La Grange-Brignoli Italian Opera: Roberto il Diavolo

Event Information

Academy of Music

Manager / Director:
Max Strakosch

Giuseppe Nicolao [cond.]

Price: $1

Event Type:

Record Information


Last Updated:
29 August 2018

Performance Date(s) and Time(s)

21 Mar 1868, 1:00 PM

Performers and/or Works Performed

aka Robert the devil; Robert der Teufel
Composer(s): Meyerbeer
Text Author: Scribe, Delavigne


Advertisement: New-York Times, 16 March 1868, 7.
Announcement: New York Post, 18 March 1868.
Advertisement: New York Herald, 20 March 1868.
Announcement: New York Herald, 21 March 1868, 7.
Announcement: New York Post, 21 March 1868.
Announcement: New-York Times, 21 March 1868, 5.
Announcement: New-Yorker Staats-Zeitung und Herold, 21 March 1868, 8.
Article: New York Post, 23 March 1868.

“The short season of opera given by Mr. Strakosch came to an end Saturday afternoon. It was not altogether successful—not nearly so much so as that given under the same management at Pike’s Opera House. The mistake was made of supposing that two singers could sustain the public interest in operatic representations which were otherwise of the most fragmentary and imperfect nature. The mistake was a serious one, and managers in future should take warning by its result. New York new demands not only a few first-class singers in opera, but a large and well trained chorus, and an orchestra of the best character.

If Signor Brignoli and Madame Lagrange will add these necessary attractions they can have as long and prosperous a season as they desire, whether they occupy the Academy or Pike’s Opera House.” 

Review: New-York Times, 23 March 1868, 4.

“One of the most disastrous weeks of the entire Winter season was brought to an end on Saturday afternoon, to the relief, we expect, of every one concerned in it.  Mr. Max Strakosch, no doubt, did the best that seemed to him possible; but he must see by this time that two singers, even when they are of the caliber of Mme. La Grange and Signor Brignoli, do not constitute an opera company. Something is due to the public sense of propriety on the subjects of orchestra and chorus, and both these forces were from beginning to end wretchedly inadequate. We know well enough that they were formed from the best material; but in the chorus the material was not sufficient, and in the orchestra it was badly handled. The opera on Monday (‘Un Ballo in Maschere’) was a cheerless exhibition of absolute slovenliness. The stage—which after all is not a very extensive one—was vacant and dreary as the house itself. In the conjuration scene of the second act, and in the ball-room scene with which the opera terminates, the departure of a single individual would have been noticed.  Indeed, so dispiriting were the numbers present that they naturally clung to each other, and it was only by a species of operatic gravitation that they found their way to different spots on the scene. It would have been impossible to throw themselves off by one’s and two’s. The ball-room was absolutely ludicrous, partly from the demented gamboling of the dances (chorus of course) and the ineffectual efforts of the conductor to get at the music, which, it will be remembered, is here entangled with essential dance themes. Such shameful bungling deserves no sort of consideration. Nor are we sorry, despite our sympathy for Mr. Strakosch, to know that this rudimental way of giving opera has again failed. During the past welve or eighteen months operatic management has, we regret to say, been steadily going downwards. It has got to that point where the public refuses to follow. Catalini, when asked what constituted an opera company, said, ‘My wife and a few puppets.’ A similar idea prevails, it would seem, now. The puppets, however, have become fewer, and there is no Mdme. Catalini in the case. Italian opera is, we are aware, a dangerous and delicate institution. It has to be nursed and supported in its infancy, and held up by the scruff of its neck in the somewhat ricketty [sic] manhood which it has now attained. But we fear the body has slipped from the coat, and it is a scarecrow which we are called upon to admire and protect.

Every manager has his theory of management, and we do not doubt that Mr. Strakosch has his also. He must be only too painfully aware that it has failed. The success which he achieved at the opening was at best but a success of curiosity. It attached itself to the house in which he played (Pike's) and then languidly bestowed itself upon the three stars who composed the feeble galaxy of his troupe—Mme. La Grange, Miss Adelaide Phillips and Signor Brignoli. It is with no disrespect to individuals, but out of regard to art, that we say there was not one of this trio who deserved the consideration and encomium displayed in the ordinary notices of the press concerning each and all of them. There was a generous disposition to keep opera live, so that even the mild lunacy of deploying such artists by one’s two’s and three’s was forgiven. People were willing to persuade themselves that Mme. La Grange was really the greatest artist living, excepting, perhaps, Miss Adelaide Phillips, who has been literally drenched with praise; they listened ecstatically to Signor Brignoli's plaintive warbling, and demanded defiantly if any one had ever hear such another mezzo voce; and a few hardy spirits even endeavored to edge in a word for Signor Susini, but they were instantly led forth to execution. Then came the epoch of the cumbrous Herrmanns, who was mendaciously announced as the ‘world’renowned’ basso, and whose claims were also endorsed. But all was in vain. The public refused to profit by the opportunity. It had heard for itself, and slumbered peacefully.

‘Robert le Diable’ when announced last season and this, drew good houses. There was an awakening hope that a really grand opera and a known favorite of New-Yorkers might receive adequate treatment. Two of the worst performances ever given were the result; on this occasion the principal artists even did not escape censure. Signor Brignoli's Robert has lost such little force as it ever possessed, and is now thin and jerky to a painful degree. Herr Hermann's [sic] was by no means a good Bertram, although next to Mephistopheles this is unquestionably his best part. The Alice of Mme. La Grange was an artistic and graceful rendering of a rôle which has now almost passed beyond the limits of her repertoire. This and the Isabella of Miss McCulloch were the redeeming features of performances which were open not only to the objections we have taken, but to graver ones. The chorus was inadequate in numbers and incompetent in study, and the orchestra exceeded all former misdeeds, and covered itself with confusion and shame. Can it be surprising, then, that the public, clinging to this last hope and finding it vain, should abandon an enterprise which, in this and other respects, had failed to fulfill its promises.

Mr. Max Strakosch's theory was that two or three good leading artists, properly introduced, would draw, and that the rest was immaterial. We arrive at this conclusion from the fact that the rest never was material in the representations. It is hardly worth while to moralize on such a case. It is the old story of Catalini. We are simply glad that it has failed, and we trust that any future speculation having the same scope may share the same fate.”