Grau French Opera Bouffe: French Benevolent Society Annual Benefit

Event Information

Academy of Music

Robert August Stoepel

Event Type:

Record Information


Last Updated:
30 December 2018

Performance Date(s) and Time(s)

17 Dec 1868, 7:45 PM

Performers and/or Works Performed

Composer(s): Offenbach
Participants:  Marie Desclauzas (role: Boulotte);  Julien Carrier (role: Barbe Bleue)
Composer(s): Offenbach


Announcement: New York Post, 01 December 1868, [2].
Announcement: New York Post, 04 December 1868, [2].
Advertisement: New York Herald, 15 December 1868.
Announcement: New York Post, 15 December 1868, [4].
Advertisement: New-York Times, 15 December 1868, 8.
Announcement: New York Post, 16 December 1868, [4].
Announcement: New York Post, 17 December 1868, [2].
Announcement: New-York Times, 17 December 1868, 4.
Review: New York Herald, 18 December 1868, 7.

“The Academy of Music was crowded last night at the benefit of the Societe Francaise de Bienfaisance—one of the worthiest charitable societies in New York. Mr. Grau’s French Opera company performed the first act of ‘Barbe Bleue’ and the first two acts of ‘Genevieve de Brabant.’ Of the latter it is superfluous to say anything save that Mme. Rose Bell and Mlle. Desclauzas appeared to as great advantage and sang as delightfully as ever; that the fine voice of Carrier and the energetic acting of Beckers found ample space, and that Gabel and Bourgoin were, as usual, ineffably droll. The curiosity of the public to hear Carrier sing ‘Ma premiere femme est morte,’ and to see and hear Mlle. Desclauzas as Boulotte in ‘Barbe Bleu,’ was abundantly and most agreeably satisfied. Carrier never sang with more verve, and Mlle. Desclauzas, although a Boulotte of larger dimensions than we are accustomed to see, sang deliciously and acted the part far better than we had expected. The choruses in both the plays were extraordinarily good. There can be no more thoroughly drilled and harmonious a company than that of the Theatre Francais in Fourteenth street.”

Review: New York Post, 18 December 1868, [3].

“The performance by the Grau troupe last night at the Academy of Music, for the benefit of the French Benevolent Society, was a very spirited and successful affair.  In the first act of ‘Barbe Bleue,’Desclauzas and Carrier appeared in new characters, and were most favorably received.”

Review: Courrier des États-Unis, 21 December 1868.

“CHRONIQUE HEBDOMADAIRE. – Is there a column as superfluous as the one that undertakes to recount a soirée attended by the whole French population of New York?

            “But the inexorable Monday is here’ the Minotaur wants its prey, and it has to be done. The best is then to execute it with good grace, and without hesitating, as Boulotte [in Barbe-Bleue] said. Look! Here’s the ritornello requested and thanks to this retrospective memory let’s fall into the midst of the issue.

            “The hall was full, that goes without saying. Boxes, balconies, pit and parquet, all was sold out in advance. The loiterers and the imprudent folks who had neglected to take precautions found themselves, for punishment, condemned to remain standing.

            “It was a pleasure to see the animation in every face, to admire the elegance and above all, the good taste of the attire, to hear tongues trotting’ without counting the beautiful eyes and the fresh smiles setting their traps! You felt like you were in the midst of the homeland, for France is incontestably the country where genteel people know how, and dare, to have fun the best way, to nibble with beautiful teeth, without blushing, at the merriments before which the pseudo-Brittanic cant only knows how to veil its face with both hands . . . while spreading its fingers.

            “I don’t yet know exactly the net sum for the poor; but it’s certain that the performance was as profitable for them as it was pleasant for the onlookers.

            “To proceed in order, one has to speak first about the first act of Barbe-Bleue; you even have to speak about it twice rather than once, for it was received with such enthusiasm that you could have believed you were at the first performance of a new work; and yet God, Niblo and Pike know if that’s a novelty for New York!

            “We don’t want to establish the least comparison. To compare is too often —  as paradoxical as that may seem—a convenient way to dispense of judging; but we can affirm in complete security of conscience that the success was carried off to its highest point of skill by Mlle Desclauzas. She made Boulotte a complete creation, full of simplicity. She’s truly the robust peasant “well settled in every way” who awaits her Rubens. Boulotte isn’t a vaudevillienne, a diner at the “Grand Seize” [fancy dining room at the Café Anglais, the venerable restaurant that Meilhac alludes to in the libretto of la Vie Parisienne]; it’s not on the asphalt of the Boulevard des Italiens that she has won her stripes in the regiment of gallantry. No! It’s simply

            Une grosse et forte luronne                 A large and strong buxom girl

            Qui, lors qu’un amant la chiffonne     Who, when a lover vexes her

            Se defend à grands coups de poings   Defends herself with big punches

            Elle est robuste, elle est naïve;            She’s robust, she’s naïve;

            Sa grâce est quelque peu massive . . . Her charm is a bit massive . . .

Accordingly, her amorous feats should be enclosed within a given radius. She will have flirted for fun with some cute guy from the village, or some charming poacher. To say she would always defend herself with big punches, that would perhaps be exaggerated; but one could admit that she sometimes protected herself. She’s a pretty big girl who has some ingenuity in her mistakes; Nature alone is guilty of having given her too much longing . . . . [more about Boulotte’s character]

            “Mlle Desclauzas has perfectly brought about the type we have tried to sketch out. She didn’t make Boulotte either a sharp, affected person or a girl made of marble. She knew how to remain a peasant, without forcing a note in any way, and the role, in her hands, didn’t for a moment overstep the limit where one falls from the comic into the grotesque. It’s at first, then, a handsome and true success for the actress, doubled, in the next place, by a success for the no-less-remarkable singer. We aren’t acquainted with all of Mlle Desclauzas’s vocal resources; she possesses a magnificent soprano and knows how to use it. All of her verses were encored.

            “In the thankless role of Geneviève we really had the proof that Mlle Desclauzas is a pretty woman, with distinguished demeanor, capable of carrying out an ungratifying role conscientiously, and of singing a duet or a trio on occasion; but in Barbe-Bleue we’re convinced that the pretty, ladylike woman is among the elite of comic actresses (for it’s a long way from Geneviève to Boulotte) and even more, an outstanding lyric artist. The lady and the peasant have, however, a point of connection: it’s beauty. Truly, when Mlle Desclauzas made her entrance costumed as a rose-queen, there was a cry of admiration in the hall, so much did everyone find her ravishing. They’ve talked about the bravos and flowers before me.

            “Is M. Grau fortunate enough? Look at him at the head of two stars of the foremost magnitude. If only Mme Goby—as we all presume—also enters on equal footing onto the pathway to success, they’ll calculate by constellations henceforth. Let’s go, M. Grau, you have to use those talents quickly; the public is fond of delicate dishes and you’ve given it a taste for them!

            “The other roles, in that fragment of Barbe-Bleue, are so cut that one can only keep account of the artists by the kindness [the audience has] shown in accepting them. Nevertheless one must note in the order of the day our valorous Carrier, whose beautiful voice has done marvels in expanding at ease in that vast hall which has heard many tenors from grand opera for which our operetta-tenor would be much more than a match. Mme Bageard graciously sang the little role of Hermia and M. Bourgoin played Count Oscar’s scene with a lot of liveliness and a good comic sense. Beckers and Goby completed the ensemble along with M. Mussay who deserves special mention for the way he played the clerk, the poor thing undergoing pain at the hands of the noisy Boulotte. In the choruses, carried off with fullness and precision, as well as in the way the orchestra maneuvered, it was easy to recognize the impetus of the able conductor R. Stoepel.

            “After this act which was a revelation for many and a pleasure for all, we were present at the sixtieth performance of Geneviève de Brabant. You have to dot your i’s, for you know there’s Geneviève and Geneviève like there are fagots and fagots [i.e., all things are not alike]. We have, first, Sainte Geneviève patroness of Paris, the same [person] who invented the little cakes of Nanterre [Brioche de Nanterre]; then today’s Geneviève, innocent victim of Golo, “that monster full of crimes”, the tender object of adoration by the graceful Drogan; and finally a third as unknown to legend as to history: Geneviève de Brooklyn. I swear there’s a program I have before my eyes where it’s said that Wednesday and Thursday of this week they’ll perform Geneviève de Brooklyn at the Academy of BRABANT. If it’s a natural misprint, it’s very successful, but I strongly suspect that it was premeditated by the author of the announcement: as one is familiar with witty people one [respects them] . . . .

            “I turn back . . . to Geneviève as if I’d had to fear facing up to analyzing it. Far from it; but it’s that I simply have to repeat the praise stereotyped since the first performance: a hit, a big hit, for all! Then, if it’s always easy to explain the ideas one has, it’s less so to formulate the same idea sixty times in sixty different shapes.

            “For all that, the execution seemed to me to be superior to what it usually is. Is it the effect of a bigger hall, or would it rather be that the artists, [over]excited themselves by the circumstances and the ovations that they received, regarded their liveliness and skill as contributing their share to this festival of beneficence? Never had Mme Rose Bell been so lively, so smart, so pretty in her costume of pastrymaker/page. The work vanishes before the skill of the interpretation. In the second tableau, in the toilette scene, it wasn’t Drogan any more, hidden by the maids of honor, but the poetic, amorous Cherubino, Cherubino d’amore, rigged out by Susanna and singing a romance to Madame [in The Marriage of Figaro]. What finesse and what purity of style! Mme Rose Bell is the soul of this piece, which she dominates with all the height of her refined and exquisite skill.

            “What miracles genius works! I maintain that only the merit of artists gives life to these little mechanisms of the day. Put ordinary performers and mediocre singers in the place of Rose Bell, and of Carrier as Siffroi; put a woman of negative beauty in place of the beautiful Desclauzas, an ordinary comic in place of Gabel, and the work gives way, disappears, sinks in upon itself.

            “The bravos, the bis-es, the flowers came into play more and more and Drogan could convince himself that sovereignty that he exercises over hearts is not limited to the hall on Fourteenth Street.

          “Carrier had scarcely entered on stage when the bravos were launched from all parts of the hall. The gendarmes obtained their traditional success and MM. Beckers, Génot, Goby and Petit also had their part in the celebration. The Tyrolienne was encored and Mmes Gueretti and Bagear each received a pretty bouquet. It wasn’t everything to get flowers in the theater; it has to be that the audience ratified this acknowledgment, and that’s what made it wholehearted.