Maretzek Italian Opera: Don Giovanni

Event Information

Venue(s):
Academy of Music

Manager / Director:
Max Maretzek

Conductor(s):
Carl Bergmann

Price: $1.50; reserved seats $2.50; boxes, $9-$12; family circle, $.75

Event Type:
Opera

Record Information

Status:
Published

Last Updated:
6 April 2016

Performance Date(s) and Time(s)

23 Sep 1867, 8:00 PM

Performers and/or Works Performed

1)
aka Dissoluto punito, Il; ossia Il Don Giovanni Libertine Punished, The; or Don Giovanni
Composer(s): Mozart
Text Author: da Ponte
Participants:  Minnie Hauk (role: Zerlina);  Giorgio Ronconi (role: Leporello);  Signor [tenor] Baragli (role: Ottavio);  Antoinette Ronconi (role: Elvira);  Fernando [bass-baritone] Bellini (role: Don Giovanni);  Euphrosyne Parepa (role: Donna Anna)

Citations

1)
Announcement: New-Yorker Staats-Zeitung und Herold, 03 August 1867, 4.

The date for the opening announced here is the 22nd of September.

2)
Announcement: New-Yorker Staats-Zeitung und Herold, 27 August 1867, 8.
3)
Announcement: New-York Times, 02 September 1867.

Preview of works to be performed.

4)
Announcement: New York Post, 02 September 1867.

“In addition to the information contained in Mr. Maretzek’s circular, we learn that a master of the ballet and a leading dancer has been engaged, of whom report speaks very highly.  Signora Peralta will have this season a far better opportunity than was afforded her last season, when she was not allowed to trespass on the favorite parts allotted to Miss Kellogg.  The subscription books will be opened next Monday at the Academy.”

5)
Announcement: New York Sun, 05 September 1867, 4.
6)
Announcement: New-Yorker Musik-Zeitung, 14 September 1867, 88.
7)
Announcement: New York Post, 14 September 1867.

“The sale of seats for the first nights of Italian opera begins this morning at the box office of the Academy.  The demand promises to be unusually brisk, as the programme for the week is more than ordinarily rich and varied, while the proportion of regular opera goers who have returned from the watering places is larger than usual at this time.  In fact so many of the fashionables are in town that none need fear to be thought ‘unseasonable,’ if they should make their appearance at the Academy on the first night of the opera.”

8)
Advertisement: New-York Times, 16 September 1867.
9)
Advertisement: New-Yorker Staats-Zeitung und Herold, 16 September 1867.
10)
Announcement: New-York Times, 17 September 1867, 5.
11)
Announcement: New York Post, 21 September 1867.

“Although the operatic season begins two weeks earlier than usual this year, there is every reason to expect that the attendance next week will be equal to that of any previous opening week.  Mr. Maretzek certainly has presented an unusual variety of attractions in his programme for next week.  Four of the best standard operas will be produced, and on different nights two well-known favorites, Madame Parepa-Rosa and Signor Ronconi, and two new leading singers, Signora Peralta and Signor Peralta, it is true, was heard a few times last season, but not in any leading part, so that her appearance in ‘Puritani’ will in reality be a débût.  It is, perhaps well to remind opera goers that the old and favorite opera will not, as a rule, be presented more than once during the season.”         “Although the operatic season begins two weeks earlier than usual this year, there is every reason to expect that the attendance next week will be equal to that of any previous opening week.  Mr. Maretzek certainly has presented an unusual variety of attractions in his programme for next week.  Four of the best standard operas will be produced, and on different nights two well-known favorites, Madame Parepa-Rosa and Signor Ronconi, and two new leading singers, Signora Peralta and Signor Peralta, it is true, was heard a few times last season, but not in any leading part, so that her appearance in ‘Puritani’ will in reality be a débût.  It is, perhaps well to remind opera goers that the old and favorite opera will not, as a rule, be presented more than once during the season.”      

12)
Announcement: New-York Times, 23 September 1867, 4.
13)
Review: New-York Times, 24 September 1867, 4.

“The Fall season of amusements cannot be said to have really commenced until the Italian Opera begins, any more than a ball can be deemed fully inaugurated until the admitted belle of it arrives. Like all delightful pets of fashion, the opera loves to be the latest arrival on the scene of gayety. The theatres open their seasons in a straggling sort of way, any time they please from the middle of August and thereafter; but the opera loves to be the remotest in that point of time. The brilliancy which this species of amusement imparts to the season may be compared to the additional effect given to a cluster of lesser stones by placing a diamond in its centre. At one theatre the ruby gleam of melodrama is seen; at another the opal scintillations of the ballet; at another the sapphire hue of domestic comedy; at another the emerald glare of tragedy; but the priceless, the glittering sum of all beauties is the pink diamond of Italian opera. We have had most of the cluster save this for the past few weeks, and now Mr. MARETZEK adds his last touch to the bright circlet of pleasures. Or we can vary our images, and liken the Italian opera to the exquisite japonica set in a parterre of flowers, in which—before its coming—the melo-dramatic dahlia, the high-comedy rose, the tragic camellia, the sensational sunflower, the domestic violet and the farcical crocus had striven to outdo each other. But whatever image we attempt to present it, the Italian opera must be hailed as the chief glory of the season.

This year it opens with great promise: the prospectus of the management is liberal, and in pursuance of its statements, ‘Don Giovanni’ was given last night at the Academy. It is, of course, unnecessary to say, as a matter of news, that the auditorium was filled with the most fashionable audience of the season, and we do so only because such audiences are as pleasant to talk about as they are to look upon.

The perennial popularity of the opening opera, however, (‘Don Giovanni,’) is worthy of remark. It has now come to be a pleasant fact to impressarios [sic] that this choice masterpiece for baritones is a steady favorite with all people and at all times. It is seldom sung to an unremunerative house, and even now divides attraction with GOUNOD’S ‘Faust’—a truth which opens another circumstance to view—and that is the diabolical element of both works, to which, in a measure, their popularity is ascribed. The conclusion is inevitable that the public like a spice of wickedness in the representation of the stage; and the reason is probably the moral and respectable inclinations of that public. The little girl who thought Heaven would be a nice place to go to if there were only one little devil there to play with, expressed the feelings of the grown-up children who want to have one little devil to laugh over in their theatrical and operatic amusements. In the drama the same spirit prevails, and it is almost a certain attraction to announce that a new play will contain the Satanic element in some shape. This taste does credit to the morals of our people, who, had they any anticipations of beholding the little devil in another world, would not be so agreeably affected by the sight of him to this.

The performance of ‘Don Giovanni’ last evening was entirely satisfactory, and much of the satisfaction is due to the very perfect personation of Donna Anna by Mme. PAREPA-ROSA. Donna Anna is not the most enchanting of operatic characters, for the woman who begins by pronouncing a lament over the body of her murdered father, and from that time forth walks in dismal costumes and with unearthly meaning about the stage, can’t be expected to interest us like a pretty girl, (such as Zerlina is,) who is made love to, and who conceives her first passion before our eyes. But in Madame ROSA’S hands the dismal Donna becomes little less than charming; we tolerate her ghostly manner for her exquisite airs, and forget her melancholy influences in listening to her rich and lovely voice. That was prominent in its most enticing excellence during the aria, ‘Or sai chi l’onore,’ and in the exquisite little air of the second act which is restored by this consummate artiste. It is becoming common to praise Mme. PAREPA, though; yet it is never extraordinary that all should do so. Her operatic personations are among the most agreeable to be witnessed, not only from her vocal ability, which is supreme, and her dramatic genius, which is rare among singers, but from the confidence she inspires in her auditors as to her perfect mastery of her art.                        An agreeable surprise of the performance last evening, too, was the graceful success which Miss HAUCK made in the rôle of Zerlina. This part, which is the first of Miss KELLOGG’S, in which another artiste has been submitted, presented a trying ordeal for so young a singer; but Miss HAUCK’S triumph over early impressions and old favoritism was immediate. There may be some austere critics like those infatuated connoiseurs [sic] that set themselves at work to discover faults in the flavor of really exquisite wine, who will be daring enough to pick flaws in her performance; but it will stand a pretty good picking and still remain a pretty good picture of the village coquette, who was demure and vivacious by flashes. One chief merit of Miss HAUCK’S performance was its sincerity. She seemed to mean what she sung and what she did. From this reason the Batti, Batti received unusual feeling, and the ‘Vedrai, Carino’ an infectious heartiness that caught the ear and sympathy of the audience at once. It would be unfair not to give a share of the praise to Mlle RONCONI for her performance of the light rôle of Elvira.  This little lady had improved very much since last season.  As might be expected, the humorous element of Signor RONCONI’S exuberant nature had a free outlet in the rôle of Leporello and in Don Giovanni.  Signor BELLINI was heard at music and in scenes of gayety quite congenial to his rare voice and lively temper. It would only be repeating the accounts of last year’s performances of this opera to specify all the good things they sang and did, but certainly RONCONI was most irresistible in the humorous recitation and aria: ‘Madimina il cataloga.’  Sig. BARAGLI filled the requirements of Octavio’s slender part with appreciable spirit.  The choruses were in even time, and under CARL BERGMANN the orchestra did its duty unostentatiously.”

14)
Review: New York Post, 24 September 1867.

“The season of Italian opera was begun last evening, pleasantly and suspiciously, by the production of Mozart’s most popular work, ‘Don Giovanni.’  The absence of any special enthusiasm on the part of the large audience at the Academy on this occasion was by no means an indication of indifference, as was proved by the critical attention given to the performance, and the hearty tributes of applause frequently awarded during the evening.  It simply showed that we have come to regard Italian opera as an established feature among our musical entertainments, and that its continued prosperity and growth in excellence may be counted with certainty.  As it has been mainly due to the courageous enterprise and managerial ability of Mr. Maretzek that we have passed the doubtful era of experiments, it is not strange that we look forward, at the beginning of each season, with entire trust in the fulfillment of his promises.  We might as well get enthusiastic about seeing a new sunrise as over the suspicious beginning of a new season, even one of so much promise as the present.

There was good taste in selecting an opera so rich in musical gems as ‘Don Giovanni’ for a first night. No better test of artistic ability can be given than that imposed by the interpretation of musical conceptions which might spring in perfect form from the mind of so original a genius as Mozart. Even the slightest touches of the composer’s pen have a significance which is lost unless the interpreter has become imbued with the subtle meaning of the music. This test was, in the main, well borne by those to whom the leading parts were assigned. The most prominent and difficult character—that of Don Giovanni—was given to Signor Bellini, an artist who never fails of thorough work wherever he is placed, and whose rendering of this part was peculiarly faithful, easy and felicitous. In his ‘make-up,’ in the superficial ardor of his love-makings, in his admirably assumed earnestness of passion, and in his cheerful audacity, he left nothing to be desired, while his vocal execution was, as usual, admirable.

Madame Parepa-Rosa sustained the part of Donna Anna, and gave it to a greater fullness and importance than it usually has, or than the composer intended, a pardonable excess, when it gives us a finer opportunity for hearing an artist of apparently exhaustless resources. It was fortunate, however, that the part was taken by her, for the assignment gave us the rare privilege of hearing the famous chamber aria, whose difficulties of execution are generally too formidable, but come considerably within the range of her wonderful voice. Of her singing last evening it is needless to say anything save that she was equal to herself. Her acting, in which her reputation is making was equally worthy of praise.  To Miss Hauck the assumption of the part of Zerlina brought a new opportunity, and a new responsibility as well. The occasion was well improved and the responsibility borne with a gracefulness and fidelity deserving the showers of applause which greeted her. If her Zerlina sometimes lacked in the sparkling vivacity which we have been accustomed to see in that of Miss Kellogg, it only failed in that respect, while the solos assigned her were given with a degree of solos assigned her were given with a degree of expressiveness and finish deserving high praise.

Signor Ronconi’s Leperello was, of course, unexceptionably excellent and full of irresistible humor.  Signor Baragli as Octavio filled the part always acceptably, and in some passages with especial credit.  If he could resist the temptation to indulge in vocal ornamentation the real sweetness of his voice would be better appreciated.  Mlle. Ronconi sang more sweetly and audibly than usual, and looked quite faithfully the love-sick, melancholy Elvira.  The chorus at the end of the first act was given with much power, spirit and precision.  The orchestra, under the leadership of Mr. Carl Bergmann, did its work thoroughly, honestly and well.”

15)
Review: New-York Daily Tribune, 24 September 1867, 4.

“Under pleasant auspices the Academy reopened last evening. A full house and a performance almost thorough have given standard initiation to a season the prospects of which are apparently as bright as its programme. It is refreshing to have a great work in the foreground of the season. Don Giovanni, heard at the outset, advertises it nobly, and predicts good things, which we shall welcome in time. We remark few changes on the countenance of the Academy; but these are agreeable. Signor Garibaldi has painted an elaborate border over the curtain, which is the best fresco work the building contains. Portraits in a variety of characters and attitudes of the celebrated Fanny Janauschek have made their appearance on the walls of the vestibule. They represent a beautiful and powerful woman, who is to bring into the Academy, before many months, a lyreless tragedy, quite as eloquent, we are told, as the melodious muse we have been listening to.

Il Don Giovanni made last night an unsensational bow. Albeit the greatest of Dons, he does not belong to the family of flashes and sensations. Nevertheless, few presentations could have been so acceptable in most respects. The Don of exquisite and legitimate music—the source of numberless inspirations since his day. He is the father of a world of ideas, but nothing that has sprung from Mozart’s pure well of music undefiled equals the lustrous simplicity and complexity of the original. A few omissions occurred last night, as for instance, Mi Tradi in Elvira’s part, which was sung through in a slight, sweet, and pretty way, by Miss Ronconi, but this omission is common. On the other hand, Madame Parepa restores with vocal enthusiasm the famous chamber aria, for the neglect of which there is usually no excuse except the inglorious one of difficulty. No[n] mi dir is, doubtless, the most skillful aria in Don Giovanni. So, at least, Madame Rosa seems to prove in a remarkable piece of florid execution, which, if not fulfilling the highest susceptibility of the air, suggests at its ideal graces. There is more to Madame Rosa’s credit in the fine declamation of the third scene, in the flourishing aria of Or sai chi, and in the divine trio of Protegga il giusto, which seems the epitome of all music, both in its concert and in its simplicity. Miss Hauck’s Zerlina could not be less than clever. It is fresh, spritely, gentle, and wins some well-deserved applause—but for all this it lacks identity and abandon, and a certain unconscious outgush which utters the innocence of the character. Very enjoyable it was, however, to hear Vedrai Carino and Batti, both sung tastefully and expressively once again. Bellini’s Don Juan habitually gives us the capital semi-buffo passage of Finche dal vino as a compensation for his want of pathos and mellowness elsewhere. Ronconi, as usual, amuses us deeply with his jovial and highly musical delivery of Leoporello’s [sic] long aria, and with his Signor Baragli, whose gossamer style of vocalism seldom affects us cordially, is unusually appreciative of Mozart’s rare and florid broidery in Il mio tesoro. We shall beg in vain for commendatores with voices sufficient to syllable the grave and formidable phrases of Mozart. They are few in this part, but dash and adequate power, which, of course, Signor Barili, however careful a musician, is not able to give. But, upon the whole, Don Giovanni has been given with such a degree of completeness and success as must encourage the performances which are to follow.” 

16)
Review: Courrier des √Čtats-Unis, 25 September 1867.

“Even though a large number of habitués of the opera are still staying in the country, there was a crowd Monday evening at the Academy of Music. Not that Don Giovanni has a real attraction for New Yorkers, but because it was the beginning of the season, and nobody wanted to be thought not to know this work of Mozart, which profoundly annoys ninety out of one hundred people.

            In effect, you can’t go to hear Don Giovanni like a properly named dramatic work. There isn’t a –so to speak—libretto: Da Ponte has stitched together one scene after another, without being concerned with probability, even with the likelihood of theatrical convention. He has stitched a canvas on which Mozart has written a symphony, but the symphony is all a poem. What’s of interest in hearing Don Giovanni is studying how Mozart understood and interpreted musically the model of Don Juan who tempted all the great souls: Molière, Byron, Alfred de Musset, etc., etc. To look for dramatic action in Don Giovanni is to be mistaken about the character of the work, and to expose oneself to disappointment. Mozart’s opera is a story, a musical commentary, and surely, if one must judge lyrical works as one judges books, by the number of feelings and ideas they provoke, Don Giovanni is first among operas. But Mozart himself foresaw that it would be little relished by the vulgar crowd. Look at the letter on this subject written from Prague by the composer to his friend Weitsmer, in Salzburg. Thus, how would the New York spectators enter fully into the spirit of the opera, when one sees half of them armed with librettos to understand the intrigue of Don Juan! 

            It’s above all on the tender side that Mozart excels in Don Juan. One understands why Zerlina lets herself go along with the gentleman’s seductions when one hears the duet in the first act; what one understands less well is that she returns to Masetto, above all when he appears masked and with the cottony voice of M. Dubreuil. Don Juan is the predestined seducer of Zerlina: to save that marvel of naïve grace for a blockhead of a peasant is throwing pearls before swine. Don Juan at least knew how to appreciate the good thing with which he was playing. He defies society, and he knows that chastity is a virtue that the world and society have made a law about, but not Nature, which turns out to be compelled by itself. [In] Nature, beauty yields to beauty, and youth seeks pleasure. Healthy reason doesn’t want one to lodge women’s honor there any more where one puts it generally, and Don Juan, a man of progress who has rid himself of all prejudice and is in reality very advanced for his century, can only protest against a retrograde idea. Also, however it may be, Don Juan is the most interesting character in the drama. His courage, his elegance, his good looks, make him, up until his final lack of penitence, one of those types capable of captivating the interest that the human brain always brings to light.

            M. Bellini has never seemed as good in a Mozart opera as he was Monday evening. He appears to have acquired the easy bearing and the elegance that he was lacking. His voice was equally supple. M. Ronconi [Leporello] doesn’t sing any more, but he spoke and acted admirably. M. Baragli [Ottavio] was in voice and sang the aria Il mio Tesoro quite well.

            Mme Parepa didn’t get all the success she should have after the very difficult aria in the first act. They rendered her more justice in the second. No one has more strength and accuracy of intonation and sustenance of tone. It’s a blessing to hear such a singer: with her at least you aren’t afraid of a swoon. Mlle Hauck [Zerlina] held onto what she promised last year. She hasn’t yet reached the level of her predecessor, but she doesn’t have, in her lovely round, fresh voice, the thread of vinegar that tickled so disagreeably the” [REST OF THIS ARTICLE IS MISSING]

17)
Review: New-Yorker Musik-Zeitung, 28 September 1867, 120.

The theater was well filled. However; there was not as much shoving as usual, because the entrances are wider now. As usual, the ugliest of the females were the most stylish. The performance of Don Giovanni was the better than what we have heard in a long time. Bellini sang in a more paced and articulate fashion than before. His voice is splendid, a material that only Graziani possessed in his best years, yet not as rough as Graziani’s. Certainly, Bellini does not have the sentimentality, the captivating sound that stirs the heart as Faure; however, his voice is masculine, noble, and with accurate technique excellent. There is nothing to criticize about Bellini’s “Don Giovanni” other than that he overdid it a little in the “Champagne Song”. Parepa-Rosa proved again that she is an excellent singer, less so as an actress. Every note she sings is beautiful, accurately pitched, well nuanced, with well prepared climaxes; thus she belongs to the best of all singers here. Mrs. Hauck has improved tremendously under the direction of Errani. She possesses a gorgeous voice with the strength and vigor of a young organ. If she is truly talented is not clear yet. However; she is ambitious and perfectly capable of executing well what she’s been taught. The duet with “Don Juan” was in part extraordinarily beautiful whereas other parts of the opera were sung rather like a student. Moreover, neither in the singing nor in the acting was there a trace of the coquettish and careless lightness of the flattered peasant. Baragli did well with the means he has. He played the thankless part of “Ottavio” well and used his voice sensibly. Ronconi’s “Leporello” was precious. He was deservedly called several times. “About Mrs. Ronconi’s “Elvira” we do here what she should have done in the performance: be quiet”.