Academy of Music
Manager / Director:
2 February 2016
“Amusements. Academy of Music.—Italian Opera.—It would seem as though there was to be no limit to the popularity of ‘Faust;’ and played where it may be, or when, it is certain of its own audience, whatever else suffers. Last evening it was represented for the first time in the new opera house, and had the finest attendance that has gathered there since the inaugurating ‘Barbiere.’ With the exception of the substitution of Sig. Marra for Sig. Bellini in the heroic but unexacting rôle of Valentine, and the continuance of Mme. Testa as Sibel, there were no changes from last season’s distribution of characters. The performance was entirely good, and the rewards discriminating. There was an encore of unmistakable heartiness and unanimity for the exquisite feeling with which Madame Testa gave the ‘Flower Song.’ There was also a vehement invitation for Miss Kellogg and Sig. Mazzoleni to repeat the tender love-making episode of the third act; at least, the unusual but entirely natural expression which those favorite artists gave to the scene secured an indorsement from the younger members of the audience which was not less enthusiastic than it was complimentary, as coming from excellent judges. Sig. Antonnucci represented the Evil One as though the Evil One possessed him—by which we desire to be understood as conveying the very best compliment at our disposal. The stirring choruses by which Gounod has memorialized this opera were all given with appropriate ardor. Some of Calyo’s new scenery, which was used in this opera, was really very beautiful.”
The house was completely filled. The orchestra and chorus did very well. It was Kellogg’s performance, however, that ensured the success of the event. She is one of the most graceful representatives of the “deeply poetic” role. Mazzoleni’s Faust is one of the best performances by the popular tenor whose voice has restored its strength and fullness after a longer time of rest. The aria ‘Gegrüsst sei mir, du heilige Stätte’ was rewarded with thunderous applause. Mad. Testa’s Siebel was unsatisfactory. Antonucci’s Mephisto has improved much; it seems as if he finally understands the part. His performance was flawless vocally.
“Music. The record of Italian opera for the past week is one of unvarying popularity. Faust, this season, has striking improvement on the past production in the elaboration of scenery, and Mr. Maretzek will be less than a manager if he resists the temptation to repeat it. Apart from its stage effect (if it be possible to separate Faust from one of its most artistic ele[illeg] [sic, no close parentheses], it is a work of fine art, ranking almost with such an opera as Der Freischutz in universality of suggestion. Moreover, it assimilates melodiously to the thought and feeling of Goethe’s Faust, and this is no small merit, popular or otherwise. Good ideas of many kinds abound in it, with a treatment seldom or never inartistic. From the first scene to the last, it is throughout poetic, both in respect to music and to scene. For all these reasons, Faust is among the more modern of popular operas, the most popular, and in respect to well-balanced art is barely surpassed even by Meyerbeer. The performance at the Academy is unsatisfactory in its most essential part; but, considering the voice and style of Signor Mazzoleni, this ought to be taken for granted. An actor less in harmony with the part of Faust could not have been chosen; for Faust is an idealist, and it must be plain that Signor Mazzoleni is not. Personal verisimilitude, musical sympathy, are alike wanting in his assumption, and all this because Mazzoleni is a portly artist, with a wiry tenor, accustomed only to the stock parts of the Italian stage. These are all involved in the element of furore, and so is Mazzoleni’s robust rapturous style; wherefore we do not wonder that, being a bold and energetic actor and an earnest, even if a false singer, Mazzoleni is a favorite. We are content that he should be so in a certain range of parts which on general grounds he might as well sing as anybody else; but Faust (and to its great credit be it spoken) is a part which demands feeling more than style, and style far more than mannerism. Let us not, however, disparage Mazzoleni, for as compared even to such a super-sweet tenor as Brignoli, he has many points of real superiority greatly to his praise as an actor and singer. We are content to say that in Faust he is unappreciative, and here we leave him. The Mephistopheles of Signor Antonucci is much better than generally believed, and is still inferior to the German performance. But we take occasion again to praise a singer whose fine breadth of tone and vocal self-possession always give interest, and even accuracy, to the character he personifies. Of Miss Kellogg’s Marguerite, the recognized favorite of several seasons, it is all but unnecessary to speak. Her performance is fresh and neat—what else could it be characteristically? Yet it is too lady-like, and, therefore, not Gretchen-like; nor does the voice, with all its crystal clearness and brilliancy, strike us as the genial, simple voice of Marguerite. It is charming, nevertheless, and evidently appreciative—indispensable, indeed to the performance at the Academy, of which it is the chief luster.”