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WITH MELBA IN PARIS

: "-*> . 1 • AT A PARISIAN MODISTE'S. THE TREASURES OF' VERSAILLES. THE MARQUISE DE MARCHES! By Mrs Malcolm Ross. It is difficult to write of one's first impressions, of Paris without seeming exaggerative and hysterical,. for it is a city of extraordinary beauty and wonderful picturesquesness. Among my keenest memories are the exquisite vistas of trees —chestnuts mostly, lifting aloft their creamy candelabra of blossom—converging to some building or monument, The. grand avenue of the Champs Ely'sees is thus blocked by the Arc de Triomphe, surely one of the finest memorials in the world. _ On a Sunday afternoon this great street is thronged with vehicles and foot passengers, but it pales ill popularity beside the Bois dc Boulogne, which is the favourite rendezvous for all classes on a holiday.

Paris under any circumstances' must prove fascinating to a visitor from the Antipodes; but when one has for guide, philosopher, and friend one who knows her Paris and its people as does Madame Melba, the visit becomes more itlian doubly interesting. In the Boulevard Malesh&rbes—bordered by trees, mainly, chestnuts in full bloom—Madame ha 6 a beautiful flat, full of treasures in the way of_ pictures, china, old furniture, and. antiques, and the most beautiful and rare flowers sent her by many friends— for Madame is still a queen in Paris as she is in London.

It is difficult to remember it is Sunday in Paris, for the shops are .open, the street booths gay with flowers and vegetables, and the theatres and racecourses are most patronised. It is tlw gayest day of the week. But a Parisian crowd is, in point of colouring, gloomy, for mourning here is carried to cxcess, and the women, in preference, dres6 in black or dark tints. .The elder, women are rarely seen in anything but'black, and the contrast between a Sydney and a French throng is thus-most marked. The scarcity of pretty women, too, is noticeable. Probably the haute noblesse is. rarely se«n afoot in Paris—although in London one rubs shoulders with duchesses and count-esses in many of the streets where be the smart shops,—but still, though there is a subtle fascination about the Parisian, and her figure and carriage are often irreproachable, she is wanting in the fresh bloom and regular beauty ot the English girl, who also overtops her in point of inches. The Parisian, .however quietly she may frock herself, Jets herself eo in the way of hats, and some marvellous creations were visible in the Champs Elyeees, chapeaux of enormous size, with plumes that waved over tho back 'of the automobiles, and {lowers that looked like huge bouquets. I had a rather unique opportunity of watching the methods of the Parisian modistes in one of the great ateliers, whose name on a frock is a hall-mark of smartness to women. Madame Melba' was getting her gowns for the London season, ajid few who gaze with admiration at the lovely dresses the great singer weal's realise that the beautiful result is only attained at the Cost of much patience, and even fatigue, For three hours that- morning Madame Melba stood while artistic and nimble fingers pinned and draped, folded and fitted. No less than 15 dressmakers came in at different tune', and onnf 'here were siv hovering about a specially lovely, and intricate toilette. In Pans they specialise : one woman makes the collar, the other the sleeve, another the bodice,' while a presiding personage surveys all and dispenses enthusiastic praise or eloquent blame, as_ each is deserved. Their rapid I'rench, aided by fluent gesture, is charming, and their hands touch the beautiful materials with reverent daintiness. Thero was one thrilling moment when Madame Melba, who has the artist eye for frocks as well as the artist ear for music, updid a drapery that nung ungracefully, and the pretty' head modisto rearranged it, and waited for the verdict. She knew she had a customer who not only understood what she suited, but was resolved to get it. Several times did Madame Melba. make naught of the worL"

of their hands, and ill ono case a- whole bodice was remade under her directions, aji immense improvement in the way of originality and grace resulting. She'will submit to no arbitrary and absurd rules of fashion, and -the prevailing narrow slcirt is anathema to her. Slio knows the value of unrestrained flowing lines on a stately figure. Paris is full of fascination to a visitor, and there is not- a. yard .where something of interest is. not to be noticed. The barrows and booths, ipilcd high with flowers, fruit, arid vegetables, are n feast of artistic colour, especially where presided over .by a buxom country woman, who adds her picturesque comeliness to the group. The nurses, too, many in their quaint national costume, are charming figures in the gardens and in the avenucj, and the French peasant, in his blue bioiise, is attractive. Very dapnor and debonair, too, are the trim girls who hurry aloiig, their beautifully dressed black hair uncovered, and • their black frocks marvels o'f (it, although of the simplest mode. It is among these that one finds the prettiest faces, regular-fea-tured, elear-complexioned,,although eome•wliat colourless, with lovely dark eyes and shining hair. ' Versailles was most enchanting, and the road to it, overhung with blossoming lilacs and shaded with chestnut trees in full wealth of ivory spires of' bloom, a series of exquisite .pictures, despite tho cobblestones that made us'bounce, in'tho motion like india rubber balls, and the exciting possibilities of an immediate and untidy death owing to ■ the reckless driving t«f the other jehus. . It is a maryel that Paris is so densely peopled, considering t lhe- perils that, be&t the wayThere are no rules of the road Tccognised, and where many streets converge—as in the " Places "—death may come darting on you from eight' different directions, and, not having a spider's peculiar vision, you may meet a sudden and fearful fate. Even if a reckless driver does run over you, you have ho claim upon him. On the contrary, ho can suo you if your dislocated-"bones' have scraped the paint off his cab. We saw accidents every" time we went oatdisabled, motors, smashed traps, 1 and broken-down waggons, but, - fortunately, if there were .victims they had been removed before we came ojn' the scene. The authorities have tried to remedy this. They sent policemen to London to learn of our famous police—the mode ,to grapple with traffic. They remained some time, and returned to Paris primed with knowledge. But the , first man who held up his baton ami bade—like Canute —the tide stop, met with as little success as that monarch,, and with a worse fate, for they simply drove over him and killed him—a .martyr in the cause of law and order! After that, a Parisian policeman probably thinks it safer not to meddle, and two friends, separated by the space of a street, may wait for ever apart before anyone would think of helping the one' across to the othor. It is told of an old and nervous lady that she always took a "taxi" to. go across the street. She said it was cheaper than a funeral!

But this is _a far cry from' Versailles, anil, indeed, in its joeauty- and peace, the drawbacks of the twentieth century are' forgotten, and we could almost believe ourselves in the romantic time of the Grand Monarque, peopling the lovely terraces with fair ladies in brocade and powdered hair, attended by nobles brilliant in satins and velvets, coquetting the sunny hours away. To the quiet, pools set in -their marble borders, ,on which are fine statutes, one goes by-great flights of stone stops from the wide' fflrrace. Everywhere are wonderful groups of trees in delicate spring verdure, turf of dazzling green, and flower-beds set like gigantic aoms on emerald velvet. Beyond are riiore lounta'ins, and more trees, bluer and bluer as they, reach the horizon. The too, is full of memories, though there is little left of : its luxurious appointments, save 'some fine tapestries, a little old furniture, and many pictures, of various degrees of merit. But the extravagant splendour of the rooms baffles all description. The imnienso chandeliers of rock crystal—some faintly tinged with purple or rose-colour—are priceless and most exquisite. The mantelpieces of carved marble, with huge dogs and andirons and cavernous fireplaces, to hold Ihe great fires needed in these huge rooms, are each of different magnificence, and we got severe cricks in our necks from admiring the wonderful, ceilings, where airy goddesses and cupids, in skies always summer-blue, disported with French kings and queens' in cheeriest mood. Thecolours were brilliant, the gold etill bright, and much of the painting was glorious— however misplaced one might think the art. But there is no, space or tinio to tell of all the wonders of the great" courtyard surrounded ,by the stately windowe.d walls, and of all the coaches and harness shown in an adjoining building—carriages in which Louis and in which Napoleon sat; sleighs quaintly made like swans and bears, to hold the. gay, court ladies oil their winter drives; and, daintiest of all, the little sedan chairs. There was one of dark rifle green—undecorated save for a gold crown on-the side, and lined with a faint pale shade of silkthat was exquisitely' refined, in contrast with, the gaudiness of the Napoleonic trappings, overlaid with ornament. I hail the pleasure of meotiiig the Comte de Leeseps, son of the famous engineer, whose magnificent .statue stands at Port Said, pointing out the East to the West through the canal he accomplished by his genius and his determination. I also met Mr Rupert Bunny, the clever Australian artist, who had this year pictures in the Salon and in the Royal Academy. Another interesting experience was lunching with Madame Marchesi, who, wonderfully,young and vivacious in spite of her. many, years—indeed, she is still "un peii coquette "—dispenses stately hospitality in her large house, which is filled with musical treasures. - All are tributes to her—pictures and pliotographs bearing affectionate inscriptions signed by world-famous names, and among them are many portraits of Madame Melba, whom Marchesi adores. The tie between old teacher and pupil is of the sweetest, and it is touching and anrusing to listen to the scraps of reminiscences of bygone times. The old butler is himself a study. He has been in Madame Marchesi's house for years, and is as perfect in his courteous service as with his clear-cut, cleanshaven features and grey hair he is charming to look at. It is a pleasant visit, and I carry away a signed photograph of the Marquise de Marchesi, as well as the memory of a vivid and fascinating personality. At the risk of ,being too prolix, I must, out of the crowd of happy recollections, tell of two. The first was the procession of wedding parties that passed •us as wo came back from Versailles. It was Saturday, and the thrifty Parisian workman chocses that day to be married on so as to interfere as little as possible with his regular employment. They are married by civil law, and then comes the breakfast, whereat they eat and drink heartily. The drive through the Bois afterwards is an essential part of the ceremony, and it was then when we saw them. Some were Ml together—the happy pair, relations and guests, all cheerily blended in one laughing, i singing crowd in a char-a-banc, the bride .in white veil and orange blossoms. Sometimes they all carried little sticks with whirling windmills of coloured paper, and waved them as they drove along. Some pairs had carriages all to themselves, the parents, generally stout, hot, and beaming, and the guests, following in other vehicles We counted 12 brides and bridegrooms in all stages of bliss—some rather shy others fondly kissing each other, with supreme disdain for the amused eyes of the world. *

One other memory will not soon fade. It was blue twilight in Madame's lovely boudoir, all soft dull rose-colour and ivory, and Tose-shaded lamps gave a flattering light. Mademoiselle Sassoli was playing the harp, a charming figure in her soft, white drew, with its pale blue girdle; her beautiful dark hair and great dark eyes shone in the soft glow, and behind her rose a wonderful arrangement of blossoms—a great Tiistic basiiet tied with flame ribbons and filled with masses of china-btue hydrangeas, orange azaleas and feathery foliage of asparagus, smilax and copper maple. It stood sft high, and ha*l just arrived from Jean de Be'szke, at whose house Madame Melba had sung wondorfully the evening before. All—the gracious g?rl figure, the glowing blossoms, the beautiful room, the charming music, and the little group of entranced listeners, r "t"

made up a reniemhrance not easily erased —ono of the many that the magic word Paris conjures up for me. '

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http://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/ODT19100806.2.11

Bibliographic details

WITH MELBA IN PARIS, Otago Daily Times, Issue 14905, 6 August 1910

Word Count
2,144

WITH MELBA IN PARIS Otago Daily Times, Issue 14905, 6 August 1910

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