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Hotel Normandie

DAILY MENU [held by] HOTEL NORMANDIE [at] "BROADWAY AND 38TH ST., NEW YORK, NY" (HOTEL;) - ID: 473881 - NYPL Digital Gallery

When Tchaikovsky visited America in April - May of 1891 this is the hotel he was living in during his stay in New York,,,it was called "Hotel Normandie", at 38th street and Broadway...this is the menu that was served there in 1906....the hotel was taken down in 1920, but the large office building that took its place still has the name "Normandie"...

By clicking on each page several times you can make them legible... I dont know how much the menu changed over the years but this is the closest we can get...there is scant little about "Hotel Normandie" in the internet...also it was adjacent to the old Metropolitan Opera House which was replaced by Lincoln Center in the 1960's...and that also is no longer in existence,,,,I thought our readers would be interested in this bit of Americana...

Albert Gasparo
20/12/2012 09:30

Mr. Gasparo:


As you're more than likely aware, it the the minutiae that makes characters/people come alive, (ask any writer).

I find it fascinating that this site, (again Bravo!) is truly gathering such about our well deserving genius. I have a question, however, that is somehow adjacent to your discovery.

Did T., speak/read English or was he always going about with a Translator in tow? I know he read Shakespeare, obviously, but in Russian translation? And he received his doctorate in England.

Did he ever touch foot in Canada? He very may well have, due to his visit to Niagara Falls.

I think we have just about exhausted the "large" aspects of his life-- now to complete the picture-- the "finer" points; for example.

Is it true he and Camille Saint Saens danced around Camille's Paris apartment in drag? And who was there to witness it? Or does this come from Tchaikovsky correspondence?

Some might find this fact/fiction ludicrous and comical-- but as far as getting to understand a person's character-- it's right on the bullseye!!

More findings like yours I say!


George Boyd
22/12/2012 11:57

Tchaikovsky taught himself a little English, but most of his conversations in America were conducted in French or German. His trip did indeed take him to the Canadian side of the border (see under Niagara Falls in our "Places" section).

The incident with Saint-Saëns is another example of how tales can become twisted in the retelling! The source for this is Modest Tchaikovsky's biography, and is translated in our page for Saint-Saëns in the "People" section of our this website. This occurred during the Frenchman's visit to Russia at the end of 1875::

"It turned out that the two new friends had many likes and dislikes in common, both in the sphere of music and in the other arts, too. In particular, not only had they both been enthusiastic about ballet in their youth, but they were also able to pull off splendid imitations of ballerinas. And so on one occasion at the [Moscow] Conservatory, seeking to flaunt their artistry before one another, they performed a whole short ballet on the stage of the Conservatory's auditorium: Galatea and Pygmalion. The 40-year-old Saint-Saëns was Galatea and interpreted, with exceptional conscientiousness, the role of a statue, whilst the 35-year-old Tchaikovsky took on the role of Pygmalion. N. G. Rubinstein stood in for the orchestra. Unfortunately, apart from the three performers no one else was present in the auditorium during this curious production"

Brett Langston
22/12/2012 19:14

In an entry I made in Dec. 19, 2008 (Tchaikovsky in New York) I included a review of a an exhibit given at Carnegie Hall honoring Tchaikovsky's visit here in 1891....given in I have tried several times to get some info on the Hotel Normandie on internet to no avail...not even a photograph of that would think that an important building like that in the center of the city would be mentioned in some capacity..not a bit of it...however I do remember that at the exhibit of 1991 that they showed a postcard the composer had brought home showing this Hotel Normandie...not an imposing structure by our standards..but I imagine average for its time frame..

About his knowledge of English I remember he learned to be able to read it but few to practice speaking it except for a Miss Eastwood of the Davydov household....and so he was limited in that way...he was able to read Dickens' "Bleak House" in the original English...that seems quite an accomplishment to one who learned to speak the language on his own...

Happy Holidays,

Albert Gasparo
23/12/2012 02:52

Dear M. Gasparo:

"Accomplished"-- you say?

I can't wait to hear YOUR "Romeo & Juliet."

Right now, I am listening to Romeo & Juliet by Tchaikovsky. ( I don't know the Opus-- nor do I care about the Opus' nor what key it's played in.) It's just...

... Brilliant!

I think this is the piece that made his name, (forget the operas and symphonies), Romeo & Juliet-- that's Pyotr.

MyGod-- even the "The Five" couldn't deny him after that one.

They were just waiting.

Nails clipped with pencils, (as in writing; reviews) to bring him down.

For two primary reasons:

1) genius -- (way ahead of his time)

2) homosexuality.

And for many other reasons-- that I do not have the space to go into now.

And the piece, (Romeo & Juliet Fantasy, etc.,), somehow, it seems to me, is his biography.

He wrote it.

Way before his Sixth!



Every time I hear it, I think about the life he lived.

Now, as a writer-- (Talankin and Russell)-- trying to bring all that to page is a task upon which most of us don't even want to entertain, less alone embark.

Listen to Romeo & Juliet-- make your own "programme."


I have the very, very highest regard for Pyotr.

What an exceptional man.

Happy seasons:

George Boyd
23/12/2012 13:08

P/S.: Give another listen to "Romeo & Juliet." The "Nutcracker" will become pittance.

I would like to remind Mr Boyd that Romeo and Juliet is not an opera but a Symphonic Fantasy..that it did not require him to learn English to write the piece...Russian translations were available..or even French in which he was quite fluent..that Tchaikovsky only learned English by himself late in life...he learned how to read it but was not able to pronounce it....furthermore regarding Romeo and Juliet, (an early piece) it was as inspired (at the prompting of Balakirev I might add) by the play as he was by reminiscing about a young teen age friend Zack who had committed suicide sometime earlier....we might think of the Overture as being inspired by heterosexual feelings when it may in fact reflect upon the composers relation and feelings about a young man...aside from that Romeo and Juliet is one of his best pieces and the love theme alone perhaps his most far as The Nutcracker is concerned, ballet in his time was not about the deeper feelings but about the prettyfication of life...hence all ballets aside from Tchaikovsky's are slight fare in comparison (with those of the nineteenth century)...minor composers only dabbled in them...Tchaikovsky's ballets were considered too "symphonic"....

Thank you

Albert Gasparo
25/12/2012 17:53

Just on a factual point, Eduard Zak (to whom Mr Gasparo refers) was unknown to Tchaikovsky at the time he wrote Romeo and Juliet in 1869. At around this time the composer was courting the Belgian opera singer Désirée Artôt, so it is difficult to draw any firm conclusions as to the source of Tchaikovsky's inspiration (if it was anything beyond than Shakespeare's text).

Brett Langston
26/12/2012 10:55

Just a note or two regarding Eduard Zak...I refer to Poznansky's "Tchaikovsky, the Quest for the Inner Man"...1991...pages 120 to per Poznansky...little is known about Eduard the time of Romeo and Juliet he was only fifteen...the age that Tchaikovsky considered the peak of male adolescent beauty...and "the tenderness and sweetness of love" revealed in the music of the overture as well as in tune with youthful spite of the fact we know so little about Zak there is reason to believe he was one of the great passions of his life..Zak is mentioned only three times in the composers published 1871 Tchaikovsky says in one of his letters to his brother Nickolay that...he "missed him (Zak) terribly and fears for his future"....etc....he tried to help Zak in other ways...then unexpectedly in Nov 1873 at age seventeen Zak took his own nerves are terribly shaken..says Tchaikovsky.".I can do nothing" (in regard to composing some pieces he promised...fourteen years later Zak was still on his Sept 1887 he writes.."before going to sleep thought much and long of Eduard. Wept much. Can it be that he is truly gone??? Dont believe it."....the following day again..."I remember the sound of his voice, his movements...the extroadinary expression on his face...I cannot conceive that he shall be no more..his death is beyond my seems to me that I have never loved anyone as much as him!....his memory is sacred to me!" that's to give you an idea how much Zak meant to him...and so my allusion to him regarding Romeo and Juliet not remembering all the details...a kind of real comparable drama is taking place here....and lets not forget that the final version of Romeo and Juliet took place in 1880...when he had more time to think about this tragedy...

Many thanks,

Albert Gasparo
27/12/2012 01:51

Under Chronology for autumn 1869 there are two entries...

  1. He writes the Romeo and Juliet Overture....
  2. ...begins a passionate friendship with conservatory student Eduard Zak...

Well between what we said earlier about Zak and these entries there is quite a coincidence isnt there?....

Albert Gasparo
27/12/2012 03:28

The chronology entry indicates that Zak became acquainted with Tchaikovsky some time in 1869 (not necessarily in the autumn); however, this is somewhat speculative, since the earliest documented reference to their friendship comes from two years later, in the autumn of 1871.

When writing an overture largely on the subject of love it's perfectly reasonable to imagine that any composer would draw on their own experiences (just as they would with hope, despair, or any other emotion). I'm sure Shakespeare must have done the same when writing the play. But we should also mention Alexander Poznansky's caveat to the extracts Mr Gasparo cites above (p.119 of the same edition):

"Considerable caution is always required when relating a musical composition directly to biographical tribulation, for a work of art nearly always obscures and transcends the experience that gives impetus to its composition".

Readers of this forum will be well aware of how incidents in Tchaikovsky's life are so frequently misrepresented in the popular media, and Mr Gasparo's statement that while writing Romeo and Juliet the composer was "reminiscing about a young teen age friend Zack who had committed suicide sometime earlier" is a good example of how recollections of events can become distorted (although of course I'm very happy to acknowledge Mr Gasparo's good faith when making that statement, as well as his very useful contributions to our forums).

But the fact remains that Tchaikovsky could not have been reminiscing in 1869 about the suicide of someone who didn't die until 1873, especially since there is no firm evidence that they even knew each other in 1869. Maybe they did, and Mr Poznansky's suggestion is correct. Or maybe Tchaikovsky was thinking of Désirée Artöt, or even his old schoolfriend Vladimir Gerard (as Modest Tchaikovsky suggested). Or could it be that he was simply using his imagination, like all great artists? After all, the same overture depicts the feud between the Montagues and the Capulets, so would anyone argue that Tchaikovsky must have taken part in a sword fight in order to produce that music?

Brett Langston
27/12/2012 13:09

Initially I drew from my own memories of what Poznansky had alluded to in his book...which I read some years ago..which werent completely accurate..other than that I have no knowledge of Zak I can think of...I did not say that one had to draw from an experience to write this or that piece of music....and so lets rexamine what Poznansky had to say on the issue..I will first allude to the what Tchaikovsky Research :Chronology has to say for 1869...Autumn... there are two entries...1...,he meets Milii Balakirev in Moscow, and under his influence writes the overture-fantasia Romeo and Juliet....2.....he begins a passionate friendship with the conservatory student Eduard Zak.....then we go to Poznansky's work on Tchaikovsky I had alluded to...pages 120 -122...but it is on page 119 that the author alludes to those issues that Mr Langston had referred to..."caution is always required when relating a composition to biographical tribulation...a work of art obscures and transcends the experience that gives impetus to its composition'' I paraphrase..but if you read the passage completely he goes on to say.".still from the point of view of creative psychology, the two realms must necessarily be the case of Romeo and Juliet an intimate link can be seen between this fervent piece of music and an obscure drama unfolding in the composer's life at the time of its composition: his infatuation with a young man by the name of Eduard Zak." and then on page 120 he goes on to say Zak was only fifteen. This was the age that Tchaikovsky always considered to be the peak of male adolescent beauty and the "tenderness and sweetness of love" revealed in the music of the overture...this is all in keeping with what I had said before...except for the reminscing memory lapsed when I had indicated Zak had committed suicide earlier ....but Poznansky reiterates what I had said about the feelings the composer had about Zak and his intimate link regarding this fervent piece of music...all I can do is quote the this case more completely...and so I hope this matter is settled..

Happy holidays,

Albert Gasparo
27/12/2012 21:05

This is really a recent article in the NY Times on real estate regarding the subject of marquees I came across this tidbit..

"Moreover, the glass canopies were hard to maintain and subject to accidents. In 1921, a distraught man jumped from a fourth-floor window at the Normandie Hotel, at Broadway and 38th Street, and smashed through the marquee, killing himself and injuring several pedestrians. "

I'll keep looking...something is liable to pop up sooner or later...apparently the building was still up in 1921....

Albert Gasparo
28/12/2012 00:23

Shorpy Historical Photo Archive :: Herald Square: 1908 

I have caught an image of the Hotel Normandie in Herald Square but is a side view....under the name is indicated "ABSOLUTELY FIRE PROOF'...not too far off is the Times Tower...the view is a panoramic view of a very busy part of the city and probably did not look too different in 1891 when Tchaikovsky stayed here...I will continue looking for a more direct this one leaves a lot to be tells you more about the adjoining part of the city than the hotel itself....the train tracks are no longer there as the subways are all under ground...trolleys have long since gone as well..havent been there in a while but does not look like anything we will keep looking till we find a more suitable image and also a recognizable one...

Best Wishes,

Albert Gasparo
29/12/2012 10:20

Herald Sq 1908 

Click view full size and look behind the Otard Brandy sign

Julia Curl
29/12/2012 10:48

1384 Broadway is the present site of the Hotel Normandie..built in 1928 it is now a 23 story office building...when I passed by it a number of years ago it was also known as the Lefcourt Normandie Building. In the article it mentions that it was once the site of the "Hotel Normandie" where Tchaikovsky stayed during the spring of 1891 in his visIt to New York to inaugurate Carnegie Hall..I hope soon to get a more direct response to my inquiry...

Albert Gasparo
30/12/2012 10:48

Cafe Martin (Old Delmonico's) New York | Time Shutter  

Delmonico's Restaurant where Tchaikovsky dined while in New York...this one was at 26th Street and Fifth Avenue....

Albert Gasparo
30/12/2012 12:04

Metropolitan Opera House, New York | Time Shutter

This was the old Metropolitan Opera House built in the 1880's..torn down in 1966 as the owners of Lincoln Center Opera did not want any was here..between 39th and 40th street and Broadway one block away from the Hotel Normandie...on the night before before leaving the states a party was given for him in the "assembly rooms" of the Met....May 20, 1891...

Albert Gasparo
30/12/2012 11:57

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