Academy of Music
Manager / Director:
28 January 2016
“This establishment does not advertise in the New York Herald…. Increased orchestra and chorus.”
“The revival of the ‘Hugenots’ last evening at the Academy of Music was the most notable event of the present musical season. The grandest of all operas was presented in a style truly superb to an audience which filled all the seats, boxes, the ends of the aisles and every inch of standing room. It is a cheering indication of the elevation of public taste that, on a night so unpropitious and threatening, such a vast attendance was called out on this occasion. A people who can so enjoy and appreciate such an opera as the ‘Huguenots’ have got well beyond the trashy and meaningless music of the Verdi school, and are ready to comprehend the compositions which embody great conceptions as well as lofty passions.
The performance last evening differed from the representations previously given under Mr. Maretzek’s direction mainly in the strength of the cast, and in the increased splendor of the stage equipment. Madame Parepa-Rosa, as Valentine, sang with even more than her usual effectiveness, and Senora Peralta gave new importance to the part of Margaret, to whom is assigned a large part of the sole music in the second act. Her wonderful vocalization was never displayed to better advantage. The new basso, Medini, made an excellent impression as Marcel. His first solo, the grand drinking song, was given with a degree of power, animation and dramatic fervor which quite carried away the audience, while the qualities of his strong, clear and rich voice were finely revealed. Signor Anastasi, as Raoul, gave an exhibition of his powers which was something of a revelation to the most of the auditors, and handsomely earned the enthusiastic plaudits he received. It is unnecessary to add that the parts sustained by Signors Bellini and Orlandi [sic] were in every respect satisfactory. The orchestral performance, which is of more than ordinary importance and difficulty in this opera, was admirable, and reflected great credit on Mr. Bergmann, the conductor.”
“We are now in full opera season, and the revival of MEYERBEER’S ‘Huguenots’ may be said to have fixed the interest of our musical amateurs upon this species of the writer’s entertainments. The second performance of this massive work will occur this evening, with the cast which made so remarkable an impression on Friday evening’s audience, the largest so far this season; that is to say, Mme. PAREPA ROSA, as Valentine, a part in which she took musical New-York by storm on that occasion; Señora PERALTA—whose talent attacks all schools of music with equal effect—as the Queen; Signori ORLANDINI and BELLINI as Nevers and St. Bris, and Sig. ALASTASI [sic] in his most ambitious flight as Raoul, with Sig. MEDINI, who is to be reckoned among the best of Marcels, and Mme. TESTA in one of her most congenial rôles, that of the Page. No work presents fairer opportunities for the exhibition of MARETZEK’S orchestra and splendid chorus than this gorgeous masterpiece of MEYERBEER, and it is unnecessary to say they are all taken advantage of.”
“If Meyerbeer, from the depths of his tomb, had been able to hear Les Huguenots executed Friday evening, he certainly wouldn’t have recognized certain parts of his work. It was truly the St. Bartholemew massacre, not of Protestants, but of the great master’s inspirations. What astonished us most is that Mme Parepa, always a cold actress but ordinarily an accomplished singer, sang the role of Valentine with no taste at all. She screeched in the third act, in her duet with Marcel; she screeched again in the fourth. These screams earned her a great success on the part of the public, but it’s a success of poor quality, only suitable for spoiling an artist. And the tenor! During the first act, while he was thundering outwardly, M. Anastasi was out-of-tune within. This young man, whose voice is fresh and well-toned, has neither the power nor, above all, the acquired knowledge [“acquit” in the French text in the CEU should be “acquis”—a typo] to sing a role like that of Raoul. He needs several more years at the Conservatoire. As an actor, the role that would suit him best would be Dieu Terme. M. Bellini was acceptable in the traces of St. Brice, but M. Orlandini didn’t know how to imprint on the character of Nevers the distinctive seal to which his predecessors have accustomed us. The chorus was inadequate, defying the meter frequently and making war on the pitches. The Blessing of the Daggers was shrill and pitiful, completely devoid of amplitude and passion. Not one ensemble, even among the principals, was well grounded. The ballet didn’t count.
We started with the reverse side of the medal. Here’s the handsome side: Mme Peralta (Marguerite) sang and ornamented perfectly; it’s a nightingale, but you can’t say, like for the bird, that it’s a big voice in a small body. Mme Natali-Testa (Urbain) sang the piece Une dame noble et sage very well, her aria in the second act as well, though the role be written too high for her voice. Finally, M. Medini got through the role of Marcel very decently, except for some passages that were too low for his voice.
By the way, when we have to find fault with the Academy of Music, we’re often stopped by a qualm. Besides the ardent fellow-feeling that the person of M. Maretzek inspires, does one really have the right to criticize an enterprise that is so difficult, not to say impossible, to sustain without a fat subsidy? By what right can one ask M. Maretzek for ensembles, a ballet and a production like one sees at the Paris Opéra, which consumes more than a million per year from the State? Let’s add that the seats are relatively a better bargain here than in any city in Europe.
It would be folly to ask the municipality of New York for a favor for the opera. The aldermen would happily refuse to imitate the European cities on this point. If they poked their filthy hands into the city’s coffers, it wouldn’t be for the benefit of art. But the rich, those wealthy people who boast about being Mycenases, could very well provide the opera with the resources worthy of the metropolis of the New World, instead of devouring it in the name of stockholders. As long as the Academy isn’t liberally subsidized, criticizing productions will be permissible, since the first duty is to tell the truth, but nobody will have the right to make the responsibility for the insufficiencies fall on the impresario.”
The theater was completely filled, the cast excellent.
This opera was the turning point of the opera season when the audience awoke from its lethargy and streamed back into the opera halls. Marcel has won the season for Maretzek in this opera. Certainly Meyerbeer’s music is able to capture everyone, whether being a connoiseur or lay person. The ensemble’s performance was excellent. Parepa-Rosa as “Valentine” impressed so much that the audience hardly knew how to express its appreciation. Peralta sang the difficult coloratura with accuracy and splendour, a pleasure we painfully missed in previous years. Anastasi as “Raoul” has a beautifully soft and pleasant tenor voice; he is still lacking presence and acting skills, however. For the role of the “page” one requires a fresher voice and more technical skill than Testa possesses. Medini (Marcel) is a thoroughly trained and educated singer with a resonant bass voice and excellent acting skills. Bellini and Orlandini again proved to be decent singers, who give more attention to their parts than we are accustomed to from Italians. The precision of the entire performance and the scenery was a true pleasure to enjoy.