Pike's Opera House
9 August 2017
As usual, the revenue of the ball is donated to charities.
“Meanwhile, Pike is campaigning on Eighth avenue and stubbornly fighting Jack Frost and the street cleaning contractor, who are his worst opponents during the present season. Not content with the opera, he has engaged the services of Prince Carnival, who will forsake the Academy after this week. At the head of a motley and merry crew called Purim, the Monarch of Fun will take possession of Pike’s Opera House on Monday next. Here, then, we have a bal masque war instead of the operatic hostilities which are suspended in consequence of the retreat of the Academy forces. On ones side are the one hundred and ninety-nine and a half braves marching around Irving place in full paint and all the panoply of war, with the numerous scalps of unfortunate impresarii hanging at their belts, chanting their war songs, ‘Away with Pike, whether in Season or Out of Season!’ and ‘Up with the Stockholders’ Flag!’ (a prima donna on a green field looking for her voice), and flourishing their carnival tomahawks in defiance of the Eighth avenue foe. On the other hand Pike dons the livery of the jolly Prince, surrounds his beautiful Opera House with strange devices and the emblems of Momus, and places himself at the head of the merry Purims. The preparations for both of these balls at the rival opera houses are of the most extensive character. Among the novelties in the costumes of this year’s masked balls the most striking are borrowed from the ‘Grand Duchess.’ General Boum and Prince Paul were the great attractions at the first masquerades of the season; and it is likely that the entire court of her Offenbachian Highness will be represented at the closing soirées of Prince Carnival.”
“The Purim ball, last, grandest and gayest of all freaks [sic] of the Prince Carnival, came off last night . . . and proved to be, perhaps, the most stylish and fashionably select of the whole season, the Prince having expended the inspiration of his most brilliant and fantastic whims upon the festival of his leave taking of the metropolis. For three weeks the Prince had puzzled his wits for novelties of design; for three weeks sough out in the remotest crannies of his disjointed imagination for that which should represent the climax of his fantasy and, firstly, to give the color to humor of his whim and imbue it with vitality, the old Prince caused the Opera House to be transformed into a sort of Persian palace, in which strange figures crept on the wall and moved to and fro thereon strange faces, as if the wind fell upon them and caused them to take all the humor and comedy of life. And that there might be nothing smacking of the theatrical in his pageant the old Prince caused the stage to be floored over and walls to be erected from column to column which showed whatsoever might have been visible of the ordinary painted appurtenances of the opera; for the Prince was novel in his whims, and oftentimes expensive, and he spared and would permit to be spared no pains or expense to render the building within a true transcript, and symbol of the odd, ideal dreams which forever haunted his lunacies. Not, however, that the Prince was altogether a lunatic. There was, on the other hand, a vast deal of methodical magnificence in the quaint grandeurs with which his humor enveloped all things. There was more method than madness in his freaks, and though the creations of whim had a sort of ghastly magnificence about them, they were far from wanting in a sort of grotesque regularity. Out of his own weird mood. . . [T]he humor of the Prince was satisfied, and he turned his attention to the name of the festival, and illuminated his palace in such a way as to spell the word
in rather grotesque capitals of fire; and here the Prince, having expended some $10,000 in the way of whimsicalities, declared himself satisfied with the decorations of his palace for a night and proceeded to the elaboration of other details. . . .
[Continues with very long and detailed description of the evening…]
It was now nearly midnight, and the Prince had prepared a little joke at the expense of his guests. This was no other than a sudden exit, leaving the revelers of the nights without a master of the revel; and, as a last scene, the old gentleman suddenly took flight, after informing his guests as to the vicinity of the supper rooms. They in the masks saw, and then the Prince Carnival was gone. The last pageant of his fancy had been the panorama of his flight from New York—a second Mahomet on a second hegira, though for a different purpose. Then, as the music went on, suddenly the masks fell from the faces of the masqueraders, and again the mask of real life was taken up where the mask of the idea ended. Still they lingered, glad enough to know who was who though as the masks fell faces of strangers found themselves vis-à-vis with faces of strangers. The romance had departed, however, as went the Prince, and a new and [illeg.] comedy, in which everybody knew everybody else, succeeded the mystery in which each was a strange creature of pageant to the other. The dance parted, and one by one the dances took their carriages. The romance of the Purim was over."