Articles and Announcements on Pike’s Opera House, the Academy of Music, and the future of Italian opera

Event Information

Academy of Music
Pike's Opera House

Manager / Director:
Max Maretzek
Leonard Grover
Max Strakosch

Event Type:

Record Information


Last Updated:
24 October 2017

Performance Date(s) and Time(s)

04 Feb 1868


Article: New York Herald, 04 February 1868, 4.

“There is a break in the clouds of absolute dulness [sic] that envelop the theatrical and musical firmament this season. War is about to be inaugurated between the two metropolitan opera houses—Pike’s versus the Academy of Music. On one side we have the imperturbable Cincinnati manager, financially strengthened with Bourbon and other auxiliaries; on the other two hundred and fifty stockholders armed cap à pie in the recollection of past failures, silly blunders and Quixotic [sic] adventures. Before such a contest pale the quarrels of the Montagues and Capulets in the operatic line or Vanderbilt and George Law in the steamboat world. The situation at present is interesting. Pike is intrenched [sic] in the middle of a block, near the Hudson river [sic], in the classic precincts of Eighth avenue, and from the stage of his magnificent establishment he hurls defiance across Madison and Union squares against the Irving place foe. The two hundred and fifty stockholders of the Academy, having long maintained a masterly inactivity in opera, and finding that their previosu course of arrogance and monopoly proved a failure, are reorganizing their forces on a new basis. They propose to deal with the public in a more liberal spirit and fight Pike with his own weapons. Haunted by the shades of managerial victims whom they immolated on the altar of their mutual admiration society, the lords of the the [sic] Academy endeavor to appease the manes of those martyred impresarii by dealing with their successors in a more charitable and Christianlike spirit. They now try to cage La Grange, Phillips and Brignoli and draw them from the stronghold of the enemy. In the event of their success in this respect it will be necessary for Pike to bestir himself and put forth all his well known energy and spirit. Let him bring over Adelina Patti, before she gets married, and a suitable company, and he may safely enter the lists against all competitors. He can dispute the right of his two hundred and fifty opponents to call their establishment an Academy of Music and charge them with contemptuously ignoring the very purpose for which it was chartered and built. The Academy of Music was originally an institution secured by an astute [? this word is difficult to read] character, carrying on its face a generous, national and artistic purpose—namely, the cultivation of music, the instruction of American artists in the beautiful mysteries of the lyric art—of course, both as composers and performers—and consequently securing to them, when qualified, an American platform for the display of their gifts before an American public interested in the progress of art. It was for this reason alone that the Legislature [sic] was induced to grant the charter and the stock holders pledged themselves to carry out the educational purposes of the institution. Without such an object in view the establishment is a misnomer and a mistake. No European opera house takes that name without having a school connected with it. How the stockholders carried out this programme and fulfilled their pledges to the Legistlature and the public is well known. They monopolized the best seats in the house, sat in judgment over manager and artist, and ruined company after company with the utmost sang-froid. Commencing with the jovial Hackett, who opened the establishment for the first time with Mario and Grisi on October 2, 1854, and ending with Maretzek this winter, the chiefs of the Academy have thrown every obstacle in the path of Italian opera. They have now a chance to redeem past follies by giving up their reserved seats to the public, by encouraging and materially assisting competent artists and an enterprising manager, and by carrying out the original purpose of education and instruction in art for which the Academy of Music was instituted. They must not relax their exertions when they enter upon this contest with the West End; for Pike is a wily and dangerous foe. He may advance a strong column of operatic artists, headed by Patti, or perhaps like General Fritz, in the ‘Grand Duchess,’ he may place the two hundred and fifty heroes of the Academy hors de combat by using ammunition from his numerous distilleries. Bourbon is a terrible agent of destruction on the lyric or dramatic stage; so that the Irving place managers had better guard against it in the hands of their Western competitor. The quarrel is a very pretty one as it stands, and may lead to some good for poor, ill-treated Italian opera. We hope, however that the managers on either side will not let opera sink down again to its former humiliating condition, and that the public will never be obliged to exclaim ‘A plague o’ both your houses!’ in view of more failures.”

Article: New York Post, 12 February 1868.

“Tonight Mr. Strakosch will begin his new season at the Academy of Music. It is fair to expect that there will be a very large attendance. Nearly three months have passed since the Academy has been used for the purposes to which it was nominally devoted, and its old frequenters will come out in throngs to listen to the singers who have been able to fill the large auditorium of the new opera house, in what was thought an out-of-the-way locatily, with admiring listeners. The small army of stockholders will be out in full force, to enjoy their somewhat disused privileges and the pleasure of listening to a new company. They will hear the much-hackneyed music of ‘Trovatore’ given in a manner new to the Academy, and will thank the enterprise of Mr. Strakosch in securing such a splendid trio of singers as Lagrange [sic], Phillips and Brignoli.

The old manager at the Academy, meanwhile, is not at all daunted. The success of his travelling company has offset, partly at least, the disasters of his last season here, and he has returned with all of his early vigor, determination and indomintable will, to fight out the battle on the Eighth avenue line if it takes all the rest of the winter, or longer. With the advantage of a splendid orchestra, and with his anusually [sic] strong corps of baritones, he will be able—by a judicious selection of operas—to make the contest both lively and profitable to the public, however may result for Mr. Strakosch and himself.”

Article: New York Herald, 13 February 1868, 4.

“History repeats itself. Diedrich Knickerbocker himself could only ring the changes in his famous description of the war between the adventurous Peter Stuyvesant and his bands against the crafty Governor, Jan Risingh, if called upon to recount the war which is now impending—nay, which yesterday evening began with the first big gun from the intrepid Max Strakosch at the Academy of Music—between the great rival opera houses of Manhattan. Diedrich the historian would have again to imitate his illustrious model, the immortal Thucydides, who, having arrived at the breaking out of the Peloponnesian war [sic], ‘sounds the charge,’ as one of his commentators observes, ‘in all the disposition and spirit of Homer. He catalogues the allies on both sides. He awakens our expectations and fast engages our attention. All mankind are concerned in the important point now going to the be deckled. Endeavors are made to disclose futurity. Heaven itself is interested in the dispute. The eart totters and nature seems to labor with the great event. This is his solemn, sublime manner of setting out. Thus he magnifies a war between two—as Rapin sytles them—petty States; and thus artfully he supports a little subject by treating it in a great and noble method.’ In like manner Diedrich Knickerbocker would lead his reader into the very teeth of peril and cry out as the present combat opens, ‘Stand by for broken heads and bloody noses!’ His pen would a second time record a fiercer fight than either Sallust, Livy, Tacitus, Polybius or any other historian ever described. He would revive the bustle and stir in the city of New Amsterdam on that memorable day when the host of warriors encamped in the Bowling Green were stirking their tents, when the drums beat and the standards of the Manhattoes, of Hell Gate and of Michaeal Paw waves proudly in the air. He would cause the brazen trumpet of doughty Antony Van Corlear Kingsland to make the welkin resound with portentous clangor. The sturdy Van Corlear Kingsland would marshal all his forces and commence his warlike operations. ‘Distending his cheeks like a very Boreas, he kept up a most horrific twanging of his trumpet; the lusty choristers of Sing Sing broke forth into a hideous song of battle; the warriors of Brenckelen and the Wallabout blew a potent and astonishing blast upon their conch shells—altogether forming as outrageous a concerto as though five thousand French fiddlers were displaying their skill in a modern overture.’ Thus prophetically hath the illustrious Diedrich already portrayed the scenes about to be witnessed in the battle between grim Governor Jan Risingh Pike and the intrepid Peter Stuyvesant Strakosch. Stoud Risingh Pike stands firm as a thousand rocks. The intrepid Peter Stuyvesant Strakosch comes on, ‘his brows knit, his teeth set, his fists clenched, almost breathing forth volumes of smoke, so fierce is the fire that rages in his bosom. His faithful squire, Van Corlear Kingsland, trudges faithfully at his heels, with his trumpet gorgeously bedecked with red and yellow ribbons.’ Then comes waddling on the sturdy chivalry of the stockholders. For their names—the Van Wycks and the Van Dycks and the Ten Eycks and the rest of the two hundred and fifty—we must refer to the chornicles of Diedrich Knickerbocker, who has duly set them all down upon Van Corlear’s roll-call.

In sober earnest, the island of Manhattan has seldom been so greatly excited since the day when Van Corlear summoned Governor Risingh to instant surrender, and, turning aside, ‘took his nose between his thumb and fingers and blew a tremendous blast, not unlike the flourish of a trumpet of defiance.’ Managers, stockholders, ladies (espousing separate sides and wearing the colors of one or the other competitor in this new War of the Roses), chorus singers, livery stable keepers (who have never before received so many orders in advance), ticket speculators (forgetful of the bitter lesson which they learned at the Dickens readings)—in a word, as the prophetic Diedrich says, ‘the entire population of the city, man, woman and child,’ are awaiting with breathless interest the impending operatic war. The keen competition it will excite must, at all events, revive the flagging fortunes of the opera, which we have been compelled to lament for several years past. With Pike and Grover and Max Maretzek, aided by Italian, Teutonic and Bourbon, and we know not what other potent agencies as yet unrevealved, of transatlantic or cisatlantic origin, on the one hand, and with Max Strakosch, La Grange, Brignoli and the stockholders, with gallant trumpeter, on the other, the contest will be as fierce and lively as the political war which conservatives and radicals are waging with each other. On whatever banner victory may ultimately perch this ‘tremendous battle’ will doubtless result in the triumphant issue of Italian opera out of all the difficulties which it has hitherto encountered in striving to acquire a permanent foothold in America.”

Article: New-York Daily Tribune, 15 February 1868, 4.

“The Winter, so far, has been a trying one for musical entertainments of all kinds, and few of the theaters have fared as well as has been their wont. No enterprise, however, during the early part of the season, was so unfortunate as the opera. While Maretzek’s company kept possession of the Academy of Music, disasters were heaped upon disasters. In vain one singer after another was brought out—many of them good, nearly all of them better than we are used to; in vain the great buffo, Ronconi, was prodigal in his fun; in vain a bright little American girl, by her successes on the lyric stage, added to our growing reputation as a musical people, or the best baritone we have heard since Gassler, and one of the best basses we have had since Susini’s sprime, roared their manly melodies. The public was coldly indifferent. New operas were produced, and well produced too, before half-filled houses; and the manager at last, with an empty treasury, went away to more hospitable cities. Music for a while in New York was almost one of the lost arts. At length came the reaction, and, as usually happens in such cases, the excitement of the revival was fully proportional with the apathy of the past period. The enterprise of Pike and Strakosch on the west side of the town, the novelty of the gorgeous house, the return of old favorites, the awakening of pleasant old association, combined to render the last operatic season more successful in a pecuniary sense than many of its best wishers durst hope it would be; and now that Strakosch, and La Grange, and Brignoli, and Phillips have gone over to the old opera-house in Irving-place, good fortune still clings to them. It is characteristic of American taste and impulsiveness that, in the first flush of this new prosperity, another opera company should seek to divide the honors and profits of the musical renaissance. On Monday night Pike’s Opera House will reopen; and while La Grange and Brignoli are playing ‘The Masked Ball’ in Fourteenth-st., Miss Hauck and Ronconi will frolic in Petrella’s ‘Carnival’ on the Eighth-ave. The rivalry between the two houses, whatever effect it may have upon their respective treasuries, can hardly fail to be of profit to the pubic. On the one hand we shall have excellent artists whom it has long been our delight to honor, and with whom our pleasantest recollations of sosme of the most popular operas are inseparably associated. On the other there is a strong and admirable company, made up of many of the best members of Maretzek’s former troupe, such as Miss Hauck, and Bellini, and Antonucci, together with Madame Gazzaniga, and the German artists under the direction of Grover. Among these last are the sweet voice tenor, Habelman, and the great basso, Joseph Hermans. In ordinary circumstances such rivalry as this would probably entail ruin upon both managers. But we should not be surprised if both did well. The excitement of the fresh interest in operatic performances will do much for them; and there is this thing also to be considered: Mr. Strakosch, by his three weeks’ season at Pike’s, developed an entirely new musical public, which had never frequented the opera before. The crowds which surrounded his ticket-office were indigenous. It had never been their habit to go often to the old opera-house; that was too far for them; but when the entertainment was brought to their doors, they rushed to see it, and very brilliant and very appreciative audiences they proved. When Mr. Strkosch removed to Irving-place they did not follow him; but he found awaiting his there his old Academy audience, athirst for melody after their long abstinence. So one side of the town runs after La Grange and Brignoli, while the other awaits Maretzek and Grover. Why, with two sets of patrons, should we not have two companies of singers? The experiment, which at first sight would appear to forbade disaster, may, after all, prove a substantial benefit for the public.”

Article: New-York Times, 17 February 1868, 4.

“It is rumored that Mr. Grover is anxious to effect a combination with Mr. Max Strakosch, by which the German and Italian forces under the different directors may be united. The intention is, of course, peace, not war. With a double or triple company, it would be possible to play seven times a week. No one has thought of inquiring whether it is desirable to play seven times a week, but should the question be asked, the answer would, we fear, be prompt enough. The fact of the matter is simply this: We have at this moment any quantity of second, third, and fourth class artists. The amazing and paralyzing influence of these has brought music down to the lowest point. Combining them—it seems to us—can do no good. Where there is a real attraction people will go; where there is none they politely but firmly decline to go. Combination means increased expense; and after that mutual ruin. The latter, indeed, is its scope and purpose. Next to succeeding yourself, the best thing is to make your opponent fail; or if this cannot be effected, to so combine it that both fail together.

To those who have wearily watched the scheming of last week and know how vain it must be, it is only necessary to say a few words. A combination of nonentities cannot succeed. It may enable the manager to play as often as he wants, but it is an inducement for the public to stay away as frequently as possible. The public will be on the side of the heaviest artillery. Mr. Max Strakosch has an excellent company. It is not easy to find three artists better than La Grange, Phillips and Brignoli. They are always acceptable to the public, and generally draw fine houses. It may be questioned if they acted wisely in leaving Pike’s Opera House, where they had the most beautiful theatre in the City, and a population almost entirely to themselves. At all events they are now at the Academy. Any combination meaning seven times a week cannot succeed, because Mr. Pike will not allow his theatre to play second fiddle to the Academy of Music,—nor should he. An irrepressible conflict, then, has to come. There will be two operas, one on the west side, and the other on the east. It will be a question of who draws most, Madame Parepa-Rosa in the Eighth avenue, or Madame La Grange in Irving-place. There cannot be much question about the result. It is one, too, which cannot in any way be influenced by the small people who abount just now in the streets of New-York. Mr. Maretzek acts with Mr. Grover simply as a conductor, loaning him his artists and so on. Mr. Grover is the actual manager, and the responsibility of not opening at Pike’s accoding to announcement remains with him. There was no rehearsal on Saturday, although it was stated very distinctly that there would be a performance to-night. It is certain, however, that in a few days—on Wednesday we believe—Pike’s Opera House will be opened, and with a company that can hold its own against any sort of opposition. It may not, however, be under the direction of Mr. Grover.”

Announcement: New York Post, 19 February 1868.


The grand operatic campaign will begin tonight at the Academy of Music. Mr. Strakosch has the advantage of time and position, and will make his first attack by the production of an opera which will have some of the attractions of a novelty—‘Un Ballo in Maschera.’ His full force will be engaged in this preparatory trial of strength—the superb La Grange, the first of American contraltos, the sweetest and purest of tenors, and a fine body of supporters. The attractiveness of the opera and the great strength of the cast should fill the Academy to overflowing. To-morrow night ‘La Traviata’ will be given in Brooklyn, and Friday night ‘Rigoletto’ will be repeated at the Irving Place Academy.


The perplexing uncertainty in regard to the organization of the forthcoming season of opera at Pike’s Opera House is at length relieved by a positive announcement, which may be considered authoritative. The campaign is to be conducted under the joint auspices of Mr. Pike, Mr. L.F. Harrison, and Mr. Maretzek—a strong team, if they all pull together. Madame Parepa-Rosa, having recovered from her illness, is to be the prima donna—Miss Hacuk, Signora Testa, Signora Ronconi, and Mrs. Kempton being among the lesser lights. The strength of the company, aside from Madame Rosa, will be in its noble trio of male singers—Ronconi, Bellini, and Antonucci—who are rarely equalled anywhere. The list also includes Pancani, a tenor who always makes us wish we had heard him in his prime; Herr Habelmann, a worthy and conscientious artist of the German school; Signor Barili, apleasing and faithful singer, and Signor Dubreuil. Nothing is said in the present announ cement about Mdlle. Sangalli, who is now reported to be engaged for the Olympic.

The first performance will be on Monday night, when ‘Norma’ will be given.”

Article: New York Herald, 28 February 1868, 4.

“Although the contending opera troupes met this week for the first time in direct conflict, yet the horrible condition of the weather placed the combatants in pretty much the same situation as Washington’s army at Valley Forge and chilled the enthusiasm of the public. The present week concludes the brilliant season of La Grange and Brignoli at the Academy, and Strakosch will soon evacuate Irving place, leaving the one hundred and ninety-nine and a half stockholders to shift for themselves. What they will do with the Catacombs is a matter of extreme doubt to the public and to themselves. By turning the Irving place establishment into a variety theatre, or, still better, by introducing circus riders in opposition to their neighbors across the strett, they may secure an audience of the peanut order and create a sensation. A breakdown, walk around, great trick act or the ‘houp la’ of the ring master, will undoubtedly prove more profitable to them than saddling themselves on the back of some unfortunate impresario. On the other hand, Pike’s splendid Opera House will become the centre of fashion. Beauty and rich toilets will throng the spacious vestibule and adorn every box, and the manager will be enabled to cull from European conservatories the rarest exotics of the opera and surround them with a bouquet of American talent. Madam La Grange, Brignoli, Phillips and Orlandini communicated a brief vitality to the fast waning Academy; but after their departure the last spark of life will leave this obsolete institution. All eyes are now turned towards the west side with hopeful anticipations of the progress of Italian opera in that quarter.”

Article: New York Post, 29 February 1868.

Reflections on opera season after reviews of most recent performances. “…Mr. Harrison has reason to congratulate himself on the success he has so far met with under circumstances which would have discouraged almost any other manager. Next week he will have the field to himself, and we will have little doubt that the houses will be large enough to reward him for his enterprise. On Monday evening a new American prima donna, Madam Agatha States, will make her first appearance here, in ‘Ernani.’ This lady, who is but slightly known here now, has made a very favorable impression in Paris and Florence, and her first appearance will naturally excited considerable interest.

Mr. Strakosch’s second season here closes today with the matinée. His company leave for Philadelphia next week, and will take with them the admiration and good will of our opera-loving people.

The seasons of opera which have been given under Mr. Strakosch’s direction have been enjoyed as thoroughly as any that we have had had for several years. The combination of three such artists as Lagrange, Phillips and Brignoli is one rarely made anywhere or at any time, and the public have been ready to extend to them a deservedly liberal patronage. They will be warmly greeted on their return.”

Article: New York Clipper, 07 March 1868, 382.

The Operatic Warriors closed their first campaign on the 29th of Feb., Strakosch, who had the best of it, vacating the Academy and going to Philadelphia, while Pike’s forces hold on a few nights longer at the Eighth avenue house. In the company of the latter are Miss Minnie Hauck, Natalie Testa, Sigs. Ronconi, Bellini, Antonucci, Testa, etc. Agatha States, who is one of the united States, makes her first appearance in New York tonight. Parepa Rosa will march forth again on March 4th, being her last appearance but two.”