Academy of Music
Manager / Director:
14 August 2021
“’Trovatore’ last night did not draw as crowded a house as it has often done; but the audience was quite sufficient to occupy all the best seats in the house. The cast included Madame de Briol as Leonora, Madame Lumley as Azucena, Lefranc as Manrico, and Reyna as De Luna. The performance of these experienced artists was clever and satisfactory throughout. Madame Lumley sang and acted with good effect in the part of the Gypsy, improving as the opera proceeded. Reyna, barring his old tendency to sing out of tune, was a presentable and spirited Luna. Madame de Briol gave, in the style of an accomplished and experienced prima donna, the music of Leonora, though, as we have had in New York so many superlatively fine representatives of the character, her personification of it does not create any special effect.
“Lefranc made the hit of the evening. His voice was husky during the earlier part of the performance, but recovered its freshness as the opera proceeded, and he gave the high C in the Di guella pira so as to insure a double call before the curtain and an enthusiastic encore. In the repetition he reached the note with even greater ease and grace, and prolonged it til interrupted with cries of ‘bravo.’ In the tower scene of the last act his impassioned vocalization secured an encore for the Miserere.”
“The second season of Italian opera began last evening with the well-worn ‘Trovatore.’ The audience which assembled to greet it was fair in numbers and of a character to give encouragement to the enterprise of the manager. Although the boxes were all taken, the outside attractions in which the Prince [Arthur] is the central figure have drawn off some of the opera habitués, and many familiar faces were wanting in the audience.
“Mme. Briol and Messrs. Lefranc and Reyna made their reappearance, and were enthusiastically received. The new member of the company is Mme. Eliza Lumley, a contralto of good voice, and practiced in the requirements of the stage.”
“Verdi’s noisiest, and, to our mind, his worst, because his most meretricious opera, seems to have an abiding fascination for the singers, and we must add, as permanent an attraction for the public. How far the barrel organ that makes melody familiar, or the self-imitation which is even more ineffectual, may help this indifferent paste of the maestro to pass current for diamonds, we need not stop to inquire. It would be disingenuous, however, to ignore the fact that ‘Il Trovatore’ is rich in dramatic as well as in musical opportunities; or to deny it that credit which has been the salvation of many another rubbishing vehicle of art, --the power to awaken the enthusiasm of the galleries. It may be said of it, indeed, as of the poor playwright’s tragedy, that it is a ‘drum and trumpet thing,’ strongly flavored with the pomp and circumstance of glorious war, and affluent almost beyond compare in those brazen crashes that at once split the ears and make buoyant the hearts of the groundlings. Our present business, however, is to note effects rather than causes, and so we hasten to record that the Academy of Music was graced last night by an excellent audience; that Signor Lefranc was received with tumultuous joy, and Mme. Briol with generous appreciation; that the whole performance was hailed by the public in a manner commensurate with the manager’s long-tried service and deserved popularity; and that if all engaged had believed that this was the last time ‘Il Trovatore’ was ever to be sung—a conceivable fatality, which we, at least, might find patience to endure—the opera could not have been rendered with more deafening sonority or elaborate emphasis.
“As regards details, we regret to say that Signor Lefranc was at the outset extremely hoarse; his singular faculty of overcoming or singing through such a trouble, came promptly into play afterward, and he produced with apparent ease much of the magnificent effect which has gained him so high a position here, and which is destined, as we think, to carry him still higher hereafter. It is, notwithstanding, idle to conceal that Signor Lefranc’s noble voice shows decided traces of fatigue. He should not have sung last night. Yet as his doing so arose from a laudable anxiety not to disappoint his audience and manager, the error is one very difficult to censure. For his own sake—not the public’s or our own—we trust the ensuing arrangement of the operas will be such as to give Signor Lefranc as much rest as possible. His organ is too precious a thing to be abused, and he is at a point in his career at which it is of supreme moment that that splendid gift should be moderately and judiciously employed. Our readers must not infer from the foregoing remarks that the performance of the great tenor last night was in any just sense a failure; on the contrary, at most critical emergencies it was a brilliant success; but the caution we have given seems, notwithstanding, to be called for by the circumstances, and the admiration freely and often expressed in these columns for Signor Lefranc’s ability will prevent our being misunderstood. Mme. Briol sang on this occasion with her usual abundant force and slender power over the sympathies. It is a strange but indisputable fact that, at all events on the stage, great physical power is rarely associated with those magnetic faculties wherein this painstaking lady is so deficient.”
“Mr. Maretzek began his second season of Italian Opera last evening. The ‘old, old story was told again’ of the wandering Troubadour, the child-stealing gipsy, the angry count, and the distracted Leonora. Though repeated for the thousandth time, we very much doubt if there was man, woman, or child in the audience who could have given an intelligible version of that fearful but, Heaven be praised! impossible-to-be-remembered old story. However, it served Verdi’s turn, and enabled him to make some music that has taken so strong a hold on the popular ear that it seldom fails to draw an excellent house. As the season progresses, we may hope to hear some fresher works. There is at least a promise of such. The cast was the same as last season, save that the place of poor Madame Cellini, the contralto, who died so suddenly just at its close, was supplied by Madame Lumley, and very ably supplied. Madame Briol sang with her accustomed vigor. The voice of that noble singer, Signor Lefranc, showed that he had taxed it somewhat heavily. He is so earnest an artist that he does not spare himself, but undertakes much, and does everything to the limit of his ability. This certainly is the true artistic temperament, though it sometimes carries a singer beyond his strength.”