Juignet and Drivet’s French Opera Company: Mousquetaires de la Reine

Event Information

French Theatre

Proprietor / Lessee:
East 14th St at the corner of Irving Place Academy of Music

Auguste Predigam

Event Type:

Record Information


Last Updated:
23 May 2016

Performance Date(s) and Time(s)

09 Oct 1866, 8:00 PM

Program Details

Opening night of the regular season.

Performers and/or Works Performed

Composer(s): Halévy
Text Author: Saint-Georges
Participants:  Juignet and Drivet's French Opera Company;  Jeanne Laurentis (role: Berthe);  Monsieur [tenor] Anthelme (role: Olivier);  Jean Vert (role: Captain Roland);  Paul de Surmont (role: Hector);  Elvira Naddie (role: Athenais)


Announcement: New York Herald, 29 September 1866, 10.

Includes list of performers.

Advertisement: New-Yorker Staats-Zeitung und Herold, 30 September 1866.
Advertisement: New York Herald, 01 October 1866, 7.
Announcement: New-York Times, 01 October 1866, 5.

Includes list of the cast.

Advertisement: New-York Times, 01 October 1866, 7.
Advertisement: Courrier des États-Unis, 02 October 1866.
Advertisement: New-York Times, 05 October 1866, 7.
Article: New York Herald, 06 October 1866, 7.

“The first rehearsal in opera comique of Messrs. Juignet & Drivet’s company took place yesterday at the French theatre. The opera selected for the opening night of the French Opera season, Tuesday, October 9, is F. Halevy’s Mousquetaires de la Reine. The music of this opera, now heard for the first time for many years in New York, possesses all the characteristics of the French school. Light, brilliant and sparkling, it must undoubtedly prove attractive to an American audience, especially when interpreted by M. Auguste Predigam’s excellent orchestra and the admirable cast and chorus that will appear in it. There is nothing more suitable and enjoyable for New Yorkers than the French school of music, in opera at least. The overture of Les Mousquetaires is constructed on the same principles as Zampa, Orphée aux Enfers, and a hundred others of a similar kind. It opens with an allegro movement, in which charming little staccato runs and tremolos of the strings, a brilliant spray of triplets and a beautiful theme for the horn are the main features. Then follows La Marche des Mousquetaires, a quaint and highly dramatic movement. The finale savors strongly of Tancredi and Don Giovanni in brilliancy and elan. The opening male chorus, Ah! le beau jour, in 6-8 time, is one of the best hunting choruses we have heard. Oliver’s song descriptive of the chase and its pleasures accompanies the chorus. No one ought to miss an opportunity of hearing M. Anthelme Guillot in this fine scene and aria. Bertha’s cavatina, Ah! messieurs, is well calculated to display the brilliant points of Mlle. Jeanne Laurentis, the premiere dugazen’s voice. The best solo of the entire opera falls to the part of Athènais, Mlle. Elvire Naddie in the first act. It is a tone poem of considerable merit, and breathes every emotion that can agitate the breast of a woman, Serment des Chevaliers, the March of the Musketeers, and a cavatina by Hector, (M. Armand De Surmont), are the other noticeable features in the first act. In the second act there is a very fine bass solo for Roland, M. Jean Vert, and a quartette for Athènais, Berthe, Oliver and Hector. Of the third act we shall speak again. Regarding the orchestra there need be no fear of any shortcomings on its part under the careful, competent and painstaking director, Mr. Predigam. There were many passages in the orchestral parts which a less capable director would have passed over, contented with the manner in which they were at first played; but Mr. Predigam made his corps of instrumentalists repeat them again and again, adding more color here, bringing out some instrument in bolder relief there, enjoining the necessity of more correct phrasing in one place, and communicating more expression in another. The chorus, consisting of sixteen male and fourteen female singers, is also excellent. The next rehearsal will take place on Monday, and we confidently look for Les Mousquetaires to be produced in a style that the composer himself would pronounce highly satisfactory. Zampa, Le Pre aux Clercs, Orphée aux Enfers, Le Songe d’Une Nuit d’Eté, Galathée, Haydée, Le Maitre de Chapelle, Le Postillon de Lonjumeau, Giralda, the Crown Diamonds and other operas will be produced in rapid succession by Messrs. Juignet and Drivet. Such a feast of music will prove more palatable than heavy, indigestible Italian opera, with its five acts of bravuras, recitatives and oppressive choruses. French opera is like French wind, light, sparkling and enjoyable. In such a cosy little house as the Theatre Français it must commend itself to all.”  

Advertisement: New-Yorker Staats-Zeitung und Herold, 07 October 1866.
Announcement: New-York Times, 08 October 1866, 5.
Article: New York Herald, 09 October 1866, 7.

Includes a list of the cast. “The second rehearsal of Halevy’s opera Les Mousquetaires de la Reine, by Messrs. Juignet & Drivet’s company, took place yesterday at the French theatre. Why the simple fact of dialogue being interspersed with the music of an opera causes it to be called opera comique, we are at a loss to know. It is a French term that is applied indiscriminately to lyric dramas, in many of which every dark crime, from burglary to double assassination, is introduced. In Les Mousquetaires the chief interest is not in the comic element, but in the music, and Auber’s Haydee is a little oratorio. Whatever incongruity there may be in the name, opera comique, there can be no two opinions regarding the excellence of the music of the French school. Les Mousquetaires must commend itself to all who enjoy light, sparkling, melodic music, and to judge from yesterday’s rehearsal, both the chorus and orchestra of Messrs. Juignet & Drivet’s company will do it justice. It will be given at the Theatre Français this evening, with the following cast…The scene is laid in Poitiers; during the reign of Louis XIII, a month before the siege of Rochelle. This opera will be succeeded by Auber’s Crown Diamonds and the others of the French school already mentioned in the Herald.”

Announcement: New-York Times, 09 October 1866, 4.
Advertisement: New-York Times, 09 October 1866, 7.
Announcement: New-Yorker Staats-Zeitung und Herold, 09 October 1866, 8.
Review: New York Herald, 10 October 1866.

“The season of French opera commenced propitiously at the Theatre Français last night with Halevy’s brilliant three act composition, Les Mousquetaires de la Reine. The history of this work is not unfamiliar. It belongs to the age of gallantry, mystery, sentiment and amours, when Louis XIII and Anne of Austria ruled over the courts of France. The scene is laid in Poitiers. The musketeers, who formed the body guard of the Queen, were the fast young men of that day. Rich, gay, noble and dissipated, their adventures afforded abundant scope for the pen of the novelist and the imagination of the librettist, and hence we find them figuring in the romance, the feuilleton, the drama, and, in this case, also in the opera of Halevy, which might, perhaps, more properly be designated a lyric drama. The combination of dialogue and music, which is peculiar to the French and English opera, is most happily applied in the Queen’s Musketeers. The dialogue serves to convey all the pleasant byplay, wit and telling points of the drama, while the sentiment is mainly though not wholly embodied in the music. From first to last we trace the vein of the composer. Although devoid of the tragic element which pervades La Juive, the manner and inspiration of the great French master can be detected in the bright and sparkling music of the Musketeers. The charm which has won so great a success for French opera in Paris is destined to achieve the same result here, if we can judge from the effect produced on the audience last night, even with all the difficulties under which a first performance by artists entirely strange to the country was necessarily encumbered. Yet there is little apology to make in this respect, because the performance, upon the whole, went off smoothly and satisfactorily, and the artists, without exception, made a most favorable impression, which was plainly manifested by repeated applause and calls before the curtain. The plot, although disjointed, is crowded with incidents which afford plenty of opportunity for the display of the excellent dramatic capacities of the company. We have duels fought and duels intercepted; the mysterious and annoying effects of anonymous letters threatening the happiness of both heroes and heroines; the frivolities of courts and the vices which pertain to the time and the personages represented, and all unfolded in delicious music, every strain of which one carries home with him and keeps imprinted on his memory.

French opera is more in accordance with the taste of this public than Italian, and must continue to be so for many reasons. It is lighter, more versatile and more easily comprehended. The language is familiar to most people, and the performance never wearies by its ponderousness, as the best operas of the Italian school frequently do.  Hence we augur that the enterprise so auspiciously begun at the French theatre is the opening of a new era in musical art which has long been desired, and which is peculiarly suited to the taste of this community. The audience last night comprised the most critical portion of the musical and highly educated public, by whom not one of the excellent qualities of the performance was unappreciated, or unnoticed by marks of favor. 

The artists appear to be all suited to the class of work which properly belongs to opera comique. Mlle. Naddie, the leading soprano, is not unknown to us. Her pure, fresh voice, graceful acting and peculiarly modest demeanor on the stage have already enlisted the sympathies of the public. Mlle. Laurentis is not only a good singer, but an actress of far more than ordinary merit, as her charming and piquant rendering of Bertha last night proved. The tenor Anthelme has a sweet voice, a grazia tenore, which he manages well, even in the difficult transition from his natural tones to the falsetto, to which he often resorts. M. Vert has a light and flexible baritone, which he uses skillfully. The choruses have excellent material in them, but of course not much could be expected at a first performance, and yet there was little fault to find. The orchestra, under the management of M. Predigam, is unexceptionable. 

Taking the performance altogether it was a decided success, upon which not alone the artists but the public may congratulate themselves. We have now something in the musical as well as the dramatic art to enjoy at the French theatre, in the opera of the Messrs. Juignet and Drivet’s company, and the incomparable tragic representations of Ristori.”

Review: New York Herald, 10 October 1866.

Vive l’opera comique! Exhilarating and sparkling as the wine of its native clime, ever graceful and polished, whether it treats of a brigand, a royal musketeer, an immaculate Joseph or a frail Haydee, interwoven with music of a truly popular nature, that pours forth a flood of enchanting melody and harmony over the piquant, lively and never tiresome dialogue, we welcome it to our shores. And in the cosy little Theatre Francais, the stage of which last evening M. Jacques F. Halevy transformed into Poitiers and the chivalric court of Louis XIII, we particularly bid l’opera comique welcome. Halevy was undoubtedly one of the best dramatic composers of the French school, as his great works La Juive and L’Eclair testify. He was for many years Professor in the Conservatory of Paris, and the number of his compositions is legion. He possesses great talent in forming dramatic situations in music, and shows considerable energy in expression and character. His weakness consists of a habit, as it were, of forcing melodies unnecessarily, and he is sometimes trivial when he wants to become popular. But his music is never monotonous or tiresome, especially in Les Mousquetaires de la Reine, which was produced last night for the first time in many years by Messrs. Juignet and Drivet’s troupe. The charming overture with its dashing, reckless musketeer like passages, was the very thing to put every one among the brilliant and fashionable audience in the proper humor to enjoy an intrigue of the court of the Bourbons. The hunting chorus and Olivier’s air that commence the opera, have the true woodland ring about them. M. Anthelme made a favorable impression in the character of the deceased lover, Olivier. His voice is indeed a tenor of the lightest description, but it is admirably trained, both in tone and method. The frequent use of the falsetto is a novelty in opera in New York, although it is a part of the French system of training the voice for opera comique. M. Anthelme can use it without injuring the character and unity of the air he sings. Among the gay, dissolute, reckless, duel-loving musketeers of the Queen, the most audacious in gallantry and mischief was Hector de Biron. His representative, M. de Surmont, is a deserving actor, and he sang pretty fairly last evening. The lower notes of his voice have a baritone quality in roundness and depth, and the higher ones are light and finished. That original, peculiar individual, Captain Roland, an old soldier from Henry the Fourth’s army, wearing clothes made of leather and iron, looking like a family portrait coming out of its frame, and whose sole thought morning or night was to spit some imaginary enemy on his rusty rapier, was well represented by M. Vert. His fine bass voice told well in the declamatory music of his rôle. Mlle. Elvira Naddie had a part that exactly suited her voice and winning, gentle demeanor. We have rarely heard anything sung on the operatic stage with more true delicacy of expression, purity of tone, complete command of voice and passionate tenderness than her rendering of the gem of the entire opera Bocage spois, in which she discovers the note from her lover, as she imagines and confesses her love for him. Mlle. Laurentis has a very good voice, but she requires more steadiness in it. Her acting is admirable. The chorus was in every case unexceptionable, and Mr. Predigam fulfilled the expectations we formed of him at the rehearsals, for the orchestra, the most necessary element in opera comique, under his direction contributed the most to the success of Les Mousquetaires.  French opera has commenced under the most auspicious circumstances, and there is no doubt of its success, musically at least.”

Review: New York Post, 10 October 1866.

“Presented in a very satisfactory manner.  Mlle. Naddie—the leading soprano—sang with her usual ability, and made a most favorable impression, as she always does.  The other singers—Mlle. Laurentis, and Messieurs Anthelme and Vert—were also well received.”

Review: New-York Times, 11 October 1866, 4.

“The first performance of the French comic opera took place on Tuesday evening at the Theatre Francais. An excellent and picturesque work was selected for the occasion. It would be difficult, indeed, even in the extensive repertoire of the Opera Comique to find a more agreeable production than ‘Les Mousquetaires de la Reine.’ The story is gallant and dashing, and the music is in Halevy’s happiest vein. The melodies are fluent and graceful; the combinations ingenious and effective, and the orchestration is thoroughly beautiful. The setting in every way is felicitous. Occasional traces prevail of the earlier works of the composer, but Halevy in ‘Les Mousquetaires’ is by no means cumbrous, not even when borrowing from himself.

The artists introduced in the performance of this work were generally acceptable. In no particular instance did they exhibit qualities of the first order, but they were easy and pleasing. The two tenors, Messrs. Anthelme and De Surmont rival each other in the smallness of their voices and the valiant use of the falsetto—an accomplishment which requires equal bravery on the part of the singer and the listener. The necessity of resorting to the artificial voice is now only recognized on the French stage. It is certainly not impossible to sing the music of this opera from the chest, but the most moderate altitudes provoke in a French singer the desire to use the head voice. Let us hasten to add, however, that Messrs. Anthelme and De Surmont resort to this practice with judiciousness. Their voices are soft and pleasing, and as actors these gentlemen have not had their superiors on the operatic stage. Mlle. Maddie [sic] is an agreeable prima donna, of whom we have already had occasion to speak. She was ably supported by Mlle. Laurentis, a lady who, in addition to personal attractions of a high order, possesses a pleasing little voice, which she uses discreetly and acceptably. The characteristic of the French company is that every one possesses a pleasing little voice—the tiniest and nicest little voices ever heard in America. The music is imparted in a strictly confidential manner, but from lips that one listens to with attention. M. Vert, however, possesses an organ of some power and even quality; but the obstinacy with which he persists in singing out of tune is destructive of every kind of pleasure. The production of the opera was creditable to the management. The scenery was almost respectable, and the dresses were superb. Whether these things will be purchased by the American public at the very high price demanded by Messrs. Juignet & Drivet remains to be seen. There was but little enthusiasm on Tuesday night and by no means a crowded house. The performance, however, gave satisfaction. If not strong it was at least even and encouraging. The orchestra, under the direction of M. Predigam, was admirable and the chorus good.”

Review: New-Yorker Staats-Zeitung und Herold, 11 October 1866, 8.

Scarcely attended event. The quality of the performance is far behind the competing opera ensembles in New York. Elvira Staddie [sic] possesses a pleasant high soprano voice and a graceful and typical French coquette acting style. Jeane [sic] Laurentis has a pleasant appearance and her voice possesses the freshness of a young yet untrained voice. Monsieur Anthelion [sic] has a very high however thin tenor voice. If he would avoid using his awful falsetto to produce an effect, his performance would be more satisfactory despite his unpleasant appearance and wooden movements.

Monsieur de Suement [sic] seems to have no voice at all unless he was hoarse last night. Monsieur Vert is one of these (vocally) light and high baritones as one can find many of among the French and Italian. The conductor is Mr. Predigam who conducted the Italian opera for a short time.

Review: New-Yorker Musik-Zeitung, 17 October 1866, 168.

It was a decent performance; good enough to introduce the French opera comique to the audience. It will take years, though, to bring quality performances comparable to Paris to New York. This is the first step in the right direction.