Academy of Music
Proprietor / Lessee:
Manager / Director:
31 January 2021
“Auber’s fascinating work, ‘Fra Diavolo,’ was given at the Academy of Music last night with all the modern improvements, which in this instance consisted in the interpolation of a brilliant air from the ‘Crown Diamonds’ by the prima donna, and a German lied by the tenor, who, moreover, sang the last act of the opera in German, after having sang the others in Italian.
“Miss Kellogg finds in Zerlina one of her best parts; and her rendering of it, both in action and vocalization, is always satisfactory and pleasing. In the bedroom scene she sang with exquisite ease and grace. Mr. Habelmann made a rather gloomy and sepulchral Fra Diavolo, but received for his interpolated German song the only encore of the evening. Signor Ronconi was Lord Allcash, and was droll and vavacious [sic] throughout the opera, his humorous efforts being well seconded by Dubreuil and Barili, as the two robbers.
“A lady whose name is new to our stage, Miss Caterina Lami, assumed in a most creditable manner the part of Lady Allcash, though the music is generally out of the range of her best notes. Miss Lami is an American lady, who has been for some time preparing for the operatic stage. She has a high soprano voice, acts with ease, and in such parts as the Page in the ‘Ballo in Maschera’ will be most acceptable.”
“Thanks to Apollo, thanks rather to an awakened sense on the part of the [public, that there is at last an opera company at the Academy worth hearing. The houses are full. There are no empty benches to make Maretzek miserable and his creditors anxious; and there ought to be none, for he is really doing a good thing. ‘Fra Diavolo,’ for instance, was excellently sung last night. Auber never knew what it was to be dull, least of all in this brilliant effort of his genius. Miss Kellogg is perfectly at home in the opera, and appears to the best advantage. Hubermann [sic], the German tenor, sang the role of Fra Diavolo. He introduced into the second act his favorite song, ‘Mein Engel,’ by Esser, and won with it an encore. Ronconi supplied the humor of the piece.”
“AUBER tried and failed here times before making with his fourth effort a success and beginning in La Bergère Châtelaine, that long series of triumphs which it took nearly fifty years to span, and which had scarcely ended when, as a septegenarian [sic], the maestro rested from his labors with still undiminished powers. When he had once hit the right vein he never left it, and his gold, although beaten out very thinly to cover so great a space, is gold still, and shines and attracts with as lustrous a charm as when the fanfare of ‘Fra Diavolo’ was originally heard on the Boulevards, or the susceptible Parisians were first intoxicated by ‘L’Elixir d’Amour [sic].’ It is a legitimate consequence of the gaiety, the rattle and the flowing melody of AUBER’S works that they always, if tolerably done, put an audience in good spirits. The fun and brilliancy of the best of them are infectious, the tunes as catching as the measles, and forgiven if sometimes as spotty or monotonous, and the climactic character, so to speak, which the composer always has in view, never fails of its intended effect. The showy and blustering coda of the overture to ‘Fra Diavolo’ is typical both of AUBER’S ends and means. It is like the shower of rockets that tops off a pyrotechnic display and sends everybody away pleasurably excited with so artful and judicious a culmination. The composer was, e must admit, fortunate in many of his librettos. The genius of SCRIBE wedded itself as naturally to that of AUBER as bread and cheese does to beer or chicken salad to champagne. It is a very fine thing when two artisans work so well together. How much of the celebrity of the songs of the ‘Bohemian Girl’ has been due to the happy cooperation of BALFE and BUNN? All this, however, as the French say, goes without saying. In ‘Fra Diavolo’ there is no doubt that the delightful association of love, war, and plunder with the deft admixture by way of cayenne of a little diableriè, has done wonders toward making it a popular operatic salad, and has been of immense service in helping its rollicking melodies to such enduring vitality as they possess.
“The performance of ‘Fra Diavolo’ last night was in some if not all respects so good as to justify the statement that it surpassed reasonable expectations, while it is equally true that in parts it fell short of them. Of course all the world expects great things of RONCONI in Lord Rochburg—a role in which he has for years been celebrated, and in which he has never been more than approached—but the fact that Miss KELLOGG is so arch, and captivating a Zerlina, is naturally less famous, and thus came to many as an agreeable surprise. We have spoken before, as a matter distinct from her vocal qualities, of the young lady’s success this season in the delineation, as shown in her Linda. The pathetic is AUBER’S weakest point, so that the opportunities he affords of this kind are meagre to a degree. But in the way of fun and frolic—in hitting off, as it were, the superficially romantic and humorous aspect of things, AUBER is almost perfection, and Miss KELLOGG evinces admirable versatility in projecting herself so thoroughly into his spirit. Her abandon last night was at times of the best—that is of the obviously unsimulated sort, and aided delightfully in giving vivacity and truthfulness to the scene. This was the more creditable when it is remembered that she was not throughout in the best voice so that mechanical difficulties impeded the realization of her conception. Signor RONCONI was in excellent condition, and sang and acted the peripatetic ‘Milor’ as well as in his golden days at Her Majesty’s and Covent Garden. Herr HABELMANN was at his usual mark in Fra Diavolo, but we regret to be unable to speak in terms of praise of all the remaining characters. Some of the concerted music was greatly marred by their inefficiency, and the contrast here with recent performances of the same opera by the Parepa-Rosa English troupe was so marked as to deserve notice and condemnation. Such defects were palpable in the first act, and particularly toward its finale. In the second act Miss KELLOGG sang very much better than in the first, and, in truth, all concerned seemed to warm to their work and improve as it progressed, so that at last there was comparatively little to desire. The house was crowded and fashionable and generous applause was bestowed with impartiality on what deserved it and what did not. This is a phenomenon not unsusceptible of explanation, but as it is only recurrent and not invariable, the secret may for once be left undisturbed. Taken altogether, this performance of ‘Fra Diavolo’ may be pronounced to have been so good on the part of certain of the principals as to be able to carry off considerable and frequent weakness on that of most of the subordinates. The chorus and orchestra need more rehearsals together, and now that the season has met unequivocal prosperity, we trust this presentation will not be neglected. It is not in opera troupes to command success, but they may with propriety do all they can to deserve it.”