Pike's Opera House
Proprietor / Lessee:
H. L. [impressario] Bateman
Manager / Director:
H. L. [impressario] Bateman
Price: $1.50 reserved; $1; $.50 family circle; $10 private boxes; $20 proscenium boxes
3 January 2019
Notes that Bateman’s opera bouffe troupe moves to Pike’s Opera House on Oct. 14.
“…and on [October] the 14th proximo the combined forces of Mr. Bateman will inaugurate the season at Pike’s with The Grande Duchesse, with Mlle. Tostee in the title rôle, which character she has already played in this country over 400 times. Mlle. Lambele will appear as Wanda; M. Aujac as Fritz, and Messrs. Leduc and Duchesne in their original characters of Prince Paul and General Houm.
During the season at Pike’s, Mr. Bateman will introduce to the New York public some of the most magnificent scenery and costumes ever seen upon the American stage. The scenery will be by well known native artists, but the costumes are to be imported from Paris. The superb manner in which Mr. Bateman has always placed these delicious morsels of operatic nonsense upon the stage has tended greatly towards making them popular with the American public, and now that he is about to open with a grand company at Pike’s gorgeous temple it is expected that he will eclipse all his former efforts and that the mounting of the operas will harmonize and be in keeping with the theatre and the company. The following opéras bouffes will be produced under the management of Mr. Bateman during the forthcoming season at Pike’s—La Grande Duchesse, Fleur de The, La Belle Helene, Les Bergers, and Les Georgiennes, together with the followng operas comiques—Le Val D’ Andorre, Les Dragons de Villas, and La Circassienne. The subscription sale of boxes and stalls will commence October 5, and as the number of boxes are limited, those who come late will probably be disappointed. The operas are to be changed as often as possible and an opportunity will be afforded the public of seeing and hearing the leading artists in the same rôles, as the cast is to be changed upon alternate nights. Both of Mr. Bateman’s companies—the one now performing at Niblo’s and the one at present traveling through the West—are to be consolidated before the inauguration of the season at Pike’s and will comprise the following well known artists—Mlles. Tostee, Irma, Lambelé, Duclos, Marie, Henrietta, Rose, Mathilde, Louise, Hamilton, Lebiance and Cadic, and Messrs. Aujac, Duchesne, Decré, Leduc, Lagriffani, Pholer, Dardignac, Frances, Edgard, Hamilton, Benedick, Daron and Chal.”
“The Grand Duchess has certainly transferred her Duchy from Gerolstein to New York, for never did a monarch reign with a more absolute sway than she does in the realm of music. Mr. Grau in all his repertoire finds nothing that he thinks will take better than this opera, and has accordingly selected it for the first appearance of his new artists this evening. Mr. Bateman is of the same mind, and Barbe-Bleue runs but four more nights. The new season at Pike’s Opera House is also to open with ‘La Grande Duchesse,’ a week from Wednesday. Whether her Highness is firm enough upon her throne to reign over two kingdoms remains to be seen. Meantime the public, having nothing new to expect from the music, has everything to expect from the new artists whom Mr. Grau has brought out, and is full of curiosity to hear them. The new company will provoke comparison with the old one at every point. Madame Rose Bell must be prepared to measure her strength against the brilliant Tostée, for everyone will ask, ‘Is she as pretty? does she make love to Fritz with the same abandon? does she fling herself into the cancan with the same rollicking humor and grace?’ All of which can be better answered this evening than now.”
“Pike’s Opera House opens for the season on Wednesday evening next, under the management of Mr. H. E. Bateman. Opéras bouffes, given by artists already favorably known to New Yorkers, will be the principal attraction; but opéras comiques will likewise be served up at this establishment to tickle the intellectual palate of the public. Every preparation has been made for bringing out the various operas in a superior style, and arrangements have been perfected whereby persons living at inconvenient distances from the Opera House will be enabled to reach it and return again to their homes without experiencing much difficulty. Stages will leave Union Square and the Fifth Avenue Hotel every two minutes for the seat of war from half-past six until half-past eight o’clock every evening, and the same facilities for returning will be afforded to the public after each night’s performance. The ‘Grand Duchess’ is the piece announced for the opening night, with Mlle. Tostée in the title rôle. Mlle. Lambelé as Wanda, Mr. Aujac as Fritz and Messrs. Leduc and Duchesne in their original characters of Prince Paul and General Boum. Two rival duchesses will then be on the boards at the same time, at as many separate theatres in the city, and the indulgent public will doubtless hear and see both before deciding in favor of either. Mille. Irma, who is now in St. Louis, will return to this city early in Novemember, when she will join the forces operating at Pike’s and will probably make her rentree before the New York public in the rôle of the Grand Duchess. As affairs look at present, it is not at all unlikely but that we shll have about as many Grand Duchesses in this city before the season is over as can conveniently rule at the same time in one duchy; but we suppose the motto will be ‘the more the merrier.’”
“There are, it seems, to be three Duchesses in the field. Madame Rose Bell retires on Thursday evening from that rôle in favor of Mlle. Desclauzas. Not that Madame Bell has failed in any way of success in the part; but that the terms of Mr. Grau’s contract with Mlle. Desclauzas provide that she shall be permitted to make her first appearance in this character. The public will certainly have a wide choice in the matter. If they find Tostée to warm, or Rose Bell too frigid, perhaps Desclauzas may hit the exact mark, and succeed in preserving both the proprieties and the fun.”
“Notwithstanding the inauspicious weather Mr. Bateman’s second season of opéra bouffe opened brilliantly last evening at Pike’s Opera House. The interior of this superb edifice was resplendent with the beauty and fashion of the metropolis. A larger and more appreciative audience has never applauded the sparkling music of Offenbach, the marvelous pantomimic and magnetic power of Mlle. Tostée in the rôle of the Grand Duchess of Gerolstein, the inexhaustible fun and undescribable byplay of that unrivalled trio, Mr. Duchesne as General Boum, Mr. Leduc as Prince Paul and Mr. Lagriffoul as Baron Puck; the extraordinary gifts of Mr. Aujac (Fritz) as a tenor and as an actor, and the sweet, if not powerful, voice of Mlle. Lambelle (Wanda). The bows of Mr. Daron, as Baron Grog, were sufficiently ludicrous, and so was his wig; but he could not equal his predecessor. Nor did the new Nepomuc by any means equal his. Truth compels us to add that even Mr. Aujac as Fritz has not yet fully realized the ideal which the public has formed of the simple soldier who is elevated to the rank of commander-in-chief, and precipitated from it with the same celerity. Mr. Aujac occasionally forgot that he was Fritz and not Barbe Bleue. But he will doubtless in time satisfy the most critical demands. The ladies of the court, in the charming scene where they read the letters received from their sweethearts in camp, seemed to have hardly had time to dress themselves so perfectly as they used to appear last winter. But, indeed, they could scarcely have had time to unpack their trunks after their swift return from St. Louis. Almost the entire company has but just arrived from the West, travelling twelve hundred miles in fifty hours, and immediately appearing before the public—an exploit almost unprecedented in the annals of theatrical enterprise. It is only surprising that the army of General Boum, after a forced march unsurpassed by the famous forced marches of General Bonaparte, should have won so signal a victory as that which they achieved last night. Pike’s Opera House was not at all too large for Mlle. Tostée’s admirers, who thronged it last evening, and the ovation in her honor was a complete success. It is not her fault if quite a disproportionate share of the shower of bouquets which fell at her feet was bestowed upon that bewitching although equivocal can-can, rather than upon her inimitable acting in the rest of the opera. It was but a somewhat discreditable indication of the taste of a portion of her admirers. Suffering as she was from the fatigues of her long journey, she acquitted herself admirably and was applauded with enthusiasm. So was manager Bateman when he appeared before the curtain and delivered the following speech:--
‘Ladies and Gentlemen, I have many--very many--things to thank you for. First, for the splendid reputation you have this evening given to the statement that ‘nobody could find Pike’s Opera House.’ You, Ladies and Gentlemen, have found it easily; and I may be permitted to hope you will find it often. Second, for the generous welcome you have given my artists, and especially for the enthusiastic, indeed affectionate, recognition you have extended to Mlle. Tostee on her reappearance among us; and again for the compliment of this flattering call for me. At last, ladies and gentlemen, we are at home. We have flirted and coquetted among various theaters, as you well know, but now we are settled for good, for real good, I hope, in the most brilliant and beautiful opera house in the world. I believe it to be so, and I have seen most of them. And, I can not let the opportunity pass of thanking the modest and quiet gentleman, Mr. S. N. Pike, who has provided us with so rare an edifice for the best theatrical and operatic purposes. Like the illustrious hero of this beautiful picture behind me (referring to the new drop curtain), I have long been seeking for my ‘promised land,’ and at last have found it. I need not detain you by making any extended declaration of my intentions. As I have hitherto endeavored, so I shall continue to endeavor to provide for you the first and the best works of the class which I have had the pleasure of introducing here, and while I am truly gratified at past successes, I ought to say that it is my purpose to improve upon all that has been hitherto done to an extent which will warrant the continuation of the favor which you have this evening shown me.’”
“Mr. Bateman last night began his new season at Pike’s Opera House under the most encouraging circumstances. The large auditorium was filled in every part, and with an audience unusually enthusiastic. The new drop curtain was vigorously applauded; the famous trio of ‘Conspirators’ were tumultuously cheered; Tostée was welcomed with thunders of applause and covered with showers of bouquets, and Mr. Bateman himself was called out to receive an ovation, to which he responded in an appropriate speech. With the exceptions of M. Aujac as Fritz, and of Mlle. Lambelle as Wanda, the cast was the same as before. The former has the great advantage over his predecessor, M. Guffroy, of a fine voice, which he knows how to use, and can never be anything less than a good actor. As Fritz, however, he is hardly a success, being altogether too much of a gentleman for the part. Lambelle took her part creditably. The performance went off with spirit and was enjoyed intensely.”
“Westward the star of opera, like that of Empire, takes its way. That star we should judge to be Tostee, for never was that concentration of jolity so heartily received as on last evening. She was hailed with a tumultuous and long-continued burst of applause, so well directed and emphasized with bouquets that it well-nigh took the little lady off her feet. She could not help but feel that there was something worth loving in the civil as well as the military gathering, and the heart of the Duchesse, which, it must be confessed, is capacious, undoubtedly throbbed with delight. Mlle. Tostee, since her return from Europe, has traveled extensively through the country, and Sunday evening came at one bound from St. Louis to appear at Pike’s last evening. There was, of course, a slight indication of fatigue in her voice. It wore rapidly off as the business of the piece progressed, and of this business it is necessary to say, is an original, electrical, and daring as ever. The principal morceaux of the rôle were of course, vociferously encored, and the imprudent but fascinating Sovereign, Gerolstein, had to wade through flowers to respond to the audience’s recalls. Mlle. Lambele was the Wanda, and, although lacking musical strength, sang acceptably, and looked very charming in her piquante village dress. What can be said of such well-known and esteemed artists as Leduc, Duchesne, Lagriffoul. It would be difficult, if not impossible, to find such another trio in any city—even Paris itself. M. Leduc is a comedian of the first class, superior, we think, to the late Mr. Walcot, who, in certain character parts, was unapproachable. The hearty bluffness of Duchesne has simple scope in the rôle allotted to him—General Boum, and M. Lagriffoul’s Baron Puck is thoroughly well studied. With Mlle. Tostee as the Grande Duchesse, and conspiritors of the class we have named, the second act assumes a magnificence of fun which cannot be understood save by those who have enjoyed it.
Mr. Bateman has conveyed his very fine chorus to Pike’s, and has largely reinforced, the orchestra. Both forces were under the direction of Mr. Birgfeld, and contributed largely to the perfection of the evening’s performance. Pike’s beautiful house has never been seen to such advantage. A new curtain has been added to the attractions of the establishment. It represents the landing of Columbus as narraed by Washington Irving, and is from the brush of Mr. Angero. The grouping is good, and the details exhibit the hand of a skillful artist, but the tone needs a little heightening to struggle successfully against the brilliancy of the gas and the decorations of the house. The attendance was simply enormous, every part of the house being filled to the greatest capacity. La Grande Duchesse will be played every evening until further notice.
After the fall of the curtain on the first act, the various artists were called out. A general cry was then raised for Mr. Bateman, who ‘stepped willingly up to the scratch,’ and gave utterance to a few remarks appropriate to the occasion, the gist of which was that he had now found the promised land, like Columbus in the picture at his back. He was loudly applauded.”
“Mr. Bateman, now established at Pike’s Opera House, gives the votaries of Offenbach the ‘original and only genuine’ Grand Duchess of Gerolstein. In the opinion of the many, Tostée, Duchesne, Leduc, and Lagriffoul can in no wise be improved upon. Certainly they were warmly received last evening on their reappearance in the field of their former triumphs. M’lle. Lambelé as Wanda, and M. Aujac as Fritz, acceptably replaced those who last Winter took those parts. Although it was by no means a pleasant evening out of doors, the seats and standing places of the splendid Eighth Ave. Theater were all taken, mostly by gentlemen. The favorites were received with prolonged applause, as they came before the footlights, and Mlle. Tostée in particular received flowers enough to fill a clothes-basket. At the end of the first act, Mr. Bateman, being loudly called for, appeared and thanked the audience for their warm, he might say affectionate, welcome of the Grand Duchess. He said that after wandering around, and seeing many cities and theaters, he trusted that he had at last found a home in the magnificent temple erected by Mr. Pike. It may reasonably be anticipated that Mr. Bateman’s well-known ability as a manager will give that house a better standing with the public than it has yet achieved.”
“If I counted among the number of my friends—or even of my simple acquaintances—an authentic Calchas, I’d definitely take the liberty of respectfully asking him how many years of the Grand Duchess of Gerolstein the good city of New York is still condemned to.
Through bad luck, since the gods have gone away [La Belle-Hélène is no longer playing] the oracles have disappeared. They’ve naturally followed their line bosses.
One only finds these days, in our morose and un-Olympian season, some sibyls in a room, witches in tartans whose holy tripod is only a foot-warmer, and who, for a little cash, will play into your hands. Accompanied by a cardboard crocodile and a stuffed owl, she’ll boldly predict that you will inherit a lot of money or that one day you’ll marry a beautiful brunette. Only, no uncle from America ever makes his will in your favor, and the beautiful brunette for whom you die of love marries another.
For want of an oracle who revelas the mysteries of the future, wait! It seems to me that it shouldn’t be long, because the young sovereign of Gerolstein has run about the streets here for weeks and months and years already. The new fiancée of the king of Garbe has set her cap for the soldiers enough; isn’t it high time to put it away for a bit?
Not that I would have the slightest grievance against that majestic acrobat! I admire equally her goodness of heart and her largeness of disposition. No aristocratic prejudices! She mistreats her courtiers, the nobility, and has no other goal, I’m sure, than to provide for the well-being of her subjects in general and of the military gentlemen in particular. But notwithstanding that I begin to find that she abuses them a bit too much, that has its place! They’ve put them everywhere, just like the nutmeg in Boileau’s famous dinner. You must admit, however, that you can be a fervent disciple of Brillat-Savarin, a valiant and refined eater, without believing that you have to stuff nutmeg into sweet peas or supreme de volaille, and you can adore music without passing away your life between le Sabre de mon père and Ra pa ta pa poum!
But men are made thus and it would appear that it’s not [only] something of today, since Aristophanes, Plautus and Molière maintain that you never see people remain within the proper boundaries and that the best thing
‘…they often damage,
Through the wish to overdo and push too far….’
[‘…ils la gâtent souvent
Pour la vouloir outrer et pousser trop avant.’]
Ah! What a science it is to know how to withdraw and to end in time! To avoid satiety is one of the secrets of happiness.
A week ago, M. Grau opened his season at the hall on Fourteenth Street—the true abode of French theater, whatever one may say and do—with the revival of La Grande Duchesse. We said then what a deserved success the principal artists obtained, and praised, without restraint, everything that merited citing about the opening, the chorus, the orchestra, the costumes. . . the supers. The knowledgeable audience ratifies every evning what we said at that time.
The day before yesterday, M. Bateman convoked the gourmets of operetta who made last year such a success for him, upon taking possession of the magnificent Pike’s Opera House. The great attraction of the evening, independently of well-loved and justly appreciated names, was the return of Mlle Tostée. . . . and naturally they did La Grande Duchesse! Again the sabre. . . .
Before giving an account of this performance which was only a long ovation for the principal artists, with accompaniment of sonorous bravos and a diluvian rain of flowers directed to the reigning diva, permit me a fleeting digression.
I think, by my reckoning, that the two directors, Grau as well as Bateman, were ill-advised to reopen with La Grande Duchesse; I’m talking from the point of view of receipts. The piece is known by heart and more than by heart; the libretto, amusing enough I admit, has lost the greatest attraction of theatrical works, the unexpected; the music has traveled up and down the whole social scale; they tap it on the pianos, they grind it on all the organs of barbarity, without counting the repertoire of the military gentlemen and the firemen, of whom it’s the most handsome embellishment.
I certainly don’t wish that the result will prove me right, and yet, if I’m wrong, that won’t shake my conviction. It’s true that he who holds the key to the cash-box is more at a loss than the advisors, who generally aren’t the paymasters.
You mustn’t lose sight of [the fact that] the impresario is above all a businessman. He works, not for glory and art, but for his own benefit; thus I wouldn’t know whether the public owes more recognition to a well-managed thing than it owes to this jeweler whose products are outstanding or that cloth-merchant whose assortment is always varied and in good taste.
I very much don’t like anyone to swoon at every idle remark ahead of the success.
For those who are skillful, success justifies everything, I know. The businessman who leads a hazardous operation to a good outcome, as the daring general who wins a battle in spite of the rules of classic strategy, are heroes. Ah! if the businessman had foundered, if the general had been conquered, the above-mentioned skillful people would have condemned them ceaselessy as well as pitilessly.
So, long live success! and I wholeheartedly wish both impresarios, who are beginning to engage in a competitive struggle on a very fragile battlefield, popular favor.
I haven’t taken any side at all on this issue, and I believe that the thoughtful mass of the public is as I am. Nevertheless I must testify that you feel in the air, like a murmuring, some preconceived opinions that quickly turn into a cabal. . . I’ve heard in the two camps a lot of unmotivated criticism, and also a lot of huge praises.
Doubtless this is only a straw fire, a passing overexcitement that will calm itself. Reson and good sense will guide things to their true level.
Should we be threatened by seeing the terrible struggles of the Gluck-ists and Piccini-ites, Arnaud against Marmontel, and Suard against La Harpe, reproduced in Grau vs. Bateman!
Will we see disunion in families like in the time of the Guelphs and Ghibellines? . . . Romeos in short jackets snatched from the arms of their crinolined Juliets by the barbarous Montague-Batemans and ferocious Capulet-Graus?
You can imagine Union Square stripped of its shrubs and lawns, sanded like the lists of a medieval tournament; then, trumpets sounding, flags deployed, helmet on head and lance at hand, two troops of cavaliers advancing brave and proud, one carrying the colors of Tostée, the others of Rose Bell . . .then the mêlée, the clang of armor, the crash of combat, the groans of the wounded, the cries of the dying. . . .
Let’s avert our eyes! Things probably won’t go so far, although, to tell the truth, a bit of struggle shouldn’t be scorned. Nothing is as mortal as indifference, in love as in other things.
How in this awful conflict can the impartial critic make his pronouncement heard? It’s his right, but will they listen to im?
The task is quite delicate; however, it can be undertaken. The most difficult thing isn’t recognizing the truth, but speaking it.
You have to first convince the artists that, in their own interests, they shouldn’t want a perpetual perfuming.
When you’ve emptied the inkwell to the limit with all kinds of praises, where do you go? Should you begin again?
I’m talking to the writers as well as to the actors. What are these pretended admirations on command that don’t convince anyone any more and these chilly enthusiasms that have no echo? They’re damaged goods that are sold at false weights.
Let’s be true, let’s be simple. So that the Horaces of the future don’t say of us:
Clamabit enim: Pulchre! Bene! Recie!
In sum, let the pasteboard giants pile up mountains of sensational adjectives to raise up the famous in favor of ephemeral works that caprice can well make masterpieces for a day, but which, luckily for our age, will never see the apocryphal baptism ratified by posterity.
In sum, the sun shines for everyone and justice is due to all. What do you need to do it well? Impartiality. Also it will be, if not with great skill, at least with a good conscience. The criticism certainly wants to be good, but meanwhile not wanton.
Let’s begin by declaring that nobody is able to understand how to do right by the masses, and how to move them, like M. Bateman. Let’s call the items by name: if there is, in some corner of the globe, a kingdom of Humbug, Bateman deserves to be its king. He knows how to mine its slenderest vein. He doesn’t spare himself, he talks at every turn and without a cause, tickles the nation’s fiber, and if he doesn’t arrive at the summit of unburnished fortune, it’s because the old proverb audaces fortuna [luck goes to the bold] has ceased to be true.
It’s already bold to have rented Pike’s Hall, for it offers lots of inconveniences: it’s badly placed, and too vast for operetta singers. No matter, Bateman has faith in his star. He put himself under the patronage of Christopher Columbus, which isn’t foolish. The curtain in front of the stage represents the illustrious navigator taking possession of the American land. You can see an exact reduction of this great image on the back of the bills of the great national banks. Anyone would prefer, no doubt, the reduction to the original.
At exactly eight o’clock, the musicians of the orchestra, standing and with a collected air, executed, under the direction of a fat gentleman in festive dress, Hail Columbia! Useless to say what salvos of applause that national air received. It’s not only in our beautiful France that there are chauvinists like this. They’ve assured me that they even exist in Monaco.
Finally, the piece began. The entrances of MM. Aujac, Duchesne, Lagriffoul and Leduc were astounding, but when Tostée appeared it was a frenzy. The bouquets saw themselves raining down like thick hail. Each number was conscientiously encored, even when emotion and the fatigue caused by a long and recent voyage paralyzed the means of the artist a bit.
After the first act, a general recall; then the cries began again and they demanded Bateman. Without turning to prayer, he began to thank the numerous and select assembyly who had so much wanted to respond to his appeal. In this new speech, short but well felt, he compared himself modestly to Christopher Columbus, boasted of having discovered a new continent (Pike’s Opera House) and promised wonders for the future.
I repeat, this taste for speaking to the audience doesn’t seduce me much. You might well say that it’s the custom of the country, that’s not a justification in my eyes. We have in France, on these points, traditions of elegance, of good taste and of reserve vis-à-vis the public which have contributed not a little to givin our theater the elevated rank which it occupies. Humbugs amuse me on the boards at the gate of the barracks. . . other than that, they must be left to politicians in the square who tire their lungs out crying the old refrain: take my bear!
During the whole piece the bravos and flowers continued to rain down. Truly the public has well-celebrated its old acquaintances.
You know all the artists who created the piece. Nothing has changed in the important roles, save for Fritz and Wanda.
M. Aujac who has received the inheritance of Guffroy is the charming Sire of Barbe-Bleue whom everyone has already applauded at Niblo’s. He’s a serious artist who has merit, even a lot of merit. He displayed, in Barbe-Bleue, a liveliness that made me hope for a Fritz otherwise conceived. I found him a bit too realistic, more elegant thn simple and more singer than comedian. This isn’t a reproach, it’s on the contrary a commendation of M. Aujac, who is a delightful singer of comic opera and not a comic bouffe, that is to say, not a stunt-man. In the second and third acts there isn’t anything comic either in the costume or in the acting; it’s rather much more Chapelou from Postillon than the thickheaded Fritz.
M. Aujac gets through the role, but it’s not in his nature, he isn’t its incarnation. I’ll take up this argument again shortly in trying to prove what a wrong to the lyric art the abuse of operetta, which is after all only a deviation of taste, does. M. Aujac’s voice is pretty, well managed and of an agreeable timbre, above all in the higher notes; the mid-range is a bit hollow—after all, the hall is so vast!
Mlle Lambelé is a fine and most attractive Wanda. Like M. Aujac, she plays opera-comique in operetta, and nobody complains about it, above all in the duettino in the 3rd act: C’est mon mari.
MM. Duchesne and Lagriffoul received the welcome they’re accustomed to, as did Leduc, who is truly the best Prince Paul you could dream of.
Mlle Tostée is always the adored comedienne. You couldn’t accuse her of lacking the comic face. Zounds! how she carries off the situation, and what a cancan she lays hold of! She saved all her powers for the famous Dîtes-lui, which she not only sang, but acted at the same time with all the passion and dramatic feeling that the famous romance from Saule would admit to.
The chorus seemed thin to me; but, for example, I witnessed with pleasure, in the first act, that all the Grand Duchess’s soldiers had red fingernails. From which I concluded that they were without a doubt disguised archdukes, marquises and counts; this would throw a completely new light on the sudden elevation of Fritz to ranks and honors. The sovereign’s virtue wouldn’t gain anything by it, but her dignity would lose less.
Is it very useful now to make comparisons? What’s the use? . . . . The contenders are face to face; the audience will pronounce the verdict! It’s a delicate matter to gauge the qualities of one and the faults of the other. If you absolutely had to speak out and allege the motive of our appreciations, you could say that Tostée plays the role delightfully and that Rose Bell singis it like an archangel; Tost”ee has dazzling costumes, Rose Bell is pretty . . .pretty . . .and pretty!
In the role of Fritz, Carrier is much superior to Aujac; his powerful voice, his irresistible comic acting make a Fritz who shouldn’t find a lot of rivals. That doesn’t diminish the skill of Aujac, who without a doubt would be better placed than Carrier in l’Ambassadrice or as Hector of the Mousquetaires de la Reine.
Duchesne created Boum with his good nature, easy and lively; Becker plays him as a consummate actor and sings him with all the knowledge, technique and sureness of a musician beyond compare.
I’ve said what I think about Prince Paul; Leduc is the paragon of that role.
A last word about the artists: may they avoid prolonging worn-out stunts and, if they introduce new ones, may they take care to frame them within the action through preliminary study. In everything that pertains to comedy, what appears natural is what has been studied the most. Let them distrust the hazards of improvisation and—I talk about both troupes—be sparing of English words. It ends up producing mediocre results.
It appears that we won’t see Mlle Desclauzas in La Grande Duchesse. That makes us wish even more ardently for the appearance of Geneviève de Brabant where there will be deployed, all present and on a war footing, all of Grau’s personnel.
The novelty they’re talking about at Bateman’s is Fleur de Thé.
Here is posed a question much more serious than all those that have been touched upon in this article: Is there a place in New York for two French Theaters?
Before looking for the solution to the problem, perhaps it would be useful to respond to the first question with this: Are there French theaters here?
We’ll tell you shortly what we think about this.
[Preceded by remarks regarding Grau’s production of the same work at the Theatre Francais] …“While Grau has changed his tactics and is seriously preparing for altogether unexpected conquests, Christopher Columbus Bateman is rejoicing over the new world for opéra bouffe which he thins he has discovered on Eighth avenue. Encouraged by the hearty ovation offered to the Grand Duchess Tostée, the incomparable Prince Paul Leduc, the irrepressible General Boum Duchesne, and the inimitable Baron Puck Lagreffeul, he persists in making Pike’s Opera House resound with music which is familiar to every ear, which is thrummed on every piano and echoed by every military band and even ground out by every street organ.
The rival opera houses have, somewhat injudiciously, we think challenged comparison between their respective troops by opening the season with the same operetta. The public must render its own verdict. If we are not greatly mistaken this verdict will agree with our opinion that the reign of ‘La Grand Duchesse’ is well nigh at an end; that Irma, delicious little Boulette as she is, cannot restore it successfully; that, as a French contemporary says, while ‘Tostée plays the part ravishingly Rose Bell sings it like an archangel; Tostée has dazzling costumes, Rose Bell is a beauty.’ Leduc is incomparable as Prince Paul. That Aujac has failed to be the incarnation of Fritz is no discredit to him, for he is as admirable in opéra comique as he is unfit for opéra bouffe. Carrier’s Fritz is superior to his, although Carrier somewhat exaggerates the character. The voice of Carrier is more powerful than that of Aujac, although, to some ears, less agreeable. Duchesne created, for our imagination, the character of the impetuous Boum, and cannot be replaced by Beckers, skillful actor and scientific musician as the latter is. Mademoiselle Lambelé is better suited for opéra comique than for opéra bouffe, and her Wanda, althouth she is not too well got up for it, is more satisfactory than any we have seen. The choruses of Bateman’s troupe are surpassed by those of Grau, or, at least, seem to be fewer in number and not so pretty or so well dressed on the larger stage at Pike’s. The orchestras at Pike’s and the French theatre—the one under the direction of Mr. Birgfeld and the other under that of Mr. Stoepel—are both commendable.
As for the manager of the rival opera houses very few words will suffice. Mr. Bateman, indeed, needs none at all; for he says enough, if not too much, for himself. The other night he almost overtaxed the patience of the audience by the speech in which he compared himself to Columbus. Some of the spectators wondered why he had forgotten to supply himself with a wand, in order, like an ordinary showman, to point out each and every figure, ‘fearfully and wonderfully made,’ displayed on the drop curtain; but, as Figaro remarks, ‘let that drop.’ The public are perfectyly willing to admire your energy and to recognize the fact that in the French theatre and even in the more spacious hall at Pike’s—too spacious, we fear, for opéra bouffe—a complete magnetic circle seemed to be established between you, your ‘Grand Duchess,’ her court and the audience; but no more speeches, if you please, Mr. Bateman. Whatever other mistakes Mr. Grau may have committed he deserves the credit for never obtruding himself upon the public. Not even his extraordinary triumph in the representations of [actress] Mme. Ristori tempted him to deviate from the modesty which best becomes an able and successful manager.
The war of the opera houses threatens to be the death of the ‘Grande Duchesse of Gerolstein,’ under whatever name she may claim an allegiance. If in our duty to the public we must sign her death warrant, we shall, nevertheless, long remember how brightly her reign has enlivened the American stage.”
Calls Wednesday night’s performance “exemplary.”
“Grand Duchess Tostée, [follows a review of the same work at the Theatre Francais] in the meanwhile, has things all her own way at Pike’s the magnificent. Delighted crowds nightly pay her homage, and are rewarded in return by the best vocal efforts of the entire excellent troupe. Fashion is fast recognizing that Pike’s is within easy reaching distance, and that ‘bugaboo’ which caused it at first appear so very far away is gradually dwindling down to the proportions of a comfortable post prandial ride or after supper walk. The Grand Duchesse de Gerolstein will continue to hold high court until Wednesday, October 27. Her last matinée will be on Saturday next. As Mr. Bateman’s excellent troupe has been recovering from the fatigues of travelling and has become accostumed to the spacious hall at Pike’s the representations have steadily improved. Mlle. Tostée is as bewitching as ever. The drolleries of that incomparagle trio—Prince Paul, General Bohm and Baron Puck—are even more mirth-provoking than before. M. Aujac makes a far better Fritz than at first. In fine, the last days of the undisputed reign of Grand Duchess Tostée promises to be numbered among its palmiest days.”
[Preceding paragraph compares the Grau production, declaring Bateman’s the better of the two.] “Mr. Bateman in the meantime is flourishing abundantly at Pike’s Opera House. On Wednesday, the opening night, the spacious establishment was filled to overflowing, and on the three subsequent evenings the attendance has been splendid. We have always maintained that the situation of this house was good. The mass of opera-goers live on the west side, not on the east. The approaches to the establishment are various and convenient Mr. Bateman has added a number of stages, running to and from Union-Square, before and after the performances, by which the east is readily touched. All that was needed was a performance to attract people to the house, and now that this has been provided, there need be no fear of the result. ‘La Grand Duchesse’ is given with great spirit by Mr. Bateman’s troupe. Mlle. Tostee, who was fatigued on the first night, has recovered all her old force, and is now as irrepressible as ever. M. Aujac is much [easier?] in the part of Fritz, and sings and acts agreeably. The trio of conspirators in itself is enough to make the success of any comic opera. Messrs. Duchesne, Leduc and Lagfrifoul are inimitable. The chorus numbers nearly sixty persons, and the orchestra has been considerably enlarged to suite the dimensions of the house. Mr. Birgfeld is the musical conductor. ‘La Grande Duchesse’ will be played every evening until Tuesday, the 27th, when it will be withdrawn. On the following evening ‘La Belle Hélène’ will be revived, with Tostee in her original character.”
“At Pike’s Opera House, way over on the Eighth avenue, Bateman’s troupe commenced a season on Wednesday evening, 14th inst., with the somewhat played out ‘Duchess of Gerolstein,’ and the equally played out Tostee. There was a large audience present, the actual number of dead head tickets being but two hundred and forty-five, which was not bad. On the second night there was quite a falling off in the attendance, the receipts being eight hundred and fifty dollars less than those of the opening night, which goes to show that many of the first night-ers must have forgotten the route to the far west on the occasion of the second performance. They do say that Lambele’s part is a most Wanda-ful performance.”