Manager / Director:
Theodore Thomas [see also Thomas Orchestra]
H. L. [impressario] Bateman
M. B. [manager] Pike
Max [impressario] Strakosch
James Henry Mapleson
27 March 2018
“About this time, as the weather-wise say, operatic rumors may be expected, and sure enough they are coming upon us thick and fast. If we may put our trust in them, it would seem as though we were after all to have a fair allowance of music during the present Summer and the coming Fall seasons. First absolutely in the field is Mr. Bateman, with an almost entirely new company of artists. Mr. Bateman opens at Niblo’s Garden on Monday next, the 20th instant, with Offenbach’s opera bouffe of ‘Barbe Bleue.’ The work has never been attempted here, even by the Stadt Theatre, owing, perhaps, to the fact that it requires very elaborate preparation. In the matter of dresses, our old friend Blue Beard was extravagant—even in the story book. The French costumer has not attempted to curb this passion, and so we hear that the wardrobe of ‘Barbe Bleue’ is superb. It has been made in Paris from the original designs. There is also a ballet which will also briefly introduce a number of brilliant dresses. The scenery is being painted by Mr. Minard Lewis, and is already in a forward state of preparation. The chorus will consist of sixty voices, and the orchestra of the number prescribed by the composer. It will be seen that it is Mr. Bateman’s intention to have a thoroughly perfect ensemble. It was mainly owing to this circumstance that he obtained so firm a footing at the commencement. He went into the business as a certainty, not as an experiment. It was nothing but right that he should be rewarded for his pluck. Mr. Bateman’s company this season is of unusual proportions, and it is composed of capital material. Mlle. Irma (who will contest the honors with Tostee, when that mercurial little lady returns to us) is very well known. She has sung in Paris, at the Bouffes Parisiennes, the Chatelet, the Lyrique and the Athenée. She was the original Cendrillon, and played it for two hundred nights. More recently she created the principal role in the new and very popular operetta of ‘Fleur de Thé,” and won a success in ‘Barble Bleue.’ Mlle. Irma possesses a fine soprano voice, is an excellent actress, and is favored with an extremely charming presence. Offenbach anticipates a great future for the lady, particularly in his own works. Mlle. Lambele is also a member of Bateman’s troupe. The lady will be remembered. She was the only redeeming feature of the New-Orleans troupe which sang for a few nights at the French Theatre. Mlle. Lambele has a light agreeable voice, which she uses skillfully, and is a beautiful woman. Mlle. Jeanne Duolo is a handsome blonde, (we wonder how she was spared, the Parisians are susceptible on this point,) and ranks as a second soprano, capable, if necessary, of taking first parts. The same remark applies to Mlles. Henriette Rose and Mathilde Laurelle. There are three new tenors in the present combination. The principal, M. Aujac, enjoys a reputation in France. It is stated that he refused a three years’ engagement at the Opera Comique in order to come to America, showing, at all events, that he was worth inducing and open to inducement. We hear from reliable sources that he is a first-class artist. Messrs. Guidon and Françis are comic tenors, and to this list may be added M. Deire, another member of the deceased New-Orleans troupe. He played Orphée in ‘Orphée aux Enfers.’ M. Edgard is the baritone, or soprano, or tenor, or contralto, or chorus, or orchestra, or anything else that may be required at a moment’s notice. We will guarantee that in any capacity he will be adequate and acceptable. Of the old troupe, in addition to Tostee, (who returns in August,) the following members have been retained: Messrs. Leduc, Lagriffoul, Benedick and Hamilton. With such a company as this Mr. Bateman may safely appeal to the country, especially when we remember that he has engaged so cool and pleasant a theatre as Niblo’s. We must not forget to add that the ballet has been selected from Messrs. Jarrett & Palmer’s splendid company.
The moment we leave Mr. Bateman we get into regions of doubt and uncertainty. The way is troublesome, and when it has been thoroughly explored there is not, perhaps, much to discover. The only manager in office at the present time is Mr. Grau, who is indulging in the luxury of altering the French Theatre, with the desperate hope of making it comfortable. May he succeed! Of Mr. Grau’s plans we always hear a great deal, for the simple reason that they take a long time to mature. Strauss, the dance composer, was spoken of for the usual period, but has now lapsed into oblivion. We regret this very much, for it is a privilege to hear Strauss conduct his own orchestra, and lead his own music. The rumour now is that Mr. Grau intends essaying Opera-Bouffe, and has already engaged two artists, M. Carier and Mlle. Rose Belle, for that purpose. The experiment it seems to us is a hazardous one, and is to be regretted for many reasons. Offenbach is well enough in limited quantities, but it is by no means desirable that we should be drenched with him. It is, however, a national vice to ‘run things into the ground.’ No sooner does some one make a success than a dozen instantly imitate it. The business is small enough, but the results are usually smaller, and, what is worse still, they are injurious to enterprise. Competition is the soul of trade, but not of art. Boucicault has sobbed loudly on the subject. He calls it the act of a penny-a-scener, just as small literary imitation is generally the product of a penny-a-liner. Mr. Grau will not, we understand, give any French dramatic performances this year. The calamitous clause of the lease compelling him to do so has been rescinded or suspended. Perhaps it is necessity, therefore, that compels the manager to give some sort of French entertainment as a ‘make up’ for the concession. Mme. Ristori has an engagement in Brazil, and it is not improbably that she may call upon us on the way thither, and as she will have a company with her, she may even be induced to give a few farewell performances at Mr. Grau’s theatre.
Mr. Pike’s beautiful Opera House in the Eighth-avenue is tenantless, to the disgrace of our managers. We are constantly hearing the cry that there are not theatres enough, yet here is one built with out regard to cost, and in a neighborhood where a large class of amusement-goers live, without a lessee. A gentleman of Mr. Pike’s energy is not likely to allow matters to remain in this state. We shall be mistaken if the sensation of the season does not proceed from this theatre.
At every mention of the name Mapleson the stockholders of the Academy of Music palpitate with delightful anticipation. The London manager, it is now asserted, will be here positively in the Fall. He brings with him the best members of his company; notably Titiens, Kellogg and Santley. It is said that Nillson will also belong to the troupe, but as Kellogg has a right to claim all Nillson’s popular rôles, and can sing them quite as well, it seems superfluous to disturb the European career of the latter lady. Be that as it may, it seems probably that Italian Opera will pass into new hands, and hands too that are accustomed to touch this business at its warmest.
Maretzek is reading Virgil in Staten Island. He pipes ecstatically to his flocks and lets the world go by. The latest intelligence we have of him came, curiously enough, through our Paris correspondent. From this reliable source we learn that Maretzek has purchased the copyright of Auber’s last opera, and is having it translated into Italian. Also other works. This does not look like abandoning the field. But the artists—where are they? and the theatre—where is it? The irrepressible Max Strakosch sailed for Europe on Saturday in the Preire. His object was to Engage A First Class German Opera Company [sic]. A great many decent people have tried to do this before, and failed. It is the most difficult task that a man can impose upon himself. Good German singers are wanted much more in Germany than they are here. Mr. Strakosch is however fortunate in having Mme. La Grange, who will be his prima-donna. The lady is a thorough artiste, and in point of personal popularity we doubt if any prima-donna has surpassed her.
It is rumored that Mr. Grover is also organizing a German opera troupe.
Pending the solution of these mysteries, we are well provided with seasonable music. Mr. Theodore Thomas, at the Central Park Garden, draws the town. Whether rain or shine, the spacious hall of the establishment is filled; and on festival nights the ‘glad overflow’ extends to the Garden. Mr. Bergmann, too, is at work. His concerts are more al fresco than Thomas’, but musically they are equally admirable. The leafy bowers of Palace Garden are seductive on warm nights.”