Pike's Opera House
Manager / Director:
Giuseppe Nicolao [cond.]
Price: $2 reserved; $1.50; $.75 family circle; $12, $25 boxes
23 August 2018
“Mr. Strakosch has reason to be gratified with the success of his experiment of giving Italian opera in a locality so far above and westward of the former home here as Pike’s new opera house. Although deprived, by an untoward casualty, of the services of Signor Brignoli, the season, which opened with a crowded house, has been well sustained in interest and in the average attendance. The attractions of two such superb artists as La Grange and Phillips, fairly supported as they have been, have been sufficient to induce a substantial patronage, which will be largely increased by the return of Brignoli.
The long-missed tenor will to-night assume one of his best characters, that of Lionel in ‘Martha,’ and will be assisted by Miss Phillips, Miss McCulloch and Signor Coletti.” Concludes with announcements for further performances.
“The opera of ‘Martha’ will be given here to-night, for the rentrée of Signor Brignoli, who, we are happy to say, has entirely recovered from the injury which he received in Washington. The gentleman is an old favorite of our public, and will undoubtedly be received with satisfaction by the musical community. Mme. La Grange and Miss Adelaide Phillps also appear in this work.”
“Pike’s Opera House.—‘Martha,’ the exquisite opera of ‘Martha’ was the bill last night, signalized by the first appearance at this house of that favorite tenor Brignoli, in his admirable personation of Lionel. The day had been inclement, the night was uninviting, and yet one of the largest and most stylish audiences of the season was attracted to welcome the return of Brignoli. He was well supported by that reliable artist, Orlandini, as Plunkett, while Miss M’Culloch as Martha, or the Lady Henrietta, had every encouragement to do her very best in the sprightly and really charming Nancy of Miss Phillips. The voice of Miss M’Culloch is sweet, and she is a careful singer, and whatever may be said of her lack of inspiration or her deficiencies as an actress, she shared with Brignoli the honors of the night. In the romanza of the third act, upon which the tenor depended for the public judgment in his favor, the golden voice of Brignoli, unsurpassed in its melodious music by any other voice in either hemisphere, thoroughly warmed up the house from parquette to galleries. It was still the same Brignoli who had charmed so many thousands at the old Academy; still that same delightful and inspiring golden voice that had so often before carried us off into the realms of poetry and fairy land, and Brignoli admirers were satisfied and are glad by thousands that it is so.”
“It is a pretty emphatic proof of Signor Brignoli’s popularity in New-York that last night, in spite of cold, and snow, and dampness, and every conceivable meteorological discouragement, a fine audience should have assembled in Pike’s beautiful but remote Opera House, to welcome his return to the metropolitan boards of America. It is easy enough to find fault with the charming singer whom New-York for many a year has delighted to honor; it is easy enough to carp at his occasional indolence, his heaviness, the crudeness of some of his intonations; but all things considered, it is a long since we have heard a better tenor, and in fact he has few superiors in the world. We have suffered a good deal in the way of tenors since he left us, and it must be confessed that we have borne our afflictions with exemplary patience. We have had far better artists than Brignoli—for instance, Signor Pancani—but, unfortunately, they lacked cultivation; we have had now and again both voice and culture combined, but there was no feeling, no expression. Brignoli, with all his faults, is the tenor who, since Mario, has taken the firmest hold upon the affections of our people. He has gone through many experiences since we saw him last—some of them pleasant, some of them bitter. By the latter, we think, he has profited. He is more conscientious, more anxious to do his best, than he sometimes used to be when he was the spoikled pet of New-York. The opera of ‘Martha’ which was presented for his reappearance last night, was well chosen, if it was intended to merely display his own best points, though it was not very well suited to the rest of the company. The part of Lionel is one which offers many advantages to the tenor. It is not very trying, and is among Signor Brignoli’s best. It requires no very intense dramatic or vocal exertion, yet affords full opportunity for the display both of power and sweetness on the part of the singer. In the first act Brignoli labored under very evident embarrassment, which his reception—friendly yet not enthusiastic—did not dispel. As the piece went on he gradually regained self-posession. His action became easier, his singing gained in animation, and in the quartette of the second act,—the beautiful Dormi pur—a spontaneous outburst of enthusiasm on the part of the audience seemed to put him upon his mettle.Thenceforth it was better and better to the end. Whether he has improved or fallen off since we last heard him we are not yet prepared to say. He certainly has got rid almost entirely of the unpleasant nasal twang which now and then used to mar his best efforts, but his lower notes seem to have lost somewhat of their musical quality. This, however, was undoubtedly in a measure the result of nervousness, and was more apparent in the early part of the evening than afterward. In the sweetness of his upper notes and in certain indescribable tenderness of expression, he is as admirable as ever.
The other parts last night attracted rather less interest than they deserved; but we cannot forbear a work of praise for Miss McCulloch’s Lady Henrietta, which, though rather hard, was full of promise. This young lady is a conscientious student, and, we believe, has a fine career before her. Miss Phillipps as Nancy, we need hardly say, was good; she is good in everything she does; and her acting was remarkable. Orlandini made a very trusty Plunkett [sic], doing his work carefully and well, and acting with animation, though his voice is less sonorous than others to which we are acquainted in that character. There was a painful disagreement at times between the singers and the orchestra, which, in the first half of the opera esopecially, seemed to be running a race, the voices being a trifle ahead.”
“In spite of the unfavorable weather last evening, the long rows of carriages which surrounded Pike’s Opera House about eight o’clock gave certain indication of the fact that the large auditorium was well and fashionably filled. The occasion explained the very large attendance, for the return of so rare a tenor as Brignoli to our operatic stage is an event of no ordinary importance.
The opera of ‘Martha’ was very properly selected as the one in which he should first renew his acquaintance with our public. But little is demanded in the way of action on the part of the tenor in this familiar and favorite work, a fortunate circumstance for Brignoli, who is always either provokingly torpid or unpleasantly awkward. It is probable that he cannot stimulate himself into even a feigned and temporary activity, for it is impossible that so great a singer should willingly throw away the many brilliant opportunities he has lost by his indifference of manner.
His reception last evening showed very clearly his position with the public. A general but not very enthusiastic greeting was accorded to him on his first appearance, which was followed by increasing demonstrations of applause, as the qualities of his peculiar voice were heard to better advantage. It was not until the quartet in the second act that Brignoli seemed wholly at ease and in possession of his wonderful gifts of vocalization. From that time until his last appearance his triumph was as easily won as it was unqualified and complete. We have heard him sing better, but we have also heard him sing worse, and on the whole, his execution was up to his own high average. Of the marvelously clear, sweet and pure tones his admirably correct and pleasing method, and the perfection of his ornamental notes—we need only say that they were as much admired as ever. In all things that go to the making of a great operatic singer, save the histrionic faculty, he has now no peer on this side of the Atlantic. With the addition of that essential, he would thrill audiences with uncontrollable enthusiasm, instead of being regarded merely as the awkward possessor of a wonderful voice.
The support given to Brignoli, with the exception of that afforded by Miss Phillips, was not of the best. We experienced both satisfaction and something of pleased surprise in Miss McCulloch’s Lady Henrietta, a part severely trying to a young prima donna, if only by reason of the comparisons inevitably awakened. Her execution of the one great air of the opera was in the best taste, and showed thorough study of good models. It was almost painfully exact, and suggested that the singer had just been able to reach the difficulties overcome by her. When so much study and progress are revealed, however, there is good ground for promise. It is unnecessary to say that Miss Phillips’s Nancy had all the arch and playful humor of which the part is capable. Those who recollect how delightfully she played this part during her last engagement at the old Academy, with Miss Kellogg as Lady Henrietta, will not forget the comical spinning scene, in which our two American prima donnas engaged in a kindly rivalry of comic acting rarely seen anywhere.
Signor Orlandini made a conscientious effort to sustain the part of Plunkett, and to a good degree succeeded. The drinking song in the second act was given with a spirit, robustness and fullness of tone, which richly deserved the encore it received. The choruses were not satisfactory. Those in the first two acts were rather weak and spiritless, and in nearly all there seemed to be some misunderstanding with the conductor, who occasionally drives his orchestra and chorus ‘tandem’ instead of evenly abreast.”
“There is no opera in the modern repertoire that gives so much general satisfaction as Flotow's ‘Martha.’ It is always attractive. The story is quick and picturesque; and the music follows without overlaying it. Mr. Strakosch was fortunate in his caste [sic], using his company to the best advantage. The event of last evening was, of course, the reappearance of Signor Brignoli. The gentleman has not been forgotten, and, in the dearth of good tenors, is not likely to be. He was in unusually good voice, and obtained a decisive encore in the romanza of the third act. Miss McCulloch, although a little cold, sang with much freshness of voice, and was in every way agreeable. Miss Adelaide Phillips acted and sang admirably. The other characters were well rendered, and the performance gave satisfaction to the largest and most fashionable audience of the season.”
“The production of Martha has yielded M. Brignoli a striking success. As a singer, this tenor excels in these half tone roles, to which he should restrain himself. They applauded with enthusiasm after the third-act romance, whose second verse they made him repeat. As an actor, M. Brignoli is as frozen as, and more awkward than, Mlle McCulloch, who accosted the role of Martha for the first time, and who finally got through it to her credit. Mme Phillips pleased the audience.”