Academy of Music
Manager / Director:
7 April 2016
“Fresh interest will be awakened by the bringing out of ‘L’Africaine,’ with a new prima donna, Madame Kapp-Young, who has won especially [sic] distinction in the part of Selika, in Italy and Spain, and more recently in Russia.”
“which will be produced in the most gorgeous style, with new and brilliant Costumes, new Scenery, Military Band, Ballet, &c., and a most excellent and complete cast.”
“The second subscription season of the Italian opera began last evening in a manner calculated to give us confidence that it will surpass in interest the one just brought to a close. Not at all discouraged by the limited pecuniary success of the past season, but rather stimulated to new exertions, Mr. Maretzek sets out in this season before us with a programme which will merit the renewal of the favor to which he has been of late years accustomed. The performance of ‘L’Africaine’ last evening was one which, in almost all respects, delighted the habitual patrons of Italian opera in this city. Often as this noble work has been produced here, there were few present at the Academy last evening who did not find their admiration for its grand orchestral effects, dramatic situations and gorgeous scenery rekindled with new fervor and intensity.
“The opera itself is one which will bear frequent repetitions. Unlike those works of the Verdi school, which consist mainly of taking melodies loosely strung together by orchestral passages of little relevancy, ‘L’Africaine’ is a consistent and symmetrically developed tone drama, which require repeated hearings to be appreciated in the magnificent entirety. Even the melodies have so close a relation to the context that the comprehension of it must precede any full and sympathetic appreciation of the airs themselves. And it is not at once that the subtle and prodound musical ideas which pervade the whole opera are thoroughly mastered. Whoever would properly understand ‘L’Africaine’ should hear it at least a dozen times. We trust, then, that Mr. Maretzek will afford us several more opportunities of enjoying this opera, during the fall and winter.
“The special interest in the performance last evening was excited by the new prima donna, who selected Selika as the character in which first to appear before the American public. This lady, Madame Kapp-Young, is by birth a German, but of English parentage, whose sterling natural gifts received an excellent training in the Vienna Conservatory of Music. Without having any claims to belong to the sensational class of operatic singers—whom a phenomenal voice, striking beauty, or rare genius have given world-wide fame—she possesses a combination of good qualities which have won for her less dazzling, but quite as genuine successes, wherever she has appeared. In the part of Selika she has been received with especial favor abroad, and is likely to be as much admired here.
“The first and strongest impression made by her last evening was, that she is an undoubted dramatic artist—a rare personage on the Italian operatic stage. Having fully in mind the noble acting of Zucchi in the part of Selika, which has not until last night been at all equaled here, we have no hesitation in saying that the new prima donna has given us a new Africaine of equal dramatic consistency and of greater power. She has a presence which at once awakens interest and inspires confidence. With little apparent effort to work up strong situations, she readily meets their requirements with great fullness of effect. The rapid transitions of conflicting emotion required by the part were finely portrayed, and the quiet passages were free from effort or affectation, as they should be, but rarely are. Her ‘make-up’ was superb and entirely in keeping.
“As a singer Madame Kapp-Young will, we believe, be liked better the oftener she is heard. She is not likely to take her auditors by storm by bravura feats of vocal execution, of the style which so roused the ire of Dr. Johnson, and there is at present no special need of a prima donna with this faculty at our Academy, Peralta being quite sufficient for this purpose. While, however, she proved herself equal to all the vocal difficulties of her part—and they are many and arduous—she interpreted the music assigned her with a feeling and dramatic fire much more needed and enjoyed by those who love music for what it expresses, and not the ornamental flourishes, amid the profusion of which its noblest function is too often lost sight of. Her voice is a mezzo-soprano of unusual power. In the higher ranges, and when a sudden expression of lyric passion is required, its tones thrill by their clearness and rotundity, while in the softer passages they convey tender sentiment with pleasing effect.
“Her support, in the main, was good. Signor Anastasi, as Vasco, was the exception. This singer, who has some rare and excellent qualities of voice, seems sadly deficient in dramatic fire and power. Signor Bellini’s Nelusko was unexceptionably admirable, the best, in fact, that we have ever had here. Always the true artist, whatever character may be assigned to him, he seemed last night to have thrown himself heart and soul into his part, and more than once roused the audience to unusual enthusiasm. Miss Hauck gave the part of Inez new importance, and won a genuine triumph in it, which we are happy to report. The chorus was not as well-drilled in its part as it will be on Friday evening. The orchestra performed its arduous work with a thoroughness deserving all praise. The scenery and costumes were magnificent.”
“The performance at the Academy of Music last night was doubly interesting. We had a very superb revival of Meyerbeer’s grand opera of the Africaine, and a new prima donna made her first appearance before an American audience. Madame Kapp-Young is a German lady of English parentage, Young being her maiden and Kapp being her married name. She is a pupil of the conservatory of Vienna, and although her career along the lyric boards did not commence until after the death of her husband, she comes to us with a record of successes gained in many of the principal theatres of Germany and Italy. She has a fine stage presence, a comely face, and a pre-possessing manner. The part of Selika in the Africaine she claims to have made especially her own. In some respects it is certainly a trying one for a debutant, demanding a long continued exercise of both vocal and dramatic powers, and imposing the necessity of some personal disfigurement to simulate the dusky skin of the ill-fated Queen. Her first appearance upon the scene is also a little awkward. The music for the soprano in the first act is slight and thankless. It was not surprising, therefore, that despite the cordial welcome with which she was greeted, the lady manifested some signs of nervousness. But with the opening of the second act her success was assured. Her voice is a rich soprano of great mellowness and power; sweet throughout; best in the upper and middle registers, yet by no means deficient in depth; full, clear, flexible, and sympathetic. In the forte passages it rings through like a bell, yet it has hardly the least flavor of sharpness. Madame Kapp-Young has, moreover, been well taught. Her modulations are almost invariably true and firm. She sings with little apparent effort, in a grand, yet natural and simple style, with fidelity to the text, eschewing meretricious ornament and misplaced tours de force. Her soft passages are rendered with the delicacy and refinement of a true artist, and she rises to the heights of lyric passion, without straining but by a seemingly spontaneous outburst of rich sound. In the beautiful cavatina at the commencement of the second act her excellent vocalization was especially apparent, and the duo with Vasco a little further on was also notable for its neatness. When we have said, however, that the new prima donna has a noble voice, which she uses with skill, we have told only half. She is a superb actress; indeed, we can recall few singers since Grisi who have known so well how to express intense emotions in perfectly musical tones. There is a short passage, for instance, in the second act, where Selika is brought face to face with Inez in the prison, and another in the fourth where she reproaches Vasco for selling her to her rival; each is but a single line; yet into each she threw a wonderful dramatic intensity, an outburst of tremendous passion, startling in the force, yet so thoroughly melodious, that we are tempted to call it a flashe [sic] of real genius. She identifies herself completely with the character she personates. The fierce jealousy and equally fierce love of the captive Queen seem to burn in her veins, and the tenderness of the heroic woman who sacrifices everything for the man who has won her heart seems to melt her very breast. The highest qualities of her performance will be more and more thoroughly appreciated the oftener she is seen. We have heard better vocalists and better voices—not many, though, of either—but the Academy of Music has witnessed few representations of late years, which, taken altogether, were more generally excellent than Madame Kapp-Young’s Selika. We congratulate Mr. Maretzek upon the very important addition he has made to his company. The success of the debutant has been emphatic, and the delight of the audience last night was truly inspiring.
“The second honors of the evening were borne by that sterling actor and true artist, Signor Bellini, who played Nelusko, and both acted it and sang it thoroughly well. To hear him and the new prima donna together is a treat which we hope the public will enjoy to the utmost. His charming aria in the fourth act, Ancor un sacrifizio, one of the most moving and passionate themes in the whole of this magnificent opera, was tumultuously applauded, and ought to have been repeated. In the finales and concerted pieces, all of which were effectively rendered, his sonorous voice and the rich bass of Signor Antonucci were heard to great advantage. Miss Hauck made a very capitivating Inez, singing the music very sweetly and truly, and looking her prettiest. Signor Anastasi’s Vasco was good, but the part rather too exacting for a singer of his caliber, and the weather appeared to have affected his voice. The chourus, though strong enough, needs a little more drilling, the first part of the scene on the ship-board being positively bad. The opera has been very carefully and richly mounted, with gorgeous dresses, a large force of auxiliaries, and some very fine scenery. The bewildering beauty of the temple scene, with whirling Amazons, short-robed priestesses, and a respectable army of colored men, suggesting dreams of the Black Crook and the negro minstrels combined, deserves especial mention.”
“The audience was quite large, and was at least hearty in its applause over the favorite numbers, if not enthusiastic. The portions confided to Selika, of the always welcome music of this opera, were carefully sung by Mme. KAPP-YOUNG, the new prima donna, whose majestic presence, striking features, and queenly motions well befit the African captive. Mme. YOUNG’S voice appears to be a mezzo-soprano, with a decided leaning toward the contralto, but it seems to have a ready musical flow and a complete reliableness. She seems to have also that natural quality of tone which skill alone can never reach. The final air of the entire opera, the African dying song, a test song if there ever was one, was most accurately and admirably delivered, and indeed the prison air in the second act was equally well sung. The figure of the new prima donna is tall and shapely, her movements are oftentimes graceful, and her gestures and attitudes are exceedingly picturesque. Her dramatic temper helps the second act, as well as the fourth, very greatly. For all this, she appears to clothe herself somewhat too carefully with her artistic nature; it seems rather to be on her than in her. Miss HAUCK aided the representation most effectively in the rôle of the gentle Inez. Her performance was a pretty study, and like everything this little operatic blossom appears in, was very pleasant both to sight and hearing. Sig. BELLINI maintained his reputation and popularity in his original rôle of the dusky Nelusko, and Sig. ANTONUCCI was equally fortunate as Don Pedro. The part of Vasco on this occasion was intrusted [sic] to Sig. ANASTASI, who generally shows taste, feeling, good voice and sufficient power as an actor, but he did not seem to be doing his best on Wednesday evening, and the applause that rewarded him expressed simply a mild content. As the opera is to be repeated to-night, it will be an agreeable duty if better things can be reported of him. The orchestra was in excellent training, and the delicious instrumental introductory to the fifth act—most perfectly rendered—had its customary reward. The choruses were not so good.”
“The performance of L’Africaine, Wednesday, didn’t reach all our expectations. Mme Kapp Young, making her debut, doesn’t have either the voice or the demeanor for the role of Selika. Without doubt one has to put a lot of her imperfections on the bill of the cliché ‘the emotion that is inseparable fro a début,’ but we strongly doubt that the present singer can make us forget Mme Carozzi-Zucchi, who created the role in New York.
“M. Anastasi also odidn’t have the amplitude necessary for the role of Vasca de Gama [sic]. He’s a likeable tenor, but he was never, is not and will never be a powerful tenor. He should protect himself from roles too strong for his temperament. Ne quod nimis. M. Bellini didn’t sing, he shouted. It’s true that the screams earned him a success, but he is becoming more and more spoiled in New York, and if he leaves New York, where will he be able to find an engagement? They wouldn’t tolerate, on a second-class stage in Europe, a voice that’s so inflexible and handled in such a harsh fashion; they would have hissed these shrieks which make singing into an epileptical art. Mlle Hauck was adequate, but no more than that, in the role of Inez. The chorus and orchestra did well.”
(…) Kapp-Young has made a favorable impression in L’Africaine. She is well educated, sings with understanding and sentiment more than with sensationalism. She clearly is a significant singer. It is questionable if this role was the best for a debut; we acknowledge her courage and determination, however, in dismissing the typical debut part of “Lucrezia Borgia” and choosing a role in which she can develop her talent beautifully, especially in the fourth and fifth act. One can call her level of success a solid one. Without doubt she will establish herself well with the New York audience.
Kapp-Young possesses a not very pleasant, yet strong and full mezzo soprano. She articulates well, sings with feeling and expression and is also skilled in acting. Bellini excelled next to her with a fiery, characterful performance, which makes the “Melusco” one of his best roles. Signor Anastai’s “Basco”, however, was less satisfactory. Anastasi has a beautiful and fresh voice. Nevertheless, he still has a lot to learn until he can manage a difficult part such as this. The same applies to Hauck as “Ines”. Hauck’s performance, however, was much better than that of her predecessor.
(…) Kapp-Young has a pleasant, yet not big voice. She is well-trained and acts with dramatic flair. Since this was her debut and all performers are nervous before a new audience for the first time, we will not further discuss her skills until her next appearance. The performance in general was very good, although Anastasi did not live up to Mazzoleni as “Basco”.