room for about 1500. Though a rehearsal, there was very little interruption by the conductor. His methods were more subtle and serpentine than ferocious.
The Mozart symphony was played in perfect style by what appeared to me an immense orchestra, and was, as might be expected, a graceful, fresh and charming work: but, after that the number of instrumentalists was almost doubled.
I wish I could describe my first experience of the glorious “Pastoral” symphony. An orchestra that played like one instrument in the hands of a master – music of a power of delineation and an appeal beyond everything I have ever desired. I could not but sympathise with several Germans who left after it was over, saying “After Beethoven – nothing!” Bravo the deaf giant!
Sermon on the Bible – really must read it! Good menu – rissoles for breakfast, duff and rum sauce for lunch, ham and spuds for tea – to say nothing of the half-rissole and crust I have just toasted for supper.
Humperdink’s “Konigskinder”, a delightful performance – Missed overture (if any), and the commencement of Act 1, but got hold of English copy (now being provided) and enlightened myself on the nature of the plot. It is a legend, or fairy tale, in music, children figuring largely in the caste. Bright and quaint music. Amazing artificial gees and other birds waddled about on the stage, and ate crumbs etc. First scene a lovely woodscape in summer, repeated in the last scene in winter, and very effective, the piece ending sadly by the death of the King’s children, a la Babes in the Wood, of cold and witchcraft, snow flakes covering their bodies. How did I get in? Bribed the attendant, and the rascal actually gave me a ticket which he had ready in his hand.
Great excitement in the city – election night – encountered hordes of huns and hunesses, many being inebriated in all stages and both sexes. (That’s a queer sentence).
J. and I spotted a poster advertising a “Konzert” of three symphonies by Mozart, Beethoven, and Brahms for Tuesday.
This is all very fine and large, but, could I only get my ticket to N.Z., I’d put my fingers to my nose to all Germany and its combined attractions.
A dozen of us made off to Mulheim, a manufacturing town on our side of the Rhine, where we joined a boat party of 400 or 500 diggers, and set off at a fast pace upstream. The ferry was roomy and comfortable. We followed the stately curves of the Rhine, passing under the three Coln bridges, and seeing small towns and villages, on either bank, loom up and fade behind us. The small picturesque university town of Bonn passed, we soon had a glimpse of the narrow gorges and irregular hills where the typical Rhine Scenery begins.
At the tourist resort of Konigswinter, our steamer (the Hindenberg) was moored: disembarked for an hour and a half. Above our heads hung the famed and legended Drachenfels with its mysterious ruined castle, a place I have heard about all my life, but never thought to see. On a smaller knoll to its left is built a sumptuous hotel. The return journey was made in quick time, so that I was back in time for a snack and a wash, and off to Fidelio. What with the heat there, and want of sleep, I made a very drowsy spectator. I felt that I was hearing the work of a genius struggling with an uncongenial medium. Beethoven, the great master of pure music, fumbling about with opera.
[Image: Postcard of Konigswinter, c1919, from Lincoln Lee’s papers]
[Image: Postcard of Drachenfels Castle, c1919, from Lincoln Lee’s papers]
The Prince of Wales came to our billets at mess-time last evening – a slight, unassuming chap. A shockingly dressed cook showed him round. At midnight when I had started my broken night’s rest, it was further curtailed by the Sergt. Major waking me to ask if I should like to be in a river trip early tomorrow.
[Image: Group portrait of Edward, Prince of Wales (left front) standing with Major General Andrew Russell and staff officers at the New Zealand Divisional Headquarters in Leverkusen during the occupation of Germany after World War I. Lieutenant Colonel Henry Maitland (Jumbo) Wilson is in the centre behind them. Photograph taken January 1919 by Henry Armytage Sanders. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington. Ref: 1/1-002118-G]
Just returned from a performance of Faust, remarkable for the magnificence of its scenery and setting. The magic scene (a la Venusberg) was a revelation in stagecraft. Mephistopheles was taken by one Frederic Schorr – splendid voice.
Having fasted since lunch, I have just toasted half a rissole and two small crusts, rescued from breakfast, which, washed down by half a cup of cold tea, have restored my pristine and titanic energies. I refuse to go to bed – I don’t want to make my bunk – “I tell ye I’ll not clane our me cell! I’ll lave the goal first!” I shall read “New Zealand at the Front” and continue smoking.
[Image: A group of soldiers from the 3rd Battalion, NZ Rifle Brigade, enjoy the joke of reading a copy of the publication ‘New Zealand at the Front’ while seated on a captured German anti-tank gun. Photo taken at ‘Clapham Junction’ a muddy part of the battlefield in Belgium on 20 November 1917 by Henry Armytage Sanders. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington. Ref: 1/2-012980-G]