Bateman French Opera: La Belle Hélène

Event Information

French Theatre

Proprietor / Lessee:
H. L. [impressario] Bateman

Manager / Director:
H. L. [impressario] Bateman

Event Type:

Record Information


Last Updated:
28 August 2017

Performance Date(s) and Time(s)

13 Apr 1868, Evening
14 Apr 1868, Evening
15 Apr 1868, Evening
16 Apr 1868, Evening
17 Apr 1868, Evening
18 Apr 1868, Evening

Performers and/or Works Performed

aka Belle Helene, La; Schöne Helena, La; Schone Helena, La
Composer(s): Offenbach
Text Author: Halévy, Meilhac
Participants:  Bateman French Opera Company;  Monsieur [tenor] Bendich (role: Ajax I);  Lucille [vocalist] Tostée (role: Hélène);  Monsieur [baritone] Monier (role: Ajax II);  Onquot de [vocalist] Felcourt (role: Oreste);  Monsieur [tenor] Hamilton (role: Philocomes);  Monsieur [baritone] Duchesne (role: Agamemnon);  Monsieur [vocalist] Guiffroy (role: Pâris);  Monsieur [tenor] Lagriffoul (role: Calchas);  Monsieur [tenor] Leduc (role: Ménélas);  Monsieur [tenor] Valter (role: Achille);  Mlle. [actor] Juliani (role: Bacchis);  Mlle. Marguerite (role: Loena);  Monsieur Fleury (role: Euthycles);  Mlle. [soprano] Mathilde (role: Parthoenis)


Advertisement: New York Herald, 13 April 1868.
Review: New York Herald, 13 April 1868, 7.

“Of all the theatrical enterprises in which Mr. Bateman has been engaged his present one in opera bouffe is the most successful. ‘La Belle Hélène,’ with the inimitable Tostée, has made even a greater success than ‘La Grande Duchesse.’ The music is much better and there is more scope for the dramatic ability of this first of opera troupes. The finale of the second act is the best music that Offenbach ever wrote, and the libretto is funny in the extreme.”

Advertisement: New-York Times, 13 April 1868, 7.
Review: New York Herald, 14 April 1868, 7.

“This brilliant little establishment was again crowded last night by a delighted audience. La Belle Hélène loses none of her power to charm as she becomes better known with the public. Already the quaint and dainty scraps of melody that are scattered so lavishly through this little opera are catching the general ear as aptly as did those in the ‘Duchess’ and the ‘Romance of Mount Ida,’ that set old Calchas in ecstasies, is equally effective on many less demonstrative auditors. ‘Un Mari Sage,’ given with such exquisite gusto and abandon, and that has been encored every night since the play has been on, is a greater favorite than any single piece given hitherto, while some of the concerted pieces are as effective as it is possible to conceive. Altogether, by the ‘Duchess’ and this opera Offenbach has become fairly installed as the musical lion of the season in this city, and is likely to command the presence of the people as long as the theatre may remain open. He has the happiness of being rendered in a style not only unexceptionable, but that furthers and intensifies the peculiar sentiment and humor of the piece with exquisite success.”

: Strong, George Templeton. New-York Historical Society. The Diaries of George Templeton Strong, 1863-1869: Musical Excerpts from the MSs, transcribed by Mary Simonson. ed. by Christopher Bruhn., 15 April 1868.

“Monday evening we saw La Belle Helene once more with Gen. Vinton and Jem R. who dined here. Was capital fun, but these little French melodies stick to one and bore and bother me. ‘Un galant homme’ and ‘Pars pour la Crete’ etc. keep singing in my ears.”

Review: Courrier des États-Unis, 16 April 1868.

La Belle-Hélène, translated into English, obtained a great success at the New York Theatre. This reputation can only add to that of the original work at the Théâtre-Francais, where the crowd inundates the doorways every evening. The introductory chorus in the first act charms the spectators right away with its agreeable notes, but the enthusiasm knows no bounds when Mlle Tostée appears, looking like the Queen of the Vestals and followed by a retinue of young confidants equal to the virgins of the Helicon. As the loving and chaste dove, surrounded by her faithful and virtuous companions, flees the cruel clutches of the ravisher kite; as the pure and tender turtle-dove calls her constant spouse, burning with ever-new ardor, to offer her homage to Amour, Father of Gods and Men, so La Belle Hélène, or rather Mlle Tostée, comes with her courtesans [heterae] to deposit her votive offerings at Adonis’s feet.

What to say about Agamemnon and his unconquered biceps? One blow of his fist could reduce a brass mountain to dust, and with a backhand, he could burst asunder the biggest and best-tempered anvil. And the two Ajaxes? And the boiling Achilles, son of Peleus, father of Pyrrhus and friend of Patroclus? What spirit could be so inferior to withstand so many beautiful memories and so much great poetry?

Mlle Tostée, without the slightest hyperbole, is truly inimitable. Even when she’s indisposed, she makes it impossible for anyone at all to handle her role the way she does. She has only to mime it, her acting sparkles with such wit, and she puts so much devilish inspiration into it that she would carry away the audience. Mlle Tostée is at the head of the class in America. If you were to go to the Olympic, Niblo or elsewhere, you’d see that all the actresses look to resemble her or rather to mimic her. They make you think of the fable of the ass who wants to play the flute. Ne sus Minervam. [Don’t teach your grandmother to suck eggs—literally, don’t try to teach Minerva, the goddess of wisdom!]

Offenbach’s music is popular everywhere. In the theaters, you hear only the skipping motifs of the master. The orchestra of The White Fawn murders the airs from La Grande Duchesse  and La Belle Hélène. It’s not only that you would want to see the cancan everywhere. At Niblo’s, a dancer of great talent, Mlle Sohlke, must intersperse her character dances with a nimble step of this type in order to please the public, and it’s thus that the Old World forms the taste of the New.”