Brignoli Italian Opera: Lucia di Lammermoor

Event Information

Academy of Music

Manager / Director:
L. Albites

Event Type:

Record Information


Last Updated:
25 June 2022

Performance Date(s) and Time(s)

20 May 1870, Evening

Program Details

Pauline Canissa was originally slated to sing Lucia, but was replaced at the last minute by Isabella McCulloch.

Performers and/or Works Performed

aka Lucy of Lammermoor
Composer(s): Donizetti
Text Author: Cammarano
Participants:  Brignoli Italian Opera Company;  G. [basso] Fossati (role: Raymond);  Isabella McCulloch (role: Lucia);  [baritone] Petrelli (role: Sir Henry Ashton);  Carlo [tenor] Lefranc (role: Edgar Ravenswood)


Advertisement: New York Herald, 08 May 1870, 8.
Advertisement: New-York Times, 08 May 1870, 7.
Announcement: New York Post, 16 May 1870, 2.

Incorrectly announces Un ballo in maschera.

Advertisement: New York Herald, 18 May 1870, 9.

States Pauline Canissa will sing the role of Lucia.

Announcement: New York Post, 18 May 1870, 2.

“The next opera night will be Friday, when Canissa, Lefranc and Petrilli will sing Donizetti’s ‘Lucia,’ which has been so long unheard here that it will almost have the force of novelty.”

Advertisement: New York Herald, 20 May 1870, 9.

States Isabella McCulloch will sing the role of Lucia.

Review: New York Herald, 21 May 1870, 5.

“Every opera-goer knows the true picture which Donizetti [illeg.] on Scott’s charming novel. The melodies of ‘Lucia’ are like nursery rhymes to the ear of any musician, and never was a tragic story invested with more heart-renching, tender interest than in those passionate measures of the Italian composer. Therefore, when it was announced that our talented American prima donna, Miss McCulloch, would essay the rôle of the hapless bride of Lammermoor, and that Signor Lefranc, a French tenor with an Italian style of singing, and one who has been lauded to the skies by our contemporaries while under Bohemian auspices, would appear as the master of Ravenswood, public expectation was raised to a high degree, and a goodly audience assembled within the Opera House. Well, place aux dames. Miss McCulloch, called upon at short notice to undertake the title rôle, added to her former successes, and when we consider the disadvantages she labored under from some of the surroundings, her triumph was marvellous [sic]. She sang and interpreted the rôle as only a true artist can and in voice and action left nothing to be desired. But the tenor. He is evidently unacquainted with the first principles of music, and though nature has gifted him with a magnificent voice he does not know how to use it. His style of singing is, like that of all who are not musicians, strident, and we might say, blatant. One can tell immediately his sense of insecurity in ensembles, particularly by his disregard of time. In the memorable duo which concludes the first act he attempted to make a sensation by rising from the dominant to the tonic above, and his voice snapped like a broken string of a violin on the last two notes. In the next act it failed him again: in fact, he fairly butchered the rôle in the most inexcusable manner. Mind, we can understand hoarseness or indisposition, but this was neither. It was only the result of an attempt to force the voice, naturally, as we said before, a magnificent one, to sensational and inartistic effects without the ability to do so. An Italian like Mario, Crisi, Mazzolini and a hundred others, can be a lyric artist without knowing anything about music, but no other one can—a P[illeg.] in particular, Carrier, or Grau’s opéra bouffe, was a lamentable instance of this fact. Altogether, we would advise Mr. Lefranc to devote himself to the study of his profession a little more before he essays such a rôle as Edgar Ravenswood. Petrilli [sic] sang and acted Sir Henry Ashton in a commendable manner, and Fossati was an excellent Raymond. A tenor named C[illeg.] astonished us, in the small part of Arthur, by his fine, resonant, sympathetic voice and good school, and we doubt not but that he would have a made a better Edgar than the gentleman cast for that part. By the way, this rôle is one of Brignoli’s best; but that artist, with characteristic courtesy, gave way to allow Mr. Lefranc to appear in it. We have stated the result. The orchestra got out of the key in the introduction to Lucia’s first cavatina, in such a manner that we supposed that the leader wished to transpose it without acquainting them of the fact. The main feature of the opera was Miss McCulloch, and she bravely went through her rôle without a waver.”

Review: New-York Times, 21 May 1870, 4.

“The performance of ‘Lucia di Lammermoor,’ last evening, at the Academy, was one of the most curiously uneven to which we have ever listened. Harsh critics might say that none of the chief performers were quite equal to their parts, but such a statement would be only a half truth, and so would convey an impression both inaccurate and ungenerous. The fact is that Lucia is, as yet, a little too much for Miss McCulloch; that Signor Le Franc was in bad voice, and so failed to do that thorough justice to Edgardo which ordinarily will lie completely within his splendid powers to do; and that Signor Petrilli, while taking great pains and deserving much credit, is not [a] dramatic singer enough to give proper effect to Ashton. A natural consequence of these several and unlucky incidents was to impart to the representation an incompleteness, and, at intervals, a decided shortcoming, of which the audience were entirely conscious, and of which they were by no means reserved in showing their opinion. This said, we hasten to add that portions of the opera were very excellently sung indeed. This praise is fairly due to a great deal of the second, and to some of the best numbers of the third act. Miss McCulloch was excessively nervous, and we must record the conviction that the manner in which her efforts were received in the first act, by some of the audience, was not quite warranted, and gave rise to the suspicion that artistic merit was not the only gauge by which public demonstrations were in some instances measured and distributed. The young lady has many qualities for success. Her execution is certainly faulty, and she has much to learn; but we have heard worse Lucias, and heard them more warmly received by intelligent audiences than was hers on this occasion. Signor Le Franc was welcomed with the utmost enthusiasm. It was, however, early apparently that he was quite unfit to sing, and an apology made in his behalf after the second act only confirmed the persuasion already generally felt that the favorite tenor was struggling with difficulties he should not have permitted himself to encounter. The sestette in the second act was so well rendered as to elicit vociferous demands for its repetition, which, however, were unheeded. In the malediction Signor Le Franc broke down, to universal regret and accompanied by universal sympathy. Afterward, and to make the unevenness of the entertainment as finally impressive as possible, the artist, in the last act, recovered his voice in the most unaccountable manner, and sang the aria ‘Bella Innamorata’ with great charm. ’Tis not in singers, more than in any other mortals, to command success, but we must say that the principal performers on this occasion did all they apparently could to deserve it.”

Review: New-York Daily Tribune, 21 May 1870, 4.

Portions quite difficult to read owing to black bar running down right side of the column.

“Signor Le Franc made his reappearance [last] night under peculiarly unfortunate circumstances. [In] the first place he was in very bad voice—so bad [that in] the middle of the evening an apology was made [illeg.] from the stage; and in the second place the artists who supported him were so conspicuously unequal [to their] parts that criticism upon them would be [illeg...]…opera was ‘Lucia’—a popular work which [has been] seldom given in New-York for the last few [years] and a work in which success is [illeg.] easy if the cast is at all respect[able]. [Of] Miss McCulloch’s personation of the heroine [we] prefer to say little. We are informed that she [illeg.] took it very unwillingly at the last moment [illeg.] proper rehearsal, after the incompetence of Miss [illeg.] to whom it was originally assigned had been [illeg]strated. After all the allowance, however, whi[ich] circumstance demands, it remains to be said [that she] sang very badly, and got out of tune with the [illeg.] [ag]gravating regularity, She has a good voice, [illeg.] intonation and a crude style, and she does not [illeg…]. She sings no better now than she sang two [illeg…] and she never will sing any better until she [illeg…] a more correct method. Petrilli was a weak [illeg.] -pressive Ashton. Fossati, who takes the [illeg.] sing them much better if he had a bass voice. [Illeg.] minor characters were misrepresented by [illeg.] -ple of whom we never heard before and [illeg…] want to hear again. It only remains to [illeg…] lack of rehearsals was painfully manifest. [Illeg.] choruses and concerted pieces, and that the [orchestra], directed by Signor Giorza, went so far wrong [illeg…] that a large number of the audience laughed [illeg…]. Any one who knows how indifferent New York [illeg…] are to orchestra deficiencies at the opera will [illeg…] how very bad this blunder must have been. [On the] whole, while we hesitate to call the performance [of] ‘Lucia’ last night the worst ever given at the [Academy] of Music—for that establishment has witnessed [illeg.] very bad performances indeed—we can [illeg…] -nounce it a musical outrage, which all [illeg…] -cerned in its perpetration ought to remember [illeg…] humiliation to their dying day.”

Review: New York Post, 21 May 1870, 4.

“The delightfully tender music of Donizetti’s ‘Lucia’ has been familiar here ever since opera was first heard in New York. The best operatic artists have availed themselves of its opportunities. Among the greatest Lucias have been Frezzonlini, Bosio, and above all the peerless Sontag. Among the Edgardos who have distinguished themselves here, have been Mario, Mazzoleni, Salvi and Brignoli.

“Lefranc last night might have added his name to this notable list, had not his voice betrayed him, breaking several times on the higher notes, and so interfering with his success that an apology had to be made for him by the management. In the Fra poco, however, he sang deliciously. The sestette of the second act was only indifferently sung, but as warmly applauded as if it had been perfection. In this, Lefranc differs from most tenors by taking the opening phrase chi me frena in sotto voce.

“A tenor unknown to the audience, but down on the bills as Signor Castini, made a most happy success in the little part of Arturo. He is a good singer, has a fine stage presence, and moves about with ease. In the brief melody that follows the wedding chorus he was warmly applauded.

“Miss McCulloch’s best points were in the mad scene, where, in the aria Alfin tu sei and in the cadenzas that were in thirds with the flute, her voice sounded fresh, delicate and pure. In other respects the part of Lucia needs more experience and culture than Miss McCulloch has yet received.”

Review: New York Sun, 21 May 1870, 2.

“A performance of the famous and delightful old opera of ‘Lucia di Lammermoor’ was given last evening at the Academy. It was an immense favorite with the old opera-goers of the days of Castle Garden and the Astor Place Opera House, and deserves to maintain the popularity that Meyerbeer and Verdi have deprived it of, for it is of surpassing melody and beauty.

“Last evening’s performance was, on the whole, a very bad one. Miss McCulloch was the prima donna, or tried to be. Really she is but a secunda [sic] donna. The rôle of Lucia is quite beyond her present reach, both dramatically and vocally. The lady, as yet, has but mastered the alphabet of her profession, but she is attempting first the foremost difficulty. As for phrasing, she has none. Her vocalization was faulty throughout, and one cadenza in the first act almost ludicrously bad. Her high notes, when sung with full voice, area always harsh and disagreeable, so that her climaxes, which should be the most effective parts, are the worst.

“The fate that we have looked for has overtaken Signor Lefranc. His voice, overstrained by much laborious effort, refused to respond to the requirements of his part and broken completely down, especially in the great sextet at the finale of the second set. When called before the curtain this good and zealous artist pointed to his throat with many gestured, appealing to the compassion of his audience, which certainly was accorded; for if his voice failed, it was through his too earnest efforts in behalf of the public. An apology as subsequently offered for Signor Lefranc on account of his hoarseness. The orchestra bungled sadly, and the chorus was of slight account. This was doubtless the result of inadequate rehearsal.”

Review: New York Clipper, 28 May 1870, 62.

“On May 20th Donizetti’s romantic opera ‘Lucia di Lammermoor’ was given, with [lists cast and roles]. Miss McCulloch, in ‘Il dolce suono,’ exhibited some improvement, and was the recipient of moderate applause and a handsome bouquet. Sig. Le Franc’s voice broke twice in the higher latitudes, and in apology it was stated that he was suffering from hoarseness, otherwise his performance was a truly artistic effort, thoroughly meriting the applause with which it was greeted. The other characters sang their parts in a satisfactory manner.”