Academy of Music
Proprietor / Lessee:
James M. Nixon
Price: $1; .50 family circle; .25 Amphitheatre; $1.50 or $2 reserved in parquet, parquet circle, balcony and private boxes according to location; $5-$20 entire private box according to number of seats and location
15 May 2013
Patti opera debut originally considered for the Palace of Music. “Her [debut] will be the musical event of the season, and may be regarded, anticipatively, as the greatest triumph that will have been witnessed since the début of her sister, Adelina.”
Discusses the curiosity of the public about her opera debut because of her “accident of Nature.” “She will be inspired by the brilliant aspect of the Academy [and] sustained by the masterly orchestral aid of Muzio. . . . It would have been well if Brignoli could have been obtained to second her endeavors, as Elvino; still Signor Sbriglia is a painstaking, conscientious tenor, and, though a trifle harsh of voice, will do his best.”
“There was a splendid house last night to welcome to the stage another member of that family which has been so long identified with musical affairs in this country, and which bids fair in the future to reflect upon us some portion of the artistic prestige which Italy, France and Germany have hitherto monopolized. Viewed in this light, as well as in reference to the unquestionable merits of the fair aspirant for lyrical honors, it is not surprising that the debut of Miss Patti should have excited among our community more than usual interest.
Bellini's operas are in general best suited to the class of singers whom the French style chanteuses legeres. They are wanting in those noble orchestral effects unaided by which the action of the stage rarely rises to the level of grandeur. On the other hand they are full of the happiest poetic inspirations in the form of delicious melodies, and therefore more frequently afford a test of vocal excellence than the higher class of compositions. For this reason most of the great artists who have risen to fame within the last quarter of a century have included one or more of his creations in their repertoires. In the role of Amina, Malibran, Sontag, Persiani, [illeg.] and Jenny Lind won their greatest successes. It is a part which requires extended compass of voice, great flexibility, and judgment to resist the temptation to overcharge with fioriture its beautiful melodies. It demands, moreover, sentiment and feeling, with a fair share of personal attractions and youthfulness of appearance.
In reference to all these qualities the choice by Miss Patti of this role for her debut was an exceedingly happy one. Her voice takes a great range, and is wonderfully agile in execution. She is young, she is pretty, and she has all that freshness and apparent naiveté which are essential to the realization of the librettist’s ideal. The only doubt that remained to be solved in her regard was whether the novelty of her situation and unfamiliarity with stage usages would not so paralyze her powers as to render the effort a failure, or, at all events, detract greatly from her success. Thanks to her fine musical organization and the careful training of Signor Scola, she has triumphantly passed the ordeal.
Dominating the artistic interest of the occasion, it was plain, was the curiosity excited among the female portion of the audience to see how far the physical difficulty under which she has been so recently laboring had been overcome. On her entrance, every eye was strained to watch the manner in which she would advance towards the footlights. Although the limp was still plainly perceptible, there was a wonderful improvement, and the plaudits of welcome with which she was received were redoubled from surprise at the facility with which she moved. The first few phrases of recitation which she uttered were almost indistinct from nervousness; but after a few moments this wore off and her opening cavatina was delivered with all the ease and brilliancy which she is accustomed to display in her vocal efforts. There was a marked difference in the volume of her voice in the recitative passages and in her singing, a fact to be accounted for by her newness to the stage. In her bye play, too, there was a little restraint; but both these defects will disappear when she becomes at home in her parts. Even as it was she gathered more strength and confidence as the opera progressed, and sang and acted with as much spirit as could be expected under the circumstances. In the finale of the first act she made a marked impression, and the curtain fell amid enthusiastic applause, which was continued until she was brought out to receive a fresh ovation in the form of floral offerings.
In the second act she sustained herself admirably throughout, singing charmingly, and in the mill scene, the most trying ordeal that an artist can pass through, she was thrillingly effective. Her rondo was capitally delivered, and derived fresh beauties from her exquisite vocalization. The impression which she left artistically was a most satisfactory one, and only increased the regret that there should still remain the slightest physical blemish on so fair a performance. At the close of the opera she was again called before the curtain.
The Elvino of the evening was Signor Sbriglia, who, amongst his other recommendations, had the rare merit of thinking less of himself than of the debutante, to whom he gave most effective support. Of Susini’s Rodolpho we need scarcely say that it was, as usual, broad, vigorous, and excellently sung. The conductor was Muzio, who made the most of the limited resources at his disposal.”
“Let no man call us unpatriotic, because we rejoice in the reopening of the opera, and say of Nixon that, like the Union, ‘he must and shall be maintained.’ We rejoice in the returning opera, because for a community, as for an individual, a fixed idea is madness or worse; and it is in every way desirable that an occasional escape should be kept open for us from the hot and angry atmosphere of the war and its attendant passions into the serene spaces of art. We aver that Nixon must be maintained, because if we are to judge by the aspect of affairs at the Academy last night he intends to deserve success. Not, merely observe, by the vulgar quality of enterprise which he possesses in common with the Jews and Gentiles, his vagrant predecessors, but by the exhibition of traits essential to real excellence as an impresario; such, for instance, as taste, tact, propriety and decorum. The thing, we say, may appear incredible to the absent habitués of the Academy. Yet it is true, the Opera House of New York was clean last night, almost for the first time in its history. It was also well lighted, (though in this direction perfection, with a Government tax imposed on consumers by considerate Gas Companies, may not be at once attainable,) and it was, furthermore, possible to move about in the corridors without jostling as many ‘dead heads,’ as if one was passing through the catacombs. These things are the externals of Opera, without which Opera cannot truly be said to exist. Having shown his appreciation of their importance, Mr. Nixon deserves, we repeat, to be trusted, and his début as an American impresario may be fairly regarded as the first success of the season which began last night. Apollo grant that it may be the signal for our permanent deliverance from a fluctuating dynasty of third rate Teutons.
We have given precedence to Mr. Nixon in spite of his sex, in the first place, because an American impresario is a newer novelty than an American prima donna, and in the second place, because we choose to keep our bonne bouche Miss Carlotta Patti for the end of these brief comments. A bonne bouche, indeed, this charming little lady is – no bonnier mouth having smiled upon the lyric stage of New-York in many a long day. That Miss Carlotta was the most gifted vocalist of a family born to sing as other people are born to speak, we all of us knew, and we had all of us heard here sometimes impart upon the concert platform the fire and grace of the stage. For this reason perhaps, however, we may have feared that she would reverse the process when she reached the stage. A vain fear, as light night has abundantly proved. We have heard Miss PATTI sing better than she sang last evening, it must be owned, with more truth, precision and fluency; but this is an argument of hope that we may hear her sing better again hereafter – and we had never before seen her act. An actress she unquestionably is – born to shine on the graceful comic stage – with a lip and eye apt to every wile and charm of the Rosinas and the Zerlinas of the best Italian art. A more piquant Amina we have not often seen. Her by-play with the red-legged Count Rodolpho and his importunate attentions, was thoroughly in keeping with the true Contadina character of the part, while it was quite free from anything like coarseness or exaggeration. Had she been supported by an Elvino more equal to the role than Signor SBRIGLIA, it is possible that Miss Patti's vocal hesitations might have been less marked; but we have no doubt that when the young lady begins to forget that she is inexperienced upon the stage, she will rise without an effort into her natural ease and felicity of execution. It was quite evident last night that she only needed to feel herself at home in order to be so.
We need hardly say that Miss Patti was received with enthusiasm, and that a devoted representative of ‘twenty millions,’ more or less, politely presented her with a floral harp …Miss Patti deserves that we should say of her that her qualities can command success without the appeal of her nativity or her misfortunes. She is an excellent artiste, a charming woman, and a natural actress in one of the most agreeable generes of the lyric drama.
Susini sang in a large, loose way, and acted, as he commonly does, with vigor and intelligence. A pretty débutante, Miss Stockton, did what she could with the secondary part of Lisa. . . . The orchestra promises, and in time no doubt will perform. On the whole, the season opens really well.”
“As everybody anticipated with almost absolute certainty a great success for Carlotta Patti, her exquisite performance last night surprised no one. It is superfluous to criticise the vocalization of a singer who has sung so frequesntly before our public, and is so well known in musical circles. To see Miss Patti on the stage is like seeing a dear friend in a new dress. In manner of singing and in the tone of her voice there is a signal resemblance between the debutante and her sister Adelina, who has so often sung at the Academy in the same part. Yet there is no imitation. Carlotta is by no means a repetition of Adelina; she has an individuality of her own, and her cadenzas and vocal ornamentation are quite different. The last act was her most felicitous effort, and in the closing rounds Miss Patti introduced some most surprising staccato passages, like those her younger sister makes such free use of. Charming as is her Amina, we incline to think that Carlotta Patti will appear to still greater advantage in operas when her part will include more purely bravura music.
In action and by play she was admirable as might have been expected from one of her gifted lyric family.
There was a great deal of friendly curiosity to observe how far the debutante would overcome her difficulty in walking; and it was proved that in the quieter notes, where not much action is needed, she will succeed; but her repertoire must necessarily be limited, at least until Dr. Ceccarini has brought about a more marked improvement in the physical condition of his gifted and admired patient, who numbered among her warm well-wishers last night every person in the house. Every one of the audience felt an interest in her decided success, and it was generally acknowledged that in Carlotta Patti we have another prima donna who will bravely assist in vindicating the music reputation of our country.
There are several little girls in the Patti family, and the public will naturally look soon for one or two more prime donne from the delightful musical home in Twenty-second street.
There was another debut last night which deserves notice. Miss Fanny Stockton made her first appearance on the stage as Lisa, and sang her opening air so well that she ought to have been allowed to sing Lisa’s air in the last act, which has been omitted here since Signora Costini used to sing the part at Astor Place and Castle Garden. Miss Stockton is a young lady of this city, the soprano of the choir of Zion Church, and promises to be the best seconda donna we have had here for a long time. Perhaps she will in time obtain a still higher position.
Susini sang superbly, in this his first appearance since the death of his lamented wife. There was something sadly significant in the sentiment of his opening somg, where he tells Lisa that her bright eyes remind him of eyes now closed, and that 'those days will never more return,' though the cari luoghi still remain.
Our old friends of the chorus were present as usual, and conversed and laughed during the solos with their customary nonchalance. As an entre acte, ‘The Great Uprising Galop,’ a spirited, noisy and telling piece of orchestration by Muzio, was played by the entire orchestra.
There have been a few changes in the house during the summer season. The orchestra has been shortened and widened, and two little private boxes, or rather pens, have been fitted up at each end. The heavy capitals of the pillars supporting the tiers of boxes have been reduced.”
"The debut of Miss Carlotta Patti, in Somnambula, was for the young artist the occasion of an ovation which will not be forgotten. She has, besides, undergone this test, which was doubly difficult for her, in a manner that confirms the hopes of her friends the brilliant future that awaits her. . . . [Her debut was a] success."
“Miss Carlotta Patti, if we may trust the general voice of newspaper criticism, has been successful in her debuts. But the New York correspondent of the Evening Gazette, who appears to write thoughtfully, does not quote chime in with the chorus. It is well to read the worst, as well as the best, that can be said, and then we shall not expect too much, which is the unkindliness thing a public can do to a singer. He says:
The results obtained from this coup d'essai were that Carlotta Patti never can become a prima donna in the true sense of that injured term. The contrivance to obviate apparent lameness enabled her to move slowly and constrainedly, with a decided limp. She of course had no by-play or freedom of movement to carry out the character. Her voice is very thin and weak in the upper notes, and the quality of them, when produced other than in staccato accents of the scale, is unpleasant. It is very unequal and incompetent to loud singing, and she therefore has recourse to sudden transitions from a scream or shout in the medium tones, either in sotto voce treatment of passages in alto, or change of text, so as to bring it her best traits in vocalization–-staccato runs and touches of an extreme high note in a very diminutive tone. The only parts of her vocal performance creditable to a finished vocalist were the conclusion of the cavatina and the slow movement of the rondo finale. She displayed admirable execution in the repeat of the allegro, throwing off brilliants in taking style, but in every close she made appeals to sensation seekers by shouts in doses that seemed as if her lungs or throat would burst in the effort. The chamber-scene finale she acts badly, from sheer inability, it would appear, to sing that passionate music. Sympathy for Patti infinitely softened the critical disappointment of that public, who, at least, expected a vocal wonder-–but general derision awaited the overdoing of floral tributes early in the opera.--Bouquets, wreaths, harps, stars, baskets, were handed or thrown upon the stage with profusion, and that clique worked hard in standeedom for a furore. It could not be made, however, and Carlotta must return to the concert room and her teaching if she wishes renown or profit.
Miss Stocking [sic] made an utter failure in Lisa, neither singing tolerably or making a fair show of acting. Sbriglia’s performance was very uneven.–-Occasionally he made a good point in execution of his music or enacting of character. He appeared to be nervous on account of Patti’s inability to meet him in singing or acting. The opera was cut severely, and slighted as usual by Italian performers. Alessio and Lisa were, however, equal in merit, and the orchestra deserved no more credit than the chorus. But displayed too much of the muff [sic].”