Bateman French Opera: Barbe-bleue

Event Information

Niblo's Garden

Proprietor / Lessee:
William Wheatley

Manager / Director:
William Wheatley

Event Type:

Record Information


Last Updated:
17 October 2018

Performance Date(s) and Time(s)

17 Aug 1868, 8:00 PM
18 Aug 1868, 8:00 PM
19 Aug 1868, 8:00 PM
20 Aug 1868, 8:00 PM
21 Aug 1868, 8:00 PM
22 Aug 1868, Matinee
22 Aug 1868, 8:00 PM

Program Details

Fifth week of Barbe-bleue.

Performers and/or Works Performed

Composer(s): Offenbach
Text Author: Halévy, Meilhac


Advertisement: New York Herald, 16 August 1868.
Advertisement: New-Yorker Staats-Zeitung und Herold, 16 August 1868, 8.
Advertisement: New-York Times, 17 August 1868, 7.
Announcement: New-Yorker Staats-Zeitung und Herold, 17 August 1868, 8.

For the twenty-fifth time; notes full houses and overwhelming success of the performances.

Review: New York Herald, 18 August 1868, 5.

“‘Barbe Bleue,’ under the experienced management of Messrs. Bateman, Palmer and Jarrett, enters successfully upon its fifth week at Niblo’s. There is a noticeable improvement in the singing and acting of both artists and chorus, and, taking as a criterion the large crowds who nightly flock to this theatre to witness the escapades of the hoydenish Boulotte and Barbe Bleu, her villainous better half—or rather her worse one-sixth—we should judge that the piece was steadily growing in popularity. To Mr. Bateman is due the credit of having been the first of our managers who through enterprise and liberality produced the effervescent operas bouffes in a style that alone could render such light productions either popular or acceptable to an American audience. As a people, we require everything to be well done if it be done at all, otherwise we positively refuse to countenance it or bestow upon it our patronage. Our metropolitan managers are at last beginning to realize this important fact, and now spare neither trouble nor expense in scouting the best artists and in presenting the latest theatrical and operatic novelties to the public in the best possible manner. It is just this liberal and judicious catering to the popular taste by Mr. Bateman that ‘Barbe Bleue’ is indebted to the success it has achieved in this city. Never was a stronger opera bouffe company brought together in this country than the one now performing at Niblo’s and never was a piece of this kind anywhere better mounted or more magnificently costumed. But strong as this company is at present it will be doubly so in the fall, when it forms the contemplated conjunction with that other strong company of Mr. Bateman’s, of which Mlle. Tostée is a member.”

Announcement: New-York Times, 18 August 1868, 4.
Review: Boston Daily Evening Transcript, 19 August 1868, 4.

“‘Barbe-Bleue’ is in every way a marked success. The music is liked; the spectacle is enjoyed and the leading singers are already established favorites. Mlle. Irma, in the mischievous part of Boulotte, has won as many admirers as Mlle. Tostee in either of her great rôles. The Duchesse, by the way, is now in the City. There is, however, no occasion to change the bill at Niblo’s, and hence it is Mr. Bateman's intention to send out an expedition to less favored cities. His company is so extensive that he can very readily part with a portion of it. Mlle. Tostee's reputation will insure her success wherever she may go, and we are persuaded that her reéntre in New-York will be the making of another season. Mr. Bateman will, in all probability, remain permanently in New-York. We hear rumors of an arrangement which will give him the control of the handsomest place of amusement in America. We may add here that Miss Bateman will visit America during the Winter season, and will play an engagement under her father’s direction.”

Review: New York Herald, 20 August 1868, 4.

“‘Barbe Bleue’ having proved such a decided success at this house the management have determined upon keeping it upon the boards until after the election at least. In view of the fact that this same piece, owing to poor management, was nothing better than a miserable failure in Paris, and taking into consideration the care, trouble and expense that have been bestowed upon its production in this city, too much praise cannot be accorded to Mr. Bateman for the liberal and magnificent manner in which he has placed it upon the stage, and to whom the American people are indebted for whatever excellence and success operas bouffes have as yet attained in this country. Mlle. Irma and M. Aujac, with the other members of the superb company now performing at Niblo’s, are strong cards, but will be rendered doubly so in the fall, when Mr. Bateman contemplates joining his extra troupe, of which Mlle. Tostée is a member to the one now performing at this establishment. With this combination Mr. Bateman intends to give us the grandest season of opera bouffe that was ever yet enjoyed; but at which theatre this delectable dish will be served up to us has not as yet been definitely settled upon. Instead of tying us down to one opera for months, it is the intention of Mr. Bateman to vary his programme as often as possible, and to afford us an opportunity of seeing and hearing Mlle. Irma and Mlle. Tostée in the same rôles on alternate nights. He is provided with a full repertoire and will give us the best works of Offenbach and other opera bouffe authors. Every piece will be produced in the best possible style, and neither expense nor trouble will be spared to make it attractive and popular. The company at present performing in ‘Barbe Bleue’ will hold possession of Niblo’s until October. The extra troupe meanwhile will give performances in the principal cities West and in the Canadas until they are recalled to form the grand conjunction. The regular dramatic season at this establishment remains for the present indefinitely postponed.”

Announcement: New-Yorker Staats-Zeitung und Herold, 20 August 1868, 8.

Brief notice that Bateman has formed a new troupe that is currently on tour and includes Tostee; it performs the Offenbach favorites La Grand Duchesse de Gérolstein and La Belle Hélène. Meanwhile, in the city, Barbe Bleue continues its uninterrupted run at Niblo’s.

Announcement: New-York Daily Tribune, 22 August 1868, 4.
Review: Courrier des États-Unis, 22 August 1868.

[For the beginning of this article, see event entry of 08/22/68, Article on the forthcoming operetta season.]

“. . . Mlle Irma Marié… should of course do her part to play her role, in Barbe-Bleue, we aren’t saying absolutely as it’s written, because there are, above all in these sorts of shows, touches and embellishments that belong to the temperament and the spirit of the artist—but at least in a manner so as to not disturb the ensemble, not distort the character of the performance, not upset its harmony. Thus, Mlle Irma is funny, certainly, but thanks to her the show isn’t; the other characters are impeded in their movements because of her, and often obliged to gravitate around her like satellites, at the mercy of her whims. Thanks to her jolts and caprices, individual effects or stage effects are distorted; distances and contrived movements lack proportion or precision; she goes and comes on the stage like a fly, attracting the attention of other characters, the chorus and the supernumeraries, forcing them to pay attention to her instead of occupying themselves with their own business, provoking some, hitting others in the belly or on the fingers, and even sometimes going away into some corner of the stage, during a chorus, to vocalize all alone variations and fioritura on some theme or other, whereas she should be at the center of the action. They look for her, she’s not in her spot any more, they don’t know where she is; her interlocutor addresses himself to her, she has disappeared or she’s busy with something else, without taking into account the demands of the dialogue or the laws of the mise-en-scène. In brief, it’s all about her, and everything that isn’t her disappears. It follows that there isn’t any more show, that all interest fades away, because nothing is carrying it, all the meanings lose their effect, and the complicated arrangement of scenic movements, each of which has a purpose, where the most insignificant in appearance contributes to the whole, is absolutely aborted.

We wouldn’t be embarrassed to dwell upon these observations of numerous examples: The scene of the coronation of the rose-queen is completely distorted by the distractions in bad taste with Popolani and the clerk; that of hand-kissing becomes unseemly by dint of disorderly tumult, comings and goings without any sense, and vulgarities which justify immoderately the irony with which king Bobèche, who is an old dog of a wit, in spite of his laughable appearance, says to Barbe-Bleue, ‘My compliments, my lord, your wife is graceful.’ The scene in the vault is also passably maltreated. Mlle Irma baffles her partner at each moment by the unevenness of her disposition and her acting. Thursday evening, for example, through an inexplicable whim, she didn’t want to read the names inscribed on the tombs, as it’s written in the show; she made Barbe-Bleue do it, who yelled, ‘Here lies Rosalinde, here lies Eléonore . . .’ which renders the enumeration of the dead wives monotonous [when it was] varied intentionally by the authors. Then, when Barbe-Bleue says to her, ‘—And underneath the last name, what do you read?’ ‘There’s nothing,’ she replies,—without looking.

A simple detail of this sort would be a little thing, if it were isolated; but this recurred incessantly. Mlle Irma busies herself constantly with making drolleries, without regarding whether they’re in the right place, if they don’t get in the way of something, if they cooperate to improve a situation. The result of this is a disjointedness that takes away the meaning of what surrounds it and renders the piece tedious. The fact is that none of the artists charged with the principal roles appears in Barbe-Bleue in as favorable a light as in the Grande-Duchesse, and that’s understandable. Put the sentry-box from the Guignol in place of a stage-box at the Théâtre-Francais or at the Opéra, and you’ll see a bit if Polcinelle doesn’t hurt the performance of the foremost comic actors in the world. Mlle Irma has talent, she has charm when she’s correct and she stays within bounds. But she wants to do too much, and her zeal makes her fall into unfortunate variations. M. Bateman will do well to be careful. He has a scenario written that he obliges his director and his artists to follow. If he doesn’t watch out, he’ll give ammunition to a competitor who will be aware of how to uphold the strict limits of a more purified taste.”

Review: New-York Times, 24 August 1868, 4.

“Mr. Bateman is probably not aware of the fact that he is a philanthropist, but toward that large portion of the human family who are engaged in furnishing amusements to the public he has acted with more than ordinary benevolence. He has given them the means of prospering in the world. It is not necessary to refer to the past. The present will suffice for an illustration. He is playing Barbe Bleue at Niblo’s, and many places of amusement are closed. Why Niblo’s should be open and flourishing is a thing which we will not pretend to explain. But it is a fact. On the strength of this extraordinary circumstance we are about to have an early musical season, and he is where Mr. Bateman's philanthropy comes in. He has supplied every one of his opponents with the means of doing as well as himself. Barbe Bleue—the wickedest widower on the stage—is to some extent the medium.  For instance, we are to have 'Barber Blu' at Kelly and Leon's on Wednesday; and on the following Monday “Barber Brown” at the San Francisco Minstrels; shortly afterward we are to have 'Blue Beard' at the New York Theatre; and at Wood’s Museum and Grau’s French Theatre, opera bouffe is to be the staple commodity. With five zealous imitators in the field, Mr. Bateman may well feel satisfied.

The success of Barbe Bleue last week was uninterrupted. It will, of course, continue on the bills until further notice. Mr. Bateman, as we have hinted, has effected a permanent arrangement with Mr. PIKE, by which he becomes the manager of the handsomest theatre in America. He will transfer his troupe from Niblo’s to Pike’s in November—much to the satisfaction, we take it, of our west-side friends. In the interim, as his company is unusually strong, there is no occasion to disturb either the caste or the run of Barbe Bleue, the manager has determined on sending a flying column to the 'Dominion' and other places. The company, strange to say, will include all the artists who achieved the first success of opera bouffe in this city. That inimitable little actress and singer, Mlle. Tostee, is the prima donna. She is supported by Mlle. Lambelle, Mlle. Rose, Mlle. Mathilde, Mme. Hamilton, and Mlle. Louise Hamilton. The male artists are M. Decre (tenor), Messrs. Guidon, Doran, and Hamilton, and the incomparable trio, Messrs. Leduc, Duchesne, and Lagriffoul. The chorus and orchestra have been selected with Mr. Bateman's usual carefulness, and will be under the direction of Mr. Birgfeld. There can be no doubt about the success of the excursion. Opera bouffe, presented by such artists, is a Metropolitan luxury. It could only be possible elsewhere under the peculiar circumstances which render the best of artists unnecessary to Mr. Bateman, owing to the success of Barbe Bleue. The company opens at Montreal on Monday next, the 31st inst.”