Queen Victoria in Windsor Castle - 24 May, 1899

from Thirty Years of Musical Life in London, 1870-1900, pages 443-4:

A select few had bestowed upon them the insignia of the Royal Victoria Order ; and the first musician to be thus honored, after Sir Arthur Sullivan and Signor Tosti, was M. Jean de Reszke, who received the cross of the “RVO” (fourth class) after a performance of “Lohengrin” at Windsor Castle on the Queen's eightieth birthday. May 24, 1899. His brother was similarly decorated fourteen months later, after a representation of “Faust” — the last occasion on which Queen Victoria ever listened to an opera.

The birthday celebration was marked by one or two curious incidents. To begin with, only the first and third acts of “Lohengrin" could be given. There was hardly time to include the second, as these royal functions do not commence until nearly ten o 'clock at night. The plot, however, was fully explained to the Queen, who had never heard Wagner 's opera, and the temptation of Elsa (Mme. Nordica) by the perfidious Ortrud (Mme. Schumann- Heink) and her spouse (David Bispham) was easily “taken as read”. Mancinelli conducted, and everything went capitally until the fall of the curtain. Her Majesty then retired to one of the drawing-rooms and requested that the principal artists be presented to her, together with Mr. Maurice Grau as managing director of the Royal Opera. The awful discovery was then made that neither Jean nor Edouard de Reszke had with him any but the operatic garments in which they stood. It was the first time that the brothers had ever appeared in opera before the Queen, and, not knowing that it was usual to don evening dress for the subsequent presentation, they had clothed themselves as Lohengrin and Heinrich der Vogler before leaving London, and had traveled to Windsor in dark cloaks of sufficient amplitude to conceal themselves from the gaze of an inquisitive Cockney crowd. The situation was duly explained to Her Majesty, who laughingly declared that it did not matter in the least; for once court etiquette should be disregarded, and the two artists brought before her in their picturesque stage attire. The command was forthwith obeyed, and the Queen, in course of conversation with the brothers, “expressed the delight that it had afforded her at last to hear them in opera and listen to the beautiful music of Wagner's work”.

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cite as

Hermann Klein, Thirty Years of Musical Life in London, 1870-1900 (New York City, 1903), p. 443-4. https://led.kmi.open.ac.uk/entity/lexp/1438597622333 accessed: 29 February, 2024

location of experience: Windsor Castle


Queen Victoria

Listening to

hide composers
written by Richard Wagner
performed by David Bispham, Edouard de Reszke, Jean de Reszke, Lillian Nordica, Luigi Mancinelli, Ernestine Schumann-Heink

Experience Information

Date/Time 24 May, 1899
Medium live
Listening Environment in the company of others, in private, indoors

Originally submitted by sp327 on Mon, 03 Aug 2015 11:27:02 +0100
Approved on Sun, 24 Apr 2016 15:54:03 +0100