French Opera: La Périchole

Event Information

Fifth Avenue Theatre (1867-73)

Proprietor / Lessee:
James, Jr. Fisk

Manager / Director:
L. [bass, manager] Benedick

E. [conductor, violinist] Colonne

Event Type:

Record Information


Last Updated:
8 November 2019

Performance Date(s) and Time(s)

14 Jun 1869, Evening
15 Jun 1869, Evening
16 Jun 1869, Evening
17 Jun 1869, Evening
18 Jun 1869, Evening
19 Jun 1869, Evening

Program Details

President Grant was present at Saturday (06/19/69) evening’s performance; some patriotic music was played to mark the occasion. The Morlacchi Ballet Troupe performed their “original cancan” and a “grand ballet divertissement.”

Performers and/or Works Performed

aka Perichole
Composer(s): Offenbach
Text Author: Halévy, Meilhac
Participants:  Morlacchi Ballet Troupe;  French Opera Company;  Irma Marié (role: La Périchole);  Marie Desclauzas (role: Piquillo)
aka Can can
Participants:  Morlacchi Ballet Troupe
Composer(s): Sanderson
aka National melodies; National medley; national songs; National airs


Advertisement: New-York Times, 13 June 1869, 7.
Advertisement: New York Herald, 14 June 1869, 9.

Two advertisements on one page. The first is for this week’s performances of Périchole, the second is for the troupe’s scheduled performances in Boston the following week.

Announcement: New York Herald, 14 June 1869, 7.

“‘La Perichole’ will be the opera bouffe attraction this week at the Fifth avenue theatre [sic], with Irma in her original character and Desclauzas assuming the rôle recently sustained by ‘Barbe Bleue’ Aujac. The present will be the last week of opéra bouffe at this establishment, and, for that matter, in the city also.”

Announcement: New-York Times, 14 June 1869, 4.

“Mlle. Desclauzas has replaced M. Aujac at this theatre in the character of Piquillo, the love-stricken hero of ‘La Périchole.’ It is needless to say that the change is not and cannot be an improvement. The manly bearing, the vivacious acting, and the clear, resonant voice of the favorite tenor were among the most important accessories to the effect of this opera, and although Mlle. Deslcauzas sings with much skill, and contributes a great deal of spirit to the action, her performance appears feeble by contrast. Her personal appearance, moreover, is hardly calculated to preserve an illusion which every note she utters tends to overthrow. Her excellent qualities as a musician, however, are agreeably displayed, and in other respects her impersonation will enjoy a ‘success of curiosity,’ if nothing more. ‘La Périchole’ will be repeated every night this week, with which the season of opera bouffe closes.”

Advertisement: New-York Times, 14 June 1869, 7.
Advertisement: New-York Daily Tribune, 14 June 1869, 7.
Announcement: New York Post, 14 June 1869.

At conclusion of review for Saturday night’s performance. “…Desclauzas acted so well, and was altogether so charming and fascinating, that the applause was as great as if the brilliant Aujac himself had been on the stage. ‘La Perichole,’ with its curious cast [reference to Desclauzas as Piquillo], will therefore be repeated every evening this week and at the Saturday matinée.”

Advertisement: Courrier des États-Unis, 16 June 1869.

The last week. “The two queens of Opera Bouffe…Irma, the queen of song and Desclauzas, the queen of comedie.”

Advertisement: Courrier des États-Unis, 18 June 1869.
Review: Courrier des États-Unis, 18 June 1869.

"For the moment in New York, there remains the 5th Avenue Theater, Fisk’s theater, where Desclauzas stirs up a frenzy in the second act of La Périchole in the role of Piquillo. Zounds! the handsome lilac tights and how well she fills them out! We award a medal of Saint Helena to the hosier who invented such beautiful shapes. Mlle Desclauzas really should give us her destination . . . .”

Announcement: New York Clipper, 19 June 1869, 86.

“Opera Bouffe is dying out in this country. It commenced to breath [sic] its last on Monday, 7th inst., when the Grau Troupe expired, after many struggles, at the French Theatre. It has been holding on at the Fifth Avenue Theatre, but has struggled against fate, for the attendance has been at light as at any theatre in the city. The present week is the last of the remnants of this French style of opera buffoonery, and all lovers of the legitimate cannot but rejoice at its timely end. Like the protoype, the Can-Can, opera bouffe was sprung upon us all in a blaze of glory, but it has died the death it deserved.”

Advertisement: New York Clipper, 19 June 1869, 87.
Announcement: New-York Daily Tribune, 19 June 1869, 5.

Brief. Saturday’s performances will “bring to a close the reign of Opera-Bouffe in this city.”

Review: New York Herald, 20 June 1869, 7.

Opéra bouffe last night came to a full stop in this city at the Fifth avenue theatre [sic]. For some time past this frothy luxury, with its sparkling, effervescent harmonies, has been gradually but perceptibly dying in this part of the world, and with its demise last night at the gilded bandbox of Jubilee Fisk, Jr., in Twenty-fourth street—its last stronghold within the sacred precincts of the United States—it ceases for a few short months at least, and perhaps longer, to have a local habitation anywhere on this side of the turbulent Atlantic. For many months it managed to retain its hold upon the public with a tenacity that would have reflected infinite credit even upon the legitimate drama, and it furthermore gave evidence of strong vitality, until it was finally left without a plank to stand upon and was eventually denied by a fickle public in the crumbs of patronage necessary for its support. It did not, however, receive its quietus suddenly, but, like the uncertain flickerings of a candle that has burned down to the socket, it retained some of its former brilliancy up to the very last moment, and expired with many a bright but fitful spasm, which made its death throes almost as enjoyable and refreshing as were the inaugural notes of its droll and delicious nonsense that first greeted American ears. Last night it went out in a perfect flash of splendor at the Fiskian temple above alluded to, with ‘La Périchole’ for its winding sheet, Mlles. Irma and Desclauzas acting as pallbearers and Jubilee Fisk, Jr., as its chief mourner.

When opéra bouffe was first introduced to our citizens by that sly managerial fox, Bateman, they succumbed at once to its bewitching melodies and inoffensive satire, and so long as the novelty lasted they were held captive by its enchantment. They relished it—embraced and worshipped it as a new found fashionable idol, and it at one time even appeared as though they could not possibly get enough of it. But, as of everything else, our citizens soon tired of their new found pleasure, and sighing for a change, if not for something more substantial, they have at last cast away the enchanting bauble which charmed them for so long a time, and will have nothing more to do with it, at least for some time to come. Though at the outset it was relished and liberally patronized, it proved in the end a costly toy to more than one of our managers. There was about it a peculiar charm, a freshness and a novelty that was both fascinating and enjoyable; and it was this very novelty that allured our managers to float beyond their depth on the apparently unruffled sea of success, until the sudden collapsing of the frail bladders of public support left them floundering, if not actually engulfed, in the dire waves of failure and adversity. Whether or not any of our managers will be venturesome enough to again revive this ‘will-o’-the-wisp’—opera bouffe—next season, is at present a matter of considerable uncertainty.”

Review: Courrier des États-Unis, 23 June 1869.

"Opéra-bouffe is dead—and buried. It gave its last gasp last Saturday at the gilded hall of 5th Avenue. It had a majestic funeral, over which presided . . . the President of the United States.

Yes—while Desclauzas and Irma, or Irma and Desclauzas were giving the performance on the stage, General Grant was giving a performance in the house.

And guess who was the bigger hit?

General Grant!

Though he didn’t have arms as pretty as Irma’s, nor legs as pretty as Desclauzas. But those arms and legs were the reason for hostilities. And General Grant said: Let us have peace; in other terms, The empire, it’s peace. That’s why Hail to the Chief and the potpourri of national tunes played in his honor were applauded more than La Périchole.”