“Give Me the Part”

Gerhardt Stehmann, an extraordinarily competent man, sang bass and baritone for the Damrosch Opera Company. Among other abilities, he could learn a role very quickly. The German composer Xaver Scharwenka had written an opera and was anxious to conduct it, and Walter Damrosch agreed to let him use the Damrosch Opera Company for a performance. Unfortunately, the day before the opera was to be presented, tenor Ernest Krauss pleaded hoarseness, and it seemed as if the opera would have to be cancelled, bitterly disappointing Mr. Scharwenka. However, Mr. Stehmann said to Mr. Damrosch, “Give me the part, and I will learn it for tomorrow night.” Mr. Damrosch objected, “But this is a tenor part, and you are a bass baritone.” Mr. Stehmann replied, “Give it to me. I think I can transpose a few of the high notes and can at least save the performance.” He did save the performance, and he did not make a mistake while performing in the opera. This was both a good deed and a remarkable deed.

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