Birgfeld French Opera: Les Dragons de Villars

Event Information

Venue(s):
Fifth Avenue Opera House

Proprietor / Lessee:
James, Jr. Fisk

Manager / Director:
Adolph Birgfeld

Conductor(s):
E. [conductor, violinist] Colonne

Price: $1 family circle; $.50

Event Type:
Opera

Record Information

Status:
Published

Last Updated:
9 August 2019

Performance Date(s) and Time(s)

10 May 1869, Evening

Performers and/or Works Performed

1)
aka Glöckchen des Eremiten, Das
Composer(s): Maillart
Participants:  Birgfeld French Opera Company;  Irma Marié (role: Rose Friquet);  Monsieur [tenor] Lagriffoul (role: Thibault);  Monsieur [tenor] Hamilton (role: The Pastor);  [tenor] Aujac (role: Sylvain);  [baritone] Tholer (role: Belamy);  Mme. [soprano] Duclos (role: Georgette)

Citations

1)
Advertisement: Courrier des États-Unis, 27 April 1869.

For performance on 05/03/69.

2)
Advertisement: Courrier des États-Unis, 29 April 1869.

Announces postponement to 05/10/69.

3)
Advertisement: New York Herald, 03 May 1869, 12.
4)
Advertisement: New-York Times, 04 May 1869, 7.
5)
Announcement: New York Clipper, 08 May 1869, 38.

Postponement until 10 May.

6)
Announcement: New York Post, 10 May 1869.
7)
Announcement: New York Sun, 10 May 1869, 2.

"A new opera and by a composer not yet heard among us."

8)
Review: New York Herald, 11 May 1869, 3.

"This was the French opera at the Fifth Avenue last night. They call it an opéra comique, though it is quite as much a sentimental opera, with a leavening of a wholesome piety. It does not belong to the Offenbachian school of the bouffe. The story is consistent and connected and the development of the plot is something that we can almost believe in. The action takes place in a village, about the year 1701, at the end of the war of the Cevennes, on the French side of the Alps, on the boundary at that time between France and Savoy. A squad of French dragoons are on a hunt for a gang of heretics. They halt and enjoy themselves at the house of a rich farmer, who has a farm hand devoted to the proscribed heretics and who is on good terms with a wild peasant girl who has a reputation in the village only for mischief. The farmer, too, has a pretty wife, somewhat inclined to flirtations—a weakness which seems to be pretty general among the ladies of the locality. But the shrine and the bell of an old hermit (the good old man dead three hundred years) protect the lords of the village—the hermit’s bell supernaturally ringing out the alarm with any peccadillo on the part of the fair sex. The commander of the squad of dragoons gets into a decided flirtation with the farmer’s wife, but at a meeting near the dreadful bell it rings out the alarm. The bold dragoon, however, contrives to quiet the lady’s apprehensions and to humbug the jealous farmer while the peasant girl manages the general business, with the farm hand, of getting the proscribed old pastor and his flock over the mountains safely into Savoy out of the clutches of the dragoons. And the story ends in the happy union of the peasant girl and the farm hand, with a happy clearing up of a charge of treachery to the refugees she had undertaken in a by path to lead over. Irma as Rose Friquet, the peasant girl; Aujac as Sylvain (the farm hand), Mons. Tholer as Belamy (the bold dragoon), Lagriffoul as Thibault (the stupid, old, jealous farmer), Mlle. Duclos as Georgette (the farmer’s pretty and coquettish wife); Mr. Hamilton as the pastor, are the prominent characters of the play. The music is delightful, and while Irma and Aujac never appeared to better advantage than last night, Mons. Tholer, with his rich, strong voice and fine acting, came in as a very welcome acquisition. The Alpine scenes throughout are very fine, and the costumes of the dragoons and peasantry are historically satisfactory. The choruses, male and female, are good; the music, solos, duets and choruses are, we repeat, delightful and refreshing. The whole make-up and execution of the piece are exceedingly graceful and picturesque. The dialogue might be somewhat shortened to advantage, but still, as given last night, the opera is a very pleasing entertainment. Let those who would be satisfied go and see and hear it. It has evidently been produced with great care and regardless of expense in every department.”

9)
Review: New York Post, 11 May 1869.

“Maillart’s opera ‘Le Dragon de Villar.’ Produced by the French troupe at the Fifth Avenue Theatre last night, is quite different from the musical burlesques usually sung there. It may be classed under the head of Opera Comique, though it contains a plentiful amount of pathetic element. The story turns upon the misfortunes of a pair of rustic lovers, and the intrigues of a village dame with a captain of dragoons. The scene is laid in France near the Savoy border, in the early part of the last century, and the sub-title of the opera ‘The Hermit’s Bell,’ relates to a superstition that the bell of an old hermitage rings whenever any of the villagers indulge in undue flirting; and this supernatural machinery is sometimes worked by human hands that take advantage of the ghostly reputation of the bell.

Irma has the part of a wild, untutored country girl—a character that is a cross between the Boulotte of ‘Barbe Bleue’ and the Amina of ‘La Sonnambula.’ She sings with more intelligence and effect than in any of her previous parts, showing that her abilities fit her for something better than Opera Bouffe. In the high, loud notes her voice is rather shrill, but her mezzo voce and her chest tones are always good. She made an especial impression in the charming air of the last act, Il m’aime, and in a really superior duet with the tenor in the second act—a duet which is written after the modern Italian style, and was received last night with prolonged applause. Aujac, as Sylvain, the rustic lover of Rose, also showed an ability to fill a higher sphere of lyric drama than he has hitherto done here. In the music allotted to him, nothing is prettier than his first romance, Ne parle pas Rose, je t’en supplie. In the great duet he sings his part admirably, too, and throughout the opera well maintained his reputation. M. Tholer, as a gay, drinking dragoon, acts and sings with considerable vigor, but his lines are not wedded to any special melodic beauty. The other characters are insignificant.

In the chorus department there is little to call for comment, excepting the elaborate finale to the second act, where the composer has produced an elaborate concerted piece quite worthy of grand opera. A religious element pervades this scene, and its entire music is masterly, powerful and melodious. There is no doubt that much of the success of this opera in Paris is owing to this effective finale.

The ‘Dragon de Villar’ is well put upon the stage, and seems to have been quite thoroughly rehearsed. The scenery is good, and that of the second act—a moonlit glen, with a torrent of foaming water dashing down the rocky slope—is quite a triumph in its way, giving an impression of depth and vastness, that it would seem impossible to expect from so small a stage. Altogether, the new opera was a genuine success, and though it will not prove a sensation like some of its predecessors, the ingenious construction of its music and the grace of some of its melodies will commend it to the intelligent hearer.”

10)
Review: New York Sun, 11 May 1869, 2.

“At this pretty little theatre was presented last evening, for the first time, the comic opera of the ‘Dragons de Villars,’ or as it is translated ‘The Hermit’s Bell.’ The music is by Maillard [sic]. The story of the opera, for it is such and not an impossible burlesque, is very simple and is pathetic and comic. The scene is laid in the South of France, during that interesting reign of Louis the Fourteenth, when his dragoons were about as welcome in a village as his enemies. The story is briefly of a peasant Sylvain (Aujac), who succors some political refugees in their hiding place in the neighboring mountains. The bell of a ruined hermitage near the retreat is miraculously sounded, when the coy wives of the village indulge in coquetry. A romping marplot in petticoats, Rose Friquet (Irma) discovers the retreat, and excites much interest lest she should reveal it. It is finally found out by villager Georgette (Madlle. Duclos), wife of a jealous farmer (Legriffoul) who has carried a moonlight flirtation with the vergeant of dragoons (Tholer) to the spot. He is upon the scene as the refugees conducted by Rose are departing for the frontier. This devotion is rewarded by the love declaration of the peasant giving place to a finale of much beauty and power. The music is very carefully written, and while it never rises to inspiration, never descends to can-can. The orchestra has received the composer’s especial attention, and the choruses are beautiful. Aujac has not appeared to better advantage than in the part of Sylvain. A very good solo occurs in the first act, which he delivered in an artistic manner. The part of the Serquiant is very prominent, and is not entirely satisfactory in the hands of Tholer, although repetitions of the work will undoubtedly improve it. A duet with Rose is beautifully constructed, and has a charming dash about it. Altogether, the representation was a decided success, and repeated hearing of the work must confirm the first impression of its excellence.”

11)
Review: New-York Times, 11 May 1869, 5.

“Opera bouffe at last makes way at this establishment for genuine opera comique, of which, in spite of frequent promises, no specimen [sic] has hitherto been offered by the present company. “Les Dragons de Villars’ was produced last evening with remarkably good effect, and was received with an enthusiasm hardly to be expected from an audience so long devoted to the coarser quality of musical extravaganza. Without occupying the highest rank among modern French compositions, the works of Maillart possess a grace, a delicacy, and a certain breadth and boldness of design which give them a real artistic value, and which invariably compel critical respect if they do not always command the widest popularity. ‘Les Dragons’ is among his best—‘Gastibelza’ alone having established itself more favorably in the opinion of amateurs and the public—and will be welcomed not only as a pleasant contribution to our limited stock of good comic operas, but also as an excellent example of the style now adopted by the more ambitious French writers. It has little positive originality, the composer preferring, like most of his countrymen, to follow the forms created nearly half a century ago by Auber, instead of striking out new paths to renown. Where Auber is not more or less directly imitated, Italian methods serve as models, the two being interwoven with peculiar neatness and dexterity. The merit of the work does not lie at all in its invention, but in the clearness and purity of its style, its skillful, and sometimes ingenious, combinations of harmony, and its rich and expressive orchestral treatment. So much being said, it is hardly necessary to add that it occupies a very different position from anything we have had, or are likely to have, from Offenbach’s eccentric and irrational pen.

The story of ‘Les Dragons,’ or, as the English translator has rechristened it, ‘The Hermit’s Bell,’ is a simple recital of rustic love and adventure, with a slight mixture of military intrigue to heighten its vivacity. The pastoral and the martial elements are picturesquely enough contrasted, and their rapid alteration affords the composer capital opportunities for striking transitions. The performance last evening was a marvel of completeness. None of the customary excuses for the mishaps of first nights were required on this occasion. The choruses were steady, and the orchestra, under M. Colonne’s direction, left very little to be wished for. Most of the ladies and gentlemen concerned in the representation deserved the applause bestowed upon them by the audience. Mlle. Irma, as Rose Friquet, a wayward peasant heroine of precisely the Fauchon stamp, acted and sang with abundant vigor and brilliancy, and very properly received the warmest complimentary demonstrations of the evening. M. Aujac’s manly and hearty bearing carried him valiantly through the part of the rustic hero, Sylvani, notwithstanding a want of vocal clearness unusual with him. M. Tholer, the chief military figure of the opera, exhibited, as is his custom, the most amiable intentions, and exaggerated his natural imperfections, as is his manner, by a voluminous violence which might be effective in a Peace Jubilee, but which is oppressive and irritating in a small theatre. Mlle. Duclos and M. Lagriffoul sustained subordinate peasant characters brightly and energetically—the lady especially. The piece was not altogether well mounted. The costumes were accurate, but the scenery was inappropriate and badly painted from beginning to end.”  

12)
Review: New-York Daily Tribune, 12 May 1869, 4.

“The comic opera of Aimé Maillart’s, which was produced Monday night for the first time in this country at the Fifth-ave. Theater, is a charming composition, with all the vivacity and variety of the best pieces of the Offenbach school, and with a substantial musical character in which those extravagant buffooneries are wanting. It abounds in fascinating melodies, and contains at least one or two excellent concerted numbers, and the instrumentation shows fertility of invention and scholarship. Very little of it is trivial or common-place. The airs which will probably become most popular are a fine romanza for the tenor, ‘Ne parle pas Rose;’ a duet for soprano and tenor, ‘Ah! Pour moi,’ and a delicious aria for soprano, ‘Il m’aime’ espoir charmant.’ Beside those we must especially commend two choruses in the second act, ‘Partons, partons’ and ‘Dieu fort, Dieu tout-puissant.’ The libretto, by MM. Lockroy and Carmon, keeps within the limits of genuine comedy, and without being in any scene uproariously funny, is, nevertheless, witty enough to tickle the mind into a pleasant sort of repose. The title of the opera—‘Les Dragons de Villars’—might have been translated ‘De Villars’ Dragoons,’ but the manufacturer of the English version has not unwisely changed it for ‘The Hermit’s Bell.’ The scene is laid in France, at the time of the war in the Cevennes, and the plot turns upon the concealment of a party of fugitive Camisards near a hermit’s shrine in the mountains. They are pursued by a detachment of dragoons, and befriended by a young peasant, Sylvain (M. Aujac), and an erratic young woman names Rose Friquet (Mdlle. Irma, who, for some reason not clearly explained, is in the habit of roaming about rocks and precipices in company with a goat, and generally making a guy of herself). It is one of the superstitions of the neighborhoods that Rose is a witch. It is another that whenever a young woman commits an indiscretion, such as taking a kiss from the wrong man, or getting her collar rumpled, or her back hair pulled down while she is walking in the forest, the hermit, who has been dead 200 years, rings a furious peal upon his bell. How Rose takes advantage of this belief, to save the fugitives at a critical moment, and how to keep the dragoons at their quarters in the village she shows where the husbands and fathers have hidden away all the women in anticipation of the soldiers’ arrival, and where the best wine is kept; how she nearly fails and is then accused of betraying the unfortunate Camisards; how finally her innocence is made clear and she is united with Sylvain, all this would take long to tell and longer to understand. Irma and Aufac both acted and sang admirably, and were well seconded by M. Lagriffoul as Thibaut, a comic farmer, Mlle. Duclos as Georgette, his wife, and M. Choler as Belamy, an officer of dragoons, were the weak parts of the cast. The last named gentleman, had, unfortunately, a great deal to do, and the part should have been taken by a much better actor, and a much better singer. Something must be pardoned, however, in consideration of the present unsettled condition of the company. Mr. Birgfeldt has retired from the position of stage manager, and Mlle. Irma succeeds him.”

13)
Review: Courrier des États-Unis, 12 May 1869.

“LES DRAGONS DE VILLARS. –

Opéra-comique has just made its reappearance in New York. It’s to the small and stylish theater at Fifth Avenue that we owe this good forune, and this first attempt has become a masterly stroke, inasmuch as the success has corresponded to the appeal.

The audience has decidedly welcomed Les Dragons de Villars. While waiting for us to give an account of this lyric work, which merits in every way a methodical examination, let us say summarily that the score is delightful, the piece is amusing and the interpretation is outstanding.

In the first rank we must incontestably place Mme Irma Marié who, in the fine but difficult role of Rose Friquet, revealed herself to be as good a comic actress as she is an accomplished singer. M. Aujac was her worthy partner in the role of Sylvain.

The lovely duet in the second act yielded a warm ovation for these two excellent artists who were again called back at the end of the last act. The farmer Phibaut, that husband who touches on predestination, is very amusing under the reins of M. Lagriffoul.  Mme Duclos who played the farmer’s wife with great skill, and M. Tholer, the handsome dragoon, contributed their part to the general success. It’s correct to say that the chorus sections—numerous and difficult—went well. The orchestra, disciplined by an able chief (we’ve named M. Colonne), executed Aimé Maillart’s lovely music with a feeling for nuances and motion that we’ve never been able to encounter, even at the Academy, when those high barons of music have sometimes attempted some excursion into the domain of French opera-comique. The sets are fresh and bright; veritable countrysides of comic opera that the hot sun of midday illuminate during the day, and on which a magnificent full moon throws its tawny reflections in the second act to light the departure of the exiles, for the action takes place at the hardly lamented time of the Camisards [French Protestants] and the holy dragonnade [persecution of the Huguenots]. But let’s not anticipate our next column where we’ll have lots of leisure to do justice to the librettists and the composer.

In finishing, a word about the unexpected changes in the management of this theater. It’s only a little closet revolution and here’s the truth we possess from a sure and authentic source. Due to motives of which he himself is the sole and best judge, M. Fisk has renounced the services of M. Birgfeld who was to have fulfilled the administrative functions. He has divided these powers and conferred on M. Colonne the direction of the musical portion of the enterprise, while M. Benédict, the general manager, remains in charge of everything that concerns the administration of the theater itself.

These two administrators have inaugurated their taking possession with a success that, we hope, will be fruitful.

14)
Advertisement: New York Clipper, 15 May 1869, 47.
15)
Review: Courrier des États-Unis, 17 May 1869.

“CHRONIQUE THEATRALE. – LES DRAGONS DE VILLARS. [Begins with a lengthy and politicized re-telling of the history of Louis XIV’s revocation of the Edict of Nantes and the persecution of the Protestants.] . . . . It’s precisely one episode of this terrible story that the authors of les Dragons de Villars have put on the stage. But, reassure yourselves, they only raise a very small corner of the curtain; they scarcely lisp a few lines from that unlucky page; all the sweeteners that one could bring to that cruel truth, all the honeyed compromises, all the euphemisms that one inflicts on history when one submits to the comic-opera regime have been observed.

These dragonnades are benign, benign, benign, like the cleansing [enema] offered to M. de Pourceaugnac; these forced marches don’t force anything; everyone is happy and breathes joy and health in the prettiest of countrysides, a true Vale of Tempe.

The cries of the wounded, the tears of the exiled, the grief of the orphans, all of that doesn’t exceed the proportions of a modest children’s story. The drama remains in the wings. The peasants are fresh and pink, fresh and pink are the peasants likewise; the dragoons are good children; the outcasts sing choruses to the moonlight; everything in that world is as pretty as you like and resembles history like a tiered cake or a nougat from Montélimar resembles the dome of St. Peter’s in Rome.

By the grace of comic opera, the sinister terror of these evil days has become a rose-colored terror, the groans of the vanquished are modulated by the hautbois and tabor-pipe, the always-unsatiated rage of the conquerors is revealed only through gay tinkling and joyous gurgles.

Ah, the pretty rose-colored glasses that it places on our eyes, this dear comic opera! They would make the Nemean lion roar together in a duet with Lesbia’s sparrow.

One character has trouble? Quick, a b-flat on the staff! He cries, he’s in despair, he even tears some artificial hairs out of his wig, it’s the business of two or three more b-flats!

And there’s why, honestly, comic opera pleases us so much. Isn’t it the sweet world of fiction, where, for an hour, you can go to forget all the annoyances, all the cares of this nasty daily drudgery that they call life . . . the most stupid invention . . .  if death weren’t there to correct it.

But let’s not disgust those who hold onto it, and let’s not cloud the picture. Rather, let’s tell the story.

The outlaws are hidden in the grotto of St. Gratien, waiting for an opportunity to cross the border. The only protector they have is a brave farm boy named Sylvain, who, at the risk of giving his master’s mules sore feet, brings them provisions each day.

Meanwhile, a detachment of the famous dragoons of M. de Villars, commanded by the fine sergeant-major Belamy, comes to encamp in the village. Maître Thibaut, jealous like all the imbeciles who have pretty wives, locks up his beloved other half in the pigeon-coop; all the husbands in that locale do as much, and our cunning farmer endeavors to persuade the lively dragoon that there aren’t any more women in the area, that it’s a village of widowers.

There’s one nevertheless that you can’t forget; it’s Rose Friquet the cheesemaker whom everyone scorns and who is considered a little nuisance when, after all, she’s the best creature in the world; a great heart dressed in burlap. She has divined Sylvain’s secret and willingly makes herself the accomplice in his good works.

Seeing that the dragoons were preparing to excavate the mountain, she leaves no stone unturned, with a charming devilish malice, to keep them in the village. Thanks to her, dapper Belamy, to whom Master Thibaut offers only sour wine at first, makes off with some bottles of good aged wine from his cellar, then he discovers the hiding-place where the pretty women from the village have taken shelter, and here are our dragoons celebrating Bacchus and Venus without thinking about the Camisards [rebellious Protestants] any more.

I must tell you that near these caves of St. Gratien are the ruins of an old hermitage whose host, although dead for two hundred years, still protects husbands who are in danger. As soon as a wife is on the point of forgetting her duties, the chaste hermit returns to pull the rope and put into motion the old bell that has survived him. So claims the legend. For a too-delicate discourse, it tolls and resounds; for a kiss, it chimes in triple peals; what would it be if . . . .

Wholesome fear of this magic belfry keeps these women on the righteous path. Ah! the good old days! And what a pity they don’t make those clocks anymore!

The gallant noncommissioned officer has gotten a rendezvous with Georgette, the wife of the farmer Thibaut, near the hermitage. Both of them slip away while, in the village, peasant-women and dragoons shake a leg any way you like. But Rose Friquet is watching: she looks on, invisible to the amorous duo, and each time things seem to her to be taking a troublesome turn for the conjugal honor of the farmer, she tolls the terrible bell. It’s not that she’d care a lot about master Thibaut’s forehead and the appendages with which it could be ornamented, but she wants to clear the way so that the fugitives can excape during the night by a little pathway that only she and her goat know about.

Sylvain, whose eyes are opened by so much zeal, discovers that he loves Friquet, as they call her in the area, to distraction. He makes his declaration in due form, and in good music, asks Rose for her hand, which she gives him, and, without any more ceremony, both agree to be married the next day, after the fugitives to whom the girl has to serve as a guide have been saved.

Maître Thibaut, whom jealousy constantly plagues, is on the trail of his wife and the dragoon, but the good little mountain-sprite, at risk of compromising herself, saves the situation by leading him to believe that it’s with her that the amorous dragoon was flirting by moonlight. The farmer returns to the village, full of confidence, the mountain is free and the fugitives leave, guided by Rose Friquet.

In the third act, Sylvain, all in his love, wishes for the happy moment that will unite him to his beautiful fiancée; but from all sides they jeer at his choice, and maître Thibaut, most of all, babbling and slanderous like a deluded magpie, leads him to understand that in order to gain the huge reward promised to anyone who denounces the fugitives, Rose only pretended to save them so as to better betray them to the dragoons.

Our too-credulous lover is totally bowled over by this calumny, and as soon as Rose comes back, he makes a frightful scene with her in front of the whole village. The poor child would have to say only one word to justify herself, but she falls back upon her dignity and remains mute before such a cruel insult. It’s the good Georgette who, in the end, takes her part and forces her to show Sylvain the written proof that the fugitives are safely on the other side of the border. Sylvain falls on his knees, Rose pardons him and Belamy, who at first wanted to have her executed to avenge the blow that he has just suffered, pardons her also on behalf of Georgette’s beautiful eyes. From which one can conclude that it’s master Thibaut who will pay the costs of the general reconciliation.

On this very interesting canvas, M. Aimé Maillart has written adorable music. There isn’t a piece that wouldn’t have its value. All the motifs have a very steady character. Not only do you not grow tired of listening to these melodies that are so refined, but the more you hear them, the more you want to listen. The composer, moreover, is a master whom his last work, Lara, has definitely placed in the first rank. The chorus numbers are splendid in their color, harmony and amplitude. The orchestration is beyond reproach; there are, from one end to the other, effects by simple means—those are always the best—that one can only compare to a rich lace running along a groundwork of velvet. The pieces that require it are treated with great vigor; the details are clear and limpid, and the ensemble attains the most beautiful sonority without the author ever letting himself fall into a situation of exaggerated manners.

Everything will have to be mentioned, from the pretty aria of Rose’s entrance

            Hup! hup! Mule chérie! / Hup! hup! Dear mule!

            to the final chorus.

            The romance:

                                    Ne parle pas, Rose, je t’en supplie . . .

                                    Don’t speak, Rose, I beseech you . . .

the duet of the table, between Belamy and Rose, and Georgette’s verses:

                                    Din, din, din, din, il sonne Carilonne!

                                    Are three pearls from this sumptuous jewel-box.

Nothing is more original than the charming finale of the first act, with its effects that imitate a trumpet.

The duet in the second act between Sylvain and Rose is all by itself a sweet poem of love and emotion. The one that Georgette and Belamy warble deserves mention also; but the page [of the score] that’s incontestably the most remarkable is the grand finale with the prayer that these fugitive outlaws sing. This piece alone would suffice to establish a composer’s reputation; it’s impossible to hear without being moved to tears.

Belamy’s couplets:

         Le sage qui s’éveille                            The wise man who awakes

         Visite avant tout ses tourneaux!         Examines his casks first!

are a very successful imitation of the music of the times. One would say they were written by Lully.

The great aria:

          Il m’aime!                                            He loves me!

          Espoir charmant, douce parole!          Charming hope, sweet word!

sung so well by Mme Irma Marié, and the ensemble piece where Sylvain’s motif is discovered to be inserted:

          Quand un malheur frappe vos            When a misfortune hits your

           champs . . . .                                        field . . . .

worthily crown this rich score that ends with the reprise of the motif already heard in the first act:

             Sonne, sonne toujours                       Sound, always sound

             Trompette                                           Trumpet

             Coquette                                             Coquette

             Sonne, sonne toujours                        Sound, always sound

             Pour la gloire et les amours!                For glory and love!

We’ve already said what we thought about the way this lyric jewel is interpreted. Two successive hearings have confirmed our first impression. Mme Irma Marié is the heroine of the success as she is that of the work. There was a stumbling-block to avoid in this creation; carried away by some analogy, the artist could have fallen back into the semblance of Boulotte in Barbe Bleue. There was a new type to discover; a sort of place between the abovementioned Boulotte and little Fadette. Mme Irma Marié has gone over to the good side. Her tawny and sonorous voice works marvels, and she deploys, in great predicaments, a dramatic sense that’s remarkable for its genuineness and truthfulness. We’ll address the same praise to M. Aujac and will repeat what we’ve already said in brief about Mme Duclos, the graceful farmer, about MM. Lagriffoul and Tholer, as well as the chorus which skillfully carried off the splendid second-act finale.

You mustn’t lose sight [of the fact] that this opera-comique was mounted with personnel and resources destined uniquely for operetta. This stated and accepted, we avow with pleasure that it was impossible to make a better account of the elements at hand.

Perhaps this won’t be a great financial success, for, without reckoning that the season is not propitious for theaters, you can’t make an audience come back day after day to the taste of healthy things when they’ve been saturated, surfeited to disgust by the exaggeration of stunts [schtick]. The slopes descend quickly; when it’s an issue of ascending again, it’s another question.

Whatever it may be, the honor of having attempted the rehabilitation of good sense and good taste will always remain with the promoters of this endeavor . . . .

                                                                        Ch. V.”

16)
Review: New York Clipper, 22 May 1869, 54.

"The French Troupe, at the Fifth Avenue Theatre, who have been making Opera Bouffe a speciality, appeared on the 10th inst. in the comic opera of ‘Les Dragons de Villars’ or ‘The Hermit’s Bell.’ The drama of ‘The Mountain Bell,’ written by Charles Gayler for Emma Maddern, and produced by her at the Park Theatre, Brooklyn, last season, was dramatized from the same source as ‘Les Dragons.’ The plot may be briefly told. A party of fugitives have taken refuge in a mountain, near which resided a farmer with a pretty wife. A party of dragoons, in searching for the fugitives, reach the farmer’s house, who is brought to the scene by the sound of the trumpet of the dragoons. In the farm house are a number of pretty women, who are quickly concealed. Bellamy, the leader of the dragoons, desires a guide to the mountains. In the meantime, Rose Friquet informs Bellamy where the farmer keeps his wine, and where his pretty wife is hidden, which is done to detain the soldiers so she can send word to the fugitives. Wine and women are too much for the soldiers, and while they are enjoying themselves, Rose and Sylvain (a servant) go to the mountains to warn the fugitives. On their way thither, Rose stops at a hermitage and Sylvian proceeds in search of the fugitives. Bellamy and Georgette (the farmer’s wife) step away from the party for a walk, but are quickly missed by Thibaut, (the farmer) and in his search for them discovers Rose. Bellamy makes love to Gerogette, but is repelled, as she is superstitious, and is afraid of a mountain tell-tale bell that hangs in the tower, said bell ringing whenever a wife or maid was about to sacrifice her virtue. Rose witnesses the love making, and anxious to get them out of the way before Sylvain returns with the fugitives, rings the bell just as Georgette was about to yield to the embraces of Bellamy. Alarmed at the bell, Georgette escapes unseen by her husband, who appears running about in alarm. Determined to know the cause of the ringing of the bll, he comes upon Rose in his search, who has fallen asleep. The fugitives arrive from the mountain, and Rose tells them how to escape, which is overheard by Bellamy, who hastens off to find his dragoons. Sylvain falls in love with Rose, who promises to marry him the following day, but before the hour arrives a rumor comes that the fugitives are taken; Rose is charged with betraying them, and Sylvain thinks her guilty, and refuses to marry her. He is about to strike her when Georgette defends her, making a touching appeal fo Sylvain, who is overcome and bursts into tears. Rose produces a letter announcing the escape of the fugitives, which Bellamy hears and orders Sylvain to be arrested as an accomplice and to be shot. Rose then pleads for her lover, but without effect; when she informs Bellamy that she had witnessed his love scene with Georgette at the hermitage, and fearful of exposure, he releases him and they are married. The performance of this comic opera was most excellent, and was witnessed by an enthusiastic audience. The costumes were handsome and correct, but the scenery was not. The choruses were good and the orchestra deserving of special mention. Mlle. Irma as Rose was deservedly applauded throughtout. The character is very much like that of Fanchon. M. Aujac as Sylvain was also good.”

17)
Announcement: New York Clipper, 29 May 1869, 62.