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Bal D'Opera

Thursday, September 17, 2009

I always worry that I'm going to run out of good ads to write about here, but then I'll run across something new to share with you. These are a pair I found today.

Bal d'Opera. - Will the lady who received my white mask and afterwards gave me her address please communicate with me? I lost the Order of Dancing on which her address was written when we went to get a glass of water. Address G.K., Herald office.

Black Domino, Bal d'Opera. - Your kind note of remembrance not received until too late. I recognized the writing, and oh what memories were recalled. Let your note apply to the Liederkranz. Please, please, please write me again, that I may send your tickets and know that we will again meet. Direct to me, box 2,309 Post office, and I will get it more promptly.

Okay, first let me get the specifics out of the way. The Academy of Music regularly held costume balls, and this particular year it was a black-and-white costume ball (I don't know if that was always the case, or just one time). So that's what they're referring to here. As for the Liederkranz the second ad refers to...I don't know. Anyone have thoughts on this? I looked it up and since I'm assuming he or she is not referring to cheese, my next best guess is that it has something to do with music.

I can just imagine the scene! All the men and women dressed in black and white, swirling around with their masks, exchanging glances and addresses - what mystery! What romance! What spiciness! I love it! In any event, make what you will of this event, but I leave you with a quote from none other than the estimable Mark Twain, describing one of these balls only three years before:

The grand Bal d'Opera came off at the new Academy of Music last night. I suppose there may have been ten or twelve hundred people present, but it was hard to make estimate in so large a building. The great majority of both sexes wore neither masks nor fancy costumes, and yet were allowed to come on the floor long before the hour for unmasking. This had an embarrassing effect, of course, and consequently what should have been a hilarious carnival was a good deal more like a funeral for the first two hours.

I got myself up in flowing royal robes, and purported to be a king of some country or other, but I only felt like a highly ornamental butcher. If everybody else felt as solemn and absurd as I did, they have my sympathy. I could not dance with any comfort, because I was in danger of tripping in my petticoats and breaking my neck every moment, and so I deserted soon, and went to promenading in the broad halls in the rear of the balconies. Dukes and princes, and queens and fairies met me at every turn, and I might have managed to imagine myself in a land of enchantment, but for remarks I was constantly over hearing. For instance, I heard Joan of Arc say she would give the world for a mess of raw oysters, and Martin Luther said he didn't feel well, because he had been playing poker for the last forty-eight hours. The Wandering Jew chatted and laughed like a school-girl, and vivacious Charles II. was as dismal as an owl. Dukes and Emperors called each other "Jim" and "Joe," and spoke in the most plebeian way of going out to take a drink. I even heard the Queen of the Fairies say she wished she had some cheese. These little things have a tendency to destroy the pleasant illusions created by deceptive costumes.

Wait - cheese! Maybe that is what the Liederkranz is all about!

Okay, so Twain doesn't make it sound so romantic as in my head, but perhaps it got better in the intervening years.

Having trouble reading the ads? Click one to enlarge!

©2009 Pam Epstein


Unknown September 17, 2009 at 12:43 PM  

Liederkranz is the German word for 'song-cycle', so my guess is that if you have a look at the programs of the opera, there'll be a song-cycle programmed at some point.

Matt September 17, 2009 at 1:08 PM  

You are SUCH a romantic! I've always wondered what kind of naughtiness people might get up to at a fancy dress.

A domino mask might not really hide your identity, but I imagine it would give an illusion of anonymity... and all kinds of "spiciness" might entail.

Pam September 17, 2009 at 3:58 PM  

Liz - yeah I looked the word up, saw that too.

Matt - I am a romantic! Don't know how that's still possible but I suppose my inherent cynicism hasn't quite yet killed off my optimism. =)

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