Maretzek Italian Opera: L’Africaine

Event Information

Academy of Music

Manager / Director:
Max Maretzek

Event Type:

Record Information


Last Updated:
24 March 2019

Performance Date(s) and Time(s)

20 Feb 1869, 1:00 PM

Performers and/or Works Performed


Advertisement: Courrier des États-Unis, 30 January 1869.

Ad for entire season.

Announcement: New-York Times, 18 February 1869.
Announcement: New-York Daily Tribune, 18 February 1869, 4.
Announcement: New-York Times, 20 February 1869, 4.
Article: New-York Times, 22 February 1869, 5.

“Mr. Max Maretzek has once more stepped quietly into the leading position.  It is a fact, as curious as it is sure, that the present season is a success.  The Academy of Music has never looked more brilliant than it did on several occasions last week, when its capacity was frequently tested.  The matinée on Saturday (L’Africaine) was full, as, indeed, was the matinée on the preceding Saturday.  Mr. Maretzek has secured this result by very hard work.  It is no joke to play three such operas as ‘L’Africaine,’ ‘Belisario’ and ‘Robert le Diable’ in a single succession.  And these works, it must be remembered, were given in more than a passable way.  There was a performance in Brooklyn too, on Thursday, so that, with the matinée here, the company really played five times in the severest of all modern works.  Now that additions have been made to the chorus, and the orchestra is more combined in its efforts, there is little to find fault with in the performances.  It is well enough to clamor for novelty in the way of solo artists,--and we have clamored with the rest and shall probably howl again.  But who in his senses would think of enjoying new artists just now?  It was regarded, only a fortnight ago, as an act of almost criminal rashness to attempt Italian opera within the walls of the Academy of Music, now or ever.  Had the experiment failed, Mr. Maretzek would have had no sympathy.  The verdict would have been, ‘served him right.’  It was his intention, knowing this, to have abandoned a profession which for twenty years he has pursued in the face of every difficulty.  There is a great deal in the reflection that a man of indomitable energy, pluck, and perseverance even thinks of abandoning an idea that he has entertained so many years, especially when he know that a good many people were from the first anxious that he should do so.  Is it not absurd thus at the offset of a mere experiment to require impossibilities at his hands!  A false issue, too, has been raised on the subject of mise-en-scene.  It is said by several journalists that if Italian opera be put on the stage in the same style as opera bouffe it will ‘draw’ to the like degree.  There is no evidence whatever to justify such an assumption.  Italian opera is put on the stage as well, and twenty times better in Paris than opera bouffe, yet who ever heard a word at the Italiens [sic] running three hundred nights in succession?  Opera bouffe appeals to the masses with just sufficient piquancy and elevation to touch the better sort.  It resembles burlesque which does precisely the same thing, but in a more familiar way.  It is burlesque that has killed or is killing opera bouffe.  We do not mean to say that a vast deal has not yet to be done for grand opera.  But certain facts should be remembered.  As an institution it was prosperous before the fire destroyed the old building.  The fire and the delay in erecting the present edifice ruined the manager, who with a large company on his hands had to roam from town to town, and in this futile vagabondage to lose what little was yet left.  We have no doubt that when Mr. Maretzek sees his way clear—and one good season will convince him—he will do as he has always done, bring us the best artists that can be procured.  In the meantime we may be permitted to observe that the present company is by no means so inferior as certain parties would have us infer.  Mme. LaGrange does not possess so fresh a voice as of old, but she is a grand artiste.  If mere freshness is wanted, it can be found in Mme. States, whose voice is lovely in quality and unusual in quantity.  No doubt it would be monstrous fine if both could be rolled into one; but as no ingenious Yankee has discovered, or even patented, a way of doing this, the only thing a manager could do was to engage both.  Miss Kellogg will not be objected to.  She has won for herself a foremost place in the world of art, and probably don’t care whether she is objected to or not.  This will insure her acceptance by an intelligent public.  There is Miss McCulloch, a young lady gifted by nature with every requisite for a leading position.  There is surely no fresher voice than that which she possesses.  When we come to the gentlemen we find Signor Brignoli, who is still in the flower of youth compared with Mario, and there is no one else that he can be compared to; and Signor Boetti, with a remarkably clear and sympathetic robusto; and Signor Antonucci, the best basso we have had here since the days of Mariori.  We could continue the list, but it would be useless. The corollary is this: We never know the value of our artists until they have left us.  That dreadful old school line, ‘familiarity breeds contempt,’ finds an illustration with us every season.  There is always an exception to prove the rule, and this year the Academy of Music is the exception.  We congratulate Mr. Maretzek.  It has always been the rule with him to lose.  This year he is in a fair way of making his expenses—or more.  The Winter has been mild in all parts of the world.  Art, too, has its revolutions as well as nations.”

Announcement: New York Clipper, 27 February 1869, 374, 2d col., bottom.