Pike's Opera House
Manager / Director:
H. L. [impressario] Bateman
21 April 2019
“La Grande Duchesse, after two hearty campaigns on Saturday—one at the matinée and the other in the evening—retired into private life, from which it is understood she will not withdraw during the season. Mr. BATEMAN, under these circumstances, falls back upon another beautiful but fickle favorite. The story of Helen and Paris will now aggravate the community. Mr. BATEMAN, it must be remembered, has a new Paris, resembling in this respect the Emperor Napoleon, and procured at a like reckless cost. Mr. DECRE is the gentleman in question. Some months ago he was in trouble about his wife Eurydice, who, despite the fact that he played the fiddle like an angel, chose to galivant with Pluto. Mr. DECRE’S performance of the part of Orpheus was memorable. It possessed the merit of being unobtrusive, yet carefully studied. We have no doubt he will make a good Paris. The rest of the distribution is excellent, and La Belle Helene translated to Pike’s Opera House, will, we fancy, be as successful as ever. New scenery and costumes have been provided for the occasion.”
“Only a few glimpses of ‘La Belle Helene’ were given during the season of opera bouffe inaugurated last winter, and of those only a brief memory was preserved in the morceaux lying around on our ladies’ pianofortes or in the stray performance of some band of music. The opera was reproduced by Director Bateman last eveing at Pike’s Opera House with all the additional attractions of an enlarged chorus and a full orchestra. The piece has vastly improved in its new place and was received with every symptom of delight by the immense audience that reposed amidst the rich upholstery of Pike’s bijou of an opera house. Tostée assumed the title rôle and was applauded the instant she made her appearance. The old favorites of the previous opera, as each was recognized, were warmly received. Leduc as Menelaus, on being thus greeted, could not refrain from the Prince Paul bow, which provoked, of course, additional applause. The entry of each of the kings of Greece was greeted with a clapping of hands like that which salutes the balancing of a couple down the the floor in a contradance. Orestes was a delicious ‘fast young man’ in the hands of Mlle. Lambelé, who played it with a Lydia Thomsson sort of abandon that was strikingly contrasted with the meekness of her Wanda. The first act and scene—the temple of Jupiter—was an excellent specimen of stage architecture. The new tenor, M. Houdin, had but few opportunities of showing his powers vocally, but he made himself a favorite at once by his drollery. M. Decré, as Paris, was deficient in some of the upper notes, but sustained the rôle satisfactorily to the audience. The by play was decidedly bouffe, particularly in the second act, where their royal highnesses betray the excesses of the banquet and come to the Queen’s apartments all the worse for their ‘Grecian Bender.’ Tostée’s ‘Mari Sage,’ which she accompanied with a suspicion of the cancan, was twice encored. The scenery and costumes of the piece have been gotten up in perfect accord with the theme, and make it a beautiful spectacle as well.”
“The reproduction of so popular a work as ‘La Belle Hélène’ attracted, as might be expected, a very large audience at Pike’s Opera House. So much honest indignation has already been expended upon the atheistical works of Offenbach and his librettists, that it seems needless to inveigh longer against their tendencies, and we suppose that, like model artists, nude ballets, and hoop skirts, they will have their day and we will return to better things, in spite of managers, if not by, their assistance. Epochs of coarseness come and go without our special wonder. The growth of lewdness and its decay in the direction of Puritanism might be marked by historians as resulting from bad government or bad fashions. Paris, for three centuries, possessing both these motors, has provided the rest of the world in all seriousness with a steady stream of God-forsaken literature and art which has required the earnest efforts of decent critics to stem.
“It is to be lauded that the clever libretti of Offenbach’s co-workers have been set to music which will not live. If Donizetti had consented to write such a burlesque, and his genius had been lent to perpetuate such grossness, how much less promise of reform could be obtained. Offenbach’s success is found in a keen appreciation of what is pretty and what is grotesque in musical form, not allowing his fancy to be hampered by any considerations of his original proprietorship in his musical ideas. Never meaning to be serious, he uses the slower times for special musical monkeyisms, and puts to the basest uses the transcendental chords that in other dispositions would be sublime. In the spirited air, in two-four time, ‘Voice les rois de la Grèce,’ there occurs in the four opening bars a startling violation of all precedent notions of musical proprieties, and it is a specimen brick of our composer’s lyrical structure, for which, as the inventor, he deserves full credit. To describe it, is difficult. It is a trick upon the ear, and a brave use of dissonant chords used in melodic succession, and specially accented so as to make their nature plainer. There are able writers who deny this composer’s talent, and say Offenbach is ignorant. We cannot find this in any of the three or four operas that have been produced here. The variety and contrast which are necessary to interest the hearer, added to a keen knowledge of stage business, are nowhere wanting, while the musical changes are natural to the plot and situation. These operas were designed for one of the smallest theatres in Paris, where every chair occupied by an orchestra player was a visible encroachment on the auditorium. Hence the instrumental department craves indulgence, and calls off very little attention from the scene. In a box of a theatre like the Bouffes Parisiennes, a broad joke or a bit of impropriety may be chuckled over in a cosy manner by an audience, pretty much as a party in a corner may hear a questionable conundrum, and fancy the rest of the wide world is not much injured thereby. But it is not so here. A vast theatre of the dimensions of Pike’s or Niblo’s enlarges the opera bouffe to very different proportions, and what was a little quiet naughtiness becomes positive indecency, and all the harder to tolerate in this era of vocal decay, and, as a substitute for the Italian opera, utterly deplorable.
“Having said this much about the libretto, let us return to the performance of last evening, wherein there was everything to commend in the production of the opera. In addition to Tostee, Lambele, and the comic trio who made the fortune of ‘La Grande Duchesse,’ there were two first appearances; Mr. Houdin, who is a low comic of an original and exceedingly funny kind, and Mr. Decre, a tenor of fair voice and an agreeable singer, who took the part of Paris. Mlle. Tostee sang with more voice than usual, and made the classic Helen supremely ridiculous by her rakish offers at the cancan, the absence of which breakdown is keenly felt in this opera because it occurs in the other works of Offenbach. The scenery and dresses were very fresh and attractive, and in all the details of stage business there was a care and attention that was commendable. The opera will be repeated.”
“’La Belle Hélène’—Mr. BATEMAN’S second success in America in the way of opera bouffe—was received here last evening, on the occasion of its reproduction, with the same distinct and emphatic indorsement which greeted it on its first performance. Mlle. TOSTEE was, as heretofore, the Hélène, and sang and acted in that astounding part with more than her usual spirit. At one time it seemed that ‘Le Mari Sage’ would be an evening’s entertainment, so often was it demanded. Paris indeed presented Menelaus with a stool on which he might hear his reiterated upbraiding with comparative conjugal comfort. In this, as in all other parts with which we are acquainted, Mlle. TOSTEE is admirable. Her way is inimitable, and it takes. This is all that can be said of SCHNEIDER, and all that need be said of anyone. We must add, however, that Mlle. TOSTEE sings better now than ever.
"Mlle. LAMBELE was an excellent Orestes. The lady’s career so far has been one of expectation rather than of success. Last evening she threw off the vail [sic] that had shrouded her efforts, and was the best Orestes we have had in this City. M. DUCHESNE, the original Agamemnon, was received with applause, and sang and acted excellently. The Paris of M. DUCRE lacks animation and fun. It is altogether inferior to the performance of M. GUFFROY, albeit superior in certain points of vocal art. M. LEDUC was welcomed heartily as Menelaus, and acted the part with that watchful quietness for which he is remarkable. The remaining parts were all intrusted [sic] to good hands, and the result was a performance which gave general satisfaction. The orchestra and chorus were excellent. New scenery and dresses were prepared for the occasion, and the revival in every way was equal to a new production, and as such will be remembered by many who witnessed it last evening.”
Die schöne Helene at Pike’s opera house performed in the famous antique costume seems to have found sufficient admirers who want to see it. Bateman took care of brilliant scenery and a good cast; thus the Offenbach opera will probably stay on for several more weeks.
“Offenbach continues to draw at both the opera houses. ‘Geneviève de Brabant’ enters upon its fourth week at the French theatre, and ’La Belle Hélène’ runs her brilliant course at Pike’s. This, though, is the last week of the flirtations of the fickle Queen of Sparta. ‘Barbe-Bleue’ begins to poison his wives again next Monday at the establishment, when the charming Irma will be welcomed back to the city.
“In the manner in which both the managers [Grau, at the French Theatre, and Bateman] have presented the operas they have taken in hand, they have more than fulfilled every promise made to the public. It is so pleasant to find a thing perfectly done in all its details. This has not been an easy task with an opera like ‘Geneviève,’ that has such a mass of supplementary parts. Outside of the sextet of principal voices and the chorus, there is a quantity of side work to be done in this opera—Tyrolean trios, quartets of hunters, an army of supernumeraries for various purposes of detail. Mr. Grau puts the force engaged in the representation at 140—a truly liberal and munificent way of doing the work. If this splendid force could only be put upon an opera that was worth the labor! Mr. Grau would doubtless be willing, so would Mr. Bateman, but they probably distrust the public. It is their business to give the public what the public wants and will pay for; and if we don’t want anything better than Offenbach, it is our misfortune, and not certainly the fault of the managers.”