“This question of providing opportunity for operatic experience in America, is one which has long been discussed and many experiments have been tried, without arriving at satisfactory results. What is needed is to awaken interest in opera in small places—just little out-of-the-way towns. My idea would be to have a regular stock local opera company, and have the standard operas studied. Have a little orchestra of about twenty and a small chorus. The small parts to be learned by the most competent singers in the place. Then have the few principal roles taken by ‘guest artists,’ who might make these engagements in regular route and succession. It seems to me such a plan could be carried out, and what a joy it would be to any small community! But people must gradually awake to this need: it will take time.”
A great podium backed with green, reminding one of a forest of palms; dim lights through the vast auditorium; a majestic, black-robed figure standing alone among the palms, pouring out her voice in song; a voice at once vibrant, appealing, powerful, filled now with sweeping passion, again with melting tenderness; such was the stage setting for my first impression of Mme. Marguerite d’Alvarez, and such were some of the emotions she conveyed.
Soon after this experience, I asked if I might have a personal talk with the artist whose singing had made such a deep impression upon me. It was most graciously granted, and at the appointed hour I found myself in a charmingly appointed yet very home-like salon, chatting with this Spanish lady from Peru, who speaks such beautiful English and is courtesy itself.
This time it was not a somber, black-robed figure who came forward so graciously to greet me, for above a black satin walking skirt, Madame had added a blouse of soft creamy lace, which revealed the rounded curves of neck and arms; the only ornament being a string of pearls about the full throat. Later in our talk I ventured to express my preference for creamy draperies instead of black, for the concert room; but the singer thought otherwise. “No,” she said; “my gown must be absolutely unobtrusive—negative. I must not use it to heighten effect, or to attract the audience to me personally. People must be drawn to me by what I express, by my art, by what I have to give them.”