Maretzek Italian Opera: Le Prophète

Event Information

Venue(s):
Academy of Music

Manager / Director:
Max Maretzek

Event Type:
Opera

Record Information

Status:
Published

Last Updated:
1 March 2019

Performance Date(s) and Time(s)

12 Mar 1869, Evening

Program Details

“Fancy skating by members of the New York Skating Association.”

Performers and/or Works Performed

1)
Composer(s): Meyerbeer
Participants:  Maretzek Italian Opera Company;  Anna de La Grange (role: Fides);  Mlle., unidentified [dancer] Zuccoli;  Mlle. [dancer] Wesmael;  Alessandro [tenor] Boetti;  Ettore Barili (role: Mathisen);  Theodore Habelmann (role: Jonas);  Giuseppe B. [basso] Antonucci (role: Zacharie);  Wilhelm Formes (role: Comte Oberthal);  Isabella McCulloch (role: Bertha)

Citations

1)
Announcement: New York Post, 27 February 1869.

Announces the performance for on or about March 8.

2)
Advertisement: New-York Times, 08 March 1869, 7.
3)
Advertisement: Courrier des États-Unis, 08 March 1869.
4)
Advertisement: New York Herald, 10 March 1869, 12.
5)
Announcement: New-York Daily Tribune, 11 March 1869, 4.

“For the revival of ‘Le Prophéte’ [sic, accent in title incorrect throughout announcement] on Friday there have been elaborate preparations, and we presume the performance will be something remarkable, the manager having apparently taken the wise resolution of keeping up a rapid succession of sensations as the season approaches its close. The cast is a good one, a large number of popular favorites appearing in it, and there are splendid opportunities for scenic display, of which we understand full advantage has been taken. ‘Le Prophéte’ has not been heard in New-York for thirteen years.”

6)
Announcement: New-York Daily Tribune, 12 March 1869, 8.
7)
Review: New York Post, 13 March 1869.

“It scarcely seems possible that twelve or thirteen years have passed by since La Grange and Salviani and Miss Henssler and their associates sang here in ‘The Prophete.’ Yet such is the fact. Since then, too, the great Meyerbeer has passed away, leaving a reputation as the foremost operatic composer of the century; for it is safe to assume that as years roll on those stupendous productions, ‘Robert,’ ‘The Huguenots,’ ‘The Prophete’ and ‘L’Africaine’ will take a position among the classical works of musical art.

‘The Prophete’ combines every style of music, ranging from gay to grave, from lively to severe. The skating scene and the opening pastoral phases of the first act give a touch of light, graceful music. The later acts are grand and gorgeous, while the whole opera is tinged with a somber cast, coinciding with the three Anabaptists themselves who pervade the entire drama. It therefore possesses every element of popular attraction; and as the appreciation of Meyerbeer has greatly increased during the last few years, there is every reason to anticipate for the opera, as now played at the Academy of Music, a run of at least half a dozen nights. Of course the ‘White Fawn’ and ‘Humpty Dumpty’ may run a year; but we will be thankful if the noblest production of lyric art exists for a week.

Maretzek has put ‘Le Prophete’ on the stage in a most satisfactory manner. The skating scene, with a distant view of Munster, is good enough; but the Cathedral in the fourth act produces one of the most magnificent effects ever seen on the stage. The procession is really grand and imposing. The music of the organ alternates with that of the orchestra, while in the foreground the broken-hearted Fides pours forth her passionate strains. A chorus of altar boys, whose fresh, young voices contrast most felicitously with the heavier choral passages, produce a charming effect as they announce the coming of the imposter prophet. The whole range of lyric art offers nothing grander than this fourth act of Meyerbeer’s glorious opera. It would seem that in this the art of operatic composition had reached its highest point.

Before the Fides of Madame La Grange, criticism is speechless. We do not hesitate to assert that no living prima donna could surpass her in this. She possessed all the requisites of voice, personal presence and dramatic fire. In the coronation scene she was as great, even in acting alone, as Ristori or Rachel.

The aria Ah mon fils she sang with such fervor that the audience called her out twice. It is in such parts as this that La Grange is yet superlatively great; and every one who sees her in ‘The Prophet’ will enjoy an operatic experience that can be cherished in memory for a life-time without fear of being eclipsed by any later or better experience.

Boetti took the difficult part of John of Leyden in a careful and generally satisfactory style, and was frequently applauded. He is a young tenor who should, in time, make a name. Miss McCulloch was the Bertha and sang very sweetly. As the three gloomy Anapaptists, Antonucci, Barili and Habelmann were all that could be desired; while of the orchestra it is enough to say that it was under the direction of Max Maretzek.”

8)
Review: New-York Daily Tribune, 13 March 1869, 4.

“The revival of Meyerbeer’s grand opera of ‘The Prophet,’ promised periodically for the past thirteen years, was realized last night, and the experiment was in every respect a complete success. For the first time in many seasons a ‘grand opera’ was really presented with becoming grandeur of effect and liberal scenic decorations. Mr. Maretzek made few promises, and the result accordingly far surpasses popular expectation—a consequence upon which the astute manager no doubt calculated. He has prepared for this revival some new and very good scenery, and a great variety of new and rich dresses, both which are so far rarities in the Academy of Music that special acknowledgment seems due for their introduction. In the third act there is a capital scene representing a Winter landscape, with the city of Munster in the far background, and a frozen lake filling the center of the stage. Heron the bare-legged ballet spread their faces to the icy blast, protected from the inclemency of the weather by fur around the tops of their boots; and hereon also there is a picturesque exhibition of skating by a large party of gaily dressed adepts, several of whom executed feats which kindled the warmest admiration of the audience. Among the best of the skaters was a little child, apparently about eighteen inches high; and among the most remarkable was a young gentleman with the identical legs, we should say, of Mr. Simon Tappertit. The crowning glory of the mechanical portion of the opera, however, is the interior of the Cathedral of Munster during the coronation of John of Leyden. The setting of this scene would do credit to Booth’s Theater itself. The high altar in the rear, the crowds of peasants, nobles, soldiers, ecclesiastics, and censer boys filling the foreground, the waving banners, the trumpeters, and the central group of the Prophet and his ministers, made a truly magnificent ensemble, the effect of which we can hardly exaggerate. The spectacle was very vigorously applauded. The performance as a whole was worthy of the care and money bestowed upon it. The Fides of Madame La Grange is not only one of her own best roles, but one of the most impressive and touching personations on the lyric stage. Merely as a piece of acting, her denial of her son, when she wishes to save his life from the poniards of his dupes, is actually thrilling. The magnificence of Meyerbeer’s lofty genius seems to fill her, and the pathos of the situation to thrill her woman’s nature. The whole house felt it, and gave her a double recall. She sang, too, better than she has sung before during this season; the well known aria, O figlio mio, was worthy of her prime. Miss McCulloch as Bertha was also unusually good, and her duet with La Grange in the first act, Della Mosa un giorno, was capital. She is rapidly improving, and ‘The Proptet,’ though it taxes her sometimes beyond her strength, will add to her reputation. To say that Signor Boetti hardly filled the great part of John of Leyden is to do him no discredit; for this is one of the awful difficulties of the art which only a very few tenors in the world have overcome. He comprehends the character, at all events; he feels it; he acts it well, and he sings the music intelligently. His voice is not fully equal to the requirements of the evening, but it does not fall very far short of them, and in some passages it shows to fine advantage. That beautiful and passionate air in the second act, Un solo istante, was delivered with delicious sentiment, The three Anabaptist leaders were Antonucci, Habelmann, and Barili. They were all good. Their solemn and resonant chant pervaded the entire opera, like the dismal knell of coming woe, and their stately presence overshadowed everything whenever they appeared upon the stge. Antonucci has the burden of the singing for this trio, and he bore it nobly. Habelmann’s voice is little heard except in the ensembles, but his acting is excellent.

The chorus was strong and large, and the orchestra, under Mr. Maretzek’s baton, gave eminent satisfaction. In the coronation scene there is a chorus of altar-boys which deserves especial praise. An opera so grand and so elaborately produced as this ought to be frequently repeated. It will be given again on Monday evening, and we hope many times more. The audience last night was the fullest of the season, except perhaps the one which welcomed Miss Kellogg on her first appearance. The seats were full, the lobbies were crowded, and gentlemen bivouacked in all the aisles.”

9)
Review: New-York Times, 15 March 1869, 4.

“Mr. Maretzek, who introduced the ‘Prophete’ to the American public, has conceived a profitable idea in again restoring it decently—with ample orchestra and chorus—to the operatic repertoire. The work is fervid, picturesque and imaginative. The ensemble, threaded with the old chorales,and the memorable melodies of the Church, are striking and memorable. The story possesses all the interest of an age which impressed the imagination with its ceremonies and impostures. Traits like these, and the merrier rhythm of the ballet, make the ‘Prophete’ a singularly pleasing production. A very large audience on Friday evening testified to this fact, and will undoubtedly do so again tonight. The demand for seats would indicate, indeed, a run, were the season not so far advanced. For sucy few days as Mr. Maretzek remains at the wheel, ‘Le Prophete’ will be the attraction.”

[Discussion of the rumor that Maretzek will retire after the present season.]

10)
Review: New York Musical Gazette, April 1869, 44.

“There is no Lenten season with the opera-goers. They are having, on the contrary, a very ‘high carnival’ of it. The event of the season which ahs excited most interest has been the production, in grand style, of Meyerbeer’s ‘Prophete.’ This was put upon the stage with much care, a fine combination of singers, including both chorus and soloists, good scenery, and last, but by no means least, fine audiences to put everybody, themselves included, in good humor…Miss Kellogg still continues to be the reigning favorite. Mme. Lagrange makes up by her dramatic powers what she has lost in the freshness of her voice. True artists, like herself, can retain their hold upon popular favor long after climax of their greatness is passed.”