Pike's Opera House
Manager / Director:
Giuseppe Nicolao [cond.]
Price: $2 reserved; $1.50; $12, $25 boxes
29 August 2018
...In the same month [December], the Pike Opera House will be opened with the Strakosch ensemble. Strakosch hired Lagrange, Brignoli, Susini, Miss Poch, Mrs. Ackermann, Mr. Randolfi and he is currently negotiating with Elisa Lumley. Lumley first impressed in concerts and seems to be fit for the opera stage. Her voice is a big contralto with a pleasant timbre, well trained and educated voice, with a light and easy coloratura. She especially impressed with the aria “O, mio Fernando” and she was called back onto stage 3 times.
Pike’s Opera House will be opening today. Sir Verdi and the opera ensemble La Grange and Brignoli were determined to inaugurate the venue. Strakosch is the director. Members are Mme. La Grange, Miss Adelaide Philipps, Miss McCulloch, Mr. Brignoli, B. Massimiliani, Mr. Orlandini, Randolfi, Susini, Mr. Coletti, Mr. Sarti. Signor Nicolas is the conductor.
“The public is respectfully informed that there are no Stockholder boxes or seats at the new opera house.”
“Amusements. Miscellaneous Theatrical Items…In consequence of the accident to Signor BRIGNOLI, mentioned in the accompanying note, the opening of Pike’s Opera House is postponed until Thursday night, when the opera of ‘Il Trovatore’ will positively be given:
Signor Brignoli received an injury at Washington, by falling from his carriage, which will prevent him from appearing on Monday. I have seen him today, and have no doubt he will be well enough to sing in a few days. (Signed) J. M. Carnochan, M. D. &c., Jan. 3, 1868.”
“This very handsome establishment, at the corner of Eighth Avenue and Twenty-third street, was opened for the first time ‘under the gas light,’ so that a select company might judge of its effects under these brilliant circumstances, the house being lighted from parquet to dome—the former a very comfortably, roomy and convenient part of the house; the latter a very gorgeous affair, frescoed in high colors and lighted with innumerable jets. Gas jets also ran round the cornice of the upper tier, lighting the upper portion of the house very perfectly. There is only one fault, if indeed it can be galled such, in the dome and ceiling, and that is that it is a little too highly colored; but time will tone down those tints. We have already given a full description of the house, its architectural beauty and general construction. As it looked last night we had a more complete idea of what it will be on Thursday night next, when an audience, already secured, for we believe the tickets are all sold, will fill up the auditorium, and add fresh beauty to a theatre, than which there is none more beautiful in this country, and few that in compactness and elegance, perhaps, excel it in Europe. The opening last night was not a ceremonious affair. Gentlemen and ladies who take an interest in art matters and love to watch the progress of everything that tends towards the refinement of society strolled in and out, scanned all the peculiarities of the new theatre, criticized this, that and the other quality freely, and almost with one accord pronounced the ensemble perfect and the general details calculated to secure the comfort of the public. The proscenium boxes attracted much attention from the elegance of their fittings and the picturesque chandeliers which adorn the front of the upper loges. So much of the scnerey as we were permitted to look upon is painted with great care. The stage presents ample dimensions and would accommodate a large ballet troupe or spectacular demonstration. The auditorium, although not as large as that of the Academy of Music, has sixty-nine seats more than the latter establishment and will hold 2,600 people. Mr. Pike, the solo stockholder in this establishment, lounged modestly around among the visitors, saying little and smiling much as he heard the favorable comments upon the architectural success of the building. Artistes there were, and actors and managers, looking with critical eye upon every point of the building and giving an open assent to its general good qualities.”
Opening of the new venue postponed to Thursday because of Brignoli's illness.
“The musical event of the evening, and of the season, will be the opening of the splendid opera house, built by Mr. Pike on the corner of Twenty-third street and Eighth avenue, which has already been described in these columns. The occasion would, under almost any circumstances, be one of unusal interest, but its importance is very much enhanced by the fact that it will again bring before us two such great artists as Miss Adelaide Phillips and Madame La Grange, with a worthy support. The announcement of the opening of the new house, and of the performance of ‘Il Trovatore,’ will be sufficient to ensure a crowded house this evening. Thousands will ascertain by personal trial that the journey to Eighth avenue is neither fatiguing nor even difficult, and will find themselves amply rewarded by seeing one of the most spacious and beautiful opera houses in the world.”
“The opening of a new and splendid theater, and the return, after long absence, of an artist for whom New-York entertains such a strong regard as for La Grange, will combine to fill Pike [sic] Opera House this evening with a large and fashionable audience. The opening opera is ‘Trovatore.’ To-morrow night ‘Norma’ will be sung, and on Saturday there will be a matinée.”
“Opening of Pike’s Opera House.—La Grange in ‘Il Trovatore’—The west side of town had a genuine sensation last night. The hitherto unfrequented quarter of Eighth avenue was blocked with carriages and crowded with fashionables, and the finest theatrical establishment in America was thrown open to the public for the first time. Through its spacious entrance poured in a crowd of elegantly dressed ladies, with their white-kidded cavaliers, and the vestibule was filled with opera-goers, uncloaking, unshawling and otherwise reducing themselves to the requisite preparations of full dress before entering the brilliant auditorium. Box, parquet and balcony were resplendent with rich toilets, and bright eyes flashed recognition of acquaintances in every part of the house. Italian opera, whose demise on the east side we chronicled but a short time since, has risen from its ashes, or, like those wonderful feline creatures, has come to life for the ninth time with more vigor than ever. It is unnecessary to dwell on the appearance of the new Opera House, except to say that its dazzling appearance was considerably enhanced by the brilliant audience assembled in it last night. Our venerable friend ‘Il Trovatore’ was the opening opera and Max Strakosch’s opera troupe officiated on the occasion. Madame La Grange made her first appearance as Leonora after an absence of many years. Time has dealt gently with this queen of the lyric stage; for her voice was as brilliant last night as in the days of yore, and her acting was as finished and thoroughly artistic as when she first made her bow before an American audience. Perfect command and sympathetic expression of voice, united with brilliancyof execution, in which each thought of the composer was faithfully expressed, and rare dramatic talent in acting, in which every phase of passion was delineated with ease, grace and dignity, marked the first appearance of Madame La Grange this season. Her reception was cordial in the extreme, and applause and bouquets were liberally bestowed on her. Miss Adelaide Phillips, as the gypsy mother, came in for a share of popular recognition, and proved herself a sterling artiste. Orlandini was in fine voice and sang the rôle of the vindictive count with such passion and fire that he might claim the title of the American Graziani, and Massimiliani, who replaced the indisposed Brignoli, made the best he could of Manrico’s rôle, considering that he was obviously suffering from the effects of a cold. The chorus and orchestra were in every respect unexceptionable. The mise en scène deserves special mention on account of its superior character, some of the scenes being particularly artistic in design and finish. Altogether the opening of the new opera season and the new Opera House were in perfect harmony with each other. There are few opera houses in Europe, and none in America, that can compare with the new establishment on Twenty-third street, and few prime donne at present that may successfully compete with Madame La Grange.”
[Begins with extensive description of new building.]
“The return to our operatic stage of two such noble artists as La Grange and Phillips was an event worthy of the consecration of this superior opera house to the proper uses. The name of the former was associated with pleasant memories of many years ago, while it is no fault of our public that that of the latter has recently been less familiar than of old, when our greatest American contralto used to receive the unqualified praise of those cultured and judicious to listeners whose commendation is not won by mere vocal gymnastics. The first appearance of La Grange, as Leonora, was welcomed with a fervor and heartiness of enthusiasm which must have assured her that New York memories are not so brief or capricious as they are falsely reported to be. At first showing a little carefulness in the use of her voice, she soon revealed the fact that time has dealt gently with it, and that for all the noble purposes of lyric expression it is still entirely adequate. In fact, it is not a voice that is apt to deteriorate prematurely. Sweet, clear, sympathetic and penetrating, it does not depend on volume for effect, and thus remains unimpaired when more powerful voices would fail, in whole or in part. The faultless modulation, the refinement and delicacy of expression; the artistic execution of difficult passages; the absence of the vocal trickery too common with prima donnas, and the fine appreciation and delivery of the sentiment of the music—which we used to admire in La Grange—all remain the characteristics of this true artist. It is something highly satisfactory, too, to see on the stage one, like La Grange, who is more than a mere singing machine, one who is, in fact and in appearance, a lady of culture, of sentiment, and of some intellectual power.
The burden of the performance, however, fell on Miss Phillips, and it could not have been more safely rested in other hands. With her as Azucena, the wild, and passionate, yet almost queenly, gypsey woman becomes the dramatic centre of ‘Il Trovatore.’ It is not merely the only strong and well marked character in the opera, but gives the key to the development. It is one of those characters, however, which requires the strongest dramatic ability for its adequate delineation. In the hands of ordinary contraltos it is either tame or revolting. Only an artist of the first class can give to it the power and passion which belong to it, without running into extravagances. That Miss Phillips has avoided both extremes, the musical world, in this country and in Europe, is already fully aware. Her Azucena is a unique and powerful creation of her own, which, to our knowledge, has never been surpassed in this country, and in our opinion has never been equaled. It comes up to the highest standards of operatic acting, and leaves nothing to be desired to give it intensity, passion, naturalness and power. In the declamatory passages, especially, which are generally slighted, and consequently tame, her resources as an actress are grandly developed.
Miss Phillips’s voice is as good as it ever was—as fresh, strong, and pure as ever. In its management there is a perceptible improvement, for so thorough and true an artist does not retrograde in her method, and added years mean an increase of culture. Both she and La Grange made a decided impression in their solos and concerted pieces. In both, the sentiment of the music assigned them found noble interpreters. In the singing of both, admiration for mere execution was lost in appreciation of the artistic and sympathetic rendering of melodies too well worn to rouse old opera listeners from indifference, unless given with a soul usually wanting in operatic artists. Massimiliani and Orlandini, their principal supporters, sang the music assigned them faithfully, and with much vigor of execution.
The former painfully labored against an annoying cold, but struggled against it so manfully and came out so strongly in the higher ranges, that the sympathy of the audience was fairly roused for him.
The orchestra was creditable, in the main, but was at times unduly hurried. The female was better than the male chorus, but neither failed very conspicuously. The new stage scenery was all creditable, and some of the scenes were especially excellent. Altogether, we may expect a good season of opera from Mr. Strakosch, whose enterprise will, doubtless, lead him to overcome the partial failures incident to a first night.”
“Mr. Pike's new opera house was inaugurated last night under circumstances which must have been agreeable to the bold and public-spirited proprietor. Commerce offers so many attractions to men of large fortune that it is seldom one can be found who is willing to separate himself from its charms. Certainly, so far as art is concerned, he has not yet been discovered in New-York. We have had gentlemen who were ready to speculate in the matter of music, which happens to be the matter of fashion, but no more. And, in two instances, we have seen how that speculation has terminated, or is likely to terminate. It is a reproach to those who are facetiously called ‘our public-spirited citizens,’ that a gentleman from Cincinnati has come among them and performed what they neither wished nor expected. At a time when business was dull, and real estate in a peculiarly shaky condition, he purchased a huge estate on the corner of Twenty-third-street and Eighth-avenue. The property extends for many doors down Twenty-fourth-street, and fills up and includes the space between the two thoroughfares. Instead of proceding instantly to improving the houses and putting up stores, Mr. Pike thought of an opera house. Although, as we are told, one of the shrewdest and most successful of business men, he thought of this mainly, and set about accomplishing his individual visions of what an opera house might be. He had built one previously in Cincinnati, and has one there now, which is said to be a model house. But he was prudent enough to travel in Europe, and examine what had taken place there. The result was witnessed last night, and was in the highest degree flattering to Mr. Pike, under whose personal supervision the entire establishment was created—even to such minute details as the stage flooring. A splendid, ample, sumptuous house—one of which New-York may well be proud.
It is not possible on an opening night to do anything like justice to an event so important to various interests of music. It has been complained for many years that the trouble with the Academy of Music was the stockholders. There is now an establishment where there are no stockholders, but with a proprietor who is in every way devoted to art. We shall hereafter see what is the result, and it will be interesting to see it, for the other experience has been disastrous enough.
The appearance of the house last evening differed in no way from the appearance of any house under such circumstances. There was the excitement of the opening, the pleasure and surprise of strangers who came to see it, the satisfaction of those who were prepared to appreciate, and finally an air, at all events a smell of paint. Materially and practically the establishment is finished, but it stands to reason that not only on last evening, but for many weeks from now, the house will be comparatively incomplete. The effect of the decorations was in the highest degree brilliant. It was enhanced more over by the peculiar and effective sombre coloring of the vestibule. In some respects the gilding seemed too rich, but this is a defect which will quickly be remedied. Time may safely be left to play its old game with what is bright. The lighting seems to be perfect as far as the house is concerned, and the three light-burners of the stage, although pretty enough, may answer for spectacles, but can barely serve the same purpose for complexions.
Mme. La Grange made her rentrée and was, as she deserved to be, thoroughly well received. When the lady made her first appearance in this country, some dozen years ago, it was suggested in the Press that her voice was, although thoroughly cultivated and perfect, impossible of bearing the wear and tear of an American opera season. She sang afterward for many years, and never failed to sing well. She has since sung for many years, and returns after a period in which she has been missed, in a better condition than she has ever before appeared before our public. We think so in a musical point of view, and are sure that the public will agree with us in every other.
Miss Adelaide Phillips shared the good favor of the audience, and merited and obtained a just recognition of her dramatic and artistic ability in the fine scena of the second act. Of the gentlemen we shall take another occasion to speak, simply recording the fact that the performance was in every way a popular success.
The fourth act was given very finely by all the artists, especially by Mme. La Grange, who seemed to be in unusually fine voice, and sang with a correctness and dramatic fervor which we have not witnessed for many years. There was, of course, an encore after the tower scene, which was repeated in the finest style. When the act was finished there was a call for all the artists, and when this had subsided there was a very general demand for Mr. Pike. After some little hesitation the gentleman appeared and said that he supposed on such an occasion he was expected either to make a speech or sing a song. There was then a general cry for a speech; but Mr. Pike continued, and said that he had never sung but twice in his life—when he said ‘Wilt thou live in this cottage with me?’ and she wilted; and afterward, ‘We won’t go home til morning does appear.’ For the rest, he had built three opera houses, and this one could speak better for him than he could on its behalf. But the architect was present and would answer for himself—he hoped in terms as brief as his own. This allusion to Mr. Thomas was taken up by the audience, who called for him. A gentleman appeared at a private box and bowed his respects. This was probably Mr. Thomas.”
(Begins with detailed description of new opera house.) It is doubtful, the new venue will attract large audiences because of its unfavorable location. For people who live on the East side of the city, who do not have access to carriages, it is time consuming and inconvenient to get to the opera house. For the opening night, however, the venue attracted a large audience. The most interesting part about the performance was the come-back of the prima donna La Grange. She is still a great artist, and she knows to enchant even with her vanishing voice. The technical accuracy and the tasteful elegance of her voice impressed connoisseurs and new listeners equally. A complete contrast to La Grange was Massimiliani, who is still filling in for Brignoli. Massimiliani was capable to at times neutralize the effect of La Grange’s voice. Orlandini and Adelaide Philipps were the only other cast members whose performances were satisfactory.
Detailed description of new building; performance not mentioned.
“We have read no description which does full justice to the beautiful theater which Mr. Pike has just given us. The scene at its opening last night came nearer to a realization of the lyric splendor of which all of us at times have dreamed, but which nobody has beheld in the flesh, than anything else in this country. Wide entries admit you to a magnificent vestibule, as big in itself as many a respectable playhouse, around which run stately flights of stairs, and a gallery at mid-hight [sic], such as one sees in the pictures of old baronial halls. Thence there is admission by many doors to the gorgeous auditorium, where at least five hundred more people than the house could seat assembled to witness the inauguration. The soft yet brilliant light, streaming down from the dome, and scattered from hundreds of globes; the magnificent colors of the decorations, white, and gold, and warmest tints of crimson, and delicate dove color, picked out with soft blue; the rich satin hangings, the glowing frescoes; the tapestry carpets springing under the foot; the graceful lines of the architecture—all these combined with every conceivable magnificence of female dress, the glitter of a thousand jewels, the shimmer of golden curls and glossy silks, the smiles of pleased and pretty faces, the waving of fans, the flutter of laces, the soft motion of delicate gloved hands, to make a picture such as it did one’s heart good to look upon. Then the scenery was splendid; the dresses were fresh and handsome; the stage appointments were complete; there was no mark of haste or inexperience in any of the important adjuncts to the representation. Everything passed off in order; everybody seemed delighted; and the vestibule during the intermission was noisy with the congratulations of Pike and Strakosch.
There was attraction of a very peculiar kind in the performance, quite apart from the ceremony of the opening of a new house, for we were called together to welcome the return of singers who had long ago won a firm place in our affections. Most of our musical readers will remember a brilliant evening at Niblo’s Theater nearly 13 years since, when an audience of some 2,000 persons of quality, artists, critics, amateurs, the leaders of the world of literature, and art, and fashion were admitted to a rehearsal of Rossini’s ‘Barber of Seville,’ in which the new prima donna, Madame Anna de Lagrange, was shortly to make her first appearance before an American public. The next day the whole town was ringing with her praises—her pure voice, her superb artistic culture, her chaste and pleasing style, the refinement of her graceful presence, were themes of enthusiastic comment. That was on Friday, the 4th of May, 1855, and the opera was to open at Niblo’s under the management of Ullman and Jacobsohn, on the following Monday. A committee of the stockholders of the Academy of Music were then giving a successful season at the Fourteenth-st. establishment, with Steffanone, Brignoli (then new to our public), Vestvali, and the rotund Amodio, and Maretzek for conductor. They had brought out ‘Trovatore’ for the first time only two days before. The new opera and the new baritone (Amodio made his debut as Count di Luna on the 2d of May) promised to prove mines of wealth. A rival company would spoil all, so an agreement was effected by which the two were combined, and Lagrange made her first public appearance at the Academy of the 8th, instead of at Niblo’s with Morelli, Lorini, Marini, and Rovere. But two opera companies singing at peace under the same roof would be a phenomenon unparalleled in history. There was a fierce quarrel next day. The principal member of the Ullman troupe suddently fell ‘indisposed.’ Warfare raged in the newspapers for two weeks. Then Steffanone went to Boston and Lagrange made her second appearance as ‘Lucia’ on the 21st of May, with a new tenor, Mirate. Old opera-goers relate how in the enthusiasm of the evening the audience rose to receive her standing when she was called before the curtain. From that time her long career in the United States was one of unvarying success, and before she left us to return to Europe a number of admirers presented her publicly with a golden gown. How many years ago that was we do not at this time remember. Many sweet voices have charmed us in the mean time, but there has been nobody except Patti, and latterly Miss Kellogg, who have held the same place as Lagrange in popular regard. It was an anxious question, however, with her many old friends, how the Leonora of Pike’s Opera House would compare with the well-remembered Leonora of the Academy. Let us not be thought ungallant if we cannot forget that 13 years ago biographers called her 39 years of age. Ah, well! We cannot be young forever, and Time, though he touch us never so gently, must rub the freshness of all of us sooner or later. His touch of Madame Lagrange at any rate has been no rude one. Her voice has lost nothing apparently in compass, and very little in sweetness. It is thinner, without ever being harsh. She takes the high notes often with the same ease and always with the same accuracy as of old. She pours out volumes of voice in the lower register, not so rich and mellow as in the days of her prime, but sonorous still. Her reception when she first appeared on the scene was cordial but hardly enthusiastic. Her opening cavatina, Tacea la notte, showed the failing in power more distinctly than anything else during the evening; but as she went on and her incomparable artistic finish was more and more displayed the audience grew warmer, and when at the end she sprinkled over the melody those ravishing little birdlike high notes for which she is so well remembered, enthusiasm burst forth, and the rest of the performance was a triumph. The fact is, a rare excellence of cultivation enables her to conceal the incipient ravages of years, and a voice which, to an ordinary artist would be of little worth, is capable, as she uses it, of surprising effects. In the whole of the last act she was especially good. We all remember how she used to give the tower scene, and she gives it still superbly.
Miss Adelaide Phillips, whom some of us can recollect as a little Boston girl, playing juvenile characters at the Chatham Theater some 20 years ago, came back to the last night in the same character in which she made her debut on the operatic stage in 1856. She, too, has always been a favorite, and always deserved to be. With a good honest, well-rounded, sympathetic organ, a correct and careful method, and fine musical intelligence, she is a singer of whom we ought to feel particularly proud. Her beautiful voice is unimpaired, her style is careful and agreeable as ever, and her dramatic powers are admirable, as they always were. Her aria and duet in the last act, Ai nostril nionti, is one of the pleasantest memories that haunt those remote days when the Troubadour was young and fresh. Many have sung it since then, but none have sung it so well. It seemed to take new beauty last night, and put on its ancient freshness. In the Stride la vampa she won a very hearty approval, and at one point the house seemed quite carried away by the excellence of her acting.
Signor Massimiliani was not in his best voice, having evidently a cold, and his Deserto sulla Terra was coarse and unpleasant; but in the more passionate scenes, and in the closing duet with Miss Phillips, he was more at home. Orlandini is a capital artist, who deserves a more robust voice than nature has given him. He made a good Count di Luna, and in the Il Balen produced a strong effect by sheer dint of good taste and good vocalization. The chorus and orchestra were both sufficiently strong, and there was really no fault to find with them. But what will be done when a grand opera calls for an increase in the number of instruments? The space assigned for the orchestra is much too small. Last night there were only about thirty players, yet the kettle drums had to be placed outside.”
New York Review. In any city anywhere in the world, an opening of an opera house is something special in the art scene. The media pays meticulous and consistent attention to every phase of the construction of the new venue. Therefore the people’s curiosity and excitement is elevated bit by bit until the big night of the opening. The creation of Pike’s Opera House did not receive much media attention until it was finished. The people did not know what to expect. The surprise was a good one: the interior of the opera house is dazzling. [Detailed description follows.]
The event was well attended and the audience was elegant. LaGrange was welcomed enthusiastically. The prima donna’s performance was astonishing considering her age. Her voice has hardly lost any of the fullness and beauty over the years. Orlandini and Phillips complimented the performance. Massimiliani’s performance of the role of ‘Manrico’ was quite the opposite of the former mentioned singers. Apart of the fact that he was hoarse, he was also terrible.
“Pike’s Opera House opened for the first time to the public on the 9th inst., with a performance of ‘Il Trovatore,’ by the Brignoli and La Grange Italian Opera Troupe. The public has been on the qui vive for some time in regard to the new house, and the company, and as far as we are able to judge after a single hearing, the public have not been disappointed. The house was crowded in all its parts, with an audience fashionable in the extreme. In fact we never saw a more brilliant array of lovely faces, more enthusiasm, or a greater lavishness of applause. The appearance of Anna De La Grange was quite an event among the dilletante. The memory of her bewitching voice has remained in all hearts, and as soon as she appeared on the stage she was received with applause. She sang with a taste, a pathos, a charm impossible for our pen to describe. She astonished everybody with her grace and bravoura. Her sotto voce was clear and pure. Adelaide Phillips, who appeared as the Gipsy, was well received. She is a conscientious singer and does all correctly. Brignoli, as usual, when he gets in the humor, disappointed the audience and did not appear. His role was filled by Sig. Massimiliani. At the conclusion of the fourth act Mr. Pike was called before the curtain, and said that he supposed that he was expected either to make a speech or sing a song. He said that he never sang but twice in his life, one of the songs being ‘Will thou live in this Cottage with me?’ and she wilted, and ‘We won’t go home till morning does appear.’ He further said, ‘I have built three opera houses, and this one can speak better on my behalf than I can.’ He then retired, when Mr. Thomas, the architect, was summoned, and he bowed his acknowledgements from a private box. The receipts are said to have been about $4,000.”
“New York…Another proof that we are a music-loving people, is, perhaps, the fact that to meet our wants a new opera-house has just been erected by Mr. Pike, to be called ‘Pike’s Opera House.’ It is at the corner of Twenty-third street and Eighth avenue. It was dedicated to music January 9th, when Madame La Grange, Miss Adelaide Phillips, Signor Brignoli, and other well-known artists appeared in ‘Il Trovatore.’ The building was universally pronounced to be beautiful in design and execution. It will hold 2,600 persons, exceeding the capacity of the Academy of Music, and excelling that in other particulars. It is in a part of the city that is quite accessible to the fashionables, and will probably be well patronized, as it is unquestionably the handsomest place of amusement in New York.”