Harrison-Maretzek Italian Opera: Fra Diavolo

Event Information

Pike's Opera House

Manager / Director:
Lafayette F. Harrison

Max Maretzek

Event Type:

Record Information


Last Updated:
27 July 2017

Performance Date(s) and Time(s)

06 Mar 1868, 8:00 PM

Performers and/or Works Performed

aka Fra Diavolo, ou L’hôtellerie de Terracine Fra Diavolo, or The Inn of Terracina
Composer(s): Auber
Text Author: Scribe
Participants:  Harrison-Maretzek Italian Opera Company;  Amati Dubreuil (role: Beppo);  Ettore Barili (role: Giacomo);  Theodore Habelmann (role: Fra Diavolo);  Euphrosyne Parepa (role: Yerlina);  Giorgio Ronconi (role: Lord Rochberg);  Enrico Testa (role: Lorenzo);  Fanny Natali-Testa [contralto] (role: Lady Pamela)


Advertisement: New York Herald, 05 March 1868.
Announcement: New-Yorker Staats-Zeitung und Herold, 05 March 1868, 8.
Announcement: New York Herald, 06 March 1868.
Announcement: New-York Times, 06 March 1868, 4.
Announcement: New-York Daily Tribune, 06 March 1868, 4.
Advertisement: New-Yorker Staats-Zeitung und Herold, 06 March 1868.
Review: New-York Times, 07 March 1868, 4.

Auber's agreeable opera of ‘Fra Diavolo’ is a work which always draws a good house. The vivacity of the music, and the interest of the plot alike contribute to this fortunate result. Last night the cast was somewhat different to what it has been before, although Signor Ronconi retained his inimitably comic rôle of Lord Rochberg and Mme. Testa was again the Lady Rochberg. Both were equal to the parts—the gentleman giving a ludicrous picture of the traveling Englishman, and the lady with her flaxen ringlets presenting the conventional idea of Albion’s blonde daughter. The important changes were in the characters of Yerlina and Fra Diavolo, the first being played by Mme. Parepa-Rosa, and the latter by Herr Habelmann. Of the latter it is not necessary to speak at length. He is known to be a good German tenor, and usually acquits himself to the satisfaction of the audience. Last night he labored under the disadvantage of singing in his native tongue, the rest of the characters singing in Italian. This is always unfortunate, even in serious music. It is particularly objectionable in light operas where much depends on rapid and distinct articulation. Several of the concerted pieces were spoiled. Herr Habelmann's voice lies mainly in the upper register. His lower tones are extremely weak, and did not at all contribute to the effect of the performance. Mme. Parepa-Rosa is unfortunate, we think in selecting so light a part as Yerlina for the display of her remarkable abilities. She can, of course, sing the music with perfect skill, but it is impossible for the spectators to resist the influence of other impressions. The properties of the drama, as well as of the music, have to be preserved, and it is useless to disguise the fact the Mme. Parepa-Rosa does not convey the idea of Yerlina. She seemed to be conscious of the fact, for we have never seen her exhibit so little animation. Vocally, however, the lady was excellent, and narrowly escaped an encore in an introduced and poor piece at the beginning of the second act. We are certain that her many admirers will prefer her in ‘Norma,’ which is given to-day at the matinée.” 

Review: New-York Daily Tribune, 07 March 1868, 4.

“There was of course a fine audience at Pike’s Opera House last night. Madame Rosa is always a powerful attraction, and the announcement that she was to appear for the first time in such a favorite opera as ‘Fra Diavolo’ drew an unusually large attendance. That she would sing her part well every one [sic] knew beforehand. So far as mere music is concerned, she never fails, and she touches nothing that she does not adorn. The familiar aria in the first act, Quell ‘uona, (better known by its English title, ‘On Yonder Rock Reclining’), and the aria in the bed chamber in the second act, were gems of vocalization, and may be said to have brought down the house. We confess, however, that we were disappointed in Madame Rosa’s acting. Her spirited performance of Rosina on Wednesday led us to expect an equally vivacious Zerlina last night. But in fact the same opportunities are hardly afforded her in the latter part. The music of the two operas is equally lively, but the characters are not; and if in ‘Fra Diavolo’ she fell short of the high standard she had set up for us in ‘The Barber of Sevile,’ it is only what we might reasonably have expected. Mr. Habelmann as the bandit-chief was all that the most romantic young woman could require. He sang tenderly (though he sang in German) and looked inexpressibly picturesque. Ronconi’s personation of the jealous Englishman is too well known for comment. It is inimitably funny.  Madame Testa, as Lady Pamela, did extremely well; her acting deserves especial commendation. Signor Testa was satisfactory as Lorenzo, and the two ragged robbers were jovially represented by Mr. Dubreuil and Mr. Barili.”

Review: Courrier des États-Unis, 09 March 1868.

“The same day that we announced that M. Auber was going to produce a new masterpiece, they gave Fra Diavolo at the 23rd St. Opera [Pike’s]. Mme Parepa-Rosa had taken on the graceful and delicate role of Zerline. Several of our American colleagues found that there was an incompatibility between the temperament of the singer and that of the character: that isn’t our opinion. Precedents of an analogous order abound. Mme Alboni created the Zerlina of M. Auber’s Corbeille d’Oranges in Paris. Mme Parepa herself, like Alboni, played Rosina in the Barber of Seville, and when one performs the flexible, nimble, stylish, spirited, sprightly, rebellious, artful, elegant, frolicsome ward of Dr. Bartolo, one can well inhabit the tender and visionary fiancée of Lorenzo.

Now, let’s ponder a bit. Zerlina is only the daughter of an innkeeper, after all, the servant-girl at a soldiers’ bar. If you want to remain there in the reality, instead of agreeing to mess around [with it], she wouldn’t be an affected mimic of ladies, but a slattern, a scullion such as one encounters precisely at the innes in the vicinity of Terracine, where propriety is an unknown luxury. As for Lorenzo, he should be an ill-bred veteran, making a compact with the robbers more willingly than with the travelers, and seeing above all, in his marriage to Zerlina, the perspective of an always-open canteen. There are, then, several ways in which to understand the different roles in Fra Diavolo, all made poetical by the music and the unrivalled superiority of M. Auber.

M. Parepa has understood the role of Zerlina according to the tradition, and we praise her for that unreservedly. Naturally genteel, she has lent Zerlina the expressiveness of her incomparable voice and the intoxicating magic of her singing. Thus she was applauded passionately. The popular aria

                        Oui, voilà pour une servant,

                        Une taille qui n’est pas mal, etc.

Was sung and acted to perfection. The same thing for the religious motif that followed.

The other roles were performed well. M. Habelmann, a German tenor, whose voice was formerly very pleasant, sang Fra Diavolo, and sang it in German. The teutonic voice, completely saturated with consonants, is horrible for singing, but that’s a mere detail. M. Ronconi was perfect in the role of Lord Allcash. Mme Natali Testa (Milady) was charming, as always.”