Academy of Music
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25 September 2019
“The forthcoming production of Wallace’s ‘Lurline’ is the present all-exciting topic in art circles. The history of this opera in America is as full of romantic incidents as the work itself. It was written here by the late William Vincent Wallace, who became a citizen of the United States for the purpose of securing an American copyright for this work, which he considers his masterpiece, and it is the only great lyric work which is so secured. This copyright was purchased by Messrs. William Hall & Sons, the well known music publishers of this city. The opera was first produced in London by the Pyne and Harrison English Opera Company, at the then New Covent Garden Theater. But little was heard of it here until last year, when its production was promised more than once. Max Maretzek was the manager who was to have had the honor of introducing ‘Lurline’ to the American public, but unforeseen circumstances, over which he had no control, prevented the fulfillment of his intention. The opening of Pike’s Opera House, and the advent of a second Italian Opera Troupe to New-York, created a considerable confusion and pecuniary embarrassment to each of the rival companies. Maretzek opened the Academy with a stronger and more efficient company than usual, and announced in his prospectus the production of ‘Lurline.’ The fickleness o [sic] the public, who deserted Grand Opera for Offenbach brought this season to an abrupt termination. The grandeur and novelty of the new Opera House on Eighth ave. for a time attracted large audiences to Italian Opera given by the Lagrange and Brignoli Troupe, under the direction of Max Strakosch, but managerial disputes occasioned an entire reversal of this musical harmony, and the Strakosch troupe migrate [sic] to the Academy. A three-cornered arrangement was then made by Pike, Maretzek, and Harrison to carry on the Italian Opera, with ‘Lurline’ as the great attraction. It was advertised and posted for production early in April of last year. Elaborate scenery was printed and great preparations were made to unite in this work the spectacular, which was then the rage, with the operatic, which was declining. But each of the three managers endeavored to gain a point on the others, and obtain absolute control of the speculation, which promised to be profitable. In the midst of these intrigues, the astute Maretzek secured the right to the music, and seceded from the company. Things remained in this condition until this season, when Jas. Fisk, jr. [sic], purchased Pike’s Opera House, and with it, of course, all the beautiful scenery that had been painted for ‘Lurline.’ Maretzek in the meantime, having failed to produce it, forfeited his contract. Another speculator now appeared upon the scene in the person of Madame Parepa-Rosa, who approached Messrs. Hall to obtain possession of the much coveted work. But Maretzek was again beforehand, and obtained the sole right of production in the United States for one year from the 1st of May next. The work being now the absolute property of one manager, and the wherewithal to clothe it properly being in the possession of another, it was only natural that they should come together, and arrangement [sic] have now been made to produce it positively on the 10th of May. The precise terms of the agreement between Fisk and Maretzek have not been made public, but it may be safely concluded that the latter will not risk any further amount of money, even if it is in his power to do so. The funds will undoubtedly be furnished by the sensation capitalist. The representations will be given both in Italian and in English; and it is said that negotiations are pending with Madame Parepa-Rosa to take the leading part. It is not likely that anything will now occur to prevent the public from hearing and judging of this much talked of and disputed work.”
Mr. Maretzek has issued a manifesto in regard to this opera, which is announced for next Wednesday night, the Italian version begin given first. Miss Kellogg, it appears, does not take part in the opera, Madame Agatha States being the prima donna on the Italian nights, with Madame Testa and Mr. Habelmann as Ghiva and Rudolph. On the English nights Miss McCulloch and Mr. and Mrs. Bowler will be the leading singers; and Signor Orlandini will make his first appearance in English opera. Bonfanti will lead off in the ballet. The scenery to be used is that owned by Mr. Fisk, and prepared for an intended performance of the opera at the Grand Opera House; and but for Mr. Fisk—says Maretzek in his published manifesto—we would not have the opportunity of hearing Wallace’s admirable work.”
For originally scheduled performance on 05/12/69.
“Mr [sic] Maretzek announces for Wednesday the Italian version of ‘Lurline,’ with Testa, Habelmann, Antonucci, Formes, Barili and Reichardt in the cast. On Thursday evening the English version will be produced.”
“English Opera at the Academy.
New York, May 10, 1869.
To the Editors of the Evening Post:
The late William Vincent Wallace was a resident of this city, and many of his personal friends as well as the musical public generally are deeply interested in the success of his opera, ‘Lurline,’ to be produced by Mr. Maretzek on Wednesday night at the Academy of Music. I am surprised to see that on the opening night, when Wallace’s friends will all be on hand, a translated Italian version is to be given. It is, of course, a great compliment to a composer to have hisopera translated into other tongues, and especially into one so preeminently musical as the Italian; but Mr. Wallace in writing the music of ‘Lurline’ wrote it to English words. ‘Lurline’ is essentially an English opera. It should be heard first as the composer wrote it, and then any adaptation to suit other singers or other tastes will properly come in order. I trust that the opera manager, with his usual perception of the demands and tastes of a New York public, will acknowledge this and let us hear ‘Lurline’ for the first night in its original form.”
“Re-opening of the Academy.
To-morrow night the doors of the Academy of Music will again be thrown open, and Wallace’s ‘Lurline’ will be produced in first-class style. The scenic effects, as proved at the semi-public rehearsal last night, will be elaborate enough to satisfy the present demand for spectacular display. The music throughout is melodious and enjoyable, rising in certain parts—for instance, the finale of the second act—to grandeur. The work will be given both in Italian and English. In the former version the cast will be as follows:
Lurline…..Miss Agatha States
Ghiva…..Mme. F. N. Testa
Count Rudolph…..Mr. Habelmann
Zelleck…..Mr. W. Formes
Baron Truenfels…..Sig. Barili
In the English version the cast is thus:
Zelleck…..Mr. G. F. Hall
Wilhelm…..Mr. A. Matthison
It is something unusual to devote to one opera two full opera companies and a ballet troupe; yet, this is what will be done at the Academy. It is intended in this production to decided definitely whether it be possible to make an opera, possessing in itself many elements of popularity and brought out in the most careful manner, enjoy a run at all commensurate with that enjoyed by burlesques and spoken dramas. If ‘Lurline’ proves a success, managers will find it to their interest to lavish money, skill and care in producing operatic works in the very highest style; so that in supporting ‘Lurline’ the musical public secures for itself great prospective advantages as well as an immediate gratification.
It was originally intended to produce ‘Lurline’ this evening, but intricate scenic preparations require a postponement till to-morrow night.”
“ACADEMY OF MUSIC.
The first performance of ‘Lurline,’ announced for this evening at the Academy of Music, is necessarily postponed until to-morrow, certain scenic and mechanical details requiring additional preparations.”
“The Lurline Performances.
The programme for the earlier performances of ‘Lurline’ is out to-day. The season begins this evening with the English version, the Italian properly taking the background until to-morrow night. A full-dress rehearsal last night proved that the scenic attractions will be something extraordinary, while the vocalists of McCulloch, the Bowlers, Orlandini and Hall will go far to increase the reputation of these artists. The ballet will introduce a new male dancer in an Italian importation with the exceedingly novel name of Novissimo, who will gracefully disport around Bonfanti. The Italian version of ‘Lurline’ will be sung both on Friday night and at the Saturday matinee, and the English version will be repeated again on Saturday night.”
"With all his long operatic experience, we believe that Mr. Maretzek last night made his first appearance as a manager of English opera. In accordance with the suggestion of the Evening Post and its correspondents, the English version of Wallace’s ‘Lurline’ received the precedence, and was produced last night at the Academy of Music before a large audience, which included the leading musical critics, the widow and children of the composer, and a number of amateurs and artists. The overture commended itself at once to those of musical culture, though it possesses but few salient point to give it a marked popularity. Signor Orlandini led off the vocal portion with the well-written recitative ‘All is silent,’ in which the delicate, wavy orchestration, is highly characteristic of the words, and leads to an agitated aria, ‘Idle spirit.’ The first chorus of water nymphs is an exquisite strain in the key of A flat with harp accompaniment; and this precedes Lurline’s first aria, ‘Flow on, flow on, oh! Silver Rhine,’ which is the principal theme of the opera, forming also its finale, and cropping out at various points in the orchestration. Miss McCulloch sang this air fluently and correctly, while her personal appearance was most attractive, the traditional garb of a Naiad queen well becoming her face and figure. The romanza, ‘The night winds,’ precedes the brilliant chorus, ‘Sail on,’ with which the scene closes.
In the next scene Ghiva (Mrs. Bowler) appears, and, in order to give prominence to her part, [the] song, ‘Why throbs the heart,’ from Wallace’s ‘Desert Flower,’ is interpolated. Another pretty duet with the Baron (Lorini) leads to a semi-buffo trio, in which the melody is carried on by the violins. A very showy and sonorous chorus for male voices, ‘Drain the cup of pleasure,’ is the next number; and after the requisite connecting dialogue in recitative, comes a poaintive barcarole, ‘Our bark in moonlight gleaming’—a rhythmical, tender melancholy, in D minor—but, with its repetition in the second verse rather too long. Mr. Bowler sang it well, ending with a few sustained notes of great delicacy. The act concludes with a noisy but ineffective concerted piece.
In the second act, the opening chorus is not worth notice, but serves as a foil to the charming little melody, ‘Under a spreading coral,’ sung by Lurline. The next melody, ‘Sweet form that on my dreamy gaze,’ is allotted to the tenor, and was so well sung by Mr. Bowler last night as to win most cordial applause. A little drinking song and chorus, ‘Take this cup of sparkling wine’—pretty but not original—lead to the Gnome’s air ‘As in the cup,’ a quaint and characteristic composition peculiarly well suited to the character, and most creditably sung by Mr. G, F, Hall, who, by the way, was decidedly careful and effective in his acting, as well as in his vocalization of a somewhat thankless part. The familiar ballad for Ghiva, ‘Gentle troubadour,’ follows, and after a hunting chorus we have another well-known melody in the ballad, ‘A father’s love,’ in which, last night, Orlandini won a heary encore, his noble voice bearing him safely over the difficulties of English pronunciation. The act concluded with the finest piece of concerted music Wallace ever wrote. This composition opens with the dirge, ‘Peace to the memory of the brave,’ sung in the distance by the lamenting friends of the lost Rudolph, who in his Naiad home hears their voices, and calls to them unheard. The usual operatic emotions of fear, rage, entreaty and distress are delineated by the different leading characters, the whole leading up to a climax in the modern Italian style, and quite equal to similar effects in the recognized works of Verdi or Donizetti. This one scene is of itself enough to stamp Wallace’s ‘Lurline’ as a successful work.
In the last act we have only space to hurriedly notice the tenor ballad, ‘Home of my heart,’ the charming soprano air, ‘Sweet spirit hear my prayer,’ the unaccompanied quartet, ‘Though the world with transport bless me,’ and the final aria ‘Flow on.’ The act closes with an elaborate transformation scene representing the abode of naiads and water nymphs.
Altogether, ‘Lurline,’ as produced last night, was a decided success. The singing was generally fair, sometimes above the average. Signor Orlandini and Mr. Bowler seemed most thoroughly to win the appreciation of the audience, and they were effectively aided by Miss McCulloch—who only needs more sentiment in her action to make Lurline her most successful personation—by Mrs. Bowler, Signor Lorini, Mr. Matthison and Mr. Hall. For the first night—when all sorts of mistakes are expected—the performance was remarkably good. To-night the foreign members of the company will sing the same opera ‘writ in choice Italian.’ It will be interesting to observe how the exponents of opera in the vernacular will bear comparison with those who will sing in foreign tongues. The dancing is fortunately independent of lingual difficulties; and this reminds us, in conclusion, that Bonfanti and Novissimo are very successful in their respective exhibitions of grace and physical endurance, in the frequent ballet scenes that vary the opera.”
“The Academy was last evening reopened for the production of W. Vincent Wallace’s ‘Lurline,’ an opera which, although written in this City many years ago, has hitherto been known here only by occasional concert selections, and the drawing-room circulation of most of its fluent and graceful melodies. The audience was tolerably large, in spite of the discouraging weather, and showed the readiest disposition to receive the work with cordiality, but the brilliancy of the representation was not sufficient to inspire any decided demonstrations, of enthusiasm until toward the close, when a few hearty and fairly merited encores were bestowed upon the principal artists. The orchestra was good throughout, and the chorus not so remiss as to impair the general effect; but the performance of the ladies and gentlemen to whom the leading characters were assigned, was not calculated to afford the best evidence of the merit of the opera. The music is not very exacting, yet it appeared, at least on this occasion, to overtask the powers of almost everybody concerned. When the difficulties of the first night shall have been smoothed away, we may look for a more thorough and adequate interpretation, and, consequently, for a more liberal display of popular appreciation.
As the most ambitious and successful work of a composer whose musical career was chiefly passed among us, ‘Lurline’ must always be regarded with interest by Americans. It was the main artistic object of Wallace’s life, and the labor which he devoted to it for at least half a score of years, as well as the jealous care with which he withheld it from the public until the opportunity arrived for presenting it with all the advantages of the first opera house of London, showed how high a place it held in his own estimation. It was commenced, we believe, about the year 1848, and was not completed until 1860, when it was at once welcomed with universal applause and admiration. Notwithstanding an amiable disposition on the part of English critics to represent its merits in the most favorable light, and to conceal its weaknesses, the judgment then passed has been generally accepted ty musicians, and is not likely ever to be materially changed. The brilliancy, the romantic fervor, the wealth of melody and the harmonious coloring that distinguish it almost from beginning to end, have certainly never been excelled, and probably never rivalled, in combination, by any of the modern English composers. The instrumentation shows the hand of a master. The concerted pieces, also, exhibit greater scientific skill and far more elaborate finish than we are accustomed to look for among writers of this class. The manner of their treatment, however, is seldom original, and is at times altogether too strongly suggestive of Italian models—witness the stirring finale to the second act. This, and an undue preponderance of the sentimental Italian style of phrasings to which all English composers, for obvious reasons, are inordinately addicted, are the only serious faults of ‘Lurline,’ and these are abundantly atoned for by its many charms. Everyone must regret the choice of the libretto, which is a clumsy caricature of a familiar legend of the Rhine, and which is not only an offence to literature, but even endangers by its awkwardness and harshness some of the best musical effects attempted by the composer. Wallace was undoubtedly captivated by the subject, than which none could be more attractive to a musician of his nature, and overlooked the uncouthness of the means by which he was enabled to reach his end.
The performance last evening, as we have said, was not of the first order. Mr. Bowler and Signor Orlandini sang more carefully and earnestly than their associates, most of whom were afflicted with a singular and unwarrantable apathy. Nothing could have surpassed the frigid indifference of Miss McCulloch’s demeanor, or the easy nonchalance of Mrs. Bowler. Mr. Hall, at least, exerted himself to satisfy the audience, and all that can be said of Signor Lorini is, that he judiciously withheld the peculiar impetuosity which, however well intended, is apt to interfere with the seriousness of any occasions in which he participates. The scenery was new and bright, and was quite as much admired as if it had been strictly appropriate. A ‘Transformation,’ at the close, signifying nothing in particular, was dazzlingly brilliant. Mlle. Bonfnati appeared with an indifferent troupe of dancing girls, and lengthened, without especially animating, a couple of scenes.
The Italian version of ‘Lurline’ will be given to-night with an entirely different cast.”
“William Vincent Wallace’s romantic opera of ‘Lurline.’ Originally produced nine years ago in London, and often promised us here in New-York was heard for the first time in America last night at the Academy of Music. A great deal of care and a great deal of money have been expended in its preparation. The work is well worth the labor bestowed upon it, for it is one of Wallace’s best compositions. The music is cheerful, varied, and highly melodious, and marked all through by a certain delicacy, poetry, and grace which invest so many of Wallace’s writings with a peculiar charm. The instrumentation, moreover, is particularly happy, and the ballads are abundant. The story is pretty, and although the rhymes in which it is told are the quintessence of absurdity, that is a matter for which few will care, especially as the words are usually undistinguishable. The libretto gives sufficient opportunity for scenic display, and what more should be required of it? The first scene, a cavern on the Rhine, opens with a good recitative for the bass (Rhineberg), which, having a pleasant flavor of melody, produces at once an agreeable impression. It is followed by a spirited aria and a short dialogue with the Gnome, after which a chorus of water sprites chant an appropriate prelude to the appearance of Lurline. This scene is very well managed, the Nymph of the Rhine gliding upon the rocks in a flood of lime light, and introducing at once the charming melody, ‘Flow on, flow on, O silver Rhine,’ which forms, so to speak, the theme of the opera. Two other soprano arias of less striking character and a lively chorus, with a thread of song for Lurline running through it, bring the first scene to a close, and we are then introduced to an apartment in the castle of Baron Treuenfels, where Ghiva (contralto) exhales her soul in the pretty ballad ‘Why Throbs This Heart,’ borrowed especially for this occasion from the second act of Wallace’s ‘Desert Flower.’ The remaining music of this scene, including a duet between Ghiva and Count Rudolph (tenor) is sprightly enough, but some of it is rather commonplace, and some is not well adapted to the situation. The second act is more interesting. Here we are shown gorgeous grottoes beneath the waves, where Rhineberg and his daughter, Lurline, hold their court. Here Rudolph has a good ballad, ‘Sweet Form that on my Dreamy Gaze;’ here Lurline and her gauzy nymphs serve him with the sparkling bowl, and twinkling legs fascinate him with the poetry of the pirouette. Loaded with wealth, he is wafted away to land, after promising to return and plighting his troth to the river queen in a short but most tender and beautiful duet, ‘Forget me not.’ The third act takes place wholly on land. Rudolph is courted by Ghiva who rejected him when he was poor, but likes him a good deal better now that he is rich. He wavers in his fidelity and Lurline pursues him, bent upon vengeance. She appears with her harp upon a moonlit mountain, and sings an exquisitely plaintive ballad, ‘Where art thou Rudolph,’ to which follows closely the celebrated scene, ‘Sweet Spirit, hear my Prayer.’ Better even than these well known airs is a quartette without accompaniment, ‘Though the world with transport bless me’ in the same scene. Whether her resentment is supposed to evaporate in song, or is not proof against the ballet, which she soon witnesses in Rudolph’s castle, we cannot say; but she saves her lover from assassination, and is finally apotheosized with him in a rosy and glittering transformation scene, such as the Academy of Music never saw before.
In the interpretation of this beautiful work the Manager has depended more upon the painter and the costumer than the singers. The scenery is nearly all new, and much of is very striking, the grotto of Lurline and the concluding glorification set being extremely gorgeous, and bathed in a profusion of light. There are, also various mechanical effects, and one or two comparatively unpretentious scenes of considerable artistic merit. The dresses—even those of the chorus—are rich and handsome. The opera was cast last night in English, Miss McCulloch appearing as Lurline, Mrs. Annie Kemp Bowler as Ghiva, Mr. Brookhouse Bowler as Rudolph, Orlandini as Rhineberg, and Mr. G. F. Hall as the Gnome. Mr. Bowler was very good—unexpectedly so, we may say,--but of the others there is less to be said. Miss McCulloch sung her ‘Where art thou, Rudolph?’ and ‘Sweet Spirit hear my Prayer,’ very nicely, but in other particulars, especially the opening scene, was far from satisfactory. Mrs. Bowler has a small part; her best song was the one from ‘The Desert Flower.’ To-night the performance will be in Italian.”
“CHRONIQUE THEATRALE. -- . . . . Let’s be brief, and may Wallace’s ghost pardon this forced conciseness.
This opera, which was produced at Covent Garden in London for the first time in 1860, obtained a prodigious success and was played a hundred times in a row, which proves that there are chauvinists elsewhere than in politics. Not that Lurline should be a work to be disregarded, but it’s very difficult to classify it. It seems to be a party to both the German and the Italian genres, but it forsakes the French genre completely; after all, it’s perhaps that that constitutes precisely the English genre.
The story is, as one knows, a German legend that lends itself to the machinery and scenery of high imagination.
Thanks to the love of the beautiful Lurline, the fairy of Lurlieberg, young count Rudolph, who found himself flat broke, recovers his riches. After a long sojourn in the river (an aquatic situation enviable enough during this season), this sentimental burgomaster returns to his domain, considering that a completely green gentleman whom we had taken for the Scamander river, but who is really and truly the king of the Rhine, refuses his consent to the union of his daughter with a mere mortal, premier tenor though he may be.
The greed of Rudolph’s friends is stirred up when they see him richer than ever, for the fairy Lurline has made him a present of a treasure-trove consisting of golden vessels, valuable candlesticks, huge ingots . . . what do I know, anyway? . . . with which to stock a goldsmith’s shop, in a word. These traitors want to murder him, but, loke the good God of La Vestale, the fairy Lurline, who’s no fool and has an eye on the future, sets off fireworks that blast the miscreants.
Father Scamandre then consents to unite the young turtle-doves in a beautiful spectacle worthy of the splendor of The Black Crook. I don’t know what becomes of the young family and whether Lurline will live as a good lady of the manor on the banks of the Rhine (Right Bank), or if it’s M. Rudolph who’s going to take up the profession of fish. That point remains obscure, as does the fate of little Ghiva, a beautiful Rhenish maiden whom he had loved before being bewitched by the fascinations of his damp nymph.
The score of Lurline contains motifs that are truly delightful. The overture is a masterpiece. The ballad and the grand finale of the sixth scene are also truly outstanding.
They say that it’s a lucky idea to play the piece one day in English, one day in Italian. It could be like that, and the cashier could have motives to rejoice in that combination, but we have an opinion that’s so entrenched about the place of sung English that never, for our part, would we have considered it.
What is incontestable is that the execution in Italian is very much superior to the other. Mme States made them applaud her great voice and M. Antonucci sings his part in the second act magnificently. M. Habelman and Mme Testa also had their part in the success. You have to say, to be fair, that the applause was not any more sparing for Mme McCulloch, Orlandini and the tenor Bowler on the English side.
The scenery, the costumes, the ballet and the musicians in the orchestra are the same for the English and the Italian [performances], notwithstanding that the aspect of the piece is altogether different, which is explained sufficiently if one places side-by-side Mme States’s ardor and the proverbial coldness of Miss McCulloch.
Max Maretzek has mounted this work with the care and skill that he’s known for. The scenery is extremely effective. MM. Voegtlin and Calyo share the glory for it. There are only festoons of lapis-lazuli, only bands of amethyst, only crystal cascades, only trees with purple trunks and golden fruits, only coral stalactites.
If I were to dare to hazard a slight criticism—just to not lose the habit—I would say that all the same they’ve abused the coral; they’ve put it everywhere. Let’s leave aside whether it were nutmeg; but truly, there’s something else to make beautiful bracelets, necklaces and earrings out of besides skeletons!
Of virtue and of coral, there shouldn’t be too much!
“‘Lurline’ was presented at the Academy of Music on May 13th, in English, followed on the 14th in its Italian dress. The audience, though not large, was enthusiastic. The chorus, composed principally of Grover’s German Opera forces, was fair, while the instrumentation was good. The scenery was very handsome, the most noticeable being a moonlit cavern on the Rhine in the first act, the crystal abode of Lurline in the second act, and the fourth scene in the third act, while the transformation scene was dazzlingly beautiful. Marie Bonfanti was the premiere danseuse, assisted by a large corps de ballet. Of the acting very little in its praise can be said. Miss McCulloch as Lurline walked through the part, appearing to take little or no interest in it. She was dressed prettily, and looked quite handsome. Annie Kemp Bowler did not appear to advantage as Ghiva, and sung out of tune. Sig. Orlandini, as Rhineberg, was good, and the same can be said of Brookhouse Bowler as Count Rudolph. The drinking song of ‘Drink the Cup of Pleasure’ was capitally sung and deservedly encored. The ‘Ave Marie’ was also well sung by the followers of the Count. Although it has been well placed upon the stage, so far as the scenic effects are concerned, we do not think it will have an extended run. This opera was originally produced in London, at Covent Garden Theatre, Feb. 23, 1860, with Louisa Pyne. Mr. Harrison and others in the cast, and enjoyed a run of one hundred and twenty-five nights.”