E. H. Cropsey: “Crosby’s Opera House”

Not only is this a terrific story and a favorite book of mine, but Crosby’s Opera House and the Great Chicago Fire play an integral role in my novel, “Alteza.” Of particular interest to me, Charles Gounod’s “Faust” was performed twice during its Inaugural Season of 1865, and many seasons thereafter until the magnificent building succumbed to flames on October 8, 1871 — the night of the newly refurbished opera house’s grand re-opening.

Please find Excerpt Below: Eugene H. Cropsey, “Crosby’s Opera House: Symbol of Chicago’s Cultural Awakening.” (c) 1999, Associated University Presses, Inc.

Crosby’s Opera House – 1864

In the context of Chicago’s economic and cultural climate, social milieu, and the scramble for prominence among the newly rich, Eugene Cropsey presents an illuminating chronicle of the city’s first great cultural awakening, with Crosby’s Opera House as the central focus. It is also the story of Albert and Uranus Crosby, who migrated from Cape Cod to Chicago where, as successful entrepreneurs, they made their fortunes and later sacrificed it all in their efforts to bring a new musical and artistic enlightenment to their adopted city.

The Crosbys’ struggle to enhance the cultural climate out on the urban frontier of the 1860s was a turbulent one, vividly brought to life in this book through a gallery of colorful characters, including many of Chicago’s prominent citizens, as well as the numerous impresarios, artists, musicians, and other entertainers who visited or settled in Chicago.

For the large number of fortune seekers migrating from the east, Chicago in the mid-nineteenth century presented boundless commercial opportunities. While their cultural life had been left behind, eventual prosperity and the lessening of physical hardships inevitably led to longing for refinement and the restoration of cultural amenities.

The musical and artistic life of Chicago had lagged far behind other cities, but by 1865, Chicago’s population contained a substantial coterie of aristocratic elite who yearned for the higher forms of musical entertainment. In response, Uranus Crosby built a magnificent opera house as his gift to the city of Chicago.

America’s premier opera troupes, once having consciously avoided Chicago, were now booking extensive seasons at Crosby’s. The response of Chicago’s audiences and critics was so enthusiastic that the country’s most famous impresarios preferred to open the fall season each year in Chicago, rather than in New York, causing a bitter cultural rivalry to play itself out in the leading newspapers of both cities.

Uranus Crosby naively envisioned the opera house as solely an artistic venture. But it soon became commercially unavoidable to fill the non-operatic periods with other entertainments. Eventually, however, Uranus Crosby became so overwhelmed by his financial obligations that, in his effort to save the opera house, there followed a series of extraordinary events that threw the city into bitter controversy and drew unprecedented national attention.

The Crosbys continued to bring in the country’s best opera troupes. But when the bawdy burlesque arrived from New York as an off-season filler, its outrageous antics brought forth a storm of protest from the press, charging that its performers were prostitutes and that the opera house should now be called Chicago’s “assignation house.” Unrelenting criticism plagued the Crosbys for years until the decision was made to convert the opera house into an office building.

Outraged patrons of the opera, however, quickly convinced the Crosbys to keep the opera house and refurbish it over the summer of 1871. The Great Chicago Fire occurred, however, on the planned re-opening date of 8 October. With the fate of the opera house in the balance and a dramatic rescue, we are given an unforgettable and vivid picture of that tragic day.

Crosby’s Opera House Burns!

Goethe: “Faust”

Excerpt, “Faust” by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.  With illustrations by Harry Clarke.  Translated into English in the original metres by Bayard Taylor.

Read “Faust” online at Gutenberg Project.



FAUST (solus)

Spirit sublime, thou gav’st me, gav’st me all
For which I prayed. Not unto me in vain
Hast thou thy countenance revealed in fire.

Thou gav’st me Nature as a kingdom grand,
With power to feel and to enjoy it. Thou
Not only cold, amazed acquaintance yield’st,
But grantest, that in her profoundest breast
I gaze, as in the bosom of a friend.


The ranks of living creatures thou dost lead
Before me, teaching me to know my brothers
In air and water and the silent wood.

And when the storm in forests roars and grinds,
The giant firs, in falling, neighbor boughs
And neighbor trunks with crushing weight bear down,
And falling, fill the hills with hollow thunders,—
Then to the cave secure thou leadest me,
Then show’st me mine own self, and in my breast
The deep, mysterious miracles unfold.

And when the perfect moon before my gaze
Comes up with soothing light, around me float
From every precipice and thicket damp
The silvery phantoms of the ages past,
And temper the austere delight of thought.

That nothing can be perfect unto Man
I now am conscious. With this ecstasy,
Which brings me near and nearer to the Gods,
Thou gav’st the comrade, whom I now no more
Can do without, though, cold and scornful, he
Demeans me to myself, and with a breath,
A word, transforms thy gifts to nothingness

Within my breast he fans a lawless fire,
Unwearied, for that fair and lovely form:
Thus in desire I hasten to enjoyment,
And in enjoyment pine to feel desire.

Harry Clarke Faust

Joseph Christian von Zedlitz: “A Wish”

Excerpt, “English Echoes of German Song.” Tr. by R. E. Wallis, J. D. Morell and F. D’Anvers. Ed. by N. D’Anvers. London: 1877.

a wish

Emanuel von Geibel: “Onward”

Excerpt, “The Spirit of German Poetry:  A Series of translations from the German Poets, with Critical and Biographical Notices.”   Translated by Joseph Gostick.  1845.

Schreiber:  “The German The Dearest”


Johann Gabriel Seidl:  “The Dead Soldier”

Excerpt, “Flowers of German Poetry.” Translated by Frances Harriott Miles. 1870.

Schiller: “The Maiden From A Far Country”

Heinrich Heine: “In Nightly Dream”

C. A. Tiedge: “To the Sun”

By Christoph August Tiedge (1752-1841. Set by Franz Peter Schubert (1797-1828) , “An die Sonne,” D. 272 (1815), published 1872. Translation © by Emily Ezust, from The Lied & Art Song Texts Page.


Historic Heidelberg – 1815, Carl Anton Joseph Rottman

An die Sonne

Regal morning sun,

I greet you in your bliss,

I greet you heartily in your splendour!

The hills are already flowing with the gold

of your robes, and the birds

in every wood are all awake.


Everything feels your blessing;

the meadows beneath you sing;

everything becomes harmony:

and you listen with pleasure to the choir

of the merry woods; o listen,

listen also to my song of praise.


Ballad: “Old Popular Song”


Heinrich Heine:  “Prologue”

J.C. von Zedlitz: “Genius is the Sun”

.Excerpt, “Translations From The German Poets.” Edward Stanhope Pearson. 1879.

Johann Christian, Baron von Zedlitz was born February 28, 1790 at Johannesberg in upper Silesia. He was in the Austrian military service, from 1810 imperial chamberlain, and died at Vienna March 10, 1862.


Genius is the Sun


A core of light with thousand rays is streaming,

It’s God-enkindled origin to warrant,

’Tis Genius in the Sun when life awakens,

And ripens all, a fertilizing torrent.

What glass soever may her image picture

May she in song her dauntless flight be winging,

All hearts together bringing,

The Highest still she seeketh, that she knoweth,

Long since the common world to wreck had tumbled

Without her, and long since to dust had crumbled

The halls of that fair fane where Heaven’s fire gloweth,

She is the spring whence life eternal trilleth,

From Life she comes, she only life instilleth..


Friedrich Hölderlin: “Hyperion’s Song of Fate”

Excerpt, “The German Classics:  Masterpieces of German Literature.  The Patrons’ Edition.”  1913.  Vo.4. Translator:  Charles Wharton Stork.

Goethe: “The Pupil In Magic”

Excerpt:  “THE POEMS OF GOETHE.”   Translated in the Original Metres, by Edgar Alfred Bowring, C.B. 1853.

August Heinrich Hoffmann von Fallersleben:  “Sleep Thou Too”

Excerpt, “Translations From The German Poets.” Translated by Edward Stanhope Pearson. 1879.

Ferdinand Freiligrath:  “The White Lady”

“Poems from the German of Ferdinand Freiligrath.” Edited by his daughter. Kate Freiligrath. Leipzig: 1871.

Visit here for more on The White Ladies of German Lore.

Anastasius Grün: “The Unknown”

Excerpt, “Specimens of the Choicest Lyrical Productions of the Most Celebrated German Poets, from Klopstock to the Present Time.”  With Biographical and Literary Notes translated in English Verse by Mary Anne Burt.  1856.

the unknown3


The Battle of Nations
Father, I call to thee.
The roaring artillery's clouds thicken round me,
The hiss and the glare of the loud bolts confound me.
Ruler of battles, I call on thee
O Father, lead thou me!
O Father, lead thou me;
To victory, to death, dread Commander, O guide me;
The dark valley brightens when thou art beside me;
Lord, as thou wilt, so lead thou me.
God, I acknowledge thee.
God, I acknowledge thee;
When the breeze through the dry leaves of autumn is moaning,
When the thunder-storm of battle is groaning,
Fount of mercy, in each I acknowledge thee.
O Father, bless thou me!
O Father, bless thou me;
I trust in thy mercy, whate'er may befall me;
'Tis thy word that hath sent me; that word can recall me.
Living or dying, O bless thou me!
Father, I honor thee.
Father, I honor thee;
Not for earth's hoards or honors we here are contending;
All that is holy our swords are defending;
Then falling, and conquering, I honor thee.
God, I repose in thee.
God, I repose in thee;
When the thunders of death my soul are greeting,
When the gashed veins bleed, and the life is fleeting,
In thee, my God, I repose in thee.
Father, I call on thee.
, .

Edmund Hoefer: “The Water-Lily”

Excerpt, “English Echoes of German Song.” Tr. by R. E. Wallis, J. D. Morell and F. D’Anvers. Ed. by N. D’Anvers. London: 1877.

water lily

water lily2

J. Ludwig Uhland: “The Castle By The Sea”