Richings English Opera: The Bohemian Girl

Event Information

French Theatre

Manager / Director:
Caroline Richings

Event Type:

Record Information


Last Updated:
20 December 2017

Performance Date(s) and Time(s)

23 May 1868, Evening

Program Details

Edith Abell’s first New York appearance; company’s final performance of the season.

Performers and/or Works Performed

aka Zegeunerin; Zigeunerin
Composer(s): Balfe
Text Author: Bunn
Participants:  Richings English Opera Company;  Mrs. J. A. Arnold (role: Queen of the Gypsies);  David H. Wylie (role: Florestine);  Edith [soprano] Abell (role: Arline);  William Castle (role: Thaddeus);  Sherwood C. Campbell (role: Count Arnheim);  Edward S. C. Seguin (role: Devilshoof)


Advertisement: New York Herald, 16 May 1868.
Announcement: New York Herald, 19 May 1868, 6.
Announcement: New York Post, 22 May 1868.
Announcement: New-York Times, 23 May 1868, 4.
Review: New York Post, 25 May 1868.

“The season of English opera given by Miss Riching’s company at the French Theatre terminated last Saturday evening with the performance of the ‘Bohemian Girl,’ which was chiefly notable as the means of introducing a new singer from Boston, Miss Abell, who appeared as Arline with much credit.”

Review: New-York Daily Tribune, 25 May 1868, 5.

“A performance of the ‘Bohemian Girl’ at the French Theater on Saturday evening concluded the short but very satisfactory season of English opera, for which we have been indebted to Miss Caroline Richings. The revival of this never to be suppressed opera, by Balfe, was for the purpose of facilitating the debut here of Miss Edith Abell, a young lady of Boston origin and culture, and who prior to her appearance on this occasion as Arline, had made but one public essay on the stage. Having before us the judicial results of recording too lenient criticisms, in the case of a recent debutante in Philadelphia, it becomes us to be circumspect in writing of Miss Richings’s last protegée. Particularly since the parties chiefly interested in Miss Abell’s success had themselves evidently profited by the warning conveyed in the testimony submitted during the action of ‘Waldron agt. Richings.’ Miss Abell was denied the timely propping of a claque, whether organized or accidentally convened. We failed to detect in ushers, book venders, bouquet-dealers, and umbrella-preservers, the customary symptoms of enthusiastic solicitude, for the fair and tender being weighted by Balfe and struggling with twenty odd imperturbably orchestral Germans, and whose placid, blond-tinted features gave but slight indication of the commotion that doubtless held high carnival in her nervous system. Nor did we, at any point of the performance, discover amid the din of assorted applause the ecstatic thud of the paternal umbrella, whose constant services in promoting confidence, both on and off the stage, have for uncomputed ages proved valuable to the more or less shaky cause of art. Add to this the noteworthy fact that floral tributes were sparsely, if at all, expressed across the foot-lights, and that the recall privilege was delicately exercised, and we obtain the conclusion that Miss Abell’s friends had wisely resolved to let her talents win an honest and uncompromising recognition from the independent public, or none at all. Would that such fitting counsels might always prevail! We should then begin to count fewer débuts, and less so-called successes. After thus much premising, the way seems tolerably clear for estimating the caliber and present native worth of the young aspirant last offered for notice. Miss Abell is a delicately formed girl, possessing a very light soprano of sufficient range, but having comparatively little sweetness or brilliance. Her method shows a moderate degree of aptitude for vocalizing, but also betrays, we fear, a lack of musical temperament. Singing for her seems to be an accomplishment, rather than a natural, irresistible faculty. There is never a scarcity of such vocal material as this, and it often brings substantial benefit to the possessor, particularly when coupled with beauty and those graces which allure the masculine eye. If Miss Abell has more voice at command than she vouchsafed to reveal on Saturday night, she will do well to make the fact apparent upon her next essay. It is not necessary to speak of her efforts in the part of Arline, except to say that they were intelligently directed and received due acknowledgment from the audience. The opera was represented with varying results as regards details. To begin with, there were important vacancies in the instrumental department, which we submit might have been remedied by readjusting the score, so as to apportion the allotted work of thirty instruments among eighteen or twenty as nearly as possible, thereby securing compactness and a legitimate sequence of harmony. It is by this means alone that any satisfactory results can be obtained where the orchestral forces are restricted to a standard far below that demanded by a composer. The choruses were pretty well rendered. Mrs. Arnold proved inadequate to the slight musical emergencies of the Gipsey Queen in bloomer-gear and a funeral top-dressing of black lace. Mr. Seguin, whose voice is fast becoming a mere product of the imagination, is a Devilshoof delightful to look upon. This is a buffo creation quite worthy of Ronconi. The sentiment of romance and chivalry was aptly expressed in the melancholic devotion of Mr. Castle as Thadddeus, whose every ballad was, as usual, encored. Equally if not more successful was Mr. Campbell, Count Arnheim, a better representative than whom the part could hardly have had.  

“The ‘Doctor of Alcantara’ was given with the customary fortune at the final matinée on Saturday.

“Although Miss Richings’s last season was not productive of novelty, it possessed more than the usual interest. The capability, talent, and unflagging energy of the company was thoroughly manifested during a busy fortnight. The public of New-York and Brooklyn have given hearty encouragement to the management and to the several artists, and it would seem that nothing but the will is now wanting (and perhaps it is not) to secure for English opera a worthy and enduring metropolitan home.”