BANQUETS, BATON, AND BREVET
Prior to leaving New York to go to Philadelphia, I gave a banquet for my orchestra. Before we started making sentimental speeches while enjoying the excellent cuisine of Brunswick, I received from my musicians a testimonial of their esteem and a material souvenir which touched me very much. They came in a body to present with me with an orchestra leader’s baton—what am I saying?—a marshal’s baton. This jewel is of guttapercha in imitation of ebony, encrusted at both ends with gold, with an agate set in one end and in the other an amethyst. In the middle of the baton is a massive golden lyre with the monogram of the recipient. At the same time the musicians presented me with the following resolutions written on white satin.
At a meeting of the undersigned, members of the orchestra playing under the direction of Jacques Offenbach at Gilmore’s Garden of this city, it has been resolved :
One, we are anxious to express to our honored director and friend our genuine and warm appreciation of his kindness since we have come to know him;
Two, that we present to him this baton, as evidence of our cordial feeling of respect for the well-deserved reputation which he has so ably sustained here; of admiration for his genius, his skill, and his zeal in our profession; and also as a tribute of our affection which he has gained through his relations with us;
Three, that his constant courtesy, his consideration, his amiability, and his true friendship for each and all of us have made him dear to our hearts and will make the memory of our association with him forever agreeable to us;
Fourth, that we wish to express to him our most sincere hopes for his prosperity and happiness, and may still greater successes, if such are possible, crown his future career.
I thanked them warmly, expressing to them all my gratitude and assuring them that the excellent recollection I would carry away of their talent and their sympathy would live eternally in my memory.
The next day, that is to say, on the eve of my departure for the Exposition city, I received at supper the foremost literary, artistic, and financial figures of the Empire City. Here is a copy of an article in the Courrier des États-Unis.
“Very few European artists have ever been as much entertained in New York as the author of La Grande-Duchesse. It must be said that Jacques Offenbach has received, doubtless from the fairies, the precious gift which up to now seemed to be the exclusive property of money; everybody likes him. One might dispute over his merits as a composer; there is no one who fails to feel the liveliest sympathy for him as a man. His cordiality, his modesty, his brilliant wit which, although it always has a ready reply, never departs from the laws of the strictest courtesy, his natural affability—all these things won him many friends. He has received every kind of homage; he has been surrounded with flattery, has been feted, serenaded, and coddled in every possible way. In his turn, wishing to repay this politeness, he gave Wednesday evening for the press and several eminent personages in the artistic world a supper, rather a banquet, the memory of which the most skeptical stomachs —if not hearts—will retain forever. This delightful entertainment took place in the salons of the Hotel Brunswick, and here were invited the representatives of all the arts—music, literature, painting, sculpture . . . and even finance.
When the exquisite food and tasty wines whose enumeration would take too long (besides, Christian charity will not allow us to inflict this torture of Tantalus upon those who were not present) had elevated our minds to the proper pitch, the toasts began. It was Offenbach naturally who led off; it was he who set the tone by a speech,, the most attractive, humorous, and at the same time the most moving of all past, present, and future speeches. He toasted the press, the press of New York and especially the press of France to which, he said, he owes the greater part of his success and the popularity of his name. Mr. F. R. Schwab [of the New York Times] answered in very fitting terms in the name of American^ journalism, and M. C. H. Villa [of the Courrier des États-Unis] in the name of the French press. Dr. Ruppaner, in his turn, held our attention in a speech studded with the loftiest thoughts, expressed in the finest language. Mr. H. Fisk [Stephen R. Fiske] of the Fifth Avenue Theatre answered in the name of the artists. M. Auguste Bartholdi, creator of the statue of Lafayette and that of Liberty Enlightening the World, spoke in his turn, and demonstrated that he knows the craft of Demosthenes just as well as that of Phidias. M. Skalkowsky, the delegate of the Russian Government at the Centenary Exposition, in a few words very eloquently turned and in purest French, expressed some general and generous ideas upon art and upon the relations of the nations of old Europe among themselves and with America. All of these orators were applauded with real furia offenbachique. As for our host, as unmoved as a god of Olympus sitting on his cloud, but gay as a real epicurean, he kept abreast of everything, answered everything, and ended by offering a grateful toast to Francis Kinzler, the organizer of this exquisite and elegant dinner. By this time, it was day and the guests, seeing the dawn come up, concluded with satisfaction that they were as virtuous as it is possible to be on earth.
The next day I bade farewell to Gilmore Garden. The room was full; in the vast hippodrome from the height of my podium, I could see only a sea of heads. My music was encored again and again with wildest enthusiasm. In vain, I put on my overcoat and my hat and descended from the podium to ask these amiable Yankees to spare me. Nothing availed, they kept clapping wildly, pounding with their canes on the chairs, until I went back toward my stand. They howled with satisfaction for a moment, and then complete silence ruled in the hall during the performance of the piece.
At the end of the last number my orchestra joined the crowd in giving me a deafening ovation. In spite of myself, I was greatly moved and I had difficulty in finding the words to thank these good friends. The deafening chorus of hurrahs the men were uttering mingled with a joyous triumphal flourish, executed spontaneously by several of the musicians, while the violinists made the ratta, striking the wood of their instruments with their bows. In the midst of this celebration, I received from the hands of the first violinist in the name of all his colleagues the famous certificate of membership in the Association of New York Musicians, which I had mentioned at the beginning of these notes. Whereupon I promised that, before I left for France, I would give one last concert in the Gilmore Garden, this time for the benefit of the association of which henceforth I was a member.