Germany is working entirely on paper money. I have not seen a coin above ½ mark value, and as a rule even 10 pfennings are paper money, i.e. ½d.
The Rhine is now several feet lower than when we arrived; confined between walls, its width does not vary. Powerful tugboats are forever hauling strings of barges up and down. As an indication of the value some Huns place upon their iron crosses – one was sold to an artillery-man for 10 marks. The shortage of food etc. seems to be acute, and one is forever being pestered with cadgers, whilst the more unscrupulous are making small fortunes trading their (and other’s) belongings to civilians. Some fellows imagine that it is possible to live two lives, and that their post-war characters will not suffer from acts done in uniform in strange lands.
9.30 p.m. The scheme of the opera (Tales of Hoffman) as far as I could guess is to portray several tales or legends told at a tavern gathering – the opera opening and closing with the tavern scene. The act in which the well-known barcarolle occurs was of extraordinary sensuousness, as that theme would suggest. The piece is of an uncommon, seductive and entertaining character. In one act is a lady automaton, or mechanical doll, who walks, sings, and dances in a manner amazingly clever and machine-like. Another scene appeared to depict the hallucinations of a girl dying of consumption.
Have I told you how the Huns raven for “chocolade” – they will sell their very souls for it. Apparently it has been unobtainable for years, and was once their almost indispensible confection.
Having no ticket for Don Juan, but with two other diggers, I ascend to one of the circles, where we bribed a Machiavellian flunky by a handful of paper money, to stand up at the back. A woman squeezed closer to her hubby and made room for me, so there I was, missing only most of the first scene. Of course, I couldn’t follow the story. The Don was a whiskered, be-hatted, lady chaser, with robe-suspended rapier, who must, forsooth, be surrounded by diaphanous dancing damsels, even at his dinner. Some delightful singing, nevertheless, and I can stand any number of musical evenings of anything like the same quality.
I see that in the Schauspielhaus, where drama is enacted, they are putting on Euripides, Ibsen, and so forth – if one only understood German.
The attitude of the people here is now quite friendly. They are apparently glad to have our protection in view of the riots etc. in unoccupied parts of the Vaterland.
J. and I sat on the banks of the Rhine, and drew a large Lutheran church across the stream.
Met Hun skinflint, and received two seats for Tales of Hoffman, and brought in legitimate manner seats for Thursday’s performance – Jenufa, by one Janacek – and then cantered upstairs to hear Der Frieshutz. It was unintelligible to us as drama, but we enjoyed much of the music. It comprised supernatural elements – His Satanic Majesty – appearing – re-appearing and disappearing with accommodating frequency and promptitude, amid surroundings of Dantesque gruesomeness: in fact, at one stage of the proceedings brimstone and treacle were flying about in all directions. It is a long opera, interspersed with much unaccompanied conversation, during which we Englanders were out of the joke, but several of the hunting scenes and interiors were beautifully staged, and the singing left little to be desired. It contained two very familiar airs.
Returned to barracks, I am enjoying a second musical treat – a mouth organ!
Now used to counting our money in marks. The trouble is that it fluctuates from day to day, like the Rhine with the rains.
[Image: Sketch of Lutheran church across Rhine, Cologne, by Lincoln Lee, 11 January 1919]
Morning taken up with the General’s inspection to accompaniment of an infernal band playing some hurdy-gurdy tunes ad nauseam.
Bedtime: I found the wily old man who had sold me my ticket, waiting to escort me to the seat next his own. He was rather a nuisance during the performance, nudging me at the entry of the characters, and insisting on lending me his useless opera glasses. Cavalieria Rusticana was very well staged. It was followed by Leoncavallo’s Bajazzo, another two-act piece. Thought I had heard neither in its entirety before, I cannot say these Italian Operas appeal to me so much as the German.
[Image: The horse transport of the New Zealand Division lined up outside the headquarters building in Leverkusen during the occupation of Germany after World War I. Photograph taken January 1919 by Henry Armytage Sanders. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington. Ref: 1/1-002108-G]
Well, if they won’t demobilise me I’ll go to operas! I remember reading about a German composer who was so fond of the old English air “The Last Rose of Summer”, that he introduced it into one of his works. I little thought I should ever hear that work, and in Germany. This opera seems to me to be in the same category as, say, the Yeomen of the Guard – comic opera verging on grand opera. The music has often the full-bodied and almost obstreperous quality for which I have a weakness.
J. and I had a look round the museum in which are a large number of big oils, historical and ecclesiastic. Also florid landscapes with a sprinkling of really charming things in portraiture, animal life etc. The most entertaining room was devoted to modern stuff, including some quite insane futuristic efforts in colours so crude as to be downright repellent, others of a strength and boldness arresting in their cleverness.
Mozart’s comic opera, Figaro’s Hochzeit, delighted me with its characteristic Mozartian repetitions and cadences. The prima donna possessed a beautiful elastic soprano.
The little ass who used to get tight and sing for hours at Souastre came in last night and wrecked the home – he accused the panes in the door of being “bloody square heads”, and drove his foot through three of them: then vented his patriotism on the coal scuttle and other inanimate objects. Sleep was scarce.