Bateman French Opera: Barbe-Bleue

Event Information

Venue(s):
Niblo's Garden

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

Conductor(s):
Adolph Birgfeld

Event Type:
Opera

Record Information

Status:
Published

Last Updated:
29 August 2018

Performance Date(s) and Time(s)

20 Jul 1868, Evening
21 Jul 1868, Evening
22 Jul 1868, Evening
23 Jul 1868, Evening
24 Jul 1868, Evening
25 Jul 1868, Evening

Program Details

"Full orchestra;" sixty-member chorus.

Performers and/or Works Performed

1)
Composer(s): Offenbach
Text Author: Halévy, Meilhac
Participants:  Jarrett and Palmer Ballet Troupe;  Bateman French Opera Company;  Aline [soprano] Lambelle (role: Princess Hermia (Fleurette));  [tenor] Aujac (role: Barbe Bleu);  [tenor] Dardignac (role: Prince Saphir);  J. M. [tenor] Francis (role: King Bobèche);  [tenor] Guidon;  Monsieur [tenor] Edgard (role: Alvarez);  Mme. [soprano] Duclos (role: Queen Clementine);  Irma Marié (role: Boulette);  Monsieur [baritone] Duchesne (role: Popolani);  Monsieur [tenor] Lagriffoul (role: Count Oscar)

Citations

1)
Announcement: Courrier des États-Unis, 16 May 1868.

"M. Bateman isn’t resting on his laurels; he’s already at work on a new season that won’t wait for winter; his company will blow away the fatigue of its past long campaign, so that it will reenter its course, augmented by new elements, and prepared to conquer new glories. M. Birgfield [sic], M. Bateman’s intelligent lieutenant, left last Thursday for Europe, where he’s going to search for artists, the best he can find, and everything that’s needed in terms of materials, costumes, scenery, music and all kinds of accessories, in order to renew, perfect the enterprise, and give it a new brightness.

All of that will be chosen, engaged or bought, dispatched and delivered to New York to open—next July 13—in the full heat of summer. Temerity, perhaps! But M. Bateman doesn’t court danger without being assured of a means to surmount it. So, this is what he has imagined and what he has accomplished: He has made arrangements with MM. Wheatley, Palmer and Jarrett, the directors of Niblo’s theater who are as fortunate as they are competent, to give in that hall, the best ventilated and coolest there may be in New York, opera bouffe combined with ballet, the whole with artists of the first rank, and the most complete production that could be imagined. It’s a novelty for this country, but it’s not a new invention. In the capitals and great cities of Europe, Offenbach’s opera-bouffes are generally performed with entertainments that give them more of a base to develop. M. Bateman will be able to reproduce the works that he’s already made known in a new light, and add to his repertoire of novelties that haven’t yet crossed the ocean, such as Barbe-Bleue, where the ballet is obligatory, and many other operettas or light operas in which the modern repertory abounds.

Good luck to the daring M. Bateman! He has already gathered the handsome fruits of his spirit of enterprise, seconded by indefatigable activity. His new combinations seem fortunate to us, and we’re making, on our account, the most sincere wishes for them to succeed."

2)
Announcement: New York Herald, 26 June 1868, 4.
3)
Announcement: New York Post, 01 July 1868.
4)
Announcement: New York Herald, 10 July 1868, 8.

“A portion of the ‘White Fawn’ ballet, including Mlle de Rosa, has been engaged for this piece, besides the prima donnas Mlle Irma, Mlle Lambele, Mlle Jeanne Duclos, and the three popular tenors, Messrs Aujac, Dardignac and Guidon.”

5)
Announcement: New York Clipper, 11 July 1868, 110.
6)
Article: New York Herald, 12 July 1868, 6.

“The next titillation of the popular taste for amusement is to be the ‘Barbe Blue,’opéra bouffe by Offenbach, which is to be presented by Bateman and his favorite artists in the late home of those frippery splendors the ‘White Fawn’ and the ‘Black Crook.’ Now the ‘Barbe Bleue’ represents a third stage in the development of French fancy before our city footlights. It is a little better—that is, a little worse—than its predecessors. The ‘Duchess’ was a dainty piece of deviltry. It had suggestion in it, but presented with such art, such exquisite drollery, such taking humor, that no one had the impudence to be virtuous. The ‘Belle Hélène’ was perceptibly broader and still attractive. It was a kind of vice that men could embrace without the probationary familiarity that the rhyme supposes. It was a story commended to thought by the happy negations of wit. Here, on one hand, is the old rigmarole, tedious with its two thousand years of repetition, more or less, as Homer told it, with Achilles for its Hero, Agamemnon and Menelaus for great men, Helen for its deceitful woman and Paris for a slippery rascal, and wit jumps up and says to all this, ‘I don’t believe it,’ and then presents a new version, in which the loud words of Achilles make him a mere bully, the tameness of Menelaus presents him as a simpleton, and Helen is justified for preferring a handsome fellow of spirit in Paris. All this covers the moral and makes a story fit for ears polite from a simple case of seduction; and the French language, be it said, covers many a covert phrase and sly dig at decency that people would hardly tolerate in English. It is the case of Tom Hood’s deaf old gammer [sic] tossing pence to the sailor for his song:—

Only think of tossing a copper

To Tom or Jack with a timber limb,

Who looks as if he were singing a hymn

Instead of a song that’s very improper.

Now, having digested the ‘Duchess’ and ‘Helen,’ we are to have ‘Blue Beard,’ which is a little stronger, and thus we see that the world moves. How horrified simple people were when artists that had charmed Europe first tried our stage; when Vestris, Celeste and Elsser [sic] came, in the confidence of assumed victories won in Europe, before audiences whose modesty was not a feeble valetudinarian trembling at every trifle! How eagerly the toilet was discussed then, and especially the length of the skirts, and what an awkward creature Ellsler [sic] looks like now in the old prints, comparing her skirts with the skirts (?) they wear in some of our modern ballets! How bravely we have gotten over our primitive objections with our hundred nights of the naked truth and our hilarious revels in French fancy! London has gotten over some objections of her own also, and staid, pious, praying, churchgoing, sermonizing John Bull has looked on approvingly and smiled tremendously on Schneider—the wickedest, archest, daintiest piece of Parisian art sent over to tempt him in Offenbach’s music, and knock about his ears all his old pet notions about ‘what is correct, you know.’ We shall go in the same direction. We shall laugh more delightedly over opéra bouffe in the coming winter than we did last winter, and shall have more provocation. We shall have it from Bateman at Niblo’s, from Grau at the French theatre, from somebody else, perhaps, at Pike’s—three or four companies with opéra bouffe at once. Everything else will be dead—Italian opera dead as a stone Memnon buried in the mud of the Bile or the sands of the desert; legitimate drama dead as a dozen marble monks in as many old Gothic ruins of churches. Even the naked drama gives no promise. There is life in nothing now but opéra bouffe, and from this present stage of dramatic vitality what comes next? Is this the end of the career? From having the taste cloyed with this sort of delight do people come back to a desire for thought, language and passion on the stage, or must we go still further for that?”

7)
Review: New York Post, 12 July 1868.

“To the honors that legitimately belong to Mr. Bateman as the first manager to naturalize opera bouffé in this city must be added that of a most brilliant success last evening in transferring the rollicking music of Offenbach to the largest of our theatres, and in drawing out in midsummer an audience of immense proportions. That the new season began with such abundant success is a most notable fact in itself, and shows how strong is the public confidence in Mr. Bateman’s management.

We gave yesterday a full synopsis of the plot of ‘Barbe Bleue,’ the opera performed last evening for the first time in this country. The travesty of the peculiarly French version of the old story of ‘Blue Beard’ affords abundant opportunities for the absurdities appropriate to the opera bouffe, while the humor is more palpable to ordinary audiences than that of Orphée aux Enfers,’ and not so gross as that which often disgraces ‘La Grande Duchesse’ and ‘La Belle Hélène.’ In musical construction it is more elaborate than some others of Offenbach’s works, but there are fewer airs that catch the ear at once, and imprint themselves on the memory. We think, however, that, like ‘La Belle Hélène,’ it will grow on acquaintance, and become more generally liked as it is better understood.

Substantially there is little difference between Offenbach’s operas, save in the different relative proportions between the solos, duets, &c., and concerted and choral pieces. In ‘Barbe Bleue’ the few ta[l]king airs are assigned to most efficient artists, those who not only show a fine appreciation of the right method of singing in opera-bouffé, but good voices. Mlle. Lambele, who took with much lightness and grace the charming part of Fleurette, and afterward, that of Princess Hermia, won new favor by the performance of her share in a duet between herself and M. Dardignac, Prince Saphir, in the first act. Her voice has neither strength nor volume, but is well managed, and her appearance is always in her favor. Mlle. Irma, as the mischievous, daring and sometimes coarse Boulotte, made a decided impression from the start. A figure that would be somewhat awkward for the grand opera is apparently just suited for such parts as Offenbach gives to his prima donnas. A constant vivacity and play of expressive features make her the centre of attention whenever she is on the stage, and keep the audience constantly amused. With a mezzo-soprano voice considerably stronger and better than that of Tostée she unites at least equal skill in its use.

The new tenor, M. Aujac, as Blue Beard, won universal and hearty approbation by his spirited acting and singing. He is decidedly the best tenor we have yet had here in opera-bouffe. Mr. Francis, as the ridiculous, twaddling old gentleman, King Bobeche; M. Dardignac, as the delicate and sentimental Prince Saphir; Mlle. Duclos, as Queen Clementine, and the favorite trio of M. Duchesne, M. Lagriffoul and M. Edgard, were each excellent in their several parts.

The chorus is a strong one and showed good training. The choruses were all given with a spirit, uniformity, precision and élan worthy of high praise. In this respect, and as regards the scenery, costumes, orchestra, &c., a decided improvement has been made on the representations at the French Theatre. Mr. Bergfeld conducted the orchestra with ability. The new feature of the ballet, introduced near the close of the last act, was worthy of the approbation it received. Just enough of the best dancers of the old ‘White Fawn’ company, with the marvelously lithe Mlle. Rosa as a leader, have been retained, the dances are beautiful in composition, and the dancing was not unduly prolonged.”

8)
Advertisement: New-York Times, 12 July 1868, 7.
9)
Advertisement: New York Herald, 13 July 1868.
10)
Announcement: New York Sun, 13 July 1868, 2.

“The house will be closed this week, and on Monday next, Mr. Bateman will bring out Offenbach’s ‘Blue Beard,’ said to be the best of comic operas. Of course, the successor of the ‘Grand Duchesse’ and ‘La Belle Helene’ will have a triumphant reception.”

11)
Article: New-York Times, 13 July 1868, 5.

For full article, see event entry of 07/13/68: Article on speculations about the forthcoming opera season.

12)
Announcement: New-York Daily Tribune, 13 July 1868, 8.
13)
Article: Courrier des États-Unis, 14 July 1868, 1.

“To say that the theatrical season is going to commence, or recommence in New York, looks like a bad joke; for, during the current dog-days it seems that, in point of season, there can’t be a question at this moment whether we’re favored with Senegalese or Javanese temperatures. Nevertheless, nothing is truer, and, in spite of all the incredulities of everyone, it is very certain that M. Bateman is going to resume, starting next Monday, the series of performances of the Opéra Bouffe—under the social reason of Offenbach, Bateman, & Co. He’s promised it for the 20th, and he’ll open on the 20th; the punctuality and refinement of triumphers, and the illustrious title impresario, don’t have the right to make him wait.

It’s Barbe-Bleue, definitely, that’s going to replace La Grande Duchesse and La Belle-Hélène this year. Will Barbe-Bleue have the same success as its two lovable predecessors? That’s up to the audience; but, unless there’s an exemplary inconsistence, there’s no reason why the Americans won’t give way to their enthusiasm with as much spirit this year as last year. Barbe-Bleue is also a masterpiece of the bouffe genre, and it would be truly too lamentable that one season would suffice to exhaust an art form that has delighted the human race from one pole to the other, and the length of all the meridians. So, we firmly believe that operetta will be, for this year at least, the New York audience’s fashion, all the better because M. Bateman, far from resting on his gilded laurels, has put everything to work to make sure there is nothing left to be desired. Noblesse oblige. [Nobility requires it.] It seemed that last year everything had been done to make La Grande Duchesse and La Belle-Hélène accomplished performances. That was good, very good; this year it will be better. Personnel and material, all is new, renewed, or perfected. The troupe is keeping a respectable core of its former phalanx. Tostée first of all, that goes without saying’ then Duchesne-Boum, Leduc-Paul, Lagriffoul-Puck, Valter-Grog, and some recruits from the comic theater; Hamilton, Benedick, not counting Edgard, and some others, notably some of the women, a small number, but the best. Then at present, a whole battalion of new acquisitions from whom we must await marvels. At the head, Mlle Irma Marié, who will share the honors and the burden of the highest rank, a pretty woman, consummate artist, singer and comedienne, accustomed to stages of the first order, applauded at the Bouffes-Parisiens, the Châtelet, the Théâtre-Lyrique and the Athénée. She created Cendrillon and has played her two hundred times. Besides, very recently, it was she to whom the principal role of Fleur de Thé was consigned, in the new operetta of that name. That speaks of her merit, and Offenbach himself chose her as one of the most excellent interpreters of his works.

Following along, in the first league after her, comes the absolutely charming Mlle Lambelé, the pearl of the Alhaiza troupe, whom Bateman has had the wits to attach to him; then Mlle Jeanne Duclos, soprano, a beauty of blond fire and white ivory; and Mlle Henriette Tose and Mlle Mathilde Laruelle; in brief a Milky Way of stars, not counting nebulae.

On the men’s side, M. Bateman’s principal old-timer is M. Aujac, a singer of this genre full of spirit, humor, animation, energy and wit; that would already be enough for operetta, but M. Aujac is also an excellent musician and he has a true ready money voice, which doesn’t hurt things at all. M. Aujac will be a pillar; they can lean on him; he will bear the burden of premier tenor lightly.”

[Continues predicting that this will be the best troupe ever—Bateman at Niblo’s—then goes on to speculate as to what Grau is doing; he is demolishing the Théâtre Francais on 14th Street and renovating it. More than $20,000 will be spent and the work is supposed to be done by August 15.]

The remodeled theater will have 300 more seats, and be bigger; entry will be at street-level, the stage will be larger. If that doesn’t meet all needs, there’s nothing more to do but burn it down.

What they’ll perform is also a mystery—they say it will be operetta, and M. Carrier, one of the most sparkling tenors-bouffes in France right now, with a splendid voice, who’s a comedian to the tips of his fingernails—and Mlle Rose Belle, one of the most luscious fruits of the new school. What else are they saying? That Maretzek will give Le Premier Jour de Bonheur [Auber]; Schneider is coming—hard to wait for winter; the 4 Clodoches [cancan experts] are engaged for a series of masked balls; Mapleson will import his whole London troupe for a season at the Academy, with Titiens, Kellogg, Nillson, Stanley; Grover will engage a German opera, Pike another; Paolo Gorzia will bring back a company of concert performers, and Oscar Pfeiffer will come back in September to perform on the piano and perhaps to teach or form a school.”

14)
Announcement: New-York Times, 16 July 1868, 4.
15)
Announcement: New York Clipper, 18 July 1868, 118.
16)
Announcement: New-Yorker Musik-Zeitung, 18 July 1868, 793.
17)
Announcement: New York Post, 18 July 1868, 2.
18)
Announcement: New York Herald, 20 July 1868, 5.
19)
Article: New York Post, 20 July 1868, 2.

Detailed plot synopsis.

20)
Announcement: New-York Times, 20 July 1868, 4.

Includes plot synopsis “borrowed from a contemporary.”

21)
Review: New York Herald, 21 July 1868, 5.

“Amusements. Niblo’s Theatre.—The comic opera of ‘Blue Beard’ was given here last night for the first time by Mr. Bateman’s company. Such has been the success in the city of the ‘Grand Duchess’ and the ‘Belle Hélène,’ that any new presentation of a piece by the same author is sure of an audience, and the large theatre to which Mr. Bateman has changed his base was densely crowded in every part. The audience was of the first class in intelligence and character, and was made up in a great degree of French residents. The new piece was received with every evidence of favor, and new artists were very warmly made welcome, and ‘Barbe Bleue’ will doubtless stand in the annals as a great success. Nevertheless it is not so good as either of its predecessors. It is without the rich extravagance of thought that is the distinguishing excellence of this style of piece, and that was so happy in the ‘Belle Hélène,’ and without the point and humor of the ‘Duchess.’ Having neither of these it has no equivalent. It is hardly possible that we should have Offenbach and not have something fresh, racy, startling and taking in the music, but yet there is nothing that will ever match in popular favor the ‘Mari Sage’ or Dites Lui,’ or the legend of the glass, nor is there any concerted piece so thoroughly fine as the finale to the second act in the ‘Belle Hélène. With all this, however, the ‘Barbe Bleue’ is a good presentation and worthy the success it has won. We cannot have a new ‘Duchess’ every season. The piece is well mounted and runs somewhat more to the spectacular style than it would have done in Fourteenth street. The influence of the new neighborhood is also perceptible in the beautiful ballet in the fourth act.  Mlle. Irma, the new prima donna, has the first of all requisites—a good voice. She has a good manner and sings with the best effect, making something always of the quaintest little nothings in her part. She has a pleasing person and appreciates a joke. M. Aufac, the new tenor, justly carried away the honors of the evening. An excellent actor and singer and thoroughly filled with the spirit of his part, his presence on the stage lightened and enlivened the scene. Our old favorites, Duchesne and Lagriffoul, were worthy of their well won honors.”

22)
Review: New York Sun, 21 July 1868, 1.

“A crowded house greeted, last evening, the first production in this country of Offenbach’s sparkling opera-bouffe, Barbe-Bleue. Mr. Bateman’s reputation as a manager, no less than the composer’s celebrity as a write of comic music, brought together one of the largest audiences that was ever seen within the walls of the theatre now devoted to the French opera. It is only fair to say, too, that all who were present were thoroughly and well-pleased; Laughter and applause were frequent and heart, and the curtains fell at the end of each set amid enthusiastic demands for the repetition of those jovial and rollicking finales which have made Offenbach so famous.

The plot of the opera, it is needless to say, follows the old nursery tale of Bluebeard, only closely enough to afford an opportunity for ludicrous situations. Bluebeard’s wives do not die, but are merely put to sleep by the benevolent alchemist employed to poison them; and they finally appear at the court of their sovereign to be married again to true and faithful lovers. This cheerful ending, of which the music gives promise all the way through, is further indicated by the most [illeg]pusing by play and dialogue, and the tragic element is banished out of sight in the most effectual manner.”

Mr. Bateman’s company does not comprise any stars, properly so-called, but it is uniformly good and well balanced, and renders the music and dialogue with satisfactory thoroughness. Mlle. Irma, who plays Boulotte, Bluebeard’s sixth wife, and is the heroine of the piece, is a charming little person, possessing a rounded and graceful form, and quite enough for the music she has to sing. Mdle. Lambele, the princess, is slight in figure, but has a very pretty face and is a good singer. Mons. Angue, as Bluebeard, brought down the house repeatedly by the spirit with which he entered into and performed his part. Mons. Ducherse as Popolani, Mons. Lagrifford as Count Oscar, Mons. Francis as King Bobeche, and M. Dardignae as Prince Saphir, were also entirely satisfactory, and the prevailing impression produced by the performances was that of careful study and conscientious rehearsal.”

23)
Review: New-York Daily Tribune, 21 July 1868, 5.

"In transferring Offenbach from the French Theater to Niblo’s Mr. Bateman has made many important improvements in his company. He has introduced into it several people with voices (which are good things to have when there is singing to be done), he has bettered his orchestra somewhat, he has strengthened his chorus, and he has lavished apparently a great deal of money upon fine scenery, rich and gorgeous dresses, and the many showy accessories upon which entertainments such as opéra bouffe depend for a great deal of their effect. Hence the performance last night was by far the most complete that he has yet given us, and in many respects it was better than La Grand Duchesse, while in nearly all it surpassed La Belle Hélène. The music of Barbe Bleue to any one who has heard the other operas needs no description or criticism. Offenbach is always the same, and the characteristic melodies of all his compositions are pervaded by the ghost of the same idea. ‘Blue Beard’ at any rate is quite as sprightly and inspiriting as the works from the same rollicking composer which have previously been introduced to us, and abounds, especially in the first act, with gems which, though not of the first water, though mostly of course more paste and sham, have a pleasant glitter of their own, and will find a plenty of admirers. Such, for example, are the duet in the first scene between Fleurette (Mlle. Lambelé) and Prince Saphir (M. Dardignac); the very comical song of Blue Beard (M. Aujac), “Ma premiere femme est morte;’ the chorus at the close of the first act, “Allons, marchons;’ the little air, ‘Pierre un beau jour’ by Boulotte (Mlle. Irma), and her duet with Blue Beard, ‘Amours nouvelle;’ and the irresistibly ludicrous chorus which accompanies the equally excruciating duel in act the fourth. There is one great fault in the opera as a work of art (if you can apply such an expression to anything of Offenbach’s); the first act is the best; and if a ballet by Mlle. De Rosa and others had not been thrown into the fourth, the climax would have been passed early in the evening. As it is, however, expectation is heightened throughout the performance by the prospect of glorified legs toward the close, and after the blissful bewilderment of liberal and unembarrassed dancing, the sensuous audience goes home intoxicated with delight. The plot of the opera we published yesterday, and have now only to speak of the performers. All the principal artists of the reconstructed company are good in their respective lines. The principal debutante, Mlle. Marie Irma, has a great deal more voice than Tostée, has, in fact, a very nice mezzo-soprano, which she uses with all the skill her part demands. She has a pretty face, but a short, square figure, which, in the character of the shepherdess Boulotte, is no disadvantage to her. As an actress, she is the embodiment of riotous fun. She revels in the gaucheries of the peasant girl, making them needlessly coarse degrading comedy at times to the lowest burlesque, filling the stage with a spirit of deviltry, and convulsing the house with laughter, but lacking that delicate sense of humor without which fun never can be made heartily acceptable to persons of true refinement. Yet it is only fair to say that there is a certain sort of coarseness of which she displayed far less than the libretto gave her opportunities for, or than Tostée would have shown to the same part. Mlle. Lambelé sang and played the part of Fleurette, alias the Princess Hermia, neatly and pleasantly, and did much to effuse the disagreeable impression which she made in Orphée aux Enfers. The principal tenor, M. Aujac (Blue Beard) is not altogether fresh, but then it is a voice, to begin with, and a tolerably strong one too, and he is a very humorous actor, and a much more lively one that his predecessor, M. Guffroy. The other leading parts were taken by M. Francis (King Bobeche), a paragon of low-comedy old men, Mlle. Duclos (Queen Clementine), M. Dardignac, and our old friends MM. Duchesne, Lagriffoul, and Edgard.

When we come to the matter of decency, it is not easy to pronounce a just verdict on the new opera. There are passages in the libretto which are entirely shameless, and are all the more unpardonable because they add nothing to the fun of the play and can have no effect except to drive respectable ladies away from the house. There are some exuberances also in the acting which demand repression. But Blue Beard is not beastly, as La Belle Hélène was, and is susceptible of being trimmed. What a pity that managers cannot give us one of these gay little operas freed from extraneous nastiness, the fun without the license, the dancing without the dirt! What a pity that we cannot have opera bouffe in such form that no young gentleman need be ashamed to listen to it with his sweetheart, and no husband with his wife! But this performance goes too far, and we hope the public will frown it into a reformation."

24)
Review: New-York Times, 23 July 1868, 4.

“If fortune always guided the public in deciding on the merits of artists, we should be disposed to think that Mr. Bateman was exceedingly fortunate. On two occasions he has brought over well-appointed companies, and each time the material has proved thoroughly acceptable to the public. But fortune has little to do with these matters, and in fact the proverbial blindness of the Dame is most often demonstrated in a musical way. It requires practical knowledge and shrewdness on the part of a manager to know precisely what the public wants in the way of entertainment. It is even more difficult to find the right sort of people to interpret it. Mr. Bateman does not seem to have ever apprehended anything in the shape of a risk on the subject of opera bouffe, and on the first occasion he left nothing to chance. He has been equally decided this time. The company which he introduced on Monday night, albeit composite in its character, was the best we have had here. No disrespect is meant to Mlle. Tostee; for this lady, although not singing, must be numbered in its ranks and will resume her place at an early day. There are other members of the old troupe who are retained—notably the trio who were so successful in ‘La Grande Duchesse.’ The tenor, however, has departed, and not without some sense of relief on our part, for M. Guifroy was a little heavy and squeakey [sic], and confined his talent mainly to the effort of imitating M. Depuis, who is hardly worth the compliment.

For the moment it seems most desirable for Mr. Bateman to retrace the career of Offenbach. We proceed with his works steadily backward. ‘Barbe Bleue’ is the oldest belonging to the present repertoire, and it is not difficult to detect in it certain sketches of melodies and ensembles which have in later works received a fuller treatment. The habit of borrowing from himself is not peculiar to Offenbach. It is a preference which many composers exhibit. There are fugitive strains in ‘Barbe Bleue’ which in ‘La Grande Duchesse’ and ‘La Belle Hélène’ assume considerable magnitude. The general character of the music is not, however, the same. Offenbach's earlier style exhibited anxiety to follow the accepted forms, and to prove that he could write well if he desired to do so. There is any quantity of chick [sic] in ‘Barbe Bleue,’ but not that amount of frothiness which amazed everyone in the ‘Duchess.’ The melodies are definite and well treated; the recitatives are often dramatic, and the ensembles are extremely effective. As in all of Offenbach's music, there is nothing vulgar. The tunes are lively and light, but they are not coarse. That these subjects are salient and approachable is demonstrated nightly by the applause which they excite. The public, indeed, is already showing its preferences, and that they will be quickly transferred to the hand organ in the streets can hardly be doubted. The encores are numerous and persistent. ‘Barbe Bleue’ is, as we have indicated, carefully written, but we shall be mistaken if it does not enjoy an equal vogue with either of its predecessors.

We have already given a full analysis of the plot, and need only now speak of the singers. Mlle. Irma (Boulotte) comes to us with an excellent musical reputation from Paris, where she has long been a favorite. She is young, petite and decidedly jolly. The character which she sustains in this work is peculiar. Boulotte, if the historian may be believed, was not like Caesar’s wife, but she was very petty; a wayward, winsome, cunning little village girl, full of tricks and sportiveness. Mlle. Irma leaves no moment unoccupied for the illustration of these traits. She ‘fills the scene’ completely but not obtrusively, and is funny without being labored. Her rounded little figure helps her in these efforts, but she owes her best successes to a thorough knowledge of stage business. Mlle Irma's voice is a charmingly fresh mezzo-soprano of excellent quality and sufficient strength. She manages it skillfully, and in this and all other respects is a winning and attractive artiste. She was a little frightened on Monday night, but had entirely recovered herself on Tuesday, when her initial success was more than indorsed. Mlle. Lambele made her reappearance before a New-York audience in the small but pretty part of the Princess Hermia. The lady’s voice lacks depth and power for the music allotted to her, particularly in a theatre of the dimensions and vastness of Niblo’s. She is nevertheless a pretty and pleasant actress. Mlle. Duclos, a new addition, has a good voice, and did full justice to the part of the Queen. We are mistaken if this lady is not one of the reserved forces of the company. She is certainly capable of better things than the ungrateful role intrusted [sic] to her on this occasion. 

M. Aujac possesses a good tenor voice, and a fine presence, both of which he knows how to use to advantage. He has skill as a vocalist, and ease and liveliness on the stage. As the gay widower Blue Beard, he made the most of every point, whether in procuring or disposing of an addition to his domestic circle. He is in every sense a valuable artist, and the best we have had here in this fashion of opera. The Prince Saphir of M. Dardignac was a careful but not forcible performance. Mr. Francis was excellent as King Bobeche, and Messrs. Duchesne, (who had a cordial reception) Lagriffoul and Engard were capital in their respective parts.

There was not a hitch in the performance, although the hour at which it terminated must have admonished the management that a little judicious pruning in the dialogue may not be out of glace [place]. The orchestra was conducted by Mr. Adolph Birgfeld. It is sufficient in numbers, but the violins are weak. The chorus is really good in every respect, and bears favorable comparison with any chorus we have heard in the city.  Mr. Bateman has procured new dresses from Paris, which we need hardly add are in good taste and very brilliant. The scenery has been prepared by Mr. Minard Lewis, and is all that need be required. The opening scene is strikingly good. It represents a view of Blue Beard’s castle—a particularly bluff looking place. Finally, there is a ballet in the third act, which introduces several excellent members of Messrs. Jarrett and Palmer's Parisian troupe. The dances, like the costumes, are brief and brilliant; just enough, and no more.

Combining so many excellencies, it would be strange indeed if ‘Barbe Bleue’ did not challenge public attention. It will bridge over the months until October. At all events, it will be played every night until further notice.”

25)
Announcement: New York Clipper, 25 July 1868, 126.
26)
Review: New York Sun, 25 July 1868, 2.

“Mr. Bateman has made a good hit with ‘Barbe-Bleue,’ as he did last winter with the ‘Grand Duchesse.’  Now that the piece has got to running smoothly, its beauties and the capacities of the artists engaged in it come out much more strikingly than they did on the first representation. Mlle. Irma is perfectly irresistible in the part of Boulotte, and sings and sets with an uproarious jollity which would carry away the sourest Puritan. Her rendering of her part in the scene were lots are drawn for the Rose Queen, and in her duet with Bluebeard, at the end of the second act, was so good as to bring down the house in tumultuous applause. Mddle. Lambele sings as charmingly as she looks, and we have no doubt many a susceptible bachelor every evening envies Prince Saphir his lovely bride. Mdlle. Duclose has but little to do as the Queen, but does it well.  Mons. Aujne is showing himself to be what we have not heard here for many years, a first-class light French tenor, and we hope to hear him next winter in some opera where he can do his powers more justice than in Offenbach’s burlesque pieces. Mons. Duchesne, and Mons. Lagriffoul became established favorites last winter by their performances in Fourteenth street, so that it is unnecessary to say anything more than that they are as good as ever. The piece is likely to have a long run.”

27)
Review: New York Herald, 27 July 1868, 4.

“‘Barbe Bleue,’ under the judicious management of Mr. Bateman, enters successfully on the second week of its career at Niblo’s Garden.  Notwithstanding its great inferiority, in a musical sense, as compared with either the ‘Grand Duchese’ or ‘La Belle Helene,’ it is steadily improving in public favor, and will doubtless enjoy a comparatively long and brilliant run. One and all of the artists, in their several roles, do wonders with their flimsy parts, and the new ones especially are fast, establishing themselves as favorites with our citizens. Mlle. Irma and M. Anjac are improving with each successive representation, and both give evidence of more power and vocal ability than are called for in this first—but not last—bit of Offenbach’s sparkling nonsense. In any other hands than Mr. Bateman’s, ‘Barbe Bleue’ would probably have been a miserable failure; but under his fostering care it has unquestionable gained a place in the estimation of the public, which in all probability it will hold for weeks. The piece has been placed upon the stage in a manner superior to all previous attempts in opera bouffe in this city and in many respects in a more liberal and elaborate manner than even in Paris. It is owing to this care and liberality on the part of the management, more than to any other cause that ‘Barbe Bleue’ is indebted for whatever share of success it has thus far met with in this city.”

28)
Review: New York Post, 27 July 1868, 2.

“Whatever opinions there may be in regard to the comparative merits of ‘Barbe Bleue’ and of its predecessors, there can be no doubt as to the fact that opera bouffe was never so well presented in this country as it now is at Niblo’s Garden. A stronger and better disciplined chorus, a more efficient orchestra, more elaborate scenic effects, better voices, and other improvements, account for the success which has already attended the production of ‘Barbe Bleue,’ even in the most unfavorable season of the year.”

29)
Review: New-York Times, 27 July 1868, 5.

“‘Barbe Bleue’ (by the entirely erroneous, improper and intrusive Offenbach) may safely be recorded as a success. It has passed through the howls of babyhood and now stands on its own legs. We shall be mistaken if it does not indulge in a long run.

Carefully as the work was produced on its first presentation Monday last many important ameliorations have since taken place. The singers are naturally more at home in their rôles, and their stage business is quick and incisive. Vocally the music adapts itself to the organs which interpret it, and with practice becomes more distinct and emphatic, without requiring an equal degree of effort. Mlle. Irma never needs effort. She sings with simple skill and grace; but the absolute fitting of the music to her charming organ gives her vastly more power now than before. We have never heard or seen this piquant artiste to such advantage as on Saturday evening. She was brimful of fun, and, being under no restraint, was infinitely more amusing than on the first night when she made her initial success. Mlle. Irma is already a favorite with the public, and it is evident that this favor will increase with each performance. Mlle. Lambele also exhibits agreeable indications of the improvement which practice imparts—not simply in technical skill, but in the confidence to use every resource that art presents. The young lady is taxed heavily in so large a theatre, but she has ability and willingness. With these twin guardians her future is certain. She has greatly improved already, and in the ungrateful part of the Princess has made a marked impression upon the public. Of M. Aujac nothing more need be said. He made a complete success on the first night and has maintained it ever since. The completeness and thoroughness of his study, and the faithfulness with which he attends to the smallest, most trivial detail of the part indicate a thorough artist. How different would it be on any other stage. Any other than a Frenchman would insist on rolling through the music like a log. There is not a vacant spot in M. Aujac's impersonation. It is vital and conscientious from beginning to end; animated, brilliant and musical.

And so on in smaller parts. The practice of a week seems to have made all things perfect. The chorus is the best ever heard in this City. The orchestra might be improved. It is rackety in the brass, and feeble in the stringed departments.  Offenbach frequently gives the melody to the violins, and fills up with the folk of the stage. It is essential therefore to have due strength of assertion in the violins. Mr. Bateman's orchestra seems to be strong enough in general numbers, but the players are evidently mediocre. The mise-en-scene is perfect, and the costumes are extremely rich, and so far as history cannot teach us, correct. They are certainly very picturesque.” 

30)
Review: New York Sun, 30 July 1868, 1.

“Bateman’s grand success with ‘Barbe-Bleue’ is the topic of the hour. None by the bas bleu have a word of condemnation, and as few of them have seen it, their judgment is of little account. All the world, and his wives and children and crazy over the irrestible Irma, who confounds criticism and defies detraction. Whatever severe moralists may say, the public are roused, and to see ‘BlueBeard’ is a duty than no one feels at liberty to delay.”

31)
Review: New York Clipper, 01 August 1868, 134.

“The house was densely crowded by a fashionable audience, the majority of whom were of the parlez vous persuasion. ‘Barbe Bleue,’ as an opera bouffe in four acts, by Offenbach, was the selection, and it was received with favor at the second representation. Everything went off more smoothly and harmoniously than on the first. The costumes and scenery deserve more than a passing allusion. The dresses were fairly regal in their richness, and were strikingly appropriate. A better drilled chorus and a more effective one is seldom heard and seen in this city. As an acting opera, ‘Barbe Bleue’ possesses many valiant points, and they were seized by the performers with spirit and thoroughly illustrated. Although it does not possess any catching airs, like the ‘Duchess’ and ‘La Belle Helene,’ it may still become popular. The plot of this opera is as follows: . . . Mlle. Irma, the new candidate for lyric honors, is slight, with well-rounded limbs. The merry glance of her eyes, the coquettish shrugs of her shoulders, and the quick tappings of her feet take with the audience. She is full of spirit, fire and enthusiasm, and there is an indescribable charm in her performance, a piquancy and naivette, that renders her one of the most pleasing lyric artists we have seen for many days, and her debut may be regarded as a triumph. She has a quick movement, and no want of confidence. She has a full reliance upon the good nature of her audience, and takes frequent liberties with them. The character she assumes, Boulette, is a sort of French Topsey [sic]. Her voice is a soprano, but not of great power. The appearance of Mons. Aujac, the new tenor, was the signal for a rapturous applause, a deserved compliment. He sang and acted in a manner worthy of the occasion, receiving therefore a full quantum of applause, the audience regarding his scenic display as infinitely superior to the cold and unimpassioned style of the clever but careless tenor, Brignoli. He is gifted with the power of expression, passion and feeling in a high degree. He has a fine voice too, and sings with great expression. The balance of the cast gave satisfaction.”

32)
Review: New-Yorker Musik-Zeitung, 01 August 1868, 824.

Bateman seems to do good business with Blaubart. Although this operetta does not live up to the Schöne Helene or the Grossherzogin (Duchess), it still possesses many pleasantries, which promises a run of several weeks. The new prima donna Mlle. Irma and the new tenor quickly sang themselves into the heart of the audience.