But innovations in harmony are rare in Offenbach’s work. What makes him interesting is his fertility in invention of melodies and few have equaled him in this. He improvised constantly and with incredible rapidity. His manuscripts give the impression of having been done with the point of a needle. There is nothing useless anywhere in them. He used abbreviations as much as he could and the simplicity of his harmony helped him here. As a result he was able to produce his light works in an exceedingly short time.
He had the luck to attach Madame Ugalde to his company. Her powers had already begun to decline but she was still brilliant. While she was giving a spectacular revival of Orphee aux Enfers, he wrote Les Bavards for her. He was inspired by the hope of an unusual interpretation and he so surpassed himself that he produced a small masterpiece. A revival of this work would certainly be successful if that were possible, but the peculiar merits of the creatrix of the role would be necessary and I do not see her like anywhere.
It is strange but true that Offenbach lost all his good qualities as soon as he took himself seriously. But he was not the only case of this in the history of music. Cramer and Clementi wrote studies and exercises which are marvels of style, but their sonatas and concertos are tiresome in their mediocrity. Offenbach’s works which were given at the Opera-Comique—Robinson Crusoe, Vert-Vert, and Fantasio are much inferior to La Chanson de Fortunio, La Belle Helene and many other justly famous operettas. There have been several unprofitable revivals of La Belle Helene. This is due to the fact that the role of Helene was designed for Mlle. Schneider. She was beautiful and talented and had an admirable mezzo-soprano voice. The slight voice of the ordinary singer of operetta is insufficient for the part. Furthermore, traditions have sprung up. The comic element has been suppressed and the piece has been denatured by this change. In Germany they conceived the idea of playing this farce seriously with an archaic stage setting!
Jacques Offenbach will become a classic. While this may be unexpected, what doesn’t happen? Everything is possible—even the impossible.
Queen Victoria did me the honor to receive me twice at Windsor Castle, and Queen Alexandra paid me the same honor at Buckingham Palace in London. The first time I saw Queen Victoria I was presented to her by the Baroness de Caters. She was the daughter of Lablache and had one of the most beautiful voices and the greatest talent that I have ever known. This charming woman had been left a widow and so she became an artist, appearing in concerts and giving singing lessons. At the time of which I speak she was teaching Princess Beatrice, now the mother-in-law