Academy of Music
Manager / Director:
Max [impressario] Strakosch
Giuseppe Nicolao [cond.]
29 August 2018
“Academy of Music—Italian Opera.—La Grange and Brignoli were welcomed back to New York last night by a rather small but respectable enthusiastic circle of admirers. The opera was ‘Un Ballo in Maschera,’ and many of the shortcomings of the cast were compensated for by the magnificent acting and singing of Madame La Grange in the role of Amelia, and the popular tenor, Brignoli, who undertook Richard. Miss McCulloch appeared as the page, Oscar, and gave fresh promise of becoming in time one of our leading artists. The rest of the cast was very inefficient, Orlandini being placed almost hors de combat by a severe cold. The scene between Richard and Amelia in the third act, contains music of the most intensely passionate and dramatic character, and it received justice at the hands of the artists.”
“The Lagrange and Brignoli company were welcomed back last night to the Academy by an audience which was enthusiastic, if not so large as might have been expected. The opera selected was ‘Un Ballo in Maschera,’ which, as given by the same company before, was received with as general satisfaction as any opera that has been given this season. It is true that then Miss Phillips sustained the important part of Ulrica, which last night was assigned to Mlle. Stella Bonheur, a young singer but slightly known here, who has made a very favorable impression by the fine qualities of her voice, but is by no means a substitute for such an artist as Miss Phillips.
The performance in the main, and with this exception, was about the same as those previously given. La Grange never fails and never sings carelessly. Brignoli was somewhat open to the latter objection. Miss McCulloch, as the Page, was a general favorite, her fine appearance being in her favor, notwithstanding a certain stateliness not appropriate to the character.”
“The season—a brief one—commenced here last evening. The opening opera was ‘Un ballo in Maschera,’—a work in which the company has already found much success. It is difficult indeed to refer to any other opera in which Mme. La Grange is heard to such advantage. Her fine, large, artistic style has ample scope in the dramatic rôle of Amelia, and the music does not impose any limits on her voice. She sang superbly last evening. Sig. Brignoli, although a little tame, was in good tune, and displayed the beautiful quality of his mezzo-voce. Miss McCulloch, who improves on every performance, was an excellent Oscar. The representation brought us back again Mlle. Stella Bonheur, whose début at this house will be remembered by our readers. The lady has since visited California, and experience has given her the confidence which art requires. She sang the music of Ulrica with positive skill, and with a full and intelligent idea of its meaning. Mlle. Bonheur has one of the best voices ever heard on our stage—powerful and fresh, yet sympathetic and tractable. We hope she may have other opportunities of appealing to a New-York audience.
The chorus in the female department was weak and inefficient; the orchestra, under Signor Nicolao, numerically strong enough, did not give the importance to the score which it merits.”
“Mr. Strakosch brought back the La Grange and Brignoli troupe to the Academy of Music last night, and presented Verdi’s ‘Un Ballo in Maschera,’ with the same cast with which it was given a short time ago, except that Mlle. Stella Bonheur was substituted for Miss Phillips in the part of Ulrica. Mlle. Bonheur has a noble voice, of a fine sonorous quality and excellent compass, though it has less mellowness than Miss Phillips’s and has been less carefully trained. She made, however, an excellent impression. La Grange sang with her usual conscientiousness. The role of Amelia is one of her best. Her voice displays in it much of its pristine purity, and her superb method has abundant opportunities for exhibition. Signor Brignoli was in good voice, but in one of his careless moods, and the first two acts, thanks to his indolence and the weakness of the chorus, dragged a great deal. In the grand scene between Amelia and Riccardo, under the gallows, in the third act, there was more animation, but the finale was ineffective, notwithstanding the good singing of Orlandini. Miss McCulloch, as the Page, met with favor. Her voice has a fine ring, and though her execution is still defective, she promises well for the future. The wild energy of Mr. Nicolao’s orchestra deserves stern suppression. The chorus was altogether unable to bear up against it, and several scenes were thereby seriously injured.”
The opera performance was very well attended. Stella Bonheur sang with a pleasant voice and good taste. A little bit more serenity in her performance would take the role to perfection.
“M. Strakosch’s Italian company made its reappearance Monday, at the Academy, in the Ballo in Maschera. There were very few people in the hall, and rather than see it half deserted, it was preferable to multiply the number of spectators that the American directors call, with urbanity, deadheads.
The execution was poor on the part of the orchestra and chorus. In the first act, at Renato’s entrance, M. Brignoli and M. Orlandini sang out of tune in eager rivalry. We saw again, with pleasure, in the second act, Mlle Stella Bonheur, who was charged with the role of Ulrica.
In the third act, Riccardo, as you know, had a rendezvous with Amelia at the foot of the gallows. Conveying delicate consideration of her lover, the guilty spouse arrives first, talks to the heads of the dead people which are scattered here and there on the ground, and doubtless asks herself what whimsical idea has pushed Riccardo to choose such a place in which to talk of love. This new and original state of affairs is the occasion for the great aria that Mme La Grange sang wonderfully well. The duet that follows was less successful although they encored the end of it. The trio after which Riccardo leaves his mistress in the hands of her husband, which a lover of ever so little heart would never do, was sung well. The scene that’s so well handled, in which the husband, not yet deceived but on the verge of it, is jeered at by the plotters, was a failure.
M. Orlandini being extremely hoarse, the fourth act wasn’t everything one could have expected.”