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Indian to Sing Grand Opera
After Fifteen Years of Struggle, Son of Famous Araucanian Warriors of Chile, is Engaged for the Metropolitan
of New York By A. F. HARLOW
MILE BARRANGON, Chief Caupolican, Last winter the management of the Metrothe new baritone of America's great politan Opera House decided to stage, for a few
temple of music, the Metropolitan Opera performances, a new opera, “The Polish Jew,” House, is only half Indian, but he is proud of his by Karel Weis, a Czechoslovak composer. It aboriginal blood and always speaks of himself is a musical setting of the story of the same as “an Indian.” As a matter of fact, his father name by the Alsatian novelists, Erckmann and was a full-blooded Indian and a chief of the Chatrian. The late Sir Henry Irving presented Araucanians—a South American tribe—and his a stage version of it, “The Bells,” one of the mother was French.
plays by which he is best remembered. It is something of an achievement to scale the “The Polish Jew” is not by any means a heights and force one's way through the portals musical masterpiece; in fact, the critics on the of America's greatest and most exclusive musi- morning after its first production were unapical organization. Chief
mous in announcing Caupolican, as he is
that it was based on known, accomplished
very poor fabric; but, the feat after a struggle
in spite of their inof fifteen years; for it
grained conservatism, has been fully that long
they did give more or since he began training
less praise to the new his voice and did his
star who handled the first singing for little
leading part—that of pay, in San Francisco.
the wealthy and reIn those years were
spected old burgher packed ages of hard
who, with the shadow work, of bitter struggle,
of a long-past murder adversity, and dis-,
hanging over him, becouragement, of con
comes fairly crazed and tinual striving upward
broken, not from reafter each reverse.
morse but the fear of During the last few
being found out. The years, his financial re
management had wards were much more
trouble in securing, for gratifying, but artisti
the rôle, a grand opera cally he was unsatis
performer who can fied. Now, at thirty
both sing and act-a eight years of age, he is
rare combination. One just entering on his
of their baritones rekingdom, as unspoiled
fused it because he by his recognition by
believed it was too high the princes of the musi
for him. Another of cal world as he was un
the foreign stars did discouraged by the Chief Caupolican in the dress of his tribe not care to attempt the frowns of fortune in the the Araucanians of Chile, South America struggle of learning anpast.
other English part
for the opera, originally written in German, has been translated into English. Several others demurred. Perhaps some of them did not like the music which, though dramatic, lacks tunefulness.
Finally, Mr. Gatti-Casazza, director of the Metropolitan, sent for Chief Caupolican. The Chief had already had his “tryout” and had signed a contract which does not go into effect until this fall. The director, however, requested him to sing the new work and he un hesitatingly accepted.
It is a bit amazing to an average American citizen who knows no language but his own, and who doesn't know much about that, to hear smooth, graceful English from a man who was born in a foreign land of French and Indian parents, and to learn that he speaks at least four other languages as well; and the wonder at his intellectual attainments grows when you learn that he has never spent a day at school since he ran away from a Roman Catholic institution in Valparaiso, Chile, at the tender age of twelve.
One can spend a very delightful and instructive evening in conversation with this accomplished gentleman. One of the first objects that met my eye when I entered his room was a book, the old sprinkled calf-cover of which proclaimed it to be at least a hundred years old. It was Molina's "History of Chile,” an English translation published in 1808. Caupolican reads everything that he can lay hands on, about South America and his own race. He is familiar with Araucanian history and legend, and is planning to write a history of the Araucanian people.
Apparently he has all the facts at his fingers' ends now, for he can reel off descriptions of battles, interspersed with dates, names of leaders, numbers engaged and lost on both sides, analyses of all national movements and many other matters pertaining to his people, with a fluency that betrays the scholar.
“T AM as independent as any man, I be
I lieve,” he said to me, in speaking of the incident, “but it did not occur to me to refuse or quibble. I had a pretty thorough tutelage in discipline during my seven years as a sailor, and my natural tendency is to obey orders. I am glad to have had an opportunity to introduce myself to the Metropolitan audiences, even though the opera is not a masterpiece. I have no complaint to make. Everyone-Mr. GattiCasazza, Mr. Bodanzky, the conductor and the stage hands—has been very kind and considerate. You have heard much of the jeal ousies and backbiting said to prevail among opera singers. It may exist but I can truthfully say that I have observed no feeling of the sort towards me. On the contrary, everyone, stars and all, claps me on the back and offers en couragement. Even the chorus, when I come off at a rehearsal, call out, ‘Brava, Chief!' and the stage hands offer such bits as 'Fine, Chief. You're all there, I'm telling you! With such encouragement, how could a fellow fail?”
With the first performance, the Indian star proved himself not only a singer but an actor as well. He displayed a full, clear, resonant baritone voice and an accurate ear. But the highest praise of all was bestowed on his diction. “For the first time in my life, I understood every word a singer uttered,” exclaimed one auditor, enthusiastically. The veteran critic of The Herald said, “The diction of Chief Caupolican, who sings the leading part in the work, is a lesson no singer can afford not to learn. No singer in English, that is. For his, throughout all the blithering book, are the words roundly, plainly, masculinely used. Against the foreign accents which are put to teasing the king's language, his native one is a treat. It is of no moment, perhaps,--for they say quite definitely that the German operas will be sung in German henceforth—but just the same, it has taken an Indian to teach us how easily and pleasingly our tongue could have taken its place in permanent repertory.”
“M y father's people,” said he, “were the
V aboriginal inhabitants of the mountains of Southern Chile. Under the old tribal organization we had two hundred and four rulers, distributed among three grades. Highest of all there were four Toqui, or princestetrarchs, as it were. You will find the early Spanish writers referring to them as caciques. Each of these governed five smaller divisions over which were apo-ulmen, or super-chiefs; and each of these twenty apo-ulmen had under him nine ulmen, or chiefs. Thus there were one hundred and eighty ulmen. Succession to the chieftainship followed as in the English rule of primogeniture; save that if the eldest son were not intellectual or lacked courage the succession was apt to be passed on to the second son. However, there were occasionally new chiefs selected because of great prowess in battle“war chiefs," as they were designated among some tribes of your North American Indiansand his descendants thereupon became hereditary chiefs. One such selection was my ancestor, Caupolican, who was elevated to the chieftainship after his prodigious deeds of Chief Caupolican in the rôle of the Inn Keeper, the leading character in the Wolf-Ferrari opera, “The Polish Jew," a musical version of Sir Henry
Irving's “The Bells”
generalship and daring in the battle of Pilucayquen in 1550.
“Never in their history did our race bow their necks to the yoke of another. Our tribal name, translated, means “Free People.” When I write my Araucanian history, I shall maintain that our people did more to break the power of Spain in South America than any other element. Spain was never able to do anything with us. Pizarro's feat of wiping out the Incas with his little band of one hundred and eighty-three men could never have been accomplished in our country. Chile is known as the cockiest, most independent State in South America, and I think it is due in no small measure to the liberal infusion of Araucanian blood in the Chilean population.”
The singer's father, when a mere boy, was adopted into a well-to-do French family residing in Chile. On reaching manhood, he married the eldest daughter of the household. When little Emile, his son, had reached the age of four years, there came a call to the father from the tribe, informing him that the chieftainship was vacant, and demanding that he resume his hereditary place. His wife had not expected that he would ever return to his tribal life, and when he decided that he must go, she refused to accompany him. By mutual consent, little Emile was sent to a school in the south of France,
where he remained for seven years. When he was eleven, his father was injured while hunting, It was predicted that he would never recover. Believing that his time was short, he sent a messenger to his wife, asking that he might, if possible, see his son again before he died. The boy was sent for, and though it was a long, slow journey, he reached the bedside in time to be clasped in his father's arms. After remaining with the tribe for a time, he was placed by his mother in the Seminary of San Rafael in Valparaiso. Here a general education is given, including languages, and English among the rest; but, as Chief Caupolican recalls it, the English taught by the good padres had some points in common with Dame Eglantine's French, spoken “after the school of Stratfordat-Bowe.”
But the youngster was restless. Two crossings of the ocean had put the fascination of the sea into his blood. He had been in school but a few months when he ran away and shipped as a cabin boy on a sailing vessel laden with wheat which took him around Cape Horn and to Havre. A little later he was aboard a ship, bound out of Hull, laden with machinery for Australia. In the next few years, he journeyed to all the far. climes and quaint seaports of the world. Once he was overboard for four hours
-and, he says, the Metropolitan came near losing a good baritone.
Always large for his age, he had shipped before the mast as an able seaman before he was fifteen. Later he went to steam vessels; but, as he says, “there was never the fascination for me in steam that there was in the old sailing vessels. One thing that I most enjoyed on the steamships was the 'lead song,'—the chant which the sailors sing while taking soundings or 'heaving the lead.' I did not know then that I had a voice, though I lost no opportunity to use it.”
began taking vocal lessons, and sang in public whenever he had an opportunity. By the time he was twenty, he had given up the sea and had adopted a musical career.
He sang in music halls, in vaudeville, in church choirs, anywhere. It was while he was singing in New England that he met his future wife, a Smith College girl. They were married when he was twenty-three. It was agreed between them that he must keep up his music, cost what it might, and strive onward towards the heights. To help the cause as best she could his wife secured a place on the faculty at Smith, and stood bravely by him throughout his struggles. He managed to get over to France for four years of instruction, working whenever and wherever he could, and living in typically frugal student style. When I asked under whom he had studied over there, he replied with a smile, “Oh, all sorts of obscure teachers!”
CEANWHILE his mother had married
again and was living in California, so for several years he made his headquarters in San Francisco. At eighteen he was quartermaster on a liner between that port and China. With all his zest for adventure, he had been a student from his youth up. He had strengthened his acquaintance with the English tongue while on vessels of that nation, and while yet in his teens was reading the classics. When, as a quartermaster, when off duty, he might have been found reading such authors as Shakespeare, Pope, or Lamb.
He saw looming chances for promotion if he had been old enough-so, at nineteen, he represented himself as twenty-two and got his papers as third mate on a steamship from which he advanced rapidly to second mate and then to first. Meanwhile he was becoming more and more interested in music. Between trips he attended the operatic performances at the old Tivoli Theater, in San Francisco. He seldom lost a chance to hear good music. He
LTE returned to this country and sang Ni wherever he could. He has been heard in most of the standard light operas that have been revived from time to time in the last two decades—“Chimes of Normandy,” “La Mascotte,” “The Beggar Student,” “GirofleGirofla." He got rather low in spirits in 1912, when he found himself approaching thirty and realized that he had not “arrived," but, that year, in company with two other singers, he secured a vaudeville contract which brought him more money than he had ever earned before. His voice and his forceful personality made a decided hit. In less than three years, he had a vaudeville act of his own booked at a good figure, and tbe satisfaction of seeing his name in electric lights as a "headliner" over the entrance of the biggest vaudeville house on Broadway. He appeared in his native costume, sang a few songs and told something of the life of his people.
“But I had a terrible time with the managers," says he, “trying to keep from being an Apache or a Sioux or a member of some other tribe. They thought I'd make a bigger hit if I were billed as a tribesman that folks here knew something about—a native of some Western tribe that had massacred a lot of North American citizens. But I didn't want to be anything but what I was and am! I'm too proud of it to be anything else.”
The Chief was in vaudeville for six years, and then went into Chautauqua work. He sang, and lectured both on the South and North American Indians; for on the North American tribes he is one of the best informed men before the public to-day. Meanwhile he had become a popular speaker before Rotary Clubs all over the country, his favorite theme being PanAmericanism. Whenever his audiences insist, he will talk about Indians, but a better under standing and a closer and more cordial entente among the nations of the two Americas is a subject that lies very near his heart, and one on which he can talk most fascinatingly. He has been, for many years, a naturalized citizen of the United States. .
During all these years he never ceased training and striving to reach a higher degree of art. He had always yearned to sing at the Metropolitan Opera House but hardly expect ed an opportunity. A man who has some influence in the opera house heard Caupolican sing in vaudeville and asked him is he wouldn't like to try grand opera. It isn't worth while recording his reply. He learned some of the leading baritone rôles, and his friend introduced him to one of the coaches at the opera house, who highly commended his singing and assured him that he was a possibility. For several months Caupolican trained assiduously under the coach's direction, and then, last year, came his audition before Gatti-Casazza. He sang three selections, one in English, one in French, and one in Italian; and after the hearing was over, Gatti-Casazza handed him a contract. Another year was to elapse before it went into effect. Art is indeed long and time fleeting. But Caupolican's chance came sooner than he expected. Among the rôles in which he may be heard, as specified in bis contract, are Amonasro, in "Aida;" Escamillo the Toreador, in "Carmen;" Telramund, in “Lohengrin;" Amfortas, in “Parsifal;” Tonio, in “Pagliacci;”
Valentine, in “Faust;" Gerard, in “Andre Chenier;" the high priest, in “Samson and Delilah."
His sincerity is evidenced by the care with which he prepared for his appearance in “The Polish Jew.” He read the original novel, he read the play in which Irving appeared, he went through old newspaper files and studied the comments of the critics on Irving's acting of the part. He read everything that he could find bearing upon Alsatian life of the period. He even studied the construction of the old limekilns to find out how best a body could be thrown into one-in order that he might be strictly accurate in the dream scene. When he made his exit after the first act of the dress rehearsal, Gatti-Casazza exclaimed, "You have performed a miracle!" . “Ah!" replied Caupolican, his mind, as always, leaping forward into the future, “but just give me a chance at. Amonasro!”
That is the rôle which he is looking forward to most eagerly. “I have my own conception of the part,” he said, “—with all deference to those who have sung it before me. To me, Amonasro is one of the most striking characters in opera—a big, primeval man. When I sing Amonasro, he will be almost as much Caupolican as Amonasro—I mean the old sixteenth-century Caupolican,-aboriginal, elemental, fierce in his loves and hates."
Such remarks reveal his enthusiasm for his art, the keenness of his observation and analytical power. He is one of the most forceful examples that I have ever seen of the lesson which this magazine is trying to drive home to every reader; for Chief Caupolican is a selfmade man, if ever there was one.
By W. A. Chess (Written after reading Dr. Marden's editorial, “Making Business Sick,” in The
New Success for February)
THE TREE TOAD croaks his false alarm And utters warnings of rain and
snow; His only cry is of impending harm; Not a cheery call does he seem to know,
Don't be a tree toad THE CRAWFISH moves in a backward
way And knows no method but to retreat; He backs out and off from every fray Not a menacing foe does he ever defeat.
Don't be a crawfish.
THE GROUNDHOG creeps from his win1 ter home And expects to behold a clear, warm day; He sees a cloud in the heavenly dome And goes back again for a few weeks' stay.
Don't be a groundhog. THE HOOT OWL'S call is just as of old; From the swampy woods comes the
same “Waugh ho!” Not a new idea does he ever unfold, Not a step in advance since the long, long ago,
Don't be a hoot owl.