Proprietor / Lessee:
Manager / Director:
Robert August Stoepel
Price: Dress circle ($1), orchestra ($1.50), Private Boxes ($6 and $10), proscenium ($5 and $15), family circle, $.30; after 9:30 pm, half price
16 February 2019
“A crowded house, a clear night and public expectation wound up to the highest point greeted the first production of Charles Lecoq’s opera at the Francais last night. The curtain did not rise until nearly nine o’clock, owing to the sudden indisposition of Mme. Rose Bell (how is it that those French prime donne are so liable to be suddenly indisposed?), and the fact that Mlle. Desclauzas, who took her place at a few hours’ notice, could not have her costume ready at the regular opening hour. But long as the delay was the audience were [sic] amply compensated in the opera, both as regards the manner in which it was placed on the stage, and the music, in the choruses and the orchestration. We can safely state that no opera has been produced in the city for many years in such a complete manner in the way of inise en scene and costumes as ‘Fleu de Thé.’ The three acts of the opera present models of scenic art, especially the last, a magnificent Chinese [kiosk?], which is a spectacle in itself. As we said before in our musical review, ‘Fleur de Thé’ stands musically the first of all the works in opera bouffe as produced in this city. The music is infinitely better than anything ever written by Offenbach, and there is more character in it than the music of Hervé. Yet nothing can be simpler or more unpretending than the number of this opera. There is not the slightest attempt at complex or elaborate orchestration, but the music sparkles from first to last. The finale of the second act is a charming chorus, something in the style of an old Moorish dance. It is a minor theme and contrasts pleasingly with the dashing ‘Ronde du Cliquot’ which closes the opera. Both of those choruses will become the most popular of anything so far heard in opera bouffe in New York. The Chinese march also, in the first act, which savors of Meyerbeer in caricature form, and the ensemble which follows the discovery of Fleur de Thé in the chamber of the French cook, a reminiscence of ‘Ernani,’ are also striking choral features in this work. Regarding the leading roles much praise is due to Messrs. Beckers and Petit for their irresistible drollery in the characters of the Chinese Mandarin and the Captain of the Tigers. Their ‘make up’ was ludicrous in the extreme, and the Tiger captain looked the mildest mannered villain that e’er cut throat.’ They made a decided hit in both Celestial roles. Mlle. Desclauzas sang and acted charmingly, and in the vivandiere’s song and the romance in the second act she was entirely satisfactory. Mme. Rizarelli’s voice is rather thin and weak, and there was a want of esprit and life about her rendering of the role of Fleu de Thé which placed that character undeservedly in the background. Carrier appeared to better advantage in the character of Pinsonnet than any we have seen him in before, and he seemed to have got rid of much of his usual sluggishness. He sang the couplets, ‘J’ai couru grosser la fouie,’ a presto movement, very well, but completely spoiled the beautiful romance, ‘Cesarine a mes voeux docile,’ by his unfortunate habit of hurrying over every measure without any thought of expression or accent. Carrier has a very good tenor voice, with a spontaneity of tone in it which always commends it, but he must try and get rid of nasal intonation and nervous haste in his singing. For a first performance the entire opera went off remarkably well. A long, tedious ballet was introduced in the second act which needs curtailment, especially the limbs of one of the premieres, which rival those of Nelse Seymour. The sailor’s ballet in the first act is well enough, but the other is de trop. We would also hint to the management to put a stop to the disagreeable system of smoking in that portion of the establishment immediately adjoining the entrance to the parquet. Each time the doors are opened a cloud of smoke passes into the parquet. Judging from the success of last night’s performance ‘Fleur de Thé’ is booked for a long and successful run, and Mr. Grau may congratulate himself on having discovered a fitting successor to ‘Genevieve.’”
“The first production of a new opera bouffe by a new composer—new, that is, to the public of America—was an event interesting enough to fill the French Theater, last night, with an eager audience, and leave a large number of unfortunate late-comers in the cold. Lecoq’s ‘Fleur de Thé,’ which Mr. Grau has selected for his latest venture offers opportunities for the scene-painter, the property man, and the mistress of the robes, which have been liberally embraced; and although the fabulous magnificence of the advertisements has not been fully reflected in the performance, we can honestly say that the piece is richly mounted, and that the first and last scenes especially are arranged with picturesque effect. There is a gorgeousness about the chorus and ballet which ought to fill the humble breasts of those useful auxililiaries with the happiness of the peacock, and a magnificence in the solo characters—especially in the stomach of M. Bekers, which plays a prominent part in the opera—to which our poor pen is incapable of doing full justice. For the music we have less to say. There is a strong family likeness between all the compositions of this class with which we have yet been made acquainted, and Lecocq must impress most of his listeners as a diluted and rather flat Offenbach. In reality we think he aims at a higher kind of music than the composer of ‘La Grande Duchess,’ but his aim is less successful. We miss the vivacity of our old acquaintance, whose songs, if they do not satisfy musicians, at any rate please the populace. There are several airs in ‘Fleur de Thé,’ however, which promise to be in high favor, the best of them are a song of Carrier’s, ‘Césarine, à mes voeux,’ which was encored, a pretty duet for tenor and soprano, ‘Depuis longtemps,’ which perhaps would have been encored if it had been better sung, and the finale accompanying the inevitable can can. This is a dashing bacchanalian song, in praise of the vintage of the good veuve Clicquot.
“The first performance was not without its little troubles, springing from the sudden indisposition of Madame Rose Bell, whose part, at the last moment, had to be assumed by Desclauzas. It was late when the play began, and the audience had been for some time in an uproarious state of good-natured impatience. At 8 ½ o’clock a bland gentleman came before the curtain, and was hailed with the liveliest demonstrations from the galleries . . . [plot synopsis]. Mlle. Desclauzas was excellent in her part, and stood no need of the request made in her behalf for the indulgence of the audience. Mlle Rizarelli has neither [?] nor vivacity. Carrier was just what he always is, all his characters being precisely alike. Deckers was much better than he is usually, though he is always good, and M. Petit, in the part of an imbecile, made most of the evening’s fun. The allowance of fun indeed, was a little scanty. There has been some attempt to tone down the improprieties of the dialogue, and although there are many passages which evoke those brutal laughs and shouts at which the honest cheek must burn, the objectionable parts are not so conspicuous as they were in ‘Genevieve de Brabant’ and some of them can easily be pruned away.”
“Producing a new work in opera bouffe is a hazardous experiment at present, when we consider the excellence and popularity of its predecessor at both theatres devoted to this line of extravaganza and the formidable opposition in such a nature that it calls forth all the energies, skill and judgment of an opera bouffe manager to hold his own with the public. Offenbach’s rivals in this field, Hervé and Lecocq, although to a musician their music is better constructed and more scientific than that of the Franco-German, can scarcely ever become so popular with the masses. The librettists, also, of Offenbach have helped him considerably, while those of the others have spoiled the choicest gems in their music by long, dreary dialogues, jokes entirely local, and, therefore, unintelligible to the audience, and badly constructed plots. Now, as to ‘Fleur de Thé,’ predicating a judgment on the second night’s representation and the tone of the public towards it, we must say that although the superabundant Chinoiserie in it is curious and comical there is a lack of that sparkle, constant variety and chic which made ‘Genevieve,’ ‘La Grande Duchesse’ and ‘Barbe Bleue’ such universal favorites. There are besides too few characters of prominence in this opera. Beyond those of Cesarine, her husband, Fleur de Thé, and the two Chinese, there is nothing. The work, however, is superbly placed on the stage. No opera in this city has had a more magnificent setting, and the costumes are fully in keeping with the mise en scène. If liberality on the part of the management can make this opera a success it will last as a ‘thing of beauty’ for a lengthened period. But we fear there is hardly sufficient ‘go’ in it to be a permanent attraction. The management must remember what strong attractions are at other houses at present—the classical glories of ‘Boothiana’ on the west side, the Shakspearian [sic] revival at Wallack’s and the ‘Black Crook’ in a new and more attractive form at Niblo’s, besides numberless other chevelure and limb magnets. Now, such an opera as ‘La Vie Parisienne,’ with snap and variety in it, would prove as good a card as ‘Geneviève,’ and would rouse anew the flagging enthusiasm of all opera bouffers.”
“At the second performance of this comic opera last night Desclauzas again took the leading part in place of Rose Bell, who continues indisposed. She sang and acted charmingly and received the warmest approbation of the audience. Beckers, as the obese old Mandarin, was exceedingly funny, literally and figuratively filling the stage, while his voice was so majestic that one is disposed to quarrel with the score because it does not allow him greater vocal opportunities. M. Petit, with very little voice but a great deal of judgment, sang his couplets, Je suis [?] deus de Japon, with decided effect. Carrier was in excellent voice and was much applauded, but the melodies allotted to him by the composer are not salient enough to secure encores. Only in the finale of the opera—the frolicking champagne song—does he attain the desired compliment.
“The music of ‘Fleur de Thé’ is quaint and graceful, but there is scarcely enough of it. The deserts of dialogue should be more often relieved by oases of music. Lecocq should have given a greater profusion of musical numbers to his libretto. In point of stage decorations, and especially in costumes, Mr. Grau has done everything possible for the opera. Many of the dresses are perfect studies of gorgeous richness, and the upper ten of China are thus brought to us for inspection, as far as their fashions are concerned.”
“Mr. Grau has consulted the disposition of his audience and the dictates of good management in withdrawing ‘L’Oeil Crevé,’ and substituting in its stead Lecocq’s opera bouffe of ‘Fleur de Thé.’ . . . . ‘Fleu de Thé,’ we venture to think, will have a different record [from L’Oeil Crevé]. The thing is bright, melodious and interesting. It preserves, as a matter of course, the pattern of Offenbach, but the colors are brilliant, and the weft is well wrought. There is, of course, something quaint in the situation of the drama. So far the most serious circumstances of Chinese life have provoked our mirth, but here we have, with elaborate details, a burlesque of Chinese domesticity, mingled with the escapades of a vivandiere and a French cook, and agreeably enlivened with the dances of feminine sailors who can all perform the double shuffle, and rather too much of it. There is an excess of the ballet business, pretty and picturesque in its way, but disturbing to the ear, as the music introduced is from other composers.
“The production of this piece is excellent in every way. Mlle. Desclauzas is an enchanting Cesarine. The rôle was intrusted [sic] to Mme. Rose-Bell, but the lady’s health has prevented her essaying it. Mlle. Desclauzas looks piquant and saucy, and sings well. The title rôle, Fleur de Thé, was played by Mlle. Rizarelli, whose style is thin but inoffensive. M. Carrier was the cook, and, strange to say, seemed to take some interest in his profession. The gentleman has a clear, powerful, pleasant voice, but he is apt to sing abstractedly, as though some one had proposed to him a conundrum and he were trying to guess it. M. Beckers as Tien-Tien, sang and acted capitally, and M. Petit as Kaolin, the standard idiot of this class of entertainment, was as vacant as any one could desire. The smaller parts, and the choruses, were rendered perfectly, and the orchestra, under Mr. Robert Stoepel, was thoroughly in hand and prompt. ‘Fleur de Thé’ is, we think, a success, and on its own merits deserves the recognition of the public. We give below a brief sketch of the plot and incidents.”
“Scenery by M. Fromont and M.H.W Calyo."
“’Fleur de The.’ An opera bouffe by Lecocq, was presented at the French Theatre for the first time on the 1st inst., to a crowded house. In consequence of the indisposition of Rose Bell, the curtain did not rise until nearly nine o’clock, and Mlle. Desclauzas sang the role of Cesarine; Mlle. Razarelli, as Fleur de The, and Mr. Carrier, as Pinsonnet, the Cook. The opera was handsomely placed upon the stage, as regards scenery, costumes and appointments. The Chinese march and the sailor’s ballet, in the first act, are very well executed, but the introduction of a long ballet, in the second act, was not much relished by the audience, one of the ladies being guyed throughout the scene. The first scene, a French canteen on the banks of the river, is very fine.”