Maretzek Italian Opera: Aroldo - American Premiere and Opening Night of Summer Season

Event Information

Academy of Music

Manager / Director:
Max Maretzek

Jaime Nuno

Ballet Director / Choreographer:
Paul Brilliant

Price: $1; $1.50 reserved; .50 family circle; .25 amphitheatre

Event Type:

Record Information


Last Updated:
1 March 2019

Performance Date(s) and Time(s)

04 May 1863, Evening

Program Details

1st American performance.
Mons., La Thorne, stage manager.

Maretzek advertised a short season of six nights. In the end, the company gave 10 performances over seven nights and three Saturday matinees.

Performers and/or Works Performed

Composer(s): Verdi
Text Author: Piave
Participants:  Maretzek Italian Opera Company;  J. [tenor] Reichardt (role: Godvino);  Antonietta Brignoli-Ortolani (role: Mina);  Fernando [bass-baritone] Bellini (role: Egberto);  Francesco Mazzoleni (role: Aroldo);  T. [tenor] Rubio (role: Enrico);  Johanna Ficher (role: Elena);  Wilhelm [baritone] Müller (role: Briano)


Advertisement: New-York Times, 21 April 1863, 7.
“The First Time in America, Verdi’s Grand Opera of AROLDO.”
Announcement: New York Herald, 21 April 1863, 6.

Advertisement: New York Herald, 21 April 1863, 12.

Announcement: New York Post, 22 April 1863, 2.

Announcement: New-York Times, 27 April 1863, 4.

“[F]irst time in this country [for] Verdi’s opera of ‘Aroldo.’”

Announcement: New York Herald, 27 April 1863, 1.

Advertisement: New-York Times, 28 April 1863, 7.

Cast, prices.  “The Director begs to announce a short season of SIX NIGHTS.”

Announcement: New York Herald, 28 April 1863, 6.

Advertisement: Courrier des États-Unis, 28 April 1863.

Announcement: New York Herald, 30 April 1863.

Announcement: Dwight's Journal of Music, 02 May 1863, 23?.

Announcement: New-York Times, 02 May 1863, 4.
“This season promises to be as prosperous as the one just concluded, the greatest we have ever had at the Academy.”
Advertisement: New York Herald, 02 May 1863, 7.
Announcement: New York Post, 02 May 1863, 2.
Plot synopsis.
Announcement: New York Herald, 03 May 1863, 4.
Long synopsis of the plot.
Advertisement: New-York Times, 04 May 1863, 7.

Announcement: New-York Times, 04 May 1863, 5.

Includes a plot synopsis of opera, described as “one of Verdi’s least known.”

Announcement: New York Herald, 04 May 1863, 4.

“An opera never performed in America will be given this evening – ‘Aroldo,’ by Verdi. . . . As the sale of season tickets and reserved seats has been very good, there will be a most brilliant audience.”

Advertisement: New York Herald, 04 May 1863, 7.

Cast, prices.  “First Time in America.”

Announcement: New-York Daily Tribune, 04 May 1863, 8.

Announcement: New York Post, 04 May 1863, 3.

“The Academy of Music will doubtless be filled to-night with a gay audience; the attraction of a new season and a new opera, and of the dashing tenor Mazzoleni, will draw the people, and the beauty of the spring toilettes will elegantly furnish the house.  The season is but for six nights, and there is much to be offered in the way of novelties.”

Announcement: Courrier des États-Unis, 04 May 1863.

Long summary of the libretto.

: Strong, George Templeton. New-York Historical Society. The Diaries of George Templeton Strong, 1863-1869: Musical Excerpts from the MSs, transcribed by Mary Simonson. ed. by Christopher Bruhn., 04 May 1863.
“At dinner were Chas Kuhn, Jean Ruggles & la Contesse Vaugaingueuse—heretofore Miss Sarah Stout (“little Aguila G”), & they went to the opera with E[llie]—Verdi’s “Aroldo” with which composition I desire to continue wholly unacquainted.”

Review: New-York Times, 05 May 1863, 4.

“Mr. Maretzek’s second season of Italian opera commenced last evening under auspices that are favorable to its continuance beyond the period of six nights to which it is so cautiously limited.  The opera of ‘Aroldo’ was a success; and the house presented a brilliant, although not thronged, appearance.”

Review: New York Herald, 05 May 1863, 7.

“Mr. Maretzek inaugurated his summer operatic season last night with the production of Verdi’s ‘Aroldo.’ Before entering into any details as regards the performance we will state that the opera was a success. The audience were enthusiastic in their applause, calling out the artists and demanding encores with persistence. The mise en scene was extremely fine, while the choruses and orchestra gave token of frequent rehearsals. The overture was admirably executed, and was loudly applauded.

            The first act was remarkable for the brilliancy of the scene, and the grand finale at its end was admirably sung. The different parts are worked up in the happiest vein of the great maestro, and the whole produced enthusiastic applause. It was encored, as the public insisted upon it.

            Mazzoleni (Aroldo) sang and acted in his usual splendid style, and was the recipient of the warmest tokens of approval. He was received with rounds of applause when he first appeared, and was called out at the end of his first aria. At the fall of the curtain all the artists were called out twice. In this first act Signor Bellini (Egbert) received great applause for his fine singing and spirited acting.

            The second act passed off with less eclat than the first; but, as the music is really fine, the public applauded with warmth. In this act, as in the first, Signor Mazzoleni sang admirably, while he acted with intense energy, portraying the agony of the betrayed and jealous husband in the most natural and effective manner.

             In the fourth act Mazzoleni again received great applause—in fact it may be said that he is the life of the opera.”

Review: New York Post, 05 May 1863, 2.

“The Opera was last night attended by an audience which was unexpectedly large, considering the threatening aspect of the weather and the condition of the streets.  The new work—that is, new here—was clearly successful, Verdi being too surely a master of effects to commit the crime of dullness.  ‘Aroldo’ opens with its best foot foremost, for the first act is the most striking of the four.  The finale to the second is, however, very well worked up; Mazzoleni’s music is at once inspiriting and delicious, and his success was great.  Bellini also and Mademoiselle Brignoli gained much well-merited applause.” 

Review: Courrier des États-Unis, 05 May 1863, 1.

       "Of all the operas of Verdi, the one they sang yesterday evening for the first time at the Academy of Music was surely the most unknown in New York. The major part of the audience didn’t even know the title. The attraction of curiosity was therefore as complete as possible.

     Aroldo must trace back to the first period of the composer’s career. We judge it [to be] thus, without knowing what date it carries and simply by reason of the superiority that is manifested in the great ensemble pieces in the scenes for two or three voices. There’s a striking analogy there to I Lombardi; the mass chorales are handled in both scores by analogous procedures and with similar effects.

      Besides this distinctive characteristic, sometimes, Aroldo has another which is its own and that you don’t always find in its creator: it’s in the originality and even the freshness of the inspiration.

      The overture, first of all, is embellished on a very happily discovered motif, although it has the fault of being excessively spun out and recycled. The first act offers a charming tenor aria and an overly conspicuous finale, which brought down the house. In the second, the curtain fell equally on a very striking ensemble, a quartet accompanied by an offstage chorus. The third opens with a baritone aria that they encored for very good reason, followed by a very lovely duet. Finally the piece is ended by a scene that is full of gracefulness and feeling. We mention in haste what struck us the most, without pretending to pass judgment on the whole. Certain operas have produced a more lively impression, but few have left the audience with more distinct and agreeable memories on leaving a first hearing.

      Mazzoleni admirably carried off a role written in the composer’s most overwhelming style; he had, in the first and fourth acts, two of the most beautiful pieces that we have ever heard him sing as to melody and sensitivity.

      Bellini, always a good artist, sang, in a manner above all praise, the difficult scene with which he opens the third act. Mme Ortolani-Brignoli was superior to everything we knew of her until now. Finally, the chorus got through, without too many obstacles and sometimes irreproachably, this new and often rugged music.”

Review: New-York Times, 06 May 1863, 4.

           “The opera of ‘Aroldo,’ [illeg.] on Monday night, and to be repeated this evening, was received with marked favor, by an audience that, strange to say, was composed largely of ladies. The first of these circumstances need excite no surprise. Verdi is now an accepted favorite of the public, and his works, good, bad, or indifferent, are sure to pass muster on a first hearing. He has hardly met with a reverse since ‘Luisa Miller’ fluttered feebly into an early and watery grave. But that a Summer season of a fashionable entertainment commencing three days after the great ‘moving day,’ and before crinoline and temper have recovered their normal suavity—that this should find even a moderate degree of favor with the fairer portion of the community is indeed remarkable. Mr. Maretzek may fairly anticipate a good season. And we are glad that it is so, not only because he deserves all that the public can bestow on him, and more, but because the impresario’s catalogue of works for a Summer season is almost entirely fresh, and for that reason unusually interesting. Remembering how thorough was our satisfaction with Mme. Medori, we shall certainly not rejoice at her absence, but it may be mentioned as a fragment of miscellaneous consolation that there are many operas in which that lady could not be heard to advantage, and that these are almost invariable the works in which the tenor and baritone have their best opportunities. Nothing, for instance, can be finer than Aroldo for these two voices, but it is quite certain that had Mme. Medori been here we should not have had an opportunity of hearing that work. Moreover it is proper that we now recover some of our enthusiasm for those native singing-birds who have been rather rudely ‘knocked off their perches’ by the big-voiced stranger. In certain rôles that require the graceful ease of youth, and the ordinary resources of a delicate and well-trained voice, where can we find a more charming artiste than Miss Kellogg? And then we have the earnest Lorini, and the stately Guerrabella, both foreign as to name but native as to material. Lastly, there is Miss Lizzie Parker just returned from California with a voice clogged with the sweets of nineteen operas, all of which she is prepared to sing on the slightest provocation. Mr. Maretzek has, undoubtedly, secured some of these public favorites, and in combination with his fine male troupe, will seize the opportunity of restoring them once more to the stage of the Academy.

            We are wandering from the facts of the opening night, in thus trying to peep into the mystic future. The plot of ‘Aroldo’ we have already published. It is remarkable mainly for the strong situations which it affords to the tenor and baritone, who are respectively writhing and fuming from the opening to the end of the third act, when the tenor falls into a religious frame of mind, and the baritone—theretofore of a sanguinary and unappeasable disposition—becomes softened by travel. Verdi has made the most of his opportunities, and in the treatment of these two voices has renewed the old vigor of his style. We lack space for a detailed consideration of the music. It must suffice to state that it is full of those peculiarities of style which have given to the composer his merited popularity. That it is effective, fluent and easily caught, are conditions which are usually found in his works, and are very noticeable here. It is not, perhaps, as a whole, so fresh as some of the composer’s late works, but several of the numbers are strikingly original. These will be found in the first act—which we may here state comprises about half the entire opera—and in the fourth. The septette, Oh qual m’invade, is in construction and melody worthy of any master. It is a most effective specimen of bold and effective writing, important alike for its length and the singular skillfulness with which all the leading artists and the chorus are deployed without loss of power or confusion of effect. The tenor cavatina, Sotto il sor [sic], displays nice feeling, and the concluding aria, with its melancholy interjections by Mina, is in Verdi’s best known style. The duetto for soprano and baritone which follows, is one of the finest numbers in the opera, and the quick movement, Or meco venite, is certain to become popular. The introduction to the finale, E bella di guerra, is also a spirited three-four piece that will find its way to the piano in a variety of forms. Indeed, it would not be difficult to indicate many other morceaux that will share the same fate. The music is excellently written for the voice, but is absolutely destitute of local coloring. Although the scene of the last act is in Scotland, and a creature with bare legs and the bagpipes is absolutely introduced on the stage, Verdi has not even succeeded in acquiring an ordinary Scotch rythm [sic]. The performance on Monday evening was excellent. Signor Mazzoleni was in superb voice and threw into his acting all the force and intensity that the situation demanded. Aroldo is certainly one of his best rôles. Mlle. Ortolani Brignoli, as Mina, has not many chances for individual display, being confined mostly to the concerted music, in which she is heard to excellent advantage. The lady in all respects is equal to the requirements of her part. Signor Bellini as Egberto has a superb rôle, and interprets it in a large and catholic spirit of art. His aria and cabaletta in the third act were superbly rendered. The opera, as we have before hinted, depends on the tenor and baritone, and these rôles, it will be seen, were intrusted [sic] to the two best artists we have had on the Academy boards for many a long day. The leading singers were called out after each act, and the opera may be placed on record as a success.

           The new scenery is partly excellent and partly execrable; excellent in the second act—execrable in the fourth, and in this respect is no exception to the ordinary new scenery at the Academy, which seldom has any other merit than cleanness. The costumes, armors, &c., are magnificent, and the combination thus presented is beautiful and satisfactory. It is only under Mr. Maretzek’s management that we are privileged to enjoy such completeness and liberality of mise-en-scene. ‘Aroldo’ will be repeated to-night.”

Announcement: New York Clipper, 09 May 1863, 27.

Maretzek commences another little ‘go’ of opera, commencing this evening, with Verdi’s ‘Aroldo,’ first time in America.”

Review: Musical Review and World, 09 May 1863, 111.

“It is true, the libretto of ‘Aroldo’ is considerably stupid, but compared with that of ‘Il Trovatore’ it is of a very intellectual order.  The music is entirely good, in fact, better than a great deal Verdi has written. . . . We suppose, one of the chief reasons, why it is not a popular opera, lies in the circumstance, that the first act absorbs nearly all the interest (it comprises almost half of the music of the opera) and also, that the soprano-part is but poorly considered by the  composer.  This last circumstance, however, was rather fortunate for the performance at the Academy, as a more important role would have faced still worse with the Prima donna, who wields now the scepter at the Academy.  Mad. Ortolani-Brignoli is not fit to sing first roles.  Her husband, Signor Mazzoleni acted and sang the part of the injured husband with his usual power and intelligence.  Signor Bellini was also acceptable.”

Review: New-York Times, 11 May 1863, 4.

“The past week was an unfavorable one for Mr. Maretzek’s operatic enterprise.  Its opening was in dangerous proximity to the great ‘moving day,’ and its close, with the exception of Saturday, was moist and forbidding.  Notwithstanding these circumstances the spirit of the manager was unflagging, and hence we had four splendid performances—three of them being of Verdi’s new opera of ‘Aroldo,’ and the fourth of the same maestro’s ‘Ernani.’”

Review: Dwight's Journal of Music, 16 May 1863, 29.
“On Monday and Wednesday evenings, and at the usual Saturday’s matinée, Verdi’s unsuccessful opera ‘Aroldo’ was produced.  Did Mr. Maretzek think that an opera that had failed in Europe, would still do for New York?  If so, he was mistaken—just for once.  The opera fell flatly even on the ears of the Academy audience.  Except the finale to the first act, we cannot recall any portion of it that possesses Verdi’s merit.”
Review: Dwight's Journal of Music, 30 May 1863, 36.

Aroldo was one of the main attractions of the short season.

Review: Dwight's Journal of Music, 11 July 1863, 60.

"The Spring Season at the Academy of Music commenced last Monday. Verdi’s opera ‘Aroldo’ was performed for the first time in New York. This opera is, we believe, of an older date, and was not very successful outside Italy. Why? we [sic] do not see, for there are certainly much worse operas of the mæstro, which have been and are still favored by the sympathy of the public. It is true, the libretto of ‘Aroldo’ is considerably stupid, but compared with that of ‘Il Trovatore’ it is of a very intellectual order. The music is entirely good, in fact, better than a great deal Verdi has written, the workmanship less frivolous, than we have been used to by him as well as by other modern Italian writers, and the efforts of characterizing of a more elevated character, than in his former operas. The finales of the first and second act are well made and very effective, in short, ‘Aroldo’ ought to be a success. We suppose, one of the chief reasons, why it is not a popular opera, lies in the circumstance, that the first act absorbs nearly all the interest (it comprises almost half of the music of the opera) and also, that the soprano-part is but poorly considered by the composer. This last circumstance, however, was rather fortunate for the performance at the Academy, as a more important role would have faced still worse with the Prima donna, who wields now the scepter at the Academy. Mad. Ortolani-Brignoli is not fit to sing first roles. Her husband, Signor Mazzoleni acted and sang the part of the injured husband with his usual power and intelligence. Signor Bellini was also acceptable as the avenging father of his child’s guilt; the other roles are but small and were given accordingly.”