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
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
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!
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"
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"
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 1991...now I have tried
several times to get some info on the Hotel Normandie on internet to no
avail...not even a photograph of that structure...one 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...
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...
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)
And for many other reasons-- that I do not have the space to go into
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
Listen to Romeo & Juliet-- make your own "programme."
I have the very, very highest regard for Pyotr.
What an exceptional man.
P/S.: Give another listen to "Romeo & Juliet." The "Nutcracker" will
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 beautiful...as 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
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).
Just a note or two regarding Eduard Zak...I refer to Poznansky's
"Tchaikovsky, the Quest for the Inner Man"...1991...pages 120 to 121...as
per Poznansky...little is known about Eduard Zak...at 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 passion...in 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 writings...in 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 life...my 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 mind...in 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 comprehension...it 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...
Under Chronology for autumn 1869 there
are two entries...
- He writes the Romeo and Juliet Overture....
- ...begins a passionate friendship with conservatory student Eduard
Well between what we said earlier about Zak and these entries there is
quite a coincidence isnt there?....
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?
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
connected.....in 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
part...my 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 sources...in this case more
completely...and so I hope this matter is settled..
This is really quaint...in 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....
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
shot...as this one leaves a lot to be desired....it 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 recognizable...so we will keep looking till we find a more
suitable image and also a recognizable one...
Herald Sq 1908
Click view full size and look behind the Otard Brandy sign
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...
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....
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
competition..it 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...