New-Yorker Stadt-Theater Opera: Die Schöne Helena

Event Information

New-Yorker Stadt-Theater [45-47 Bowery- post-Sept 1864]

Adolph Neuendorff

Price: $1.50, 1, .50, .30, .15

Event Type:

Record Information


Last Updated:
6 November 2016

Performance Date(s) and Time(s)

03 Dec 1867, 8:00 PM
04 Dec 1867, 8:00 PM
05 Dec 1867, 8:00 PM
06 Dec 1867, 8:00 PM
07 Dec 1867, 8:00 PM

Program Details

American premiere; sung in German.

Performers and/or Works Performed

aka Belle Helene, La; Schöne Helena, La; Schone Helena, La
Composer(s): Offenbach
Text Author: Halévy, Meilhac
Participants:  New-Yorker Stadt-Theater Opera Company;  Joseph Hermanns (role: Paris);  Jean Klein [NY-Stadt tenor and actor] (role: Menelaus);  Theodor L’Arronge (role: Calchas);  Hedwig [actor] L'Arronge-Sury (role: Helena)


Advertisement: New York Herald, 03 December 1867.

“First time in America”

Advertisement: New-Yorker Staats-Zeitung und Herold, 03 December 1867, 6.

Cast list included.

Review: New York Herald, 05 December 1867, 10.

“‘La Belle Helène,’ one of Offenbach’s most humorous operas, was brought out in German on Tuesday night at the Stadt before an immense audience. Had blind Homer been present and heard the dialogue and music put in the mouths of his heroes and the beautiful woman that was the cause of the destruction of Ilium, or had he recovered his sight and seen the dresses, scenery and the extraordinary antics indulged in by same the Greeks, he would have been considerably astonished and irresistibly moved to laughter. There are three acts in the opera, the best music being in the first. There are many reminiscences of the ‘Orphée” scattered in every act. A better representation of ‘La Belle Helene’ could not be presented on the stage than Mme. L’Arronge. Gifted with a charming voice, superior musical and dramatic powers, an exceedingly attractive stage appearance, she carried away the audience into the realms of enthusiasm as effectually as Paris did bear her off to Troy.  Her singing was excellent in every respect, and her acting had all the coquetry, drollery and witchery of the Trojan’s original prize. L’Arronge made a capital Calchas, high priest of Jupiter, and looked like one of those ‘rare monks of old,’ fat, contented and full of humor.  Paris, Mr. Hermann, did not deserve to win Helen, for neither his singing nor his acting was satisfactory.  Menelaus (Mr. Klein) the poor old husband of La Belle Hélène, was admirable. The rest of the characters, Agamemnon, the king of kings; Achilles, who is perpetually troubled about his heel; the two Ajaces, the elder of whom is an idiot; the indescribable Orestes, who is ever near his papa, and his disreputable companions, Parthenia and Bacchus, were full of fun and rollicking humor. The dresses and scenery were all that could be desired, but the orchestra was very poor.  The German language, however, or in fact any tongue but the brilliant, sparkling French, is entirely unsuited for the delightful nonsense of Offenbach.  Some of the best things degenerate into buffoonery when taken out of their native element, the French language.”

Review: New-Yorker Staats-Zeitung und Herold, 05 December 1867.

Despite the day of this event having been on Election Day, the attendance was high. The opera was a success with the audience, although the performance was not smooth yet. Musically the score falls behind other works by Offenbach, namely Orpheus. However, his music exceeds older works with depicting the comic scenes of the modernized classic themes. Both L’Arronges’ performances contributed to the success of the event. Mrs. L’Arronge-Sury excelled as “Helena”, especially vocally. Costumes and scenery, including the backdrop paintings in the third act by Stöckl and Dornbach, were magnificant.

Review: New-Yorker Staats-Zeitung und Herold, 08 December 1867, 4.

(…) The plots of all other operettas by Offenbach and Suppe stay within the borders of chastity. Not so the Schöne Helena. This operetta is nothing more than a dramatic can-can; a glorification of raw sensuality and adultery. It is understandible that this piece is successful in Paris, where the demi-monde as a large class influences the higher society. However, it is deplorable to see the success in some German cities, which possibly can be explained by the geographical proximity of France, and what is en vogue in Paris. Here in New York, only the first night filled the house. Despite the elaborate scenery and costumes, and the excellent performance of Mme L’Arronge-Sury, the numbers of  audience members waned from evening to evening.

[plot description follows]

Regarding the music, nothing is new. Many themes of Orpheus were repeated here.