Birgfeld French Opera: Mme. Irma Benefit

Event Information

Grand Opera House

Proprietor / Lessee:
James, Jr. Fisk

Manager / Director:
Adolph Birgfeld

Price: $1; Loges (4 seats), $6

Event Type:

Record Information


Last Updated:
8 May 2021

Performance Date(s) and Time(s)

29 Jan 1869, 7:45 PM

Program Details

Colonne also performed a work advertised as “Concerto for violin” (no composer cited) and as a fantasie ballet “De Beriot” in the New York Herald review (no composer cited).

Performers and/or Works Performed

Composer(s): Verdi
aka Perichole
Composer(s): Offenbach
Text Author: Halévy, Meilhac


Advertisement: Courrier des États-Unis, 25 January 1869.

“First Benefit on account of Mlle Irma”

Advertisement: New York Herald, 28 January 1869.
Announcement: New York Post, 28 January 1869.
Announcement: New York Sun, 29 January 1869, 2.
Review: Courrier des États-Unis, 29 January 1869.

“It is not our theaters of Opera Bouffe that they’ll say will sink in a rut and stagnate in inertia. Ye gods! Such activity and such movement!The public is like children and old folks, and also like republics’ it’s essentially ungrateful. When those two colossal men, Grau and Bateman, or, to accommodate things to the course of time, Grau and Birgfeld, will have accomplished their task, that is to say when the theatrical season will be over, you’ll look back, and you’ll ask yourself by what incessant application of intellect, by what constant effort, by what miracle of intelligence and ability, they have endowed us with these always-varied and always-elegant pleasures, the best that they’ve given us to sample in this country. For in sum, whatever the occasional preferences of the public might be for this work or that, whatever the fluctuations of success, which are connected with a thousand causes independent of the management,—to the relative superiority fo this or that actress in this or that role; to a word or a verse that charms or displeases; to the more or less well-executed delineation of a character; to the dash or exhaustion of an actor; or just simply to a caprice or a passing infatuation of the audience or the press; in a word, whatever the momentary destiny may be of a piece that succeeds or fails, it’s certain that everything they’ve given us was mounted and performed with a zeal, a care, a liberality and a consciousness that deserve more than praise, that call forth the warmest and most legitimate fellow-feelings.

“Nevertheless nobody will dream of thanking these audacious and persevering [people], whose labor has cost more worry and more sleeplessness than the majority of great men, civic and military, whom the grateful nation wreathes with crowns and to whom it erects statues. Why? We’d like to know why they don’t pay homage to the theater director who amuses, interests, moves and instructs a whole crowd for a whole season as well as a general who leads a troop of human cattle to the slaughterhouse. Is it because the theater director pursues wealth? Well! [more like , “yeah, right!”] and the other [things], then? As for us, we frankly avow that renavigating the stream of the past, and yet seeing in it what they’re promising for the coming days, we believe we owe very sincere thanks to the able people who’ve placed our French theater in the first rank of dramatic art in America.

“This isn’t the moment to make a general review of the theatrical season we’re in; but there are eloquent figures. The French theater, directed by M. Grau, made, last November, [illeg.] in none of the six last months of the year; and during the following three months, no theater has had receipts as high as his.

“The Pike-Bateman theater has made a bit less; in the past three months, it received seventy-eight thousand dollars, against ninety-five thousand taken in by Grau, which is a difference of seventeen thousand dollars.

“The two combined receipts give Opéra Bouffe in to masses a total of one hundred seventy-three thousand dollars, which surpasses considerably the prodict of any other genre of theatrical prodictions during the same period.

“Without a doubt, the novelty and charms of the genre played their part. But novelty and charm would have doubtless created a triumphant fiasco, if the productions hadn’t been mounted, organized and presented with all the skill, all the splendor, all the largeness that were required to strike a big blow [make a big impression], take the public by storm, and keep on the alert for fickleness. Honor then to the directors [impresarios], and honor also to the valiant artists, to whom we owe it to seeing the taste for our dramatic music predominate here, or of one prefers, our lyric theater in its current form which, though it be transitory, is no less the most truly and universally popular ….

“At Bateman’s-Birgfeld’s-Pike’s-Fisk’s theater, which we still aren’t used to calling the Grand Opera, La Périchole pursues her triumphant career, and nobly holds her ground while waiting for Orphée aux Enfers, who would be tempted to lose patience at the success of someone who’s getting in his way. Irma is very pleasing in La Périchole, but Tostée will be very lively as Eurydice. In sum, perhaps it’s good that Birgfeld will find a way to cut his theater in two, and give us La Périchole and Orphée at the same time. Well! These folks are capable of anything….”

Review: New York Herald, 30 January 1869, 7.

“Substantial proof of the sincere appreciation in which Mlle. Irma is held was fully evidenced last night, when the Grand Opera House was crammed to its utmost capacity on the occasion of her first benefit in this city. A benefit night will ever test the true popularity of any artist, and therefore when such a spacious and magnificent establishment as the Grand Opera House was crowded to overflowing for the special emolument of Mlle. Irma the inference is clear and decisive. A perfect ovation was cordially tendered to that distinguished comedienne, and to say the least she richly merited the unanimous approbation which was bestowed upon her efforts, for never perhaps on any previous occasion did she so distinguish herself. ‘La Perichole’ was as usual admirably performed, and throughout, the encores were very frequent. It is needless to say that Mlle. Irma was besieged with a shower of beautiful boquets, and almost unnecessary to add that she deserved twice as many more. The programme was rendered additionally interesting by the first appearance in this city of M. E. Colonne, who rendered on the violin, with orchestra accompaniment, the fantasie ballet ‘De Beriot,’ with considerable judgment and feeling. But the feature of the evening, at least the great attraction, was the third act of the famous ‘Il Trovatore.’ Curiosity was doubtless the great magnet, not that the public had any pleasant reminiscence of the production of that or any other Italian opera in this city, but a French interpretation was unquestionably a novelty. In brief, Mlle. Irma as Leonora acquitted herself far beyond the most favorable anticipation and her brilliant effort was greeted with thunders of applause. The Miserere went very harmoniously. Manrico had an invisible representative in Mons. Aujac. His interpretation of the famous ‘Ah, Che la Morte’ was loudly encored while M. Tholer as Count de Luna had unfortunately only a very meager opportunity of showing the powers of an excellent and highly trained baritone voice. Almost the entire act was warmly encored and the representation was hailed with loud manifestations of applause. Altogether the attempt was satisfactory, though it must certainly be admitted that the substitution of the nasal sound for the melodious Italian was desirable. Aside, however, from that feature, Mlle. Irma’s benefit was a success in every respect.”